All posts by Cure Tadashiku

About Cure Tadashiku

Cure Tadashiku is the fairly-secret identity of authoress and space-alien Annalinde Matichei. Her powers are not listed so as not to spoil the surprise for the demons.

Sailor Moon Crystal: first impressions

You don’t need us to tell you that the airing of Sailor Moon Crystal is an historic event. The anime that began the Magical Girl Sentai Genre is getting a very interesting remake. We present a Senshi round-table of comments on the first episode sailor-moon-crystal

Cure Yasashiku

I really loved the animation in this new series.  It was so much brighter and cleaner than the original series.  Some of the scenes were simply breathtaking!

I thought that the introduction of each character framed with roses was really interesting, and it seemed reminiscent of a Greek chorus.  I was quite impressed by all of the rose imagery!  The rose is, of course, symbolic of the Sun and of the Heart.

It actually seems like this series may be more explicitly metaphysical than the first series was!  It is interesting that the Princess archetype is shown from the very beginning! It seems from the previews that Sailor Mercury will emerge in the next episode, so I wonder if this series will move a bit quicker though the main story.

Cure Tsukiakari

I very much enjoyed the first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal.  Unfortunately, the opening theme song made me a little nervous that this new series would go in the direction of more recent Disney movies.  I first watched it with English subtitles on Hulu, and that translation was particularly difficult. The part that I found difficult was translated on HuluPlus as:

We have unshakable wills, we will fight on our own
Without leaving our destiny to the prince

Shiny Make-up, we are going to shine bright under the starry sky
We are not helpless girls who need men’s protection.  

The actual Japanese for this part is as follows:

嗚呼 女の子にも譲れぬ矜持がある
それは王子様に運命投げず
自らたたかう意志
Shiny Make up 輝くよ 星空を集めて
ただ護られるだけの か弱い存在じゃないわ

Below is my own humble attempt at translation (with the extensive assistance of Rikaichan):

Indeed, we girls are without surrendering our dignity,
Without casting away our destiny to that Ouji-sama (that prince)
Of course, we will fight of our own volition
Shiny Make up, fighting and gathering the starry sky
We are not frail weaklings whose only existence is of being protected.

I am sure that the more advanced Japanese scholars on this site can do a better job of translation; however, even with my feeble efforts, one can see how very different the tone of the Japanese is.

After reading the actual Japanese lyrics, my main worry has subsided.  That worry was that the series would lose the deep metaphysical wisdom that was present in the original series in favor of feminist rhetoric concerning the relationships between individual males and females.

In watching the episode, my worry was eased quite a bit, and the series has potential to be even more explicit about metaphysical truths than the first series. Despite my grumpiness about the theme song, I really did like the first episode, and I look forward to seeing more.

Cure Kiyoku

This is SO exciting, isn’t it?  I really enjoyed the first episode of the new Sailor Moon.  It was SO pretty!   I watched it with English subtitles and without subtitles.

My Japanese is not good enough to understand much without subtitles, and the English subtitles were chotto…. I hope that we will be able to find Japanese subtitles somewhere.  Wouldn’t that be exciting?  I actually never read the Sailor Moon manga.  Maybe I can find it in Japanese somewhere.

Cure Dolly

The Moon Rabbit
The Moon Rabbit

This looks like a bad year for Precure. First Happiness Charge, the weakest series since the franchise began and now Sailor Moon Crystal, a serious rival in the Magical Girl sentai field.

Sailor Moon was the first show to merge the Magical Girl genre with the Senshi genre, creating the Magical Girl Senshi – of which Pretty Cure is the latest and most successful example.

Sailor Moon Crystal is said to follow the manga much more closely than the original anime did, although the first episode is very similar to the original anime because the two did not start seriously diverging until the second episode.

I found myself noticing more things seeing it in Japanese. Things as simple as (I guess you all realized this already) Usagi-chan’s name is 月野 うさぎ Tsukino Usagi, which with those kanji for the surname means something like Moonfield Usagi. However it can easily be read as 月のウサギ tsuki no usagi = Moon-rabbit. Rabbits are very closely associated with the moon in Japan. In moon-viewing season the rabbit motif is everywhere, so this association must be immediate and obvious to a Japanese audience.

