Thursday, May 6, 2010

No need for realism. (現実性は必要なし。)

Again, for those of you who are interested: I am done with the academic portion of my undergraduate career. All that's left is to graduate.

... I assume it will sink in eventually.

In the meantime, it appears I've found a go-to niche for when my creative juices run dry:

Drama review.

What, you had something better in mind? Well, it's not your blog, is it.

Today, we'll be discussing

必殺仕事人 (Hissatsu Shigotonin, or "Certain Kill Worker")

(...forgive me for that translation, apparently my brain is a little dead at the moment.)

According to Drama Wiki this time:

This show marks the return of the jidaigeki series "Hissatsu Shigotonin," which has had several seasons between the 1970s and the 1990s. The franchise came back in 2007 with a one-shot special, but this is its first full season since 1992. Makoto Fujita returns as the protagonist Nakamura Mondo, one of the "shigotonin," a team of hired assassins.

Admittedly, they apparently took it from Tokyograph but... let's not get our panties in a knot over proper citation in a blog here.

Basically, this show is about Tokugawa (or Edo, hur) era assassins, and how they go about their daily lives. It's highly episodic, and there really isn't any over-arching plot (other than some character development), but it's a good series despite that. Admittedly, I sometimes prefer the episodic formula; makes for easier watching.

Every episode focuses around the misdoings of one particular group of people (thugs, brothel owners, creepers, what have you), and also around what the assassin group (who are your average samurai, old samurai, weird artist, strangely Johnny's-boy-looking merchant, and awesome middle-aged woman) happens to be doing at the time. Usually, they're just dealing with their own issues, but sometimes, they happen to get involved with the hubub, and thus take more than a casual interest when they are hired to off the group.

As it is, of course, set in the past, everyone speaks in some sort of psuedo-古典 (classical) Japanese, so it's a bit difficult to understand... I say psuedo, because if it were legitimate 古典, I would probably have a much easier time with it. Huzza for Japanese major requirements. Admittedly, what they spoke in Tokugawa Japan is not what I study in Classical, but... meh. It's difficult to say what they spoke, really, and so no one really knows. I suppose their guess is as good as any, but I remain dubious.

And what about the title, you may ask. What's so unrealistic about killing people in Tokugawa Japan?

Oh, only everything.

Admittedly, the samurai guys are ok; hack and slash, I believe, though there is a significant lack of ANY blood. EVER.


Johnny's boy? Kills with some sort of bamboo-string-snake-whip. I kid you not. He holds it upright, and somehow it leaps from its case and chokes his target to death a good five, eight feet away, just because he's doing a few jerky motions that don't really seem to be accomplishing anything, physics-wise.

Pardon me while I protest.

Crazy artist man is a bit more realistic; he stabs his targets with a long, thick needle through the shoulder, and pierces their hearts. That, I could buy.

But he has to change clothes before he does it.

Into some sort of deranged, gay superhero outfit.

And it is never explained why.


But really, though I complain, the craziness is most of why I love this series. Not to mention my adoration for the Tokugawa period in general. It's a win-win all around, even if sometimes I don't quite know what's going on.

Definitely recommended, though if your Japanese level is much below mine (aka conversationally quite advanced), I'd look for some subtitles. Even I don't get a lot of it, I just have a smattering of pride to deal with.

This is Edo, signing off free and clear... except for job searching.


Anonymous said...

trust me, you won't have an easier time understanding it in classical japanese
the drama's produced for the everyday japanese viewer. they can gauge the general meaning from this pseudo-classical dialogue just as they would be able to from listening to kansai-dialect.
reading in classical (or any language for that matter) is one thing but actually hearing it in real-time and processing it's a entirely different story. there's still a long ways to go my friend

even though it's not available in pure classical(understandably since even those trained in classical japanese would need to rewind to keep up with the dialogue), good luck watching it in classical japanese, if you so insist -

Edo said...

Well, my Anonymous "friend," what would you suggest I watch to test this theory out? Unfortunately, I cannot think of a single series which employs purely Classical dialogue. As you said, 必殺仕事人 is not available in Classical--which, as I mentioned, makes perfect sense, as writing and speaking languages likely became very disparate in that period--so I'm curious as to why you suggested I watch it in such a mannner.

If you know of any nice, Classical dramas, please, feel free to share.