Salinger in the Shell – The Intertextuality and Literature of Stand Alone Complex

The Ghost in the Shell franchise has taken many forms in its history. Beginning as a manga series by Masamune Shirow [Shirow.1989-1990], with two sequel books [Shirow.1991-1997] [Shirow.1991-1996]. The property was then adapted into a cult film from director Mamoru Oshii [Oshii.1995]. Since this, the series has expanded to include multiple television series [Kise.2013 – 2015], sequel films [Oshii.2004], and a live action American adaptation [Sanders.2017].

In 2002, the first season in the show Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex [2002-2005: Kamiyama] began airing. A show that has gained critical acclaim and become a cult favourite among the Ghost in the Shell fanbase. Both seasons of the show developed its cast of characters wonderfully, as well as exploring different themes ranging from identity, artificial intelligence, war, profiteering and terrorism. However, the first season draws heavily from literary references. Especially the works of J.D. Salinger. Primarily his novel, The Catcher in the Rye [1951: Salinger].

The novel follows the character of Holden Caulfield as he recounts the few days after leaving his boarding school in Pennsylvania and spends several days walking around New York. We see the world from Holden’s perspective. The people around him, the ‘phonies’ of the world and his overly protective nature of his younger sister. The story is a classic if controversial coming of age story about a young man finding his place.

The first season of Stand Alone Complex however, follows the counter terrorist unit, Section 9. Lead by Major Motoko Kusinagi. As they go up against a terrorist plot thought gone for many years. But as it suddenly rears its head again, Section 9 are deployed in order to stop it before anyone else is hurt. The return of the ‘Laughing Man’ leads to uncovering the many coverups and deceptions of the Japanese Government and health care system.

The logo of the eponymous Laughing Man character of the series, displays a blue smiling face with a portion of text moving around the edge. This text is a quote from the books twenty fifth chapter. “I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes” [Salinger.1951:178]. The phrase shows up repeatedly in the show, in the episode Portraitz [Kamiyama.2003], one of the main characters, Togusa, while undercover discovers the phrase written on the inside of a telephone box. He repeats the phrase several times through the show, pondering it’s meaning. In the book, the phrase is part of a larger portion discussing Holden’s desire to just get away from everyone and never have to say anything or listen again. The name itself, Laughing Man, comes from the short story of the same name [1953: Salinger]. A story within a story of a boy taken from rich family by the mafia, who becomes horribly disfigured when his parents can’t pay the extortionate ransom. The boy grows to live among the mafia, having to permanently wear a mask to hide what they did. Secretly destroying the mafia’s plans from the inside.

At the end of the season, when the true Laughing Man is confronted about everything that’s come from this. He leaves a red hat at the building’s entrance, that Major Kusanagi eventually brings back to him. While in a different style. The notion of a red hat and the character of Holden does have a connection. In the books third chapter, Holden describes a hat he had bought earlier that day. “I took off my coat and my tie and unbuttoned my shirt collar, and then I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning. It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks. I saw it in the window of this sports store when we got out of the subway, just after I noticed I’d lost all the goddam foils. It only cost me a buck” [Salinger.1951:015]. While the hat that the Laughing Man owns is not a hunting hat. The hunting aspect remains in the character through his actions in the series. Hunting down those he felt had wronged the critically ill by the government’s suppression of information that could have saved lives.

The first time we see the Laughing Man in his civilian identity, he is masquerading as a deaf-mute boy in a hospital. This is also in the episode Portraitz. Through out the episode, as he is quietly wheeled around, he is seen holding a left-handed catchers mitt, something that also appears prominently in the book. “So what I did, I wrote about my brother Allie’s baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really was. My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder’s mitt. He was left-handed. The thing that was descriptive about it, though, was that he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he’d have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up at bat. He’s dead now. He got leukaemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18,1946” [Salinger.1951:033]. This connection between an ill loved one, and a left-handed catchers mitt is made stronger by the location of the hospital and sick children taking up the majority of the cast for the episode. As the episode ends, he leaves behind the catcher’s mitt for the children, but now with a quote written on the side. Having something written on it being a node to Allie’s habit of writing on the glove. What is actually written on the glove as the Laughing Man leaves, is a corrupted and shortened quote from the books twenty second chapter. “’You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?’ ‘What? Stop swearing.’ ‘You know that song “If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye”? I’d like – ‘ ‘it’s “If a body meet a body coming through the rye”!’ old Phoebe said. ‘It’s a poem. By Robert Burns.’ ‘I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.’ She was right, though. It is ‘if a body meet a body coming through the rye.’ I didn’t know it then, though. ‘I thought it was “if a body catch a body,”’ I said. ‘Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy’” [Salinger.1951:155-156]. This is condensed down to just three lines, “You Know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice, I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all” [Kamiyama.2003].

