labingi: (inu)
I have been reading my son The Lord of the Rings while rereading Mirage of Blaze myself, and this has led me to the thought experiment of how Mirage of Blaze would be received as a story in Middle-earth. The answer, I believe, is not as badly as you might think.

(In case you have been residing under a rock, SPOILERS follow for The Lord of the Rings. General Mirage spoilers, nothing too plotty.)Read more... )
labingi: (inu)
I've been rereading Mirage 15, and there is much to love, but I'm going to zero in on Kagetora's thoughts about his own psyche, which capture so magnificently how the human mind works. (And with apologies, there will be some comparison to my own life by way of exemplifying the text's realism. Yes, God help me, my life is like Mirage of Blaze—sometimes.)

Spoilers up to volume 15…Read more... )
labingi: (inu)
My thinky thoughts inspired by the first two Mirage of Blaze stage plays continue, and in this post I want to talk principally about the construction of Kagetora's emotional-sexual needs as informed by the context of the plays. More general thoughts/review are here.

Mirage SPOILERS follow:Read more... )
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Mirage Plays

Many thanks to [ profile] imperfekti for a) informing me that Mirage of Blaze Showa period stage plays exist and b) doing excellent summaries so that I can sort of tell what's going on. I have got my hands on the DVDs for the first two, thanks to [ profile] demitas, who used her Japanese skills to order them for me. And now I have thinky thoughts. To begin reviewish stuff:

Reviewish Thoughts on Mirage Stage Plays )
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Goodreads has just asked authors to weigh in on favorite fictional couples. I love the question and am crossposting my answer here:

Naoe and Kagetora from Mizuna Kuwabara’s boys love light novel series Mirage of Blaze, which is about samurai spirits vying for control of modern day Japan while our plucky group of heroes (also samurai spirits) attempt to thwart them. Uesugi Kagetora, adopted son of Uesugi Kenshin, is the field commander of these defenders of modern Japan (and by extension the world). Naoe is his vassal and bodyguard. (Like most of the characters, both are historical figures.) The two of them have had a love-hate relationship—with both feeling generous doses of the love and the hate—for 400 years.

Why are they my favorite?

Well, Mirage and its main couple just blow everything else out of the water. This is no criticism of any other love story. Mirage is just so huge, weird, and no-holds-barred that it explodes the mind and senses. Naoe and Kagetora have the intense, obsessive, ugly-yet-compelling passion of Wuthering Heights’s Catherine and Heathcliff (who would also be high on my list) but at a length of several hundred more pages with a commensurate depth of psychology, philosophy, and character development. They are an investigation of (and sometime challenge to) Buddhist concepts of attachment and detachment. They are an exploration of trauma and its ramifications throughout life. They are an illustration of the horror of being trapped in destructive patterns and the possibility of growth out of them. They are an intense exercise in self-examination, self-flagellation, a study in how human relationships go wrong (and can be rescued). They are the insanity of intense, prolonged overextension (in this case, the overextension of living for 400 years without proper reincarnation/purification). They do not exist on an isolated story island consisting only of each other but rather widely affect and are affected by other loved ones, family, friends, enemies, strangers, the world. They signify that forgiveness and redemption are always available. They challenge us (and each other) to love brokenness and to find healing. Read more... )
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Jumping into Day 11 with apologies for not doing the whole thing in order. I just don't have time to do the whole thing properly.

Day 11
In your own space, talk about a creator. Show us why you think they are amazing. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

I think this means fan creator? I want to extol several.

The amazing [ profile] astrogirl2 is the one who introduced me to LJ-style fandom in 2004. I came across her site somehow in searching for Blake's 7 fandom and was captivated by the wonderful community (doing B7 and Farscape RPGs at the time). Astrogirl herself--still posting regularly on LJ and still with quite a following--has always been such an intelligent, balanced, caring, engaged fandom presence, as well as a dashed good fan fic writer. (Alas, we are no longer in the same fandoms, but my admiration remains.)

Apart from Astrogirl, I want to use this space to praise some of the amazing people who have brought Mirage of Blaze fandom into English because I have been revisiting Mirage with much enthusiasm lately.

