starlady: (akidzuki)
[personal profile] starlady
So I just mainlined the entirety of the anime "Mouryou no Hako" in about two days. It only has 13 episodes (the last of which sadly has not been subbed, but I found the raw and understood the gist of it), but it's pretty complex. And awesome.

The plot is rather complicated, but it involves the disappearance of one schoolgirl and the murder of several others in and around Tokyo in 1952 (when the Occupation ended). The murders are investigated by a loose group of (male) friends and war buddies who are now private investigators, reporters, novelists, detectives, and onmyouji.

The character designs are by CLAMP (just one pretty aspect of a pretty anime) and frankly I was expecting, well, something like Tokyo Babylon I guess: monster of the week with some m/m innuendo. That is not what this anime is (though the first episode is one of the more enthusiastic depictions of yuri that I've seen in a while). Instead--of course--it's about the war, and about war crimes and the chickens of war that do come home to roost. The metaphor is crap, but I should hope the point suffices--Sekiguchi, the novelist, suffers from depression and possibly PTSD, both of which are almost certainly a result of his experiences in the war, when he was the lieutenant of now-Detective Kiba, who still has dreams about all the people who died. The onmyouji, Kyogokudou, spent his war service researching forced conversion alongside scientists trying to create immortal soldiers. The better to conquer and assimilate you with, my dear!

So, obviously, there's quite a number of parallels with Fullmetal Alchemist here (Unit 731 even gets a shout-out by name), though of course that's because the mouryou of the war remains unexorcised, unlike most of the mouryou (specters? demons?) in the anime itself. I did, however, detect a possible reference to Studio Ghibli--the research facility at which a good deal of the action takes place is in Mitaka, and there's a kid who looks exactly like the brother in Grave of the Fireflies (which let's not forget in Japanese is Hotaru no Hako) in a couple of the early episodes. It's no secret that Miyazaki's love of flight was inspired by his father's factory, which made Zero warplanes. Anime and manga are at least latently complicit in, since they arose out of, the Japanese imperial/national project, and I think this anime recognizes that fact.

The anime is actually based on the book of the same name by Kyogoku Natsuhiko. The first book, Summer of the Ubume, has just been released by Vertical, and you can bet I'll be checking it out.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-09-30 17:13 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] outou.livejournal.com
I'm studying the psychological effects of the Second World War and the atrocities committed during it on both the Japanese people and the people of the nations/colonies it occupied, so this sounds very fascinating.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-09-30 17:20 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starlady38.livejournal.com
I'd highly recommend this series on that basis and on just on its own merits. The novel it's based on was published in the fiftieth anniversary year of the defeat, which was particularly charged, so I don't think that's a coincidence, either.

It's been my contention that if you go looking for these sorts of things in anime and manga, you can find them pretty easily--I think the FMA manga, in particular, is rife with themes relating to the Asia-Pacific Wars. I was reminded this weekend that Samurai Champloo deals with a lot of the same themes as well, though not so explicitly. But then again, I tend to view things through this lens, so I might be seeing it because I'm looking for it.

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