Anime for your average North Americans

Anime for your average North Americans

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Dr. Isao Ebihara explores Japanese folklore.

Historian, theo­logian, and animé guru Dr. Isao Ebihara delves into the Japanese pool of history, religious systems, and political intrigue in Land of Rising Ghosts and Goblins: The super­natural world in Japanese Myths, Folklore, Animé & Pop-Culture.

This undertaking invites young Westerners, as well as South Asians and anyone intrigued by Japanese cul­ture, to explore mythic backgrounds in popular legend and folklore. Do the peoples who devise popular fairy-tales have any room for the Christian concept of mercy, or must justice and vengeance prevail? Dr. Ebihara an­swers questions like this in a highly accessible form; while it is classified as an academic book, “I intended not to make it too academic…it uses com­mon people’s language.”

Alongside familiar characters such as the warrior Inuyasha and Dragon Ball’s Goku, there are examples from more cryptic figures in Japanese folk­lore; like Prince Yamato Takero, and the divine couple Sarutahiko and Uzme; as well as many preternatural creatures, such as the Yokai (com­monly translated as ‘demon’ or ‘god’ by the layman, Ebihara gives a more detailed portrait of the characteristics of these bestial creatures). Also fea­tured are the mystical art of Chakra and the Kabuki genre of theatre.

Land of Rising is a historical map of Japan’s cumulative trove of myths and religions.

The story begins with a startlingly carnal outline of primitive Shinto cults, before the more civilized Bud­dhist and Confucian reforms in 7th century AD. Ebihara then dips into his intimate knowledge of Japanese history and political intrigue to whet Western appetites for contemporary world issues facing the Japanese: the Emperor-cult into the twentieth cen­tury, the establishment of State Shin­to, and the penetration (and persecu­tion) of Christianity in the island. The concluding chapters of Land of Rising draw connections with the contem­porary worlds of manga artist Shigeru Mizuki and beloved film creator Hyao Miyazaki.

Ebihara’s Land of Rising contains many mysteries. How much does leg­endary prince Yamato Takeru share in common with King Arthur? Could political motives account for discrep­ancies between the Kojiki and Nihon­shoki sagas – twin documents of the Japanese people’s oral stories from antiquity? How have Shinto priests appeased demonic creatures called Oni, and why have people feared even becoming one?

Comparing Shinto superstition and Buddhist monasticism with Greek classics, and offering glimpses into the Asian afterlife, Land of Rising achieves a surprisingly high level of accessibility to Western readers. It’s an entry-level read, loaded with suf­ficient content and commentary to guide Western, Chinese, Korean, and other curious minds into the highly enigmatic world of the Japanese su­pernatural.

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