When the Laughing Man and Major Kusanagi finally meet in the episode Scandal [Kamiyama.2003]. The pair talk about ideology, the events so far, and each of their respective goals. Kusanagi gives the Laughing Man a piece of advice, a quote. This also ties back into the novel, as the same advice is given to Holden by a former teacher of his. “He went over to this desk on the other side of the room, and without sitting down wrote something on a piece of paper. Then he came back and sat down with the paper in his hand. ‘Oddly enough, this wasn’t written by a practicing poet. It was written by a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel. Here’s what he – Are you still with me?’ ‘Yes, sure I am.’ ‘Here’s what he said: The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.’ He leaned over and handed it to me, and then I thanked him and all and put it in my pocket” [Salinger.1951:169]. While the relationship between the Major and the Laughing Man is different from that of Holden and his teacher. The point of the quote remains.

The ’Laughing Man incident’ is often brought up in the early episodes of the show, and later shown towards the end. The incident involves the Laughing Man taking a public figure hostage and pointing a gun at him, screaming about how it’s not fair. Even bringing him in front of a news camera and telling him to tell the world the truth. In this case, to admit that the government has been suppressing life saving information. The intertextual references to the works of Salinger is perhaps most strongly connected here. Rather than tying it to a book or character, this incident parallels the real-life death of John Lennon. This incident is paralleled again at the end of the show when Togusa takes up this same obsession and briefly considers shooting the same public figure out in the open. Complete with a copy of the book in his jacket pocket.

One episode in particular includes two very unusual references to Salinger’s work. In the Episode Escape From [2002: Kamiyama], an A.I. driven tank known as a Tachikoma escapes from Section 9 and spends the day exploring the city. The curious machine stumbles upon a young girl and ends up helping her as she explores the city trying to find her lost dog. As they travel, the young girl asks the Tachikoma if he know the story of the Secret Goldfish. The story she is referring to comes from the first chapter of The Catcher in the Rye as a story written by Holden’s older brother, D.B. “He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was ‘The Secret Goldfish.’ It was about this little kid that wouldn’t let anybody look at his goldfish because he’d bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute.” [Salinger.1951:001]. The story she tells the Tachikoma is identical, and is ultimately her way of telling the machine that she knows her dog is dead, but doesn’t want to admit it as they finally arrive at a pet cemetery. Towards the end of the episode, the Tachikoma brings back a device he found during his adventures. When the Major investigates the programming inside, she finds a virtual movie theatre. While she’s exploring a poster can be seen in the background. ‘A Great Day for Banana fish’, a reference to Salinger’s short story A Perfect Day for Banana Fish [1949: Salinger] from his Nine Stories collection. The same collection that contains The Laughing Man story.

A final but subtle reference can be seen in the final episode. As the Major goes to confront the true Laughing Man in the library, her hand moves over the handrail of the stares to reveal that someone has scratched in the words ‘fuck you’. While only a second on screen, this could be a double reference. When going to pick up his younger sister at her school, Holden finds the words ‘Fuck You’ scratched into the banister. He frantically tries to clean it up, hoping his younger sister didn’t see it. But at an earlier part of the book, in a far more pessimistic tone. Holden states, “That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact. “[Salinger.1951:183]. The words her in the show appear both right under the Major’s hand, possibly so out of place that she never even noticed it. But also, in a place that should be peaceful. Anger and hatred infecting a place of peace and knowledge.

Salinger’s estate is noticeably protective of his work. With The Catcher in the Rye in particular having no licences for adaptation. [Salerno.2013] However, these intertextual references, not just confined to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but it in other media, may be the closest we get to a full-fledged adaptation.

 

  • Ghost in the Shell. (1995) Film. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. [Blu-ray] Production I.G.: JPN.
  • Ghost in the Shell. (2017) Film. Directed by Rupert Sanders. [Blu-ray] Paramount Pictures: USA.
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: (2004) Film. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. [Blu-ray] Production I.G.: JPN
  • Ghost in the Shell: (2013 – 2015) OVA. Directed by Kazuchika Kise. [Blu-ray] Production I.G.: JPN.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. (2002 – 2005) Directed by Kenji Kamiyama. [DVD] Production I.G.: JPN.
  • Salinger, J.D. (1951) The Catcher in the Rye. Penguin Books. London: UK.
  • Salinger, J.D. (1949 – 1953) For Esme’ with Love and Squalor and Other Stories. Penguin Books. London: UK.
  • (2013) Film. Directed by Shane Salerno. [DVD] The Weinstein Company: USA.
  • Shirow, M. (1989 – 1990) Ghost in the Shell (Kokaku Kidotai). Kodansha Comics, Tokyo: JPN.
  • Shirow, M. (1991 – 1997) Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface. Kodansha Comics, Tokyo: JPN.
  • Shirow, M. (1991 – 1996) Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human Error Processor. Kodansha Comics, Tokyo: JPN.
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Another (2012)

Another is the Final Destination of anime. A blood bath for all those involved, that makes you wonder who and how the next person will die rather than who is the answer to the mystery.