One of the first Mirage fans I ever encountered was [personal profile] petronia, first on her website, later through LJ. I long considered her--and pretty much still consider her--a celebrity I am rather shy about talking to. As far as Mirage goes, it does not get better than her humorous summaries. Across the years, I find I would usually rather read her account of Kotarou being mistaken for [Spoiler] than read the original. She captures very much the tone of Mirage itself when it self-satirizes with just a nance more meta and comedy. Utterly delightful.

The most professional-like of the many wonderful people who have taken a stab at translating the 40 volume epic of Mirage is Asphodel. Check out her amazing site of Mirage and other translations, complete with giant glossary and numerous hyperlinked footnotes. She is still at it! She has been at it for ten years or more now. The going is slow. (This is not her day job.) But the product she posts is always exceptional.

Also an excellent and voluminous translator is [personal profile] quaint_twilight. She is no longer active on LJ or DW, which I totally understand but makes me sad. I miss her wonderful translations and her enthusiastic fan presence, and I applaud her for keeping her account active so that we can continue to access the fruits of all her hard work on Mirage.

Other folks who have put in many long hours of translating work include [ profile] 99me, [ profile] tasha_poisonous, and [ profile] demitas, as well as many others who have translated some wonderful bits in English and other languages--and round about 10 years ago, a whole host of people doing amazing multi-page meta. I can't name everyone, but I appreciate it all.

As for traditionally published creators, hands down the most influential in my life over the past eight-ish years or so is Yasuhiro Nightow. I must admit, I don't really relate to his latest work, Kekkai Sensen (3B), but both of his two major earlier works, Trigun and Gungrave, have been not only big fandoms of mine but have transformed my life. Each has been a means of profound revelation about myself, my patterns, and how I can better address my life. I am extremely grateful for that. It's a rare and precious gift.
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Trigun and Mirage of Blaze are two stories I hold to be very great. Both come packaged in popular media forms (manga and light novel respectively) that connote light entertainment, not high literature. Yet both are among the most philosophically challenging texts I have read. Indeed, the two stories are engaged in philosophically analogous projects: while Trigun is a profound interrogation of Christian philosophy, Mirage is a profound interrogation of Buddhist philosophy. (Major spoilers for both follow.)Read more... )
labingi: (inu)
A Mirage of Blaze stop: September 12, we went to Samegao Castle, where Kagetora died. It was a spectacular experience of many dimensions.

Myoko Kogen (Then and Now)

We’re staying for a couple of days at Oyado Furuya, a ryokan in Myoko Kogen, a ski resort town and the first place we’ve stayed that’s not in a big city. It’s a very nice place I highly recommend, but the thing that impresses me most is the landscape of the Niigata Prefecture, a beautiful, mountainous region with many forests. The weather is also quite nice up here. It’s no longer miserably hot and humid but instead a bit too warm but, on the whole, pleasant. It’s also nice to be away from the massive urban train stations of chaos and doom and out into small, country stations with a single conductor taking tickets by hand.

Rambling and Pic Spam )
labingi: (inu)
I have just (finally) read Mirage of Blaze 17.23, thanks to [ profile] quaint_twilight's excellent translation. I am impressed that she's now translating directly from the Japanese after some years translating from Chinese. I'm in awe of her language skills!

As for the chapter itself, it was fascinating and chock full of goodness, which makes me lament the wait to read more:

(No major spoilers)

* One of the best Nobunaga scenes of I've read: his dialogue was spot on; it was easy as pie to hear his voice in those lines. And I don't blame Haruie for being scared of him. (But where is Ranmaru? He never seems to be around anymore.)

* I also feel like there was some good foreshadowing of big plot reveals re. the forces that are actually behind the overarching plot arc. I don't know enough about the overarching plot arc to know for sure, but it was tantalizing.

* Great Kagetora stuff too. He was in his "I'm going to be very calm and pretend that all the agonies of my life don't really affect me" mode, which is, I think, the mode he's in for most of his 400 years, but we tend to forget it in MoB, where we see him so often in a state of terminal meltdown. It was great to see him being so very "Kagetora-sama": sharp, collected, self-assured, and a paragon of integrity.

* Mitsuhide is interesting too. It's nice to see someone in the Yami Sengoku who presents an agenda other than the usual. Kagetora was really listening to him, without exactly trusting him, which seems a very reasonable response to what Mitsuhide was giving him.

