Kuno the impermanent

I decided to start Ranma over. I hadn’t been taking the first disc seriously, and then I really only got into it around the second disc, so I felt like I had missed out. On rewatch it all hangs together much more, you can actually see that the long term arc of Ranma and Akane is fairly well planned even if the episodic rhythm verges on manic. For example, we needed the absurd martial arts competitions to establish the pair’s emotional bond, which fully culminated in Ranma’s declaration taking “ownership” of Akane’s honor (during the skating championship). Only then could Shampoo’s arrival cause such emotional havoc (physical destruction notwithstanding).

I’m up to the review episode after the Shampoo arc, and in the flashbacks involving Kuno, was struck by something about the rhythm of his strange poetry that he uses when making an entrance. The first time around i just thought it was just his own arcane poetry, full of sounds but meaning very little. But on second watch, the words suddenly felt like they meant something. So I googled them, and in hindsight I should not be surprised at all that these words Kuno speaks are the opening lines to Heike monogatari, the Tale of the Heike, an ancient epic from the Japanese medeival period. These opening lines are:

The sound of the bell of the Gion Temple tolls the impermanence of all things, and the hue of the Sala tree’s blossoms reveals the truth that those who flourish must fade. The proud ones do not last forever, but are like the dream of a spring night. Even the mighty will perish, just like the dust before the wind.

I do not lay claim to being even a fraction of a connoisseur on Japanese history and culture, but it occurs to me that for Kuno to speak these lines, given his character, is supremely ironic.

UPDATE: Japanese Culture by H. Paul Varley, apparently a well-respected text, is online at Google Book Search and discusses the Heike in much more detail. I just might have to buy this book.