Archive | November 2017

My Sister’s Keeper (Digimon Adventure Episode 48)

(If you missed the last essay in this Digimon Adventure series check it out HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Whereas the past dozen or so episodes of the series have been entangled complex plots where the Digidestined are off doing different things toward the same end goals, now we finally gain a bit of a reprieve. Matt is off on his own doing his personal quest thing while Joe and Mimi are travelling around with Ogremon, Otamamon, and Gekomon. The other five Digidestined kids are travelling together in this episode and are once again in the Digital desert.

As the sun beats down on their heads from above, the Digidestined trudge along. But Kari is steadily falling behind and looks like she may be dehydrated or feverish. She eventually passes out along the sands. Her big brother Tai picks her up and places her below a nearby bus terminal where she can rest in the shade. He is mortified and feels as if he has failed as a big brother because of his inability to keep her safe. He asks her why she didn’t say anything before to alert them to her condition to which she replies that she didn’t want to be a burden on the group and slow them down. This pulls on Tai’s heartstrings and only makes him feel worse about the whole situation. He then remembers a time long ago when Kari fell ill and seems upset about these flashbacks, but we as viewers are not yet privy to why.

Meanwhile, there is a very minor part of this scene that is incidental but important. T.K. looks down momentarily at Kari and he seems extremely distraught. As the only other Digidestined around his age in the group, the two have begun to form a bond that will only grow stronger over time and make them inseparable friends down the road. T.K’s fears that Kari is mortally ill, and the emotional panic this instills in him, will later manifest in his gungho mentality toward helping out in this episode.

As the gang renews their travels, they find a large city in the distance. As they approach, it looks much like New York city, but with other odd monuments thrown in like the L’Arc de Triomphe a Paris and the Roman Coliseum. Tai decides to go off into the city to find a hospital where he can collect medicine for Kari. T.K. expresses his interest to go and help Kari as well, but Tai convinces him to stay and protect her with Sora in a gambit to make sure that he (Tai) isn’t putting Matt’s little brother in any undo danger.

As they venture into the city, Izzy plugs his laptop into a phone booth terminal to access a map of the city. They find that there are a dozen hospitals in the region. Unbeknownst to them, The Dark Master Machinedramon rules this city and has a series of Hagurumon hackers monitoring all network access points. His goons, the Mekanorimon, Tankmon, Gigadramon, and Megadramon, assemble and seek out T.K. and Tai who notice the army quickly and attempt to escape. Unfortunately, they use the network again to find a good route out and immediately alert Machinedramon to their location. Once Izzy figures out that they have been traced, there is a huge force right on their trail. But luckily he knows how to mask their access point with a little bit of hacking and manages to place their access point marker at dozens of place simultaneously.

Tai and Izzy return to the house where Sora, T.K. and Kari are awaiting their return with the much-needed aspirin to reduce Kari’s fever when Machinedramon himself appears and destroys the building! T.K. has been taking his duties of protecting Kari seriously however and managed to preemptively escape the building and hide out in a neighboring shrubbery. Now, the battle with the 3rd Dark Master is under way, but this time with powerful lackeys in the form of Gigadramon and Megadramon, as well as the added complication of having to ensure that Kari is safe throughout.

Oh yeah, and as for the flashbacks Tai was having, it is revealed that years ago, Kari was sick and staying home. Tai wanted to go play football in the park, but had a responsibility to watch over his sister. He decided that he would bring her with him and let her play too, but she had a weak constitution and the exertion exacerbated her sickness and ambulances had to be called. His mother chided him pretty harshly over his actions, but he learned a powerful lesson about being a good brother and was from on more capable in handling such situations. This experience seems formative for Tai, not as the holder of the Crest of Courage, but as the de facto leader of the Digidestined who must always think hard about how best to keep his friends safe.

 

Till next time,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

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The Bridges of Madison County: Decisions

Clint Eastwood’s 1995 film is an adaptation of a 1992 Romantic novel of the same name. Robert Kincaid (Eastwood) is a photographer for National Geographic who has been sent on assignment to shoot the various rustic bridges in Madison County, Iowa. But the communities are rural and it is difficult to find one’s way around without a really detailed map or directions. The first being unavailable, he stops outside the home Iowa housewife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) who attempts to give him directions to the first bridge of his assignment, but is unable to visualize the whole trip and instead opts to go along with him to show the way.

Francesca Johnson is an Italian immigrant who came to America with her American GI lover after WWII. She expected a world of glitz and glamour, or at least the occasional outing to the city, but instead found a secluded space in the middle of nowhere not much better than the country she left. Although she loves her husband in her own way and is a devoted mother to her teenage, and therefore largely ambivalent children, she is obviously bored and depressed in her surroundings. It’s now the 1960’s  and she has spent nearly two decades in the town when a swarthy man not too much her senior passes through and asks for directions.

