Friday, January 15, 2010

Final Thoughts: Aoi Bungaku

So sorry for this post being late. I had to do some real world stuff. Anyhoo, this is it for Aoi Bungaku. I'll be replacing this slot with whatever interesting series I'll be watching this season. Next week will be my first impressions of some of the recent series I've watched so far.
Spider's Thread
More Screencaps from Aoi Bungaku 11: Spider's Thread

Kandata, a criminal who does not think twice about murder, commits the greatest crime of all by disturbing the country-wide celebration held in honor of the king. In his wrath, the king orders his men to bring Kandata to him for his well-deserved punishment. At first, ruthless Kandata has no trouble eluding his pursuers. However, danger comes to him from the most unlikely of persons: a kid whose mother he once thoughtlessly killed for a bite of food. Now a wounded Kandata takes shelter under the eaves of a house and finds -- of all things -- a spider, and for the first time, he does not harm a creature simply because he could, saying instead that no matter how small a life, it was still worth living. The next day, Kandata is seized by the king's troops and the king lays down upon him the death penalty. Up to the end, Kandata does not display remorse for his sins. He wakes up in a strange place where people are constantly trying to kill him, but when he fights back, it is always himself that he ends up murdering. This happens over and over until Kandata can take no more and cries out for help. He sees then a strange light coming from above and a faint, shiny string flowing down. It's a spider's thread! Kandata tests its strength, then starts climbing. When he is almost the top, he realizes that others are trying to climb the thread as well. Fearing the thread would break, Kandata kicks at them, screaming that the spider's thread belongs to him. Then all of a sudden, the thread gives way as the spider waiting for him above abandons Kandata to the bottom pits of hell.

Hell's Screen
More Screencaps from Aoi Bungaku 12: Hell's Screen

Yoshihide, royal painter, has just finished his latest masterpiece: a protrait of the king. The king is very pleased and celebrates this accomplishment by hosting a boat party. An accident occurs but instead of helping the survivors, the king orders his guards to kill the upstarts who dare to interrupt his party. Yoshihide and his daughter, Mitsuki, see this with their own eyes and are horrified. Then, as though nothing has happened, the king turns to Yoshihide and says that he wants him to paint another great masterpiece. That evening, Yoshihide reveals to Mitsuki his misgivings about painting the king's idea of beauty when he does not understand it himself. The next day, the king summons Yoshihide and shows him the inside of a mausoleum, which is intended to be his final resting place. He wants Yoshihide to paint his country and his people on the inner walls so that even in death he may continue to rule the country. Yoshihide accepts the commission without protest. One night, the whole city is in chaos due to a plague affecting many people. The king's army, armed with torches, is dispatched, not to help the suffering people but to burn them alive. Yoshihide witnesses the event and is unable to stop himself from drawing what he sees. These drawings become the study for his painting on the king's tomb. When the king sees the final work, he is naturally angry. Instead of beauty, Yoshihide has painted a hell's screen. But Yoshihide is not finished. In the middle of the tomb, he wants to paint a person screaming in pain as his body is engulfed in flames. So he asks the king to show it to him so that he may be able to paint it. The king, still angry over Yoshihide's "insult," gives Yoshihide what he wants, adding his own sadistic touch: he burns Mitsuki at the stake. Yoshihide realizes the king's trick and can only watch as Mitsuki is engulfed in flames, just like in his vision for his painting. However, the king miscalculates as the flames spread, catching his clothes and burning him as well, while Yoshihide just watches, having resigned himself to paint what he sees. The tomb is finally finished and among the principal figures that Yoshihide painted is that of the king burning in hell alongside the criminal Kandata. And at the center of it all is Mitsuki's face amid flames and lying next to it is the dead body of Yoshihide.


What an appropriate end to a dark, mangly series. I'm not sure if I like the story of these last two episodes compared to the others but they are quite interesting, being more of straightforward fantasy tales than anything else. They also take the moralizing tone of Run, Melos! to a different level -- kid-level, in fact. Apparently, Spider's Thread is a kid's story. No small wonder there. Although a story with that much blood and violence involved is something only Japan can consider as "child-friendly." fufufufufu ~

By contrast, Hell's Screen is clearly for adults. But again, the author takes such a clear-cut approach to the storyline that it might as well be considered "for kids" as well. According to the episode introductions, Hell's Screen is the author's attempt at writing in the style of his contemporaries -- that is, writing in the first person point of view and basing the story on his own personal experiences. When it first came out, it wasn't received very well and the author committed suicide later on. Oh, Japan -_-

These two stories being very clear, as I said, I don't think I need to elaborate on the whole thing any further. The hidden meanings aren't hidden and the lessons are stuff you've probably learned (or should've learned) a long time ago.

That said, yes, Aoi Bungaku has been a good series. Most of the story arcs are interesting and I can't find fault with the art and animation at all. Madhouse does it again. But I think I will best remember Aoi Bungaku for opening my eyes to Japan's literature gems, something which I think has been the goal all along.

Now to look for English translation copies of these books. ^_^

Don't forget: next week, on the same timeslot, first impressions for Sora no Woto, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Durarara! and Ookami Kakushi.


Masashi Miyashita said...

Watching this series, I can truly understand what "Literature" is. I've heard the "Spider's Thread" story before, and I've read Ryunosuke Akutagawa (all of his stories. I own the whole series) but the way this series (or at least these two episodes) were portrayed, is just amazing. Nothing will ever affect the way this has affected me. I fell into a whole state of depression and fear and maddening thoughts that Hell was actually calling me. While i was watching Hell Screen, chill after chill kept running through my whole body, and only releasing me with a gush of tears that kept flowing from my eyes like endless springs of knowledge...I always knew i was a deep thinker and a proud philosopher and this has been a great piece of thought that latched itself into my being and shows no sign of ever letting go. I know this reaction is a little extreme, but that is the extent to how much this series affected me....Believe me, i have watched others, too, but this one...this series is TRULY, a Blue Masterpiece. Dazai, Akutagawa, and all the other great Japanese authors, published and non-published included, my hats off to you, and may you rest in piece. This was no spam, and I am 14 so please look at me through eyes cloaked in forgiveness.