Niggle: Haruie gets her ass kicked too much. Bar Naoetora in their worser stages of emotional falling apart, she is the Yashashuu weak link, and I do wish Kuwabara-sensei had not made it the woman. I'm really ready for her to do something other than get captured.


Jan. 2nd, 2012 10:45 pm
labingi: (inu)
[ profile] ewans_gal_4ever put me onto YouTube's Epic Rap Battles of History videos. She recommended:

Kirk vs. Columbus, which I greatly enjoyed.

I also quite liked:

Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking
Mr. T vs. Mr. Rogers

For Mirage of Blaze fans, a pretty picture of Nagahide by Jillia.

And a Naoetora video.

For Gungrave fans (I know 1 or 2 of you exist), an excellent Harry and Brandon vid.
labingi: (Default)
Wherein I gripe about one song and praise another, with X-Men: First Class as a common thread (with a brief digression into Mirage of Blaze).

This Charles/Erik vid, by KaseytheJudge, was one of the early XM:FC vid recs I came across, and it remains one of the better Charles/Erik vids I've seen. The song, "Losing Your Memory" (Ryan Star) has a elegiac feel perfect for the arc of the Charles/Erik relationship in XM:FC. When I first saw the vid, however, I was jarred by its abrupt stop, in the middle of Star beginning the wail the next verse. Having acquainted myself with the song, I have a much more sympathy for the vidder's difficulty here.

It is close to being a good song... )

On a happier note, I have found the quintessential Charles/Erik song, and it is Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Now, this is a very famous song precisely because it speaks broadly to many people's experience of love. There's no shortage of stories it could apply to. But I truly have never encountered a story it fits so perfectly as it fits the trajectory of Charles and Erik.

Finding a really good version of this song with more than the original four verses is frustrating in the manner of looking for a Hamlet fan vid that is not a re-enactment filmed for someone's Shakespeare class. But after much listening, I have settled on Jeff Buckley's cover as the best version I've come across. It cuts two verses, including (happily) the one fits Charles/Erik least ("You say I took the name in vain..."). It also cuts the verse that is usually last ("I did my best; it wasn't much..."). This is a bit of shame but no great impediment.

I'm not going to bother to gloss this one for Charles and Erik because it's obvious, isn't it? Here are the lyrics.. I will love forever someone who would vid this... but I suspect there's not currently enough material. Maybe if they get another movie or two out of the XM:FC franchise?
labingi: (inu)
I have caught up on Mirage of Blaze vol. 17, ch. 20-22, lovingly translated by [ profile] quaint_twilight, for which much thanks as always.

In 17.20, it's research time! And the task of hitting the proverbial Sunnydale High Library falls to Nagahide. He chats with some knowledgeable people and discovers many things, most of which we the fans don't really need to know...

Spoilery review and meta for 17.20 follows... )

In 17.21, there is more research, and then Takaya!

Takaya Spoilers )

In 17.22, Irobe is still hanging with the Catholics; Yuzuru almost meets a rock star.

Spoilers for 17.22 )
labingi: (riki)
A couple of months ago, I asked for story recs, and [ profile] asphodel did me the favor of recommending Banana Fish, for which I am eternally grateful. I have not read the whole series yet, not least because an Amazon seller has managed to lose one of my orders, but I have read enough (including the end) to attempt some meta, so here goes. I will begin by situating the story within the BL universe (as I know it).

Light Spoilers )
labingi: (inu)
In the course of a discussion of Blade of the Immortal, I (unsurprisingly) found myself plugging Mirage of Blaze to [ profile] jainas. And I thought rather than write endless MoB gushing in our comments, I would just move my little manifesto out front. In short, MoB is a story about the 400-year long, epic love of Kagetora and his retainer, Naoe, samurai who go through the ages possessing humans' bodies in order to fulfill their mission of exorcising vengeful spirits. The following is a spoiler-free (or virtually) guide on what to expect if you're coming brand new to this best of all love stories I have ever read...

It's Long--Like the Mahabharata )
labingi: (anotsu)
"Anotsu/Makie: One of Those Love Stories"

I'll preface this post with an apology as I'm about to commit the error of writing meta about a series I don't know very intimately yet. Having been firmly schooled over my early misapprehensions about Mirage of Blaze, I'll approach Blade of the Immortal with a healthy degree of disclaiming: everything I'm about to say could be wrong or wildly incomplete. (I have only read brief summaries of the last 5 or so volumes.)

