Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

The time is the 1970’s. A young man is getting out of prison, with nowhere to go. But he does have a desperate plan. So he goes to the theater door of a man he saw perform only once before – at the prison – and pleads to become his apprentice in the art of rakugo.

Rakugo is usually described as a form of Japanese comedy. As this show points out early, that’s not entirely true. It’s more a blend of storytelling and acting, where the storyteller takes on all the parts. It is now regarded as high culture and performed in theaters, but it started out as just storytellers in the marketplace, sitting on mats. So the storyteller doesn’t take up much space or move around a lot, but he strives to create a whole world. Many of the stories are funny, but there’s also a tradition of scary stories.

So it’s an audacious career idea for a young man who’s totally inexperienced, but it’s not impossible. The master storyteller renames him “Yotaro” (an old-fashioned expression for “fool” that apparently shows up a lot in rakugo), but he accepts him as an apprentice. Yotaro turns out to be a hard worker and to have a good heart, and he openly supports the people around him. One of these is Konatsu, raised as a daughter of the house but actually the orphaned daughter of a famed rakugo storyteller. Although once it was just not done for women to do rakugo, Yotaro straightforwardly recognizes her skill and learns from her, while also asking the master to make her an apprentice too.

But it won’t all be that easy for Yotaro. His past follows him and causes him trouble, just as their pasts follow his master and his sempai, Konatsu. Somehow, they must reconcile the past while finding their own paths into the future. Because the problem with a traditional artform is that it has to stay enthralling to audiences in order to survive….

Visually, this show is gorgeous, albeit done in muted tones. The voice acting is also tremendous. (I’m pretty sure that the guy who plays Nyanta in Log Horizon is playing one of the small parts.) But even though it’s a “cultural” show, it’s not inaccessible to us Westerners; and it’s interesting that the anime art seems to be pointing out the debt that anime owes to traditional Japanese storytellers as well as to Japanese drama conventions. (As apparently the josei manga it’s based on was doing for manga art.) It will also be very interesting for anyone who’s ever performed in public, because it catches that feel very well. But as is fitting for a show about storytelling, it’s just a darned good story!

Episodes of this show are 47 minutes long, so you get a full drama-length TV show every week. That’s needed, because each episode apparently covers a lot of ground!

I recommend this show. Like Yotaro, it has a good heart.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju* is available on Crunchyroll. The first ep will be available to non-subscribers (free with commercials) starting next Friday.

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Thank You, Sarah A. Hoyt!

In her co/guest-blogger position covering Instapundit’s nights, Sarah Hoyt kindly links to books that are coming out, if you ask her.

So here’s her link boosting the new volume of my translation of the Beatus!

How powerful is the reach of Instapundit’s blog?

She posted about an obscure translation of a medieval book at two in the morning, and by noon Amazon tells me I have sold $100 worth of books. Imagine how much that is worth to a more mainstream fiction book, or a nonfiction work on a topic of more general interest.

So.. thank you, Sarah!

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Legio XII Fulminata and the Miracle of the Rainstorm

One of the more well-known incidents of Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ reign was an event that is called the Miracle of the Rain.

The Legio XII Fulminata and the Emperor were fighting against a tribe called the Quadi, near Carnuntum in Austria. The emperor’s troops got trapped in a waterless valley that was surrounded by Quadi forces.

After five days, the troops were getting desperate. Apparently they resorted en masse to prayer to all their various gods, and the emperor joined in.

Out of nowhere, a rainstorm boiled up. Lightning lashed the mountainsides and thunder drove off the Quadi, while the rain fell so thick that they couldn’t even see the legionaries. Meanwhile, the rain in the valley was refreshing, and the legion was able to fill up their water supplies and then escape the dead-end valley.

(In this sculpture from the Antonine Column in Rome, the Quadi are depicted as getting zotted by a god in a cloud.)

Pretty much everybody in the legion claimed that the miracle was due to their own gods, Dio Cassius said it was a civilian magician from Egypt, and the imperial officials claimed it was because the emperor joined in.