When the two go off to the bridge, they seem to hit it off emotionally. As her children and husband are away for four days to the county fair to show their livestock in competition, she invites Kincaid to stay for dinner. Their romance shifts from an emotional draw toward a personality-affirming relationship of regard into a brief physical relationship that has Francesca questioning her whole life as a housewife and seriously considering leaving it all behind at Kincaid’s urging. Ultimately, she decides to stay in Iowa where she can watch her children grow. Plus, if she were to leave she believes that her actions would be a black stain on the name of her family and current husband meaning constant gossip in town. Richard Johnson is a good man who has never hurt anyone in his life (except maybe during the war) and does not deserve the pain of his wife leaving him. Finally, she believes that leaving in a difficult marriage may be setting the wrong example for her children when they are at the ages where starting committed relationships with all of their difficulties really begin. Running away is not a healthy way to solve marital problems unless severe, and therefore she believes that she must do as she has always done and forego her own happiness for the good of her family.

The narrative of the story is a memory within a story. The tale of Francesca’s liaison with Kincaid and her difficult choice to remain with her family is the memory of past years as recounted in her diaries. The story, or the external shell of the narrative that frames the memory, is that Francesca has recently died and her children are now dealing with the funeral and the estate. Francesca wrote her story for her children because she realized years later that although she probably made the right choice, or at least a reasonably good one, in staying with her family, she made the wrong choice in never discussing what happened with her children. Even after her husband had passed.

Whilst reading through her story, her children reflect on their own marriages and lives and learn and grow by example. We all know this feeling. Maybe not from hearing the stories of tough decisions by our own parents or grandparents or friends, but through cinema and novels and games and music we learn lessons about humility, patience, kindness, compassion, and doing the right thing. Although often these moral lessons can feel right, they are more often symptoms of a herd morality thoroughly imbued in the consciousness by religions and social-political systems meant to make us easy to handle and less likely to rebel. In this way they contribute greatly to social cohesion, but not necessarily to giving our lives meaning and allowing us to be happy, and more importantly, satisfied with our lives.

This analysis of these tensions and herd moralities is a Nietzschian approach, and certainly this attempt of doing philosophy of life with a hammer has great potential for liberation. But when our lives revolve around the happiness of our loved ones and our children, and indeed our own happiness lies therein as well, we have a duty to recognize a new, more complicated dynamic at work. Does one sacrifice all for one’s children and retreat into the conservative, oldhat moralities that prevent us from enjoying life, but keep the lives of those around us more stable? Or does one move boldly into a postmodern antifoundationalist future beyond conventional morality of the weak Last Man in the hopes that our bold steps will make homo sapiens anew hundreds of generations to come? And can we even be sure that the outcomes of our actions will have the beneficial outcomes we expect and the negative effects we dread but are willing to chance? Or is life ultimately much too complicated to fit into conceptual boxes, even those contrived by our least conceptual philosophers and thinkers?

Who knows?

But maybe the point is not finding the correct course for future action, the one that will create the least harm or most positivity, but to recount the stories of our struggles in hopes of giving others tools and examples to follow or to discount while they make their own difficult choices. When Francesca committed her memory of these events to her journals for posterity, she made no ultimate judgment call about whether her choice was best. She just related what she could of the outcomes that happened and the inherent difficulty in making such big decisions in the hopes that her dialogue could create a dialectic between her living offspring and her own dead voice to enrich their own lives.

Her son realized that he played the part of Richard Johnson with his own wife. He made himself into the father, into the loving and kind and caring man who let work and realism on his own part devolve his marriage into a loveless one where his wife felt neglected. The son took these insights and worked hard to bring love and absolute regard and the idealism of all these things back into his marriage, and for the better.

The daughter realized that she was playing the part of dutiful wife, never indulging in her own desires or voicing her own dissatisfaction with the state of her own marriage. She does not return home to her husband by the end of the film and instead decides to take a short break to rejuvenate herself and think harder about her life and where she wants it to go from there. No matter what she chooses, the future course of her life seems as if it will inevitably improve through the lessons she learned through her mother’s voice, even though dead and unresponsive to questioning, backed into the abyss of unreclaimability.

I sometimes feel I’m overly negative in my essays. Sometimes too sentimental. But know I only write from the gut and from the bridge of seat of the emotions in an attempt to transfer a bit of something I-know-not-what to bridge the chasms of communication that separate us, in an attempt to bind us together in some form I know not of. In this sense, when not reaching for low-hanging fruit, I’m grasping out further than I know I can. I hope you do the same and I hope you speak to those most dear to you about those decisions most hard to make. In the hopes that you can reach them too.

 

Cody Ward

Ogremon’s Honor (Digimon Adventure Episode 47)

(To check out part 46 click HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Just when the Digidestined had defeated MetalSeadramon and reduced the number of Dark Masters to three, Etemon returned to the Digital Earth in Mega form as MetalEtemon and brought the number of enemies back up to four. Luckily for Joe and Mimi, Puppetmon and MetalEtemon didn’t get along and fought each other to see who would gain the honors of destroying the two Digidestined. during the battle, Joe and Mimi escaped with Ogremon and now with SaberLeomon.

As the group travels through the Digital World, Joe sees an old, decrepit and abandoned building that he recognizes as the restaurant once run by Vegimon where Digitamamon trapped him and Gomamon as indentured servants. The group decides to hide inside the building where SaberLeomon de-Digivolves into Leomon, revealing his identity as their old friend and thereby revealing that he has gained the ability to Digivolve through his connection to the Digidestined and their Digivices. However, he cannot control his new power and seems to Digivolve at random times, often advantageous but at other times not very helpful.

