Things are (very) slowly turning around, unless I’m just becoming dizzy! There is that possibility. The back problem persists, but pain is lessening or else I’m adjusting to it better. So what better time to post this little update at Alastor’s, the portal to UNBOUND through which many of you Enter?
(By the way, the above setting is one of the scenes for UNBOUND, in the chapter entitled “The Turnaround”. The department store windows you can see are where our mad street preacher, the home-less Fingal, is accosted by some street thugs. To put it subtly, the glass doesn’t stay intact for long…)
First of all, apologies for the lengthy delay; I’ve really just been too down to feel much like writing or reading much of anything. Let alone comprehend what I’m reading! Way too much on my mind(s)! Not feeling-sorry-for-myself down, but fatigued-from-constant-crises-to-deal-with-for-the-past-six-years-to-even-think kind of down. Seriously tired of it, not to mention dealing with the constant pain and limitations (which I naturally abhor), let alone the cynical and skeptical government agencies who supposedly are set up to be there for us. It’s a deep fucking pit I’m trying to escape from. But I’m grateful for my Helpers
Then in the deepest depths (as they say), something I cherish always pulls me out, whether a friend’s timely advice or just Listening, or some uplifting music, or watching an inspiring anime. Or even just a glimpse of the ever-hopeful Lily-Doll, standing patiently, waiting for the World to discover her Story. Her eyes twinkle mischievously, I imagine; she seems to know something I don’t, and she’s not telling!
But she might tell you though, through the pages of her story. That’s why she’s here. She’s such a delightful and comforting presence and continual inspiration to me, as she is the persona of Lily Godwin, brought to “life”. (Well, my life anyway!) I’ve had her with me for nine years this month, and she’s been one of the few constant shining lights, along with Pennie, our cat. Our lights come in many hues and shades
Coming Up Dept: New Posts on the 2013 ISML tourney now underway, reflections on the past Wintery anime season, an overview of what I’ve chosen to watch for Spring, and a new collection of AMVs. So: Lots of stuff! Now to just find the time and a moment of peace. It’ll come
Thanks for visiting; your thoughts and comments are most welcome :-)
To coincide with UNBOUND‘s birthing, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some anime that resonated with my own project in various ways, whether of characters, themes, plot-twisting, subject matter or emotional pitch. Sometimes all of the above! Throughout the novel’s composition, I obsessively tracked various media to ensure it was a singular story, and one not done before. After completing the final draft in 2006, I felt satisfied that I’d created something unusual and different, with elements not well-explored. In 2007 I discovered anime, and found to my utter surprise and delight a format with which my ideas and designs sympathized a great deal. And, what stories!
Today I’ll focus on the lighter series, and follow up next week with the darker ones. Can’t have one without the other, and that may very well be another theme of UNBOUND. We don’t know yet!!! Well. I do, but… ANYWAY: There are lots of themes, devices and elements used in the story, so there are usually many more reasons than those few listed below that these featured anime resonate with my project. But I’ll try to stick to a minimum for the sake of brevity. These aren’t so much similarities, but more like reflections that they share with my novel, usually in very subtle ways.
I recommend watching these in full screen, as a lot of detail is lost when shrunk down, not to mention impact. Impact is what it’s all about! Speaking of, minor spoilers may be in some videos, but very few. I consider all of these titles to be worthy of your time and interest (if you enjoy animation; genre-assuming & etc); most (if not all) are considered classics, as the Anime News Network Encyclopedia links will indicate by the ratings. And if you’re still under the mistaken impression that anime is kids’ stuff… well, *chortle* wait for part two, if this one doesn’t convince you
Spanning two seasons, this masterpiece expertly weaves multiple characters and plot-lines together and interweaves those, which is pretty much how UNBOUND Magnolia‘d out. That maze (or rather labyrinth!) was the biggest challenge for me in constructing it, and making sure everything held the weave. The relationships between all of the characters was really a joy to discover, when it wasn’t painful, but even then. The artwork, design and direction by Studio SHAFT was eye-dazzling and thought-provoking, many scenes so intense you want to turn away but can’t. (You can “Watch It Now” via the above legal link!)
But without engaging characters a twisting plot is merely a convoluted story. The juggling of these 5 pairs of lovers (erstwhile, in some cases) with their own stories, plus the story’s own mysteries, was skillfully handled and yet fairly compartmentalized, except for Yuu and Yuuko, who spin these “fairytales of the two” over the course of both seasons, and told in the second. It is devastating yet ultimately fulfilling.
For me, the character that stood out the most was Yuuko; I saw a lot of Lily in her: teasing, melancholic, self-sacrificing yet selfish (or rather, necessarily self-centered) in her way. Yuuko’s a very complex character. Her back-story, as it’s teased out over the two seasons of memo/melo, is tragic and riveting, if you are patient and allow the weave to delicately unravel, revealing her secrets. Kind of (a lot) like UNBOUND
Here’s the full version of the OPening theme, “Euphoric Field”; Yuuko is the one playing the piano <3
I always go on about Misuzu (see the post below for an example), but in relation to UNBOUND it is Lady Kanna who provides the lily. While the bulk of Air takes place in the current day, Kanna’s part takes place “1,000 Summers” earlier, and serves as a story-within-the-story. Overall, I’d say that the most “Lily-like” character in all of anime must be Kanna, for reasons best left unsaid, for now
Air is another example of a busy story-line, though it’s more episodic than the usual inter-weaving of story arcs, which seems to be the common element between these picks. But what a story! Each of the other main girls have their eloquent and emotionally-dense arcs, and then Misuzu’s takes off. This lonely but engagingly sweet girl enlists traveling puppeteer Yukito as her friend, and he begins to see her as an aid to finding what he pursues: the legend of a girl with wings, trapped in the sky…
This is the OP without the credits, and expanded upon using scenes from the anime in this full version of “Tori no Uta”:
Combined, these two seasons make this one of the most memorable romantic comedy/dramas ever. Another great pairing of studio Kyoto Animation and game-designer Visual Art’s/Key, Clannad pulls no punches in its emotional content in the same manner as its siblings, Air (TV) and Kanon (2006). Nagisa’s development was beautifully subtle, growing from an uncertain, withdrawn schoolgirl into a devoted young woman, vulnerable, strong and brave.
Celebrating a happy eighth birthday for Lily-Doll, the replicant for UNBOUND‘s Lily Godwin!
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” -Albert Einstein
Many people seem to have a hostile reaction toward dolls in general and can’t help but feel “creeped out” by them, no matter what size. Many more simply take them for granted and lump them all into a convenient little pile named “Barbie”, which boys should never play with! To many more rational-minded people, dolls are simply mysterious little (and not-so-little) avatars, and our ancestors’ playthings, proxies, and companions dating back from our earliest cold and lonely nights in the cave. I fall firmly into the last camp. And glad about being out of the cave
This last group includes the more tolerant folks and their attitudes towards life-sized dolls, which apparently begs questions of a different nature from those either curious (a good thing) or judgmental (bad). Honestly, I don’t care about psychoanalyzing the “phenomenon” as it reduces the magic about them, let alone the annoyance of “discussing” the subject with someone already with their mind made up that they’re horrible for whatever trivial reasons. Ever since getting Lily-Doll, I’ve seen plenty of that “doll-magic” and don’t need any “proof” of it, nor feel a need to be convincing about it. And need I add, no Chuckies ever appeared. Seems they aren’t all that close
The magic lies in the bonding, and that depends upon one’s imagination, and how free one is willing to let themselves go. Imagine that you have ownership of a doll. Not a simple, mass-produced one, but a specially-designed doll that you chose every aspect of yourself. It doesn’t have to be life-sized for this experiment; imagine a ball-jointed doll, like Soony here.
Can you get inside her little head? She’s your doll, you should want to! Go ahead; look into her face: Is the doll reaching out to you, but you just don’t know it?
In the second episode of Rozen Maiden Traumend this “relationship” is expressed beautifully by the doll-maker’s assistant, Shirosaki. I’ll even quote my own Blog, from April of last year:
In their second season, the much darker Traumend, Jun is brought to a new dollmaker in town by his female friend Tomoe. The conversation and dialogue in this scene is brilliant, with the dollmaker’s salesperson Shirosaki praising Jun for being interested in dolls despite being a boy, and explaining the dolls’ feelings towards their owner in touching detail. (Apparently the Japanese are much more tolerant and understanding about this than westerners, but it’s still seen as “un-natural” thanks to Society’s presumptuous pre-conditioning.)
