Virtual bodies

Online reactionaries have a strange relationship to anime. On the one hand they are sometimes known as great admirers of anime, fetishizing it and from there Japanese society and culture at large for aligning with their own ideas about how society should be structured, or at least for supposedly nurturing their own particular commitment naievte. On the other hand, anime can often be reviled by reactionary masculinitsts, such as one I encountered who seemed to regard it as both “low art” and “virtual estrogen”, on the belief that men who watch anime are insufficiently masculine or even somehow effeminate. I suppose there’s a conversation to be had about gender and the nature of patriarchal normative ideas about masculinity as such. However, the conversation I am interested in is altogether different.

There is an irony to the complaint against the “hairless creatures” of anime. If you look at the sculptures from “classical” Greece and Rome as well as the Renaissance, you will find seemingly idealized male figures that lack body hair. Even if they have thick, bushy beards, these men typically lack the body hair of real, living men, which, if anything, must seem quite strange when reflecting on typical notions of the “proper” masculine body. You’ll find no hair on the limbs or torso of the bodies of Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus, even though Hercules in particular has a very hairy face. In fact, we can see plenty of Greek status of male figures that apparently lack even pubic hair. In the case of the Kroisos Kouros, a statue meant to mark the gravesite of a young warrior named Kroisos, any pubic hair was probably originally painted on the statue rather than sculpted. That said, while we tend to see depilation in male statues, it is all the more common in female statues, given the patriarchal expectation of women, especially in Roman society, to remove all hairs from their genitals, even while men may keep theirs intact. That said, body hair in men was also often considered uncivilized or plebian. Yet this is ultimately a digression. We are still speaking about idealization, here. More importantly, I think it’s from here that I can touch on some thoughts that I had, originally surfacing perhaps last month, about anime through “Lifting the Absolute” by Bronze Age Collapse, as contained within Revolutionary Demonology by Gruppo Di Nun. Yes, it seems I must return to the subject of that work.

We should make a cautionary note, however, that for Bronze Age Collapse, the ancient statues are not merely idealizations of the human form. Bronze Age Collapse’s point, after all, is that the bodies depicted by those statues did exist in their time, and we only assume that they did not because of our distance in modernity from antiquity. In his words, “how could Greek artists have idealised entire muscle groups in the smallest detail, without having had concrete models of flesh and blood at their disposal?”. “Before Mediterranean antiquity, we are like children”. Yet, there is a body not of this world that Bronze Age Collapse is ultimately concerned with. What does Bronze Age Collapse consider to be “supreme fitness”? The answer lies in the immortality sought by not just men but even gods themselves, who in classical myth were themselves known to bleed. The tendency or tension towards the absolute is to be understood as the desire to embody a kind of energetic or atmospheric state or principle, linked to the chaos of the world soul is an immortality characterised by perpetual metamorphosis, seemingly agentic at that. Struggle and the coincidence of opposites contains the secret of this tension towards the absolute. Claudio Kulesko conveys a similar but somewhat different idea in his discussion of asceticism in “Catholic Dark”, where altitude and lightness form a negative spiral that approaches eternity and wherein the flesh becomes precisely energetic or atmospheric, and thereby godlike. But, where am I going from there?

When I thought about anime, and what we often think of as “anime bodies”, I could not at the time think of a kind of energetic or even atmospheric virtuality. It is naturally somewhat limited by way of the fact that it is ultimately representational, but it may also be possible to sketch something from it. There is one important component to all of this: in my opinion, anime is basically inherently anti-realist, even when it reflects or shows fidelity to the real world. On a basic level, it is simply an affect of the aesthetic style of anime. You are probably not going to find what we typically envision as an “anime body” in the real world. That fact inevitably colours the way “weeaboos” or “otakus” sometimes relate to the world, and it also illustrates the odd sense of “weirdness” we feel when people try to become actual, real world “anime girls”. Anime bodies are energetic in ways that seem to exceed the “real” human body, and that trait seems to be afforded by both the style and the medium itself. They also tend possess forms that simultaneously imitate and transcend the human body, and that’s when they don’t completely defy human proportionality in all manner of ways. The virtual representation of anime allows the formation of an inhuman human, a body that can be anything – and believe me, bodies in anime can be anything, can be part of anything, and make anything part of themselves. But the appeal of the anime body can seem to not only the possession of virtual form as object, as in the case for many male “weeaboos”, but to embody the virtual form, as a virtual transcendence of flesh as an energetic body.

You could say that the appeal of the anime body comes from the way that its sort of ideal image contains a representative possibility of energetic form. On the internet, this is becomes a horizon of digital representation, home to endless pathways of becoming-anime. It’s not lifting the absolute, it’s not apotheosis, but perhaps it is a representation of energetic bodies. It is, in this way, a form of the process of identification, by which one attempts an approximate embodiment of the energetic-atmospheric form in virtual terms. My suspicion is that this insight is also locked somewhere in the recesses of the transphobic belief transness is being artificially inspired in young people, particularly young men, by anime. That idea is obviously specious nonsense that exists only promote transphobia and especially transmisogyny while also underwriting within that blatant xenophobia (in this case not only establishing transness as dangerous to society but framing it as a product of foreign cultural influences trying to weaken “Western” masculinity). But it also hides within itself (poorly, at that) the fear not only of men adopting and performing some notion of femininity but also of the horizon of virtuality and representation. Becoming-anime on the internet is a virtual becoming of a desired form, and that in its own way is at odds with what passes for patriarchal normalcy, even if reactionary “weeaboos” might earnestly believe that the opposite is true.

The Left Hand Path of Dracula the Barbarian

While reading Gruppo Di Nun’s Revolutionary Demonology I encountered an interesting discussion of the figure of Dracula in the essay “Gothic Insurrection”, which was written by Claudio Kulesko. Here, Dracula figures as a major archetypical expression of the barbarian in popular culture, and it’s this particular context that I feel inspired to explore.

Why would I focus on this, you might wonder? Isn’t it a little early for Halloween? Fool! For some of us every day is Halloween, at least if you mean what I think you mean, but only one day of the year is Samhain! But seriously, I think that Kulesko’s discussion of Dracula in the context of the barbarian presents a fascinating opportunity to explore thematic underpinnings that have frequently found expression in the Left Hand Path and adjacent subcultures. Vampires have never been absent from the archetypal considerations of the Left Hand Path, indeed there are often frequent explorations of the theme of vampirism within modern Satanism, which is perhaps not too surprising when we consider how often that vampires were frequently linked to Satan himself as antitheses to Christianity. And it’s perhaps this combined with the Paganism of Dracula’s “barbarian heritage” in which Dracula emerges as a glorious icon of the intersection so important to my own polycentric project of Satanic Paganism.

But I suppose first of all: what is a barbarian, besides perhaps a loaded term? We can stay on Kulesko’s analysis for this question. The term “barbarian” derives from the Greek word “barbaros”, which in ancient Greece seemed to denote those who spoke in “incomprehensible” non-Greek languages, and therefore referred to foreigners. The barbarian’s linguistic outsideness from Greek (or indeed “Aryan”) civilization led to their consideration as almost non-human, more animal than human, and certainly not subject to the rights that civilization affords its subjects. By the Middle Ages, the term “barbarian” also came to designate non-Christians at large (“pagans”, “heretics”, Muslims, atheists, etc.), and in theological terms those who opposed God because they somehow lacked the light of natural intellect that would allow for some supposed latent intuition of God. Conceptually, the barbarian is always someone who not only sits on the wrong side of civilization but also threatens to cross through the borders and invade that civilization.

The barbarian’s “non-human” animality is reflected in the civilized imaginary via the nightmare of the Berserker, the ecstatic bear-skin warriors who dedicated themselves to the Norse god Odin. These Berserkers would actively negate the cultural boundary between “the human” and “the animal” by not only dressing in animal skins but also by taking on the traits of the animals they sought to emulate. It was even believed that they actually transformed into wild animals, thus completely transgressing the line between “human” and “animal”. For Kulesko the Berserker’s wildness and separation from the word figure strongly into black metal, such as in the case of Bathory with songs like “Baptised in Fire and Ice” and “Blood and Iron“, lyrically narrating a lost time without any clear boundaries between Man and beast and where humans were immersed in the voices of the land. Kulesko actually quite beautifully describes this admittedly nostalgic expression of the Pagan worldview:

The forest spoke in a non-human voice, the gods had not been relegated to an unreachable sky, humans had not been separated from non-humans; nature was one and, at the same time, many things constantly striving to know, relate and interpret each other.

So, without stretching our preamble too much further, how exactly does Dracula figure into all of this? Well, Dracula does share certain characteristics with the barbarian as we have thus far discussed. He along with the archetypical vampire share a sort of becoming-animal with the Berserker. He can turn into a bat or a wolf, and beyond this he could even turn into mist, thus going beyond even animal. The barbarian’s outsideness is also reflected in the way Dracula presents a chaotic and elusive threat in the form of the return of the undead, or of undeath itself, and with it the possibility that humanity could be destroyed by something that seems fundamentally alien to life. Perhaps Dracula inherits a “barbarian” reputation via the cruel reputation of the historical “Dracula”: Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepes (“The Impaler”), the Voivode of Wallachia (modern day Romania) who became known for his exceptional brutality. The barbarian outsideness of Dracula is also, in Bram Stoker’s novel, given a conspicuous racial subtext, reflective of the anxieties of 19th century eugenicism. In Chapter 3 we find Jonathan Harker recounting his conversation with Dracula, in which Jonathan asks Dracula about the history of Transylvania and then Dracula regales Jonathan with the stories of his people – apparently the Szekelys, a Hungarian subgroup who lived mostly in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains in Romania.

We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on the seaboards of Europe, aye, and of Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the werewolves themselves had come. Here, too, when they came, they found the Huns, whose warlike fury had swept the earth like a living flame, till the dying peoples held that in their veins ran the blood of those old witches, who, expelled from Scythia had mated with the devils in the desert. Fools, fools! What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?

The description of Dracula’s lineage as a “whirlpool of European races” serves to emphasize a background that is meant to be seen as both exotic and dangerous. Dracula descends from an ethnic melting pot of peoples, whose diverse admixture is from his perspective a source of unparalleled strength. In Victorian England “whirlpool” was a term reserved for impoverished parts of the East End in London, home to a diversity of immigrant populations, which to Victorian audiences seemed inexorably violent and unruly. This subtext is only exasperated when we remember that part of the plot of Dracula is that Dracula wanted to buy property in England in order to infiltrate English society, especially by seducing English women, to create more vampires.

