Thursday, 3 September 2020

New Site Announcement

 As seems to an annual tradition, I am yet again migrating this blog to a new website. The new site has replaced and this blog is now archived at

All new posts will be made to the new site, and I've decided not to port anything old posts over this time so we're starting afresh. Good bye Psychoframe.

Fare the old well and usher in the new


Friday, 19 June 2020

Touhou as modern Folklore

Modern incarnations of folklore are usually really lame. "Urban legends" are an exemplar set of these which I truly despise. They are usually exceptionally dull and mundane, and they have to be in this era in order to keep the possibility alive that they may be true. Mythic Americana is somewhat more appealing, but the common inclusion of technological and political elements grounds these stories as something of the past, rather than a timeless tales of the old world set both in the furthest past and in the very present.

It is said that the art of oral tradition as the driving force behind the proliferation of European fiction died out in the 1700s due to the mass-production of printed material and cataloguing of lay texts, and that we then entered the era of literature. Within a literative framework stories stay stagnant and unchanging. Dickens' Christmas Carol will forever be the same, his words static. While it isn't true that oral storytelling dies out, it definitely took a back seat. Wives tales and ghost stories still spread out under their own memetic power from person-to-person even today, just as legends always have.

The internet has brought us a new paradigm of storytelling however. While printed material can only be produced with time and cost, and the privilege to publish is thus kept to the literary and academic few, writing for the internet requires next to no resources and thus acts more similar to an oral communication. While text on the internet may last forever in some areas, in many others it disappears under an infinite pile of other data never to be looked at again within hours of its publishing. This extreme speed of text publication and distribution means that only the best things stay around, as dictated by popular rule. If a post is particularly noteworthy, others will save it and then post it later, meaning the best works can be spread incredibly fast and have long staying power. Nowhere is this more pronounced than the bulletin-board forums. These, such as 4chan or her Japanese equivalents, have data turnover of just a few hours, and once a post is gone it is gone for good unless others saved its contents. This creates a framework for incredibly fast oral storytelling, thus leading to folklore built in the same vein as that from many generations ago.

Internet folklore as progenated by bulletin boards has spread across the whole of cyberculture, from simple memes and copypastas to complex mythoses and narratives. The case I have the most insight into is that of the Touhou set of tales. For the whole of the 00s pushing into the 10s, Touhou was the central pivot point around which the cyberotaku culture worked. Everybody understood the characters and what they symbolised, even if they had no real connection to the franchise as a commercial organisation. The original games are simple and light on explanations, leading the fanbase that grew around it to build most of the now immense lore by themselves. If an idea caught on, it became the new canon. From this chaotic miasma clear meanings arose, and specific traits and symbols were attached to each character and their interactions. These naturally built traits then went on in turn to inform the games themselves, giving the subculture a truly folklore-style feeling. Each game outlined a new basic plot and new character designs, which were heavily extrapolated on by fans in both the West and Japan, until they formed a coherent story which had immense meaning to the members of that community since those ideas that were most pertinent to their identity bubbled up to the top, building what I would describe as the most otaku work ever. Soon, as folklore does, Touhou became more than just a set of stories, it became something so close to the meaning behind people's lives that it started to be a lens through which to see the world. The Touhous were gods, living above but parallel to the real world and acting as a heavenly, unreachable paradise.

The relevance of Touhou has slowly reclined over the last decade, and the lore is mostly now unchanging. The core facets of the world and its characters are still important to the 2ch/4ch culture and widely understood, but there will be a time when the relevance of these stories is nothing and they disappear along with their power. I want to record some of the more specific understandings I have of the Touhou cult in further writings, they are stories that are very close to my heart and are closer to me than any other modern mythology. I also want to record it for the sake of posterity. There are highly detailed wikis on the lore, but I want to record them as I understand them and how I think they reflect our shared subculture.

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Thursday, 18 June 2020

Highly Responsive to Prayers

Everyone has people that they respect so much that they wish to emulate that person. Real, fictional, historical; when we see someone we respect it is an instinctual response to want to become like them in some way. This is how children (and adults, but less so) learn moral codes: by emulating a senior's actions and thoughts whenever that person does or says something that catches their heart. What will catch their heart in such a way has some amount of randomness to it, but there is an underlying and objective pool of "good" that they will natural recognise as so, even if they could not come to the same conclusion independently.