Essentially, Shirosaki explains that in spite of appearances, dolls do feel that love bestowed upon them by their owner. Paraphrasing: “It’s not that dolls won’t give love; they can’t. They just sit on the shelf, and no matter how hard they try, they can’t communicate that love to their owner.” And this exchange later, I believe by the doll-maker, Enju: ”The feelings you put into a doll are all the same. As long as you pour love into them, they continue to live. When love disappears, they die. They become lost, no matter who it is.” He cradles his newly-forged doll, smiles at her, and says, “Hello.”
So with that in mind, we’re celebrating Lily-Doll’s 8th Birthday a little late this year, but this comes at an opportune time as there’s a current wave of publicity via the film by Elena Dorfman and Allison DeFren. This, plus the current momentum of publicizing Lily’s story, UNBOUND, after whom the doll was fashioned to promote in the first place, is all very synchronous, and that’s pretty cool
Okay… I’ll say it again: I really hate the term “the doll” when describing Lily-Doll. I’m only using it in deference (as it were) to those who can’t grasp calling an inanimate object a sexually-identifiable term. So they’ll know what I’m referring to and won’t have their little sensitivities become offended by my daring to refer to Lily-Doll as “her”.
Still smarting over losing my Elfen Lied figures (and will be for awhile, I’ll bet), I was going through my figure-photos and came across a set with Pennie, my 13 year old black Manx, hanging out with “her girls”, the seven Rozen Maiden Pullip and Dal dolls standing on the dresser. This proves that you’re never too old to enjoy them
(Sorry for the mess; it was a rare opportunity to catch Pennie daydreaming, and if I’d taken ONE FALSE STEP she’d have bolted. So, I “captured” her this way instead xD The upside is that I had one more day to not have to clean the dresser, so.)
She seems to have taken a shine to Suiseiseki, desu~
Pennie shares my enjoyment of (some) dolls, and seems to regard them as little humans, except for Lily-Doll, whom she regards as a big comfy human, albeit a very quiet one. Major points in Pennie’s eyes, so it figures that she adores her. When I stored her horizontally Pennie’s regular sleeping place was firmly between her feet. That was her place, and her “human” LOL
She’s obviously intrigued by them, and is unafraid in getting close. Unlike some squeamish humans Only Soony (my Luts-Delf BJD) escapes Pennie’s curiosity, sitting high above the computer, serenely gazing down at everything beneath her. Like me. But Pennie knows who she is, by name. She’ll look right at her when I say it; Lily-Doll too. So funny! Wish I knew what she was thinking…
Hm, maybe not LOL
Soony’s size may intimidate Pennie a little, not that much else does. I can’t get a picture of them together; she’ll always run away! She was totally out of the room during the Rozens’ party for Soony’s arrival:
Too much activity, I guess. Doll-parties and cats don’t mix
Hey, it’s not like I sit down and have tea with them, or anything! But they are fun to “play” with, and that’s the thing: they are Instruments of the Imagination. That should be easy enough to understand
Rozen Maiden was one of my first anime, and along with Chobits was the first “real” anime I’d heard discussed outside of giant robots and wannabe ninjas. I’d seen them mentioned in a doll-forum (which figures), and so my belated “real” introduction to anime in May 2007 was through this unexpected channel. To say it’s been well-worth it is an understatement of high order! So, I make sure that my anime girls, dolls or otherwise, have a nice home. Assuming they like cats.
The series may not be a masterpiece, but I thoroughly enjoyed both seasons and OVA. The parallels between our human world and the doll’s world were striking at least in one respect: that we both wage wars based upon what we believe our own “Father” commands us to, as the dolls obey whom they believe to be their Father (the mysterious doll-maker Rozen) and his dictum that they battle each other to the death to determine which among them is worthy of becoming transformed into Alice, the ideal (and real) girl. It’s as sad for them as it is for us…
Hmm… Rozen Maiden combined with the Kronos Quartet’s theme from Requiem for a Dream… it works! :-O
You probably blinked and missed her, but at around 2:45 and accompanying “The Rabbit” there appears the ONE Rozen Maiden Pullip doll that I missed out on: the beautiful and mysterious Kirakishou. Naturally she’s gone already. In fact, she was only limited to 1,000 dolls (IIRC) and pretty much vanished on the spot. She remains my Grail, so anyone with an extra $1000 to burn … *cough splutter choke* – I can’t believe the prices for her! The regular Rozens cost around $80 to $110 upon release, for reference; Kirakishou probably cost around $120 or so.
Still, likeElfen Lied, Rozen Maiden is an important and significant anime for me, and if there’s anything worth collecting collectibles of, it’s important and significant stuff
I spent over a year following each Pullip Maiden release as they were issued with the knowledge that I would get the complete set of SEVEN of them. When the last doll rolled out I turned my focus onto learning HTML and building this site; it was only for two months that I “blinked”. I had no idea they’d pull something like sneaking out a Limited Edition Kirakishou (who only appears in the whole anime in that one scene in the above AMV), thereby invalidating the collectors who bought each doll assuming they could complete the set of SEVEN. Not eight. Now I have an incomplete set, so I’m not a very happy collector This is why I HATE collecting anything anymore. Greed and manipulation proliferate, ugh. Bitter much? Nah.
Um, well… kinda.
Anyway. Much of the show’s humor is best appreciated going in with the knowledge that this is a comedic anime involving doll-antics and the like. But the relationships drive the bulk of it, and are so enjoyable and lots of times hilarious: Shinku’s spoiled attitude becomes (somewhat) humbled; Suiseiseki’s wild and unpredictable behavior is (somewhat) tamed; Hina Ichigo’s story, probably the most heartrending, shows her growing from an obnoxious, spoiled brat into an aware and considerate little doll.
The second season, Traumend (German for “dreaming”), has several deeply moving scenes towards its end; those looking for a darker tale will appreciate this set and the two-episode OVA, Ouverture. (EDIT: Coincidentally,The Anime Network Online will be streaming Rozen Maiden: Traumend beginning this week! (To see beyond episode one you’ll have to subscribe, FYI.)
But Shinku and Jun’s interplay is at the core of the series; they play the odd couple to perfection, and warm to each other so well over the course of both seasons. Here’s a very sweet, nice-quality AMV that focuses on just that bond. By the way, for casual viewers, this (or better) quality is best-suited to view anime with; it’s very sharp and clear. Expression is paramount, and its full visibility is a must to fully enjoy the characters’ reactions, thoughts, and emoting. And, normally I dislike subtitles in AMVs, but the few in this one really help; those unfamiliar with the anime may get a good taste of what’s in store for them…)
I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, as a lot of folks are doll-a-phobic (why I have no idea), and the childish antics a bit much, but if you put aside your mean inner critic you may find a show to love, in spite of it- (and your-) self! Besides, why let criticism spoil the enjoyment of something you have fun with?
It’s fun, outlandish, (doll-)violent, heartwarming and heartbreaking, thoughtful and even provocative. Bang-for-buck ratio is high
First, a moment of reflection on the disaster that befell Japan on March 11th 2011, and the loss of 20,000 souls and cherished family members. I hope that the rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts are fully successful and continue to improve their way of life to be even better than it had been before the calamity. Out of ruin and chaos can rise an improved infrastructure and stronger building considerations, and people will have become better persons in dealing with each other beneficially in a calamity of this scale. I’m certain that Japan will be doing its best! Our thoughts are still with you
Now, for more trivial news:
NEWSFLASH! R.I.P Nyuu, Lucy and Nana:
Man, it’s been cold. Not temperature-wise but reality-wise. They’re really gone. I had the dubious pleasure of walking two miles in constant rain to the Post Office today to ship off my pair of Elfen Lied figures, which I had to sell to cover the rent. Adding insult to injury is that I only got about half of what I was hoping for for them. But I have a roof over my head for another month, so that’s good.
That’s not really much of a consolation though, as the figures were very precious to me, being that Elfen Lied was my proper initiation into anime (i.e. not by way of the commonly-shown juvy shows that most westerners associate with anime). Plus, I had to hassle and hustle to get them since pre-orders weren’t accepted from outside of Japan, and only 1,000 of each were made so they sort of vaporized upon release. I was so happy to get them! It’s among my most-favorite shows, and I really do enjoy having figures displayed to represent characters from significant and beloved series.