Odango
Odango

The actual idea behind the Moon Rabbit is that the markings on the moon show a rabbit pounding rice to make mochi. This kind of pounded rice (mochiko) is also used to make (o)dango the cute traditional candy-balls on skewers. And – Usagi-chan’s characteristic hairstyle, which is also used in her Sailor Moon and Princess Serenity identities is playfully termed odango throughout the series. In fact hairstyles of this general type are nowadays called odango styles, entirely because of Sailor Moon.

Neat, ne? As to the anime – I am loving it. The art-style seems to me reminiscent of mid-20th-century girls-book art and the animation is just wonderful. Really looking forward to the next episode.  

Cure Tadashiku

Honored Cure Tsukiakari, I really wouldn’t worry about Sailor moon taking the tangled and frozen path of recent Disney. This way of thinking really hardly exists in Japan and would definitely not make for a successful series.

Your rendering of the song (which is in song-speak rather than making exact logical sense) is closer than the Hulu one. 存在 by the way means “being” (concrete noun) rather than “existence” (abstract noun) here. It is the noun modified by か弱い, so I would say it means “we are not frail beings who are merely protected”.

These sentiments seem perfectly fine to me. I can see how they could feel a bit suspect in the light of a very particular Western tendency toward agressive anti-feminity. But that tendency, fortunately, really does not exist in the Japanese mainstream.

Honored Cure Yasashiku, introducing sailor Mercury in the second episode follows the manga. Yes it should be  somewhat faster-paced than the original anime as the manga told the story more concisely.

Honored Cure Kiyoku, good news! The Japanese subtitles are now available, and you can find them here. The art and animation really are gorgeous, aren’t they. While I doubt if we can expect any surprises, since the series appears to be going to follow the manga faithfully, this really is just delightful.

Japanese Pokemon – All you ever wanted to know!

250px-659Bunnelby
You think Bunnelby is a rabbit? In Japanese it’s a wallaby. Learn more surprising facts at the new Japanese Pokemon site

Announcement:

Have you ever been fascinated by the original Japanese names of Pokemon but wondered what they could possibly mean?

A new sister site Administered by our own Cure Dolly is bringing a daily feast of fun facts and in-depth analysis of Japanese Pokemon names to the Web for the first time in English.

You’ll learn, among many other things, about mediaeval armor, ancient schools of ninjutsu and their surprising relations to Japanese Pokemon.

Pop along to Japanese Pokemon and complete your education!

Doki Doki Precure 46 – The Fundamental Questions of Existence

As Doki Doki Precure nears its conclusion, the series is dealing with questions not only concerning the more mysterious characters but also the fundamental questions of human existence. It always has been, of course, but now its deeper levels are becoming more explicit.

Spoiler alert: This article contains BIG spoilers for Doki Doki Precure.

Is Cure Ace the Princess. Could it be Regina? As some suspected, it is both. And what about the mysterious baby, Ai-chan? Well, she is the Princess too!

In this episode we learn exactly what happened in the Trump Kingdom to bring about the present situation. At the beginning of this story, Princess Marie Ange is born and her mother dies at the same time. The King is both happy and distraught. The Princess grows up happy and healthy but when she reaches “the full stature of maidenhood” succumbs to a mysterious disease.

A drop of darkness (now by her knee) makes its way to the Princess's body
A drop of darkness (now by her knee) makes its way to the Princess’s body

Nothing is said about this disease, but visually we are shown that it was a drop of the living black Darkness that dwells in the bowels of the palace. Why should it be there? It makes sense when we understand that a house or a palace is traditionally a microcosm of the world, and also of the individual soul. In this world of imperfection and conflict, darkness always lurks and challenges us at various points. As the disease grips her at her writing desk, the ink-bottle is overturned and black ink spreads symbolically over the desk’s surface.

The King is told that the mysterious disease is beyond the limits of  medicine and becomes both desperate and angry, raging against Heaven.

神よ… あなたは妻だけではあきたらずむすめまでもうばおうというのか?

そんなことは させぬ!

O God, weren’t you satisfied with just my wife,  that you snatch away my daughter too?

I won’t allow such a thing!

He is told that there is only one method of saving his daughter’s life, and that is to use one of the three Sacred Treasures: the Eternal Golden Crown which confers all knowledge. However, the Golden Crown has been used by the Legendary Precure Warriors to seal away the Darkness. Taking it would unleash darkness on the now peaceful and happy Trump kingdom.