Ogremon attempts to fight Leomon, but is beaten quickly due to his broken arm. During the clash, floorboards are broken, revealing a hidden crawlspace below the restaurant where an Otamamon and a Gekomon have been hiding. They were adherents of ShogunGekomon and recognize Mimi from earlier. The Dark Masters destroyed their Palace and the few that survived have been hiding throughout the Digital World ever since. Later, MetalEtemon will find the Digidestined in their hiding place and attack. Leomon’s proximity to them will allow him to Digivolve into SaberLeomon, but won’t prevent MetalEtemon from striking a mortal blow to him. Joe Digivolves Gomamon into Zudomon who launches his Vulcan’s Hammer attack at MetalEtemon. Normally ineffective due to Zudomon’s status as a mere Ultimate, this time there is a surprise. The hammer is made out of chrome digizoid and cracks MetalEtemon’s exterior, thereby allowing SaberLeomon to land a critical blow, destroying MetalEtemon!

SaberLeomon de-Digivolves into Leomon and begins to fade away. Ogremon and Leomon make their amends as friends rather than enemies and Leomon expresses reluctance to dissolve, but a need to regenerate in the Primary Village as a DigiEgg. After he passes on, Ogremon reveals that Primary Village was destroyed by the Dark Masters and that now the only way to revive Leomon and their other friends is to destroy the Masters and restore the Digital World to its pre-chaotic state. This spurs Mimi onward to begin fighting once more for her friends and the fate of their now-questionable renewals at Primary Village.

The other Digidestined are occupying Puppetmon’s mansion and Floramon and Deramon are continuing their attack on their master using a top-floor cannon. The Digidestined descend the stairs and challenge Puppetmon head on, but he leads them into a trap where they must fight dozens of RedVegiemon. The Champions Angemon, Gatomon, Kabuterimon, and Birdramon make short work of them and WarGreymon attacks Puppetmon directly. But Puppetmon uses his marionette skills to force WarGreymon to attack his own friends. Gatomon Digivolves into Angewomon and breaks the strings whilst MegaKabuterimon, Garudamon, and Angemon attack Puppetmon to distract him and for the first time the iconic “Change Into Power” Theme plays triggering a noticeable uptick in the pulling of heartstrings in this viewer.

Puppetmon then turns his Mansion into its fighting form as an impregnable wooden mecha. Puppetmon escapes into his woods but is quickly ambushed by Matt and MetalGarurumon who were waiting in the wings. Puppetmon is destroyed and the wooden mecha falls apart as the Digital Forest of Puppetmon’s design dissolves and readies itself for reconfiguration upon the defeat of the other Dark Masters. The main group of Digidestined see Matt at the forest’s edge, but he just frowns and retreats back into the forest to continue his own quest.

Two Dark Masters down, and MetalEtemon, and just two more to go. It seems that the Digidestined are on track to rejoin forces (minus Matt) pretty soon. The stakes are high, but we know that Zudomon’s Vulcan Hammer and WarGreymon’s designation as a Dramon Destroyer Type give the Digidestined a huge advantage against Machinedramon. I look forward to seeing how they knock him out next time on Digimon Digital Monsters.

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Etemon’s Comeback Tour (Digimon Adventure Episode 46)

(For part 45 click HERE. to go back to the beginning click HERE)

The Digidestined have splintered off into uneven groups with Matt going his own, Mimi and Joe staying behind to try and avoid fighting for a while, and the other five continuing their quest to battle the Dark Masters. In this episode, we see nothing of Matt and Gabumon’s current journey, but the other seven Digidestined have linked journey’s centered around Puppetmon.

The episode begins with Ogremon running from a group of angry Woodmon attempting to drain him of his lifeforce. Through this vignette we find that another enemy of the Digidestined is still running rampant in the Digital World. When a meteorite falls to the Digital Earth nearby, it destroys many of the adjacent Woodmon and sends Ogremon sprawling out over and into a deep canyon where he breaks his arm and is knocked out by the impact. Joe and Mimi find him, but instead of expressing vengeance and attacking their old adversary while he is incapacitated, they help him and Joe creates a splint for his arm. Ogremon is confused by these kind acts and thanks the Digidestined for their help.

Through this interaction, the Digidestined learn that although not always effective, sometimes kindness and positive regard are enough to convert enemies into friends. But it doesn’t hurt that they already defeated his boss Devimon thereby making him into a free agent once again. Ogremon pledges his loyalty to his new friends and has a pretty emotional moment of connection. He then tells them about the Ogremon moral code to help those who help him and unveils his life’s purpose: defeating Leomon. Mimi points out that this goal is somewhat paradoxical because if he defeats Leomon, then his reason for existence is gone, but she offers Ogremon no real alternative to his current goal and therefore gives no reason to give up his feud (if he gave that up, he would have no goal in life at all). That Ogremon gives himself a goal that includes a feud and a fight is not necessarily wrong insofar as Leomon gains meaning from the feud as well and the two can stave off the abyss of freedom and meaninglessness that coerces many toward idleness and potentially suicide.
Puppetmon appears and attacks Mimi and Joe, but the gang is saved by an unlikely figure: MetalEtemon. Though thought to have been destroyed for good, he was actually only drawn in a black hole. Over time, his force of will regathered the constituent parts of his body into a stronger form as a Mega Digimon before returning to Earth as the meteorite! He attacks Puppetmon so that he alone may have the chance to destroy the Digidestined and during the ensuing battle, Joe, Mimi, and Ogremon escape. Later, at the end of their arc in the episode, SaberLeomon appears from out of the brush. This new Mega form, which is currently unbeatable by the Champion-level Ogremon, may be a good reason to give up before he is beaten and his data is reconfigured or destroyed for good.

