Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Giles Goat Boy!

Oh! Giles Goat Boy is totally another example of wonderful OTT narrative! I mean, this is the novel that I like to summarize by explaining that it's about a young American man who decides that he is going to finally achieve the goal of so many philosophers and spiritual leaders and start a new religion that can bring salvation to, at the very least, all of America, if not the entire world. Except that America is a college, the world is a university, and salvation involves passing your exams and graduating. Then my ideal interlocutor asks me if I mean that literally or figuratively, and I get to respond, "Both!" Plus there is the beat poetry version of Oedipus Rex.

Of course, the problem here is that Giles Goat Boy qualifies as exactly the right sort of OTT in my mind, but, unlike Angel Sanctuary or Gardens of the Moon, it is quite obviously intended by its author as a joke. OTOH, "Rautavaara's Case", for which the brief summary is "Jesus eats people" and which is clearly not meant as a joke, is not OTT at all, much as I adore it. I think the difference is that the basic premise of "Rautavaara's Case" is less "Jesus eats people" and more "Wouldn't it in fact be rather odd if Jesus ate people?" In other words, the oddness of the premise is intrinsic to the story; the story's plot and themes are entirely dependent on the fact that it's a really odd premise. Though PKD might well have written the story because he thought the idea of Jesus eating people was really cool, he goes to a lot of trouble to justify it in the story itself, and to explain why Jesus eating people is not only fascinating as a ridiculous idea but also genuinely fascinating on a theological level. On the other hand, though Giles Goat Boy is clearly a joke, it's told with a completely straight face - there's no attempt made to justify why the world should be a university, America a college, or salvation passing one's exams and graduating. This is just taken as a given, just as Yuki Kaori clearly thinks giant flying aborted angelic fetuses with lots of eyeballs that possess their twin brothers and try to rape people don't particularly need any justification, or Steven Erikson apparently believes that good houses versus evil trees are totally par for the course. So Giles Goat Boy may be a joke, but this is extrinsic to the story - although there is no way to miss the fact that it's a joke, the narrative does not depend on explaining or justifying the joke. The depth of the worldbuilding, I think, is what makes me feel inclined to take it very seriously despite being such a ridiculous joke. In a way, it reminds me of Gulliver's Travels - which, again, is obviously satire, but I tend to have the feeling that while Swift was writing it he sometimes just got so caught up in the worldbuilding that he forgot to focus on satire ;-). In fact, if it weren't for the fact that I've known the basic premise of Gulliver's Travels for as long as I remember, such that I'm entirely inured to it, maybe that would count.

Actually, you know what probably does count? Manfred! And that's even relevant to the original instigator of this whole train of thought, given that I strongly suspect Yuki Kaori of having an interest in Byron. I mean, her two most famous manga are both full of incest and homoeroticism, one of the bizarre brother/sister pairs in Angel Sanctuary involves a sister named Astarte who winds up dying before her brother, and her other famous manga (which I admittedly haven't read) takes place in 19th century Britain (or. . . umm. . . perhaps I should say Yuki Kaori's version of 19th century Britain)and has a hero named Cain who is only interested in heterosexual relationships with girls to whom he's related and is himself the product of incest between a woman named Augusta and her brother. So yeah.

Not to Mention the Cloud Whales

You know, normally, if I don't love something, I'm fairly clear on why I like it or dislike it. I dislike it because it's boring, or I like it because it has that cool stuff that I like.

But when I'm obsessed with something else, it's a little different. When I'm busy being obsessed with The Homeward Bounders, The Homeward Bounders strikes me as the perfect book, and nothing else is even remotely as appealing, because nothing else is perfect. When I'm obsessed with Hitherby, even DWJ books seem wordy and simplistic in comparison to the sparse thematic complexity that is ideal. But, you know, being obsessed with DWJ or Hitherby is kind of okay, given that the things I love them for aren't actually absurd OTT-ness.

And then there's being obsessed with Angel Sanctuary. A friend of mine mentioned on her personal blog that she is really into the new ABC Family TV show Huge and that it has an asexual character, and I was intrigued enough to start watching it. And I am finding it entertaining enough. It's nice to have been motivated to watch TV again (I really have trouble staying motivated to watch TV unless other people are there watching it with me). But. . . I keep on finding myself thinking, Wouldn't this friendship be so much interesting if that guy was actually possessed by an evil sword that has been chasing the other guy's reincarnations for centuries because it's in love with his original identity as a female angel and is actually, unbeknownst even to itself, Lucifer? or, Wouldn't that scene be strongly improved if there was a giant aborted angelic fetus with lots of eyeballs floating above?, or, The best solution for any weird problems with your father-figure is letting him eat you when he turns into a cannibal zombie, and then he can temporarily regain his sanity just in time to save Lucifer from being killed by the reincarnated angel with himself, because he's blind, and then his blindness will be miraculously lifted and he'll suddenly realize that you're not just his surrogate child but actually his real child that he left for dead after cutting you out of the womb of your mother when he was set up into killing her, so that he can save your life and get you to kill him as the real ultimate act of love.