They really have cheered up the places they’re in, not to mention me. Just kills me that I had to sell Nyuu and Nana. If you pre-ordered both figures you received a bonus pack as well, with Lucy’s interchangeable face for Nyuu and “papa’s ribbon” for Nana (a necktie which she used to cover her horns). So, Lucy’s gone, too.
But I have to figure that since publishing my novel is my first priority, if we do well enough I’ll be able to replace them in the future. Good to have priorities. At least I still have Kanon‘s Ayu and Makoto, and Fate/Stay Night‘s Saber and Sakura
But it sure sucks seeing all these new figures coming out that I want; I’m doing my best not to look at anything that requires money, since (a) I don’t have any, and (b) why increase my aggravation? It really pisses me off that I can’t buy anything other than necessities for survival, and seeing spendy shit constantly dangled in front of me is uselessly annoying. I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to ignore useless and annoying things, and you save money and sanity by doing so
THE 2012 WINTER ANIME SEASON (Upcoming) REPORT:
I’m working on a report on the 2012 Winter Anime Season shows that I watched, and that’ll be forthcoming shortly (in my timeline LOL). I’ve actually been thankful that there were only five series I felt like tracking (in addition to the remaining four from Fall 2011, Shakugan no Shana Final, Chihayafuru, Last Exile: Fam, and Mirai Nikki. (I kinda put Bakuman 2 on hold until later.)
This season’s pickings include Ano Natsu de Matteru (rom-com, slice of life), Another (horror), Black Rock Shooter (sci-fi action), Kill Me Baby (wacked-out comedy), and Nisemonogatari, (indescribable) which more than makes up for the absence of any others to this list. I’ll put synopsis links up for those shows when I post the article; I included Nisemonogatari‘s for reference because of the very next section…)
Being a huge Bakemonogatari (and its studio, SHAFT) fan, I was already on board when this sequel was announced. And I’m thrilled that my favorite secondary character from Bake has been featured in the sequel! That would be Shinobu Oshino, a 500-year old vampire who… doesn’t look like one:
In season one (Bakemonogatari) she had about 6 appearances, none of which lasted much more than a couple of minutes. Very quiet ones, as she never spoke. She just sat in a corner at Oshino’s place, making you wonder just what the heck is up with her? (That’s one thing I love about Akiyuki Shinbo’s work with SHAFT; no hand-holding: they’re always making you think and wonder!)
A lot of viewers missed Shinobu’s appearance in episode one of Bakemonogatari, so I’ll say no more than that. But seeing Nise has made me really want to re-watch Bake again Another thing I love about SHAFT-works – they always bear re-watching!
Another reason: check out the combined genres and themes from Anime News Network’s description (caution: links will take you to ANN, not that that’s a bad thing):
So Shinobu’s the girl I’m supporting in this year’s International Saimoe League, even though she hasn’t got a chance in hell going against the more-popular girls. But Nisemonogatari has gotten some decent reviews and buzz, so who knows? Can’t depend on the voters, that’s for sure LOL! She is pretty damn moe though, and a bad-ass, unbeknownst to most! I’m sure that her “talents” will be revealed over these last couple of episodes
But in terms of realistic contestants, I’m going to pull for Toradora‘s Taiga and Shakugan no Shana‘s Shana for the win and the Tiara. While I love Angel Beat‘s Kanade (aka Tenshi), everybody else does too, so I tend to leave the popular ones to the masses and stick with my tried-and-trues. Even though Kanade will probably win it all, which won’t make me sad Plus, she plays piano, and that’s a plus:
Ah yes… I fondly recall the first moment I saw Tenshi and loved her right away, caught as she was in the cross-hairs of a sniper rifle :-O She’ll likely take it all this year, unless lame political manouvering conspires to hate-vote against her, which is kinda what I expect to happen. Back-lashing will be forthcoming, I’m sure, since she was so dominant in last year’s ISML (though she didn’t win). Many voters will likely turn on her for that; lots of them favor disrupting a contest to suit their own selfish needs; such is life; Internet, Real, or otherwise. Great, fucking politicking in my moe contest, ugh. So grade-school. Such misfortune!
I just want to see which girl is HONESTLY voted the moe-est, not some simply-attractive character from a series that more people simply watched probably for its fanservice over its substance. But w/e floats their boat *shrug*
Some things about fandom I really don’t get, like the appreciation of “traps”, which to me are just cynical tools and a hopefully-passing fad; it sure figures that more are popping up these days. (Traps = “girls” who are actually boys that some studios create so they can go “hahahamadeyoulookaren’tweclever”, I guess). I wouldn’t really know since I won’t watch a show that needs that sort of gimmick to work (or for crude fanservice either, for that matter).
(Pictured above are chibi-versions of Tsubasa, Nadeko, Sugura, Mayoi, Hitagi, and… Shinobu… sitting by herself in a corner again. *sigh* See? I told you that’s all she did! In season 1, anyway )
No, *I* prefer the fanservice provided by Studio SHAFT. Nisemonogatari features extremely well-done fanservice; even squirmy at times it’s so effective! It never takes over the story. Well… except for a certain lenghty “toothbrush scene” that will no doubt become legendary! Well-done, as expected By the way, the following Promotional Video is only half as long as it says due to a repeat so it’s not quite as well-done, but still. And as with every anime from Studio SHAFT, the Pause key is your friend
ISML AND THE UNFORTUNATE FADING OF THE KEY/KYOANI GIRLS:
In ISML I always vote for my core of Key-cuties (courtesy of Kyoto Animation): Misuzu, Ayu and Nagisa, from AIR-TV, Kanon (2006) and Clannad, respectively. If you are a Visitor to Alastor’s who is unfamiliar with anime, and you want a story that is funny, heartwarming, magical/metaphysical, dramatic, and emotionally powerful, combined with beautiful animation, directing, and sound, then any of these three shows would make great introductions to the medium. I’d recommend them in reverse order; by the last episode of Clannad ~After Story~ you’ll have definitely seen the light. Then watch Kanon 2006 and AIR. You won’t ever view anime in the same light you once did
If you figure you won’t ever be watching it, then check out this wonderful-but-spoilerish synopsis-style AMV that uses the full version of “A Girl’s Fantasy” from the OST, and maybe you will reconsider after watching this moving overview. I’d suggest reading the short synopsis at ANN, then watch the video so that you get half an idea of what’s going on. Hopefully, you won’t figure anything out LOL!
Clannad fans will love it; this is the song that plays when scenes of The Illusionary World are shown (with the Girl and the Junk-Boy). So, MAJOR CLANNAD SPOILERS AHEAD! (And generally speaking, don’t ever randomly watch any YouTube videos of these “KeyAni” shows because they are RIFE with spoilers, as the plot-lines are twisty and surprising; knowing in advance what will happen will ruin the effect! If you’ve any inclination towards watching these shows, rent or buy them and then you won’t be spoiled. Like if you watch this one:
Too bad that the popularity of more recent shows overcasts the fond remembrances some of us have of these characters. Not me though. I’m fiercely loyal to “my girls” no matter how “old” they or their series have seemingly become. I say “seemingly” because the stories (and characters) are STILL great; after all, it’s not their fault that humans’ perceptions and memories are so shallow. So, please enjoy this great AMV featuring the stars of AIR, Kanon (2006) and Clannad; see if you can glimpse what makes these shows (and characters!) so great. It begins with plenty of heart, and a lot of expressing what is in it… you can feel it:
Oh, I said “memories” which reminds me to add Yuuko Amamiya to that “always vote for in ISML” list! She appears in this ”prologue” video for ef-a tale of memories, another fantastic favorite of mine (that I’m always talking about LOL), another fantastic SHAFT show (my favorite work of theirs), and another favorite girl who also happens to play piano (a bit better than Tenshi)! She has a back-story that is quite memorable and her gripping depiction of it, her awful revelation(s) of it, intense. Another “brave girl” who totally won me over:
Some characters are so well-written, so deep, and emote so wonderfully (courtesy of their talented seiyuu) that they become timeless. AIR‘s Misuzu is a good example, voiced by the late Tomoko Kawakami (who also voiced the Girl From the Illusionary World in Clannad). That’s why it irks me to see them forgotten so easily and quickly by anime fans who greedily gobble up shows as quickly as they come out and digest the older series out of their system and consideration too quickly. Sad. Sign o’ the times, I guess, and that’s sad too.
