Monday, July 26, 2010

Record of Times I Have Been Totally Obsessed With _Angel Sanctuary_

1) November, 2001
2) June, 2002 (7 months)
3) December, 2004 (30 months)
4) September, 2006 (21 months)
5) January, 2009 (28 months)
6) July, 2010 (18 months)

This is the second time it's this Acey Dearest's fault, too. I discovered that she's published three Angel Sanctuary fanfics since I read "Cast it to Dogs" - all of them are Kira/Kato, but, like I said before, I don't mind Kira/Kato, and I actually really like the way Acey Dearest does it; it doesn't go against my interpretation of canon at all, and, in fact, really reinforces it. I don't actually have time to write about this, but I can't help but at least write a bit about it - "No Answer" is the least interesting to me, personally, since Kira doesn't actually appear in it at all - it's entirely Kato's reflections on Kira. "Mainsprings" is quite good, although, if I'm interpreting the ending correctly, it's really extremely bleak - but it's not necessarily good in a way that I particularly associate with Angel Sanctuary.

I think "Light Pollution" is an excellent fanfic because not only is it good, but it strikes me as good for more or less the same reasons that draw me to Angel Sanctuary, similarly to "Cast it to Dogs." "Light Pollution" is also a genderswitch AU - Kira and Kato are both female, and Kato is a closeted lesbian - which, to be honest, appeals strongly to me as I've been wanting a story about a female Kira for a long time, for. . . ummm. . . personal reasons - but I think that the story also really works on its own merits. I really wish I had more time to talk about this - but I love the way that it is entirely a story from Kato's point of view, and it does a compelling and interesting job of presenting Kato sympathetically and making the story about Kato and her concerns, but at the same time having Kato's story intersect with Kira's hidden story, which is only clear to us because we've read the manga - and certainly isn't clear to Kato! The genderswitch is effective (a genderswitch of Setsuna might have worked, also, although I think the genderswitch of Kira and Kato is ultimately more effective) because it means that Kato looks at Kira and sees a girl who has not only a father who loves her but also a potential perfectly normal heterosexual relationship, in contrast with Kato and her father who hates her and her internalized homophobia - Kato's story is all about the complexity of her feelings about Kira and the way she's incomprehensibly screwing up her life - whereas, of course, we know exactly why Kira does what she does and why her life is already screwed up. And of course we know that what concerns Kato is ultimately completely insignificant to Kira - Kato is convinced that Kira would be disgusted if she realized that Kato is a lesbian and attracted to her and imagines their relationship as impossible because of the homophobia, whereas one assumes that Kira could care less (I think there's plenty of evidence in canon that Nanatsusaya isn't particularly hung up on gender - in terms of sexual attraction, Nanatsusaya is obviously not disgusted by the possibility of sleeping with a female; it's not just in the story but in canon that Nanatsusaya is perfectly happy to possess a female body; when Kira teases Arachne in Volume 1, he knows all about who she is before he even gets into it but goes ahead with it anyway; and it's hardly as though he's likely to have any hangups about morality) - but I think what makes the story even more effective is that, since it is Kato and Kira who are genderswitched, not Setsuna, Kira's ambiguous gender comes up in the story - Kira alludes to herself as Rhett Butler (I had to look up this quotation, though - actually, encountering that quotation in that context actually made me want to read or watch Gone with the Wind, not an experience I've ever had before), not a woman chasing a man, and calls Setsuna a girl - but Kato, though she notices, doesn't pick up on the importance - Kato is left wondering about Kira but simply couldn't have the frame of reference to understand what's going on and interprets it entirely in terms of her own perspective. Like the moment when she notices Kira's bloodstain, but the bloodstain comes up entirely in the context of Kato knowing she will never have the chance to see it in full - picking up on the detail entirely from her own perspective. But of course Kato can never have Kira anyway, but not at all for the reasons she thinks.

It's a very effective story because of the story going on behind the obvious story, and because of the way the story behind the story is the motivating factor for the story we read, but, at the same time, only breaking through at moments into the story we read, and I think it fits so well with Angel Sanctuary's methods - it's like, IIRC, Katan. Katan is this hugely important character with a tragic story that runs throughout nearly all of the manga, which has a large effect on Setsuna and his life, but, again IIRC, Katan shows up towards the end and dies and Setsuna has only the vaguest idea of who he is - because their stories just haven't intersected enough for Setsuna to know, despite Katan being a major force behind Setsuna's entire story arc. The thing that's so GREAT about Angel Sanctuary is this messiness - although it's technically Setsuna's story, and it's obvious Setsuna is the hero, it's everyone else's story too, and everyone else's story often never becomes entirely clear to anyone else, so that it's all these people who don't fully understand each other always hurting each other inadvertently (well, obviously not all the hurt is inadvertent, but, with the exception of God, we mostly get everyone's motives) - and I think this messiness is really what makes Angel Sanctuary effectively Gnostic - Gnosticism works, in literature, because it's not just about the idea that the God that created the physical world is evil, it's also about the idea that the physical world is evil - and the physical world is evil because it separates us, divides us up into these beings that can't touch and careen about and hurt each other - "Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy, why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?" - or the point of Evangelion (although Eva is obviously a rather cynical take on the idea) - and this idea really explains a lot of the seeming craziness of the story and ties it together - perfect androgynous beings and gender being a division, wacky Freudian pregnancy issues with rampaging fetuses, Rosiel getting people to eat him so that he can possess them (see, it's not just a Eucharist joke, even if Eucharist jokes are the best jokes) - I realize I'm not making any sense but I really have to just say this - and I think it's that same sense - the separateness of people but the way we hurt each other anyway - that comes across so well in both "Cast it to Dogs" and "Light Pollution." So yay.