Set in 1998, after moving in with his grandparents while his father is away on business. Koichi Sakakibara is enrolled in Yomiyama North Middle School, in class 3 – 3. Due to his own illness however, he is forced to start in May rather than the beginning of the term. He is briefly visited by students to give him some information, but after they leave, he stumbles across a girl in the same uniform. Pale skin, dark hair, an eye patch over her left eye and a sad expression on her face. The last time he sees her that day, she’s making her way down to the morgue. Upon starting school a few weeks later, he finds his classmates very friendly and begins to settle in well. However, the girl seems to be ignored by everyone, as though she doesn’t exist. As life goes on, Koichi is made aware of the curse that haunts class 3 – 3, that ever year the class takes measures to prevent the students and their loved ones from dying. That for the past 25 years an extra student always appears, one who had previously died, and once they show up, death follows. The question is, who is dead?

An interesting mystery and admittedly beautiful visuals are the true attraction to this series. Studio P.A. Works have certainly used their budget to great effect. In way of horror it does very little to scare the viewer. At most you may find yourself tugging at your collar during the first death 3 episodes in. The 12 episodes are adapted from a novel of the same name by Yukito Ayatsuji, and in many ways it feels as though the scares would work better in novel form. Allowing the reader to imagine all the gory details in their own way. The mystery itself is rather compelling, especially the more you learn, mixed with some rather clever casting choices in both the English and Japanese.

However, it feels as though an extra episode here or there to flesh out the world around Class 3 – 3 would have strengthened a defining point of the reveal. Allowing the viewer that extra opportunity to catch a point that was known to the lead, and not to us. Koichi is established to be a lover of horror fiction. Reading Stephen King in the first episode and Lovecraft a few episodes later. His visits to the hospital are also accompanied by the nurse referring to him as “Mr. Horror Lover”. This point is hammered in greatly in the early episodes and is largely forgotten by the end. Something that felt like a set up for a later point only to be dropped. While this does work to give Koichi some character, the more blatant and unnecessary references to it could have been used to flesh out the rest of the school and town.

The cast is very well defined. Each with their own distinct characteristic or quirk about them. Despite the blood bath that does ensue throughout, it’s made clear early on that despite Koichi due to main character immunity, anyone could die at any moment.

An enjoyable and eye-catching series despite the lack of true horror. It’s 12 episodes that nicely wraps up and leaves the viewer satisfied.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I – Initiation

As a young boy, Prince Lelouch Vi Britannia, 17th heir to the Royal Britannian Imperial throne, watches as his mother is killed before his eyes, and his younger sister is left disabled and blind. He argues with his father, the Emperor as to why he wasn’t there. For his arrogance and insolence, Lelouch and his younger sister Nannally are sent to Japan as political bargaining tools, a country stated to be neutral in the affairs of the Britannian empire. War brakes out, and Japan is conquered. Stripped of its name, the country is now known as ‘Area 11’. 7 years later, Lelouch, now going under the name Lelouch Lamperouge, lives as a high school student in the Tokyo district. Challenging noblemen to high stakes games of chess between classes. On one such occasion, on his way back to school he comes across a truck that runs off the road. In an attempt to help anyone stuck inside, Lelouch finds himself unwillingly brought into a terrorist rebellion. People of Japan wanting to take back their country, strip themselves of the derogatory name ‘elevens’, and reclaim their identity and culture.

Now confronted by the Britannian army, and a childhood friend, Suzaku, turned lapdog to the military, the contents of trucks cargo reveals itself. A green haired girl by the name of C.C. She bestows upon Lelouch an ability known as a Geass. The power to control others with a simple command. With this power in hand, Lelouch forms his own rebellion under the name Zero. A plan to free those under the Empire’s rule and overthrow the Emperor responsible for his mother’s death.

Announced as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I – Initiation begins the task of retelling the original 50 episodes in the first of three films. What Rebuild is the Evangelion, this is to Code Geass. Bringing us all up to speed before diving in with the upcoming release of the shows long awaited sequel. Code Geass: Resurrection.