All of that having been said, the point of my article was to disccuss the intersection involving Paganism, and having established the overall theme of the barbarian in Dracula, we can safely move on. In the same chapter, we see Dracula invoking, or at least recalling, the Norse gods Odin and Thor in the name of his apparent ancestors, the Vikings and the Huns. Kulesko notes this as a conscious choice on Stoker’s part, meant to convey a link between Dracula on the one hand and the polytheistic “barbarians” who were subjugated by Christians on the other hand. Dracula’s conceit is that he and his people derived their strength, their ability to conquer, from the lineage of Attila the Hun as well as the divine inspiration of Norse gods, and to this effect he later credits this influence to the successful repulsion of invasions by various enemies. It’s here that we can get into a theme that interests me.

The idea of evil pagan barbarians worshipping warlike gods and marching against Christian civilization has its own long chain of historical context. For one thing, the pre-Christian Vikings acquired that sort of reputation among Christian Anglo-Saxons, whose accounts described them partaking in ecstatic war dances dedicated to their gods during their campaigns. Before Scandinavian kings started converting to Christianity, the Vikings could be contrasted from other parts of early medieval Europe, and so marauding Vikings were feared as great heathen armies at war with Christendom. The Odin and Thor invoked by Dracula could be seen as “warlike” in their own way, at least in that both of them were warrior deities, though Odin was also more like the magician who directed the course of battle than the frontline fighter that Thor was. But there were also many other gods to some extent connected to war and battle, such as Freyja, Freyr, Tyr, Ullr, or Hodr, and in the end, when Ragnarok comes, all the gods are warriors fighting in the “ultimate” war. But before Christianity there was the Roman Empire, whose imperialist narratives about barbarians are ultimately an urgrund for the later Christian imagination, and ultimately further the imaginary of the construction of whiteness. Consider the Roman campaigns against the Germanic tribes and Britain. Rome, Germania, and Britain, were all polytheistic, but they worshipped different gods (which the Romans often interpreted as actually being their gods) in their own cultural contexts, which have since become (perhaps utterly) lost to time. The Romans frequently depicted their Celtic and Germanic adversaries as practicing gruesome rites such as human sacrifice and contrasted them against the civilization of Roman religion, even as they also cast the gods of their enemies as their own Roman gods.

In the case of Vlad III, we should note that he was probably not a polytheist, and nor for that matter was the Wallachia he ruled over. Wallachia was officially founded in the 14th century long after what we now call Romania had already accepted Christianity as its official religion, and Wallachia was founded as a Christian principality. Still, it could be said in Eastern Europe there were late converts. The Bulgarian Empire, for instance, was officially polytheistic until the year 864, under Tsar Simeon I and his successful campaign to Christianize the empire. Pre-Christian Bulgarians worshipped Tengri alongside the various gods of Slavic polytheism, and in the eyes of Christians they were a warlike society that, initially, did not take well to Christianity. The Principality of Hungary essentially remained polytheistic, or at least continued to be ruled by pagan monarchs, until the year 1000 when Stephen I became King of Hungary after defeating the pagan duke Koppany. The Magyars likely remained pagan for centuries until the 11th century, what few sources remain of their beliefs suggest a prevailing animistic worship of the natural world. Lithuania, known as “the last pagan country in Europe” did not officially adopt Christianity until 1387, prior to which Lithuania continued to practice pre-Christian polytheism and had to fight the Christian crusades against it while expanding as a sovereign power in their own right. But, of course, even under the veneer of official Christianization, in the Slavic countrysides pre-Christian polytheism persisted among the general population, to the point that it took centuries for Christianity to actually integrate. The Kyivan Rus (which consisted of what is now Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia), for instance, officially became a Christian state in the year 988, after Volodymyr I Sviatoslavych converted to Christianity and renounced polytheism, but most of the population still did not consider themselves Christian for centuries, and in the northern settlements (now corresponding to western Russia) many people continued to practice polytheism and occasionally revolted against Christian rule. Similarly, in Poland, polytheism persisted by the 11th century and there was popular opposition culminating in revolt against Christian rule, and the Catholic Church struggled to eventually suppress it.

Relevant also to the context of “barbarian” outsideness would be the nomadic Mongols that eventually came to be dubbed the “Golden Horde”. As they spread across Asia and towards Europe, the Mongols were feared by Christendom for the strength of their armies and the devastation they wrought, and with it the threat they posed to Christian Europe following the invasions of Hungary and the Rus, which by this point happened to be Christian states. Until the institution of Islam as the official state religion in the 14th century, the Mongols maintained the practice of their own autochthonous animistic religion, and although the Mongol empire probably had no particular anti-Christian animus, their being non-Christian while attacking Christian kingdoms led to the church presenting them as basically agents of Satan. Perhaps Christian leaders feared that a successful Mongol conquest of Europe would lead to the dethronement of Christianity, though within Mongol territory Christianity was actually tolerated alongside many other religions.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the context of his ancestral conceits emerges as a reflection of Pagan outsideness within the Christian imaginary. The “whirpool” of Dracula’s origins curiously reflects a cornucopia of antagonisms to Christianity. He claims descent from Attila the Hun, the leader of the Hunnic Empire, which was likely a non-Christian territory worshipping gods like Tengri or “Mars” (probably the Roman identification of a Hunnic god of war) and which led a campaign against Christian Rome, as well as the Norse Vikings, who up until between the 9th-11th centuries would typically have been polytheists. Dracula also claims that the Magyars, whose ancestors he asserted gave rise to the werewolves and the Beserkers (a claim, by the way, that Stoker probably sourced from Max Muller’s work), recognized the Szekelys as their kindred after conquering the Carpathian Basin under Árpád (who was a pagan), and trusted them with their protection from Turkish forces. Transylvania and Wallachia in the time of Vlad III would definitely not have been pagan, but it’s interesting that this context in Dracula swirls here, in the remnants of pagan resistance alongisde another sense of barbarian outsideness. Dracula, as contrasted with the seemingly unproblematic chain of English Christianity (we should at this point keep in mind that England had its own complicated history of Christianization), is presented as emblematic of the legacy of anti-Christian barbarism, positioned as foreign to Christian civilization.

At long last we can focus on the legacy of the warlike gods and spirits, and it is something I rather enjoy reiterating when I get the chance here. I could take any chance, for instance, to repeat the subject of the Mairiia, that purported band of polytheistic ancient Iranian warriors who celebrated orgiastic feasts, had promiscuous sex with women who were termed “jahika” (traditionally understood as promiscuous sorceresses), and worshipped “warlike” deities such as Indra, Rudra, Mithra, Vayu, Anahita, and Θraētaona (or Fereydun), and whose ecstatic cult we are told was proscribed by Zoroaster and banished from Iran as an enemy of the emerging Zoroastrian religion. These Mairiia, in this sense, embody barbarian outsideness in that they were considered enemies of the community within the Avestan context. They may or may not have been echoes of older Indo-European clans of warriors who disguised themselves as wolves, held orgiasitc sacrifices and feasts, and devoted themselves gods that represented “dark forces of life”, or Indo-European bands of warriors who similarly devoted themselves to esoteric worship of gods with strong connections to the realm of the dead. This is what scholars refer to as Koryos, meaning “war band”, or alternatively as Mannerbund, meaning “alliance of men”. The barbarian is well-reflected in them, not just in their resonances with the Berserkers but also in their nomadic outsideness, living outside the boundaries of their society with nothing but their weapons, and going on raids thus always threatening to cross the borders of the community; and also being employed by powers to do the raiding for them, perhaps so that they would not be raided themselves.

The rites and gods of these war bands tell us something else. In Greece, adolescent war bands typically dedicated themselves to Apollo, who was often called Lykeios and regarded as the master of wolves that symbolised their fighting style. The mythical battle between Melanthus and Xanthos, the former associated with Dionysus Melanaigis, has also been interpreted as a rite of passage for the ephebes, who wore dark goat skins just as Dionysus did. The Norse Ulfhednar and the Berserkers, of course, were devoted to Odin, the patron of their divine inspiration and madness. The wolf association spreads far and wide; the Langobards of northern Italy who worshipped Godan/Odin and the Vanir were intially called Winnili, meaning “wolves”. In Vedic India, adolescent warriors would be initiated into a band of warriors during a winter solstice ritual where they would go into a trance and then “die” and be reborn as war dogs. The outlaw warriors and their priests had the gods Rudra and Indra as their divine patrons, both linked to the Maruts, the latter believed to be a mythological representation of the Mannerbund. At Krasnosamarskoe, located in the Russian steppes, some people practiced midwinter rituals where they inverted social customs, particularly the taboo against eating dog meat, in order to become like dogs or wolves themselves, thus transforming themselves as a rite of passage. Darkness seems to be a theme for these sorts of ancient warrior bands, in that there may be keen preference for the nocturnal and the mobilization of chthonic forces. The Roman author Tacitus recorded something like this in the Germanic Harii, who he dubbed “savages”, wearing dark dye, brandishing dark shields, and preferring to conduct battle at night, while the Athenian ephebes wore dark black cloaks (or rather chlamys) and both hunted and fought at night. In India, warriors who worshipped the gods Rudra and Indra wore black clothes.

For Amir Ahmadi, writing in The Daēva Cult in the Gāthās, this would all resonate not just with the Mairiia but with the cult of the Daevas at large, with its preference for nocturnal sacrifices and its self-emphasis on a warlike divine centre. The Daeva cult was very chthonic in emphasis, with the daevas being worshipped at night and often underground, while the Mairiia also performed nocturnal sacrfices to their gods. Many of the ancient Koryos or Mannerbunds have their own chthonic link, often more implicit and symbolic by their wearing black or just the association with the wolf, which itself is often symbolically linked with death across culture, but also sometimes more forthrightly in the associations with gods such as Odin or Rudra. Ahmadi tells us that one of the operative points is that the warrior of the Koryos or Mannerbund took up a mystery in which they separated themselves from the herd, both in life and in death, in order to win not only fame in this life but also a place of distinction and honour in the afterlife. One then plunges into the underworld, and across the world sword in hand, to carve one’s own place in the beyond, one that cannot be taken away. But the consistent theme of wolves and bestial transformation also returns us to the subject of Dracula and the vampire.