When the meteorite strikes, the five other Digidestined feel its impact from afar and are momentarily distracted by it. They shrug it off and begin planning a course of action. T.K., Kari, and Izzy all vote that the group sojourn to Puppetmon’s mansion to take out the diminutive Dark Master while he least expects it. Tai knows he must protect T.K. and his little sister Kari as well, and as such is hesitant to go on this dangerous mission, but eventually acquiesces to their desires. When they approach Puppetmon’s mansion, they find Floramon and Deramon outside and quickly realize that they are not guarding the place, but merely hanging out. Puppetmon forced them to be his playpals in the mansion and as such, Deramon and Floramon have no qualms showing the Digidestined around the grounds and interior of the hideout before eventually aiding them in their fight against Puppetmon by launching cannonballs at him from a second-story window.

The Episode ends with little having been accomplished thus far. However, the arrival of MetalEtemon and SaberLeomon on the scene is the perfect set-up for a battle between Megas, and hopefully put an end to MetalEtemon’s inane Tarzan yodeling and branch swinging once and for all.

 

Ciao,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

The Ultimate Clash (Digimon Adventure Episode 45)

(To check out the previous essay in this series click HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

The episode begins with MetalGarurumon and Matt threatening Agumon and Tai. Unlike last episode where they seemed almost evil in their dispositions, words, and actions, however, this time around Matt seems unsure of himself. He is fidgety and seems to recognize that what he is doing is wrong and goes against his designation as a Digidestined and especially as the holder of the Crest of Friendship. Nonetheless, MetalGarurumon attacks and Agumon Digivolves to War Greymon to defend Tai. All the while, Tai and Matt are fistfighting and Matt becomes even more disturbed by his actions as they tussle.

In the forest nearby, Kari sees a block of shimmering lights invisible to the others. She approaches and finds that the light is sentient and attempting to make contact with her. A white light emanates from the being and absorbs the whole Digidestined group, de-Digivolving WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon and ending their battles as well as their Digidestined partner’s fight too. The group find themselves transported into a world of light where a voice speaks through Kari as its vessel and recounts the fall of the Digital World to the evil forces of the Dark Masters.

Once, there was darkness and light and the balance kept things in motion and movement without erring on the side chaos (darkness) or perfect nonaction and joylessness (light). Then the Dark Masters appeared and began to shift the by destroying good Digimon and creating more Evil ones. A group of non-Digimon non-human Humanoids occupied Myotismon’s Castle and found the chosen DigiEggs. They visited the human world at Highton View Terrace and found the Digidestined, analyzed their genetic codes, and created Tags and Crests and Digivices customized to each Digidestined child. When the Dark Masters (Piedmon along with many Guardromon and Mekanorimon) appeared and attacked the compound, they destroyed most of its workers. Piedmon took the crests, but a young Gennai fought back and grabbed the DigiEggs and Digivices. He escaped the Dark Masters and flew off to File Island where he left the Eggs to hatch in secrecy, but along the way he dropped Gatomon’s egg, thereby explaining why she was hatched away from her Digimon compatriots.

For a time, the Digimon Adventure’s writers made it seem as if the Digidestined were on a mystical quest pre-ordained from time immemorial. Now we know that the Digidestined were a random group of children who just happened to have the aptitude to do the job of destroying the Dark Masters. We know that their Digimon partners could have been other Digimon and that the Digivices are not mystical objects, relics of a time long since forgotten, but rather the creations of a group of digital people programmed to protect the Digital World. There was always a spiritual note hidden underneath the Digidestined quest that served as a hard kernel of unexplainable metaphysics to counter the forces of postmodern and nihilistic evil they faced. Now, the Digidestined are truly alone in the metaphysical space of the narrative and must continue to fight despite their knowledge of no pre-ordained quest or world historical force pushing events forward. they now know that they can possibly lose and that the fate of the Digital World really is up to them totally. How they will respond above this new aporia, this new chasm or precipice always existing but just now apparent, is an issue to be decided in the coming episodes.

The being channeling its voice through Kari also expresses a lesson very pertinent to Matt’s current struggle against Tai. When a Digidestined acts against their nature, as exemplified by their Crest’s power, they may potentially corrupt their own Digimon and create more evil and destructive forces in the Digital World. This occurred already when Tai’s courage turned erred on the side of extremity and became foolhardiness thereby corrupting Greymon and turning him into SkullGreymon. In that instance, Agumon was still a relatively weak Digimon and did not have the energy to remain in his corrupted Ultimate form for long before de-Digivolving back into Agumon. However, now all the Digimon are stronger and a corruption of Gabumon into a corrupted Mega could be absolutely catastrophic for the Digidestined and the Digital World.