Be happy, and hear something beautiful: from the AIR OST, a version of “Natsukage” as sung by Tomoko Kawakami, who very sadly passed away last year, so very prematurely. This stands as a wonderful testament to her significant contribution to anime not only for Misuzu’s role but for those of many others she has portrayed.
And on that lovely note, I’ll say good night. Please feel free to leave a comment if you feel so moved; all are welcome
But first: today those who advanced in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest were announced, and sad to say UNBOUND was not among them. This is not to infer that UNBOUND is not a breakthrough novel, or that its failure should imply that it is less-than-worthy. NO! With 5,000 total entrants divided into two categories, and going solely by the best 1,000 Pitches in each to advance, the odds aren’t good to begin with. But it’s a contest! When are those odds ever any good? Anyway, congratulations to those who made it to the next round
To be honest, summing up a 386K-word novel in a 300-word Pitch is an exercise in frustration, slightly less-so for the one-fourth that I submitted as Book One: “Earth”. The numerous judges must go through all of these submissions to weed out the obviously poorly-executed and also those Pitches that just don’t “do it” for them. There’s also a chance that your particular genre just doesn’t appeal to that gatekeeper, like a sci-fi pitch to a lover of romance novels. So, they lock you out. It’s going to take an Agent or Publisher who cares enough to look beneath the surface of a simple Pitch to find the buried treasure in Lily’s lake! That seeker is out there searching for this pearl but has plenty of air in their tank, and countless clams in the sea… but they will come to me, and Lily.
We have faith that it will Happen; these things can’t be rushed if the best results are desired. And we want the best results possible, commensurate with the amount of work, dedication, and devotion we’ve given to this Story, so that the Reader might have the best possible experience from it; one that can only come from the company of a good book. If it makes the world a more wondrous place to live in, so much the better
On the occasion of this event I thought it’d be an opportune time to finally address the name of this humble blog, Alastor’s Reflection. Visitors of the anime stripe might assume that it’s named after the pendant that Shana wears in Shakugan no Shanathat houses Alastor, the God of Destruction, to whom she’s contracted. I actually chose the name of this Blog well before I ever saw Shana, so it turns out to be a very happy coincidence, as SnS is one of my faves (I bought season 1) and Shana an awesome character who ranks near the top of my faves list. Note to self: Gotta think of a new word for “faves”, ugh LOL
Since most Visitors likely come here for the anime, here’s an action-packed AMV for Shana, and for those who don’t care or assume “certain things” (i.e. uneducated generalizations) about anime, a pertinent pointing out of Alastor in the first scene and again near the end. Never let it be said that we’re not relevant! Or pertinent, for that matter. Except when we’re not, which is much of the time oh nevermind…
It’s good for all sets of Visitors to be exposed to things unrelated to their interests, you know? And we’re pretty“quadrophenic“ hereabouts. For doll-fanciers, there aren’t many doll-related posts, but plenty of other things to enjoy at Alastor’s, home to Lily-Doll and Soony. I’ll add parenthetically (though without parenthesis but for these) that none of my dolls are used for sex. Hardly felt that was necessary but for some stupid people @ letsnotgothere.com. “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME” so don’t do that plskthx and all that.
My sexual habits aren’t a subject I feel worth mentioning but JUST IN CASE… (a) she’s a promotional aid for our novel who has garnered more publicity than anything else; (b) she’s the replicant of the main character who is the exact opposite of ‘loose”, and an ideal; (c) she provided companionship and the illusion of another’s presence in the absence of any during the writing in isolation; (d) she’s been the subject of numerous interviews, included in two books, and has been shown in photographic exhibits around the world; (e) was one of several relationships used as inspiration touched on in the film Lars and the Real Girl (unverified but largely suspected); (e) and I am not ashamed or regretful in the least, nor have I ever been. She’s been an absolute delight, a singular experience, and is such a beautiful doll. Now that that’s settled…
Huh. Just as I thought: no sex in it. See? It’s not everywhere! *collective gasps from the gutter*
This is not to say that she hasn’t posed for some sexy photos though; doll photography is another hobby (when I can manage)! Of course, she’s highly embarrassed by it and won’t do more than PG (nor would I ask her to), but understands that it’s a necessity and expectation of being a life-sized, like-like doll; one of the very first and very few to stand up and be scrutinized. She doesn’t like to disappoint, bless her But those days are long gone, and she’s content to just “hang around”, having done her bit for the cause.
Lily-Doll turned out to be the spitting image of Lily Godwin as I saw her in the story, and sat nearby throughout the latter revisions. And if the Muse happened to take up rest within her, no-one would be the wiser, but for my imagination. Imagination is the Key
Anime visitors can also find storytelling and music-related posts here at Alastor’s, and those fanciers of music and literature who land here from other forums can come to a fuller, deeper understanding of anime as well. Not that I know a lot, but I’ve been studying it avidly since May of 2007, so I do have a lot to share. Opinions, mostly LOL Those who enjoy good stories, well-done character development, and eye-pleasing animation may find some good, atypical recommendations here, such asRozen Maiden, for one…
It can’t be overstated that anime is very poorly represented to the general public in the West, and I’m trying to rectify that here by sharing what I consider to be exceptional shows that might not otherwise be seen. For instance, it’s really a shame that a touching, dramatic and moving story like AnoHana or Wandering Son wasn’t promoted over here. So, while far from being an “expert’s blog” (which there are many, see sidebar for a sampling), I do have an eye and ear and heart for quality storytelling across many genres in anime, and happily ramble on about What I Like. That I can do xD
By the way, here’s Alastor in his true form, visuals and music taken from the Shakugan no Shana movie:
Good Advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover, or a pendant by its size!
Here’s the thing: We’re named after Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s “Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude”. For the whys of the Shelleyan persuasion, see the recent Post explaining about that here. “Alastor” was one of the first of the great Poet’s works I was exposed to during my teenage years. Alastor is not the main character, who’s simply referred to as “the Poet”; nor is the Poet necessarily Shelley. (It is rumored to be William Wordsworth, however.) No, Alastor is rather “the spirit who divinely animates the Poet’s imagination.” Much as my own solitary journey went with the writing of UNBOUND, driven and supported by whom I felt to be my Muse; alone, together. It certainly has been a trip!
I’ve gone on before about how I related (and relate) to Percy Shelley. “Alastor” depicted the quest, environment and other-worldliness that I felt most in-tune with during those adventurous years growing up and into the world, and its themes serve as reminders/signposts along my way in order to stay consistent and true to myself. Those who think they know me might catch glimpses of un-imagined underlying layers exposed for the first time to their eyes here at Alastor’s; that’s what they get for not paying attention!
This, from the Wiki; pertinent NOTES from myself:
In Alastor the speaker ostensibly recounts the life of a Poet who zealously pursues the most obscure part of nature in search of “strange truths in undiscovered lands”, journeying to the Caucasus Mountains (“the ethereal cliffs of Caucasus”) [NOTE:Lily's birthplace; near Odessa!], Persia, “Arabie”, Cashmire, and “the wild Carmanian waste”. The Poet rejects an “Arab maiden” in his search for an idealized embodiment of a woman [NOTE: sound familiar?]. As the Poet wanders one night, he dreams of a “veiled maid”. This veiled vision brings with her an intimation of the supernatural world that lies beyond nature. This dream vision serves as a mediator between the natural and supernatural domains by being both spirit and an element of human love. [NOTE: strangely akin to my first Kate Bush dream!] As the Poet attempts to unite with the spirit, night’s blackness swallows the vision and severs his dreamy link to the supernatural.
Once touched by the maddening hand of the supernatural, the Poet restlessly searches for a reconciliation with his lost vision. [NOTE: successfully reinventing UNBOUND as a novel upon contact with the Creative Muse]. Though his imagination craves a reunion with the infinite, it too is ultimately anchored to the perceptions of the natural world. [NOTE: we saw through the perceptions and reunited, relating a story informed by its time-less vision.]
Ruminating on thoughts of death as the possible next step beyond dream to the supernatural world he tasted, the Poet notices a small boat (“little shallop”) floating down a nearby river. Passively, he sits in the boat furiously being driven down the river by a smooth wave. Deeper and deeper into the very source of the natural world he rushes. Like the water’s surface supports the boat, the supernatural world “cradles” the mutability both of nature and of man [NOTE: Lily and Will's little boat in Chapter 1.1 is an echo of this].
