The Promised Neverland’s premiere shows a lot of….promise.
That could have been more eloquent.
The Promised Neverland (2019), an adaptation of the Manga of the same name currently running in Weekly Shonen Jump, has premiered and I want to talk about it because man, I liked it. I liked it a lot.
I have not read the Manga – though I may do so as the season moves forward – so this premiere episode was my first foray into the series. With this combination of subtlety, economy, animation, characterization and pacing, I am excited to explore this series further.
At Grace Field House, life couldn’t be better for the orphans! Though they have no parents, together with the other kids and a kind “Mama” who cares for them, they form one big, happy family. No child is ever overlooked, especially since they are all adopted by the age of 12. Their daily lives involve rigorous tests, but afterwards, they are allowed to play outside.
There is only one rule they must obey: do not leave the orphanage.
Creep Factor 5, Captain
The most striking element of this premiere is the immediate sense of dread that infects every element of the story, basically from bar one of the OP.
One immediately gets the sense that something is ten kinds of up within the first five minutes of the program. Despite having an on-the-nose cold open, with an announcement of theme that feels more than a bit shoe-horned, the series has a palpable tension and subtlety emanating from its prima facia setting in an idyllic orphanage in the middle of the country.
The aesthetic is something between the Handmaid’s Tale, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Naruto; all the children (everyone around the age of 12) are dressed in glaring white hospital-esque outfits, symbolizing their general childish innocence. The setting, Grace Field House, in design and structure evokes some rural British countryside out of Downton Abbey. From the high vaulted ceilings, and large bedroom which gave me mad Madeline vibes, to the tungsten lighting, everything gives off a quiet, patient, peaceful ambience.
Or at least it’s supposed to.
This peaceful old-school atmosphere is undercut by small details: the presence of advanced technology. Bar codes and scannners; large ID numbers in a weirdly decorative font tattooed loudly on the children’s necks. Oh no.
The tension between these aesthetics immediately gets your creep-radar on the alert. And as the episode progresses, and the children just go about their day, that tension only tightens further and further. You may not even notice that you’re being wound up as the kids do things like, play tag; eat food and just be children.
The tension is made all the worse by the energetic lead Emma, who has the bubbly, popular personality typical of Shonen protagonists. She genuinely loves the house; she loves “Mom” – a matronly figure in a maid’s uniform; she loves all her compatriots. She is likeable and charming.
Twist, twist, twist.
The music only enhances the creepiness; used relatively sparingly, and primarily a mix of ambient electronic and piano music. Everything is so quiet that, even though you can feel the tension rise in your gut, you are still lulled into a sense of security. The weirdness is weird, and there are some off details.
Animation & Economy
One of my favorite things about visual storytelling – filmmaking, TV series, Comic Books – and especially time-locked stories (movie and TV) is how, when it’s done well, the storytelling is pure economy: you can explain a character in as little as 30 seconds with a twist of the body, a laugh, and maybe three lines of dialogue.
All the named characters are drawn well from the word go: from the somewhat dim Dom; to the adorable Conny; to the mastermind Norman, the angsty-Sasuke-looking rival trope Ray, and our main character Emma, everything needed to explain who these characters are is done instantly within the first three scenes.
Emma’s ebullient announcement that it’s time to wake-up, followed by all the children playing rambunctiously in the bedroom immediately convey Emma’s assertiveness, confidence, and her leadership of the group of 38 children. The way she speaks with everybody, giving high-fives to certain children, laughing. The way she talks to all the main characters establish who the character is within seconds. During the game of tag, Norman’s mysterious smiles, and far-off gaze establish him as intellectual and tactician; the way Ray abstains from playing games, or interacting with the others pins down his rebellious nature. All the named characters are developed instantly, making the narrative easy to follow, and establishing their innocence.
I also want to commend the work that CloverWorks has done with the animation. Everything is crisp, and clean; the color palate is just soft enough to be soporific; and they’ve translated Shirai’s character designs so that they teem with life, while remaining distinctive. Emma’s character design in particular is to be lauded.