The king goes to the chamber where the crown seals the darkness, and has a soliloquy in which he weighs the two evils – the death of his beloved daughter, the light-bestowing Princess and the unleashing of darkness.

After an inward struggle, the candles are symbolically extinguished by a draft and the King’s heart succumbs to the stain of selfishness. He cries:

アンさえ助かれば世界などどうなってもかまわない!

If only Ange is saved, what happens to the world doesn’t matter!

He breaks the seal, takes the Eternal Golden Crown and the Princess becomes well again. But the terrible darkness rises up from its place of captivity and overwhelms the King.

As it engulfs him, the darkness cries:

最愛のむすめをすくうために禁忌をおかし世界を破滅へとみちびく…これぞ まさに究極の自己中。きさまこそわたしの器にふさわしい。

For the sake of saving your dearly beloved daughter you break a taboo that leads the world to ruin. This is the ultimate selfishness. A wretch like you is perfectly suited to be my vessel.

From this moment the King is possessed. He is transformed into a monstrous being a hundred times the size of a man: King Jikochuu (selfishness).

The Princess, using another of the Three Sacred Treasures – the Miracle Dragon Glaive defeats King Jikochuu and encases him in stone. However, it is too late to save the Trump Kingdom which has already been overrun by the unleashed Forces of Darkness. The Princess is taunted by Bel for not finishing off the King. He accuses her of selfishness, leaving the entire Kingdom in the grip of darkness because she will not kill her father.

Bel is the Dark King’s general, and his aim is to unleash the full darkness of the Princess in order to turn her into a jikochuu.

The Princess, like the King before her, struggles between love and duty, and sees her heart begin to be darkened with selfishness. She breaks her heart in two and sends the two halves forth to battle it out, asking forgiveness for her weakness in not making a decision.

The Princess breaks her own heart in two
The Princess breaks her own heart in two

The dark half becomes Regina, who gravitates to King Jikochuu, and the light half becomes Madoka Aguri, (Cure Ace) who is “adopted” by a highly-traditional elderly Japanese lady.

Meanwhile the Princess reverts to an egg, and is reborn as the baby Ai-chan.

At the end of the Episode, King Jikochu is released (in the present) from his stone imprisonment. The girls speak of somehow re-integrating Regina and Aguri, but Regina speaks of her father’s love in sacrificing everything to save her and says she will always fight for him. King Jikochuu invades the human world and Regina, armed with the Miracle Dragon Glaive, accompanies him.

The other girls transform into their Precure forms, resolving to stop them.

I apologize for retelling the story at length, but the details are important. This story has two main themes – the struggle between love and duty (a classic theme of tales throughout the world before duty was deemed unimportant) and the battle between light and darkness.

Now the conflict between love and duty is particularly complex here because duty is another form of love. Throughout the series, the opposite of Jikochuu (selfishness) has been Ai (love). Cure Ace herself is called “Ai no kirifuda” (love’s trump card). So we are seeing individual love posed against the love of the world. The love of the world is expressed often in Japanese Anime and usually in very similar words. The Anpanman song speaks of  Anpanman’s mission as  being みんなの夢まもるため for the sake of protecting everyone’s dreams. Cure Ace speaks of protecting everyone’s smiles. The King says of the baby Princess as shining light like the sun:

人々に夢や希望をあたえる.

Granting the hopes and wishes of the people.

The problem here is that everyone has some darkness in her (we are all selfish to a certain degree, unless we are Enlightened Beings) and the dark can be very cunning at manipulating people – it can use love against love.

As we saw the very sickness which started this chain of events was caused by a small, escaped part of the Darkness. By threatening the Princess’s life, that one escaped piece of darkness was able to trick the King into releasing the whole army of darkness, and becoming himself the vessel for its leader.

Just as the good in us is ultimately one with the True Good, so the evil or selfishness in us is ultimatley part of the very Darkness. Not only the world, but each soul, is a battleground in the war between Light and Darkness.

While our individual personalities are important and the choices we make are of utmost importance, this amazing show is not ultimately about individuals and “character development” but about something much deeper, that in traditional thought is the real meaning of individual life and character.