When the Digidestined return to the forest clearing, Matt is done fighting. But he realizes that he still must learn more about himself and decides to go off on his own quest for a time. This time on good terms. Mimi is tired of fighting and wants a break from the senseless violence that resulted in the death of her close friend Chumon, as well as Wizardmon, Whamon, and Piximon, all of whom she liked. She decides to stay put for a while and Joe chooses to stay with her. The other five Digidestined begin their journey anew and leave their friends behind for the meantime, but go forward with the hope and the belief that as Digidestined their paths may be different, but they are sure to end up at the same place and be reunited. If they had paid enough attention earlier to the fact that their quest’s outcome is not certain, they would not be sure of this belief and realize it is unwarranted. At this point, it is not certain that they will ever join together again. But we know otherwise.

 

Later,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Ponyo

(If you missed the previous essay in this Studio Ghibli series check it out here: Howl’s Moving Castle)

Ponyo is Hayao Miyazaki’s 10th film and one of his most arresting artistically. The tale is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” tale and in this sense, is a challenge to the Walt Disney company who had made their own version two decades prior. Although each story is compelling on its own, Ponyo is, I think, the better of the two films.

In Miyazaki’s previous three films he had used extensive CGI as a mixed media approach. The beasts (Mononoke) and spirits (Spirited Away) and machines (Howl) created through this process were somewhat hyper-real in the frame due to the extent to which they jarred and assaulted their scenes in an otherwise 2-D frame. Whereas the CGI boar demon, No-Face in the bathhouse, and Howl’s Castle were stronger for their 3-D, the story of Ponyo is more idyllic and optimistic and therefore in less need of aggressive animation techniques. Miyazaki went back to his roots in 2008 for Ponyo and created, once again, a masterpiece of 2-D animation with roots in classic Osamu Tezuka design, golden age Walt Disney phantasmagorical animation, and a healthy dose of Moebius color design and Frederic Back and Hiroshige wood-block title sequences. The result is visually stunning and hearkens back directly to the beauty of Castle in the Sky, though Ponyo exceeds even this.

The sound design, again, hearkens back to traditional Miyazaki work. Joe Hisaishi reprised his role as composer once again and strengthened many sequences with many traditional Ghibli-esque scores. Though these original compositions are mostly low-key in comparison to the ambiance of Nausicaa of Valley of the Wind’s compositions, the score is leant its dramatic airs and bombastic moments through the use of classical Western compositions like The Valkyrie by Richard Wagner.

Unlike Disney’s previous effort at adaptation of the story, this version is not a musical, and therefore, in my opinion, is a stronger film. And maybe one can even draw this line of thinking further by pointing out that few musicals are films in the film buff sense, a film being something that reaches beyond itself and can be considered more than a commodity, whilst a movie is something more akin to a commercial product, or a commodity, whose reach sits comfortably within its grasp. Whereas the themes of The Little Mermaid are escapism from one’s own reality, human yearning, and love (all sentimental themes, that are pretty quaint and oldhat), Ponyo represents the same themes, plus ecology, the triumph of the human spirit, and the ability for human beings to not only love but to be a transformative force in the world through its power. Plus, the artistic aspirations of Miyazaki’s film are head and shoulders above The Little Mermaid’s silver age Disney cookie-cutter animation.

In Ponyo, Brumhilde is a sentient fish with a humanoid face who lives under her father’s roof and rule in a magical submarine. Her father, Fujimoto, is a sorcerer who conceived her by the Granmamare, the Mother of the Sea. Fujimoto works to keep the sea and the world in balance, but when his daughter becomes unruly and seeks her freedom, the balance goes haywire. She escapes the submarine and approaches land. A trawler drags across the ocean floor and she is trapped within its net. She finds herself stuck in a glass that some jerk threw into the ocean and, unable to escape, washes up on shore on a small Japanese Island, where a young boy, Sosuke, scoops her up and breaks the glass. The glass shards cut Sosuke’s thumb and Brumhilde licks it, thereby gaining the DNA to transform into a human at a later date. Likewise, her saliva heals his wound quickly and Sosuke gains an affinity for the fish-girl. He carries her around in a bucket of water as his new pet and the form a bond.

Later, Brumhilde’s father tracks her down and finds that the boy has gifted her with a new name: Ponyo (an onomatopoeic word of Miyazaki’s creation meaning soft and squishy). Fujimoto takes her back home to the submarine where she rebels once more and sprouts frog legs and arms. Fujimoto puts her into a deep sleep and runs off to find the Mother of the Sea for guidance in this matter. Whilst away, Ponyo’s sisters free her bonds and flood the submarine, thereby mixing Fujimoto’s potions with the ocean water and giving Ponyo the magic power she needs to become an anatomically correct human. Ponyo then rides out on the waves toward Sosuke’s island. But her actions have created a disturbance in the natural order of things and now the moon is quickly approaching the Earth, the tides are changing, a storm is ravaging the Island, and Devonian age fish, birds, and lizards are running amok. The world is reversing itself and the ocean’s are taking revenge on humanity for depleting its stock of aquatic life and polluting them.

