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Author Topic: Onmyoji  (Read 2607 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: November 06, 2003, 08:56:07 AM »

Hello,

I liked this movie. In fact, I liked it a lot. I think that self-proclaimed Asian film fans in the west won't like it so much, because the effects are a bit uneven, and it's less about pushing the envelope in whatever direction (gore, wire-fu, extremes of villainous behavior, etc) and more about one, single, awesome story.

My friends and fellow role-players Tod and Julie recommended it to me as a seminal Sorcerer movie months ago, and I promptly forgot all about it. But I ended up seeing it anyway last week, and wham - did these guys actually have Sorcerer open at their left hand while making this film? I swear it's dead on, scene by scene, line by line.

Humanity = love, especially the "gentle" sort that makes few if any demands on the other person.

Demons = rage and resentment given physical/effective form, especially from frustrated lovers. Demons can be fairly ineffable curses, usually from living people, or actual undead, usually Possessors.

Rituals = all classic Shinto/Taoist blend. Funny Japanese hats are absolutely a must, unless you go to the Dark Side, in which case you leave off the hat and your hair goes all shaggy.

Angels = a person who self-sacrifices for love and still makes no demands on the beloved, just waiting for him or her.

It's one of the best love stories between two men I've ever seen, entirely soft-pedalled and not "romantic" so much as merely "there."

And what a freakin' awesome fight scene at the end! Not in terms of flawless Chinese-opera fu, but rather in terms of how one person chooses to fight another. See, once the one guy drives his own Huymanity down to 0, then he's Containable in demon terms ... and the other guy knows it ...

Anyone else see this movie? Comments, thoughts?

Best,
Ron
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2003, 11:52:45 AM »

Unfortunately, I haven't seen it yet, though it's next on my list (right now I'm going through Japanese horror DVDs like candy: Pulse AKA Kairo (F*CK ME!), etc).  Two things to add:

1) You'll be happy to know that Onmyouji 2 just came out last month. It'll probably be purchasable on DVD by January.

2) Onmyoudo ("Taoist Magic" - lit "Shadow-Light Magic", IOW "Yin-Yang") is some of the coolest stuff for RPGs.  It's all about summoning, containing, and banashing demons, often using cool little pieces of paper with calligraphy on it to do all the above. It's 'Sorcerer' through and through.
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Andy Kitkowski
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2004, 06:37:43 PM »

*blows dust off this topic* WWWWWFFFFFFoooooooooo

Finally saw this flick the other day (if anyone else is interested, you can just look it up and buy it online at a number of places; I actually scored a copy on eBay).

I really dug this movie in a number of ways:
1) Magic, with the weirdness that can only be attributed to Chinese/Buddhist magic and Japanese spiritual/mythic background: Immortals, Nature Spirits, Bound Servants who are actually pieces of paper, etc.
2) The setting: Heian period, some 1,000 years ago.  This is the REAL "iron in the forge" period for Japanese culture.  It was in this era that writing, education, language, poetry, music, theatre, and tons of other elements at the core of the Japanese psyche were started.  This setting is VERY rare, most historical flicks and dramas take place in the Sengoku or Meiji eras.  So the fact that we got a glimpse into Japan from 1,000 years ago was really cool, too.
3) The story: The two love stories in this movie is A)a friend's love for a friend and B)unrequitted love.  Nothing cheesy or throw-away, and that was again central to the flick.
4) The main actor: Nomura Mansai, is not another idol star or "Japanese Hollywood" figure, but a reknown (sp?) Kabuiki actor.  His face, his speaking, it was so controlled and... and *weird*... that it perfectly set his place in the story as a powerful Onmyouji, IMO. More below.
5) The main bad dude, Sanada Hiroyuki: He does an excellent job in all the movies he's in, even as an aloof ex-boyfriend (Ring) or samurai swordmaster (The Last Samurai).  Great job as a "face man" Onmyouji who's really corrupt to the core inside.

Just to respond to some points:

>>>>>
Humanity = love, especially the "gentle" sort that makes few if any demands on the other person.
>>>>>
This works. Also, I can see Humanity being... well... the "default humanity" in Sorcerer: Compassion, Empathy, Love, and other 'human' traits.  The main bad guy gave up his humanity for power (classic bad guy, right?).
The reason I say that is basically because of the main dude, Abe no Seimei, that Kabuki Actor dude: Throughout the entire movie, he's wearing this dorky-ass smile, talks in circles, does weird magic parlor tricks, and constantly teases (in small ways, usually using magic) his buddy Minamoto no Hiromaki.  Even when he's in battle, or casting powerful spells, he's got that dorky grin.

Now, this might be some Japanese cultural point I'm missing of the "Onmyouji Hero Archetype" or something (gotta confirm that with the missus later), but that dorky grin got to me.  Anyway, at one scene, an emotional scene, he totally just drops the dorky grin and goes highly emotional: weeping, etc.

It was there that set it in my mind that the Onmyouji dude HIMSELF wasn't all there when it came to humanity: The dorky grin, the parlor tricks, teasing, surrounding himself with magic fetter-spirits and not people... It made me feel that his Humanity was kinda low in the beginning, and when that Emotional Scene occoured, that was him snapping back to Human Mode for a bit.

Love works, too, but if I were running a long game set in this setting, I'd probably say, like, "Human traits like empathy and compassion, but NOTABLY love".

>>>>>
Demons = rage and resentment given physical/effective form, especially from frustrated lovers. Demons can be fairly ineffable curses, usually from living people, or actual undead, usually Possessors.
>>>>>
In most classic Onmyouji magic, spirits (ghosts) and demons are the forces at work.  I'd go a step further and say that say that all magic is spirits/demons, and that, as the movie demonstrated, rage and resentment itself can become a demon (usually "poorly bound", in Sorcerer terms).  

It's the magic of this movie, and of Yin/Yang magic in general, which grabs me by the ears and screams "SORCERER!!!!!" in my face.

>>>>>
Rituals = all classic Shinto/Taoist blend. Funny Japanese hats are absolutely a must, unless you go to the Dark Side, in which case you leave off the hat and your hair goes all shaggy.
>>>>>

Totally. and the "two finger" Mikkyo cutting gesture (in general or raised to your lips), and magic that relies a lot on writing those pieces of paper, else the Human Breath (by itself or through chanting). The more of the above you combine (maybe toss in some candles for show), the easier the ritual and the like.  

I'd love to hear more people's thoughts on this flick, too, in Sorcerer terms.  Anyone?  I highly recommend this flick if you're into ecclectic movies (Asian/Foreign Cinema, etc), historical movies, and if you have $15 to blow for the movie and shipping, I'd totally go for it (you can always resell it later on eBay, etc).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2004, 07:08:19 PM »

Hi Andy,

We're on the same page, for sure.

1. I agree with you entirely regarding the sorcerer hero's low-ish Humanity in the beginning. He doesn't connect well with others, and he'd mock love as a conversational topic. There's some implication that if he needs various superficial forms of affection, he can always whip up a paper doll to give him some.

The dorky smile and the kind of teasing, provocative pose that he uses through the first half of the movie are spot on - when he drops it, it's scary. The first time is when he weeps, and the best is when he duels the villain at the end: pure, focused, applied determination.

2. Sanada Hiroyuki: genius. I think he raises the bar in every movie he's in.

Best,
Ron
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