The vampire, the barbarian, the warlike Mannerbunds that turn into wolves, and to a certain extent the witch (part of the fabled Witches’ Sabbath involves a carnival of shapeshifting into animals), all these share a very similar Deleuzian sense of becoming-animal, and in this sense we can understand that as a unique mode of becoming: freedom from the civilizing perception of the civilized human organism, a subject that is no longer stable but constantly anomalous, inaccessible to definition, and in a certain way irrepressible because of it. The sort of localised chaos, the double negation that elevates individual expression, a kind of abject liminality as subject to desire, that is the tendency of passing through dimensions at will instead of drawing permanent boundaries – thus Kulesko notes of the barbarian. Pagan religious consciousness is resplendent with this latent sense of barbarian liminality and outsideness, even in view of the many boundary-drawing civilization-states of pre-Christian antiquity. The spirits of the netherworld could always cross into our world, and at certain points the borders between worlds could be shattered completely: the divine was seen to be everywhere, always intermingled with the world, and could cross the boundaries of our world anywhere. Kulesko notes the reflection of this consciousness in Quorthon’s modern reassertion of Paganism, in his lamentation for the lost time when “Man and beast was one and the gods of the sky walked the face of the earth”. Per Kadmus Herschel we can be reminded of the way that polytheistic myth echoes the notion of a potentially endlessly transforming form or body. And, of course, we may recall Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s satanic observation of remnant paganism as the latest negativity beneath the Christian order, and its resonances with barbarian outsideness and perhaps the pre/intra/preter/anti-cosmic darkness that Gruppo Di Nun speaks to in their larger body of work.

I would invite the consideration of another theme as well: how the death of Dracula figures into the magical art of the Left Hand Path.

Consider Kulesko’s telling of the novel’s end, from the lens of a Marxist critique of neoreaction and its interpretation of catastrophic time (the bold/italic emphasis is my own):

In the last pages, Dracula is cornered and stabbed in the heart, whereupon he turns to dust – but not before, for a brief moment, an expression of peace crosses his face. The narrator interprets this expression in a moral sense, attributing it to relief at being freed from his tormented existence, consisting of crime and eternal damnation. However, the Marxian analysis, and what we have said so far here, would seem to indicate that a different interpretation is more appropriate: the vampire has returned to his place of origin, the atmospheric-inorganic world, only to be reincarnated in the complex cybernetic system of machines and monetary flows that shapes Capital, waiting to once again unleash his annihilating fury. The Anthropocene, the age of ecological catastrophe, is the era through which the cybergothic age winds like a snake.

When I read that passage, the first thing I immediately thought of was Hellsing, both the manga and the Hellsing Ultimate series. Why? Because it felt a lot like how Alucard “died” in the end.

For one thing, Hellsing’s Alucard is supposed to be none other than Dracula himself. The name Alucard is obviously the name Dracula in reverse, and prior to Hellsing it was used as the name of the son of Dracula, the first version of which was Count Alucard in the 1943 movie Son of Dracula. Here, though, Alucard is not the son of Dracula, but rather is Dracula himself. Based on the narrative of Bram Stoker’s novel, he was Vlad III, Voivode of Wallachia, who in turn came to be known as Count Dracula. Dracula was defeated by Abraham van Hellsing, and then for some reason Abraham decided to, instead of killing him, bind him with sorcery and turn him into his servant, and from then on he became the servant of the Hellsing Organisation deployed in its battles against various occult adversaries.

Now, as regards Alucard’s “death”. The Millennium Organisation, a Nazi paramilitary group, created artificial vampires from the blood of an old vampire (referred to simply as “She”) and then sent a whole army of them, dubbed “the Last Battalion”, to invade London and destroy the Hellsing Organisation. These artificially-produced Nazi vampires do battle with the forces of Hellsing and the Vatican, and with Alucard himself. As Alucard slaughters all of his enemies, including his comrade-turned-traitor Walter Dornez, he absorbs the blood of all those who were slain in London, and with it their souls, gaining their knowledge and memories – in a sense their very lives – within himself in turn. That ability is what allows him to learn about the continued existence of Millennium after their presumed destruction during World War 2. Then, amidst Alucard’s protracted blood feast, Schrodinger, the Millennium Oberscharführer, cuts off his own head with a knife, and then falls into the ocean of blood in order to also be absorbed by Alucard. This results in Alucard vanishing into thin air, disappearing and “absorbing into himself” as Schrodinger’s power being absorbed along with millions of souls causes Alucard to no longer perceive himself. The flipside of this, however, is that while Alucard seemingly accepts his defeat and “dies”, he is also not really dead. For 30 years he persisted in an inert corpse-like state, in which he had to kill the millions of souls he had already absorbed to control Schrodinger’s power, and upon succeeding, he could then seemingly reincarnate into the whole body of existence. Somehow he became both everywhere and nowhere.

In Hellsing’s Alucard, Dracula’s “death” manages to take on a new and elevated significance. Dracula per Kulesko is a being of pure gothic time: that is to say, an “inorganic” or “eternal and motionless time, suspended below the veil of the present, ready to seize those human beings naive enough to go snooping around in the dark recesses where evil hides”. This makes him both Vlad III and not Vlad III, and both Dracula and not Dracula, and his thirst for blood is a desire for atmospheric dissolution that emerges from exactly his origin in the otherworld of gothic time. Alucard naturally shares this sense of gothic time, and the obscure essence of the vampire, with it double negation of individual unity, is magnified by his ability to contain countless souls in himself, as well as the way this eventually causes him to “disappear” into everything by absorbing Schrodinger. Alucard has simultaneously returned to his origin in gothic time and weaved his power into the whole world. He is and is not Alucard, because he is and is not everything, and this allows him to appear and disappear like a shadow at any time and any place. Moreover, perhaps even Alucuard’s thirst for battle can be interpreted on these terms in that it draws him to the conclusion of awesome cosmic dissolution and reincarnation. For this reason, Alucard could never be satisfied by any battle that would not draw him towards this conclusion: only the Battle of London, an apocalyptic confrontation with Millennium, could bring about this end, and that’s why, to the shock of everyone, he welcomes the Major’s declaration of war with such maniacal joy.

It is not sufficient for the Left Hand Path individual to exist as an eternal temple, gnawing away at everything in the name of its absolutism and sovereignty. No, there must be a different point to the cultivation of will, to divine identification. The Left Hand Path adept would rather strive to be reborn in the whole body of the endlessly becoming universe through their will. A will capable of imprinting itself and being absorbed into the world, as if becoming part of an endless stream of blood, or entering into the whole of things from the soul’s origin. Thus, we go to the bottom of the earth. Some aspect of this feels like I’m talking about Thelema, except there’s no surrender involved. It’s more like the blood thirst, or more appropriately as though you’re plunging into the world, and thus still penetrating it as the Left Hand Path practitioner might. In an endless chain of becoming, we will dictate the horizons of our own becoming, and gain the power to thrust open the doors of divine reality that we may enter the world itself, and join the company of the gods.

Actually, that whole analogy is very suitably barbarian. If you’ll forgive the flaws in this initial comparison, remember that the barbarian is recognised as one who not only dwells outside the borders of civilization but also seeks to cross into them, invade them even. Barbarian outsideness invites the consideration of our own relative position. If there is a realm outside us perhaps we are just as surely outside of it. While Gruppo Di Nun speak of an outer that threatens to penetrate our own world at every turn, it could also be said that we stand outside another world or plane: one that stands beyond our perception, and (or) one that is as well inner to us. In a way, I suppose we can lend on a distinct interpretation of what Kulesko and Rhettt have called “stepping out of our present condition into an alien state of absolute Outsideness and community with the Unknown”. Humans, indeed all living things, are born into a world that they wake into without understanding it, as they then reach out to each other. The esoteric barbarian of the Left Hand Path will descend and penetrate the world, going down to open the doors that others will not, and into the unknown, and by doing so surpass the condition of other humans: perhaps, even, of humanity. The idea of storming heaven to steal the fire carries with it a similar meaning. Stirner’s notion of heaven-storming is also somewhat relevant, in that for Stirner the real storming of heaven consists in the total destruction of the heavenly boundary between the Unique and the world: that, after all, is the point of transgression, to destroy the boundaries that alienate our consciousness.

The theme of barbarian outsideness also inevitably connects us to the demonic, in the sense of demonic outsideness. The demonic, for Kulesko at least, is connected not only to un-being and becoming but also outsideness, in that demons represent a dimension that is both external to the order of humans and capable of breaking into it: that, of course, is the spectre of demonic possession. We may find that Bernard Faure’s analysis of the demonic in Japanese Buddhism, per Rage and Ravage, more or less aligns with this idea, with the addition that it represents a reality that not only subverts and overflows structure but also acts as the negative source of movement and life itself. Kulesko would probably nod to that to some extent, in that he locates a demonical presence in even the most mundane actions. In some contexts, such as in Egyptian magic, demons exists at the margins between this world and the otherworld, protecting the afterlife from intruders, and could be invoked, thus entailing the demonic as representative of a liminal space, or an interstice between life and death. And, of course, none other than The Devil himself brings together the demonic and barbarian outsideness. In the medieval imagination, The Devil, or Satan, was frequently positioned in the wilderness, outside the borders of the Christian community, but also constantly threatening to infiltrate this community. That sense is part of the root of the fears and superstitions around witchcraft, and with it the medieval mass panic that was the witch hunts. This idea also has its resonances with the Biblical conception of the wilderness, or rather particularly the desert, as the home of demonkind, not to mention Satan’s appearance in the wilderness as the attempted tempter of Jesus, and with the wild men or woodwoses that also preoccupied the medieval imagination and may themselves have also been identified as demons. In medieval Scandinavian folklore the Devil is allied to nature spirits and nymphs that were perhaps previously honoured or venerated before the dominance of Christianity, and in this setting the wilderness is pictured as an inverted world, as gateway to demonic powers. Outlaws would be believed to step in and out of this inverted world, making pacts with the Devil as their patron god and having sex with nymphs in order to gain magical knowledge and powers. Medieval devil-worshipping Swedish outlaws, such as Tideman Hemmingsson, Hakan Jonsson, or Mickel Kalkstrom, can here be pictured as stepping out into a realm of outsideness, into the unknown community, precisely so as to elevate themselves.

Dracula, of course, ultimately connects back to the realm of the Devil in some way, even at the level of his namesake. The name comes from the fact that Vlad III was called Dracul, which means “dragon”. It was originally inherited from his father, Vlad II, who gained this moniker from his service in the Order of the Dragon. But the word “dracul” in modern Romanian also came to mean “devil”. Perhaps this is shaped by the reputation of Vlad III, or equally by the long-standing link in Christian symbolism between the Devil and dragons, solidified in the Book of Revelation by the reference to Satan as “the great dragon” who “deceives the whole world”. In some versions of the Dracula story, Vlad III became Dracula by renouncing God and making a pact with the Devil for eternal life. A short story by Bram Stoker, titled Dracula’s Guest, seemingly links Dracula to Walpurgis Night, and to ideas about how it marks the arrival of the Devil in the world, along with the attendant uprising of the dead. It is even sometimes suggested that Dracula himself is a like a modern symbol of the Devil, from the Christian standpoint of course, emphasizing the idea of the Devil as the intractable adversary of humanity, struggling bitterly and insidiously against humans, to corrupt or destroy us.