Economy is a tough balance. Sometimes one can be too economical, and elide all the “Good Stuff” for later episodes. A number of great, subtle storytellers will purposely leave out compelling action for the reader to figure out. Fortunately…
The show is not stingy with its action
Towards the end of the episode, I was growing weary of the pacing a bit. Not too much, that creepiness was over-the-top and the tension was drawn tight. The normality was established and I was expecting that the disturbance – the “call to action” as Joseph Campbell called it, would wait until a later episode.
I was wrong.
Without going into any spoilers, the ending sets up the story and the thematic underpinning of the show – the end of innocence – expertly, and with a degree of emotional pitch I had not expected. A few sequences toward the end of the episode immediately paid off the tension and when it was finally released, I found myself jumping with terror, and grasping myself, as one does, when horror is done well.
It was real satisfying.
But the best part of the end of the episode is not just well…the everything of it, it is how it establishes one of the most important elements of the series going forward: Strategy vs. Brute Strength.
In the episode, during the aforementioned sequence where the kid’s play tag, Norman highlights that strategy and tactics – not brute strength – are what often determine the winner of a battle. Emma’s main failing is that she is “Compassionate” and, more to the point, straightforward.
This series has a long-game in mind, and the traits that have been highlighted are not athleticism or strength – which are Emma’s forte’s – but wit and strategy. Given that “Punching things harder” has been the tacit philosophy of Shonen stories since time immemorial (see: all the shonen protagonists), emphasizing the use of one’s mind, over the use of one’s fist can prove to be a legitimately compelling stylistic choice if effectively implemented. Especially knowing the stakes involved.
There is also a grand sense of mystery, set up in the first episode that, if handled well, could add compelling spice to an already compelling debut.
What doesn’t quite work
There is very little I genuinely disliked about this show. The only major critiques have more to do with the fact that this is a pilot episode. There isn’t going to be a lot of time to delve into who the characters are; and that’s fine.
If I have any complaints, it is that the character’s failings have not yet been emphasized. That is more of a nit-pick, than a major issue. These characters have been established well, but they are still very much in a state of potential, only a promise of something to come. Emma is a compelling lead, featuring all the shonen tropes that make a character likeable, but it is not clear whether the failing established by the show her “caring too much for others” is going to be a sufficient character flaw in the long run to warrant further explanation. Ray is a more one-note character than i’d like; but again, this is the pilot.
If I have any complaints, it is only that my attention flagged a little during the middle of the episode; but again, as an introductory episode, that is to be expected.
The Promised Neverland is off to a great start, and promises to be an excellent show. While the pacing was somewhat slow, I have faith in where the show is going, and I am invested enough in the characters to be excited for the next episode.
Let’s see how that promise lives up, as the season goes on.
Today, I found a website about found grocery lists. There truly is something for everybody on the internet. It’s right here, by the way.
I was fascinated by its fascination with the small, mundane accruals of the small, mundane people; I found it an apologia for the things that are regularly overlooked because they are microscopic in size. Those things which we hold in mundane contempt; that which we would call “taking things for granted” and I discovered it for the most mundane or reasons.
I suck at grocery shopping.
Of all the prosaic reasons to find a prosaic piece of collage art as a website and time capsule, I chose the most prosaic of all. The act of improving my grocery shopping game. it’s weak as fuck.
I walk in there, grab a basket; sometimes, I walk in and see the rows of color; the masterfully arrayed stands with conical colorful shapes; I see the ovaries of trees and vines and all the things borne above and below the earth in their gaiac majesty. I look at the long aisles, filled in an organization that speaks its own secret language; a dewey decimal system for the soap-opera masses; with the images and needs painted explicitly and somehow not at all far reaching enough to be meaningful.