Featuring the stunning character designs by renowned manga artist group CLAMP, originally responsible for creating the likes of Cardcaptor Sakura (1996 – 2000), Chobits (2001 – 2002) and X/1999 (1992 – 2003). Lelouch, C.C. and the rest of the cast leap off the screen with phenomenal and memorable designs. Surprisingly, Code Geass marked the first time CLAMP designed characters for an animated project and not their own manga series. Paired with the celebrated Studio Sunrise, the creators of the Mecha anime juggernaut that is the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. Code Geass has only the best talent working for it.

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Returning fans may wonder what this new film brings to the franchise. While recapping the first 17 episodes in a brilliantly constructed manner, new scenes and material are added to strengthen the already compelling story. Taking the helm as director is Noriaki Akitaniya who previously helmed Persona 3’s first film Spring of Birth, with the franchises original director, Goro Taniguchi, on hand as supervisor. With a fantastic cast, many of which reprising their roles, such as Jun Fukuyama (Persona 5) as Lelouch, Takahiro Sakurai (Recovery of an MMO Junkie) as Suzaku, Yukana (Dragon Ball Super) as C.C and Ami Koshimizu (Darling in the Franxx) as Kallen.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I – Initiation is in cinemas March 21st. A wonderful summery for returning fans, and an enthralling experience for those wondering what all the fuss is about. To see where the film is screening near you, go to: http://codegeassfilm.co.uk/

My Hero Academia: Season Two, Part One

11702453-8944561249026207In the near future, 80% of the population is born with super human abilities. In a world like this, becoming a superhero is more than just a fever dream. Superheroes are everywhere. Working everyday to keep the world safe. They are respected, and idolised, and none is more well-known than All-Might! The symbol of peace. Students all over Japan dream of getting into U.A. Academy, the number one high school for superheroes in training, none more so then Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. Unfortunately for him, despite spending his entire life studying and trying to understand what it truly means to be a hero, Midoriya is one of the 20% born without abilities. Constantly ridiculed by his classmates and those around him for ever thinking he could be a hero, Midoriya still studies hard in hopes of being the first U.A. Academy student without abilities. It’s during a fateful encounter with his idol All-Might, and his own heroism trying to save a classmate, that Midoriya’s life is changed forever.

The first season of My Hero Academia took the anime community by storm on it’s release in 2016. Based on the manga by Kohei Horikoshi and published in the renowned Weekly Shonen Jump. The same magazine that gave us Dragon Ball, Death Note, Naruto and Haikyuu!!. My Hero Academia found it’s audience almost immediately, to the point that an anime adaptation was practically inevitable. It’s 13-episode first season exploded in popularity both in its native Japan and oversees thanks to Funimation’s simulcast. Now, Funimation is back with a physical release of Season two, Part One!

The first half of season two gives us something all Shonen fans know all too well. A tournament arc! And while tournament arcs can be fun, a lot of the time they end up being set ups to larger story points and major shifts. Such as the Chunin exams arc in Naruto leading to the one-tale encounter and Orochimaru. However, My Hero Academia embraces the fun and excitement that a tournament arc can be and uses it to flesh out not only main characters and side characters, but the world itself.

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After the events of season one, our main characters gear up for the U.A. Sports festival. A chance to show off their skills in a televised event. Go up against other class’s such as the previously unseen Class 1-B, the Support classes, Business course and General Studies. As well as try and get the attention of potential recruiters. Going through an obstacle course designed to test their skills, a cavalry battle that sees different combinations of strengths and skills, all leading up to a round robin style battle till only one stands. While there is no big stake on the line, the students will get to take part in these events two more times before they graduate. The 13-episode arc explores the characters in a wonderful way. Character motives and abilities are explored to a phenomenal degree, with the clear stand outs being both Uraraka and Todoroki. A girl who wants to make it big and earn a lot of money for the simple reason of helping out her parents, and a young man torn between his sense of self-worth, his family life, and the pressures put upon him by his father. My Hero Academia does so much justice to it’s characters in this 13-episode arc, that it works almost as a blue print to how to do tournament arcs as stories in themselves, and not just a means to an end.

While the animation in season one was already impressive, season two steps it up beautifully. Adding not only an extra punch to action scenes but in characterisation too. Small and subtle details are added to each of the characters movements that work well to give another dimension to them. Bakugo’s egotistical personality has a whole other level of flair to it with his casual movements. But no character benefits more from this than Iida. The slightly high strung and nervous class representative shows so much more personality in just his hand gestures. It’s a small thing but speaks volumes about the characters.

Both the English dub and the Japanese audio are incredibly impressive. All the actors give it there all throughout in both languages. However, if an all-star had to be chosen, it’s Ayane Sakura as Uraraka in the Japanese dub. Her phone call to her father mid-way through the tournament is sure to bring a tear to your eye.