There's much to love about BotI, but I'll focus here on the relationship between Anotsu and Makie, which has peaked my fannish interest more strongly than any text I've encountered for quite some time. Their relationship, for me, has become part of a triad of related love stories. Compared to Naoe/Kagetora in Mirage of Blaze and Cathy/Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, the Anotsu/Makie subplot of BotI may be a junior sibling, but a sibling it is. Each of the central relationships in the triad resonates with the others. MoB and WH resonate along the axis obsessive love that transcends everything. Anotsu and Makie aren't quite there; rather, they resonate in terms of interpersonal dynamics.

Fairly Light Spoilers for BotI )
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I need to do an update, so here is some stuff.

* I finish reading Pale Fire. Pale Fire is to the Russian Revolution as Slaughterhouse 5 is to the firebombing of Dresden.

* Speaking of getting unstuck in time, I also watched The Fountain, which is a very good and interesting movie about coping with death. And very pretty and a bit historical and science fictiony. I have little to say against it except that Isabella (in the 16th century plotline) falls flat (but she's mostly symbolic anyway). And there is a certain amount of race fail, combined, however, with a genuine interest in non-Western traditions, which mitigates it, I think. The rest is lovely.

* Having seen the Blade of the Immortal anime, I am now catching up on bits of the manga. I doubt I will read the series in toto, but what I am falling in love with, I'm falling for hard. At first, I was a bit blown away that every single person in MoB fandom seems to be a fan of BotI too, but the more I see, the more it makes perfect sense. These stories--despite coming from different media, being aimed at different audiences, having different tones, and accomplishing different things--are of the same soul, which leads me to ask, has anyone (in English) crossed them over? And if not, why not?

* Speaking of MoB, I did catch up on vol. 22 (prologue-ch. 2) and have only been very quiet about it because it didn't do much for me. Part of it I'd read already (Naoe and Irobe, which is nice.) I was expecting more about Nagahide and was, thus, a bit disappointed not to get it. I find the Red Whales a bit dull (or, to take responsibility, have not invested the time in getting to know their panoply of characters), but I did enjoy Takaya bonding with the boy who reminded him of Miya.

* Rewatched some M*A*S*H. It remains one of the best TV series ever made, full stop. It also strikes me that Hawkeye is a pretty direct ancestor of Boston Legal's Alan Shore.

* I have also been watching two other shows I'm keeping mum about: Doctor Who series 5 and The House of Five Leaves. Both are interesting me, but I want to wait till they've ended to make my final assessment.
labingi: (Default)
Many, many thanks to [ profile] quaint_twilight for translating Mirage book 17, chapter 19, which I have just read and enjoyed very much. My summary: The race to save Takaya takes a comic turn.

SPOILERS below the cut )
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I just finished reading the part of volume 24 generously translated by [ profile] 99me. Many thanks to her for the enjoyable reading experience! This volume is a bit difficult for me because I haven't read vol's 22 or 23, but below the cut are my impressions and some questions...

labingi: (Default)
Fandom: Mirage of Blaze
Title: "Present Friends"
Characters/Pairing: Naoe/Haruie
Warnings: Naoe/Haruie, PG-13
Disclaimer: I do not own, only love.
Summary: Naoe and Haruie are on a routine mission a couple of years prior to volume 1.
Author's Notes: Writing Naoe-POV sex scenes is simplified somewhat by the plethora of canon material to study. Two features stand out: 1) he's much more focused on his partner's pleasure than his own; 2) not for an instant does he stop philosophizing. I have endeavored to keep the tradition alive.

Present Friends )
labingi: (Default)
I have just finished reading, with great enjoyment, Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I had never read one of his books before and was charmed by his personable yet scholarly voice. I agreed with a lot of his arguments and, he would be pleased to hear, even felt myself swing a little further to the atheist side of the pendulum. But I did not agree with everything, so here I mount my defense of religion/"God" against Dawkins' assertions of its (at best) uselessness.

Oddly enough, spoilers for the end of Mirage of Blaze )


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