Condiments, such an all-encompassing statement, and yet most of the condiments cannot be found in this section. There are condiments like dressings, or cheeses; there are condiments from other countries; there are ketchups and mustards of course; your rap-beloved Grey Poupon’s aligned on shelves, sometimes haphazardly, sometimes in martial beauty; geometrically arrayed to portray a sense of order. These next to peanuts and various things that the grocery store actually wants you to buy; snack packs of various nuts; spatulae and frying pans; the off-brand grocery store snack foods and off-brand colas that are as much a mainstay of the US as those more generic panegyric subjects like Mom’s Apple Pie, Baseball, and rampant Xenophobia.
I walk into this place, arrayed with a market psychologist’s precision, and I am lost in this city of food. I am lost among the avenues of fruits. I stumbled, recently, picking out a fresh food bag; I stood there, smiling the way you smile when you know you are in an embarrassing situation, but showing your embarrassment would be tantamount to acknowledging your embarrassment; and the jacketed indifferent people, wandering in their own non-synchronous rhythms watch in mild amusement at the putz fumbling with dispenser so he can grab a cucumber he will fail to cook, and will eventually go to the compost pile for reasons unknown.
I find myself lost in fluorescent lighting; the re-usable bags; the circular logic of prepared foods. The day old sushi which is eaten only in the most utilitarian of circumstances. With the mayo spicy and yellowed dripped onto the just shy of vibrant tuna nigiri; and the way overpriced cool tasting sticky rice that is no subsistute for the good shit. No dreams of Jiro would ever concoct such mundanity.
And then onto the cheese section, where a glorious array of various shades of yellow, red, white, and speckle make themselves known. One can get lost in a cheese display, if one is not lactose intolerant (which I am not). One can finger lovingly the displays of brie and gorgonzola so crisp and the vermont cheddar that needs be extra sharp to be consumed by my mallet-smashing-watermelon subtlety of palate.
Onto to those red glaring meats, and tupperware collections; anterior and posterior to the frozen-fish, sitting freshly cut; breakfast wares and pork-cut gone wrong hot-dogs all arrayed to entice.
And then I wander, allegro, across the remaining aisles. Anxious and grateful at the ability to shop for groceries, even though I don’t know what I’m looking for. Making sure to stick to a budget that, somehow, I exceed, by only the slightest of margins that will still manage to shame me with my limited ability to budget.
The embarrassment as I search for frozen fruit and the carbs, pretending my macros are a consideration, when I really feel broke. And, after rushing like someone who made act 2 way too long through the climax, I get some yogurt and granola and go.
So, to make a more balanced solution, I looked of grocery lists. I’ve never felt my age more; I’ve never felt so mundane and simple as to search for something like a grocery list.
But then I found this site. And I saw that mundanity, in a row, is quite beautiful. To see the pathologies of man writ small, in various colors and lined papers and stick notes and hotel stationary; objects as diverse as lotion, get-well cards, margarine, bananas, condoms; doctors stationaries; index card; kisses in red-lipstick for loved ones; parmesan cheese; glimpses into character; little peeks behind the curtain of mundane life.
And, for a moment, it feels like an aesthetic, greater than itself, but no more than itself. For a moment, humanity is a single plural strain of existence write large across the planet.
But then I remember, it’s just a bunch of groceries.
Well, actually, nah. I’ve written about it before, but there is something weirdly magical about good spam; GOOD spam. Like Zoltan Papp who I swear is just 3 sentences away from writing some masterful goddamn science fiction stories a la conspiracy theories. Or the infamous Nigerian Prince con mucho dinero qui just needs you to wire some cash so you can inherit it from him, regardless of the internal contradiction that presents.
But now this anti-blog thing is getting spam, and it is mildly frustrating, to put it…mildly. Blegh.
I’m all for that sexy poetry spam where it’s a series of words that don’t really make sense, arrayed in a beautiful colorful word salad and all that makes sense is that the words are multi-syllabic masterpieces of sound and that’s about it. Carburetor switch valve sorry for the ectoplasmic refraction beam; light at the end of the tunnel but only killswitches on the anterior side of nowhere’s seti alpha v crazy. It’s an orthogonal retrograde of amnesiac surrealism pressed against the grey stone tilt of some jojo reference I don’t have time for.
