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Mo No No Ke | ep0 | 1of4

W] live and learn
Here's one way to start your story: dead body. Whammo!



there is no way around it: spoilers out the wazoo.

if you're not aware of the routine kaigou purpose and/or approach and/or style and/or attitude, may help to read details & deconstructionism. there other posts that might also enlighten/introduce but right now I'm too tired to track down the links.




It all started when I stared for too long & thought the EYEBROWS WERE BACKWARDS.

Pop quiz, courtesy christeos_pir: which of these does NOT belong? Take your time.



I do like the rotation as it pulls away -- a very nice cinemagraphic feel to it that you don't often catch in lesser animation. But especially when it's not followed up by visible action, but instead lingers on yet another part-of-the-picture.



From there, the visuals do jump into the story, but I'll save those for a later point (placing them chronologically to explain something I'd missed on first viewing.)

Credits roll. Leaving those for later.

Some of these frames are a little odd -- I've been batch automating to convert them to web-sizes, and I think something got turned off in the batch for a few of these. Eh, well. The rest are actually sharpened slightly and reset on the contrast, to make them a bit more visible for the details. What may look like pixelation or fuzziness from a low-quality image is actually NOT. That's how the animation style really looks, like everything got slightly splattered by watercolor along the way, or what it'd look like if you did a mask in photoshop of concrete or something as an overlay layer.

I think sadly the d/l I got for the full series isn't HQ (though if someone had 'em, I'd take 'em), but after seeing the quote-unquote official release, I'm not sure I needed to really bother. It doesn't seem to be a major improvement in quality -- which boggles me, because the only copy I had of Bakeneko episodes prior to CP springing the DVD release on me were three rips from, of all things, an embedded version from ytube or similar. Yes, in FLV format, ripped out of the site and converted to play in VLC and it actually is not that much worse quality than the official. I am guessing this is intentional, and not because the official release had crummy masters. I really hope so, at least.

Anyway.

Establishing shot! Sort of. I guess if I didn't know it was going to be surreal before, I knew it by this point.

Is it just me, or does the family seem to be awfully proud of having been granted a samurai-class kamon. As a matter of fact, it's so freaking all over the place, I went looking. Just curious.



It's the one on the far right, identified as the Chosokabe (長宗我部氏) clan.

Tosa was ruled by the Chosokabe clan during the Sengoku period, and Chosokabe Motochika briefly unified Shikoku under his rule, although he was reduced to Tosa again by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and dispossessed entirely after Sekigahara. The province was then granted to Yamanouchi Kazutoyo. Tosa was a relatively poor province, and lacked a strong castle town even under the Chosokabe. After Sekigahara, the castle town of Kochi was established and remains the main city to this day. During the Edo period the province was controlled by the Tosa Domain.
Which is to say, that means not much of anything except purely academically, in that the Chosokabe clan had hit the big time and fallen from grace well before the Edo period. Further, it apparently wouldn't have been unlikely for a side family to retain the crest and pass it down even after the main family wasn't much on the scene -- at least, that's what I got when researching for other stuff. (Same deal as among the Scottish groups/clans; things were a lot more fluid when you didn't have to tell the government your formal name but could change it with each new town.)

Anyway, a few other points: the Chosokabe's home area is also associated with Kukai, the founder of Shingon buddhism. The general region has something like eighty-whatever temples that are part of a massive pilgrimage related to that sect. If there were anywhere in Japan, anywhere, that I would stick a story's beginning if I wanted to imply mystical/magical elements (that have a vaguely spiritual flavor, instead of just secular), it would probably be some place I could tie it to Shingon. Just because I like my easter eggs, and I'd expect most folks wouldn't notice but maybe someone would.

ALSO

Shingon buddhism is the magical/mystical sect, with stronger influences from the Tibetan than the later sect/arrivals. Those mudras you see in Naruto? Tibetan mysticism infused Buddhism, and came to Japan via China, I think it was, when Kukai headed over there to study and returned with his wonderful magical mystical self to spread the word. (He was actually a pretty cool guy, and remarkably astute and intelligent.) The mystical elements in Taoism that show up in this story -- the exorcism sword, some of the peculiar flavors here and there -- are also present in Shingon buddhism, being the source of some of the sect's more esoteric elements.

