Wuxia-inspired reading

Screenshot manhua Tales of Demons and gods

Definitely on the fantastical side of things, and I’m not even talking about the body and dress of their teacher, just the excessive use of colorful magic.

It is little more than a week left before NaNoWriMo, the (inter)National Novel Writing Month. I can’t remember being so meh about it, so uninterested, since I first heard of it. I am not even taking November off from work this year, as I have done for the last decade or so. Admittedly this is because of some small sense of loyalty to my job, where I am not really useful in July, so this year I took it off. Well, only people with a lot of privilege get to choose to take November off from work anyway, so that is not exactly the big deal. The big deal is that I almost forgot the whole thing, until I read the manga called Tales of demons and gods.

Tales of demons and gods is a Chinese manhua (same as Japanese manga, basically oriental comics). This story is heavily inspired by the Chinese Wuxia literature, which has been going on for some centuries but has blossomed and spread in recent years. Westerners may have seen the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but there is much more where it comes from, and some of it is more fantastical and mythical. Some has called it the Oriental version of the Sword & Sorcery fantasy genre, but it has actually been around for centuries so it is more like the other way around.

Tales of demons and gods  is on the more fantastical end of the spectrum, with more magic-like effects and less focus on weapon use, although this happens too. The main character is ridiculously overpowered, but there is a reason for this, and it is not the usual “child of prophecy” or “unknown heir to the throne” or anything like that. Rather, the main character Nie Li was actually killed at the height of a long and distinguished career as a hero and adventurer, traveling the entire continent, learning everything he could and honing his skill. Even this was not enough against the overwhelming odds he met on his last day. But rather than moving on, his spirit went back in time to when he was 13 years old, taking with it all his knowledge from his long life.

This is not an entirely unique plot device, but it is pretty rare. When I came up with it for the first time, I was unaware that anyone else had thought of it. I have actually written a lot of stories based on this concept, but none of them were usable. It is still a very interesting notion, but one that invites to wish fulfillment fantasies. That also kind of happens here, but the creativity of the author (whose name is usually translated as Mad Snail) helps carry the story despite the extreme advantages given to the main character.

It helps that Nie Li has a pretty poor starting point: His soul strength is very low, barely noticeable: 5 points when the lowest rank starts at 100. However, because of his knowledge from a long life, he know how to train to expand this and become the strongest hero. He quickly picks a fight with one of the three ruling families of the city and continues dissing and humiliating their members, causing more and more severe reactions until they actively try to get him killed. So that keeps the reader on his toes. There is also a love triangle, with tendencies toward love pyramid as the story progresses.

Well, I don’t really imagine this will interest any of my readers directly. But since it is likely to have a noticeable influence on my NaNoWriMo project this year, I thought I would give credit.

Hyouka OP 2 metaphor

Do girls think it is fun to drag boys into their human world?

Another masterpiece by Kyoto Animation is the 22-episodes animated TV series Hyouka. These guys really know quality, but that is not my sermon today. Rather, if you’re not busy with work or some such, I would like you to watch the animation to the opening song for the second half of the series. The dream of the main character sums up the whole 22 episodes pretty well, but in a purely metaphorical way. In the series, the boy starts out with the attitude to conserve his energy, emotionally even more than physically. He does not want a “rose-colored” high school life, but a colorless one. What I would call detached. His motto is: “If it is not necessary, don’t do it. If you must do it, be brief.”

Over the course of the series, he slowly changes, and it is due to his three friends in the classics club, mainly the girl we see at the end of the animation here. Watch, preferably full screen. There will be a quiz. ^_^ No, but there will be an autobiography.

Hyouka OP 2 – YouTube.

Did you watch that? Clearly the message of the clip is that even if you think people are your friends, they will just have fun with you when you don’t watch out. *_*

The message of the dream sequence however, that is what I am talking about. As he falls asleep, the boy feels that he is drowning. When he reappears, he has become something like a ghost: He is seen only in sketchy drawings and as reflections in shiny surfaces. Time passes: We see the snow of winter and then spring or summer, indicating a very long duration in which he aimlessly watches the world from outside, noticed by no one. Finally he appears in the glass of the high school club room, where his childhood friend recognizes him and the girl with the bright purple eyes reaches through the glass and pulls him back into the world of the living.

This is entirely metaphorical. The anime is not a supernatural story in the least, although I am kind of itching now to write such a story. But it is his detachment from the hectic world of humans with their wishes and wants and  desires, their plans and their goals. He watches that world pass by as if from a slightly different world, in which he has no needs for anything from the human world, only a mild curiosity from time to time as he wanders alone in a world no one else can see. And then someone notices him, and a girl reaches into the world where he was alone, and pulls him into the human world.

Been there, as extremely long-time readers will remember. Girls are mysterious creatures with uncanny powers like that. It may even feel like a good thing for a little while there. But in the end, you know you can’t really trust humans. It’s good to be back here in the phantom zone, where there is nothing I need in the human world. ^_^ I feel sometimes like it was a near miss. But probably not really.


“It is my fate to bear the burden of endless battle with the harbingers of darkness.” Rikka is a Very Important Person.

