Friday, June 3, 2011

What's in a [trail] name...

Before the cease and desist order comes from some overpaid lawyer hired by some anal retentive media agent trying to justify their job by "protecting" the copyrights of a creative talent they probably have never met from someone who has no interest in stealing from them, let me explain the nature and reason for the trail moniker I have selected.

For those who do not know, I am an avid viewer of what most folks would call cartoons.  I grew up on them, and it is one of the last refuges I have when I feel the need to regress during an escapist mental vacation.  From Warner Bros. classic shorts like What's Opera, Doc featuring the infamous duo of Bugs and Elmer, to the feature films of Walt Disney (the person not the company) and current king of big picture classic animation Hayao Miyazaki who has
created wonders like Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke

For my daily consumption however, I feed mainly on a steady diet of anime TV shows.  To enlighten the deprived, anime is the term used when referring to animated works coming from Japan that are many times taken from Japanese comic books (or graphic novels if you prefer) called manga.  The anime is sometimes difficult to watch however if the translations are butchered (thank you Disney - the company not the man)  or the voice acting is weak.  If the option is present, I would strongly recommend watching them in the original Japanese with subtitles.  The voice acting is superb, even when you can't understand a damn word they say.  And no, I have not learned Japanese this way.  I am linguistically challenged and have enough trouble speaking my native tongue.

I have a laundry list of shows I can recommend, but like wine it is all a matter of taste.  Watch them, all of them, and you are bound to find a show that speaks to you.  For me, right now, it has been a show entitled Naruto, and the current version Naruto Shippuden.  It is based on a serialized manga that describes the exploits of a young ninja and his companions in a wholly fictional universe where the mystical arts of ninjitsu reign supreme.  I won't delve into the details of things as it can get quite complicated.   Suffice it to say all the good stuff is in there, life, death, unrequited love, loss, suffering, pain, perseverance, revenge, redemption, good guys, bad guys, and very culturally specific yet universal humor.  It is not an age specific show necessarily, though it does have a male leaning, which is evident with the number of times the fully competent though excessively busty female characters require saving by their male comrades.  This could stand fixing but we're talking targeted marketing here.  Sometimes compromises must be made to get the message out, especially in the male dominated Japanese society.  Times are a-changing though, but that's another blog.

So, our hero, named Naruto Uzumaki (or Uzumaki Naruto if the proper surname order is used) is a fledgling ninja in a world full of powerful superhuman ninjas during a very dangerous time.  The story primarily focuses on him, but has a broad and deep cast of characters who influence and affect his life as friends, rivals, detractors, love interests, enemies, and mentors.

One of these characters, Jiraiya, represents many aspects that I am readily able to relate.  He was a mentor and father figure to Naruto, providing education and emotional support through the difficult phases of adolescence.  Known also as the Toad Sage (Gama Sennin in Japanese) as his character could summon various powerful toad creatures to aid him in battle, he was one of three powerful ninja known in his land as the Legendary Sannin.  As much he was a warrior, he was also an author, a traveler, a philosopher, and a peacemaker.  He was dedicated to his craft and well above average in his abilities.  Deeply loyal to those he found worthy, to family and to community.  A private and solitaire person, yet outgoing and flamboyant when the mood or situation seemed appropriate.

He was also, as he would admit, a super-perv. As an author of adult fiction (probably akin to harlequin romance novels) he spent a great deal of time traveling about doing "research" for his books, usually at the local bars, brothels, bath houses (a common fixture in Japanese society, similar to a day spa in the U.S.) and hot springs .   He had a pension for using his exceptional espionage and camouflage skills for spying on the ladies in the neighboring baths, which in one case nearly got him killed by his fellow Sannin and close female friend Tsunade.  This particular vice would also earn him the dubious nickname of the Perverted Hermit (Ero-sennin), or as Naruto would call him in the English speaking version of the show...

...Pervy Sage.

To understand, you must watch.  I will never do it sufficient justice here.  I use the name in homage, as an ideal I wish to live up to, as a dedication to a classic character, and with respect to those who created him and the history and culture that is represented by him.  If someone has issue with this, so be it, and I will stop.  All you have to do is ask nicely...and I don't mean through your lawyers.


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