So it just makes a kind of "yeah, okay!" sense to me, to have a clan whose powerbase was the same neighborhood, and then to have this character show up who carries a lot of those more esoteric tags.

BUT!

In a different resource, the Chosokabe kamon doesn't look anything like that, and elsewhere all I can find is that this type of kamon is an igeta, but no indication of who used it. So, who knows. But it's amusing nonetheless.

(To actually parse the resources I did find would require I figure out the hanzi, get the characters, get the meanings, and then try and parse what Japanese clans had that meaning for a name and that's just NOT WORTH IT. So we're going with the, "hey, whatever!" approach.)

Past the exterior wall, we get this shot of the interior courtyard entrance, looking back at the exterior wall. Kusuri-uri is entering, and I thought little of this shot until seeing Iwa ni Hana's observation that black, green, and red are colors associated with kabuki. (I guess this would be similar to seeing, say, a wedding setting in the US and the banners outside the church being in purple and green: it's Mardi Gras, I'd immediately yell, but who outside of Louisiana always makes that connection? Anyone?)



And then dead ahead is the, uh, home -- mansion? what is it called? -- proper. Check out the mon!



I'm trying to imagine the shots above or below but slathered with a much cooler mon. Y'know, one like this:

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Hmm. I'm not sure I could get CP to go for it. Hmm.

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Okay, probably not.

(I've always wondered: in cultures with a family-identifying crest like Japan, or, uh, elsewhere, do they ever look at a kamon/crest and think, "oh, crap, not one of them, whaddaya wanna bet he's got twenty of his relatives on their way, and they're gonna drink everything, get plastered, and sing loudly and BADLY until dawn." I know all about this, because every year growing up we got put next to the family that proceeded to do just that. THEY STILL DO. You can go anywhere in this freaking country and that family is ALWAYS the one getting plastered and singing loudly and BADLY. It's like some kind of genetic curse.)

*cough*

Anyway, yo, totally down with the mon. Is this normal? Or am I the only one who feels like the statement the family is making is roughly HELO THAR WE'RE SPESHUL AND DON'T YOU FORGEDDIT.

ONWARD.

Family name is Sakai (堺 -- or remove the radical for the other version that's got same vocal & meaning). The town matches up better than the associated clan, if you ask me:
In the Muromachi Period Sakai was one of richest cities in Japan. Sakai is located on the edge of Osaka Bay and at the mouth of the Yamato River, which connected the Yamato Province (now Nara Prefecture) to the sea. Sakai thus helped to connect foreign trade with inland trade. Sakai was an autonomous city run by merchant citizens. ... Once known for samurai swords, Sakai is now famous for the quality of its kitchen knives ... The famous Zen Buddhist priest Ikkyu chose to live in Sakai because of its free atmosphere.
Given the conversation in ep2 about the imitation swords, it sure sounds to me like the Sakai family aren't samurai, but merchants -- why would samurai import swords and then test each prior to getting a good deal on them? Although the backstory indicates at the least, the grandfather was a samurai, seeing how he's shown riding a horse (no one but samurai were granted that privilege).

BUT!

Prior to Tokugawa, swords were more ubiquitous. It would've been possible for a merchant to carry a sword, blah blah blah. By 1600 or so, things had solidified, and I'm suspecting this story takes place late-1600s from dress/details. So most likely not merchants, not in the western "all we do is retail" sense.

The (ideal) ranks in society as I understand, from top down were samurai, then farmers, and then merchants. How that actually worked out in practical application, hah, I doubt it, but whatever. I'm puzzled as to why samurai would've purchased a bunch of knock-off swords (which from what I could find, may still have been decent quality if questionable) and tested them prior to sale. Would someone in the soldier-class also be a merchant of some sort? Or could someone in the merchant class rise to samurai-class? Was there any sort of maneuverability in the society, socially?

What did samurai do to make money? It's a kind of feudal system, wasn't it -- so retainers would get a stipend (as part of the formal standing army?) or did they have serf-like farmers under them, or did they just get paid protection money by the locals? Y'know, I've never thought to ask before. (Never had reason, but hey.)

Still... Is it just me? Or is there a more universal association with the nouveau riche always being the most flamboyant?