The primary way in which we will emulate the good we see in the world is aesthetically driven: we do not and could not describe lexically the essence of the good that we see, but we understand it inherently. This causes us to emulate others wholesale, unable to carve out the pure good and understanding the surrounding decoration of the message as integral to the whole. An example of this is the young boy's obsession with warfare and weaponry. The vision of heroic soldiers and warriors as the epitome of masculine goodness is an inventory of both the moral and personal ideas (the important part) and the aesthetic baggage of swords and steel that are tied to them. This is by no means a bad thing, and as one grows up he will be able to whittle these ideas into purer forms, removing the aesthetic chaff to grasp at the inner core. This process, of course, must then be reversed in order for him to relay these ideas along to others.

I understand this aesthetic resonance by giving it the name "beauty". The beautiful is something that captivates in a way that will always prevail over both logic and animal emotion. It is almost never immediately obvious the cause of beauty, and that lack of understanding may be the very cause of it in the first place. Through beauty is how we respect, and without respect there is no passage to learn. This is why we do not respect or even consider the words of a madman or a layman, for their message is not beautiful. But once that same message is enshrined in the beautiful, it become at once obvious. We don't pay ear to the proselytiser on the street, for common consensus has branded them as unclean, but have that same message be relayed from the pulpit of a grand cathedral and many more heads would be swayed. This effect, of course is countered by the higher beauties. Many today see upmost beauty in science, which, in its diametric opposition to modern Christianity, has neutered the beauty that was once under sole purvey of the church.

Some may argue that this high resonance with beauty is something that is lost in the hyper-logical minds of the modern adult, and is now surely the domain of children and the hopeless romantics. I would say that this is narrow-minded in the definition of beauty. My idea of beauty stands as the very definition of personal taste and of opinion and respect. None may exist without the spark of the beautiful. The word "beauty" is usually used in an old-fashioned sense, most commonly linked with the ideas of the Enlightenment and especially of Romanticism (in Britain). But that same feeling, that same spark we get from these sources can be tagged to many a mundane sensation. The beauty of political rhetoric and narrative, the beauty of scientific propaganda or the beauty of carnally sexual advertisement. All of these things grab our attention and our soul, and if they truly capture it, can give us new outlooks on the world.

Beauty as a weapon is a topic for another time, but sufficed to say that beauty has been a weapon since time immemorial, and it is the only weapon at our disposal we can use to change others' hearts. To seek out beauty is too seek out wisdom, and to deny beauty is to deny the meaning of life.

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Friday, 29 May 2020

3x3 Generator

I got bored of making custom 3x3s in GIMP, so I built a little Python script to do it for you.

Just plop the file into a folder of images, and it will take the first 9 (alphabetically) and crop and place them into a three by three grid. You can customise both the scale and the border of the image.

More documentation is available in the readme.

Example 3x3 Generated by the script

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Sunday, 10 May 2020

Living for Yourself in Precure

Episode 42 of Futari wa Precure tackle the simple question of "What is the meaning of Life?". Episode 42 starts with the girls eating Takoyaki outside of Akane's van and asking each other what they think the answer to the question is. The tomboy Nagisa jumps to "love", but upon questioning she finds she can't explain anymore than that. Her fellow Lacrosse team players come up with other vague notions such as "peace", "friends", "family", but none of them sound very convincing. In the end they resort to evading the question through comedy calling Nagisa out for her ultimate love of chocolate. When tackling important questions like these with no clear answer, comedy or irony is a common method to escape the question, and while some might see it as a dishonest coping mechanism, its often for the best to avoid these questions since usually the question is the one at fault for being unfair.

Then Honoka joins them and when asked she seems to misunderstand and explains the biological composition of life: water, proteins, amino acids and carbohydrates. The others dismiss this as just Honoka being autistic again, but who's to say if she's any more wrong than they were.

Meanwhile the agents of darkness are having a similar conversation in their evil lair. They decide that the only true meaning of life is themselves, and so they must only live for themselves rather than for anyone else. This is the tipping point to a major plot turn in the series, where the agents of darkness decide to rebel against the devil and work to gain the power of all creation for themselves, rather than for him. At this point they also free their pet parrot, symbolising their new freedom from their master. However this new freedom frightens them more than anything as they know the devil will now react kindly to this. And so they hatch a plot to defeat Pretty Cure quickly and decisively by splitting them up, and thus preventing them from using their special move.

