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branchandroot: cherries (cherries)
Just because this tends to tick me off, and it matters for the Naruto-verse.

So. Before the form of hormonal contraception currently known as the Pill, there were a bunch of herbal, chemical, and mechanical options for contraception. They fall into three general categories: barriers, measures that make the vagina and uterus inhospitable to sperm and thus prevent conception, and measures that make the uterus resistant to implanting and thus prevent gestation. (Yes, the morning-after pill is not a new idea; it is, in fact, a really, really old one.)

There is also the good old fallback of lactation, since lactation suppresses the menstrual cycle. But that only works when there's already a kid. So if you're a writer and thinking about "how to get my characters birth control", well that's more toward the family-planning end of things.

The thing is, every single one of the pre-modern methods are limited use approaches. They are used just before or after coitus. They may, in the case of something like pennyroyal, be used regularly once a month to ensure menstruation, but only for a few days. Half these options are "make a paste of these two or three things and dab it inside before you go for it". The other half tend strongly toward "take X much of this substance in the morning". (In a few of the second case, one also prays that it's enough to kill a blastocyst without killing oneself; it's really amazing how many places thought ingesting mercury for one purpose or other was a good idea.)

You wouldn't think this needs to be said, but apparently it does for some writers: this is the exact opposite of the Pill. There is no pre-modern form of birth control I have ever come across that is taken daily. That is an approach used with a medication whose effectiveness relies on constantly adding small doses of hormones which are not being natively produced. There is no herbal Pill, okay?

Of course, this leaves me with the question of what ninjas are using. )
branchandroot: white chrysanthemum on black (chrysanthemum-stark)
I seeded a Genius playlist with "West End Girls" and the result is pretty much a tour of our 70s and 80s alternative collection highlights.

It appears to be resonating with my Hinata character.

I, um, think she's maybe a little more pissed off and bitter than she shows even me. On the bright side, every single one of the love songs that pops up on here makes Neji go all starry-eyed in his very stoic way, which is good news for the "omg get together already" part of their arc, supposing I manage to get there.
branchandroot: butterfly on a desk with a world in a bottle (butterfly glass desk)
I can't do it. I just can't.

I cannot bring myself to use "bloodline limit" as the translation for kekkei genkai.

This is one of those situations where it would really have been helpful for someone to think for ten seconds put together about how Japanese is put together before translating it 'literally'. Indeed, 血 means "blood" and 継 shows up in words having to do with inheritance. And 限界 translates to "limit" or "boundary". And when you put these together, if you are translating with the utmost in infelicitous literality, you might wind up with "bloodline limit". But that utterly mangles the meaning and structure of the original phrase.

What the phrase indicates is [contextual noun] limited to inheritance by blood. In this case, ninja-magic talents, often with some particular physical expression.

Japanese grammatical structure sometimes leaves a noun unspoken, to be filled in contextually. Standard English doesn't generally do that, and the job of translators is to make a phrase that works in English. In this case, however, the attempt to provide the original phrase with a noun resulted in using the wrong one. "Limit", in the original phrase, is serving as an implicit verb--that is, a form of "to limit" rather than "a limit". "A bloodline limit" (observe that "limit" in this translation is the noun) is an incorrect 'literal' translation.

And while I'm willing to use a lot of moderately nonsensical or not-entirely-felicitous catch phrases that fandom has previously agreed on just because they'll be recognized, I can't bring myself to do it here. Nope. It's going to be "bloodline talent" for me, adding in the noun and leaving the genkai unspoken in context instead; I feel that's sufficiently communicated, in English, by "bloodline", which I kind of have to use to achieve any recognition at all. If I'd been the initial translator, I'd probably have used "blood bound talent"; hell, maybe I should use that anyway.

Now just watch and see how many wee fangirls who probably couldn't even tell me the difference between a noun and a verb in English, let alone anything about Japanese phrase structure, try to tell me that I Got It Wrong. I should probably make this post public so I can just link them to it and have done.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
One of the things I feel the fic-urge to do is rationalize Sage mode. Because Kishimoto made an everloving hash of it.

The idea that using external chakra is dangerous is well established, in this universe, and it makes a certain amount of sense. Our initial examples of it, after all, are people drawing on the chakra of demons (the tailed beasts) who seem to be extremely hostile. The consequences of being overwhelmed by an external chakra are, sensibly enough, uncontrolled transformation.