There's funhouse wackiness and then there's... MON MON MON MON.

Comment from christeos_pir: "As to the nouveau riche thing, it's a common trope in samurai drama for the merchants to be boorish social climbers, giving themselves airs and trying to buy or marry their way into the samurai class. Watch 'Double Suicide,' based on Chikamatsu's 'Love Suicides at Anjima,' for a perfect example."

Oi.

Also, sakai means border or boundary. Also used as part of the phrase that means "boundary between life and death." Nice touch, there. I think.

I should note this about Ikkyu, who sounds like a fun guy:
Ikkyu could sometimes be a troublemaker. Known to drink in excess, he would often upset Kaso with his remarks and actions to guests. In response, Kaso gave inka to Yaso and made him Dharma heir. Ikkyu quickly left the temple and lived many years as a vagabond. He was not alone, however, as he had a regular circle of notable artists and poets from that era. Around this time, he established a relationship with a blind singer Mori who became the love of his later life. ... Ikkyū is one of the most significant (and eccentric) figures in Zen history. To Japanese children, he is a folk hero, mischievous and always out-smarting his teachers and the shogun. ... In Rinzai Zen tradition, he is both heretic and saint. Ikkyū was among the few Zen priests who argued that his enlightenment was deepened by consorting with pavilion girls. He entered brothels wearing his black robes, since for him sexual intercourse was a religious rite. At the same time he warned Zen against its own bureaucratic politicising.
Anyway, the wedding day, of course you must invite all the people you can't stand the rest of the year, and set them out in the yard to drink way too much. Maybe let them get slaughtered later or something, but hey, the wedding caterer's already been paid, and there's no refunds, so no point crying over split milk.



I have no idea what those guys in the foreground are supposed to be dressed as, but they crack me up.

Incidentally, there are kabuki plays that are considered traditional as entertainment for weddings.
page of noh play summaries:
F4, Takasago (name of a place) is a Waki Noh praising gods for their happiness and peace. When Kannushi (a Shinto priest), Tomonari from Kyushu saw an old couple cleaning the yard under the pine trees, he asked them about the pine tree of Takasago "Why do people call the pine tree of Takasago and the pine tree of Sumiyoshi "twins" while these two places are so far between?" The couple said that he was from Sumiyoshi and she was from Takasago and they have lived since the first pine trees were grown. They were actually the gods Takasago and Sumiyoshi, and Kannushi saw them dance for the people's happiness and peace at the beach. Takasagoya, a famous work by Zeami, is sung very often at wedding ceremonies or blessings for longevity, happy family life and peace.
ALRIGHTY.

In this shot, I thought Kusuri-uri was lost, but the shot only makes sense in hindsight, after the third episode. It's a nice touch, to include that at this point, as a kind of easter egg upon rewatching. I mean, really, they could've skipped it, but they didn't.



Cue ominous sound as he steps over the threshold...



And we get Kusuri-uri making a delighted kind of "ohhhhh" sound... Is it just me, or does he look a little too happy about this?



Someone on another thread mentioned the influence of japonaise style on the visuals. That strikes me as... wow, talk about self-referential in a twisted turned-around sense: your culture is exported and mangled in the process by another culture, then you take that mangled version and re-import it to come up with a new-mangled version of your own history?

Say, what, rugs? Are those rugs? Mebbe it's just me but it looks like rugs on the floor, or painted designs.



None of this looks like japonaise as I've ever seen it; the biggest influences on Western culture I've seen are in the areas of architecture (thank you Frank Lloyd Wright) and in china patterns. In the past twenty or so years, it's been this crazed obsession with wabi-sabi, and if this particular series is anything it's about as much like wabi-sabi as a bad acid trip is like taking two children's tylenol. That is to say NOT MUCH.

A lot of japonaise really seems to be redone chinoiserie, really, and man if you want gold and red and patterns going in every direction and ornateness and pictures of pretty ladies on EVERYTHING then chinoiserie is very much your pot of tea. Actually, a lot of this series' visuals feel much more like chinoiserie than japonaise.

The kamon are almost all actual kamon, too, but not that common, either. The abstract patterns don't seem to have been the most popular styles, not like flowers or birds or other natural-based patterns. Okay, and kamon based on tools, that's another big one.