In the end there’s much to be said for the crossing of boundaries as regarding the Left Hand Path. I remember a few years ago encountering certain ideas about, in Roger Caillois’s terms, the “left side of the sacred” in relevance to Paganism. This aspect of “the Sacred” (a term that I now accept as fairly insufficient as a descriptor as a descriptor of divine reality) concerns itself with the transgression of the “normal” boundaries that are attached to life, can be defined by a relationship with death and the powers of the underworld, and emphasizes the power of the sacred to disrupt and penetrate the day-to-day order that we live in. I remember Finnchuill relating this to certain practices of the pre-Christian world, such as Dionysian rites and the worship of chthonic gods such as Hecate in Greece, dealings with the dwellers of the sidhe mounds in Ireland, the invocation of chthonic deities by Gaulish sorcerers, and the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent to the underworld. He also used Bataille’s image of the Akephalos, the headless demon, to convey “the left sacred” in terms of the death of the monarch, the destruction of hierarchy, and the resulting disruption of the social order (Bataille’s Acephale was likely intended to symbolize the radical rejection of fascist spirituality in favour of anti-authoritarian mythology and ritual). For Paganism, this means the core matter is the trangression and dissolution of the boundaries between humans and “the Sacred”, which would come a resulting fixation on chthonicism, as contrasted with the “right sacred” which sought to preserve boundaries between Man and “the Sacred”, to prevent “the Sacred” from constantly pouring into the world. Disinhibition is central to this outlook: this meant flagrant defiance of the prevailing social customs as a means to access divine consciousness or community in ways that could be acheived within the boundaries of the civic order.

Dracula, that dragon containing within himself the wild negativity of demonic and pagan outsideness, the vampire lord who invokes the warlike gods and the Devil and can turn himself wolves, bats, and mist, the barbarian who thirsts for blood and so invades Christendom, is an emblem of the gothic time that shines upon and in the Left Hand Path. Here lies an interesting nexus of intersection that can be cultivated between Satanism and Paganism, and a darkly radiant ethos for the Left Hand Path. Thirsting, devouring, battling one’s way into the world, living forever in the black atmosphere of everything, becoming without end.

Consumerism, mythology, Shin Megami Tensei, and the Sacred

Although it may seem strange of me to interject on the subject of Shin Megami Tensei again, or more specifically the attitudes of its fans, I thought it pertinent to address the subject because it seems there are currents within the SMT fanbase that suggest a severe ignorance towards the care of what the series is all about.

As the release of Shin Megami Tensei V draws closer, Atlus has released a lot of teasers, showcasing ever more content from the game to be. Some of that has included new demons, and re-designs of old ones, and we’ve seen new characters and slithers of information about the game’s story, but a great deal of it consists of what demons from previous games are returning in this one. One of them happens to be Demeter, and unfortunately it’s her design from Strange Journey Redux (which, to be fair, was her first series entry). Demeter is a Greek goddess of fertility and the harvest, and was a central figure of the Eleusinian Mysteries in addition to being a mother goddess. However, in her first appearance, rather than appearance as a mature mother goddess, she appears as a little girl carrying a cornucopia. Demeter was designed by Masayuki Doi, who seems to have taken over as the in-house demon desinger since Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, with the legendary Kazuma Kaneko having already stepped back from the series as part of a long-term plan to expand himself as a producer and let future generations take charge of the series. Unfortunately, Doi has an entirely different design ethos from Kaneko’s. Kaneko was unique in that he combined contemporary creative eccentricity and even playful interpretation with a usually remarkable commitment recreating the original mythological content of the demons he designs. Although there are occasional blunders in that department, along with the research team at Atlus, his style and approach has made his designs as distinctive and they have aesthetically served the ethos of the SMT series magnificently. Doi, on the other hand, often does his best to approximate the broad design trends of the series but has the habit of designing demons based on two key criteria: their role in the game’s story (in contradistinction to their myths), and the sensibilities of the Japanese video game and anime market. Whereas Kaneko’s approach was more authentically artistic, motivated by what was observably a genuine interest in the matters of the SMT series, Doi’s approach is more commercialist.

This has naturally divided the fanbase, with one side embracing Doi’s designs as a fresh and interesting new approach, and the other side concerned that Doi’s design decisions take away from what made SMT such a unique series: its treatment of myth. In full disclosure, I consider myself part of the latter side. That debate has resurfaced again with the discussion of Demeter’s return to the series in Shin Megami Tensei V, which, to be honest, was probably inevitable ever since we saw Mermaid return earlier. Demeter’s design by Doi has been defended, and it’s these defenses that I’d like to consider here. Here is one given argument:

It’s inherently imaginative because it is different than the standard depiction of Demeter, which humanity has seen countless times over literal millennia. This is different, and therefore had more effort put into it than what traditionalists beg for.

The criteria for “imaginative” rests solely on it being wildly different from source material, rather than simply a creative interpretation of the base source (as is the sort that has happened anyway throughout the history of myth). Doi’s Demeter is no mere re-imagining of the historical goddess Demeter, but instead can be treated as essentially an original character with Demeter’s name and a little bit of her basic symbolism grafted onto her. In fact, Doi himself regards Demeter’s design less as an emanation of his own design expectations and more from an external expectation design Demeter as a distinct character, intended to fill a role that, for whatever reason, required her to be sweet-looking and diminiutive even though it’s a complete divorce from her original context.

From the same person:

I get mythology purists want an accurate design, but demon designs have always been strange and imaginative. Let them have fun with it.

Similar debates occur over the design of Amanozako, whose design direction follows a similar pattern to Demeter’s. Amanozako was a fearsome tengu goddess from Japanese myth, traditionally depicted as a grotesque and monstrous being, but Doi depicted her as pixie-like being, intended to be cutesy, and depicted. This depiction, of course, has its defenders, and one of their arguments is as follows:

“Some say she’s the ancestor of the Japanese Tengu and Amanojaku, but the legitimacy behind these sources is debated”.

A detail you are ignoring.

Also, the SMT series is a part of the otaku culture which plays a part in the moe culture that exists in Japan.

There’s nothing wrong with her design.

It is a case that there is freedom to draw her as a cute entity.

It is an infuriatingly bizarre argument on many fronts. Doi’s questioning of the legitimacy of sources is taken for granted as a license for what is, again, practically an original character with the name grafted onto it. In fact Amanozako’s design is another one where her intended role in the story is, by Doi’s admission, the primary determinant of her design as opposed to their myth and its historical representation. Most glaring is the consignment of SMT to the realm of “otaku culture”. Just what is “otaku culture” supposed to mean, anyway? Is it supposed to just be a synonym for anime culture in general? Given the reference to Japan, I doubt that the Japanese anime scene would accept the term “otaku” to refer to themselves and their culture as a whole and instead use the term to refer to the kind of perverted obsessives that happen to exist within the scene. In fact, even within anime itself, otakus are depicted as gross, creepy obsessives, because that’s what the term sort of signifies in Japanese society. It’s like a worse, and more culturally specific, version of calling someone a geek. Besides, Shin Megami Tensei is not specifically the product of “anime culture”. Strictly speaking, it’s the product of Atlus, a video game company, but in a broader sense, it began life as the Megami Tensei games that were based on series of esoteric sci-fi fantasy novels written by Aya Nishitani, which are to this day seen as obscure. If you want to count that as “anime culture”, then that’s your bag I suppose, but it would be reductive at best, ultimately not quite accurate.

There’s also the idea some fans have of having demons in SMT be voiced by the actors that portray characters from the Fate anime series simply because their characters corresponed to the demon. Fate is based on a video game called Fate/stay night, in which teenagers representing the various mythological characters take part in a ritual called the Fifth Holy Grail War, a competition in which people duke it out in order to claim posession of the Holy Grail. It’s a popular series, no doubt, but while both Fate and SMT deal in myth, Fate is known not so much for the appearance and context of the myths themselves but instead for a freewheeling take on myth that situates the identities of the myths in an idiosyncratic context specific to Fate. Despite that, because Fate is a popular anime that happens to feature a cast of mythological characters, some feel that a crossover between Fate and SMT is a good idea, and feel that this should at least take the form of having Fate voice actors dub the demons of SMT. An argument in defence of such crossover goes something like this:

they wouldn’t be separated if we had a collab or something similar in those games. Having the same VA would be, at max, a nice reference

theoretically speaking they are somewhat the same character since they are born from the same legend, although in completely different universes.

every single reference or cameo is pointless if it isn’t an important part of the plot. It’s just a neat little piece of trivia or passion from the developers to the gamers, so… Yeah. Pointless as any reference can be

Fate and SMT are separate properties, but the argument goes that collaboration in the form of shared voice actors might erase that separation. Of course, let’s ignore the fact that the collaboration would represent its own intellectual property even as a synthesis of two separate ones, and simply pivot to the fact that we would still have to bypass the fact these are two separate contexts. Beyond this, you could apply the logic of consumer references to any other property that features mythological characters, and there are several. Should Atlus hire Chris Hemsworth, the actor portraying Thor in those Marvel movies, to portary SMT’s Thor, even though Marvel’s Thor is rather different to SMT’s Thor, or for that matter the original Thor of Norse myth, simply to have a throwaway reference to the Marvel films? And if they did, what would become of the SMT series? What would it represent? I would argue that such developments would lead to Shin Megami Tensei losing the creative identity that makes it what it is, and indeed not having any real sense of creative identity because its only “identity” will have become a confused mess of references to other products that, in contrast to previous games, are not weaved into the fabric of its own story-world or narrative in some way.

The example that springs to my mind is The Simpsons, a cartoon show that, over the course of its interminable run, has featured countless celebrity guest appearances and references to other media to the point that you can’t watch an episode of the show that doesn’t feature said references. It’s even to the point where the show has had episodes making fun of those constant references being a thing, and not much has changed. In the realm of video games, I also think of Super Smash Bros, a fighting game series that consists simply of characters created by Nintendo (well, for the most part anyway). Super Smash Bros has very little creative identity of its own, since that identity consists simply of other creative identities from other games, but then at least all of those consist of Nintendo properties. However, ever since Super Smash Bros Brawl introduced Solid Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog, non-Nintendo characters, as guest characters, it has become an expectation among fans that all sorts of characters from outside of Nintendo’s games (as in, games created by Nintendo themselves, not just games released for Nintendo consoles by third party companies) appear as guest characters, and more of them have appeared, and now the series looks like a total free-for-all whose core premise can’t be taken seriously. Such a fate might await Shin Megami Tensei if the demands of some fans are heeded.

Presented for consideration: both of these images represent Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec god of the night sky among numerous other things; on the right is Tezcatlipoca as depicted in the SMT series beginning with Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, on the left is Tezcatlipoca as depicted in the Fate series; Fate is a series where male gods that have never been female in any myths or traditions are very often depicted as female for reasons that clearly escape my understanding; this is something to consider before entertaining Fate/SMT crossovers.