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The show’s opening, ‘Peace Sign’ by Kenshi Yonezu is delightfully infectious and gets you excited for the episode to come. Partnered well with an opening animation of our heroes stretching in preparation, before exploding in a flurry of action as the tempo in the music picks up and explodes. The show’s ending theme, ‘Dakara, Hitori ja nai’ by Little Glee Monster, is rather poppy, and is a take it or leave it song that you’ll either love or tolerate, but it’s paired with a rather lovely sequence following the shows lead girls, highlighting just how well My Hero Academia characterises its female cast especially.

The Blu-ray release of My Hero Academia Season two, Part one also contains episode 13.5. A fantastic 23 minute summery of season one, that works very well for those wanting a bit of a reminder of the previous 13 episodes, or those just wanting to relive it one more time before diving into season 2. Also included are textless versions of the opening and ending credits. A set of 13 shorts presented by the American voice actors talking about their favourite charities in the ‘Be a Hero’ initiative, as well as a fantastic interview with Yoshihiko Umakoshi, the shows character designer and chief animation director for season two.

The first half of My Hero Academia’s second season is a wild ride of fun and excitement that leave you hungry for even more. A fantastic character exploration and intense action pact experience. My Hero Academia Season two, Part one is available for pre-order and due for release April 2nd on Blu-ray and DVD.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Hero-Academia-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B07B5X5NNH/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1521389862&sr=8-2&keywords=my+hero+academia

Zavvi: https://www.zavvi.com/blu-ray/my-hero-academia-season-02-part-1-funimation/11702453.html

The Character of Trunks – Nature Vs. Nurture

Dragon Ball Z was a stable of after school TV in my house. Part of the family routine and something we all enjoyed during dinner. I vividly remember dropping my fork the moment the terrifying villain Freiza was sawn in half by his own attack. When Goku attained a level of power that no one thought possible. Super Saiyan. How far we have come from that Wednesday afternoon so many years ago. I remember commenting to my sister that I didn’t think the show could get any better. That it had hit it’s peak. A few weeks later, a now partly robotic Frieza lands on Earth. Prepared to destroy the planet and prove that he was indeed the strongest in the universe. Problem is, Goku hadn’t yet made it back to Earth. With the exception of the other Fighters, who had either fallen to Frieza or knew they stood no chance, Earth was defenceless. And then a stranger arrived.

A purple haired teenager, complete with a denim jacket sporting the Capsule Corp logo on his sleeve, and a sword equipped to his back. So far, every new character that showed up was either a one off or a villain. But this kid didn’t look like a villain, and he was too well designed to be a one off. So, who was he?

And then he went Super Saiyan. Another Saiyan had arrived, one that could slice Frieza and King Cold in half without breaking a sweat. The other fighters are noticeably on edge, as is the audience, when he powers down and just walks casually towards them. This mysterious stranger tells the group that Goku will land nearby shortly and that they should wait with him.

As the story carries on, we learn that this mysterious stranger is actually the future son of lead character Bulma, and once villain and Prince of the Saiyan’s Vegeta. The half-Saiyan Trunks. That already seemed insane. Why would Bulma and Vegeta ever have a kid together!?

Over time, we learned that Trunks had come back in time because a greater evil was coming. One that dwarfed even the power of Frieza and was set to turn the world into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. One that Trunks had grown up in largely alone. Raised by just his mother and the watchful eye of an older Gohan. As a young man, Trunks had watched the world fall apart. His father had fallen, as had the rest of the main series fighters and Earth was practically defenceless against the force of the Androids. Trunks had come back in time to warn them and to save Goku’s life. In Trunks’ timeline, Goku had died before the Androids awoke from a remarkably normal cause. Heart failure.

Trunks’ warning gave the cast of characters two years to prepare for the fight of their lives.

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The History of Trunks (1993)

Despite being strong and fast, Trunks was well spoken and respectful. Overly cautious and frequently on edge. Trunks’ personality and mannerisms are heavily reminiscent of that of an older Gohan. Strong but very aware of what he could do. Walking on egg-shells. Not to mention the world he grew up in. This is a young man who has gone through hell, seen people he cares for die, and lived to tell the tale. One who feels the weight of everything that has happened and knows the value of life. This is even explored well in the film, The History of Trunks (1993), in which we see his world up close and personal.

When the time comes for the Androids to arrive, leading into the greatly celebrated Cell arc, Trunks comes back in time again, to fight by the hero’s side in order to ensure a better future. When he comes back, he is met by a very strange sight. Himself. He arrives back in the present timeline to find Bulma holding a baby, one that will someday grow into the young man from the future.

Skip forward past the Cell Games arc, and that baby is now a young boy. Brash and arrogant. Overly confident and convinced that with the exception of his father, no one could beat him. This is Kid Trunks.