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Exception: Guy at middle-left (in orange) has a simple pattern that I didn't see anywhere, when I was cruising the various pages of kamon. It's still abstractly recognizable as a plum blossom, though, which is why I think it works perfectly as a visual "insert generic but vaguely recognizable item here" -- like creating your own model of 1911 gun, where it's pretty close to existing ones but not, yet not so far off it throws readers/viewers for a loop.



Also, I was told green was considered a bad color for kosode, especially olive green. Several theories seem to float around this; either because the dye-stuff used was of questionable or lower quality (thus shortening garment life or dye-strength life), or because it's a color that just doesn't look good on most Japanese. Heh. Who knows! But I have a haori that's olive green and mustard yellow, made and never sold and instead stored for thirty years: the seller's comment was that probably the person came to pick it up and went EWWWW never mind. Also, I think there may be an association with bad luck, but I can't recall.

That doesn't amount to much. It just amused me.

Alright, blush #1.



Thing is, it's not a result of come-hither. It's because Kayo and Kusuri-uri are exchanging gossip, mostly related to Good Things For New Brides To Use. (EVERY culture on this PLANET has this stuff and you know EXACTLY what I mean.)

And then, first shot of the mysterious pack. Yes, turtle shell in the middle! Man, a lot of asian mythology/folklore is crammed with turtle-meanings. Or tortoises, uhm, there is a difference... but I can't always spell tortoise without thinking, so I'm going with "turtle" and you can mentally edit if you do know which is which. Sorry.



That face in the far-left corner of the drawer freaks me out. It's like an evil-clown moment, even pocket-sized for your convenience!

The difference between Ginko in Mushishi and Kusuri-uri seems to be that when you see Ginko selling stuff, he lays down a blanket and spreads out the stuff in somewhat neat rows. Kusuri-uri just scatters stuff everywhere, and half the time seems to break open the medicines and leave them lying about.

I 'spect a share of that is visual, but still, it's a rather odd visual to pick. Far less "this is a literal representation" and more of a "this is a metaphor for just how truly CHAOTIC and DISORGANIZED this guy is" and maybe a bit of "this isn't really his main priority or you know he'd take better care than this" hints.



1 Score to dogemperor: most likely a Ganesha (check the ears). I guess that makes this Elephant 0. Starting elephant!

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2 This looks really familiar. May've ran across it in one of the online photo-essays about Tibetan Buddhism, I think.

3 Again with the Tibetan Buddhism -- I could've sworn one of the sword/staff things had a similar design.

4 ...I CANNOT FIND THE PICTURE! It's an oil-holding (or other liquid?) thing, from India. The little sticks in the cow's back are the lid-handles, and you can put stuff in the cow, apparently. Or maybe you're supposed to use it as an incense burning thing. I'm not entirely certain, but I could've sworn I'd saved the image. but here it is:



(what were you expecting, exact match? hunh.)

from arts.cultural-china.com:
Oxen, rams and other animals used as ritual sacrifices in ancient times are called "Xi Sheng". Thus the name of "Xi Zun" is ascribed to this artifact because it is shaped into an ox. The vessel has a hollow belly and three holes on its neck and back. A panlike container can be set on the middle hole and be freely taken away. Considering the characteristics of its structure, it may have been used to warm wine - a pan-like container set to load the wine, and two holes in the front and the rear used to fill in hot water.

Xi Zun has a sturdy figure with delicate designs. The whole body, - head, neck, trunk, legs, and ass, - is clothed with manifold designs. In addition, some parts, such as the neck, are ornamented with small tigers, rhinoceros and other animals. The ox's nose is perforated, which shows oxen had been tamed to work for the people dating back to the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period.
Also, triskele (three circles) is a variation on the tomoe or other three-circle stuff, variation per country:
Its name is tomoe, meaning turning or circular, referring to the motion of the earth. The tomoe is related to the yin yang symbol, and has a similar meaning, representing the play of forces in the cosmos. Visually, the tomoe is made up of interlocked flames resembling tadpoles.

