Monday, November 17th, 2014
In the final scene of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film Ghost in the Shell, the being that was once known as the Major quotes a verse from the Bible. More specifically, 1 Corinthians 13:11, which in the King James Version reads:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
This is one of the very last lines of dialogue in the film, and it is a callback to an earlier scene where Batou and Motoko are drinking beer on a boat. In that scene, Project 2501 quotes the first part of the the subsequent verse (1 Corinthians 13:12), which is the perhaps better known line that starts with “For now we see through a glass, darkly”. Which, although a famous phrase in and of itself, is perhaps better translated into modern English as “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror”.
Now, an Oshii film quoting the Bible certainly isn’t unusual and I’m not going to go into any depth of analysis of the film here, but there’s one thing I want to discuss. One of the major themes of Ghost in the Shell is the familiar one of human transcendence; becoming something more than human, and both the first quote and the dialogue the Major has with Togusa about the dangers of overspecialization even earlier in the film can certainly be interpreted as belonging to this theme. There is, however, also a less obvious nuance to this, namely the one of moving on, in the emotional sense. The final scene has Batou and what was once the Major saying their goodbyes, which fits very well with the overall plot and the general transcendent theme.
Thematically, moving on or letting go certainly isn’t uncommon in Japanese story telling. Japan, has, after all – perhaps influenced by the Buddhist concept of impermanence – basically turned feelings of nostalgia into an art form in and of itself.
With this in mind, it may or may not be surprising that anime fans are really, really bad at moving on. Granted, I’ve seen the same phenomenon in other pop culture as well, but anime fans are particularly persistent. Basically, the actual point of this blog post (which I’m actually starting to get to now) is the question of why people have such a hard time letting go of the hobbies and the stories of their youth.
Coming back to 1 Cor. 13:11, the message is unambigous. When I became a man, I put away childish things. Ten years ago, in the summer of 2004, when I was 17 years old, I got into warezing anime. Today, I’m writing what will be the last post on this blog and I’m ready to move on with my life. The friendships I’ve made during these ten years are in some cases still important to me, but I really cannot say anime or fansubbing has made a lasting impression on me. After finishing this blog post, I plan on deleting what anime-related stuff might still be sitting around forgotten on my HDD and unfollow the few anime-related people I still follow on Twitter. It is time to move on.
What puzzles me is why so many people choose to stay with the stories of their youth. Hollywood films based on comic books are seemingly very popular. People who once played World of Warcraft are coming back to it. Which Saturday morning cartoons you watched as a kid is apparently still very important to many people. People who got into anime at about the same time as I did (or in many cases many years earlier) are still watching and writing about it, even though in some cases (see: Colony Drop) mostly limited to complaining about how things were just better in the Good Old Days. People cosplay their favorite teen culture franchise as grownups. Why cling so desperately to these teenage years? Is it just nostalgia, or have I missed an important part of the zeitgeist? Is it that the social networks you establish around your hobbies now are stronger than they once were?
I once had some loose plans on writing a full disclosure post about what I accomplished during my years of fansubbing and what it was like ten years ago, but I don’t really care enough to write that now and I’m not sure anyone else cares either. Fansubbing is dead, after all, and I don’t think its history is mine to write.
However, I will leave those of you who are younger than I with a few words of advice that you will surely ignore, as young people are wont to do with advice from their elders: value your friendships, but don’t get caught up in some small corner of the wonders of this world. Fictive stories, while entertaining, are ultimately not all that important. You can move on with your life if you choose to do so.
With these words, I leave this blog as I came to it, with a post about how I don’t really like anime. Closing the circle is thematically important in stories about moving on, after all. Good bye.