Kodama in Anime

Let’s dive into some figures of Japanese folklore and their representation in anime. Today I would like to focus on kodama, Japanese spirits that inhabit trees. Japanese dryads, if you will.

Up until a short time ago, the word kodama immediately made me think of the Ghibli rendering—glow-in-the-dark bobbleheads with wonky heads from Princess Mononoke.

Then I watched Hoozuki no Reitetsu and saw a totally different kodama.

Instead of tiny toy-like figures with asymmetrical faces, I was met with a child-sized spirit with an apron over a kimono and leaves sticking out everywhere. Now, they are both cute, but otherwise rather different. That made me think, what about other depictions of kodama in anime? Continue reading

Anime Adaptations 2009-15

After looking at the most recent anime adaptations, I am going to look a little bit further into the past and analyze adaptations from 2009 to 2015.

The methodology is the same as in my first article:

I’m researching only nonH TV series (no OVAs or movies) that started that season (no continuing anime, like One Piece, but I count second seasons).

As to why I chose 2009 (and not the nice round start of the decade) creating a rather lopsided interval, I have a number of reasons. For North Americans, the main milestone would be Crunchyroll going legal and thus bringing about the beginning of the legal anime streaming era. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Elsewhere around the world, we relied on less legal sources to watch anime. In 2009, a number of what will someday become classics or at least time-tried paradigms of quality came out. In Spring Season 2009, K-ON! aired. I’ve collected a number of reason why that would be a turning point in the fandom – some call K-ON! the peak of moe culture; it’s a milestone of the cute-girls-doing-cute-things genre, as well as the directorial debut of Yamada Naoko, the lady who went on to direct Tamako Market (and Tamako Love Story) and Sound! Euphonium.

And that’s not all! The second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which contains the legendary Endless Eight, came out. The first season of Bakemonogatari started airing. From movies, 2009 brought us Summer Wars (highly recommended). And if you like girls falling in love with other girls, then you can be grateful for Sweet Blue Flowers (青い花 [あおいはな, aoi hana, blue flowers] in Japanese) and Whispered Words (aka Sasameki Koto). Continue reading

Doai Underground Trainstation

I enjoy anime which teach me something. For example, fairly recently there have been several cooking anime. I loved learning about traditional Japanese cuisine in Sushi and Beyond or foods from all around the world in Shokugeki no Souma. Nevertheless as a future civil engineer I appreciate architectural trivia the most.

For me the most memorable detail from the “cute girls climbing mountains” anime, Yama no Susume, wasn’t any of the natural wonders they visited, but the Doai underground station where the girls get off the train when climbing Mount Tanigawa. Unlike most viewers I already knew of the station having seen it in a yet another anime I’ll also be drawing information from today. Tetsuko no Tabi is about a train enthusiast and a hard-to-impress mangaka traveling around Japan visiting interesting railway stations and making a manga about it. One day I might write about some of the other amazing stations they visit, but today I want to tell you about the Doai station.

Yama no Susume 2 episode 21

Continue reading

Vodyanoy in The Ancient Magus’ Bride

This post is about the traditional vodyanoy, a creature from Slavic folklore. It was inspired by the mention of it in 魔法使いの嫁 [まほうつかいのよめ, mahoutsukai no yome, The Ancient Magus’ Bride].

Angelica’s familiar, Hugo, is supposed to be a vodyanoy. In his case, that pretty much means a water spirit. But the traditional ones aren’t like that.

водяно́й, вадзянік, водяник, wodnik, vodník, vodnik, vodanoj, podvodni mož, водењак, Вутăш

先ず [まず, mazu, first of all] they are no fairies. Continue reading

Why Is Girls’ Love Called Yuri?

When talking about lesbian relationships in anime and manga, we often use the word yuri. (When talking about homosexual relationships between men, we use yaoi.) What does it mean originally and how did it come to be used as a synonym for girls’ love?

The word 百合 literally means lily, as in the white flower. I know there are lilies of countless colors (we have some orange ones in our garden), but the 百 in 百合 means white and the original Madonna lily is white.

from episode 2 of Blend S

Now, regarding the second part of the question, how it came to be used as a synonym for girls’ love. In the seventies in Japan, there was a magazine for the gay male community, called 薔薇族. If you’re into yaoi, you might know that there is a genre called 薔薇, which refers to gay manga made (usually) by and for gay men. (To be contrasted to yaoi, which is usually drawn by and for straight women.) Anyway, in 1976, Bungaku Itō, editor of 薔薇族, used the term 百合族 in reference to female readers in the title of a column of letters called 百合族の部屋. The column didn’t last long and appeared just sporadically, but since it was geared towards lesbians, that name stuck. So gay men were the roses, while lesbians became the lilies.