The most common tomoe emblem has three flames (triple, or 'mitsu' tomoe), but one, two, or four are not uncommon. A mitsu (triple) Tomoe reflects the threefold division of Shinto cosmology, and is said to represent the earth, the heavens, and humankind. It is often associated with the Shinto war deity Hachiman.
5 Mirror. People-on-handle is design thing I've seen elsewhere.

6 HAHAHAHA ahem, lookie, it's the dollar bill illuminati! They really ARE everywhere!



7 dogemperor says "looks to me to be, quite frankly, a marital aid."

*coughcoughcough*

8 I don't know about anyone else, but to me it looks like a demented jack-in-the-box. again from dogemperor, "may well be a puzzle box... Of particular note here are appearances of at least three of the Guardians of the Directions (the tiger of the west, the phoenix of the south, and the tortoise of the north)."

9 If you don't know what it is, it must be for RITUAL.



Yeah, but a very similarly-designed pot at the Freer Gallery is classified as an incense burner. So I guess you'd use it in a ritual, but it's not like it just sits there useless. And a different pot at the Freer Gallery has these designs, based on Chinese bronze work:



Unfortunately the image isn't very clear, but in the site's larger version they do look very similar to the abstracted-designs in the animation.

10 Either it's a very short walking cane, or Kusuri-uri's real name is Mary Poppins. dogemperor's theory is it may be a type of flute.



1 ...I think it's a bento box, personally. Again from the intrepid dogemperor, "is actually not so much a bento box as...general food/stuff box (I've seen such things in museums before, same place I saw the old Chinese ritual incense burners--there's actually a nice exhibit in the Art Institute of Chicago that focuses on this)."

2 Another example of the so-familiar-but-not syndrome. I know I've seen this, at least the monkey-object on top. I can actually visualize the pot-with-lid, too; it's in a smooth terracota unglazed style. Where have I seen it? What friend owns it? Beats the hell out of me. But it looks so incredibly familiar.

(Yes, it's possible that it's not, or that I'm only unconsciously compiling mentally and getting recognition points that way. Even if I am, it's irrelevant.)

3 HAHAHA My brain goes to BAD PLACE with these two... things.



1 Elephant #1!

2 Spare turtle.

3 This smaller-to-larger is a turtle, uh, grouping, I've seen all over the place (some Japanese garden-styles may use a similar sculpture). Do we have a human fascination with piling turtles up?

4 Behold the mad research skillz of dogemperor: "it *almost* but not quite looks like a kirin--but it *does* look like some representations of Korean haetae." Revised to add: "It would appear to be a pixiu; this, too, has feng-shui connections, and the particular type of pixiu represented would appear to be a tian lu." From Wiki: "Tian Lu (天祿) - is in charge of wealth. Displaying Tian Lu at home or in the office is said to prevent wealth from flowing away."



A bit of turtle folklore trivia:

In India, the tortoise Chukwa supports the elephant Maha-pudma, which in its turn supports the world. Kurma (second incarnation of Vishnu) was a turtle who helped the gods recover the Amrita from the deluge.

In China, a turtle supports the world, its four feet being the four corners of the earth. It is one of the Four Auspicious Creatures; it represents the north, yin (feminine) principle, and water. Called the Black Warrior (in part IIRC because 'tortoise' was an offensive slang term for, uhm, something). Represents strength and endurance; supposed to have a long life-span and was therefore a symbol of longevity. For wartime, the imperial army had banners with turtle and dragon to represent indestructibility, because neither creature can destroy the other. The Queen of Heaven,Hsi Wang-mu, was called the Golden Mother of the Tortoise. The turtle also represents the Great Triad, with it top shell as the dome of the sky, body for earth and lower shell the waters.

In Japan, the Cosmic Mountain, home of the Sennin (Taoist Immortals), is supported by a turtle.



I love this visual pun. The previous shots, Kayo and Kusuri-uri are discussing things-for-brides. In the previous shot, the turtle's necks were stretching out while Kusuri-uri (it's implied) was talking about certain medicines for brides. Ahem.

This shot begins with Kayo explaining the groom is, well... not so young anymore. Cue turtles on their backs with their heads slowly sinking back into their shells.

Some visuals really are UNIVERSAL, baby.

Meet the folks. Hi, Dad.

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Along with their... elephants? That would be elephant #2 and elephant #3, whom we'll call Jake and Aloisius.



