Otaku no Ken II: The Dark Side

Its cold blade, collecting on its surface the moment it is drawn the vapour of the atmosphere; its immaculate texture, flashing light of bluish hue; its matchless edge, upon which histories and possibilities hang; the curve of its back, uniting exquisite grace with utmost strength–all these thrill us with mixed feelings of power and beauty, of awe and terror. Harmless were its mission, if it only remained a thing of beauty and joy! But, ever within reach of the hand, it presented no small temptation for abuse. Too often did the blade flash forth from its peaceful sheath. The abuse sometimes went so far as to try the acquired steel on some harmless creature’s neck.

Bushido, The Soul of Japan, Inazo Nitobe, p. 135

In January of this year, a 20-year-old man in Sulphur, Louisiana used a katana to kill a dog.  The Humane Society paid $2500 for his capture.

On October 7, Aaron David Simoneaux was sentenced.  At the trial, he claimed to have a fear of dogs due to some incident in his youth, but nevertheless he received seven years in prison. (A dog killing in Chesapeake, Virginia involving a Western sword resulted in a sentence of only 12 months.) Local animal lovers’ groups used a variety of social networking sites, such as Facebook, to fill the courthouse with animal rights supporters for his sentencing. According to American Press, the presiding judge noted wryly that such crowds are not drawn to trials of people who kill people.

Just what kind of incident was it? Image by Asumei.

This incident sadly illustrates the dangerous side of weapon possession.   Japanese traditions recognize the potential for abuse, and philosophers and martial artists have railed against it for as long as there have been written records of swordsmanship.  Shinkage-Ryu proponent Yagyu Munenori wrote in 1632, “In our school the sword that is positioned for attack is called the death-dealing sword, and the sword that is not, the life-giving sword.” Despite the historical warnings, some Japanese sword enthusiasts are tempted to actions which make all otaku look bad.

The concern is ongoing. On September 24, as the most recent New York Anime Festival was taking place, Peter Tatara noted,

Cop just said there are 40,000 officers on the street this weekend because of the UN. Glad I’m running an event filled with kids with swords.

Collectors would do well to reflect on the discipline involved in Japanese swordsmanship before they arm themselves with live steel.

Author: moritheil

One might be forgiven for thinking that Moritheil is a postmodern literary critic who started reviewing video games in 2001, and spent the early 2000s learning at the right hand of con staff and fansubbers. However, those rumors are spurious: Moritheil is actually a distant relative of Genghis Khan who stands poised to conquer the world via the Internet. Follow along at http://twitter.com/moritheil.

6 thoughts on “Otaku no Ken II: The Dark Side

  1. “the presiding judge noted wryly that such crowds are not drawn to trials of people who kill people.”

    I love dogs and it’s shame my apartment doesn’t allow any…But they’re dogs, not people. Yet, people die and rot in many places of the world and most people don’t give a shit. Maybe it’s because there are just too many fucking people and not enough dogs. XD

  2. The katana thing is just.. bad.. I am a cat person, but to subject the dog to such  a pain before he died. Still there is a sense of superiority/inferiority attraction for the dog/man.  A dog is still considered Man’s best friend, so the attraction and sympathy is more profound. Because the practically dog did no wrong, where as who would have the time to go see a fellow man on trial.
    What’s with the feminine Inu Yasha fan art?

  3. Twitter was asked to vote on the accompanying image.  As both a swordsman and a dog, Inuyasha is tangentially relevant to the themes of the article.  The alternative was an image of Ein from Cowboy Bebop.

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