Ava said...

Hi again! I wrote back on your comment to my livejournal but I'm not sure if you saw it or not. Anyhow, as promised I wanted to respond directly on your blog, apologies if I get really long-winded here!

I was so happy you caught what I was aiming for. I'm glad you picked up on the androgyny because I really wanted to bring that across-- despite how Katou's perspective keeps trying (and pretty much failing) to put her in a strict, stereotypical female category. (I love Gone with the Wind probably too much.) Even though Kira keeps defying that, more overtly toward the end but Katou still doesn't get it and maybe doesn't want to, either, because her imagined expectations were so set. I also wanted to play with what a genderswitched Kira could use to make her father hate her, and how the social ramifications would differ thanks to gender, but that's really a whole unrelated tangent there, haha.

I'm glad that the intersecting stories worked out, because the whole time I was writing I was afraid that Kira's story underneath wasn't obvious enough. I'd thought about switching out Setsuna, too, but in the end I decided not to because I felt like things might end up too similar to canon. I could've done it anyway with Setsuna switched but I wanted the idea of Kira at least giving the thought of becoming Setsuna's worst love again, this time intentionally (like the previous incarnation, with courtesan-Alexiel) some consideration even if it didn't end up being pursued. And ironically, how fulfilling the real Kira's wish might be interfering badly with Kira's actual Setsuna-Alexiel desires.

I'd like to comment on the Gnosticism because from what you wrote it sounds really interesting in relation to AS but I don't know much about that. It's late for me too so I really doubt I'm as coherent as I'd like, so I'd probably be better off stopping here. Again I just really want to thank you for writing this and linking me to it. It absolutely thrilled me to know it and my other fics were enjoyed so much and it was a really, really thoughtful, well-written analysis. Seriously, just-- it stunned me. Thank you.

Grace Mulligan said...

Don't worry about long-windedness in my blog! I am the most long-winded person in the world! So long-winded this can't even be a single comment!

Well, I'm happy that I made you happy because you made me happy! It's like a happiness party :).

It's interesting - I've only heard people who don't particularly like Gone with the Wind speak about it in the past - including one person to whom I lent the first volume of AS who was kind of horrified by it ;-). Seeing your use of it really put it into a much more appealing context for me than what I've seen before.

Well, I think part of what makes the story work is. . . the nature of that part of AS fandom that I find interesting/could theoretically be a part of, if I ever participated in fandom. I think someone who read the story without having read AS would be pretty confused by Kira's story, but the people who are likely to be reading your story are, honestly, Kira fans. This is true even if someone is interested in your story for the Katou, because it seems clear to me that anyone who's a Katou fan is also going to be a Kira fan, given that Kira is such a big part of Katou's story. So, given that we're all Kira fans, it's fair for you to expect that we're all interested in Kira and willing to put in some effort to figure what's going on with her. And it makes me happy to do so, since, personally, I'm the kind of reader who is particularly fond of stories where I need to do some of the work in order to fully understand the story.

Yeah, I really don't think switching Setsuna too would have been quite as good, both because it would be too similar to canon and because it would really short-circuit some of Katou's misunderstandings and reactions in this piece. Part of what makes Katou's story effective is that even as she loves Kira, she simply cannot even begin to understand her and is genuinely angry at her, and I think she'd be a bit less angry if Setsuna were a girl (still angry, because Kira would still be obsessed with someone who wasn't her, but she wouldn't have the excuse of being angry because she thinks Kira could be happy in a relationship that would be perfectly accepted by society if she wanted to and is unaccountably messing it up).

Grace Mulligan said...

I don't actually know nearly as much about Gnosticism the actual religion as I probably should, but ever since I became totally obsessed with both Philip Dick's Gnostic novel Valis and the Gnostic videogame Xenogears within one year, I've been crazy about literary Gnosticism. Even though I use this category for a wide (and possibly over-wide) range of ideas, I think I have at least some coherent sense of what I mean when I talk about it. As far as I can tell (I know basically nothing about Kabbalah), most of the explicit references in AS appear to be to Kabbalah rather than Gnosticism, but the story piques my Gnostic sensors nonetheless because of the fact that God is evil. Having noticed that, I then tried to see if I could relate the themes of the story to what I see as Gnostic themes, and, especially considering how OTT and all over the place the plot is, it surprises me to see that what I see as the basic themes really do correspond quite well to what I see as (literary) Gnostic themes. I tend to have a fairly (literary) Freudian interpretation of Gnosticism, which I blame on Xenogears making as many Freudian references as it does Gnostic ones. So, to my mind, Gnostic themes are inherently about the problem with the physical world or emanation being the intrinsic separation of consciousness - the way that we are not all joined together but have different goals, interests, and viewpoints. And a lot of the thematics and symbolism of AS seem to fit into that pattern. Of course, like most literary Gnostic works (Valis is an exception), the manga isn't really anti-the-physical-world - we're happy that God and Rosiel don't just destroy everything at the end. But I think AS gives up on the anti-physical-world message in much the same half-hearted way that XG does - the idea that, sure, this world is the best we have and we don't want to give up on it now that we have it, but it really was created in a deeply flawed way.