As his senses are literally dulled, his imagination helps him sense the spirit’s supernatural presence. Instead of perceiving the vision through the senses, the Poet imaginatively observes her in the dying images of the passing objects of nature [NOTE: Imagination > the sensual world ]. The boat flows onward to an “immeasurable void” and the Poet finds himself ready to sink into the supernatural world and break through the threshold into death.
When the Poet reaches the “obscurest chasm,” his last sight is of the moon. As that image fades from the Poet’s mind, he has finally attained transcendence to the supernatural world. The journey to the very source of nature led, finally, to an immanence within nature’s very structure and to a world free of decay and change. [NOTE: Plot aside, this is somewhat similar to my finding my "writer's retreat" in the beautiful San Juan Islands where at last I was able to complete my solitary work on UNBOUND, with my Muse as my only company (aside from Pennie and Lily-Doll).]
So it is a sympathetic vision that we share
That’s as general and as true a statement with which to sign off with that I can make, and something you can think on. Or not Again, I thank you for reading, and please leave a Comment if you would like to share a thought or two. We appreciate your Presence
Continuing from the post several spots below that celebrated Lily-Doll’s seventh birthday…
…she brings you love, and deeper understanding…
While researching the creation of Lily-Doll in late 2003-early 2004, I came upon a doll-related forum in which repeated comments about anime were made, in particular the handful of shows thatfeatured themes of artifical life, artificial companionship, and artificial humans, a.k.a. “dolls”. The two series most often mentioned were Chobits and (later) Rozen Maiden. I was still under the mistaken assumption that anime was essentially kiddie-cartoons, and so didn’t pay particular attention at first. But since a majority (if not all) of the posters were adults and seemingly quite enamored of the art-form, I began to pay a little more attention. Also, since I was interested in the history of dolls (especially with regard to Pygmalion and designing “the ideal woman”) I decided to look a little bit further…
After watching a few clips of Chobits and essentially falling in love with Chii (the main character), I tracked down the box set (reissue) and marathoned all 26 episodes over two days; about 13 hours total. (I hardly find it necessary to add that when I say “fell in love” it doesn’t mean literally, but you know how some people are *rolls eyes and adds*) Such a great character in so many ways! This was my second anime after the gore-fest of Elfen Lied, and the contrast couldn’t have been greater. I already was still in a state of shock over how radically my view of anime had changed, and this sweet, thoughtful, and provocative story of a discarded human-sized personal computer/assistant was pretty much at the other end of the spectrum compared to EL.
I especially enjoyed the themes of companionship and love (which are also central to Lily’s novel-to-be-published, UNBOUND), and the innocence of a new sort of sentient creature freshly (re-) awakened into The Sensual World. True, there were silly and exaggerated moments, such as in episode four, wherein Chii goes out by herself into the city to buy underwear and has to keep her mission in mind by repeating her “shopping list” repeatedly. Like… 114 times :-O This probably put off those with lesser amounts of patience, but I thought it was cute and not at all lewd at any time.
(Minor spoiler alert:) One mini-arc involved Chii disappearing, and when Hideki goes off searching for her comes upon an associate, the baker Ueda. Ueda cautions him about becoming too involved with the persocom Chii because he himself had been through something similar. Ueda tells his story to Hideki, and it was one of the most heartbreaking, poignant stories ever animated. I was seriously gasping for breath and wiping the tears away, it was so believable and true-to-life sad. Here is an AMV of The Baker’s Story, retold against the backing of the full version of the gorgeous ending theme “Ningyo Hime” (aka “Mermaid Princess”), as sung by Chii’s voice actress Rie Tanaka… one of my most favorite songs:
…and those are just the “minor” characters!
From The Wiki (which contains spoilers, so I’ll snip this comment): “Critics generally agreed that the second half of the series was stronger than the first, as the story explored the moral and philosophical explorations of the relationships between humans and artificial intelligences, and whether the latter have free will.“
By and by Chii comes across a mysterious picture book, featuring a character who mirrors her thoughts and aspirations, and another separate entity who is more than she seems, as if resembling another, internal, side of Chii, who cautions her against reaching too far for such a far-off star. (I’m deliberately being vague so as not to ruin any surprises!)
As in the beautiful Kate Bush song linked above, Chobits also thematically examines our over-reliance and infatuation with technology and love substitutes that are ultimately hollow, at least without real love factored in. But there’s much more to the deceptively simple presentation that meets the eye; despite the artificial “tool” that Chii really is, a real love story develops as she understands more and more…
As Chii comes closer to understanding her original purpose, she finds that she has growing feelings for Hideki, the penny-conscious student who found her lying in a rubbish heap and who excitedly took her home to care for her. Of course, the motivation of finding an expensive “computer” such as this one that he could never afford was his original impetus; once he woke her up though, the ballgame changes. (NOTE: The following AMV is somewhat NSFW; it hints at the special hiding place for Chii’s on/off switch, which is a critical positioning that is not prurient but *spoiler spoiler spoiler*. It’s also spoilery, but the unfamiliar probably won’t guess what’s going on )
She knows nothing of the world and is fully dependant on him at first; slowly she begins to realize the truth about her origin, her purpose, and that mysterious “other” who haunts the pages of her picture book and her heart. Hideki discovers that his own perception of her is changing; she’s no longer just a machine but a girl coming out of her cocoon, one whom he feels obliged to protect and cherish. Whether or not this comes to fruition remains for you, the Viewer, to decide. When The End comes in an anime, anything can happen, even death for a central character, but in this one the ending was… worth the wait
Later in my first year of anime (2007), I found episodes of Rozen Maiden to download and was so impressed that I ordered the lovely red velvet-covered box set when it became available. An anime with some pretty silly (but hilariously cute) doll-antics, this one was a bit darker than expected and dealt with more themes from those that I threaded throughout UNBOUND: the relationship between creator and created (Rozen the doll-maker and the Maidens), companionship, and sacrifice. The Rozen Maidens were a series of seven living dolls with magical powers that their long-vanished Maker, Rozen, infused them with. Due to his failure at creating “the perfect girl, Alice” he made these dolls to compete in “The Alice Game,” in which the survivor would prove her worth to him by defeating all the other sisters and becoming Alice, able to meet with their beloved “Father” at last. I don’t think I need to point out the parallel between this and our own feelings about our own Maker, and the endless wars we fight to supposedly appease His will…
Jun, the main character (aside from the wonderful dolls), had sequestered himself in his room and had withdrawn from school and all societal obligations. He liked to buy things off the Internet and then return them before the trial period expired; that was his raison d’ etre. Being a hikikomori, he didn’t get out much at all. It reminded me in a huge way about how I’d isolated myself so completely in order to write my novel, so his situation resonated with me a bit. One day he answers an ad that merely asks: “Will you wind? Or not wind?” Having no clue, he circles “wind” and shortly is gifted with a lovely (but girly) ball-jointed doll, dressed in rose-colored gorgeous gothic-lolita attire. Puzzled, he turns her over and over in his hands to see where to put the key. Finally he finds the keyhole, and winds…
I’ll always remember that first moment when Shinku finally awakens LOL
In their second season, the much darker Traumend, Jun is brought to a new dollmaker in town by his female friend Tomoe. The conversation and dialogue in this scene is brilliant, with the dollmaker’s salesperson Shirosaki praising Jun for being interested in dolls despite being a boy, and explaining the dolls’ feelings towards their owner in touching detail. (Apparently the Japanese are much more tolerant and understanding about this than westerners, but it’s still seen as “un-natural” thanks to Society’s presumptuous pre-conditioning.)
Essentially, Shirosaki explains that in spite of appearances, dolls feel that love bestowed upon them by their owner. Paraphrasing: “It’s not that dolls won’t give love; they can’t. They just sit on the shelf, and no matter how hard they try, they can’t communicate that love to their owner.” And this exchange later, I believe by the doll-maker, Enju: ”The feelings you put into a doll are all the same. As long as you pour love into them, they continue to live. When love disappears, they die. They become lost, no matter who it is.” He cradles his newly-forged doll, smiles at her, and says, “Hello.”