The agents of darkness seek freedom

They move both girls into a sealed reality, and trap Honoka within a pocket dimension of chaos, which slowly degrades her form and will return her to chaotic matter. Nagisa tries for hours to find her, falling further into a despair and depression as she goes. The agents of darkness jeer at her, telling her she is truly useless on her own, and she will eventually fall into selfish despair just trying to save herself. She rebukes this saying that she wouldn't even be here looking for Honoka if she didn't care for Honoka's life even more than her own. The darkness laughs. "All you are really doing is trying to stop this feeling of helplessness. Everything you do is for your own sake." Personally, this expression reminds me of many conversations I've had. Where it's almost impossible to find a moral act that is not selfish in some way.

Honoka trapped and dissolving

Needless to say she rejects this notion and destroys the pocket dimension, rejoining with Honoka in and emotional scene. They join forces once again and, after probably the best fight scene of the series, unleash their ultimate attack: "Rainbow Storm" and send the demons back from whence they came. The girls live for one another and for the power of good, rejecting their Randian Objectivism in favour of a Romantic ideal of higher morals.

While that was a great episode, the answer put forward for the initial question is still vague, and really just a rejection of purely living for oneself. The next episode puts Nagisa back into the real world where she must put her new ideal to the test. Another girl admits to Nagisa that she has fallen for Fujimura-senpai (Nagisa's crush). Initially shocked, she eventually agrees to help the girl to confess her love as to align with her rejection of Randianism. Honoka realises what Nagisa is doing and confronts her about it. She calls Nagisa out for using a faulty moral premise as a form of escapism: rejecting her true feelings on the false pretense of altruism. Nagisa eventually agrees, learning that one cannot always reject selfishness and acting selfishly, or for your own gain at the detriment of others must sometimes be done and isn't inherently bad. Luckily before she needs to act the other girl is rejected by Fujimura.

Nagisa sums it up as the meaning of life for her is her own soul. To keep her own emotions as the most important thing, and make judgements based on her own feelings. While this may seem similar to an objectivist outlook, the difference is that she must avoid both ignoring her own emotions, which means often putting others before herself as to keep a clean conscious and avoid guilt. It is basically a codification of both Precure's actions so far, where in acting completely in line with their emotions they can never be in the wrong.

This nice revelation sets the stage for the final arc as the agents of darkness attempt to make themselves into God, while the Devil himself is soon to awaken also. Now that Pretty Cure has reached inner completion, they are ready to face evil without hesitation.

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Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Generic Isekai Towns

As the internet has all heard by now, isekai anime and LNs seem to have a strange trend of having the same "unrealistic and uninspired" designs for their fantasy towns. Here are some of the examples I've seen floating around displaying the genre's lack of originality:

Classic exemplar from Konosuba [1]

Read more »

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Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The Mystical Valley

There was a place my family used to visit a lot on holiday. A cottage in North Wales owned by a family friend, who generously allowed us to use it very frequently and did so over a period of almost ten years. It was surrounded on all sides by a dozen miles of forest, and there was no entry or exit except for via a dozen mile dirt track built for loggers. Far from the bustle of the modern world I spent many weeks there. Playing in the forests or the fields. In the rivers and the lakes. Scouting the wilderness and finding new and wonderful things. As a child you can see so much more. Everything is unknown and as such you must stop to interpret everything you see. Sometimes you will interpret something in a way that is not conventionally agreed upon. Many things happened in that valley, but none I can say were true as a man of society. This is simply a catalogue of the things I experienced during my time in the valley of the Devil's Bridge.

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Sunday, 19 April 2020

Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box

The universe is built on connections. The connections between different nodes form an intricate fractal within which we are expected to function and push forward. A fractal is a shape which is built from multiple self-similar subsets such as the Rule 90 Sierpinski Triforce, or as a tree with branches branching off recursively into smaller and smaller versions of itself. This is how the universe is built to a certain extent, with a sliding scale of physical alterations as you zoom in or out. At a small scale we have quantum rules and at a higher layer we have relativity. While this seems to ruin the image of a perfectly fractaloid universe it is probable that these rules themselves follow a metafractal pattern and alter in a totally predictable and recursive manner as scale changes. And maybe those rules have rules, and those do to. We built a hyperfractal of metafractals building the visible universe in which our fractal is warped by these greater powers to something more intricate.