The Mother of the Sea and Fujimoto realize that the only way to fix the situation is to put Sosuke to a question: does he love Ponyo and will he always. If he responds no, Ponyo will become mere sea foam and the world’s natural order will restore itself. If yes, she will remain human and lose her magical powers, but the world will similarly revert back to its pre-chaotic state. A life in the hands of one boy’s choice. A choice that reflects on human attitudes toward the natural world, whether we can love and cherish that world as denizens of it who rely upon it. I’m no Gaia theorist and as such I don’t believe that the Earth itself is an organism that may one day decide to destroy human beings, but I do know that species evolve through natural selection. One day there may come a point in time when a select few within some species of plant or animal or fungi or bacteria develop a mutation that proves lethal for humans. And if we continue to pollute and destroy ecosystems and habitats, these may be the only ones that survive, making likely the possibility that we may not. Human action like Sosuke’s is a stand-in and symbol for living with, rather than against the world’s biospheres. And unless Elon Musk can jump-start the process of moving us to different worlds where we can create ‘back-up’ populations of homo sapiens, a final extinction is always possible.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: The Wind Rises]

Trash Day (Digimon Adventure Episode 44)

(If you missed part 43, check it out HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

During last episode, Matt realized that his little brother T.K. is growing up and may not need his constant protection. He has seen all of his Digidestined partners grow and become ore complete and stronger persons as well over the course of their journey. But Matt himself feels as if he is “the same jerk I always was.” He believes that in order to grow and to change and to become a good friend worthy of the Crest of Friendship, he must go off on his own (with his Digimon partner Gabumon of course) to develop and grow.

Meanwhile, his friends are back in the forest looking for him. During their search, they are once again ambushed by Puppetmon’s goons, this time in the form of a seemingly-endless stream of Garbagemon. Lillymon and WarGreymon make short work of the first wave and the battle continues.

Matt finds himself near a small pond in the forest where a giant tree Digimon, Cherrymon, appears. The ancient forest dweller seems wise, but his wisdom has been co-opted by the forest’s new Dark Master Puppetmon, who has instructed Cherrymon to trick Matt into fighting Tai. Cherrymon’s Marlon Brando-esque vocal delivery makes him seem somewhat seedy and Gabumon distrusts him, but ultimately lets Matt decide whether he will listen to the tree Digimon or not. To become stronger and develop as a person, Matt must face his rival, Cherrymon argues. He can find the face of his rival in his own reflection in the pond, a mystical place where one’s true mission is revealed. The pond does not lie and is not trying to trick Matt like Cherrymon, but somehow Matt’s reflection still manifests as Tai’s image. Tai is really and truly the rival of Matt, but just what he should do in response to this new information is anything but decided upon.

The irony of being thew Digidestined with the Crest of Friendship is not lost on Matt, who only feels as if he is paternalistic to T.K., antagonistic with Tai, and ambivalent to the others. His only true friend through it all, seems to him to be Gabumon, who now professes his willingness to follow Matt in any decision he chooses. Unfortunately, Matt chooses to embrace his anger, challenge his rival, and attempt to grow as a person in the process, thereby controverting the value of friendship that the Digidestined quest stands for and ultimately playing into the hand of the Dark Master’s anti-foundationalist and chaotic message. Gabumon Warp Digivolves to MetalGarurumon and destroys a wave of Garbagemon before challenging Agumon to a battle and urging him to Digivolve quickly before MetalGarurumon destroys him totally in him weaker Rookie form.

The tensions that have been brewing between Tai and Matt have reached an absolute fever-pitch and a final confrontation seems inevitable. Can Matt realize how he has been manipulated before its too late and he destroys his classification as a Digidestined? Yes, the answer is yes. But just how this comes about, I am unsure. I forget what happens next you see. With that in mind, I’ll be back on Monday to continue this blog series.

 

Till then,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Logan’s Run: An Allegory of the Cave

(Click here to check out the previous essay for this month’s Sci-Fi series: Outland)

The year is 2274. The earth’s inhabitants live in giant domes in hedonistic society where pleasure is first and foremost, and all inhabitants are young. At birth, a white crystal is surgically placed into the palms of each child. Over time, the crystal becomes darker. And at the age of 30, the crystal becomes black: this is Lastday, a time of renewal when the oldest citizens go to Carrousel and voluntarily die on the off-chance that they will be renewed as a newborn baby in their next life.

This dystopian situation veiled in a utopian dream of eternal life and joy, is a nightmare for those free-thinkers who realize that rebirth upon Carrousel is impossible and that the blackness of their crystals is probably not the end of their lives. Those that realize they may be able to escape and live into old age are known as Runners. The Sandmen are police officers hired to track down and destroy Runners to keep society functioning. Logan 5 (Michael York) and his friend Francis 7 (Richard Jordan) are Sandmen. They are both about four years away from termination, but a series of odd circumstances puts them in precarious situations. Logan 5 is brought to headquarters where he is debriefed on the symbol of the hooked cross, the Ankh, and that it is somehow connected with the notion of Sanctuary, a place where 1056 unaccounted-for Runners have supposedly escaped to. The machine changes Logan 5’s crystal to a pulsating red and thereby takes four years of his life from him. He is under orders to become a Runner for the State to escape from the city and find Sanctuary so that the Runners there can be destroyed and any future potential runners will be dismayed and unlikely to make their runs.