Even though it’s not considered a masterpiece of anime, I still greatly enjoy it, and that’s really all that matters, right? When I saw that Jun Planning planned a set of Rozen Maiden Dolls I leapt on the chance to own all of them (much like one of the characters in the series, namely Kanaria’s loopy mistress). If the company hadn’t decided to sneak an extra limited edition doll (who only appears for a brief moment in the final seconds of the last episode), I’d have a complete set as I thought I’d been collecting. Let’s not even go there *still furious*. I’ll probably never be able to afford Kirakishou; she’s probably over $1000 by now, in comparison to their original ~$100 price tag. Grr…
ANYWAY. I do have all the rest, and they’re beautiful; their hair and outfits are spot-on, even though the face molds are a bit similar. They’re a cute li’l gang and of course excellent reproductions of their characters in the show, aside from their faces. Technically they aren’t actually ball-jointed dolls as the anime dolls are, but fairly close. They threw a welcome home party for Soony when this genuine ball-jointed doll from Korea arrived, which I recorded/shot for posterity.
Group shot after the party:
Which brings us to genuine ball-jointed dolls…
SOONY, the Korean-made Lutz-Delf ball-jointed doll:
One of the members of the above-mentioned doll forum was a great photographer of his own ball-jointed doll, and when I compared the ease of posing, arranging, and open-ended photo-shoot possibilities of these smaller dolls with the life-sized Lily (and her 100-pounds of dead-weight), I decided to focus on this rewarding aspect of “small-doll” photography. I mean, they’re much cheaper than real life models, and you don’t even have to buy them their smack!
Since they don’t come with outfits, I had to choose one for her. I wanted another doll to serve as an inspiration for Lily’s story, and since Unbound was basically inspired by an angel (let’s say), an angel costume was a no-brainer. So the ever-so-cute Soony sits atop my computer hutch gazing down benevolently upon me. Her name will change to her real one once Unbound gets a deal. Maybe
She’s a lot of fun and a constant benevolent (if somewhat inscrutable) presence in my bedroom. She stares at me a lot, as if prodding me on to getting Lily’s novel published! A while back I was fortunate enough to find a really nice (if reduced to um… “doll-sized”) copy of Chii’s Picture Book, “A Town With No People” which she enjoys reading. Quite a lot:
Their faces can hint at amusement, concern, and the weight or the pleasure of the unknowable secrets they hold. They necessarily hide their “feelings” behind the flesh of plastic and resin from where their personalities are born; that special place that Imagination provides. That’s the trick: Use your imagination! That gift is ever more neglected day by day by the general public, and that’s simply a shame. We forget how to Play; instead we gamble and play fast ‘n’ loose with our emotions and even our play-mates, and The World. The games we now play have less to do with Play than it does one-upmanship and gaining power and leverage over one another. Sick, cynical, mean and malevolent games. Human games; our Alice Game. We’ve come so far from the caves yet behave like we still need them; indeed, we still act like we belong in them. Despite this, dolls have been with us since we first emerged from those hidey-holes of our ancestors, and we’ll always treasure our relationships with our little artificial companions.
Boy or girl! Free yourself from the fetters of conformity; it’s so self-defeating and delusional, shallow and sheep-like (unless that’s what floats your boat, then go ahead and join the crowd. Safety in numbers, and all that… and safe from those “scary/creepy” dolls!!!). Time to grow up and PLAY
Seven years ago I had the distinct pleasure and delight to meet the girl of my dreams, Lily Godwin. She’d been incubating in my imagination for many years at that point, and to celebrate the completion of the first draft of her story, UNBOUND, on Christmas Day 2003, I began the lengthy process of designing her with the cooperation of her makers, Abyss Creations, by placing an order the next business day. After an exchange of innumerable “fine-tuning” emails during the creation phase, on April 1, 2004 she popped out of the mold, and several weeks later was finally delivered to my home in Vancouver, Washington. It was an auspicious day, made even moreso by the huge wooden crate that was dropped off at my (garage) door. Try explaining THAT to nosey curious neighbors!
The answer to “what’s in the crate?”:
The obligatory “opening the crate” photo! Aside from the Tarot card, this is how all the dolls were shipped in those days. (The Fool card is integral to both Lily’s and my own life, and figures prominently in the novel.) Since Lily isn’t exactly a negligee-type of girl (quite down to earth, she is!), we had to immediately change-out her attire for something more cozy. Of course, getting her OUT of the crate proved tricky; a 100-pound silicone doll is not the easiest thing in the world to transport! “The Weight” is usually the second most-surprising thing a new-owner will experience LOL
There’s something about shooting the dolls in natural light that brings out the realism best; artificial light is too… “synthetic” (he said without a trace of irony). Naturally, I’m a bit biased, but upon seeing her for that memorable first time I thought that she was the most gorgeous doll I’d ever seen. She took my breath away! Lily’s description in the story and the embedded vision I had of her were very high bars to set, but I was unwavering in painstakingly replicating her “look” while corresponding closely with Joey, the face-designer, who really outdid himself in matching my demands perfectly. At the time there were 11 different face types, and 7 body types. Those were easy to pick out, but with over a million makeup/feature combinations the rest proved to be challenging. Thankfully, Lily was accomodating: no makeup, the lightest eye-shadow/mascara, little as possible blush, natural lips (no paint). That’s my nature-girl
In the early days I was doing a fair number of interviews, and somehow I had the good fortune to be contacted by Elena Dorfman and her creative partner Elisabeth Alexandre (an editor of France’s version of Marie-Claire magazine), who were each writing a book on life-sized dolls. They flew out to Vancouver all the way from Paris to meet Lily and I, and brought some lovely clothes from The City of Lights for her to wear (and keep!). We managed to bring Lily out into the back yard where Elena shot some photos (she’s a world-reknowned photographer), and from there drove all over town, much to the delight of unsuspecting citizens. (Big Secret: Girls love dolls!)
That’s a photo of Lily in her new duds that I took during our session; Elena took some similar that are (of course) nicer Lily was also chosen by Coverdoll online magazine as their featured model-of-the-month, a huge honor, and so I undertook the task of preparing a photo-shoot. Now, for me, photo-shoots are a lot of work. Being a perfectionist (not that you can tell from my weak-ass photo-skillz!), getting the lighting and most-importantly the eyes right really tried my patience. Since I had no tripod at the time, and shooting in natural light, keeping the camera still was an ongoing problem that eventually dissuaded me from any further attempts. For awhile, at least!
(That’s Jerry-bear, her stuffed animal, on the right.) Having had around twenty years’ worth of germinating in my imagination (and on paper), Lily-Doll came with Lily Godwin’s personality fully intact and in full-flower. Will, her ward and charge, had turned her on to Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, and their room-mate (and Will’s tutor) Stephen exposed her to the music of Kate Bush, both of whom she follows rabidly. Ironically, the first Kate-song referenced in the story is Deeper Understanding,which was just released as a single from the brand-new “Director’s Cut” album that Kate is releasing next month (right after my birthday!). Readers of this Blog already know about the connections of The Sensual World and Lily, both of which are getting the do-over treatment as well. My mind is still boggling, so I won’t belabor you with it. (But later, alright? Lots of Kate-news is forthcoming!)
For having a face “set in stone” she sure has a variety of expressions! Penny for your thoughts, Lily? Ah, I think she’s recalling her second Coverdoll shoot, where we dressed her as an angel for Halloween! I can’t express enough the difficulty in dressing these dolls; what with a limited range of movement and not very well-articulated, they are difficult to pose, much less dress. Which is why Lily-Doll is usually lightly-dressed, so as to provide a better grip when carrying that 100-pound deadweight. Accidents can break skeletons, so caution is always needed. These are not just “playthings”, but rather works of art. This is something not evident to the casual observer, but in their presence they can be truly jaw-dropping (as I’ve seen firsthand LOL)!
