Tag Archives: Artistic Inspiration

Aku No Hana : An Assessment Of The Impulse

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And so with self-expulsion comes long-sought intention. Flirtation with the unfamiliar, and an attraction to all things id. What can be perceived as broken and dangerous to some, just might be liberation for others. Finally caught up with the misadventures of Takao & Nakamura when matters became abundantly transparent that the entire series has in fact revolved around a very simple concern that plagues many a creative talent; whether the work is endemic to a continuing, organic process, or merely additional fodder for mass consumption. (and that high school life itself can be seen as a working analogue for this) A merging of form and function is at the center of this affair, and it has little to do with maintaining a vanilla existence – which is often everything that anime safely represents ad-infinitum.

 

While over the course of several weeks already, we have seen our lead character’s indiscretion become something of a spark for all manner of internal conflict. From the onset, we are privy to his bookish nature, his curiosity for the darker corners of life’s domain. And yet we are also allowed to understand his need to be embedded within the collective in some manner, no matter how slight in his adoration of Saeki, a classmate with which he cannot help but feel represents something of a sanctuary in a world he sees rotting from all corners. How funny it all is when the caustically antisocial Nakamura enters his life, and sees Takao as some form of externalizing force for her rage, something far more volatile than his own concerns. How strange it is then, that the show has done quite a spirited job at offering attractive glimpses at both roads Takao can choose for himself. Saeki (and in turn, his mother) representing a domestic world packed with sincerity amongst so much data defect, and conformity. Whereas Nakamura is an unwitting emissary of a much-required deviation from this world. A kindred which is using a bevy on repressed angst, and emotion to whatever end. While both have their respective dangers, they also carry with them some manner of very real desires, ever at conflict with one another.

 

There also seems to be an unspoken choice which is implied by his subsequent actions throughout the story that is never verbalized, and yet seems on the edge of virtually every rash decision; that expression manifests as it will, whether the bearer of such feelings recognize them or not. That the outlet of art is often one of compulsion, and not as much a matter of practicality.

 

A facsimile versus an authentic portrait. A photograph, or a personally nuanced drawing? This is where Aku No Hana resides as of episode 10. In this series, form and function are paramount, and as our leads struggle to best grasp what it is they truly wish for, while it won’t always be pretty, it is perhaps in the name of all that it is to be young that it be as ungraceful as humanly possible. Even when one wishes to look away, there is something undeniably true about a collective sigh versus a scream. And even when a reviewer cannot agree with the choices of a character, there is also an implicit understanding of life within certain guidelines that occasionally requires aberrant types to balance out the larger equations.

 

Many of my own personal inspirations have opined that the creative impulse is something embedded within all of us, yet not all of us feel it knocking as loudly as it does with others. Pop music icon, Bjork once even stated that her shifts in musical tone have been so not because of some need for her work to be impenetrable, but because of a deeply rooted compulsion to do so. That these things spring forth as they will, and WILL manifest one way or another. It becomes less a matter of economics as it is one of lava that is primed to escape the crust, ever closer to bursting. That a minor few find themselves in this predicament, often very early in life, and is often something that mainstream society isn’t willing to accept, or is adamant about stamping out. The Takaos and Nakamuras of the world, for all their unspoken pains, have a need to produce, to quantify and expose their findings, society be damned. And while they flirt endlessly with ideas that are on a surface misanthropic and strange, could the alternative provide a reasonable, honest equivalent?

 

A nasty paradox..

 

While so many detractors have complained regarding the show’s presentation and pace, it is with a happy heart that I look at views such as this with fondness, as if I once knew a time when such feelings were as natural as breathing. To be confronted with something this stark, this honest, it is often the last thing many fan-types find themselves either interested in, or willing to submit themselves to. This series demands to be seen on its own terms, and that in and of itself is worth shouting about. The choices are more than clear at this point, and to imagine that we have a show like this airing right now is akin to a miracle. It simply shouldn’t be happening – and that..is invigorating.

RahXephon: Ten Years Later

 

 

And so an unprecedented little thing came to a satisfying conclusion ten years ago today. Even when it was by no means a runaway hit, as a TV anime, it was the kind of high romantic/artistic response many just didn’t see coming. In a year where former Patlabor mecha designer, Yukata Izibuchi is undertaking the mother of all anime remakes with the cross-media event, Yamato 2199, it might be great to also celebrate his first foray into anime direction, RahXephon– A series many seem to have forgotten, but in many ways put a nice, eloquent bow on a most interesting run of experimental (and occasionally broken down mid- process) shows that began with Shin Seiki Evangelion. Taking pages from Yusha Raideen & Megazone 23, RahXephon told the tale of 17-year old Ayato Kamina, and his travels beyond the confines of his once-thought-to-be comfortable life, and into a larger world (literally). Sharing many of the tropes of the ever-reliable “boy fights alien threat with pop’s robot” plot, the series is also very notable for taking many narrative cul-de-sacs, and is more interested in the lives of its characters than merely mecha fighting. It was a series with a large pedigree behind it, and yet was far more novel-like in minutae, and elegant in presentation.

 
With Ayato suddenly thrust out of the world of Tokyo Jupiter, he is soon acquainted by a number of individuals claiming to be part of a paramilitary initiative combatting alien invaders known as the Mu. This shocks our protagonist, as he had long thought the world nearly completely depopulated, and Japan one of the remaining nesting grounds for humanity. And in his shock, many within his previous life are suddenly suspect as the new world he is beginning to understand seems primed to strike at the bizarre sphere now surrounding what was once Tokyo itself. Alongside operative, Haruka Shitow, and various others, Ayato must come to grips not only with his “destined” place as the operator of a mysterious mechanical god, but of those he loves left behind within Tokyo Jupiter. An often beautiful, and beguiling mixture of eastern and western myths, and a paen to human expression, Izibuchi’s collaboration with writers, Chiaki Konaka and Yoji Enokido remains something of a last remnant of TV anime’s previous generation.

 
During, and immediately after its initial run in 2002, it was more than easy to see why so many viewers would have dismissed it despite its ambitions. Firstly, as previously mentioned, Evangelion had only ended a few short year before, and was easily the first thing that came to the minds of many upon first glance of this series. Second, it was presented with an unusual color and line palette that was unusual, even when anime budgets were suddenly beginning to rise after years of decline. And third, for a mecha drama, it certainly lived up to the “drama” part of it’s general label. There was indeed a dedicated following on both sides of the Pacific, but it in no way came close to what many would consider a runaway success- cable TV runs, or no.

 
But beneath the similarities between RahXephon, and the aforementioned television phenom, lies something that while casual anime fans might not catch, tends to hit others square in the heart; an artistic response with a lot on its mind about Anno’s final analysis. What comes together in RahXephon, is something of a directly converse retort by way of revealing the value of acquiantance. Togetherness & diversity versus self-imposed isolation, and additional themes of a collective need for inspiration play heavily throughout. There is a certain pluralism that acts as a mirror, thereby offering up the reasons why certain works find themselves capable of transcendence. And it also (personally speaking) remains a television series capable of inspiring a sense of awe.

 
So did Izibuchi succeed in what he initially set out to do with RahXephon? Yes, and no. Anime has been playing matters almost wholly safe for the last several years. And even as certain shows flirt with becoming more than mere product, it’s been a long time since any series has been able to reach well beyond the familiar to tell a uniquely human tale. More often than not, the best shows of the last several years have been either too remote, or too knowing of their inspirations to reach that raw barrier. Even Izibuchi has had to do a straight-up remake. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t still possible to deliver both the ability to absorb, and provoke discussion.