The humour is the medium

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie was a travesty. And it’s entirely because they tried to capture the humour of the series – which comes across beautifully in print and on the radio – without acknowledging the realities of the medium.

Consider that most of H2G2 is simply untranslateable to film. I mean, how on earth could you justify the following scene? (wherein Arthur debates with Prosser about the official plans to demolish his house) :

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opening credits

via Shamus, here’s the opening credits for Haibane Renmei on YouTube:

The momentary glimpses of each character really give you a sense of their styles and personalities, especially Reki. And the music accompaniment is enchanting – the theme stays with you. I am also very fond of the opener to Sugar now, though in contrast to HR it tells you almost nothing about the characters at all. Excepting Greta, that is. I did however cringe the first time I heard that doo wop chorus, though…

I have to disagree with Pixy that most live-action openers are focused on the characters, however, at least for science fiction. The opening creds for BattleStar Galactica are a good example of an OP that really establishes the visual style, and atmosphere. That’s not surprising given that Ron Moore, the producer, also did Deep Space Nine – a series whose opening credits were basically a visual ode to the space station itself, as the main character. Not since the scene from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where Kirk takes a visual inspection of the refitted Enterprise has such devotion been paid to a thing on screen rather than a person. I think that science fiction shares with anime the need to sell the setting and mood as much as the characters. In that respect, the opener to Galactica is very anime-esque.

Steven noted that the opener/closers may suck for good series, but has anyone observed a very well done opener and closer for a terrible series? Maybe the rule works only in reverse.

Suuuuugar Baaaaaaaby-dolllll

well, that’s how every episode of Sugar: A little Snow Fairy opens. My almost-four year old says this about a dozen times a day now.

Overall, the series started out slow, and then kept layering on the character development piecemeal until by the end you really felt you knew them, without consciously realizing how attached you were. This is different from Haibane Renmei where the main characters are immediately captivating – in fact, for the first 30 minutes of disc 1, I rather disliked Saga.

This post is kind of a compilation of some of my observations from throughout. Continues below the fold…

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In a rare moment of weakness, I agreed to watch a Bollywood flick with my wife. (Understand that I am trying to build cred with her to get her to try Haibane Renmei)

The movie we watched was Mohabbatein, which turned out to be a lot of fun. What impressed me most was the way it actually juggled an ensemble cast and managed to actually give each of the nine (9!) major characters enough screen time to have actual depth. This is the director’s second film, after Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, which was a major box office hit worldwide and kind of validated Bollywood to non-Indian audiences (maybe I should actually watch that one, too… more wife cred?)

Of course Sharukh Khan steals the show. But watching him in action suggested a startling physical similarity to Jackie Chan. Judge for yourself: Khan and Chan via Google Images. Their alikeness triggered the observation that there are parallels between traditional Bollywood cinema and Hong Kong kung-fu movies. In one case, the stylized physical art form is dance, in another, martial arts, but in both cases the leads are heavily trained in exquisite choreography and have to have tremendous physical stamina. The plot structure is also fairly heavy on moral themes and love triangles and plenty of action – though I haven’t yet seen a kung fu flick break spontaneously into song, there certainly are plenty of other common dramatic tensions and lingering camera scenes of the wrought face of angst.

Some kind of fusion flick would be a sight to see.

Arthur Dent

why is Arthur such an unlikely hero? For one thing, he’s normal. Verging on dull, mundane, boring, average, forget him five minutes later normal. In that respect, Douglas Adams (DNA) made him a representative of humanity as a whole, which served two purposes. One was to allow us to relate to something, to give us an anchor point in an improbable zany universe that was so utterly and subversively insane that without Arthur’s human presence to react to it, would be essentially beyond comprehension. Why would we even care about the story if not for Arthur? The other purpose was to basically poke fun at ourselves. By making Arthur so generic, so average, and so bland, DNA distilled humanity down into a single person. And then used that person as proxy for wry satire on everything that makes us as a race so delightfully interesting. It sounds paradoxical to make a bland person the epitome of our creative natures, but there is a kind of joy in watching Arthur react as only a normal person and not some super-being – react, survive, and even thrive.

true names of the Haibane

I am very intrigued by the way “true name” are handled in Haibane Renmei. It seems to differ from the usual name/true name duality found in fiction and myth, the as in Wizard of Earthsea (to take one particularly well-known example). In HR, there is only a root name from which the Haibane’s name is derived and interpreted. How that nameroot is interpreted is a function of the expression of the Haibane’s free will – the choices they make as they face their trials. The interpretation is the true name.

Granted, the form and spelling of the name changes for a Haibane, but to take Reki’s example she was still Reki – only Reki as in “ga-reki” and not Reki as in “reki-shi“. The interpretation of “Reki” as either “reki-shi” or “ga-reki” is the key, and the symbols within the Wall changed to reflect the interpretation. But Reki was Reki to the end.

Yukiusagi commented that Rakka seemed to know her true name already. I think that it was more likely that she simply understood the meaning immediately, since she had her true name revealed to her after she has escaped the circle of Sin, and was terefore enlightened. Reki, in contrast, was still in the circle of Sin and her true name was still indeterminate; there were two possibilities, dependent on the outcome of her choice.

Do Haibane who are not sinbound even have true names? Clearly there is some difference in significance of the true name for a Sinbound Haibane as opposed to a regular one (like Kuu, whose true name Rakka sees within the Wall but doesn’t recognize until she also hears Kuu’s laughter).