Japanese has a new word, since a year or two ago. (OK, perhaps it only reached the world a year or two ago.) “Chuunibyou” – Middle School Second Year Syndrome – is the dreadful condition where someone discovers their individuality and free will before they discover the difference between reality and fantasy. They may dress all in black, including nail polish and lipstick where appropriate (or even if not), and hand in self-written poetry about death instead of their regular English essay. Or they may wear colored contacts and claim to have supernatural powers. They may declare their undying love for an anime character, complete with elaborate plans for the wedding. They may join some unconventional religion and try to convert everyone around them. Usually they get over it, and look back with considerable embarrassment on their actions.

The anime Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai – falling in love despite teenage delusions – is a romantic comedy without excessive display of panties and such. The main character is a high school freshman who is going to a high school a distance from home to avoid being recognized, because he spent his middle school years claiming to be the superhero Dark Flame Master, something that embarrasses him no end. But no sooner has his normal life begun, than he meets a girl in his class who wears an eye patch and a bandage on her arm to seal the supernatural powers inside her. And she knows his secret. Hilarity ensues, but despite all the awkwardness, they eventually become very close.

The anime – loosely based on a light novel with the same name – is warmly recommended for those who want a VERY Japanese love comedy without the usual pantsu glimpsing. There is some drama, but it is nothing that should scare large children. And the crazy antics and imaginary battles are wonderfully animated.


Naturally I find it interesting in terms of my own writing as well, since I like to write Young Adult novels, which for some reason is rarely about young adults but about middle and high schoolers. My attempt this year – which still badly needs a rewrite – stars a freshman in high school who takes anime way too seriously, joins a foreign religion, and believes that he is channeling the spirit of a Go player who died over 300 years ago. While I don’t go so far as to say he is deluded, I do have a side character present an alternative and more psychological explanation.

In contrast, my next story features a girl who everyone thinks is delusional or just trying to sound important, but who really spends every night in a magic world. The story is told by her cousin once removed, who comes to live with her and her mother (his real cousin) because there is no high school anywhere near the island where he grew up. The boy thinks the girl is crazy, especially when she starts reading from an invisible book. But then he starts dreaming about the same magic world…


One interpretation of the Jewish creation myth in Genesis is that humanity as a whole suffers from a kind of chuunibyou, having woken up to self-awareness at a point where we were still not ready for it. This seems to be the view favored by sci-fi writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, in his book about Perelandra (a mythical planet Venus where a new Adam and Eve are created in a tropical paradise.) In that book, the first humans reject the primordial temptation and grow up to their full human potential, which seems to be a kind of demigod. So in this view, the current humanity is in a kind of arrested development, stuck in a youthful delusion that we seem unable to shake off.

But now we’re getting pretty far afield for one entry. More another day. Or perhaps not. Every day is a special day at the Chaos Node.

Heartwarming underwear

“Is it that hard for you to understand how important panties are?” I am pretty sure most regular viewers of Japanese anime of the romantic comedy type are very well aware of how important panties are, but evidently some autistic artists are not. We are not actually shown that part though, thank goodness and the Japanese television code.

And now for something entirely different from my previous entry! That’s why it is a Chaos Node. (It is not a death and destruction node though.) If it were an Order Node, I would write the same kind of stuff every time. Perhaps I should have one of those too. But now: Friendship and panties, the Japanese way.

Last night I watched 6 episodes of a romantic comedy animation, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (probably meaning “The pet girl of Cherry Hall”.) It is about a reasonably normal young man, studying at an art academy and living in a cheap dorm called Sakurasou (Cherry tree apartment house, unless my anime-level Japanese fails me.) The other residents are the most eccentric of the students, but they pale in comparison to the new girl who moves in: A high-functioning autistic, who is already a famous painter but has trouble deciding what clothes to put on (if any) each morning, not to mention challenging tasks like shopping food. With the main character being the most normal one around, the teacher tasks him with keeping the new girl dressed and fed and getting her to school each day. After all, he has taken care of several cats, so he is obviously reliable.

As can be expected, various embarrassing situations ensue with alarming frequency. Outsiders tend to misunderstand the situation, especially a girl in his class who has a pretty obvious crush on him, but thinks he is in an intimate relationship with Autistic Girl. And as often the case with this genre in Japan, there is a lot of underwear going around and generally semi-sexual situations.

Despite the recurring sexual content, there is as usual in this type of series no actual fornication, although one would think the thought would cross the minds of various characters from time to time, and probably not a few viewers.

The most interesting part, however, is how friendly and heartwarming the whole story is. Watching it reminded me of why I tend to greatly enjoy Japanese erotic comedies. They portray human folly without malice. Everyone is treated with a certain measure of respect, despite the embarrassments they suffer. The characters are genuinely likable and tend to find traits to admire in each other, even those who don’t necessarily get along well. I think this inherent respect for other people (or at least countrymen) is an integral part of Japanese culture.

Or perhaps, as I say about my NaNovel this year, it is “the Japan that only exists in our heads.” The Holy Land of a new era, eh?

This is indeed the kind of atmosphere I wish I could convey in my own fiction: The lighthearted but sincere friendship, youthful excitement and freshness, the heartwarming fun. Just without the panties. Wait, that did not sound quite right. Just without having to actually show the panties. Unfortunately, I can’t hold a candle to this story yet.