Sorry, where were we?
Eh, I don’t know. I was too busy making word salad.
Ah. No. I lost my train of thought.
Should I end this here?
Well, if you insist, me.
What was I talking about?
Oh, right, getting spam.
Getting spam is great…if you get other attention too; but I don’t.
Spam is the only attention I get. Comment after comment of spam. And that means someone is reading it, and maybe I should show compassion to those people. Those People are salesman, after all. They are trying to convince me to buy a product because they see a need – poor viewership – and feel in their automaton hearts that they have the solution.
They don’t. It’s spam. But it’s the the thought that counts.
But is spam something that can really think? Well, no, but it’s not meant to. It’s meant to push a product that may or may not work, and get money into the hands of the unscrupulous and scrupulous alike. Spam isn’t always illegitimate like Jon Snow; sometimes Spam is just some trashy e-mail meant to sell you a thing, sent to a million people who are likely to purchase it.
Sometimes, Spam is thought about heavily. It has meaning. Someone thought about, probably for hours – maybe even longer – the arrangement of the font, how colorful it should be and every little detail, just to make sure it would ping on your email and grab your attention.
There is something admirable about that.
Because, when it’s not a scam, out and out, that means someone cared enough to make sure you would like to read that. Someone put enough care to grab your attention to make sure you wanted their project; and, because this theoretical spam is by a marketing team, it is because they recognize in you a potential client. They know something about you that you may not even be aware of.
But perhaps in sending it it was too generic; perhaps they did not put enough thought into make the email seem real. One man’s spam is another man’s treasure…probably. And at least with spam attached to something legitimate, you know someone is thinking about it.
I can’t decide if that’s sad, or beautiful.
Oh, whatever, spambots, enjoy the algorithmic content you glean from this website, and have all that fun.
You ever get a wave of involuntary memory, like a Proust orgasm and you suddenly feel very distant from your memories, like they are all something explicitly in the past; and yet they are also right in front of your lived-in body, moment to moment on the cusp of revelation; and all the feeling is suddenly overwhelming you and falling on top of you; and you have no choice but to feel the memory as if it were this infinite moment where the past collides into the present – where all time is laid bare like sushi on a japanese woman – and the unfeeling lurid tongues of men in suits runs across your body and you don’t know what the feeling is supposed to evoke; whether it’s some meaningless trite sensation of thereness; or if its an uncomfortable violation of yourself; that moment forever lost now replaying violently on the theater of your schull. Endlessly repeating some tangential sensation of oneness and care and hope.
This blog is about nothing, and that’s the way I want to keep it. Insert Seinfeld bass intro.
Honestly, this blog isn’t about things, it’s intentionally not about things, because things are points in time, vectors that cut off those beautiful unknowns in the distance; they make myopic the masses and make circumstantial the consequential….unless they don’t.
Uhm….that means something. Probably.
What is the point of a blog anyway? I mean, nowadays blogs are about things. You blog about how awesome you are trimming your cat’s ball hair (of if you’re a vet, their balls); you blog about how to maximize your SEO to make those sweet sweet ad-dollahs baby. Cha-fuckin’-ching.
I mean, you know, you blog these days because blogging is now a viable opportunity to make moolahs. Which, in this day and age, is actually a reasonable goal.
And I think to myself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3yCcXgbKrE
And, for a while, I’ve been in this mindset of “I want to blog because blogging can be profitable if you are good at it” but then it occurred to me: i’m…not, good at it.
I mean, if I really put a good faith effort – if I dotted my Srunk & White T’s and crossed my SEO eyes – if I…I don’t know, listened to Income School and made my content good and saleable, then that premise would be just fine and dandy.
But I can’t, at least not yet, for a few reasons.
Reason 1: I get in my head about it
I find socialism to be dumb as bricks in its most extreme incarnations (fucking honestly), but I also can’t bring myself to write content that I don’t feel strongly about.