Then Kishimoto had to go and get weird. First we have the notion that ninja are not already using "Nature" chakra when quite a few things about ninja practice in general are firmly based on philosophies that emphasize the ways in which human chi is not apart from the world's chi: both clan-specific practices like the Hyuuga's Not Really Tai Chi At All, and general practices like the hand seals themselves. This, however, can be rationalized somewhat by supposing that the "nature" chakra involved in sage practices is more intense or concentrated a drawing-in of external chakra. Concentrated enough to potentially overwhelm someone, just like the tailed beasts' chakra can, and cause similar uncontrolled transformations.

Then we have what I consider the greater problem that Nature = Toads. Apparently only the toads know how to do this thing, because Not Really Mt. Kouya At All, the only place sage-ness is taught in the whole world since we never see anyone but Jiraiya and Naruto using it, is populated solely by toads. And, just to clinch it, being overwhelmed by nature chakra will cause one to turn into a toad! Just a toad, no variety, Nature = Toads.

I'm sorry, whiskey tango foxtrot, say again?

I can buy that toad mountain is one of the places renown for these arts. I can also buy that Jiraiya becomes toad-ish when using sage arts, because his assistants/batteries/transformers are, after all, toads. Having his form be toad-flavored quite makes sense in light of this. But that's as far as I'll go. For the rest, I say there must be a solid dozen or so places that teach sage arts in different ways, and Naruto only winds up with toad eyes because he was taught the particularly toad way.

And that brings us to the next problem, which is the notion that one must be perfectly still to gather nature chakra. This is such a smashingly obvious case of "I need it to have a drawback for plot purposes, and it can't be difficulty because Naruto has to totally ace learning it, because he's the Chosen One now" that I can only throw up my hands. There's no excuse for this one and a good deal of precedent against it in Asian esoteric and martial practices; I hereby ignore it.

And I note that Kishimoto, after using the sage arts to show how Cosmic and Enlightened Naruto is becoming, abandons it and goes right back to the tailed beasts. The entire arc involving Pain might as well never have happened; all the consequences were erased or not shown to have any effect. It's like this bizarre quantum loop of time outside the rest of the progression. I can't help suspecting this is because Kishimoto finally realized just what a corner he painted himself into with this whole Apotheosis Of Naruto kick he had going. I mean, really, what do you do for an encore after that, to wrap up all the dangling ends?

You go back to what works, that's what. I propose to follow this example, sans the detour in the first place.
branchandroot: Hatsuharu looking pissed (Haru black)
I am, unsurprisingly, extremely short-tempered lately.

This is mostly manifesting as swearing viciously at other drivers on the road and also my current client for fairly small lapses. But it is also possible that this is why I have finally decided that, yes, Kishimoto did change his mind halfway through and that Itachi being a Sekrit Gud Guy is a very poorly done retcon.

Particular indications: the fact that, even well into the changover between the two series halves, Itachi is still telling Sasuke to live on hate and make it his cause. You can attempt to explain this as Itachi's effort to turn Sasuke away from him and toward the village, but encouraging revenge in particular just does not fit with Itachi being sane albeit anguished and rational enough to lay a false trail. That's a fantastically self-centered statement and fits perfectly with Itachi being genuinely psycho.

But, of course, a personal enemy like that didn't fit with the change over to the Cosmic Issues plotline, so while Kishimoto was busy totally overturning the momentum of the first half and making Naruto into the One True Hero and Sasuke into a nutcase in service of this, he also decided to tie up the dangling villain by making him a secretly angsty demi-hero. This without any of the actual rationalization or explanation required to carry it off.

Doubleplus fail, Kishimoto.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
TRC: ...for pity's sake, just write a damn /ending/ already.

Naruto: This is getting pathetically boring. The current fight has no draw to it, no magnetism, both parties have gotten downright annoying.

Bleach: *squeaks* Oo! Oo! Maybe they're back?! Also, Starkk rocks.

KHR: *dotes on Gokudera's glee over his explosives* On the other hand, I find it deeply annoying that Amano has reverted to spaz!Tsuna. Total characterization fail, Amano. The prospect of seeing Dino and Hibari fighting is lovely, but clearly only a tease at the moment. *grumps a bit over that*
branchandroot: fractal in blue and gray spheres (fractal round)

My response to TRC/Holic is pretty steady these days, and consists of something along the lines of: WTF Clamp?! I mean, the mother named the same thing as the soulmate was bad enough, but now we’re way into the weird spiritual incest and/or masturbation realm. And still no ending in sight. *sighs*

Naruto, on the other hand, is looking interesting, despite the continuing obliteration of the moral and psychological dynamics from the first two-thirds (ie teamwork). It looks like we may be shaping up for a round of “You use that word a lot…”. I am still wondering where the hell Sasuke et al are and how exactly he and/or Madara are going to play into this. I mean, the most emotionally satisfying thing would be for the current trio to break the pattern of the past trios and actually redeem the poor guy, but I’m becoming increasingly unconvinced of Kishimoto’s dedication to satisfying endings.