But Christians widely claimed that it was all due to God listening to the Christians in the legion, and indeed there do seem to have been a lot of Christians in it.

Legio XII Fulminata had its headquarters at Melitene, Armenia, and thus is sometimes called “the Melitene Legion.” Armenia was one of first areas converted to Christianity, so it’s not surprising that an Armenian-based legion would have included many Christians. St. Polyeuctes of Melitene is supposed to have been one of its officers, along with his buddy St. Nearchus; and the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste were enlisted men of the legion.

All of these guys were martyred because they were Christians, not because they suddenly refused to fight; they were perfectly willing to fight for the emperor, and for the senate and people of Rome. Also, they were extremely popular early Christian saints. So much for the idea that all early Christians were pacifists.

There may have been another largely Christian legion, if the story of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion is true.

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Well, Isn’t That Just Special.

It turns out that one of the fannish academic people whom I really like and respect has finally published a novel. In fact, two novels. From a publisher.

Unfortunately, said books are historical fantasy novels of lesbian romance.

Well, at least you can trust them to be historically plausible fantasy, because she’s an intellectually honest academic… but um… yeah.

Obviously this reduces their mass market appeal, not many bookstores are carrying them, and no, I’m not going to read them. But then, obviously the publisher isn’t spending much marketing money on them, either, since I hadn’t even heard that this person had put out any books; and one of them has been out for a year.

On the other hand, apparently this is one of those niche porny romance publishers that purposefully targets specialized audiences, so they never sell to bookstores and don’t want to attract buyers outside that audience. I suppose the advantage for the writer is not having to go out and find a bunch of readers who read specialized romances.

Anyway, I suppose I wish her good luck, but I wish she’d written something that I could actually enjoy reading. Decadence in a society is extremely inconvenient.

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Mr. Hospital Is Not Always Your Friend

One of the UK sf fans recently had her father admitted to hospital after a fall after New Year’s. Within a few days, he got a chest infection, which killed him.

I’m frankly puzzled by her attitude of resignation. When my grandfather got bedsores in the hospital, we were furious with the hospital staff and we told people not to use that hospital. And bedsores are bad enough, but a chest infection??

1. If your NHS hospital is a place where people catch diseases or get infections served up by the nurses, it isn’t doing anyone any favors. You the taxpayer should be angry.

2. The people who view hospitals as a place to go and die are not paranoid; they are just assuming a hospital without adequate sanitation. No modern hospital has an excuse for being unsanitary.

3. Mr. Bleach and Mr. Real Soap are your friend. And if we’re not careful, Mr. Carbolic will have to be our friend again.

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Part 2 of Beatus Is Out!

I’m happy to announce that I have finally finished and published Part 2 of my translation of St. Beatus of Liebana’s Commentarius in Apocalipsin!

Book2Amazoncover1

Commentary on the Apocalypse: Part 2 – Four Horses and the Lamb translates Books 3 and 4 of the Beatus, which cover the Book of Revelation’s chapters 3-7 (with a tad bit of chapter 8). This volume also includes a lot of juicy stuff about trying to guess the date of the end of the world, and why that’s not a good plan.

I’ve also included an appendix with translations of several contemporary letters that reference Beatus (as well as his student and friend, Bishop Etherius of Osma). Briefly, Archbishop Elipandus of Toledo didn’t like Beatus much, because Beatus criticized his Adoptionist theology. However, St. Alcuin seems to have thought Beatus was the bee’s knees.

Just FYI, the Beatus consists of 12 books. Books 5, 6, and 7 are a decent length, but the rest of them are pretty short.

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Please Do Not Visit Suburbanbanshee.Net for the Next Few Days

My old legacy webpages have been hacked again. Sigh.

So I have outsourced the fixit job, being unable to face all that handcoding again. Yes, it’s just injection script junk, but that’s bad enough.

I am seriously tempted to go all textfile, all the time. This HTML stuff gets on my nerves.

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