In memory of 2010 part 10: Is there even a Line between Humans and Shiki?

Were I to consider the anime on its own, Shiki should really have gone into the previous post too, because it was at least 2 episodes short of seriously challenging the best anime of 2010. That’s including the two filler episodes we’re going to get in the summer. However, I ended up spoiling myself with regards to what happened in the manga and the novel, and the differences in all three mediums forced me to consider what Ono Fuyumi and Fujisaki Ryu may have wanted their readers to consider.

     

Shiki is, at its core, a story that examines human nature. Without going into details, watching and discussing Shiki each week really made me think about about what we do to individuals and to groups of people. It made me ponder the blessing and curses of both the old and the new, of spirituality and secularism. It had me reflecting on what it means to be human, on what humans desire and need, and how these influence the choices they make.

     

Which side the right? Which side is wrong? To be honest, I don’t think the show (or Ono Fuyumi-sensei for that matter) really answers that question. With details from the manga and novels in consideration, I was never surprised by the decisions that the various characters made. Maybe you’d disagree, but I feel both Fujisaki-sensei and the anime writers have kept character personalities and motivations as similar as they could to the novels – even the ones who underwent the greatest change in terms of ‘fate’ were, in essence, the same people. And based on who they were, they acted and reacted to the situations they found themselves in.

I’ll go into greater depth when I review the series (and the manga, once that’s done), and probably once I get to read the novels in their entirety. But, whilst Saraiya Goyou was probably my favourite overall, to me, Shiki was definitely the most interesting and thought-provoking series that aired entirely in 2010.

Eve no Jikan: what it means to be human

“Android”.

What does this word mean for you? Are you one who knows of the origins of the term? Perhaps you hark back to classics like “The Future Eve” – which probably inspired the title of this anime – and Philip K. Dick? Or do you only think of the smart phone operating system from google? I sincerely hope you’re not part of the latter, though I suppose it wouldn’t surprise me…

At the World Expo in Shanghai this year, Japan exhibits included a number of robots – the Partner Robot capable of playing the violin, others scaling a ladder-like scaffolding, and later, the talkative PAIRO. The Partner Robot was apparently developed to perform some simple human tasks, such as doing laundry, serving meals and helping the elderly. More interesting, perhaps, are the rumours that military robots can do far more. If that were true, if humans progress further into robot technology such that they become capable of doing everything that humans can and more, what kind of society would we end up with? Are you ready for “the time of Eve”?

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Quick Review: The White Tiger

I don’t really have much to say on The White Tiger, the first novel by Avarind Adiga, which won the 2008 Booker Prize. Apparently, it’s a pretty typical Booker winner…but it’s my first one, so I wouldn’t know.

Anyways, what to say…

For a start, the protagonist is pretty unlikeable, as are most of the people that form part of his story. His tendency to go off on tangents sprouting words to sound verbose and intelligent (one good example is the very start of the novel, where he tells of a useful “thing you can only say in English” which he learnt from his employer’s wife…but doesn’t reveal it for many many pages as simply “what a f***ing joke”) got on my nerves pretty quickly. I’m sure it’s not only the Indians who think “well, I’ve made it, so what I’ve done must need no improvement”, but because of personal experience, that was one of the things that irritated me, as it seemed to come through from the narrator’s tone.

There are, perhaps, a few interesting things about it. For example, what entrepreneurship in India is in reality. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were even more horrific (and true!) stories out there. It was also refreshing to read a ‘local perspective’ on the Ganges River, which is not the holy ground that many tourists see it is, but rather a polluted river you wouldn’t step in otherwise. However, I would have liked the caste system to be explained a little more than in the few references to it…well, a limitation of the first-person narrator – and an unreliable one at that – I suppose.

But really, I was just wrecking my brains to find stuff to talk about. In short, an average tale, but really, I wouldn’t have read it if not for bookclub.

Review: Lolita (novel)

I’m sure most educated people are well aware of this incredibly famous novel, as the term “Lolita” has long been a part of popular culture, giving rise to further derivations such as “Lolita Complex” and “Lolita Fashion”. Perhaps ironically, Lolita Fashion can now be seen as a counterpoint to the overt sexuality that is implied by the word “Lolita”, an implication so deeply engrained in the public consciousness that the popularity of Lolita as a girl’s name in the US has dropped since the 1960s. (Ironically, just one year after the popularity of Lolita as a girl’s name peaked in the US in 1963, Nabokov noted that “people don’t seem to name their daughters Lolita anymore.” Surely it hadn’t plunged all that much in just one year…?)

Back to the point, Lolita takes the form of a biography narrated by one Humbert Humphrey, who tells the story of how he become obsessed with a 12-year not yet emerged from puberty, and eventually become sexually involved with her. (Here’s wiki’s summary if you really need to know more…)

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