Later, at his flat, Logan 5 hires a pleasure companion for the night. the woman who appears, Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter), wheres an Ankh around her neck. Logan 5 decides to use her to gain ore information about Sanctuary and eventually the two connect up with the Resistance, which is destroyed by those Sandmen tailing Logan 5, including Francis 7. Logan 5 and Jessica 6 manage to escape the compound only to find, inexplicably and for no real plot point at all, that Box (Roscoe Lee Brown), a protein collecting robot for the city, has trapped all of the past Runners in blocks of ice. He tries to do the same to Logan and Jessica, but the two escape from his clutches and from out of the cavemouth into the light of the Sun.

They have never seen the Sun before, and as such, are confused about what it is. They only know on a visceral level that the Sun is a source of warmth and life for the planet. As they venture out, they discover plant life and animals, and later find that they are in the ruins of an old civilization (Washington D.C.) where people lived far into old age. They meet an old man in a decrepit old building and find that human beings in the outer world are born to biological mothers and fathers and are raised in their care (as opposed to parents in their own dystopian state that die not long after their children are born and are never sure which ones are theirs).

The Allegory of the Cave is a thought experiment from Plato whereby individuals live in a cave deep in the recesses of the Earth. Their oppressors have chained them to a wall since birth and performed a shadow-play of moving shadows and images before their eyes. The slaves never knew they were not free or that there was anything more to life than what they experienced in the Cave. One day, a man escapes from the Cave and ascends toward the light. He sees the sun and his eyes must acclimate to its rays. He learns of the real world and decides to go back to the Cave to free his fellow prisoners. However, when he arrives, they believe he is just crazy and decide that he is lying to them. The real world is playing itself out right before their eyes and nothing can convince them to leave.

Logan 5 decides likewise to return to his past world to tell the truth about the world outside. When he returns, he shows the people that his crystal, once black, is now white again. he explains that no one needs to die on Carrousel and that freedom is within their grasp if they will just take it. But the people laugh at him and Jessica 6. They don’t believe he is telling the truth and call him a madman. And if not for a series of explosions set off by Logan 5 that reveal the external world and the old man they have brought along with them on the journey, Logan 5 and Jessica 6 would surely have been killed or jailed.

Whereas the initial allegory of the cave is a thought experiment revealing the determinacy of social worlds on thought, the power of thought and philosophy and the revelation it brings, and the difficulty in converting the unlearned, Logan’s Run carries the thought to a political end. We are shown a world where people are manipulated by a State into willingly giving up the lion’s share of their lives. They are trapped willingly in a system that tricks them just for the good of some created social order. And once the philosophers ascend toward the light of Truth outside the Cave, they are not understood and taken for madmen. The difference here is in the implication that it takes radical destructive social violence to show the blind that they cannot see. In this sense, the film is politically and socially radical, and probably right. If we want society to change to a more free place, we must forcefully make apparent the chains on its citizens wrists. Even if that means total social upheaval and revolt.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: 2010: The Year We Make Contact]

Playing Games (Digimon Adventure Episode 43)

(If you missed part 42 check it out HERE. to go back to the beginning of this series click HERE)

Just as WarGreymon is about to be crushed in the jaws of MetalSeadramon, Whamon appears and tackles MetalSeadramon, getting himself shot by the Dark Master’s River of Power attack in the process. Enraged, WarGreymon flies into a frenzy and launches himself into the open mouth of MetalSeadramon, tearing out the sea serpent’s entrails and rending him asunder in the process. Whamon’s side has been pierced straight through, leaving a hole from one side of his body to the other and MetalSeadramon is totally wrecked beyond all recognition. Both die and fade away as data into the datastream to be reassembled at a later date as DigiEggs.

With the Dark Master of the sea now destroyed, the oceans begin to drain from Spiral Mountain and ascend back toward the sea. The Digital Ocean begins to reconfigure itself back into its old form and the Digidestined are left on its shore to reflect on sacrifice with one less ally to help them in their battle to save the Digital World. Mimi is the most visibly shaken by the experience and we see her creating dirt mounds with cross grave markers in remembrance of their friends Wizardmon, Chumon, Piximon, and now Whamon, who gave their own lives to ensure that the Digidestined survived.

These sacrifices are notable because they arise in response to the seemingly reasonable forms of Evil that generated them. As Piedmon and his gang represent the Jester, or the figure who makes deconstruction into a game or an intellectual exercise, instead of giving it its full weight as a tool to reach truths of total freedom and anti-foundationalism, the Digidestined must in response represent the figure of Zarathustra by recognizing meaninglessness and creating viable, socially functioning alternatives to the now-defunct systems of modernity. They can only be taken seriously once they show the true danger of the Jester and sacrifice is a powerful tool to ensure the danger is emotionally manifest. But the burial mounds are reminders in physical space that can function as symbols and instantiations of resistance to the Jester, thereby making the prophetic urge toward creation of the Digidestined viable and socially graspable.

However, Tai is bent on another metaphor for struggle: one that emphasizes the physical conflict over and above the ideological current running underneath and powering the whole event. Urging his comrades to move forward and to keep fighting immediately, he states, “This is war. Sometimes people get hurt.” Sometimes this approach is prudent when time constraints are in effect and conflict must continue quickly. However, the Digidestined just reclaimed the Oceans of the Digital World, and the Dark Masters have already been operating in the Digital World for years (in Digital World time). As such, there is no real urgency to move on quickly. They have plenty of time to recoup their strength, to rest, to regroup, and to plan for the next attack. Plus, the act of commemorating the fallen serves the powerful ideological role assigned above and should not be rushed as this might belittle the sacrifices of their friends and undermine the whole point of the exercise in the first place.

