So You Wish to Pillage our Homeland? OK, but…
One of the most obvious trends in this 21st century is what I would call the rampant digital pillaging of civilization. Globalization leads to the homogenization of minds. As the number of thoughts, goals and dreams in people’s heads decreases, the need to dress it all up in variations of suits and hues for entertainment value increases. And of course we turn to the past: our heroes, religions, ceremonies, stories, clothes, etc.
Anime is an excellent example of this, and Japanese creators are as happy to pillage their own culture as that of others. Which is fine with me, why go against the times?? But sometimes I wish it were done with a bit of sense. Let’s look at character names…
One of the main characters in Last Exile is Claus Valca. As soon as I heard that name I associated it with the Barca clan of Carthage (“valca” and “barca” are pretty much homophones in Japanese), the reason being that last year I read the Roman historian Livy’s account of the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage. Hannibal, the dude who crossed the Alps on elephants and awed half the world, was a Barca. So, I’m reading way too much classical bull and it’s clouding my brain, right? Well, actually, yes :) But my hunch was still correct.
Yesterday I watched episode 14, which gives us the background story to Claus and Lavie. And it turns out Claus’ father is named Hamilcar Valca. He died trying to make peace between the two states of Disith and Anatoray. Now, Hamilcar Barca was Hannibal’s father so this is another rip from Western History. I didn’t remember the Carthaginian Hamilcar being a peacemaker so reading up on Wikipedia I found that, as I suspected, Hamilcar was an extremely bloody-minded general who became dictator in his homeland.
I don’t mind Last Exile poaching our civilization and stuff, but I just see it as a wasted opportunity. They could have easily found a historical name of someone who was actually a peacemaker. That would have added some depth to the tale. Then again, Hamilcar Barca is a very nice-sounding pair of words so aesthetically I approve. I’d grade this pillaging a C -. (and sorry Claus, but you’re no Hannibal).
Neon Genesis Evangelion is all over the map on references. One important area is the names of the main characters, which are related to naval ships from World War II. This is cool, because it relates all of the characters thematically, and arguably with the very theme of the show: “being lost at sea”. The story begins in Antarctic waters, goes through the Sea of Dirac and ends in a sea of LCL.
But here again, I wish they had assigned each name more carefully. Ikari means anchor, but I don’t see anything in Ikari senior or junior that suggests “anchor” to me. “Kaji” is a rudder, which sounds like a better name for one of the SEELE guys (“Keel” is fine, though).
Asuka Langley Sohryu’s name references two aircraft carriers, the American Langley and the Japanese Sohryu. Both were sunk in 1942 by multiple air attacks, which does kind of echo Asuka’s fate in Evangelion. Wouldn’t it have been nicer though to at least include a German ship there somewhere?
The case of the Ayanami is interesting. A first destroyer was built with that name in 1908 and eventually scrapped. Ayanami II was built in 1929 and sunk by the Americans in Guadalcanal after some heroic maneuvering. After the war, the SDF launched a new line of destroyers called the Ayanami class. From Rei to Rei to dummy plugs, in Eva terms!
The Katsuragi aircraft carrier never saw action (WHAT? Misato deserves something better!). The Akagi went down with the Sohryu during the Battle of Midway. But in Eva, Asuka and Ritsuko Akagi are as far apart and unrelated as any two characters in the show. Again, another opportunity wasted! He should have linked people using the ship names…Over all I’d give Anno a B – for these names.
And speaking of Anno, his Gunbuster has the most mind-blogging character name assignment of them all: the Christian cross-wearing, Soviet female pilot Jung-Freud (some say she’s East German?!). I love Jung-Freud to death, mind you, but I hate both Freud and Jung (and they hated each other’s guts too) so just for that I’m going to have to give this a big fat F.
Anyone out there would grade differently? Any other interesting cases of “name borrowing” to discuss?
The bust of Hamilcar is from http://www.livius.org, a very nice Ancient History site with strongly held views on pic crediting (here). The pic of Jung-Freud is from Yoshiyuki Takahashi, an artist on pixiv with only 37 pictures up but all of them ridiculously nice, including Captain Harlock’s, so if you are into pixiv do check him out (here). The original pic of Jung-Freud there is much larger and there’s another version just as nice…