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Kid Trunks

Despite being the same person, Future Trunks is the kind of person Kid Trunks would look down upon, despite the age gap. With Future Trunks’ kinder demeanour, and cautiousness, Kid Trunks would consider him weak. The same way he looks down largely on a now teenage Gohan. That in an error of peace, the fighters have gone soft in the eyes of this young kid, especially one that idolises his warrior prince father.

Trunks works as an example of nature vs. nurture. While both are strong and capable fighters, even with Kid Trunks being significantly younger than his future counterpart. But with the difference in personality, had their designs differed you would be forgiven for thinking they were two different people. While the state of the time they grew up in is a major factor in both of their identities. It’s their relationship with their father or father figure that perhaps defined them the most. As stated before, Future Trunks grew up in a wasteland. A world that lived in fear of the Androids. Specifically, Androids 17 and 18. He was raised by his mother, with an older Gohan keeping an eye on them both. In a world were the Z-Fighters no longer stand, Trunks grew up asking his mother what his father was like. Why would you ever tell a child that their father was at one point a monster? The malevolent prince of a warrior race that once tried to destroy them all. Future Trunks would hear stories of his father, the noble prince as he stood against the Androids along side the other fighters. With Gohan as his trainer and mentor, Future Trunks holds respect for the father he never knew, but largely takes on the mannerisms of Gohan. On edge and nervous, but very respectful.

Kid Trunks on the other hand, grew up in a time of peace. The Androids and Cell defeated, and the world at ease even after the death of Goku. Kid Trunks was raised by his father and mother. Vegeta training the young boy to be a proud warrior, but still giving him the freedom to be a kid since there was little to no danger threatening the planet. His arrogance and lack of respect for Goku is heavily influenced by Vegeta’s own views. Telling the boy that since he is of royal blood, that he should look down at a commoner like Kakkarot (Goku’s birth name) and his family. Being the son of the prince, Trunks thinks himself better than most, even attaining the level of Super Saiyan at a young age. Even his friendship with the young Goten, the youngest son of Goku, is phrased as a competition.

Trunks is an interesting and unique character within the Dragon Ball mythos. Both versions of him. Both versions have an interesting amount of depth to them. While they have met in none-canon video games, it will be more than interesting to see the pair united in the current Dragon Ball Super.

Depression, Isolation, Loneliness and Digimon

At it’s core, the children’s anime Digimon Tamers is primarily about isolation, loneliness, abuse, escapism and depression.

That probably sounds a little heavy for a show that most would just claim as a Pokémon rip off.

Digimon Tamers (2001 – 2002) was the third entry in the Digimon franchise, following on from Digimon Adventure (1999 – 2000) and its sequel season, Digimon Adventure 02 (2000 – 2001). Season one of Digimon followed a group of 7 kids as they are trapped in the digital world. Later adding an 8th. Being told they are the destined ones to save both this world and ours and learning to grow along the way. Season two is set 2 to 4 years later, depending on which language version you’re watching. Following two of the 8 children as they meet 3 new, then a 4th, digidestined while the older kids struggle with the fact that they now have real world responsibilities, and that they can’t keep being kids the rest of their lives.

Season three was set in our world. Not the real world of the first two seasons. Our world where Digimon is a tv show, and the events of the first two seasons are just that. Two seasons of a tv show. In this season, the digital world and Digimon were created by a group of hackers who in the 80s wanted to know more about artificial intelligence and digital life. The digital world is created through an evolution on this new plain. This becomes the inspiration for the TV series and card game that sweeps across the world. However, the barrier between these worlds are slowly decaying. Glitches and creatures from the digital world are trying to cross into our world. Of course, there is a shadowy organisation that goes about making sure these incursions are never known to the public, but it’s when the kids Takato, Henry and Rika learn the truth, all separately of course. They learn that the franchise they love is in fact real, and they become partners to their own Digimon. They find themselves battling to save the people they care about from invading monsters while going about their daily lives. For the most part the first half of the season is fairly light. Your standard kids fair. But it’s what it leads into and what it builds up to that make the show so important.

Strangely, Digimon Tamers was written by Chiaki J. Konaka, the writer of Serial Experiments Lain. And was heavily inspired by the show Neon Genesis Evangelion. Truth be told, Konaka did write an episode in the second season. He tried to incorporate the Cthulhu mythology of H.P. Lovecraft into the show by creating a dark void dimension, ruled by a monstrous aquatic creature, that could only be reached by those who knew the meaning of darkness, isolation and loneliness. The things the episode introduced were largely swept under the rug after, kids show of course. But canonically the two characters in the show that have the biggest connection to the void are Ken and Kari. Ken previously being the shows villain until he was snapped out of it and made to face the truth of his brother’s death. And Kari who had been showing signs of being a little out of it ever since her introduction in season one, as well as the loses she had faced at a young age. Including the traumatic death of Wizardmon as he tries to save her life during the first season. This traumatic moment in her life is even a point brought up in a later episode as a major plot element.

