About Moyoco Anno’s SAKURAN, Trapeze and sundry matters…
NO SPOILERS so WELCOME.
Months ago, I came up with what I thought was a great idea for a post. I was going to call it The Power behind the Throne. It’d start off with a great big pic of J-Pop singer Ringo Shiina…I never got as far as deciding which pic to use but I might as well tell you that my favorite is one in which she’s pointing a great big gun at her temple and smiling (in a wedding dress, of all things) but anyways….
The post was going to trot out (bullet style) several facts about Ringo (all conveniently culled from her Wikipedia article and elsewhere) and her relations with anime, such as:
a) Ringo being the inspiration behind the title character in the manga Nana.
b) Ringo being the inspiration for the character of Haruko Haruhara in FLCL.
Moreover, I wasn’t going to mention, because at the time it wasn’t related to anime, that
c) Ringo was the inspiration for a certain sassy nurse in some guy’s psychiatric novel that is now being adapted to the animated screen as Kuhchuh Buranko (aka Trapeze)!!!
Anyway, after that I was going to suggest, discreetly, that examining sources in anime by just focusing on other anime and classical Japanese tradition, without looking at the immediate context of Japanese contemporary culture, was folly. Look at Shiina etc etc QED.
Looking back, I’m glad that I thought the post over and decided it would be a lot of BS and little else. For one thing, manga and anime have influenced pop culture in Japan too, so it’s a two way street. And foreign influences have to be taken into account too. There just didn’t seem to be a point to making a post about something obvious while not having anything new or interesting to say about it…other than plastering some nice pics of Ringo on my blog, that is.
So that post never saw the light of day. Now, about a month ago I learned that Moyoco Anno (Hideki Anno‘s wife, but believe it or not the surnames are actually spelled differently and they just happened to choose homophonic pennames before ever meeting each other) [BTW, a child of Hideki's and Moyoco's would bring about a world revolution, I think] was celebrating this year the 20th anniversary of her manga debut. To join in the festivities, I sat down and read Sakuran.
The story of an unbearably rude peasant girl and her rise to the coveted position of oiran ( = prostitute goddess extraordinaire of the Edo period) has that quirky Moyoco character design (where essentially, if you simply look at the characters without any preconceptions, it dawns on you that they look like monsters, energetic, willfull monsters!) and a story that’s very Japanese, in the sense that it really goes nowhere.
A film was made of this, and I just saw it yesterday. The film is visually stunning, and the casting is just as stunning. If you must know, two of my favorite celebrities in Japan are Miho Kanno and Yoshino Kimura, and each of them plays an oiran in this film (Shohi and Takao)!! The third oiran, the protagonist Higurashi, is played by Anna Tsuchiya, who I don’t know at all but she does a very good job here.
The original Sakuran manga is barely a volume long, and it seems to stop halfway. The movie actually covers the manga in the first hour, and then proceeds to come up with its own ending in the second hour. I found the second hour nice, but definitely more conventional than the crazy first half (Sakuran means confusion, and is not etymologically related to sakura blossoms, although……).
The other interesting fact here, and the reason why this post is coherent (despite what you may think) is that Ringo Shiina is all over this film: her album Heisei Fuzoku serves as the soundtrack…which is odd, as the music is very modern and some of the songs are even in English!
But wait, it isn’t odd…because Anna Tsuchiya, who plays the main oiran in the film, is half-American. Which shows again how silly (because how incomplete and myopic) my original idea for what has mutated into this post was: influences firing off back and forth, no boundaries, flow, flow, flow. It’s dumb to take about powers behind the throne, when quite simply THERE IS NO THRONE.
Anyway, read and watch Sakuran…and watch FLCL and Trapeze while you’re at it too… There is no throne, but power is still wielded about, and Shiina has lots of it!