All of these currents represent a broad attitude with certain sectors of the SMT fanbase in which the SMT series is treated as essentially but another product, almost interchangeable with many others, disregarding the core of what makes the series what it is, and as such lacking any consideration for its internal context. Any appreciation for the series emerges not from what the series represents, or what it, as an aesthetic and narrative experience, communicates to them, but instead as merely exceptional entertainment. It is, in this view, something beautiful and fun, but ultimately it is just something to be consumed. And so, the insistence that the game’s content has more meaning and internal context than just vague notions of coolness and entertainment, and thus should be treated accordingly, is often treated by some fans with derision, and even hostility in some cases, the thought being almost painfully inconvenient for those who might find themselves compelled to overcome their consumeristic mindset and appreciate the series as more than a simple entertainment product, by appreciating all the contours that make it the unique product they claim to admire.

Since we are dealing in a series that focuses on mythos and religious narratives, and whose identity is built on representing them as part of its own narrative context which is informed by them, I have, for the purpose of this post, considered the discourse of the Sacred as perhaps illuminating. When we use the term “the Sacred”, we are dealing with a phenomenon described by sociologists since Robertson Smith and Emile Durkheim, who have described it as divided between its right and its left, and in this respect I’m drawing specifically from an article written by Rhyd Wildermuth for Gods and Radicals, even though its overall thrust is not really relevant to the point I’m making (we’re not exactly talking about cultural appropriation, although you could certainly make good points with that subject in mind). The right of the sacred is that which concerns itself with the observance of boundaries between the sacred and the profane, while the left of the sacred transgresses these boundaries. For the gods, the former can mean keeping them in a set place, while the latter encourages the gods to transgress boundary between sacred and mundane and overflow into the everyday world.

In Rhyd’s explanation of the left view of the Sacred, the Sacred is that divine Other that is always trying to push past the boundaries of the mundane world, in this sense it is always trying to enter and be one with the world. For instance, when people talk about Walpurgis Night or Halloween in terms of the time of year when the barrier between “the spirit world” and the human world are at their most porous, meaning the spirits have an easier time entering the world, that can be thought of in terms of the Sacred trying to become at one with the world. He adds that because of this, it’s no surprise that you see the gods of India inked onto the arms of Westerners. It’s easy to take from the conservation of Shin Megami Tensei that the insistence on creative context trumping consumer imagination is predicated on a sort of mere traditionalism, because it’s easy to think of the whole matter in terms of upholding a Sacred by way of erecting boundaries and establishing purity, and such is a view that might carry with it notions of the right of the Sacred. But we need not labour under this impression, because, when the left of the Sacred is practiced, that Sacred is surely still engaged with on its own terms, and the transgression entailed does not necessarily consist of manipulating the Sacred to the whims of the individual. Indeed, engaging the Sacred in just about any form, through any kind of religious thinking or ritual mindset, involves the acceptance of the premise that you are engaging an Other larger than the self, that cannot be engaged with only on your own terms, in other words is not necessarily contingent on individual imagination. The transgression of the left of the sacred also entails a dissolving of the boundary of self and other as manifest in the meeting of the human and the Sacred that the consumer imagination doesn’t conceive of, since it desacralizes and contains mythos in terms of its own imagination, or rather desire, alone. Thus, even in terms of transgression, a transgressive Sacred still calls on its devotees to engage with it on specifically its own terms.

Shin Megami Tensei is a series that, in its own unique and creative way, deals and dabbles in the Sacred of some conception. In fact, the whole theme of demons pouring into the human world, in its own perverse way, almost echoes the theme of the flooding of the Sacred into the human world. In fact, when set in juxtaposition to the humanistic Neutral paths, which very often set out ultimately to banish this phenomenon on behalf of humanity, we see that, insofar as Law and Chaos might represent distinct expressions of the Sacred, and the way it manifests in the world, Neutrality alone sets out to banish the Sacred from the world, whether that’s in the form of the old gods as demons or of YHVH. But even in that sense, even in terms of a narrative that often almost favours Neutrality, we see in the treatment of mythos in the games a sign of engaging something like a Sacred on its own terms, through taking the mythos, for the most part, on its own terms and not simply grafting it onto its own original characters (especially while pretending the opposite) or completely altering mythological context for the purpose of your own narrative. The approach that is opposite to the traditional SMT approach can be seen more recently in Record of Ragnarok, a manga and anime series where champions of humans and gods fight to the death to determine the fate of humanity. The gods there in no way resemble the gods of their respective myths, and in some cases whole backstories and even entire gods are invented for the sake of the plot. For example, the series features a god of conquest named Adamas who did not exist in Greek mythology but is presented as a Greek god anyway, in fact he’s supposed to be the older brother of Poseidon, and, most egregiously, the entire Adam and Eve story is revised to depict neither Adam nor Eve as responsible for eating the apple and instead the serpent (who, by the way, is a god here) frames Eve after trying and failing to rape her. I honestly hope that’s not how fans want SMT to turn out, but if it does turn out that way, it will be because the market takes priority over genuine creative output, artistic originality, and, in true capitalist fashion, just about any consideration of any kind of tradition, even that which exists within itself. Those who object to you when you point this stuff out and tell you that anything goes as long as it’s vaguely entertaining have already told you what side they’re on.

ADDENUDM (03/08/2021): I’ve been told multiple times that the image I chose for this post is a fairly bad example, because apparently Fate’s “Tezcatlipoca” is not actually Tezcatlipoca, but instead Jaguarman. I think it still makes the point, but I respect that it is erroneous to treat it as a representation of Tezcatlipoca. I didn’t want to just delete it and replace it because it’d probably fuck up the thumbnail for this post, but in order to address that criticism, let me present a different and much more egregious example from the Fate series below:

Both of these images are representations of the Hindu god Kama, or Kamadeva, the god of love and desire. On the right is Kama’s artwork from Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner, in which Kama’s design is faithful to his representation in Indian myth and represents many important characteristics of seen in his traditional iconography. On the left is Kama from the Fate series, who is not only female but also a loli, and is thus not only completely unrepresentative of the Kama of myth but also brazenly exploitative.

There’s something you should know about Robert Morrow

Last month I had heard about a guy called Robert Morrow who had just been elected in Travis County, Texas as the chair of the Travis County Republican Party, and how he has already had a reputation for being, in his own words, “Donald Trump on steroids”. He’s been known for a series of tweets where he talks about outrageous conspiracy theories surrounding Barrack Obama, the Clintons, the Bush family and other politicians such as Rick Perry, accusing them of bizarre sexual activities and various abuses, and he particularly accuses Hillary Clinton of abusing various women. He’s also tweeted about how much he loves breasts and at least once he bragged that “if you Google ‘Robert Morrow 11 inch penis confirmed’ you get over 11,800,000 hits I’m just sayin'”.

For some reason I decided to check in on his Twitter feed after my brother joked about that time he told Time Warner Cable News to “get ready to have some fun reading my Twitter feed”, and what I found was truly a surprise. Apparently, his Twitter feed is filled with pictures of anime girls, and he spends his time rating “waifus” that people send to his Twitter account. Just look at it, if you dare. At first it might seem his account got taken over by a horny anime fan (not that I’d be complaining), but nope, that is actually Robert Morrow posting.

Robert Morrow depicted in what is apparently fan art

When I found that out I just thought, “Wow. I never thought I’d see the day”. No really, I never thought I’d see an American politician (let alone one of the Republicans) actually have an anime-filled Twitter account, and we’ll never see another politician like him again. That’s the only reason I took the time to write about this guy. It’s such a shame that Morrow himself is basically a troll let loose in political office, what with his braggart tendencies combined with his obsession with scandalous conspiracy theories, because if he was just a guy who liked sex and anime and didn’t like the political establishment I think he’d be alright. But since this is a guy who thinks he’s Donald Trump, and sort of acts like the bastard offspring of Trump and Alex Jones, it’s no wonder the Republican establishment wants to get rid of him so badly.

Well, c’est la vie.

On the current generation of anime fandom

I have an aesthetic appreciation for anime, and I always have since my early teens, but I really don’t like the way other fans of anime act on the internet. If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, you like anime, and are following anime-related accounts, chances are you’ll come across a lot of memes clearly made by 14-year old kids about how anime is superior to cartoons because cartoons are supposedly made just for kids, and some memes about how if you don’t like anime then you’re probably just some idiot. Only in the age of social media, folks.

Helloooo peer pressure. Seriously, popular hatred of a legitimately bad musician should not applied this way.

A lot of these memes are based on really shallow arguments that the people behind them clearly have no interest in proving.  like how cartoons look like they’re made by children on Flash or CG (which would mean they’ve never watched any of the old episodes of The Simpsons), that they’re only made for children or family audiences (which would mean they’ve never watched anything made by Ralph Bakshi), that they are all censored and naive and if they aren’t made for kids then they are essentially mindlessly crude humor like Family Guy (again, if they watched Ralph Bakshi’s work, along the very first season of The Simpsons, they wouldn’t think so), and that they are all inferior to anime based solely on those generalized claims. They make very generalizing statements about cartoons, and about anime. They seem to judge anime as a medium positively but they only seem particularly invested in the popular contemporary anime shows and mangas , and it feels like not a lot of attention is particularly paid to anything outside of that, especially older animes. Going back to cartoons, it’s worth remembering that all the Western animation most of us are usually exposed to is Disney films, children’s cartoons, The Simpsons, South Park, Futurama, and Family Guy, so I can see where the asumption comes from, but it’s terrible how they generalize all forms of Western animation based on what they’ve been brought up with without looking outside of that.

This example is particularly ironic, because it utilizes what is by their standards a cartoon. A Disney film no less.

I ask all those who are are deeply interested in anime as a medium and are invested in critically examining the shows you love: do you really believe that there is not a single anime show, or movie, that isn’t great, let alone outrageously so? And before you answer that, how many anime shows have you seen in your lifetime so far? I admit that I personally have not seen every anime there is, and in fact I haven’t personally watched a lot of anime every anime fan on social media seems to love, so in some ways I haven’t felt the emotional investment many people may have, but the fact I that I maintain an interest in the artistic medium itself is enough for me. To tell the truth, I don’t think all the anime shows that I have seen are all really good. In fact, I’ve seen a few that are actually very flawed (perhaps not totally bad, but flawed), or only OK, and I still really like anime as an aesthetic style that I work with, without ever feeling compelled to make the same blanket judgments about anime and cartoons that social media anime fans would make.

