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branchandroot: an opening rose (opening rose)
So, I was re-reading and re-watching the first arc of Yami no Matsuei, and I have to say the differences are interesting.

For one thing, the manga actually has a totally different introduction: the pilot issue before the first arc. That introduces Tsuzuki in a considerably more serious and responsible light than the anime does. It doesn't play up his sweets-craving nearly as much, and it's made clear that it isn't just that no one wants to partner with a slacker like Tsuzuki--he's also the training wheels and counselor of the division, and all the new or unsteady transfers get sent to him.

It's also made clear that Tsuzuki, not Hisoka, is the one who's most willing to bend rules, to break into locked archives, to save people who should be dying, even if this involves lying through his teeth. And the division chief knows this good and well and condones it. Hisoka himself is presented in a businesslike and competent light from the start. The manga also did without the silly maneuvering the anime had to go through to make him drink one glass of alcohol by accident; the original drinking contest makes his resultant passing out and hangover far more reasonable.

The things that most caught my attention, though, were the differences in Muraki, and Hisoka in relation to him. The anime implies very strongly, right from the start, that a) Muraki wants to seduce Tsuzuki and b) Muraki raped Hisoka. The manga, by contrast, does not have any seduce-Tsuzuki moments in the first arc and states particularly that Muraki chose to use a wasting curse on Hisoka instead of "merely" killing him right then and raping him to make it look like a garden variety sex crime.

I actually have to wonder whether Muraki was intended to be a one-time-appearance villain. His madness is certainly presented in a straightforward fashion, far more simply than the eventual concatenation of his obsessions becomes; he is simply a doctor who despairs in the face of death and cracks. The mechanism by which he becomes able to absorb the spiritual energy and abilities of those he kills is never addressed, and there are no suggestions of the past he eventually acquires or that Hisoka has any particular fixation on his killer. Indeed, the manga presents Hisoka as already knowing he was murdered and fairly calm about knowing the one who did it.

All of which simply reinforces what I've always thought about the anime, which is that it's pretty and colorful, and the voices are nice, but it really isn't a patch on the manga.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

First the caveats: I don’t read even modern Japanese, far less 7th C Japanese, far less ancient Chinese, so my sources are all at one remove. I have tried to find ones that are not obviously biased in their translations and interpretations. Since this is a web essay, I have also tried to refer to web-sources, where I could find ones that seem reputable or are backed up from reputable paper sources. Nevertheless, this is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, and there are places where I had to make assumptions and guesses. Do not take this essay’s conclusion as an attested source, because it isn’t.

Summary

The Twelve Divine Commanders (Juuni Shinshou) who appear as the shikigami of Abe no Seimei and his alternates in current popular literature such as Yami no Matsuei and Shounen Onmyouji seem to have started life as a group of tutelary deities or personifications in the five element system, settling into twelve figures with elemental powers based on the ten heavenly stems and the twelve earthly branches.

Read the full account )

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

(Note: this is a preliminary skim of the subject.  For the full account, after research, see this entry.)

This will make more sense later, after I post an actual review of Shounen Onmyouji, which everyone, incidentally, should go watch. Right now.

For now, though, research results and links (which may help for YnM, too).

The Juuni Shinshou (Twelve Heavenly Generals) are Buddhist and come to Japan from India via China. They are, variously, known as yaksha (nature spirits), devas (warrior spirits/gods-of-a-minor-sort), and tenbu (Japanese take on Devas). They are initially associated with Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha, and healing.

However, twelve being a popular number in Buddhism, they have become associated and overlapped with the twelve cycles of time (hours of the day, years in a cycle, etc.) and the twelve animals associated therewith. These are the animals commonly known in the West as the Chinese zodiac (see also Fruits Basket). (Maybe. See eta.)

Because the animals have elemental associations from the Taoist system (which is different from the Buddhist elements but quite similar to Shinto, oh god don’t get me started on the elements), the twelve generals have picked up elemental associations to go with their animal associations.

Important! These associations are variable! There are several variations on which animals go with which generals. Which elements go with which animals varies on a larger cycle of years as well as each having a fixed element and a base association with yin or yang, and, when filtered through the creative license of anime/manga, the whole thing gets… complicated.

In any case, it appears that the zodiac filter is how the yaksha Sanchira, for example, becomes the Serpent of Destructive Fire. Certainly the personalities given to the characters in both SO and YnM have some good matches with the zodiac personality readings.

Where the particular names come from, apart from the elemental constellation names given to the strongest animal in each element (Dragon becomes Seiryuu, Horse becomes Suzaku, etc.), I’m still trying to figure out. Similarly how the notion was arrived at that Abe no Seimei’s generic plethora of shikigami should correlate with the Juuni Shinshou in particular. I have, as yet, found no source explaining that that is not clearly contaminated.

ETA: I have also come across some indications that the twelve guardians of the Medicine Buddha and the twelve elemental/time figures are, in fact, separate groups that have been confused because of the similar translation of their titles: 神 in the first place and 天 in the second, so that it might be more precise to say the Twelve Divine Generals and the Twelve Heavenly Generals, respectively. Results of this line of inquiry will appear in a later post, if it comes to anything.

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
So, there's some meta running around my head, now, and it's all [livejournal.com profile] p_zeitgeist's fault.

You see, I've been wandering through her Yami no Matsuei material, and some of her perspective on Hisoka crystalized something that I've found weird about YnM for a long time. I think this weird thing is actually a pattern that's common to Japanese literature in general, but anime and manga certainly, and it is the pattern of somehow valuing the perpetuation of pain and/or shame.

Inevitability seems to be the name of the game )

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