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Entertainment through the ages

November 13, 2006

Well, this Sunday, I ended up as a guest of honour or something, at a traditional tea ceremony. I didn't even know I was attending one. I had just been asked to go to this place at this time, and when I turned up, they ushered me into this position next to who looked like important people and gave me some tea. Was pretty cool, but I still don't really know what happened.

After that, I went to a traditional kyogen performance. This is Japan's oldest form of stage theatre, equal with no. The two of them split from a certain super-style some way back in Japan's history. No became serious, and Kyogen became Comedy.

Apparently. It definitely seemed old-fashioned. Although I couldn't really understand much of what was happening, I did notice that most of the humour seemed to derive from people pulling funny faces and talking in funny voices. You know, like the plays you see in movies from way back in medieval times, or whatever, where some guy walks on wearing a mask and a massive phallus, and all the plebs in the audience crack up.

Well, that's what this was. There were two stories. The first one seemed to involve some idiot servant who was sent out by his master to collect snails. Because they're good for your health or something, I heard afterwards. Anyway, this guy had no idea what a snail actually was. So he came across this sleeping bush-warrior guy, and thought he was a snail. So the warrior decided to convince the servant that he was, in fact a snail. Then the two of them started dancing around the stage chanting and singing "Snail! Snail!" for about five minutes while everyone laughed. The master turned up and called the servant an idiot because this wasn't actually a snail. But then for some reason he started singing and dancing as well – I guess he got convinced. So a few more "Snail! Snail!"s after (with three people now), it was over.

The second story involved two idiot servants (a bit of a theme in kyogen, apparently), who enjoyed pissing it up on their master's sake when he was away. One of the servants started waving a stick around, pissing everyone off, so they tied his arms to it, like a cross. Then the master tied the other servant's hands behind his back. Confident that they couldn't steal his sake, he left. The rest of the play was the servants trying to find a way to drink the sake. They succeeded by pouring it into each others mouths. Since they could manipulate their hands well enough to get the sake into each other's mouths, why they didn't just untie each other's bonds was beyond me. But anyway, the master came back and they got in trouble.

So, immediately after that, I headed into the city to watch a slightly more modern version of Japan's entertainment – the new Death Note movie! And it was awesome. I said last week that I'd explain the Death Note this week. Well, here it is. Death Note is a comic book series here. Basically, a God of Death gets bored, so he drops a Death Note in the human world, and lets a human pick it up. This human is a super-smart high-school kid, Light, who realises the Note's uses – that anyone whose name is written in the Note, dies. He decides to use it to rid the world of criminals and become the new God of a Utopian World. The police realise that somebody's somehow bumping off all the crims, so they band together and get the world's top detective, L, in on the case.

The story is basically about these two trying to find out who each other is, Light so he can kill his pursuer, and L so he can put Light on death row for his crimes. It involves a whole lot of mind games and more twists than a bowl of ramen. The series recently ended in comic form, and now two movies have been made, and an animated series is currently airing on TV. The whole franchise is bloody brilliant. I highly recommend it. 😀 I thought about taking a sneaky photo of the sreen in the theatre, but in the end decided I didn't want to risk trying to tangle with any kind of Japan security. They can be pretty damn strict on some pretty stupid matters.

There have been problems, though, with some kids through Asia bringing their own Death Notes to school and writing in names of bullies or teachers, or other kids they don't like, in an attempt to kill them – either seriously, or just to be mean. Understandably, either way, the teachers aren't too happy about that. Hence us consfiscating that kid's one last week.

I'm considering sticking up some spoilers for the second movie, since it plays out kinda differently to the comics. If anyone's interested, let me know!

Word of the Day – 今夜 – konya – tonight

EDIT: Sorry to anyone who is using this as their exclusive means to study Japanese. The "last night" translation I had here was, obviously, wrong. I was tired.

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