Some people have supposed that the conflict between Light and Dark in Doki Doki Precure is simplistic, but I think we can see from the story above that it is very far from simplistic. The King’s dilemma was very real, as was the Princess’s. Their choices were by no means simple ones. The King made the wrong one and was consumed by Jikochuu. The Princess refused to decide at all and separated herself into two parts. Those two parts exist in all of us, called the False Self and the True Self.

Mana loves Regina but in the end is forced to fight her to protect the world. Cure Ace believes she must destroy Regina and King Jikochuu in order to restore the Trump Kingdom. Yet, in the end, all souls must return to the Light, in the words of Kannon-sama’s vow, “Even to the last blade of grass”.

How will all this resolve itself? We will see very soon. But we have the rare (certainly by Western standards virtually non-existent) privilege of seeing a story that deals not just with the superficialities of human life but with the fundamental questions of our existence.

Doki Doki Precure: Selfishness and Harmony

Selfish Crab: Doki Doki Precure Episode 1
Selfish Crab attacks order & harmony

In DokiDoki Precure the primary enemy is selfishness, embodied in a monster called King Jikochu (King Selfish) and its humanoid minions, the Selfish.

Each Precure series has a different enemy based on a different “theme”. Superficially these can be seen as so many arbitrary and colorful story elements, but if we look at them a little more closely we can see that there are in fact important connections between them.

In Suite Precure, the enemy is “Noise”. The fundamental conflict is between harmony and discord. The harmony (and the discord) are expressed musically, but we should note that 和 wa or harmony is a fundamental concept in Japanese life and in traditional metaphysics in general (it is an interesting side-note that the most literal battle between harmony and discord in serious music is one of the very few that have gone to the side of the angels in recent West Tellurian history). Wa is both social harmony and the “music of the spheres” — the harmony of all being.

That selfishness is also an opposite to this kind of harmony is clear enough. Self-centered behavior (literally 自己中 jikochuu 自己 jiko, self, 中 chuu, center) is anathema in Japan precisely because it destroys 和 wa. As it says in the Feminine Scriptures:

When each spoke assays to be the center, the wheel cannot turn.

In Heartcatch Precure the enemies are the Desert Apostles whose aim is to cause the withering of the great Heart Tree by exploiting the weaknesses of people’s individual Heart Flowers. Each individual Heart Flower (everyone has one) is connected to the great Heart Tree, and the health of the Heart Flowers and the Heart Tree are interdependent.

Heartcatch Precure: Great Heart Tree
The Great Heart Tree is linked to every individual heart

Perhaps we begin to see a pattern here! The connection of the individual with the Whole; the importance of wa or harmony; the enemies who seek to disrupt that harmony in the service of discord, selfishness, or a “bad end”.

In Smile Precure the theme is fairy tales, which, as most of us know, carry fundamental truths at their heart. The Happy Ending is precisely the defeat of discord and the restoration of divine Harmony. The enemies seek 最悪の結末 saiaku no ketsumatsu — “the worst possible ending” for the world. They mock friendship, trust, and amity as things they “don’t need” and continually preach against them.

Precure stories are always philosophical debates in this sense. A friend observed that a Magical Girl can rarely attack successfully without first stating the fundamental rightness of her cause. Very often in Precure battles the girls are at first defeated and the rallying point (while often depicted as a pretty new power) is actually heralded by a speech in which the wrongness of the villains’ cynical perspective and the rightness of amity and universal harmony is eloquently expounded.

Often these speeches will center around everyday things — the happiness of a Japanese omatsuri (festival); the reading of fairy tales to small children; food prepared with love and dedication. To some viewers these things may seem trivial or “childish”. In fact they are the everyday ways in which we express and reinforce wa or harmony.

That the villains sneer at these things while the heroines eloquently praise and defend them is a vital expression of the moral and metaphysical conflict that is taking place. That the villains’ point of view is often remarkably close to the cynicism popular in the current West is something most Japanese people are quite unaware of. They tend to believe that the West is a lot healthier than it actually is.

Someone recently said that English has no word for wa because the culture has no wa. While the metaphysical equivalence of social and cosmic harmony to music is profound, it does show a lack in the language that there is only a musical analogy to represent the concept. A member of the Daughters of Shining Harmony once told me that it would have been impossible simply to use “Daughters of Harmony” because it would sound like a vocal quartet, and there really is no word in English to express wa/harmony.