I’m probably a fucking hypocrite for saying it, but when I write in a purely commercial context, it is hard to feel like I have soul in the game. If I rationalize it to myself, it’s possible, don’t get me wrong. I been on that grind honey, and it’s 100% possible lemme tell you.
But it also feels…manufactured.
Don’t get me wrong, if you find joy in copy-writing, or technical writing; if finding the quickest route from Consumer A’s wallet to Company B’s bank account gets you going; if the prospect of finding the Mot Juste of advertising is your Joie De Vivre with that vestigial R, and you like that shit, really, honestly, that’s amazing.
I will never fault someone for hustlin’ and likin’ it. And it would be dishonest of me to say “Who, me make money by writing convincing copy? Never. I have SOUL IN THE GAME. MAN”. That’s kinda fucking bullshit. If I could enjoy copy, I would go balls deep into that process. The prospect of putting words to paper and also then converting those words actionably into monies for which I can then purchase goods and services from other Copywriters gets me all tingly inside as a prospect.
I’m not there yet.
I get so in my head about the reality of it; am I excited about writing this thing because the words flowing from my word processor are words that I care about; are these flowing fluid alliterations meant to sell you a product my soul; or am I just a fucking shill pushing a product to convince you you need something more?
I never genuinely know the answer. And I ain’t gonna lie, it’s troubling.
So, I started this free-writing thing so I can…be more comfortable with the prospect of putting words on paper in public.
I think this is like… the first, second, THIRD time, third, really Eric? Honestly. This is the third time I’ve tried this, and that’s upsetting.
But I need to do this because.
Reason 2: Being naked is awesome
Ahh, I’m gonna need to rephrase that somehow.
How shall I put this? Any written endeavor, or musical endeavor, or artistic endeavor requires that you strip down in front of a lot of people. For better or worse consciously, and with the expectation of being judged for it. People are….less than forgiving of others on the internet.
And over the last year, it is has become increasingly evident that people are looking to pick a fight. I’ve watched as the situation has deteriorated rapidly. People are angry, and they want to hurt.
If there is a group of people I want to drop trough in front of less, it would be y’all. And that’s not just because I’m a fan of being publicly decent.
Y’all – the vast internet wasteland – filled with time cubes and hate mongers and neo-nazis and Anime Fans and Social Justice and stupid critical essays on why the Last Jedi is a dumpster fire and people being systematically abused by poweful systems and capitalists and communists and stupid people who think they are smart and smart people who think they are stupid and people who casually overlook the impact of stalin and mao and people who are cool with the situation in flint and people who like to argue because they like the feeling of being angry and people who are justifiably depressed.
It’s a lot. And it’s scary. And it always feels like i’m going to be stepping on a lot of toes. I don’t want to step on toes. But I’m going to, whether I like it or not. That’s just how existence works.
But man, I don’t like the thought of it.
And that’s kinda messed up because:
I want to be more than invisible
So we come to the squeeze. I’m not afraid to admit I’m egotistical. I think it’s egotistical to think you’re not egotistical, and then do things that support that idea, even though, deep down, you one hundred percent are egotistical (didn’t I just say 100% ffs?) so I’ll be straight: I want to be liked, I want to be loved. And that shouldn’t be a radical fucking statement, but it is. It is because it is Gauche AF to admit that you want things like “being significant” and “being cared for”.
Or maybe I’m just fucked in the head. We may never know.
But in all cases, I see myself as having pussyfooted pretty hard. And this meandering answerless blog with shit content is my answer to it.
Because if I can’t meander meaninglessly across vast tracts of the internet wasteland, anime, art, literature, music, and all the things I love.
Then what is the goddamn point?
I don’t know. But maybe if I write it out, I’ll find out.
To be and not to be, that’s a better question. Without which not, sine kwannon; all the time in the world sitting upon the edge. Precipice, precipitation and the precipitous collapse of meaning, dangled upon the edge of the end of the world, internally assonant, and just satisfying enough to crave that all encompassing desire for death. The pursuit of the void.