I also find myself thinking very nostalgically of Gardens of the Moon, which is one of the few narratives I've encountered that seems even to approach AS for OTT-ness. I mean, the epic battle at the end is a good house (as in a building) versus an evil tree! I will never get over that!

If anyone reading this happens to have other recommendations of completely OTT narratives, drop them here. I can't promise to read them, but I would like a list! Basically I am looking for things like the good house (as in a building) versus an evil tree, where it doesn't come off as intentionally funny, and the thing is, it is, unavoidably, funny, but somehow it actually manages to work despite that.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Procrastination. . . .

So. . . ummm. . . this week just happened, where this thing happened, which was that I kind of read all of Angel Sanctuary (I didn't actually read most of Volume 1, but I've read Volume 1 enough times that I think that's okay). Apparently, the scanslations were up illegally online at this site OneManga, which was really easy to use. I should note that even though I put in that link, I don't really recommend AS to anyone who's reading this blog who hasn't read it already. It's very unlikely to be your kind of thing.

Anyway, despite how often I've been obsessed with AS, I haven't actually ever read the whole thing before! Let's see. I own books 1-13 in French, which I can sort of read, but not perfectly. I also own books 1, 3, 7, 9, and 17 in English. Back in 2006 I read all of the books that were out in English at the time in the bookstore, which included 1-14. I've also read 20 in the bookstore because I tend to have moments of panic about Lucifer/Alexiel (I used to have a lot of moments of panic about Shion/Mokuren, too, but I think I've been mostly reassured on that front. I don't have many OTPs, but I really, really care about the ones I do have!). Other than that, I've just read online summaries (although there used to be a lot more of those than it seems there are now) - in fact, when I first fell in love with the series back in November, 2001, it was entirely through online summaries.

I was expecting Volume 15 to be relatively dull - because Kira dies in 14 and Lucifer only shows up in 16. However, it turns out that there is this amazing scene in Volume 15 where Michael and Setsuna bond over their mutual love of Kira. It was kind of awesome. Setsuna leans tenderly over Michael, and Michael bursts out into tears, and there are images of Kira and Lucifer, and the whole thing is completely awesome. Yeah.

Oh, and it wasn't until I read this fanfic and Volume 16 that it was really brought home to me that, when Rosiel revives Lucifer, this is actually Kira Sakuya's body, not Lucifer's original body or some new body created just for the purpose (this really does seem to be canon in the manga - Katou says so). Mostly, this just intrigues me because of Mr. Kira. It's like, it's not enough that the guy lost his wife and son. It's not enough that, eleven years later, he also loses the spirit that's been possessing his son's body and that he's come to love as a son. No, he also can never bury his son's body because it has been permanently possessed by the Devil. And, okay, obviously this is somewhat mitigated by the facts that: A) the spirit he's come to love as a son was the Devil and B) the Devil is much more awesome than his reputation anyway, and who wouldn't be happy to give him the bodies of their loved ones? But still - despite the mitigating factors, it still seems like the guy just can't catch a break ;-).

I feel like I do so much babbling about Kira whenever I talk about Angel Sanctuary that no one will ever believe that, say, I like other characters too, or that I actually like Zaphikel so much I'd say he's my second-favorite character. But I do! It's just I have fewer random comments to make about Zaphikel. I have to admit, though, I really really really would like to see the epic pre-manga Zaphikel, Anael, and Lailah fanfic. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I think epic pre-canon stories about three intertwined characters really appeal to me (one of the very few fanfics I've ever even considered writing is the pre-Xenogears Miang, Ramsus and Krelian fanfic). I'm not sure what I think I'd get out of the fanfic that isn't in the manga. Just more Zaphikel and Lailah, I guess (I'd say more Anael, but she appears so rarely in the manga that I have very little feel for her. I hope she is awesome enough to live up to Zaphikel and Lailah in the story I am imagining). I guess it's my trouble thinking of what exactly would be added to the manga that means I can't think of the story myself (I have also, for a much longer time, been intrigued by the epic pre-manga Alexiel, Kurai, Arachne, and Nanatsusaya fanfic, but I can't really think what the epic plot would be for that one, either).

Oh! I also think this is an annoying story because I am really not sure who I am justifiably allowed to pick as my favorite female character. I'd pick Belial, if I were confident I was allowed to pick Belial. And if I'm not, then I'd pick Sevothtarte - but am I even allowed to pick Sevothtarte? (Note that my two favorite "female" characters are the ones who are in epic unrequited love with my two favorite male characters. That probably says. . . something about me.). I really like Kurai, but I'm not even sure that I don't like Arachne more than Kurai - I mean, come on, Arachne's flirtation with Kira is the cutest thing ever, and then they get married! So. . . yeah. Awkward. Kurai is definitely my favorite unambiguously female character, but I like a lot of the more ambiguous ones more than her.