“Summer wars” in winter

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Summer Wars is a Japanese animation movie released in 2009, quite successful in many aspects, including the promotional one -even before the première, a few mangas based on the movie were available-. Mamoru Hosoda, its director, repeats with teenager protagonists after The girl who leapt through time, and recreates a whole world of fantasy not far from the Japanese mind, at least in values.
We have Kenji, a shy high-school computer and maths genius but socially at kindergarten level; and Natsuki, his sempai, self-confident and matured, but at the same time feminine and willing to be protected. These two are a representation of the ideal Japanese young couple, and many times not far from reality, because eventually one ends up being what one decides to be.
We also have Wabisuke, my favourite character, demonized in the movie but not sufficiently explained, I think. Handsome, attractive and intelligent, he had left Japan for the US, where he had become by himself a scholar in computing and a professor at a top American university. He represents individualism, self-esteem and a desire to stand out; and his rejection of the status quo and the rules of the Japanese society make him a “rebel without a cause”. When he is back in town, he is not accepted the way he is and decides to destroy the old world to create a new one.
Finally we have Sakae, the obaachan, a symbol of the authority based in age and experience, the one who keeps the big family –there are plenty of uncles and children- together and is obeyed without discussion. She is a tradition guardian and the one who remembers each member of the family his/her place, i.e. lack of social mobility. In the movie, Hosoda also shows her as a well-connected person; and for that reason powerful in her mission to metaphorically keep society the way it is. When she dies, the whole family, young and old, stay together and continue with her ways.
All these fights between tradition and modernity –order and “chaos”- take place on a cybernetic level, in a virtual world with avatars representing humans and living their wishes: that’s why when your avatar die, a part of you also vanishes, something like Surrogates, the 2009 movie with Bruce Willis.
Of course, in the end, the power of the group, and especially the family, wins over the individual, and the Japanese society, represented by an extended family owning a temple, remains untouched, even in the times of avatar technology.
The group, the group, always the group.

Japanese Halloween, Spanish Conferences and Student Theatre Festivals

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Life in Japan might sometimes look a little bit dull but there are moments when there are so many options where to choose from that it’s exactly the opposite, and you feel that your schedule becomes an elastic cord that is going to break sooner or later.

For the Japanese, as well as for the Spanish –I just learnt about the Celtic and Christian origins of the celebration-, Halloween is nothing else than a date in the calendar when they can put on a costume and go out crazy, like in Carnival. In Kyoto, a foreign and local mixed crowd of youngsters and not so young ones go to the Kamo River, to one of the three Irish pubs downtown or to more or less private parties. There are also the big clubs’ parties –World and Metro- and the healthy ones like the salsa-dancing Rumbita, where birthday parties are celebrated with a non-stop-dancing-in-costume ritual for the honoured person.

Last weekend too, the Halloween-celebrating one, the yearly Hispania Gakkai’s Spanish Language, Literature and Culture Conferences was held in Osaka, and there I went, to the University of Kansai, to listen to 20-minute presentations about Don Quijote, Pedro Páramo, Carmen Martín Gaite, Cortázar, surrealism, etc. and to enjoy a banquet with colleagues whom I only meet once or twice a year.

And Sunday was also the starting point for the three-day Student Festival at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, with super entertaining theatre plays. At 10:30, the German club presented Die Bremer Stadtmusukanten, with an almost professional staging and very clear dialogues; and at 13:30, the Spanish club performed El país de las maravillas, a funny and creative mixture of Alice in Wonderland, Red Riding Little Hood, Romeo and Juliet and Don Quixote, with some of my former students in the cast and the advice of Isabel la Católica from Palencia. Most of those students have spent the last 3 months meeting and rehearsing daily for the play and a few of them, like Rie and Eriko, cannot avoid crying of emotion and sadness now that everything is over.

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