Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thoughts and Musings on a Post-Apocalyptic Japan

This is the first real post I've made since the tragic events in Japan. It seems like something straight out of a joke George Carlin once made about disasters: "I always hope... (the disaster) will grow into bigger and bigger proportions and get completely out of control.". Japan's record breaking earthquake created a massive tsunami and let directly to what may just be the worst nuclear meltdown in history. Not to mention the misinformation and corruption accusations.

There's cruel irony that all this is happening to a country that not only had the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but whose cinema seems to come back again and again to the destruction of society.

They created Godzilla, a creature created in nuclear tests. Godzilla, even in the incarnations where he's on humanity's side, never fails to levels cities on his every visit. The King of the Monsters is far from the only monster, of course. From Kaiju to Sentai there are entire genres centered around forces destroying Japan.

Not to mention that seemingly a third of all anime takes place after a good part of the world has been destroyed and rebuilt. Akira. Neon Genesis Evangelion. Wolf's Rain. You could probably list a dozen more without breaking a sweat.

Those repeated themes are no coincidence. Japan fought the second world war on the losing side. The aftermath of which saw the existing Japanese culture shaken to it's core. They rebuilt from the ground up.

That sounds pretty post-apocalyptic to me.

Compare that to the United States, whose cinema frequently employs stories of the common man triumphing against great adversity. This in a country that earned its independence in a hard won victory against the better equipped and more experienced British army.

Repeated themes and motifs in a culture's film and art is not unique to Japan or America, of course. Spain's cinema frequently has death playing a large role in people's lives, and not in a negative way. Canada's films frequently explore the nature of communication. Many Russian filmmakers contrast restraint against chaos, echoing the aftermath of Communism.

I'm simplifying, but the fact remains that massive cultural events shape cinema and art. It's one of the ways people can digest and process cultural shifts. And Japan is in the midst of one hell of a cultural shift right now.

There's nothing that should belittle the challenges ahead for the people of Japan, but this will pass. And once the dust settles, it'll be time for the artists and filmmakers of the country to explore the meaning of life in the new Japan.

The Carlin-joke disaster is coming to it's conclusion, finally. Soon comes the time for Japan to rebuild again. What shape will it be, this time? What shape will it's art take?

My prayers to those still suffering in Japan. My thoughts to the future.

Until next time, I'm the Trenchcoat Anti-Critic.

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