I also have a major problem with the phenomenon of otaku, becasue it feels like its proponents proudly boast anime as their primary obsession above all else: academia, social life, other forms of artistic media, family, even the possibility of a romantic relationship. Somehow that fits in a strange sort of way. In the West, the word otaku has been taken to mean someone who was either an anime geek, someone obsessed with anime and Japanese culture, or a guru on these subjects, and is generally as a positive term, at least among people who consider themselves otakus. But in Japan, the word otaku tends to be a negative term used to describe obsessive people, and not just people obsessed with anime either, particularly people who are extremely obsessed and isolated. They might use it the same way we might describe the person who’s 30 years old but never goes outside, never interacts with people beyond the internet, possibly without taking baths or showers. It’s also been associated with men who cuddle body pillows depicting fictional characters (referred to as dakimakura). Some of the memes they put up, or at least the ones put up about them, seem to imply both the Western and Japanese definitions at once.

Whoever shares this on social media, they’re not implying anything positive about their mental activity.

What’s the problem? The problem is that it’s fundamentally unbalanced. There’s nothing wrong with having a substantial interest in Japanese culture. In fact, as I said earlier, I maintain an interest in anime and Japanese culture, but the attitude I see from anime fans and self-described otakus on social media is not only noxious and immature, it’s also pretty harmful to the world of anime fandom as a whole. The current social media generation of fans seem to pride themselves on their obsession with anime and bark its superiority over other forms of artistic media, all without any kind of immaturity, and I’m sure a lot of people sharing the memes aren’t such extreme fans in truth anyway, just boasting behind anonymity within social media. It feels like they just continually make stereotypes of themselves and their subculture in their attempt the set themselves apart as a unique and misunderstood subcultural movement. Or, you could just say, that’s when you get when you have a bunch of people in their early teens making memes for everybody. Either way, it feels like people in the age of social media do a lot to turn fandom into fandumb.

The rich symbolism of my alter ego

Over a month ago I have been writing about my alter ego character in a notebook. Apparently I’ve given him a lot of rich symbolism pertaining to his character and his purpose in the world he is a part of. I write about my character on this blog for the pleasure of it, and because I feel the stuff I have written has been insightful enough that it merits mention. I have been working on this character for a long time, and through this time I have also found things about myself and my beliefs, so this character is very important to me. And I apologize in advance if it’s too long for you to read.

First, some background: He is a warrior, adventurer, treasure hunter, and protector of the world he lives in from the  has the power of fire; both the fire that brings light and the fire of demons. He also has the ability to stay underwater as long as he wants so that he can swim like a free spirit beneath the waters, can eat a lot without getting fat, he has red eyes glowing in the dark, can open up a third eye for discovering hidden presences and pathways, and is abundant in spiritual energy. He can also access a kind of demonic super form. His birthmark is the Aum symbol written as a Siddham letter. He uses the powers associated with Satan and Chaos for the sake of righteous and heroic cause, and he always tries to do what’s right but also what he pleases. He’s a passionate, confident, and energetic young man who manages to never lose his youth, but he has a soft side if brought out by the right people, and lives in both indulgence and honor. Although he is also an intense and emotional character, he never seems to brood. He fights not out of any sense of duty or obedience, but out of his own instincts and because he wants to do it and believes in his actions. He’s basically a lot like me, or the kind of life I want to live. He’s one with that force of passion and chaos, and the primal fires, and he lives as a warrior with heat and light in his heart and the fabric of his being. He also shares my own ideas and beliefs, naturally, and looks like me except his look is perfectly executed. Aside from fighting and adventuring, he likes to eat, swim, love, treasure hunt, and rock, and he seems to get along well with wild animals.

Now that that’s over with, the symbolism and meaning that has become attached to the character.

Exhibit 1 – The birthmark

As I just mentioned, his birthmark is the Aum written in Siddham script. According to Hindu belief, the Aum represents infinite energy, God, and the divine. It also representsthe cycle of  life, death, and rebirth from Hindu belief, as representing by each phoneme A, U, and M respectively, though there is also A for life and Um (or Un) for death. The latter is represented by two varieties of Japanese temple guardians: the komainu (lion-dogs), and the Kongorikishi (wrath-filled muscular guardians of the Buddha). In both cases, one has its mouth open and the other has its mouth closed. The open mouth is A, and the closed mouth is Un or Um, which together mean life and death.

It’s meant to connect to the characters abundant personal energy, a trait which was also inspired by Ichigo Kurosaki from the anime Bleach. May also represent a connect with timeless energy and force. It’s also meant to denote my alter ego’s role as the protector of his own world. Take from that what you will…

Exhibit 2 – The colors red and black

Alex’s two colors are red and black, which naturally are also my favorite colors. To many, they mean either evil or anarchism, but those connotations are not present here. It started with Shin Megami Tensei, where they were the colors of the Chaos faction, which I aligned with, and they were also colors of another favorite video game character, Shadow the Hedgehog (who I freely confess made machine guns look cool). But since then more symbolism got attached to it.

In Balinese folklore, red, black, and white are the colors associated with a powerful witch demon Rangda, who was believed to be the queen of demons. Rangda’s colors are also attached to Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, change, destruction, and power, and Rangda is also believed to have been linked with Kali and Durga, the latter of which was the warrior mother goddess of victory over evil. Funny enough, while Rangda is seen in Balinese folklore as an evil demon, she was also seen as a protector in some parts of Bali, similar to Kali’s occasional representation as a protective goddess.

The demon queen Rangda

Speaking of demons, in Buddhist lore, the asuras (borrowed from Hindu lore) are depicted as red-skinned and the rakshasas (also Hindu in origin) are depicted with black skin, and both are vicious demons who, in Japan, were also tasked with protecting the Buddhist law. In Christian-influenced Western belief, Satan and his demons are commonly represented by the colors red and black, presumably because of their connection with sin, evil, lust, aggression, mystery, and darkness. It’s probably because of this that red and black have become so attached with Satanism (after all, it wouldn’t be Satanism without any conception of Satan now would it?). But there is still so much more to red and black here than just demons and Satan. In fact, the chief symbolism here is actually from Taoism.

In Taoism, there are the two natural principles of yin and yang, yin being the dark, passive, and mysterious principle, and yang being the bright, assertive, and magnetic principle. Yin is black and yang is white, but yang has also been represented as red, presumably because red represents qualities attached to the yang principle. Anyways, for Taoist belief, yin and yang must exist in harmony and as complimentary forces and do not exist as opposites that must triumph over each other. With that in mind, the key meaning is formed. Red means heat, force, and dynamism, while black means mystery, darkness, and space. Together, they actually represent energy in its most primordial form, and in the twin forces of heat and darkness. It could also represent light and darkness in union too, since fire brings light as well as heat.

Yin and yang

Black is generally associated with the occult, demons, the left hand, disaster, mystery, death, and chaos, but in some cultures it represents life. In Japan black means life, while white actually means death. In China, black is the color that represents the element of water for some reason. Black also points to Kali and the Buddhist Mahakala, who was a Buddhist incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva.  Red means heat, fire, vitality, passion, but in Japan it is also the traditional color of the hero and the color for expelling demons and illness (a bit ironic considering all this talk of demons from before), as well as the sun and summer. For my alter ego, red and black are the simplest symbols of his dual affinity for the bright power of fire and the dark power of the demons, for righteousness and vice, for the union of moral integrity and animal instinct, and for the directing of dark power and heat towards the pursuit of a just cause.

The theory of his color scheme is also evocative of Baphomet, not to be confused with Satan (though Satan does have influence here). Baphomet is a symbol of the union of or harmony between forces that are either opposite or mutually distinct. Thus Baphomet brings together the forces that I have mentioned throughout this section.

Exhibit 3 – The power of demons and chaos as a sword of righteousness

While the idea may have started with playing video games like Devil May Cry and Shin Megami Tensei, there are actually links to mythology and religious belief.

In Egypt, there is the god Set, who was the god of the desert and storms, and later evil and chaos. Even before the people of Egypt turned Set into a god of evil, he was seen as a wild, tumultuous, and sometimes hostile deity, but it is Set who protects the sun god Ra in the daily battle against Apep, the serpent of entropy and annihilation. Funny enough he was also seen as the lord of the red sands and Horus was the lord of the black soil. Set was also linked with the Semitic god Baal (or Hadad). In fact, there was a time when people from Western Asia, referred to as the Hyksos, ruled Egypt. They worshiped the storm god Baal, who became linked with the Egyptian storm god Seth, and they were both worshipped as Seth-Baal, sometimes in an almost monotheistic fashion, until the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt. Also, a friend and personal spiritual teacher of mine (who I remember as The Desolate One) told me a theory that when Set defeated Apep, he took on the power once linked with Apep, and that this is how he become the god of darkness, reviled as the god of evil. I think we both followed with the idea that Baal did the same after defeating Yam.

Set and Apep by badgersoph on Deviantart

As usual though, much of my inspiration comes from Asia, and there’s a lot of symbolism to be found in Buddhist lore. In Tibet, there are deities who seem vicious and demonic, to the point that those who first look upon them unaware of their role in the Buddhist faith would construe them as no different to demons. But in truth, they represent the violent reality of both the cosmos and the human mind, and they serve the purpose of protecting the Buddhist faith and practitioners, and  helping the practitioner attain enlightenment by clearing away the obstacles to enlightenment (at least from the Buddhist point of view). These beings are referred to as wrathful deities. They are based on violence and power, they have a violent nature and a demonic appearance, but they are not necessarily evil at all. In fact, they also symbolize the tremendous amount of effort and force needed to vanquish evil. In Japan, a similar term is Kishin, which means “fierce god” or “demon god”, and they are guardian gods.

Vajrapani, an example of one of the wrathful deities

They are actually supposed to be benevolent, but their appearance is meant to instill terror into the forces of evil and drive them back, much like the appearance of gorgon heads on Greek temples or gargoyles on medieval Christian churches. It’s also interesting to note that some of these deities, according to tradition, were once the native gods or demons of the land prior to being defeated in magical combat with the guru Padmasambhava and converting to Buddhism. The only problem is this does mean these beings serve the Buddhist faith as a result of being defeated and subjugated by someone else, rather than by being convinced that it aligns with their own convictions.

The concept of demonic beings enlisted to protect the Buddhist faith is further expressed in Japanese Buddhism, though often it is after the demons are defeated or captured (such as with Fujin and Raijin). But that is not always the case. There is a story of a goddess named Hariti, who used to be a yaksha demon from Pakistan who killed human children in order to feed her hundreds of children. Siddhartha Gautama wanted to stop this so he hid one of her sons under a bowl, then he told Hariti that her suffering from losing one of her children cannot be compared to the suffering of all the mothers whose few children became her victims. Realizing the depth of her actions and feeling remorse for them, she converted to Buddhism and pledged to be the protector of children and childbirth, and promised to eat pomegranates instead of human children. Another story is the story of Atavaka, or Daigensui Myo-O as he is known in Japan. Similar to Hariti, Atavaka was once a child-eating yaksha demon, but after encountering Siddartha Gautama, he converted to Buddhism and become a yaksha king, protector of the southwest direction, and a vassal to the warrior deity Bishamonten. Atavaka was also considered the chief of all the spirits and demons protecting the land.

