Tag Archives: manga

A Risky Conversation

This week for #SaitoSaturday I decided to give a little bit more of a clue than usual, because while Kagami gets a lot of love (he’s the namesake of the book, poor dear, and thus doomed), Akira gets…much less. Therefore, it’s back to chapter three, draft two, for a bit of a snippet that expands on an excerpt from a few weeks ago. Akira enters the fray via Taira Arashi, he-who-is-a-dragon-bastard, and one Watanabe Sakiko, she-who-is-a-pain-in-the-ass. Of course, he doesn’t know this yet, but he will…


The low, black throbbing of Taira Arashi’s laughter followed Akira out of his office and into the elevator, with the woman, Watanabe-san, right behind him. As they stepped out onto gold-veined marble of the first floor foyer, she smiled at him, almost a grin. “You did well, Saito-san. I’ve seen very few men hold their ground against Taira-sama.”
“And this amuses you.” It did not amuse him.
“Oh, yes.” If she was aware of Akira’s irritation, Watanabe-san didn’t show it. “What is that old saying, laughter or tears? Perhaps you should keep it in mind, Saito-san.”
Shaking his head, Akira tugged at the hem of his jacket and scanned the foyer. The two of them seemed to be the only humans, at least judging by the breadth of the smiles aimed in his direction, their fanged promises. No one approached them, and yet he felt the weight of many eyes, much attention, and shuddered. “How do you work with him, Watanabe-san?”
She did not meet his eyes, scanned the room for a moment then slanted her gaze into the shadow of her own hair. “How? I wonder. Perhaps, as he said, it is just because this is a different time. Another era.”
Akira snorted, then cleared his throat . “Apologies, Watanabe-san. I… Having heard the stories of my parents and grandparents, I can’t see how anything is changed. ”
Widening her eyes at him, she leaned closer. “No? Your job exists, doesn’t it? A hundred years ago there were no human police.”
“And what good does it do?” He kept his voice quiet, but Akira couldn’t let her statement go without challenge. “Eight out of ten cases reported are dropped, because in eight out of ten cases, the perpetrators are yokai. And that line? That’s where we lose all jurisdiction.”
There was something blase in her shrug, and she sashayed away from him, catching up with her gaze over her shoulder, pulling him along behind her with it. He followed because he had to, but she seemed to think it was her due. “Don’t such things make you eager to follow Taira-sama’s instructions? To make a place for yourself here in Asakusa, to expand your sphere of influence?” Watanabe-san settled herself on a soft couch and gestured at the chair across from her. “The lines one cannot cross, one must patrol…or at least observe carefully, even from a distance. Is that not so?”
This woman. There was something strange in her smile, in her sudden sadness. Akira settled himself gingerly, trusting not even in the furniture in this place, and nodded slowly as he contemplated the woman and her words. Even her name was suggestive. “Perhaps we will be so lucky. Watanabe-san, I hope you don’t mind the question, but are you of any relation to Watanabe Jiro, head of the Relations commission?”
“The judge of YAMA?” Her laughter was very soft. “You could say that. He’s my husband.”
“Your – husband.” Akira blinked at her in confusion, then leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. “You’re married to the head of YAMA, and you work with Taira-sama?”
She hummed her affirmation, tapping her fingers on the arm of the couch, tilting her head as she smiled at him. “This surprises you? But my husband also works with yokai.”
Shrugging, Akira narrowed his gaze at her. As if the two were the same thing. “Of course, but -”
“And it is you and your work we should be discussing, Saito-san.”
The sharpness of her words stopped Akira short. Again, something…off stuck out to him, as if the edges of his woman’s presence were prickly, too hot, thorn-studded…something. “Ah…” Was there a flame in the flicker of her eyes, a glow burning brighter? No, couldn’t be. Just the florescence of the overhead lights. “Right. I apologize.”


*Interested in where this all begins? Check out the first KAGAMI post, which starts at the beginning of the book!

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That Shower Scene

This week for #TeaserTuesday I decided…to expand on last week’s excerpt! Remember this hint of a scene? Have some more – but not too much! (And it’s still a wee bit NSFW, so read carefully.) As Kagami can attest, Akira is a distracting bathing companion…