My headspace looks a little weird right now, I hope you will excuse me.
I muse, tonight, on a topic I have mulled over mindlessly – and mindfully – for some time now; still not concretely set upon an answer that would satisfy the basic urge that drives me, but still pleasantly placated by a sad thought: we are all doomed to be forgotten.
Not just forgotten, but non-existent. One day, we will cease to exist in sum. Our atoms, which were once star dust, which were transmogrified into us through some strange probabilistic magic, and will one day be not us again, will cease to hold meaning in the curious knot of consciousness.
I haven’t decided whether it terrifies me or not.
To be and not to be, again and again.
What if it is scary. Is all the nihilistic depressing outlooks warranted? Well, maybe Nihilistic, because nihilism is simply the absence of meaning: it holds no moral quantities whatsoever. It is a philosophy bereft of that thing we call inherent meaning. It is not the ideology of despair, but an ideology that precludes ideology: a paradox. My favorite kind.
Because paradoxes are unanswerable. They are the stuff of which god is composed. The atoms of contradiction. Those sweet freely flowing nothings that are everything’s by their very nature. An ideology that precludes ideology is ideal, because it holds no pretense at being the correct one.
Correct ideologies, are dangerous.
Correct ideologies dictate that that comma splice is evil; that semi-colons serve a specific purpose; that the rallying cry of the period is the death knell of the living sentence. That pulsating series of imperfections that dies in a little black hole at the end of time.
When an ideology is pre-supposed to be real – whichever shitty ideology it is – they all are, really – then the things that surround it are negated. The things that are not the ideology become objectively evil. It is monstrous. To make something that has no inherent meaning a bad thing. How can people be so attached to this?
Well, the reason is often comfort. It’s nice to believe that good and evil exist, that people can be bisected, bifurcated, and otherwise boxed into simplistic moral categories. That people are not composed of a series of actions, strung along a narrow conception of chaotic time; that things are categorical, that they exist as they are. That there is no need for paradox, because write and wrong are the two things that exist, and one is preferable to the other.
Fuck it up its butt. Fuck all ideologies. Ideologies are fucking awful. Ideologically driven mindsets are painful and childish. They require reducing the world; putting it through photoshop, cleaning the stretch-mark scars on reality’s body. It requires that reality be modified, and altered – contrast added, curves enhanced, symmetry created – and that the rest of it be discarded. Then, when being processed into that idealized image of self, compressed, degraded, pixels removed. The warts all gone, ideology is there, beautiful, and unblemished by moral compromise. Because that’s the way it should be, Ce n’est pas?
I can’t abide such willful ignorance. I am prone to my fancies, and I am imperfect, and unqualified and unquantifiable. Reality is not attached to the circuits of meaning man constructs to comfort himself in the face of a broad, enormous, unending panoply of space, and planets and action. Reality is plural and unanswerable and all those things that make us uncomfortable.
It scares me, sometimes, when I think about the fact that we will one day cease to exist. That one day, there will be a nothing where we once were.
And, at the same time, it’s kind of beautiful.
Optimistic Nihilism. An approach to meaninglessness that I prefer. The world ends, nothing follows, let’s assume. Then every bad thing is gone, every good thing is gone. People are not real, or they are, or both, as I like think, and then we wink out, and cease, but we don’t leave, we simply change. We simply become that which is not otherwise, and it’s beautiful.
We rise and become everywhere like so many things that have already passed, and then, if this nihilistic show is oscillating, we do it again, maybe. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I fucking hate those dead, desiccated things.
So I ask, to be and not to be, that’s the question. And I don’t need an answer.
Kyoko: Life is dissappointing, isn’t it?
Noriko: Yes, it is.
