Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The origin of O-Ren, or what might not pass the censors in flesh might as anime

When “Kill Bill” came out, it was a dizzy visual offering that borrowed and acknowledged those unique parts of the film library, the film genres and films gone by, for the cinematographically obsessed. The Asian influence was unmistakable. The use of anime to tell a background story was a welcome surprise, and a very appropriate approach considering O-Ren Ishii’s ancestry and birthplace. The gore would have passed the censors in a non-anime form (as shown later in the tea house scene for one), because for some reason gore is deemed less corrupting to our souls (but don’t you think the anime style gave it a peculiar edge?). What would have not passed was the young O-Ren’s method of getting closer to Boss Matsumoto to exact her revenge. If filmed in flesh, it would have made most of us squirm, feel very uncomfortable and challenged to make a leap into “but this is part of the plot/art”, alas unsuccessfully. I know I would have been all those. After all, I did not see the point of reading Nabokov’s “Lolita” – I simply did not care to understand Humbert Humbert’s madness (I drew the line on my liberalism there, but you won’t see me picketing…) – and seeing Stanley Kubrick’s take on that story did not make it better (as much as I love Kubrick’s stuff). Also, why do you think Adrian Lyne’s adaptation pretty much went straight to rental? Pedophilia does not work for most of us. This is why it is interesting that when delivered as anime not only did it pass the censors as an appropriate vehicle for providing character background, but it elicited barely a blink from the viewers. You might ask, do I have a point here? The things that make us squirm, uncomfortable and disgusted happen; therefore, there is always a place for them in literature, film and any other artistic media that draw from life. I think we should react to what we read, see and hear no matter how unnerving it is. As much as I like anime, I worry when it removes this distress with its gloss.

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