Take this explanation with a grain of salt though. Who knows, maybe this wasn’t the first instance of lilies used as a synonym for girls’ love. Maybe it came from so many main characters in yuri manga being called 百合 or 百合子. (I wonder how that idea would have blossomed without the magazine popularization.) Mr. Itō is still alive (85 years old this past spring), but I doubt he remembers where the name came from.

from episode 2 of Yuri Kuma Arashi

Where do anime adaptations come from?

A fellow blogger was so bold as to proclaim that light novels are some of the most common sources of anime adaptations today. That got me thinking, is that really true? My husband didn’t think so. And so a new research post was born. (While researching this I found another post claiming almost every anime is adapted from manga. I’ll disprove that along the way.)

First of all, let’s look at anime from 2016 and this year. The aforementioned claim is from October 2016, which nests nicely in the middle of my interval. Regarding my methodology: I’m researching only nonH TV series (no OVAs or movies) that started that season (no continuing anime, like One Piece, but I count second seasons that started after a pause).

In total I have 393 anime series. 104 of those were not adaptations, also known as originals. In percentages, 26.5% of TV series were originals and 73.5% were adaptations. To disprove the parenthesized claim about almost every anime being a manga adaptation — 160 of 393 series were manga adaptations, which rounds to 40.7%. It is a high percentage, but nowhere near “almost every anime.”

Below I put together a graph of the adaptations, so my results excluding originals. The total is 289. As you can see manga takes up more than a half of the pie (55.4%) — this includes regular manga, yonkoma and webmanga. Orange light novels come to 13.1%. It would be the second highest percentage, if I didn’t add the two green slices – games and visual novels – together, totaling 50 series and 17.3 percent. I must concede that in either situation light novels are “some of the most common sources of anime adaptations.” Still, they do not make up a large part at all. In addition, a great number (19 out of 38) of those light novel adaptations come from 2017, that is after the claim was written.

Anime Adaptations 2016-7

To complete the circle, regular novels make up 6.6% of anime adaptations and the rest is anything that didn’t fit into my categories. For example anime adapted from pachinko machine commercials or illustration books (I’m talking about Honobono log).

That’s settled. My curiosity has been quenched, but another question arose – was it always like that? I think it’s pretty (about 100%) likely that it wasn’t. I’ll try to delve into that some other day. So look forward to that!

御田 | Oden

If you’ve read my bento post, you know I have a bit of an interest in Japanese cuisine. Today I want to write a tiny bit about oden, an eintopf Japanese dish, which appears in anime quite often.

So, what is it? This is a difficult question to answer, because there are countless regional and household varieties. I’d settle for a dashi broth with kamaboko, boiled egg, konjac and white radish.

oden-shirobako-24

Oden in Shirobako episode 24

(I would have loved for Sushi and Beyond to dedicate an episode to oden.) Continue reading

Hokusai in Hoozuki no Reitetsu

In episode 8 of Hoozuki no Reitetsu several facts about a certain Edo period artist, Hokusai, were mentioned. Even if you do not recognize his name, you are probably familiar with his world-famous print The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa

What I like the most about watching Hoozuki no Reitetsu are precisely these snippets of information about the Japanese culture. I really appreciate the meticulousness with which the translators and editors subtitle it. There are so many Buddhist terms, so I expect the research behind this to be exhausting.

The series itself is not particularly special — some may even say it is substandard — but I really enjoy learning about the various mythical creatures, religion and folklore through anime. I don’t intend to talk about the series today, so for more information please see its ANN entry. News flash: Hoozuki no Reitetsu is getting a second season this fall!
I hope you’ll join me, fellow art lovers, otaku and other interested readers~

Astronomy in Gokukoku no Brynhildr

When I pored over the Neregate spring season chart and decided to at least try watching Gokukoku no Brynhildr, I was expecting a lot more astronomy than what we could have seen so far. Nevertheless, there is still enough night sky material for me to write up a short post.

1/ Ptolemy’s Constellations

Somewhere near the middle of the first episode, there is a close-up of the list of 48 constellations listed in Ptolemy’s Amalgest. What caught my eye right away was the singular in the title, the first tip off. Yes, the original Japanese TV releases had the list in English, using layman’s terms often derived from what the constellations represent and in some cases baffling names, like the Colt (for the Foal/Pony) or the Winged Horse (for Pegasus). A moment of confusion for those who are generally more accustomed to the Latin names.

(As always click the thumbnails for a better view and mouse over for captions.)

brynhildrlist Continue reading

In what order should I watch Monogatari anime?

August 20, 2017: This post is currently up-to-date.
Please let me know if you find mistakes or inaccuracies.

op1206_bakemonogatari

I took it upon myself to settle the simple question posed in the title of this post: “In what order should I watch Monogatari anime?” Just to be sure, by Monogatari anime I mean the several series of various lengths adapted from Nisio Isin’s (a palindrome and a pen name) light novels by studio SHAFT under the direction of Akiyuki Shinbō. For those unable to bear the suspense, my short answer is “In the order in which either the anime or the novels came out or chronologically.” For a longer and more detailed rebuttal read on. Continue reading