Our brains work in a fundamentally simple way. Neurons are connected to others via axons and, when they receive a signal, they can either pass it on or not. The method by which this is decided is controlled by the nucleus, who's weight is itself learnt from self-alteration controlled by those same signals it is sending out. This simple section is built in to a supergraph of connections: edges and vertices, inputs and outputs. Humans act as neurons in society. We receive signals and we relay them. If and how we relay them is our "decision", a decision impacted solely by our interactions with others. And in this manner we built a time ghost above us which we have named "society", a living and thinking spirit built from the neurons which our ourselves. This hyperconsciousness forms a God. A being greater than ourselves but made up of nothing but us. This greater God pervades all of our world. God is omniscient,  omnipotent and omnibenevolent within the possibilities of our perceptions of reality. God is not simply a greater idea, he has conscious thoughts and makes decisions. He acts out actions with reason and intelligence and he interacts with other beings within his perception of reality. Isolated societies have another God. These Gods can interact with our God but their interactions must end in either assimilation or destruction. As Christ spread out across the planet he conversed and did battle with the multitude of other Gods he encountered. He assimulated and destroyed until he was unrecognisable and had been disconnected from his past self in the form of our current global society. This reverse-mitosis isn't complete but our greater conscious humankind is growing stronger and more absolute. God's being is obviously not universally recognised, and stands in his own world as a mere singular being amongst many others. These Gods build their own societies and their own Gods and the cycles repeats for a nauseating infinity.

We are all puppets controlled by puppets as we control that puppet that puppets us. God is a puppet and he plays a sweet tune. We live in a conscious mind as a function for a higher being whom we will never perceive but of whom we can feel all around.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Life after Living

A Chinaman and a Roman take a stroll up a rugged path towards the sun.

"What happens after you die?", are the words on both men's lips. The most human question that has ever been asked. In fact is is basically the question of our species. Asking what happens after death is essentially the same question as "What is the meaning of life?", or "Does God exist?". I have noticed there generally being two schools of thought on this topic: the Oriental and the Occidental perspectives, and both perspectives must be in turn viewed through a temporal lense.

In the East they believe in some form of cyclical life. One dies and is reborn as another being. In the age of God this meant that while your body may die, your soul would pass on to another body and continue living. In this, the age of reason, you live on through your prodigy and the collective. One does what they can to leave the collective a better place than they found it.

Here in the West we believe in a more linear life. Once one dies their soul passes on to the other side, whatever that may be. In times gone this meant your soul would leave your corporal body and pass to the afterlife, somewhere that you cannot return from. There is an interesting but seldom resolved difference between direct and delayed afterlife. That is whether the soul passes to the other world directly on death or waits until the end of time to pass on. In the age of reason we believe that you simply die. Your soul-worth is judged by others and your individual name will go down in the history books.

Both systems answer all three of the aforementioned grand questions:
Question East West
What happens after you die? Rebirth Afterlife
Does God exist? Yes (No) No (Yes)
What is the meaning of life? To live a life of good To live a life of good

As you can see, the first question is really the only one humans have ever disagreed on theologically. The second question is outside the scope of this post, but its a question that's solution lies in contradiction and has, throughout history, always been the sole purview of a priestly class. The third question is a cheat. We ask for a meaning but are given a purpose. A vague answer that really is just a retelling of the question. Rather than questions, I like to appeal to the sun and call them "equations". An equation is itself a truth. All the knowledge needed to solve it is held within the question itself, and all you must do is reorder the question to get the "answer".

I, as all Western men must, fall into the linear view of life. My vision of heaven and the contextualisation of the meaning of life was once explained to me by the son of a vicar. He explained heaven as a convergence of time. And as time converges upon your soul the deeds of your life are judged by the final form of yourself. So as your death approaches, your perception of time speeds up exponentially, making the final moments of your life seem to last for an eternity. In this eternal state you will be dead to the world, living in a world made purely of your own mind. And the details of that world depends on the memories you keep from your life. If they are good memories then your afterlife will be heaven, but if they are bad, you will be stuck in the eternal hell flames of regret. Purgatory could be seen as a period of judgement, as you go over every detail of your life until it merges into one: good or bad. I've always liked this explanation. It comes from a modern mind that was constantly locked in a battle of two zeitgeists: religion and science. Your life crossing across your mind as you trip over is part of this natural process. A process made of scientific jargon of oxygen deprivation and hormonal shifts that hold about as much water as a book written by an omnipotent formless trinity, that is too say: a lot.

Whatever your belief is, the important thing is to have faith in it. Realise that the answers to question A and B are meaningless in the face of question C, and as such you can never live a good life if you are stuck on the fundamentals. I believe this is the cause of many modern afflictions, primarily caused by a lack of faith. Much wiser men than you have found the answer: live a good life. The functionality of which is in question, but the path is clear.

