The lightbulb in my room burnt out last week and because I’ve been too lazy to buy a new one I haven’t been reading comics as much. Instead I’ve focused on the tons of digital manga on my computer. When you’re the kind of person who easily falls into routines, the teensiest push can be enough to set you off in a refreshing direction. I’ve learned to be more welcoming of everyday inconveniences as a result.
This would be more than an everyday inconvenience. Trepanation, the ancient practice of drilling holes into the human skull for medical purposes, is the taking off point in Hideo Yamamoto’s Homunculus. It’s a manga title I avoided for a long time because I knew it as semi-plausible supernatural seinen, and semi-plausible supernatural seinen are very often terrible.
Rather than get into all the fine, concrete details of what this story is about, I want to say up front it’s demonstrable in terms of showing you what kind of things mainstream Japan does with the medium that no other country dares. Homunculus is a comic about the unconscious mind, but it’s not about it in a removed intellectual fashion. It deals with the unconscious mind by combining passionate drama with lots of symbolism.
After the protagonist undergoes trepanation treatment he begins to see people differently. Homunculi, the self-images of people projected by their unconscious minds, are visible in the physical world, reacting to the stimuli around them. The main character essentially engages with people while reading these homunculi and using their behavior to learn more about his “opponents” in real time.
As you might expect, very quickly he learns that not only are homunculi difficult to interpret, but his own biases and unconscious thoughts are shaping the way he perceives them, ie he is both having these symbols presented to him while unconsciously imprinting upon them. Someone else’s face, for example, might shift to resemble a friend from his past, even if the two people don’t know each other. This, combined with the fact homunculi may be figments of his imagination in the first place, works to maintain an almost maddening tone of uncertainty throughout the story and where it’s headed.
I guess it’s a psychological thriller? A really unique, thrilling one, brimming with sexual impulse and competing theories about the psychic apparatus.
I like Tumblr because it often gives me positive feelings without the use of a single word. For example, this random post reminded me how utterly perfect Shigurui: Death Frenzy is, and how glad I am it exists.
Shigurui was a 2007 anime put out by Madhouse Studios when they were still at the top of their game, creating television shows that struck out unique, adult areas of interest, often adapting noteworthy manga with a budget conscious yet keen visual sense.
There aren’t any places on the web that consistently talk about truly exemplative anime, and so much is focused on what’s happening right this very second, making it easy to forget about the great stuff. Using Tumblr I’ve curated a revolving door of anime awe and wonder, without getting tangled up in any of the silliness the social networking site is most often derided for. And let’s be honest, most of that deriding is done by dudebros afraid of digital spaces where females exert just as much influence as males, if not more.
Maybe it clubs you over the head with its imagery, but I like this Nick Cross cartoon short enough to loop it every once in a while. Cross is a talented animator working on his own feature length movie, but he saw fit to release this little bit of somber emptiness in between that long term project and whatever else he has going on.
If you’re watching something Star Trek-related and it isn’t named Wrath of Khan why are you even bothering?
Wrath of Khan is the only Star Trek thing anyone should subject themselves to, and the new movies know that, so they naively try to ape it with young actors. So just watch Wrath of Khan on Blu-ray, and watch the new movies if you want big dumb emotive spectacle where the villain is a terrorist analogue. (Because that’s all American big budget action movies are anymore: escapist terrorist analogues. Especially the superhero ones.)
I speak as someone who spent their whole childhood watching Next Generation and Voyager. Trust me, I’m not a better person for it.
But hey, at least I always knew Stargate sucked.