Bleach… well, now, I have mixed feelings this week. The Ulquiorra-Inoue dynamic got some halfway decent continuation, but little closure. He remains rather a mystery. I don’t actually object to that, but the way that dynamic crossed with the Ulquiorra-Ichigo was… distracting. There’s a lot of development happening, but it all seems to be subterranean. I’m hoping that soon we will get some greater in-action explication.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Back from the holidays, and all I can say about most of these is “well finally!”.

Naruto )

Bleach )

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Reading Naruto, of late, I feel like I’m reading Death Note all over again. As Ohba did, Kishimoto has drastically altered the structure and themes of the story he is telling, halfway through. And, as with DN, I like the first part better.

The first part of Naruto dealt with personal growth and the formation of personal and communal bonds. It dealt with children learning their own strength and, perhaps even moreso, each other’s strength. It also had vivid characters with engaging stories, dramatic enough to be exciting and regular enough to relate to easily, who carried these themes. The team that we follow all through the first part has a wonderfully high-tension relationship in Naruto and Sasuke plus the balance wheel of Sakura, who made it possible for them to operate as a team and thus keep bouncing off each other. It had shifting relationships and growing bonds of love and loyalty between the three of them, plus, for a bonus, the Sardonic Teacher in the form of Kakashi to serve as a commentator on their development.

I’m inclined to call the breakup of the team the first in a series of sharks this story jumped, but on reflection I think that, while true, this was not inevitable.  The development of the above themes actually lasted a bit past Sasuke’s departure. It would have been possible to preserve the momentum. Alas, that is not what Kishimoto chose to do.

Instead, the second half not only breaks up the team (which could have been a perfectly valid narrative move to spur further character growth) but it takes the focus away from their development and their relationships. Instead Naruto finds himself largely in isolation again, this time with the support of adults, cultivating his power.  It’s like his friends have only served to help manifest his solitary destiny, which is totally counter to the early themes.  Sakura seems to have an interesting storyline, from what little we see of it, but that’s the sticking point right there–we see so little of it. As for Sasuke… he has interesting things happening around him, but they seem to have absolutely zero impact on his character; he appears to have actually regressed and, while that too could have been turned into a useful narrative point, nothing is made of the fact.  Instead he’s just been bumped back as if none of his early development happened at all.  He, and Naruto to a large extent, have ceased to grow as characters; instead they just get glitzy new powers. The dynamic tension of their relationship has lapsed, and with it most of the zing of the series.

By the same token, one of the deepest themes of the first part was friendship and rivalry and what they mean and how they interact. That theme has disappeared. We have lingering references to it, but the actions of the characters show no urgency or plot-energy invested in the theme at all. Instead we have the growth of an historical theme, one that steps back and looks at the philosophical issues of ninja-dom in this universe. That could be interesting, but it isn’t what I want while the plot and character threads from the first half are still dangling around unfulfilled!

Really, Kishimoto should just have kept writing Naruto the way he was and spun off a completely different manga, probably focusing on Itachi, if he wanted to address the historical thread. They might have been crossed again later, and that could have made a fascinating maturation opportunity for the youngsters as they got older, but trying to do both in the same narrative space clearly isn’t going to work. And if this is, as is rumored, the fault of the Jump editors… then may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their armpits and may an unclean yak back into their linen closets and may they always have papercuts when they go to prepare vinegared rice.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

Bleach: *fans self* Oh my. Aizen has met his match for top contender in the “badness is hot like fire” sweepstakes. Who knew Urahara could be sexy as hell?

Naruto: *slaps desk* There, now that is a fine issue! Why can’t you write like that more often, Kishimoto? Just the right balance of heart-rending and hopeful, with good, stark shading to complement it. Ditch all these fights with characters who take ten freaking issues to die after being gut-stabbed and write like this more.

Eyeshiled 21: … InaMura, you want to kill us, don’t you? What was that? Three reverses in one issue? My heart won’t take another three months of this!

All in all, a darn good week.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
We already know my opinion on TRC is "will you get /on/ with it already!". Moving on.

ES21 242 )

PoT 351 )

Naruto 263 )

February 2017

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