1 Same elephant. (Jake.)

2 Hair check!



High-class call girls. Prostitutes. Oiran. Hookers.

My brain goes literal, and I think: either that's what she was originally, OR, she's one of those low-class folks who dress in streetwalker clothes well past their age because it fits their ill-educated idea of how-to-dress-to-impress. Given that they're impressed by anything fancy/shiny and no sense of taste.

The non-literal version I've seen posited is that the headdress style represents that she prostituted herself to get her role in the family.

Last, go back and look at the fold on her kimono. Or, a detail:



(If you're not aware, kimono are worn in one direction of left-over-right, uh, whatever it is, and reversing the direction per above is only done when dressing the dead. Though I don't know if you reverse all layers; I would guess you do, but hey. Someone put that line there, especially noticeable given the other layers go in the opposite direction.)

Three options.

1. The animator honestly didn't notice. (Maaaaybe, but doesn't seem likely.)
2. The animator is, uh, dyslexic. (Uh.)
3. The animator read the script and saw Mom's fate and went, "hahahaha NO ONE WILL NOTICE and it'll be my own joke and the only folks who'll ever know are me and the rest of the team, hahahaha it's a HINT and you MISSED IT!"

I'm voting for #3, with an addendum of "you didn't count on ME, buddy."

SO.

Say hello, Evil Uncle!



I mean, if you don't get the sense that he's not entirely all a good guy based on his expression, the fact that he's lazily drinking sake on his niece's wedding day, and his general posture ... the SNAKE behind him is probably a big honking clue.

Sometimes I feel rather bad for snakes, in their symbology. They get a bad rap thanks to being predators & poisonous, but many cultures (including Japan) revere them as a symbol of immortality, much like the butterfly: that ability to shed skin and appear brand-new. (Although the butterfly gets the 'repeating life' in a transformative sense, not a remade sense.)

from Snake Patterns in Eurasia/Japan and their Implications by Szaniszló Bérczi, Osamu Sano and Ryuji Takaki:
In ancient times snakes seems to be worshiped as beings possessing an eternal life, because of their ability to shed an old skin and grow a new one, which was regarded as a process of death and rebirth. In addition, the spiral shape of a snake of a vine or swirl of fluid have an implication of endless motion once it started outward or inward, probably led to a concept of eternity. The earthenware from middle JOMON period (ca. 2000 BC) has top grips or sides which are ornamented with snakes. Clay figures of the same period, in which snakes are wound on her heads, are also found.

Snakes were regarded as gods of mountain. Sometimes the object of worship enshrined in a Shinto shrine is the snake-shaped mountain, and was believed to appear in the form of a snake. That explains why blue snakes living in shrines are protected as a messenger of gods. Because they appear in damp areas and were believed to control the water, which guarantee the good harvest, they were worshiped by farmers as gods of water as well as gods of agriculture. Moreover they were regarded as guardians of houses because they eat rats and other vermin.

[...]

On the other hand snakes were considered to be regeneration of dead persons, which originate in the idea of never-ending cycle of reincarnation in Buddhism. They were believed to reflect spirits of a dead person, and were objects of fear and adoration. There are many folk tales in which a snake, that had an appearance of a man, made a woman pregnant and gave birth to a new family. Sometimes a revengeful ghost was believed to appear as a shape of snake.
[I like that page because it slaps the citations/bibliography right up at the TOP. Priorities, baby.]

Still, even when a snake-image is meant as a positive symbol, it seems we can't help reacting to it as a negative thing. What is that study done, about babies and pictures of snakes, that even at an incredibly young age, human-babies will recoil from snakes in horror, even from photographs of snakes -- I can't recall the study, now.

ANYWAY.

Kusuri-uri prepares to show his gratitude for the gossip.



SRSLY.

*cough*

Now, this is important. NORMAL TEETH.



Yep, looks just fine to me. Righto.

When he bows, the back of his kimono gapes, but this seems to be true of all kimono to some degree, thanks to how they're made. Is that a significant degree of openness, or not? Anyone?



And this would be (I guess) the come-hither look. Which strikes me as wonderfully conflicting for the newcomer/reader/viewer, given that the tone of his words is almost threatening and as though laden with significance, and the words he says are really rather flat. Basically, this shot is when he's telling Sato, "I'll be leaving, then." And he gives her this look.