It’s a little strange that Konaka would only be brought on for one episode in season two, only to become show runner for Season three. Especially given the shows aim towards children and his more adult themes. But this means that season three heavily dives into his own interests. While all the main cast members have their own problems and burdens to bare, it’s the character of Jeri that suffers the most throughout.

While at first Jeri comes off as a goofy side character that has a bit of a crush on Takato. Very energetic, overly happy at times, and always carrying around a puppet. Slowly through the season, you learn that she is deeply lonely, constantly feeling left out, and when she learns that Digimon are in fact real, she wants one for her own. Not in a malicious or spoiled manner. She sees how much fun Takato and Henry have with their partners, how important they both are and the fact that they have a purpose and wants to be like them. To feel that she is good for something. That she has meaning. During an incursion, a Leomon appears in the park before Jeri, and she is convinced that he is there for her. He’s not, in fact he doesn’t know why he’s there, but she keeps childishly chasing him, until they both find themselves in a situation out of there control. Through a series of events, Jeri is granted a digivice. The device that all chosen ones receive, and the pair are now partners. It’s a sweet moment, as Jeri is given some hope that her life will get better, that she does have a purpose. Now, while watching the show and getting to that point, it may not seem like it’s that big of a deal, it’s in retrospect that you come to understand why she is the way she is. It’s heavily hinted through the middle to end of the show that Jeri comes from an abusive household. That her parents make a very unorthodox living, though the English dub changes a fair amount of this.

Later in the show, our cast of characters journey into the digital world in order to rescue a friend that has been kidnapped and held hostage. They travel, are separated, go on crazy adventures, etc. Even come across another digidestined, one that ties it back to the first two seasons in a way, Ryo. But as they go through their journey, another character is having his own adventure. Since the start of the show, a weird creature known as Impmon has been popping in and out of the story and constantly proclaiming to be the real villain. Problem is that he’s small and is more of a nuisance that anything. He often proclaims that for a Digimon to partner with a human, it shows how weak they are. That it’s an abomination. At one point he’s even called out on this, asking why he cares so damn much. At the point of the main characters travelling into the digital world, Impmon makes his own journey. Making a deal with the villains to grant him the power he so desperately wants. Impmon becomes Beelzemon. A gun welding psychopath that now finally has the power he craved.

When the two stories converge, the team argue with Beelzemon about the nature of power and what he’s done to himself. Leomon stands to try and defend the team, only to be brutally murdered in front of their eyes. Jeri is heartbroken. Her mind slowly begins to unravel from this point onwards. In a fit of rage, Takato even begins to abuse his connection with his partner Guilmon, ordering him to transform to his mega form, and kill Beelzemon. Guilmon begins to transform but is corrupted as Takato’s digivice disintegrates. The entire moment is fuelled by rage, sorrow, and corruption. The effect it has on Jeri is devastating. She begins to withdraw herself from everyone, barely speaking until their journey through the digital world is at an end. During their time in the digital world, they learn of the entity known as the D-Reaper. At its simplest, a being of pure destruction. As the group travels back to the real world, the D-Reaper begins to follow them, even taking Jeri and replacing her without the others noticing. She has become so withdrawn within herself that a puppet can easily pass for her in the eyes of her friends.

By the series finale, the D-Reaper begins to take over the real world, the hackers who created the digital world are revealed. One of which they had already met in the digital world, while another is revealed to be Henry’s father. And the plan is enacted to save the real world. However, at the core of the ever-growing D-Reaper, in a small sphere is Jeri. The D-Reaper is feeding on her sorrow. Letting her feel as useless and empty as she always feared. Even when the heroes manage to break through and almost reach her, she tells them their better off without her and pushes them away. Jeri is severely depressed. Everything in the show has lead up to this. All 51 episodes. She is at her lowest point and is giving up on life and a future. In doing so, she is allowing the world to be swallowed whole and devoured.

Of course, given that this is a kids show, she is rescued and the world is saved. But her depression is not ignored. It’s acknowledged though never directly named. The show takes a stand and acknowledges the weight that lose, abuse, emotional pain and physical trauma can have on a person as well as how it affects those around you. The show physically manifests her pain in the form of a destructive being that knows no boundaries. This is something Digimon Tamers managed to accomplish better than many adult or teen driven shows managed at the time.