Major Land - Suite Precure
The Land of Harmony from Suite Precure

However that may be, the villains of the Precure series are fundamentally representatives of  fuwa (anti-wa — or in terms of feminine spirituality, athamë) which is essentially discord: the chaos that precedes cosmos in Greek thought, the opposite of the Music of the Spheres, and the principle of disharmony between people, which manifests as the harmony-destroying selfishness. When each spoke assays to be the center, the wheel cannot turn.

The Precures, by contrast, are the forces of wa. Their role is always to restore harmony and to reinstate the True Heart. As Cure Heart herself says in each episode [of course substituting whatever form the Selfish currently takes for “crab”]:

愛をなくした悲しいカニさんこのキュアハートがあなたのドキドキ取りもどしてみせる!

Ai wo nakushita kanashii kani-san kono kyua haato  ga anata no dokidoki torimodoshite miseru!

“Love-bereft, unhappy crab-san, I, Cure Heart will certainly restore your heartbeat.”

“Heartbeat” here is hard to translate. It is dokidoki , which can mean excitement or happiness but also refers to the heartbeat, and as I think must be clear by now, it refers equally to both these things at once — to the restoration of the True Heart as opposed to the isolated, fuwa, selfish heart. The heart has lost love by becoming selfish. Its self-seeking can only lead to unhappiness because it has left the dance of the Universal Music.

The job of the Precure is to restore the true heartbeat, that is at once harmony, happiness, and abundant life, to both the individual and the cosmos.
_____

See also:
The Philosophy of Doki Doki Precure: Overview
Precures, Sailors and Admirals: the Art of Transformation
Magical Girls are for Real

“Guilty Pleasures” and Conscience-Inversion

Suite Precure - too true to be good?
Suite Precure – too true to be good?

A friend was recently telling me about how many review sites for the kind of anime we watch complain that they are “unrealistically good” or that the conflict between characters is based on misunderstandings and not “real conflict”. The latter remark was made in the case of Suite Precure.

Many of the same people refer to Magical Girl anime as a “guilty pleasure” because they see them as vacuous largely because they are “too good”, lack “real conflict” between the good people and operate in terms of good vs evil.

Now actually, as we try to show here, the values of the best magical girl anime are actually metaphysically quite deep. Much deeper than the average adult Western movie. Suite Precure, to take an example, has a theme of music. Music is metaphysically symbolic of the cosmic harmony, of which human harmony is one part. Therefore it is natural that the show should explore the themes of discord vs. harmony. And because (unlike post-modern culture of the Western petty-intelligentsia) its values are not inverted, it is naturally on the side of harmony.

To the inverted pop-Western sensibility, harmony and goodness are naïve and therefore enjoying anything insufficiently “dark” is a “guilty pleasure”.

Interestingly (although I do not claim to have read a lot of this kind of Western chatter), this is the only way I have ever heard the term “guilty pleasure” used. It appears to mean that something is “too decent”, and therefore the writer is ashamed of liking it.

As such “guilty pleasure” seems to be almost a technical term of conscience-inversion: that process by which modern Western pop-society makes people proud of their worst instincts and ashamed of their best ones.

I am interested to know, am I correct about this? Is this how the term “guilty pleasure” is generally used? Do pop a comment below!

Is Your Innocence Lost Forever?

Is the age of innocence lost?
Is the age of innocence lost?

Is innocence actually possible? Once we grow up, have we outgrown innocence because we know “reality”? Is everything we do to recreate innocence false and foolish? That is what the world will try to tell you. And we are here to tell you why that is so wrong.

To a lot of Western people innocence = ignorance. We are only innocent because we don’t know or haven’t experienced what they like to call “real life”.

From this view a lot of other things follow, so it is important for us to understand what innocence actually is.

What are the things that follow from the innocence = ignorance equation? Let’s look at some of them.

• If innocence = ignorance, then once we “know” it is gone. It cannot be recovered.

Therefore:

• If we do “know” then any attempt at innocence is false.

Therefore:

• People cultivating an innocent style and enjoying innocent things are

either:

• Deceiving other people and putting up a false front.

or:

• Deceiving themselves and imagining they can return to a more childlike state when in fact their knowledge of “reality” has trapped them forever in non-innocence (or, to use the terms of those who dislike innocence “given them a realistic view of the world”).