Japanese esoteric Buddhism also has a deity named Rastetsuten, who is considered one of the twelve devas who protect the four directions, the four semi-directions, the sun, the moon, up, and down. Rasetsuten protected the southwest direction of the heavens and was master of the rakshasa demons. In Hindu lore rakshasas were cannibalistic demons who practiced black magic, desecrated gravesites, disrupted sacrifices, and had venomous fingernails, but in Mahayana Buddhist texts they converted to Buddhism and served to protect the dharma. Another Hindu demon who takes on a protective role in Japanese Buddhism is the asura, who in Hinduism were previously considered demonic spirits who fought against the gods. In Buddhist lore they are merely semi-divine beings addicted to various passions, but most especially strife and conflict, though they are also capable of being virtuous and pious. In Vedic lore, the term asura was an epithet meaning “mighty” and referred to power and strength, and was attributed to various Vedic gods.

A rakshasa

Come to think of it, it seems demons have been a force of protection from evil and fighting evil, as well as promoting evil, destruction, and chaos, for a long time in many beliefs outside of Christianity, general Western culture, and Islam.

In some cultures, while snakes were associated with healing, wisdom, and fertility, even before Christianity they were also associated with danger and darker and more chthonic forces. This was the case in ancient Greece, where serpents are most classically associated with the chthonic monster known as the gorgon (among whom was the famous Medusa). But in Greece, the oldest oracles were said to be protected by serpents (including the monster Python who guarded the oracle at Delphi), and the heads of gorgons appeared on temples to protect against malign forces. Gorgon masks were also carved to protect from the evil eye. Medusa herself appears in a temple to Artemis in Corfu, where she is a guardian of the temple. In Babylon and Assyria, there is the demon Pazuzu (who some may recognize as the spirit that possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist). He was an evil spirit of wind who brought plague, disease, famine, and locusts, but he was also invoked to protect humans from plague, disease, and misfortune, particularly the kind brought by a demonic goddess named Lamashtu. Mesopotamian folklore also describes storm demons known as Ugallu, who were also considered beneficial protective demons and were depicted and invoked in charms. In India, the yakshas are sometimes treated as demons, but they are also seen as benign earthly protector spirits. Demons and ghouls are also found as the hosts of the Hindu god Shiva, and those hosts are said to frighten even the gods Brahma and Vishnu. Even today there are believers in the paranormal and the occult who consider demons to be guardian spirits in the same sense that angels are, only that demons come from the darker side of the spirit world.

There is inspiration that follows a similar principle: Tantra. In Tantric Hindusim, things that are considered dark, taboo, even unspiritual can be considered sacred and/or valid pathways to the divine. Most recognized among their belief is the belief that material pleasures can be dedicated to God and that seemingly negative forces can be transformed into positive forces and religious bliss.

Outside mythology, the spirit of the righteous application of demonic power lives on in modern culture. In Japanese video games and anime, demons aren’t always a strictly negative force. And sometimes, in those settings, individuals associated with demons fight demons and protect the world and humans from evil with the help of their power. The anime Blue Exorcist is about a young man named Rin Okumura who is the son of Satan, but he fights demons and wants to defeat Satan (the Christian Satan). In the anime YuYu Hakusho, the main character Yusuku Urameshi is the main protagonist who protects the human world from various supernatural threats and he apparently has demon blood. In fact, he can access a demon form with some wicked long hair! In video games, Shin Megami Tensei lets you use demons and their power to potentially do good depending on your point of view. Demons are categorized by alignments based on the two axes of Light-Neutral-Dark and Light-Neutral-Chaos. For example, Kishin refers to warrior deities, and they are attached Light-Chaos, my personal favorite alignment for demons. Perhaps Light-Chaos can refer to the righteous manifestation of the power of the demons. And who could forget the Devil May Cry games, which feature humans with demonic blood who fight demons with the help of the power of demons. Most famous among  them of course is Dante, who has become a true hack and slash icon and a personal inspiration for me and my alter ego.

Dante, son of Sparda

Exhibit 4 – Heavy metal culture

Probably because of my own interest in heavy metal music, the character I talk about here inherits influence from heavy metal music in his design and background. He has long hair that’s basically a mixture of Nikki Sixx’s hair from Motley Crue and a Japanese hairstyle I found one time.

I often draw him making the sign of the horns with his hands. It’s a sign that was officially introduced to heavy metal by Ronnie James Dio, after he joined Black Sabbath. He claimed he based it on the sign that his grandmother made with his hands: the malocchio. It was apparently used to ward off curses such as the evil eye. Since Dio, the sign of the horns has become a universal element of heavy metal culture, despite musicians of other genre and cultures copying it randomly.

My alter ego has by and large copied my fashion sense, which has absorbed other insignias of heavy metal culture. Among them, the sleeveless denim jacket and the bullet belt, both of them associated with traditional heavy metal, thrash metal, and speed metal, though the bullet belt can be found worn be fans of more extreme metal sub-genres, such as black metal and death metal, and members of such bands. Both fashion items were chosen as nods to heavy metal subculture.

A thrash metal fan wearing a bullet belt and a denim jacket with patches of various metal bands.

My character’s black jacket was initially based on a black long-sleeved jacket I usually wore, which I believe was made of cotton. But this jacket has become replaced by a black jacket made of leather, which is pretty much based on the denim and leather done by many old school heavy metal bands (except that I prefer black denim to blue denim). Denim and leather back then was such a recognized element of heavy metal fashion that it was the title of an album by one such band: Saxon.

But it’s not just the fashion of heavy metal that’s important. In fact, it only makes sense that my character, and I myself for that matter, would associate with heavy metal music. Heavy metal is the only music that represents what I feel I come from. Metal was the music of power and aggression, it’s the only music that has a lot of the kind of lyrical subject matter I like (demons, war, myth, lust, and warriors, among other lyrics) and to such an awesome sound, and it has a subculture that embraces what are in my mind the values of the warrior, the rebel, and the devil. It is aggressive music, raw energy, and the instrumentation channels said aggression to create a sublime sound, and many of my favorite metal bands channel aggressive music to make what is ultimately a positive sound. And the energy and passion I feel from the music is certainly a positive influence. So however you stretch it, metal deserves the influence it has. Because of the tendency of heavy metal to feature lyrics about demons, Satan, and the occult, it can be a good example of channeling inspiration from darkness to create something righteous, strong, and true.

Exhibit 5 – The action hero

The action genre is very influential not just from anime and video games, but of course action films. Early on I and one of my art teachers likened my alter ego to characters such as Dirty Harry, who upheld the law and busted criminals by flunking regulations and breaking the rules, thus exemplifying a classic example of the trope of the renegade cop, better known as the cowboy cop. Other well-known examples of the trope include Die Hard, Cobra, Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Last Action Hero, and Demolition Man.

Cobra. It speaks for itself.

Speaking of Demolition Man, the main character John Spartan and not to mention the film itself have both been very inspirational. Before being cryogenically frozen, Spartan was the baddest cowboy cop in Los Angeles, busting exceptionally bad criminals without regard for proper protocol or concern for collateral damage. After being frozen, he wakes up to find that LA has become San Angeles, a crapsaccharine state without passion and no freedom to do anything other than following the plans Dr. Raymond Cocteau has for your life, and eventually Simon Fenix, the worst criminal Spartan has ever faced, also arrives after being cryogenically frozen. He eventually defeats and kills Fenix, but also challenges and topples the pristine order of San Angeles through the destruction of the cryo prison (though Fenix kills Cocteau before all this happens). Spartan then challenges the people of San Angeles to try and live in a world of both order and wild freedom, thus echoing the idea of a character who fights for freedom and to preserve justice.

My favorite anime characters are pretty much always action character with weapons (albeit swords instead of guns), such as Ichigo from Bleach. Of all of them, Ichigo always had a lot of appeal. He was hot-headed, and hot-bleaded, but he never gave up, never backed down, and always tried to fight for what he thought was right because he wanted to.

Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach

Exhibit 6 – The demonic super form

The alter ego’s demonic super form is ostensibly a combination of Super Sonic from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, which itself was based on the Super Saiyan state from Dragon Ball, and Dante’s Devil Trigger state from the Devil May Cry games. Similar tropes also appear in various other video games, as well as anime. My character’s particular super form also derives from not just Satan with his horns, but also the flaming aura that surrounds the Buddhist wrathful deities of Tibet and Japan.

Fudo Myo-O

The super form also has a third eye, which is ostensibly derived from Shiva. In fact, the flaming aura itself is also a manifestation of the flaming aura of both Shiva and the goddess Kali

Exhibit 7 – Other mythological/religious elements

My character frequently uses weapons that have some link to Asian religious themes, often as bonus weapons, including the vajra and the trishula, which are attached many Buddhist deities, along with the Hindu gods Indra and Shiva respectively.

My alter ego’s jacket is set to have a flaming ram’s head on the back of it, which is an allusion to the Hindu god Agni, the zodiac sign Aries, and the Egyptian symbolism of the ram as the soul of the sun god. In this light, the ram is a symbol of the spirit of the sun, fire, heat, light, energy, and enthusiasm.

Like myself, my alter ego wears a Satanic pentagram, which represents not just Satanism, but the powers of darkness and demons, and in this case the principle of using the powers of darkness to pursue a just cause and righteous ideals.

When my alter ego belt buckle is a monstrous demon head, based on the Kirtimukha and Rahu. Kirtimukha is a demon-like image that sometimes adorns temples to Shiva and halos that surround the Shiva and his family. It represents the hunger that pervades the universe and drives all life as attested to in Hindu belief and mythology. Rahu was a demon in Hindu myth who tried to devour the sun. There is also Tao Tie, a fiend from Chinese mythology who represents hunger. I have also considered using a lion’s head for his belt buckler (possibly with a demonic twist). It was inspired by Isamu Nitta’s belt buckle from Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne (which is based on Azazel from Soul Hackers), but it can also be a nod to the lion as a symbol of the Zoroastiran spirit of destruction, Ahriman, based on the Mithraic depiction of Ahriman or Arimanius.


Other things

I must also mention the fan-made Grey Jedi Code associated with Star Wars, which I have already described in full here.

As I mentioned before, my alter ego’s abilities are often based on my own traits. Such as his ability to swim being based on my like of water and personal desire to swim more, and the food thing being related to liking to eat like an animal, and eating a lot without getting fat as a kid. And the animals thing is not just related to Shiva or the Horned One, but the fact that I like to talk about animals as a kid.

In general, his preference of weapons (katanas and machine guns) is inspired by video games, particularly Shin Megami Tensei, Final Fantasy, and Shadow the Hedgehog, as well as my interest in Japanese martial arts and American action films.

