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.

Soviet Jung-Freud (pic credit see below)

Soviet Jung-Freud (by Y. Takahashi, see below)

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.

Hamilcar Barca (courtesy of www.livius.org)

Hamilcar Barca (courtesy of http://www.livius.org)

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).

The Ayanami II

The Ayanami II

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.

Austrian Freud and Swedish Jung

Austrian Freud and Swedish Jung

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?

PIC CREDITS:

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…

~ by Haloed Bane on March 23, 2009.

13 Responses to “So You Wish to Pillage our Homeland? OK, but…”

  1. obviously it needs to be mentioned that the entire cast of Strike Witches are named after WW2 people, which I grade an A+++.

    I’d ask way you hate Jung and Freud but I get the feeling you’ll shoot so far over my head I will actually spontaneously combust.

  2. Hey that’s some nice background info on Last Exile and NGE. Unfortunately only pillaging I can think of right now is Koihime Musou and all the other crap RoTK-‘inspired’ anime. You know, ones where they just have to turn these warlords into fanservice materials…

    I don’t know if this counts but I’ve noticed few ‘pillaging’ of fairy tale materials from some very excellent anime. For example, Jin-Roh->Red Riding Hood, Terra E->Peter Pan, Boogiepop Phantom->Pied Piper, and of course myraid of examples from Princess Tutu.

  3. ARIA – with its fetish for Italian culture and mythology, to its naming of professions as mythological beings:

    -unidne/water fairies for gondoliers
    -salamanders for weather technicians
    -gnomes for gravity technicians

    et cetera.

    I’d add Fate/stay Night as another example, but it’s hard to discuss without revealing spoilers.

    Here’s my favorite example of ‘pillaging done wrong:’

    Zeta Gundam’s advanced prototype mobile suit, the ‘Palace Athene’.

  4. Actually, Asuka is half-American half-Japanese, as far as I know – it’s her foster parents who are German, I think. And Shinji sinks down in the sea of despair, as an anchor? Maybe.

    Regarding Freud and Jung, aww. Sure, their theories are nonsense, but so fun! Archetypes! Egos! Universal incest! Synchronicity! And they led to Lacan, who in turn led to dear Zizek, who while wholly nonsensical is a fountain of awesome writing.

    Pillaging done wrong: Ergo Proxy. So very wrong.

  5. @digiboy

    I’ve yet to see Strike Witches, but the 1930s element intrigues me. On Freud, I just think he was a smart guy who slowly but surely went from meaningful discoveries to absolute junk (sometime after 1910 say). Jung I don’t know very well, but he kinda sounds like a hack..

    @gaguri

    I know Ikkitousen does amazing things with its name assignments..from Three Kingdoms, right? I guess I should sit down and read at least one book on this whole Three Kingdoms business (in college I studied the Korean three kingdoms ad nauseam, though!).

    @ghostlightning

    the wordplay on “PALACE athene” aside, do gundams usually have round shields like that? coz i guess it could be referencing the goddess’ aegis shield..

    @ kaiser

    damn, maybe i knew that about Asuka and i forgot. That means Anno should get a B and not a B minus.
    I’ve done well to stay clear of Zizek, although I must admit I’ve spent many an hour on Lacan..who thought he was Heidegger’s friend..although we now know from Heidegger’s letters that he thought Lacan was some sort of buffoon…which is true as “it takes one to know one”.
    everyone hates ergo proxy, digiboy included. i haven’t seen it, but the character design looks cool.

  6. haha Korean Three Kingdoms…you mean the one with Baek Jae, Go Gu Ryu and Shin Ra (pardon my way of romanising Korean words)? That’s also very interesting, although never romanticised into a popular epic novel format. Anyway, if you want to check out RoTK, I recommend the manga adaptation by Yokoyama Mitsuteru (NOT anime version). It’s VERY faithful to the original novel, and imo is more expressive, which may be a plus or minus depending on the reader.

  7. That’s a nice summary on the origin of some names in anime🙂

    The work that is salient to me now is Kemono no Sou-ja Erin. It is especially interesting because the meanings of some names are explicitly explained in the anime, yet they are also historical references. I like how this anime presents latent content in both visual and verbal form🙂

    Although Jung and Freud had different opinions in the end, they collaborated for years. Some of their theories are false or untestable, but their other work did make important contributions to the body of knowledge.

    Some people make extreme statements such as this though😛

    “What is true in Freud is not new, and what is new in Freud is not true” Hans Eysenck

  8. I have a personal loathing against most pop culture books/shows/games/whatever that give meaning to someone’s name. Sometimes if the thing’s totally gone off the rails into symbolism and whatnot, I’m fine with that. But when creators just slap characters with those names just for the fuck of it? I mean, do your own names actually follow your persona? If it doesn’t, that’s probably because your parents or whoever named you had no idea what the hell you’d become in however many years. The only names that really matter are the ones we make for ourselves. That said, don’t look too much into my nick.

    Also, best RotK comic: Ravages of Time. Fuck anything else.

  9. For the record, a lot of people love Ergo Proxy, but those people can give me a rimjob. The show just wishes it was Texhnolyze and is so forced an pretentious it makes me gag. No anime has ever so fiercely overestimated it’s own intelligence.

  10. Also, I just wanted to note that I personally ravage the hell out of names in my own stories. I love crazy names and references so I steal from wherever. I have a story I’m writing where a guy who leads a coup within a mafia gang is named ‘Araveug’.

  11. @gaguri

    Paekche, Silla, Koguryo as I know them. Pity Silla won. If Paekche had won things had been much different…

    @ kitsune

    As far as Freud goes, his brilliance is what makes it terrible. He opened up new vistas with the “unconscious” but i just think at some point he started to insert himself into the data. Not to mention his “religious founder” attitude vis a vis psychoanalysis.

    @ prophet

    Nah, you can’t have it both ways. Only names that matter…but your nick, doesn’t?? Come on, what’s the story with pp?

    @digiboy

    Just as with parents and children, I think authors like to name their characters after personalities that they’d like to see them become (or maybe like to see themselves become?). Araveug sounds like those boar creatures from LOTR (what were they called again?), but i guess it’s guevara, right..

  12. The problem with authors giving these meanings to names destroys whatever reason the character’s parent had in giving her or him a name. And in cases where the character’s parent is seen deciding on a name, two outcomes usually happen: name will be totally apt or name will be totally turned on its head. Rarely do we get “name that parents/guardians/whoever named her/him that they just thought was cool”. Like, why was Claus named Claus? What about the Valca lineage? Even Hannibal had brothers…probably sisters too. Now I know we can say that the author IS the parent…but that’s opening a whole deal of meta, and I don’t think most mainstream shows know how to handle that po-mo shitstorm that we’ve come to know and love.

    And my nick? Maybe we’ll see when the Rabbits get around to it…maybe.

  13. ha! no, i don’t think anime creators usually consider the parents’ feelings when they name the kids. i just think it’d be great fanservice (for me anyway) if the names matched better (historically etc).

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