This view of innocence as ignorance is deeply embedded in the modern Western view of the world. It accounts for a lot of the cynicism that we see engrained in the entire current western culture.

What is the answer to this?

Well let us begin by asking, what is this “reality” that the West is so proud of.

On the surface it consists of two things.

1. A belief (founded on the “Freudian revolution” of the early 20th century) that “sex” is central to the human psychological condition.

2. A belief that the world is inherently hostile and therefore we have to be constantly on our guard.

However these two already-dubious assertions have become largely excuses for something else. That something else is what the Narnia-professor, C.S. Lewis called the “Saturnian” culture of the 20th century. An attraction to things that are dark and negative.

Let us take just a few things at random. An acquaintance started a beautiful fashion boutique, and named it “The Dubious Armoire”. A blogger presents absolutely beautiful anime-inspired wallpapers and wonderful information on Japanese language, and calls it “The Jaded Network”. A reasonably charming Lolita site contains an implied swear-word in its title.

dark-and-gritty
We’ll turn the world to darkness!
Anime villainy or standard modern culture?

If these were isolated instances, they would not be important. But you, dear reader, know they are not. You know that it is almost compulsory to include a “negative” or “dark” element in anything that aspires to be beautiful or bright. An art network full of lovely things must be called “Deviant Art”. This cynicism, this belief that anything beautiful must also be “warped”, “twisted” etc. is deeply embedded in popular culture.

Now compare this with Japanese names for places where we may find beautiful things. “Angelic Pretty”, “Fairy Wish”.

Now here is the fundamental point: Which of these two sets of attitudes is natural? What does a normal, healthy person want? Does she want happiness or does she prefer sadness? Does she want things to be pure and good, or does she want them to be warped and “deviant”? Does she want Light, or does she want Darkness?

I think once we put it this way, the answer is clear. The pure, open, innocent happy things are what we naturally want. The yearning for darkness and twistedness is not natural to us. It is something we learn, and it is wrong. Really it is as simple as that.

So – it is true that once we learn to like nasty things, our innocence is gone, and to that degree, innocence = ignorance.

BUT, here is the point: Innocence does not equal ignorance of truth. It equals ignorance of certain falsehoods. If the opposite of innocence were the truth then innocence would be lost. In order to keep innocence we would have to deny the truth. So we would either be deceiving others or deceiving ourselves.

But what if the “knowledge” that denies innocence is a lie? What if innocence is natural and true – the simple longing for what is good and light and pure? What if cynicism is just the willful embrace of darkness?

the-trap

In that case, “knowledge” does not destroy innocence. Because we can know the lie as much as we are forced to. But we do not believe it. Only if the lie were true would knowledge destroy innocence.

So are we saying that modern western popular culture is based on a lie? To a large extent, yes, we are. The pursuit of darkness, selfishness, “sex” and coarseness are deeply ingrained in much of the culture. And this is not natural, it is not right and it does not represent any kind of truth.

In seeking innocence, happiness and beauty, we are seeking the things a person naturally wants. The right and true things. And in doing so we find a deeply cynical and unnatural culture opposed to us. That is why we call ourselves musume senshi. Because in order to be innocent and pure one has to have at least a little of the heroic warrior spirit.

When we see magical girls in anime, sometimes we may think it a bit odd that there are always these cackling villains with plans to take over the world and turn it into a dark place – to make the heart-flowers wilt, to drain everyone of her energy etc. It may seem like a rather awkward plot-device. But actually it is rooted deeply in the nature of things. Wherever there is light, darkness will oppose it. If we want to be good and pure, there will be cackling villains telling us that only darkness and coarseness and “twistedness” are real.

We do not have to go out and defeat those villains. But we do have to do something that requires courage and fortitude. We have to defeat them in our hearts.

And if we do that, then we can regain our innocence with absolute authenticity, however much it has been assaulted and battered by the forces of darkness.

Like the Magical Girls in the anime, we can triumph through determination and fortitude, even when defeat seemed certain. We can expose the lie and return to our true, natural, and pure state of innocence.

Ganbatte kudasai!

The enemy looks strong but Purity WILL win!
The enemy looks strong but Purity WILL win!


Continue to our other Keynote Pages

Happy, Innocent and Fighting Evil
Group Self-Policing: How Innocence is Arrested
Magical Girls are for Real!