Review — Dororo, 2007

Director:  Akihiko Shiota

From an Original Manga by Osamu Tezuka

Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Ko Shibasaki, Kiichi Nakai, Yoshio Harada, Eita

Here’s our nutshell premise—in a fantasy version of Japan, the warlord Kagemitsu Daigo is on the losing, soon to be annihilated side of a clan war. To save his clan and gain revenge, he makes a deal with 48 trapped demons—he will let each one claim a part of his infant son in return for the power to defeat his enemies. The part could be an arm, a leg, a liver, a heart, whatever. Possession of this bit of humanity will allow them to free themselves from the temple where they are trapped. They agree and do, the Daimyo does, and from there embarks on a campaign of conquest to bring the rest of the country under his twisted, evil rule, setting free the 48 demons in the process.

Now, here’s where it gets weird–the child doesn’t die. After the demons get through with it, what’s left of the child is merely placed in a basket like Moses and sent down a river. Continue reading

Bits of Pieces

This is going to be a sort of general update post. It’s not that a lot is happening, but some things are happening, things that, for a change, don’t have a lot to do with the daily grind of getting all the things done that I have to get done before I can do the things that I wanted to do in the first place. If you understand that—and I’m betting that most of you do—you’ll get how even a few changes can nudge the needle past So? all the way to Hey! Worth Noting.

First of all, after floundering for a bit (okay, five months), I’m starting to make some headway on the sequel to Black Kath’s Daughter. I still have a long way to go, but forward motion, believe you me, is an improvement. And if everything works out the way I think it’s going to, I’ll finally make a proper connection between the Amaet who was the bane of Tymon’s existence in The Long Look with the Amaet who is the creator of The Arrow Path and the bane of Marta’s existence in Black Kath’s Daughter. And vice versa, truth be told. The working title is: Power’s Shadow. Subject to change, being a working title and all.

The Yamada novel (To Break the Demon Gate) is still on track at PS Publishing for release early next year. So is the Prime Books collection of Yamada stories, Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter. One interesting thing when working with a smaller publisher is that sometimes you actually have some input into the cover design. Not always, but sometimes. I found the image we used for the first mockup of the Yamada collection, but the consensus (and I agree with it) was that it was both too modern and too “horror.” Yes, there are demons in the Yamada stories (and ghosts, and youkai, and…well, lots of such things, and anyone who’s read them knows that already) and they can be dark at times, but definitely not horror, so that’s not going to work. We’re still looking for something with the right atmosphere, and finding just the perfect thing is going to be tricky. When the cover is set I’ll put it up here as soon as the publisher okays it.

A couple of final notes—“In the Palace of the Jade Lion” from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #100 got a Recommended from Rich Horton in the October  Locus Magazine. It’s not as if that’s the first time I’ve gotten one, but it’s always cool. And the most recent Yamada story, “Three Little Foxes,” is due to go live up at BCS in the next few days. I’ll post a link here when that happens.

Ghosts: Recent Hauntings

I noticed several other contributors announcing the receipt of their copies of Ghosts: Recent Hauntings yesterday. I also know that all mail coming here has to pass through the city PO before it’s sent off to the outposts, which adds a day’s delay, so I was reasonably sure that my own copies were waiting for me at the PO Box today. Sure enough.

My story’s in here somewhere. Let’s see… Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Hand, Jeff Ford, Tim Powers, John Shirley, Peter Straub, Joe R. Lansdale, James Van Pelt, Nisi Shawl, Ekaterina Sedia, Steve Rasnic Tem, Melanine Tem, Sarah Monette, Maureen McHugh, Margo Lanagan…ah! There it is, “The Plum Blossom Lantern.” Nestled safely(?) between John Langan and Stephen Jones. Paula Guran’s managed to collect quite a few talented people in here. Not sure how I managed to sneak in, but it’s too late to check tickets now.

Well, whether I deserve it or not, that story does. It’s one of my favorites of my own ghost stories, and I’ve written quite a few. See what ya’ll think. And you might as well read the rest of those guys while you’re in there. Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, Back at the Emperor’s Palace…

Opinions are divided about series, both at the novel and short story level. Readers love spending time with characters they already know and like, but some purists think they’re the death of the genre (in which case sf/f has been dead for a loooong time). One accusation that’s leveled at series, novel and story length both, is laziness. “Once the background is established and you’re familiar with it, that’s half the work. You’re doing paint-by-numbers after that.”

Yeah. Right.

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It’s Better Than That

Late last night I was watching a rather obscure Japanese movie (though filmed in Hong Kong in 2007)  called Dororo. It’s based on a manga series by Ozamu Tezuko (he of Astro Boy fame). Here’s the pitch/teaser: “A female warrior who was raised as a man joins a young samurai’s quest to recover 48 of his body parts from 48 demons and to avenge her parents death.”  There’s a longer version, but it’s still a variation on this basic premise, and as the movie played I realized that I had a problem with the way it was pitched. It’s not that the pitch was inaccurate—as a capsule summary it covers the basics of what they movie’s about fairly well. The premise is, of course, ridiculous. No one’s going to lose 48 body parts (some fairly important like, say, the heart) and still survive long enough to be discovered by just the right magic shaman who knows how to replace body parts. Even in a pure fantasy like this one it stretched credibility past the breaking point.

Regardless, I didn’t come here to review the movie, as such. I am here to make the point that, despite the nonsense premise, despite the rather gruesome imagery of the pitch, I liked the movie quite a bit. Which was when I realized that I had a problem with the movie’s pitch itself. It wasn’t that, as I said, it was inaccurate. No, I think it’s mostly that it managed to be both accurate and very misleading. Why? Because the movie was so much better than that. The hero’s plight manages to be both grotesque and sympathetic at the same time. The heroine in her own way is as much damaged as the hero, and yet is just as heroic, plus by turns poignant, amoral, and laugh out loud funny. The cgi is a bit lacking at times, but it captures the esthetic of the Japanese monster tradition beautifully—the group soul ghost baby is almost worth the price of admission itself. And yet the pitch, brief as it has to be, conveys absolutely none of this. Pitches tell you what a movie/story is about and simultaneously tell you almost nothing.

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