Matt, sensing the power of the moment and the need to relax for a time, calls Tai callous. His outburst gives Mimi the time to create her memorials and makes Tai reflect on his own urgency, questioning whether Matt was right about him being callous. This outburst also mirrors earlier conflicts between Matt and Tai as the would-be de facto leaders of the group and prefigures a new conflict that will arise in the coming episodes between the two.

Later, after they have decided to move on and continue their quest, the gang enters a forested area where Kari hears the voice of Puppetmon inexplicably. it is revealed to us, the viewers, that Puppetmon controls the forests from a Chateau deep within its recesses. Being petulant and impulsive in nature, he spurs them on quickly to come to his abode by moving their path forward like a conveyor belt. The Digidestined decide to hide in some neighboring trees to avoid being dragged into his trap, but are all subject to other effects. Puppetmon has voodoo doll-like toy figures of each Digidestined that he can move around at will. He brings T.K. to his chateau to play with him, and ultimately to destroy him.

Slightly before this period, Matt asserts control over T.K. by being overprotective. Matt does not seem to recognize how much his brother has grown up and that he doesn’t need him anymore to protect him. Matt has watched, often from the sidelines, as his fellow Digidestined have grown in character and strength, while he himself has felt stagnant. When T.K. outsmarts Puppetmon, destroys his surveillance toys, and steals the voodoo dolls, thereby limiting Puppetmon’s direct control over them and the forest, he returns to the group all by himself  and proves his own self-sufficiency. The other Digidestined children congratulate him on his ingenuity and how much he has grown in such a short time. He now has more autonomy and the ability to fend for himself than ever before, and this troubles Matt, who believes he is weak in comparison.

As Kiwimon emerges the brush to track down T.K. and the dolls, Matt attempts to fight him, but is so mentally blocked that his Digivice and Crest won’t even glow. Gabumon cannot Digivolve, and instead Sora and Birdramon must do the job for him. Depressed and disillusioned with his own lack of progress emotionally and in character development, Matt leaves the group and runs off into the woods for some much-needed introspection. but in his current unruly emotional state is Matt easy pickings for ambush by Puppetmon’s forces? And can he get over his own mental block to rejoin the group and fulfill his role as a Digidestined?

 

Let’s see, next time,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Under Pressure (Digimon Adventure Episode 42)

(If you missed part 41, click HERE. To go back to the beginning of this essay series click HERE)

Just as the Digimon are about to be decimated by MetalSeadramon, Whamon shows up and side swipes the Dark Master. The Digidestined swim quickly into Whamon’s mouth as he prepares to dive below the waves and out of the reach of their foes. Unfortunately, MetalSeadramon has eyes throughout the seas in the form of Divermon who work for him. A group of Divermon begin their pursuit of the Digidestined.

During this episode, we find seagulls flying through the skies, thereby making apparent that the fauna of the Digital World extend beyond the fish and shellfish we’ve seen in previous episodes. Gomamon, we know, has an ability to speak with fish and direct them to act. However, something really weird happens in this episode as some of his fishy friends appear and speak to Gomamon. They tell him that they are being pursued by the Divermon, but what is much more troubling is that the fish are revealed to be intelligent creatures. They know not only how to localize a danger, but can speak and give it a specific name, and work towards the well-being of other creatures in the sea (like Gomamon). All of this seems to infer that the fish are conceptual creatures with minds not unlike our own and yet Gomamon and the others have often been shown catching and cooking fish for consumption. That’s messed up to say the least.

As the Divermon get closer to the Whamon and the Digidestined, he urges them into his mouth once more and dives beneath the sea. However, the Divermon are skilled and they manage to follow Whamon with very little difficulty. Whamon plays his last hand and dives into a deep trench on the ocean floor. The Divermon’s tanks collapse due to the intense pressure and are forced to surface. While inside of Whamon, Izzy uses his computer to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Dark Masters and comes to a striking conclusion: WarGreymon is a Dramon Destroyer type Digimon whose attacks can shear through Mega-level Metal-type Digimon’s chrome Digizoid Exterior!

After Whamon gets tired of waiting at the bottom of the ocean, he decides to surface. Kari uses her whistle as a sonar device to help Whamon find nearby tunnels to the surface. But once they surface, the Divermon and their master MetalSeadramon are there waiting. Zudomon makes quick work of the Divermon and then Agumon Warp Digivolves into WarGreymon to challenge the Dark Master. The episode ends with WarGreymon clasped between the fangs of MetalSeadramon, just barely forcing his jaws apart to avoid being crushed, whilst MetalSeadramon quickly submerges and brings WarGreymon to a space outside of his element.

Hopefully WarGreymon can turn this situation around, and quickly, because his weapons are well-suited to the destruction of Dramon types (even the toughest with chrome digizoid armor like his own), but that destructive power can’t be unleashed under these dire circumstances. And even if he does defeat MetalSeadramon and Machinedramon with his innate abilities, how can the team be expected to defeat Puppetmon and Piedmon, two intensely agile fighters, with just brute force?

 

Till next time,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

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