And that’s pretty much it. I took way too damn long writing this because I needed to get everything down that needed to be gotten down. Either way I hope this long post can be appreciated as an assessment of my own alter ego and the ideas that shape it, and thus the ideas that actually have shaped me as a person and relate to me as a person to the core of my self.

Stop glamorising high school!

There is something present in both Western and Eastern popular culture that I really think needs to stop: the glamorisation of life in high school. In popular culture it is presented as one of the most important times of your life. While it is true that you won’t get another chance at it, there will be so much more in your life after high school is over.

Do you know what high school life is characterised by? Social awkwardness, academic pressure, a great amount of pressure for young people to conform, the looming threat of being placed into harmful and dangerous social interactions, peer pressure, and of course, the odd suicidal feelings every now and then (although many of us survive those). Not to mention, mounting feelings of weakness, desperation, and failure. It’s also a time where many of us fall in love but don’t handle it well. Somebody stop me! I’ll admit that there are good times one can experience in high school, but let’s face it, high school in general is a bad and pointless time that no one who had an informed choice would put themselves through.

So why the hell would you glamorise that in TV and movies? In the West that seems to be what we do all the time, from the days of Luke Perry and John Hughes, to the modern age of clean-looking hunks and air-headed ladies to the cue of cringeworthy pop soundtracks. As though we seem to think these are one of the best years of our lives, when actually they could easily be one of the worst. This is most likely tapping into the teenage mentality that there’s not much more after high school life (which is likely a contributing factor in youth suicides), but there’s a lot more in this life for you to be a part of.

But don’t ever think the West is the only guilty party here. In Japan, we find the academic setting very prevalent in anime and manga. Now I don’t mean be negative about anime, because I actually like anime, nor do I intend to criticise any particular works of anime or manga, but I feel I should be honest about how sick I am of the recurrence of the academic setting in anime and manga.

I am not familiar with high school life in Japan, but I imagine it’s almost like in the West except probably, if you think about it, worse. Why? For starters, there’s an enforced uniform code in Japan, much like in the UK and other countries. That alone implies a sense of conformity involved. And if I know Japan, then all the academic pressure is there, but probably worse. In anime and manga, the academic setting is just plain uninteresting, partly due to the fact that it recurs so often. And I’m not just talking about shojo or slice-of-life genres. You even find it in shonen anime and manga, and action and supernatural anime and manga. In those kinds of anime and manga, it’s ridiculous how someone with power of any sort is still confined in high school, when he/she could easily use his/her power to break free of his/her rut. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Even the magic academies that appear in some anime is just meh to me, although it does make an iota of sense given that it is a means the characters in a story can learn about how to use their powers. Still, magic academies are still an academic setting by definition, which means, surprise surprise, it’s like a high school (though often with dorms)!

I’m just sick of culture being saturated with glamorised high school life, as though it somehow relates to us. Newsflash, most people think school sucks. Why in the hell would anyone in school want anything other than escape?

Let’s face it, the only thing high school is good for in both West and East is as a fetish or source of fetishes, especially in Japan though.

I mean, let’s be honest here guys.

Anime in the UK

Unfortunately, this is almost the only face of anime in the UK. More on that later.

You know what sucks in the UK? There’s virtually no anime on TV. If you’re an anime fan, than you have to buy DVDs or go on the Internet. The only anime on TV is the occaisional Studio Ghibli movie on Channel 4 or Film4, which you’re likely to get on DVD anyway, or stuff aimed at kids like the Pokemon, Bakugan, and Monsuno anime on CITV, which I would never dare to watch. You can sometimes hear about anime and see clips on the NHK World channel, but only if you have Sky HD. Having to buy DVDs is fine, but it can be costly, at least in my experience. The prices, depending on the DVD range from as little as £3 to as high as around £50, and a lot of the anime I find on Amazon UK are between £8-£20. Not to mention, there’s not a lot of high street stores in the UK where you can physically buy DVDs anymore, so it’s very likely your only source of DVD’s is online retailers (it should be noted that online retailers is the main contributor to the downfall of high street retailers which used to provide physical anime). There’s also the ability to watch anime online on sites like YouTube, Anime Network, and Crunchyroll.

These are dark times, my friends. Dark times.

You know what would be cool? If we in the UK had an anime channel, that way if ever you are a fan of anime and watched TV, you’d have a go to place for anime programming, including stuff you might not have seen, even potentially new programming, plus anime movies outside the Studio Ghibli line. That would actually be kinda cool. Or alternatively, an Adult Swim section for Cartoon Network UK for late night anime programming (in America, there is an Adult Swim, segment on the Cartoon Network channel, which features more mature anime programming and more adult cartoons), or possibly an Adult Swim channel for the UK.

The sad thing is, there were anime channels in the UK, like AnimeCentral, CNX, and Showcase TV, but all of them have now been defunct since years ago (AnimeCentral was defunct since 2008, Showcase TV closed in 2009, and CNX closed in 2003; incidentally, all three of them weren’t even up for a full year). The other sad thing is that lack of interest and demand and financial issues with parent companies is the main contributor, that and the Internet.

I’m just sick of the fact that, in the UK, Spirited Away and other Studio Ghibli films are pretty much the only face of anime in the UK, or at least the acceptable face of anime in this country. And that’s odd, considering the impact of the movie Akira when it was released, and back then it was the first time many outside Japan experienced anime. Some argue that anime is getting more erotic, or at least more trigger happy in terms of panty shots and fanservice, as well as more sexually suggestive female characters and even more suggestive moe content and somewhat underaged-looking characters, and that this is limiting it’s reach in Western countries including the UK, unless you’re on the Internet where this is no problem. But then, you have British censorship laws that make it very difficult to show anime on TV and the damned cultural and societal differences between the UK and Japan.

Only in Japan.

People in the UK aren’t used to any cartoon that’s not Disney, Simpsons, or anything that’s not for kids, and they stereotype anime outside Ghibli as all violent, sexual, and weird. From my point of view, this perception and stereotyping is nothing more than a popular, acceptable form of fascism (though to be fair, I tend to be very embracing of the violent and sexy side of anime that made that anime I like great), made even more a double standard by the fact that Family Guy, which tends to be very violent and vulgar, particularly in newer seasons, is mainstream in the UK, and airs on two channels here. So here’s the thing, why would we embrace Family Guy, but not anime, given both can have the same things (though expect some disappointment on the sexy side in Seth McFarlane’s cartoons)? But at least we get anime magazines like NEO and others.

The sad thing is, we probably won’t get anime on UK TV unless it was particularly popular, thanks mainly to the Internet. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I don’t think I can safely judge, but I just want an end to the bullshit attitude we have towards anime, and cartoons in general.

I’m sick of anime being consistently stereotyped

This Futurama episode features a rather way of drawing anime.

Whenever I come across anime in the West, more specifically the West’s reaction to it, I find it stereotyped often. All Western culture seems to think of in anime are giant (often transforming) robots, spiky hair, coloured hair, male characters with a , magical schoolgirls, and superpowers. And don’t forget your daily dose of tentacle porn. Hell, the books you can buy that show you how to draw it resort to mediocre illustrations and stereotypes.

It’s just another case of Western cultural observers choosing their own ignorance over actually trying to understand. It’s this ignorance that sometimes makes those who like anime feel isolated by those who see it as childhish and alien, or at worst nothing but insane pornography.

As a fan of anime, I also dislike the how anime fans, otakus, or people who really love Japanese culture are portrayed as disgusting, hardcore nerds, having never “grown up” (a term of phrase I will rip on not too long after this post) or having no life. It’s no different to negatively stereotyping any group of people instead of understanding them or just not picking on them.

I know I haven’t said much, but I’m just expressing general hatred of ignorance towards anime, and how lots of people lump anime together all the same thing as Naruto, Dragonball, Magical Girl, Haruhi Suzumiya, Gundam, and hentai (a little like how some lump all heavy metal together as the same thing). But of course, none of this is gonna stop me from enjoying it.

Why I like Japan

Who doesn't like this?
Who doesn’t like this?

Japan. What a country. I haven’t been there myself, but god I wish I could go there. It has so much that I like and I want. Sure, it may not have had a pretty past, it may have something of a collectivist culture, has a reputation of shame being a primary agent of social control, and, from what I hear, an extremely harsh prison system, but the bad can’t possibly overwhelm the good. In fact, here’s what I like about Japan.

Technology (well, mostly video games)

Ya think Pokemon might be trying to predict the future when it comes to technology?
Ya think Pokemon might be trying to predict the future when it comes to technology?

Japan is where lots of my favourite video games come from. Pokemon, Shin Megami Tensei, Sonic the Hedgehog, Asura’s Wrath, Dynasty Warriors, and others. I find it hard to forget the experiences provided by the games Japan brought us. I like some Western games, but over all they can’t compete. Japanese games inspire my ideas of design (I intend to be a game designer in the artistic sense, and creative director, in the future), and that’s good enough for me.

Religious culture and mythology

Daigensui Myo-O, a fierce deity in Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Admit it, you think this is awesome too.
Daigensui Myo-O, a fierce deity in Japanese esoteric Buddhism. Admit it, you think this is awesome too.

Japanese religious life seems to be a syncretism of Shintoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, though life is still secular. Buddhism first came to Japan from Korea in around the mid-6th century, and over time, it became a part of Japan’s culture, and the source of some awesome religious art and architecture, it has had such great appeal to me ever since. Then there’s Shinto, which also inspires equally cool religious art and architecture.


A famous example of anime.
A famous example of anime.

I like anime and manga, and its culture has frequently given me ideas. I’ve always appreciated anime, especially some of the famous dark anime movies from the 80’s and 90’s, and some of the brighter stuff in the modern age, and the sexy side of anime, and some action anime shows, like Bleach. Of course, some modern Japanese games feel like anime, due to presentation and voice actors, to both good and bad effect. I’m not sure where I’d be without it.

Katanas…f***ing katanas.

My favourite weapon, followed by the machine gun and chain gun.
My favourite weapon, followed by the machine gun and chain gun.

Katanas are awesome. Fact. Everyone on the Internet agrees. OK, I guess I get that from video games, but all pathways to the katana are acceptable in my eyes.

It’s mingling of “move forward” with “treasure the past”

It's a Shinto shrine and a city skyline in the night. Not bad, eh?
It’s a Shinto shrine and a city skyline in the night. Not bad, eh?

Japan is very progressive with technology. Moving forward is definitely a thing for Japan. But from what I hear, the Japanese still respect their age-old traditions and cultures. They treasure their past and its traditions. Hell, there’s still a lot of unspoiled nature and wilderness in Japan where the cities don’t tread. We have a lot to learn from them.

I forgot to mention Japanese cuisine, ninjas, and samurai, just to get that out of the way.