The walls and floor of the ofuraba were both tiled with raw, grey stone – everywhere but a little window set in the wall above the ofuro. Mesmerized, Kagami stared while Akira turned on the tap, and the deep, square tub started to fill with steaming water. There was a drain set into the floor, with a short wooden stool above it and a wide, flat bucket with a washcloth in it set to one side, but Kagami had no idea what all this stuff was for.* Before he could ask, he was distracted from his perusal.
kagami sees an akira     Akira stripped off his shirt, was suddenly half-naked, and the shifting muscles under the skin of his bare back incited a need Kagami had never experienced before. Was this desire? This feeling, tight in his belly, hot in his chest, a startled ember rolling down his spine. His heartbeat – that he had a heartbeat – Kagami grew aware of its pulsing in his fingertips, the trapped, rigid length of his sudden erection, his lips, his tongue… Warmth fled his fingertips for his cheeks and the tops of his ears.
     With one hand, Akira tossed his bloody shirt in the trash, then seemed to hesitate for an instant before he stuck his thumbs into the waistband of his pants and boxers and shoved them down. Kagami licked up the man’s body with his glance, then lowered his eyes, unable to keep the smile from his face as he stripped off his own borrowed clothes. His policeman was good to look at all over. The thick muscles of his thighs, his taut, dimpled buttocks – the angles of his shoulders, his hips…
wet abs (akira)     A rough rush of something like summer lightning spurred Kagami forward a step, had him reaching out, but he jerked his hand back as Akira doused himself with spray. It came from a shower head outside the ofuro, and Kagami regarded it with interest…but not as much as Akira. Wasn’t the bath already full of water? Why would he need to get wide outside of it? But when he was wet all over, the man sat on the stool, took a washcloth and soap and started to scrub himself around blossoming purple bruises. “If you’re gonna stand there and stare, you wanna wash my back?”
     The words jerked Kagami’s attention up to Akira’s face. “Saito…san?”
     He was looking at Kagami with eyes gone dark and heated, and his gaze flickered down over Kagami’s naked body, then up again more slowly. “Well?”
SONY DSC     Kagami gloried in being looked at, being seen, as much as in the fact that Akira seemed to return his desire. “I can…I can do that.” It was only as he took the cloth from Akira’s hands and started to rub it against his shoulder that Kagami realized this gave him permission to touch without misgivings or embarrassment. He stopped moving the washcloth to follow the lines of the policeman’s back with the tips of his fingers instead,  tracing lines beneath the suds. Thin, pale ridges of scar tissue came under his hands, and he frowned, staring. An old wound?
     Akira twisted around then, eyeing him with heated amusement. “You can actually scrub, y’know. I’m not gonna break.”
     Yes, there was that about humans, wasn’t there? They had their frailties, but to shatter at a touch wasn’t one of them. Even if those scars were proof of mortal vulnerability… Shuddering at just the thought, Kagami pressed closer to Akira’s back as he scrubbed up the man’s spine.


*Interested in what makes this scene different from how you might take a bath? Check out the first Sugoi! post, Secrets of the Soak, about the customs and history of bathing in Japan!

The Major Issue: Ghost In The Shell Is Now Whiter Than Ever

“I guess cyborgs like myself have a tendency to be paranoid about our origins.”

Major Motoko Kusanagi

 

Let’s be clear: there is nothing good about the upcoming live-action adaptation of Ghost In the Shell. As a film, its artistic merits (whatever they may happen to be) will always fall far behind its impact on the community of young women, especially young Asian women, who have waited for years for someone to make something out of one of the most influential manga and anime sagas in the last several decades.

For those who don’t know, Ghost In The Shell’s main character is Motoko Kusanagi, code-named The Major. She’s a scrap of human brain tissue in a completely cyborg body – a body that can be exchanged for any “shell”, that could conceivably look like anything or anyone.  It is, I’m sure, this convenient means that Hollywood has decided to use to explain why they’ve cast a white actress in a role that demands  a Japanese woman. The reason I say demands is simple: the Major’s shell is immaterial, when the titular “ghost in the shell”, her consciousness and personal identity, is that of a Japanese woman.

In every media depiction, anime move, series, or manga, Motoko Kusanagi expresses her discomfort and dislike for other bodies than the one in which she is depicted. She is a Japanese woman, and because of the fact that her cyborg-self can be so easily manipulated and changed, that identity provides a rock-solid core from which she acts and perceives the world. I want to say it once, all by itself, clearly.

Motoko Kusanagi identifies as a Japanese woman. She is a Japanese woman, and stripping her of that identity makes her someone else.

The heart of the Major’s character is this identity, which is based, not on her body, not on flesh, which she doesn’t possess, but on a sense of her self. This idea, the concept of consciousness and self-awareness as mobile phenomena independent of flesh, is at the heart of the entire Ghost In The Shell universe. To cast a white actress in this role is not only disrespectful of the character, but completely destroys the foundations on which the Major is built.

Earlier, I read an article discussing the recent revelation that Motoko has not only lost her Japanese body in this film, but also her name. Motoko Kusanagi is now Meera. The article stated that:

It’s possible that prior to gaining her cybernetic body and possibly losing her memory, “Meera” was actually Motoko, a Japanese woman. Her ghost was removed and placed in the body of a white woman, creating a subconscious internal struggle for her. As Johannson says, “the heart of this story is her search for an identity.”

Convenient, isn’t it? Hollywood has been feeding us the same lie for decades now: “Audiences won’t watch a movie without a white actor as the lead!” Theories like the one above are excuses predicated on that lie. With hundreds of hours of source material, in which Motoko is always presented as a Japanese woman, why is it necessary that Hollywood’s version use a plot device that “forces” them to cast a white actress?

If source material in which the characters are depicted with non-white ethnicity or non-Western cultural origins aren’t safe – if a character that began as Japanese or Egyptian or Indian won’t stay that way in a film adaptation, then what hope is there for new non-White characters to just…appear? Obviously it hasn’t happened so far.  While I am aware that some excuse the decision to cast Johansson based on the “star-power” effect, let me ask you this: If only white actors and actresses are cast in star roles, then how will a non-white actor ever have that “star-power”?

There are numerous Japanese actresses already within Hollywood, not even counting those who would like to be actresses. There is no reason to cast a white woman in the role of a Japanese woman. In the end, it comes down to what it always comes down to: institutionalized racism.  Not only has this racism destroyed this movie – the whitewashing of Motoko Kusanagi highlights more clearly than ever that there is a problem in our cinema. There is a problem with the way stories are being told, even when there isn’t a problem with the stories themselves.

The time has come to vote the only way we can as consumers – with our dollars. If you want to support Ghost In The Shell, buy the anime. The HD releases are excellent. Watch some of the new OVAs, share the manga with a friend, stay up until two in the morning discussing how we know who we are. Just make sure you experience the story as it was meant to be experienced – with a Japanese woman as its heart.