Blush #2.



Oh, and lest we forget, Grandpa.



Behind him is a full-sized wall painting. Not a scroll, but since I didn't know what to call it, am noting the explanation here for future reference.

from web-japan.org:
The term "shoheiga" includes pictorial decoration applied either to partitions (shoheki) or to screens (byobu). The term "partition decoration" (shohekiga) denotes paintings on tsuitate (single-leaf screens), fusuma (sliding door or wall panels), ceiling panels, and cryptomeria doors as well as paintings on paper applied to walls, though it does not include paintings applied directly to wall surfaces.
Uncle Yoshikuni is ready for his close-up.



Which is where there's no choice but to realize this is not an accident. The background was redrawn to make sure the snake would be prominent over his shoulder; if you look at the earlier shot and think in terms of it coming in for a close-up, the snake would've been cut out of the frame. (The animators do the same later for two other characters, as well.)

While the Missus, err, Mizue, doesn't get her own backdrop, she does get the ceiling. Just noting this angle of shot, because it's echoed in episode 2, which is why I think it's meant as a purposeful backdrop for her, as the snake is for Yoshikuni.



I can't find the webpage that had the information -- I'm almost positive it was actually one of those "oriental decor" sites -- and I wish I could. It was an incredibly informative site, on all sorts of details about what it was selling. The section on scroll/painting work went into depth on each image, like "the value of having X carp over Y number of carp," and what swallows meant on a cherry tree versus cranes with pine trees, that sort of thing. (Including which ones to get for anniversary, and which were auspicious for weddings, and which to give when a child is born.)

Lacking that, I'll quote from an exhibit at the Freer (Smithsonian, in Washington DC) of a massive collection of standing screens. Each one got a decent explanation of the imagery, history, and/or context. My favorite screen was of some interest in a cultural sense for its unusual adaptation of two separate sets of imagery and combining them into one.

From the Freer Gallery site:
The image of painted fans spilling off from a bridge into a stream evokes the memory of the legendary journey made by a fifteenth-century shogun traveling from the center of Kyoto to an outlying temple. While crossing a bridge, one of the shogun's servants accidentally dropped his master's fan into the rushing water below. Struck by the sudden poignant reminder of beauty's fragility and fleeting nature, all in the shogun's retinue followed suit, casting their fans into the stream.

For the literate Japanese viewer, the image of ivy leaves set within long bands of color evoked a passage from the tenth-century collection of lyric episodes, Tales of Ise. In the ninth episode a group traveling to the east from Kyoto encounters an ascetic in a dark and narrow valley filled with ivy. The ascetic is implored by one forlorn traveler to carry back a message to his lady, who is waiting in the capital.

This skillful visual union of heretofore unjoined classical subjects in a common theme was a trademark of the seventeenth-century studio of Tawaraya Sotatsu (died circa 1642). In this instance, the two occasions provide ample reflection on the multiple meanings of happenstance.
No real reason; it's just an example of imagery-compilation that really appeals to me.

Also from the Freer Gallery, this comment about a screen whose image is a bunch of scattered fans:
After fans were painted, they were usually mounted to framework made of wood or bamboo that the owner could fold compactly when the fan was not in use. Occasionally, fans were pasted to folding screens such as this one. Here the framework is painted on the gold leaf to resemble bamboo or lacquered wood.

Japanese fans were decorated with gold or silver or with miniature paintings. Painters enjoyed the challenge of arranging scenes from historical or fictional narrative, landscapes, poems, or birds and flowers within the distinctive flaring shape of the folding fan. Sotatsu, an innovative painter who enjoyed the patronage of aristocrats in Kyoto, headed the fan workshop known as Tawaraya, which produced the fans for this screen.




additional links of possible interest

Understanding Mononoke over the Ages from Japan Echo, an interactive journal
Expressions in Kabuki by the Japan Arts Council
Probing the Traces: Reevaluating the Relationship Between Buddhism and 'Shinto' in Premodern Japan, panel report by Brian Ruppert (University of Illinois)

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W] live and learn
kaigou
锴 angry fishtrap 狗
The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. — Anais Nin

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