When a lot of kid’s television focuses heavily on obvious morals such as ‘don’t steal’ or ‘play nice with others’. Having media that does tackle such heavy material but breaks it down to a level that a child can understand, maybe one of the best ways to aid in emotional growth and understanding of such a heavy subject.

The uncomfortable subjects that can destroy a person’s life are the ones we should feel the most comfortable discussing. Ignorance and an inability to understand a subject such as depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses, only make it harder for those affected to open up. While not all children’s media should include such heavy subjects, we should have the ability to talk and to educate. While the major themes of loss, abuse, depression and loneliness are not the first thing that might pop into a child’s mind when watching the show. It can provide them with a frame of reference. Educating without them knowing.

 

Time and Deconstruction

Deconstruction in media is something I find intensely fascinating. And while this video by Under the Scope is a great exploration of deconstruction in anime, particularly in the ‘magical girl’ (Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and ‘giant mech’ (Neon Genesis Evangelion) genres (though it was strange to hear someone refer to the show School Days as a deconstruction of the ‘harem’ genre). What I find puzzling about the evidence he uses, is possibly my own experience with discussing deconstruction. Particularly, calling Neon Genesis Evangelion a deconstruction of the ‘mech’ genre.

A few months ago, I wrote an article discussing how the deconstruction aspect of a piece of work is waisted, when that piece of work is recommended or introduced above and before the thing being deconstructed. A deconstruction without reference. The two examples I used were Watchmen, which is often praised as one of the greatest comics ever written (personally, I think it’s just ok, but I didn’t read it at the time of creation), and often on the top of ‘comic you should read for beginners list. And I paired that with Neon Genesis Evangelion for an example in another medium that is also highly praised, and first to be recommended to newbies.

The two most common responses I got to the piece had nothing to do with the content, but argued that Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t a deconstruction, and no one reads Watchmen first. And that I’m an idiot for thinking so. I did a little research into the profiles of the people who commented, and concluded that a lot of them were either relatively new to anime, had read Watchmen recently, or were jumping on the band wagon of the first few commentator’s due to other posts they had made being contradictory to what they had later said.

This makes me wonder something else about the nature of deconstruction. With both works being creations of (arguably) a different generation. The mid 80s for Watchmen, and mid 90s for Evangelion. Has the passage of time, and the effect these works had, changed how we view the media enough for them to no longer be considered deconstructions?

In the case of anime, Evangelion’s release spear headed a dramatic shift in the medium. Particularly in the production of original television properties. This change also allowed writers such as Chiaki J. Konaka to bring works such as Serial Experiments Lain to the screen. The Youtuber Digibro describes this shift well in his video How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. Concluding Evangelion’s full effect kicking in, with the series Now and Then, Here and There. Taking on the familiar trope of a young boy being transported to a magical new world. Something usually seen in a show aimed at young children. Only to be met with a dark dystopia, full of twisted characters, and plot devices including murder and rape.

In the realm of comics, Watchmen was part of a one-two punch, along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Eventually culminating in advertisements for comics presenting them as “Grime, Gritty, Grown up”. These kinds of stories lead to darker storytelling, particularly in the worlds of superhero comics. A genre created for a primary audience of children, and grew in the wake of the second world war, as a means of hopeful escapism. This darker tone has continued to reverberate through modern comics, particularly in DC. With the ‘Rebirth’ relaunch acting as a course correction, and the storyline ‘The Button’, and the current ‘Doomsday Clock’ actively blaming the darker tone on the Watchmen characters. Particularly Dr Manhattan.

batman_watchmen

But this all leads back to my initial question. Is something still a deconstruction, if the deconstruction has become part of the norm?


  • Digibro (2017) How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally. [Online] YouTube. August 3rd. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ3F_hhzJ3o [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Johns, G. & Frank, G. (2017 – 2018) Doomsday Clock. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Miller, F. (1986) The Dark Knight Returns. DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Moore, A. & Gibbons, D. (1986 – 1987) DC Comics: Burbank.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996) TV. Directed by Hideaki Anno. [DVD] Studio Gainax: Japan.
  • Now and Then, Here and There. (1999 – 2000) TV. Directed by Akitaro Daichi. Studio AIC: Japan.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) TV. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo. [DVD] Studio Shaft: Japan.
  • School Days (2007) TV. Directed by Keitaro Motonaga. [DVD] Studio TNK: Japan.
  • Serial Experiments Lain (1998) TV. Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura. Studio Triangle Staff & Studio Pioneer LDC: Japan.
  • Under The Scope (2016) What Actually is A Deconstruction? [Online] YouTube. July 5th. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBuo4vi_A0s [Last Accessed: 01.01.2018]
  • Williamson, J., King, T., Fabok, J. & Porter, H. (2017) The Button. DC Comics: Burbank.