So, I dressed her up, and set her in one of her two favorite corners in the house, right in front of Kate’s “The Sensual World” promo poster, holding a book entitled “Ariel” (the name of a character in the novel, and phonetically similar to Kate’s “Aerial” album), and our favorite movie, Wings of Desire. Quite a cozy little corner! Here’s a typically blurry shot that actually worked in our favor:
I shouldn’t let the opportunity pass to thank Guy Louis XVI, the Canadian master of special effects (among many other things) who alongside Joey in San Diego, conspired to create Lily’s most important facial features: her cobalt-blue eyes. It took a little while, but we finally settled on these custom-made and truly unique beauties, and he suggested his realistic eyebrows as well, which went way beyond the regular painted-on brows that Abyss used to use. Of course, I chose “Natural” brows
That’s our girl! <3
I’m not going to get into the whole “ew, dolls” thing because it’s so tired an argument opinion. They’re like clowns, in a way. Either you like them or you don’t; makes no difference to me. And it shouldn’t be too hard to grasp that males can enjoy and appreciate the beauty and magic in them as females have enjoyed since time out of mind. As the film Lars and the Real Girl attests, dolls are no different than the action-figures more commonly accepted and collected (by guys, oddly enough). But when no-nothing rubes start criticizing and belittling, marginalizing and assuming, then we’ve got a fight. Thankfully, these days the public is a little more tolerant and understanding about those who see and think differently than they do, but great leaps are still required. We have a long way to go, and dolls have been with us ever since we left the caves. Even longer than clowns!
So, what we still need, is Deeper Understanding, yes? Mmh, yes…
Have fun, no matter what others think, as long as no-one gets hurt, right~?
Happy Birthday, dear Lily! Hopefully it won’t be long before our story is published, and then you, Dear Reader, can finally meet her (beyond the first chapter, here)! I know that she’s looking forward to it with much anticipation
As am I
If all goes well, the next installment will detail how dolls led to my discovery of anime, the second-most significant discovery in my life after Kate. EVERYTHING’S CONNECTED!!!
Please feel free to leave comments or Birthday Wishes, as all are welcome here!
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been six years since Lily was “born,” but indeed, today is the 6th anniversary of when she first came out of her mold at Abyss Creations. Co-incidentally, April 1st was also the intended birthday of Lily Godwin in the pages of our novel, Unbound, before the necessities of endless rewrites deemed it unnecessary to the plot and it was excised. This was well before the notion of commissioning Abyss to replicate her ever arose in my mind, otherwise I’d probably have kept it in. But the novel isn’t about The Doll at all, so it’s just as well! It’s all about Lily, and the variety of that Flower…
Being that we’re talking dates and anniversaries (well, I am anyway!), April 1st is also the first full day in the novel, and Easter Week’s a critical period soon following it. Needless to say, it’s a significant and eventful period for me, and for all of my Lilys! Being that we’re in Easter Week, I might as well mention that it was around Easter in 1986 when the Muse I eventually named Lily began inspiring and “dictating” the story to me…
Lily awakes on Easter morning
A little history of the mystery of Unbound: Once I was aware of the Muse’s presence, I determined to free myself from the distractions and constraints of society, my family, my friends, and work. It took me until 2001, but at the earliest time that I was able to manage, I uprooted and removed myself from my birthplace and everyone and everything I’d known and held dear, and relocated to a foreign corner of the Northwest where I didn’t know a soul, or had ever laid eyes or foot. That November I began writing in earnest, 10-18 hours a day, dilligently and devotedly attending to my Lily-Muse, mirroring and reflecting her own inspiration and dedication to our Cause. That “Cause” will be something for the Reader to uncover on their own in the result of that Work, that Labor of Love, Unbound ;-)
Lily loves Neil Gaiman too!
But it got lonely… very lonely. I was completely isolated and severed from people, aside from the odd trip into town. I wonder how many Readers can really imagine what that’s like? No contact at all, no visitors, living in a totally unfamiliar place, only going out for groceries, completely disciplined and focused on the act of creation at the expense of everything else. The one positive thing, the only positive thing, was that my story was coming wonderfully to life… especially Lily. I could envision her so perfectly, and as she grew more developed through the countless pages I could see each expression and mannerism; every smile, every frown, each feature, each movement. She became a living being in my Imagination, from where she was born, inspired by the Muse I named Lily as well due to her devotion in delivering her story to me. For lily means “devotion,” and I guess that longtime Readers already know that by now…
Bringing Lily to Life
So when the opportunity arose to bring her to life, or at least down to Earth, I jumped at it. On the day after Christmas 2003, when I finished my first complete draft, I placed my order. Then came weeks of working with Joey, the talented face designer at Abyss at the time, who painstakingly duplicated her features from my detailed emailed descriptions. I opted to order more realistic hair eyebrows (rather than painted) and super-realistic custom-made cobalt-blue eyes from the Canadian master crafter Guy Louis XVI. Mannequin-maker, sculptor and special effects creator par excellence, he nailed this most-important aspect of her face and contributed so much to her persona. We thank you, Guy!
Guy Louis XVI's custom cobalt blue eyes, specially for Lily!
Several weeks after she emerged from her cocoon-like mold, she arrived at my doorstep, encased in her special crate. There’s no way to describe the spell she cast upon opening up the packing and glimpsing her for the first time. “Breathtaking” will do nicely, for that’s exactly the reaction I felt! Stunning, absolutely. She was perfect, aside from a slight miscalculation on my part that resulted in her being just a tad too busty by a size. The only thing missing was her ready smile and mischievous nature, her melancholy, her sweetness, none of which unfortunately could be duplicated. But Lily had truly come home… as well as a creation born of the imagination could be.
"Who's a Fool?"
And so after removing her from her crate, and after removing the uncharacteristic-for Lily-Godwin black hose and sexy lingerie (which the novel’s Lily would have been utterly embarrassed about being seen in, let alone wear), and replacing them with attire more fitting for our quite-casual Lily, the matter of storing her became an issue which needed immediate addressing. I discovered that Realdolls couldn’t be kept sitting for long in a seated position, as the silicone in the stomach area might tend to crease, possibly leading to splitting, and repairs on these dolls can be really tedious. So she was laid out upon the side of my bed (the only suitable place), where she remained until I was able to order a display stand from which she could hang from the provided neck-bolt, and where she “stands” to this day. But she almost seems impatient to be released so that she might relax a bit; her face is so realistic that one can almost imagine her thoughts, IF one enjoys using the God-given gift of Imagination… as I do
Is it live, or is it...?
Now, I’ve heard (or rather, read) plenty of skeptics, cynics, rubes, and twits all come to the same lame and predictable conclusions, which I won’t even deign to reply to again. (Just watch the Lars and the Real Girlfilm for examples.) The general public’s collective minds skew towards the gutter and stay fixed there, and don’t need acknowledgment. But when Elisabeth Alexandre and Elena Dorfman came out to interview me (from Paris) and photograph us for their respective books, we drove Lily around town and to my surprise found so many receptive faces filled with such fascination and delight! But for one hostile priest who demanded we leave “his” church (where we’d been given permission to shoot), everyone was thrilled, curious, awestruck, and happy to meet Lily-Doll. And of course, being that it was also a reason for having her made, allowed me to emphatically plug our book!
Elena Dorfman's Picture of Lily (copyright by Elena D.)
But attitudinal and presumptive people can’t be disuaded of their small-minded assumptions, so we’ll try to leave it at that. Once you remove the sexual sub-function of these love-dolls, then people might better perceive their reality and possibilities beyond that baser attraction, wherever their minds might place it, pedestal or gutter. Simply put (very), she was like a big teddy bear for me, and provided me the proximity to a loved one, as I do love Lily Godwin (and hopefully you will too, once her story becomes published). She became a companion in a very true sense of the word. Of course, she’s not human (DUH!), but companionship does come in many forms, one of which is the ancient and time-honored intended design of The Doll. Really, it’s as simple as that. (Coincidentally, another theme of Unbound is companionship. Funny that!)
Lily and her friend
Something almost completely unrelated, and having to do with companionship and Remembering oneself; taken from the anime Kanon (2006), the heartbreaking relationship between Yuichi and Makoto. (SPOILERS AHEAD!) The song is awesome too, and furnishes the words to consider for the visuals. (Coincidentally, another theme of Unbound is heartbreak; sad that…)
We’re human, after all… and so is Lily. Which Lily? I’m sure you can figure out, or you will when you read her story.
Lily wonders about You...
Naturally, I would prefer human companionship and a more reactive response in my lovers, but… it’s not a matter of comparisons, or preferring one over the other. Skeptical people fail to see that it’s apples and oranges, which should be so obvious, but they prefer having their malicious ”fun”, and making fun of others. Which should say plenty enough about them… and how low their sights (and souls) are. Some people prefer relating, dwelling and looking down to the ground. Lily likes to look at the sky, and her eyes are a reflection of That
Lily at Sunset, looking at the sky
Happy Birthday, my Easter Lily, and Happy Easter to you, dear Visitor! Thank you for spending some time here, and feel free to comment, if moved to do so.