I am not old, but I am now old enough to appreciate Tokyo Story (1953). When I had watched Ozu’s revered Magnum Opus, I was 18, I had not yet moved out of my parents house, and I hadn’t truly grown up yet. My experience was too limited. I had a taste for genre film, that has not yet truly abated, and I was more interested in the visual aspects of filmmaking – color not the least of it – than the emotional elements.
It is good that I gave this about 10 years to marinate. For a long time, I hated it. It was boring, and mind-numbingly slow. It’s tatami mat aesthetic, where the majority of shots sit at a Zazen level on the floor was redundant, and repetitive. The human portrayal of being was trite, and uneventful, and the story meant little to me.
The film, I realize now, is meditative. I have more experiences now. I am aware that I grow older, that I age, even though my mind remembers youth more clearly than it did when I was young.
For those who are not of the cineast variety, Tokyo Story is a 1953 film by Yasujiro Ozu, focused on an elderly couple visiting their children in Tokyo for a vacation. During the vacation, their children, adults, and with lives of their own have little time to care for their aging, bored parents who have little to do in the bustling city, as they approach the twilight of their lives. it is a 136 minute that feels infinitely longer, as the majority of it is shot statically, with shots that linger for too long, and much of the story moves at a measured, patient pace.
It is a film that requires some understanding of the neuroses of Post-war japan, for certain. The sense of loss, and grief for an era that has now left, torn cruelly asunder, and seemingly forgotten amidst the modernizing, west influenced Tokyo.
Like Short Story subtle writing, those americana’s you see listed for the O. Henry prize, or shortlisted by MacArthur fellows, this film inhabits negative space, and emphasizes, to a large extent, the humanity of failure, and disappointment. These topics continue to grow in appeal for me, as the years wear on.
The characters as presented are unfailingly human. As shots linger on Shukichi Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) drinking Saké with his long suffering, but ever smiling wife Tomi at his side (Chieko Higashiyama), discussing his willfulness in youth, and his penchant for drink, one envisions that time when his hair was a deeper shade, his body not so rictus with age. One can see him coming home late at night – as he does later in the film – stumbling, with his wife sitting, thinking about all the things she could have done. All the people she could have chosen, but instead chose him, to take through life’s journey. All of it communicated by not speaking out loud. by speaking to human failings, rather than contrived ones.
It is how the human heart suffers. Instead of characters broadly announcing their existence, loudly, and succinctly, the story moves over them with a brush-stroke rich in its minimalist qualities. Instead of truly villainous children, who don’t care about their parents at all, we are given one of those low-grade ore horrors of growing up: a job, a life, children of their own. No time to spend on people. Their failings are real, and byproducts. There is no malice aforethought.
Ozu goes out of his way to humanize all the characters, making none of them anything less than human. Whether it is the Older Gentlemen shooting the shit over Saké at a bar, being escorted home by police; whether it is Noriko’s kindness masking her loneliness; or whether is their children being dutiful, and loving, but only just enough to pass the snuff: there is no villainy to be had here. Just people being people, and all those dinghy’s bumping in the night.
It still feels long, but different than it used to. Instead of feeling ponderous, it feels like the camera is in a Zen Buddhist posture, reciting a haiku with the syntax of its shot composition. The shots move together with seamless grace, moving form location to location, never veering from the upright lotus, simply observing, watching, being.
The emotions are pure. The water clarified by this sense of stillness. A peace that pervades the loneliness of the characters. There are no tropes being exploited, or big moments. It is all in the details, that accrue carefully over time. Each little gesture or trait being folded cross ways with another, until a latticework of humanity is presented in the origami of its characters.
In a word: beautiful.
As I move forward, getting older, not perhaps getting any wiser, but aging. As making time for people seems to become more difficult, I find myself struck by the film’s pace. It is the ever progressing nature of time. That final shot of Shukichi alone in his house, incense drifting up lazily has the elements of honesty that hit closer to home than I’m comfortable admitting.
It is one of those things that rewards rewatching, which is why, I think, I will. But at a later time, when I have gotten older. When the heart has darkened like wood because it must, and symptoms of time moving forward are in evidence.