I’d been wanting to do a Post about Dolls for some time, since it’s been ages since I wrote one. So I thought it fitting to start from the beginning, and see where it takes us…
As usual with a lot of things with me, I started out ass-backwards in both anime and dolls. With anime, even before watching my first episode, I began buying figures of characters which simply looked appealing to me. Since I knew nothing about their shows though, I usually bought figures that had no emotional connection to speak of. They were merely “pretty statuettes”. (Except for this rare Elfen Lied one below, which I was fortunate enough to find later.)
...you don't wanna see her when she's mad...
The more I investigated the figures though, the more interested in their anime-stories I became. Which led me to Elfen Lied (my first anime), and then to two other series that I’d become exposed to through The Doll Forum: Rozen Maiden and Chobits.
In anime, there is such diversity with regard to not only genres but stories and characters as well. There really is something for everyone as long as they have any sort of interest in animation, graphic novels, comic books, stories of depth, fantasy, humor, violence or romance, being moved and/or feeling awestruck, and even… dolls!
Once the first draft of my novel, Unbound, was finished, I decided to both reward myself and take promoting the novel to a higher level; one that would be both cutting edge, daring, provocative, and controversial. Not to mention satisfying, delightful, functional, and significant! Since I had felt throughout the novel’s writing that the essence, the spirit of Lily had accompanied me and that she was always nearby throughout, supporting, inspiring, and comforting me, that a physical embodiment would be very appropriate.
After thoroughly researching the history of dolls and stories and myths about them, most notably that of Pygmalion, I decided to commission Abyss Creations to create a Realdoll that would replicate my Lily in all her up-till-now only imagined beauty and personage. The result, which arrived in April of 2004 after a four-month production queue, was breathtakingly accurate to my vision of her, and as real as real can get, without it being, you know, real!
...posing in front of an Ah! My Goddess wallscroll with a Sandman statuette for company
Then “it” became “she”… and that’s a hint of the transformative nature of dolls and Imagination
When I joined TDF late in 2003 I knew nothing of anime except the assumption that it was “kid stuff”, as most Westerners consider it. But I’d become intrigued with the many “enablements” that dolls could provide humans with; namely as tools for imagination, which allowed for creative uses such as photography and story-telling; toys with which to elicit delight and fancy, which facilitated Play and amusement; and as surrogates for companionship, thus alleviating loneliness and melancholy.
Over the years I kept seeing references in various posts about two “doll-related” anime in particular: Rozen Maiden, which deals more with living, magical, ball-jointed dolls and their “raison d’etre”, while Chobitsspoke of a deeper, more overtly human-related story with regard to relationships with life-sized humanoid computers, named “Persocoms.” It also subtly comments on the reliance, dependence, and addiction of modern man to technology. Both of these shows are wonderful introductions into anime, if you’re not inclined to start delving into the medium willy-nilly. (Careful picking and choosing is necessary in order to find a show that is to your liking, since there is so much out there of various types and genres, story and styles.)
So, in conjunction with the overall arcing of the Dolls topic, I thought that I’d highlight these two series, and then soon to follow will be an update to the modern day to see where these subjects have led: a more recent show called “Time of Eve” (Eve no Jikan). IF I can find the last 2 episodes to download (And I believe that next year a movie will be released that will blend all 6 episodes!)
Rozen Maiden tells of a group of dolls that were created and imbued with life and given magical powers by their creator, known to them only as “Father.” The world knows him as Rozen, a legendary and gifted dollmaker, long-since disappeared. Their purpose: To play a deadly centuries-old war called “The Alice Game”, so-called because its purpose is to ween out and declare the victor among them a transcendant, becoming “the perfect girl, Alice” and the only doll suitable to be the one to meet “Father.” By snatching each defeated doll’s Rosa Mystica (something akin to a Soul, and source of each doll’s powers), the victor will finally ascend to her Father’s loving embrace…
The exact question of WHY a loving creator would want his beloved creations to fight each other to death solely in order to be reunited with him remains a mystery throughout the series. And in re-reading the previous sentence it might strike the reader that there IS a similarity between humans and THEIR Creator, along with the “God is on our side” mentality that warring nations of humans proclaim. Thought-provoking, a bit?
Anyway, thats just a brief summary, and a lead-in to this YouTube video that will serve as a sampling of Rozen Maiden’s delights. To be sure, there is a lot of comedy and doll-hijinx that lighten the heaviness (and in Season Two, “Traumend,” it’s needed as it gets pretty serious), but this series has many other moving, provocative, and dreadful moments as well. The video is taken from the “Ouverture” 2-part special, that explained the enmity between Shinku (the blonde red-garbed doll) and Suigintou (the white-haired black-clothed winged doll) that was depicted in the show’s first season. Suigintou was a defective doll, as seen in this opening, rejected to the junk-heap by Father while he dotes upon Shinku. She manages to track Shinku down in the 18th century where the somewhat haughty doll softens and takes her in, teaching her how to walk and act. But things don’t turn out well; when one of the other dolls attacks her assuming that The Alice Game is being played out, it sets into motion the ill feelings to come, where malevolence takes root…
This AMV (Anime Music Video) features Evanescence doing “Even in Death” as its backdrop, and most-suitable, as all AMV song choices should be (Full Screen it and click the High Quality button; it’s better that way):
Chobits is a beast of another color. It asks not only about what humans want, but what the Persocom wants, much as Rozen Maiden asks after the Doll. The following AMV doesn’t focus on the series’ star, Chii, so much as it does the relationship between life-sized Persocom and human. It’s somewhat spoilerish, so bear that in mind if planning to watch the show. It doesn’t reveal the main story’s plot, but rather condenses a couple of side-stories that prove essential to the relationship aspects of this series, one of which (the baker’s story) is among the most moving secondary stories not only in this show but in all of anime.
The beginning of this vid depicts the pitfalls of becoming infatuated with the technological, and the consequence of severence from meaningful human contact, as told by the young woman whose husband has forgotten her due to his shutting himself in their home with his “toys.” In the second part, the baker, upon glimpsing a girl with whom he fancied (and who liked him but was reluctant to come forward because of his past) “spying” on him, tells of his own story about his falling in love with a worker-Persocom, whom this girl resembles, and its tragic result. This AMV (despite several glaring mispellings) does such a good job of covering the issues of companionship, loneliness, and love that any further words will dampen it, so… here you go.
Another Evanescence song, “My Immortal” accompanies it; HQ and full-screen it for full effect:
And since she’s barely seen at all in the above video, here’s Chii in a fanciful setting:
Chii with her little feathered friends
Eventually, I was introduced through TDF to ball-jointed dolls, as the Rozen Maidens are supposed to be. Unable to resist their charms, I got my own BJD from Korea, a Lutz-Delf doll named Soony. She settled in quickly and also became a lover of anime! One day I found a rare Chobits picture book compilation, and in her spare moments she can be seen reading it, much like Chii did in Chobits. It was called “The Town With No People”, and mirrored Chii’s wonderment at the sensations she was discovering of and on her own…:
Soony likes to read xD
And since we’re on several intertwining subjects, here’s the beautiful Ending Theme from Chobits featuring the characters from that picture-book. It’s called “Ningyo Hime” (Mermaid Princess), and sung by Rie Tanaka, the voice of Chii:
To wrap things up, it’s wise to not assume things about matters that we’re simply unfamiliar with. “Fear of the unknown” is a cliche, and we’re at our best when we’re challenging the unknown, not held in thrall by it. We can even learn to play better with each other! Even The Dolls know that
Even dolls know how to play well with dolls
And, a last plug for Rozen Maiden (this Limited Edition felt-covered box set is long out of print, but a newer thinpak version was released recently, so BUY IT IF YOU LIKE IT!):
...and on Lily, who's trying to help out
So, in short: have fun, think for yourself, play as you like, use your imagination, and be boundless! Or, in the alternative, simply become Unbound
"When early youth had passed, he left his cold fireside and alienated home to seek strange truths in undiscovered lands. Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought with his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, his rest and food." (from 'Alastor, or, The Spirit of Solitude', by Percy Bysshe Shelley,1815)
For info on our novel UNBOUND, please see our website in the Blogroll!