A Chinaman and a Roman take a stroll up a rugged path towards the sun. They are locked in heated debate. Neither shows weakness in rhetoric nor logic: truly matched equally in strength. They both wear two faces. One of stern disagreement and of mortal toil, faced toward the other. The other of childlike glee facing forward toward the light. Together they pass into the light and become birds.

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Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Happy Easter

A vision of divinity. A void split in half by a world of light and a world of dark. Seven warriors of light stand against a dark monster born from negligence and fear. Their souls shine as a beacon channeling the collective soul of man. Both parties are born from thought, both battling for form. The heroes stand for the good of all men, but all men must stand for them to give them strength. The seven warriors of light harbour the hero soul of legend. One that is born in equal and opposite to all forces of darkness. They do fight heroically but in vain, for their power is not real, but the power of that darkness that opposes them is. Their appeal to heaven does bring them God's final tool. The seven warriors of light, from one did they diffract do once again combine into one and form the hero soul of the universe. With this the people of the world are awed and look up to the heroes and say, "For what shall we live for if not for God? If not for ourselves?"

With this collective thought a great tremble crosses the land and sea. All men are now one and in unison they sing the songs of the ancients. Energy of all men, living and dead and yet to come, passes equally through them all. With that the Earth Mother is born. Her form eclipsing both the sun and the moon. She ascends to the void and does take the hero soul in her arms. A holy matrimony in heaven between the hero of light and the princess of mankind. United into one the world soul is born. It takes the form of a perfect tetrahedron of order, bounding an infinite kaleidoscopic maelstrom of chaos. The chaos pushes on it's walls, throwing itself against an all-resilient order. It swirls and mixes, and forms the body of a woman. Pure white skin hair flowing free. Her breasts bare and floating in an ocean of coloured thread. Initially curled into a ball, her limbs do unfold and reveal her face: one of uncorrupted beauty, a vision so sweet it drains the stars of their light. Her eyes shut and the threads from the chaotic storm skewer her eye-lids and sew them shut. Blinding her to knowledge and pain.

Her limbs spread until they are fully extended. Her body in the shape of a cross with legs down and arms out. The geometry surrounding her starts to spin. The whir of an ancient machine spurred on by the ever increasing speed and volume of the chants of mortal men. The tetrahedron spins with a ferocity that blurs it's shape into that of a sphere. Time starts to take shape as the beast of darkness rears it's head. The misshapen dark mass strikes with tendrils of serpentine fury, it shrieks in agony as time twists around it's body and the natural process of God starts it's work. Two great tendrils of smoke take form, and twist into a double helix. They pass through space and into the mind. Two snakes twisting for eternity into a black hole. They emerge and strike the World soul in the navel, splitting her body and consuming her womb. The bloody deeds of man spread out across the cosmos as divine entrails. Every sin of man laid bare and sent across the universe in a bloody super rainbow. The world soul smiles as her body dissolves, splitting into strips of human flesh.

As the snakes fade an orb of light appears in the centre of the sphere. At first a point, it soon grows in both size and brightness until it's light blinds all those mortals on Earth and their chanting does stop. The light destroys the vision of every man, but they chose to stay fast, staring at the son. In the orb sits a boy. His body invisible in the searing rays of his mother's dying force. All falls silent and the dark lord does cower as the young boy opens his eyes. Pure serenity falls and time ceases to be. The forces of the world pause and pay tribute to the boy, and space converges upon his being. His eyes now open he whispers a word of God: his name. And hence the apparition of evil did never exist, and the world fell into seven days of night, followed by seven nights of day and then five weeks and five days of rain. Once the rain ceases the world is sunk and all is saved.


Friday, 6 March 2020

Strangling the Mother: Nausicaa and the River Leen

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a very raw film. It's a swirling miasma of Miyazaki's ideas and ideals out of which you can spot the core elements of almost all of his later works. The chaos is untamed however, with Miyazaki's technical skill in film direction not keeping up with his deeper ideas. This ends in a film that is captivating and intriguing in its aesthetics and themes, but without the fleshed out characters and strong story that brings together truly great art.

The driving theme of Nausicaa, and Miyazaki's works in general, is the relationship between mankind and the nature; with the world of Nausicaa being a representation of the relationship gone sour. Humanity has become too greedy and has left the Earth in ruins, great swathes of land have desertified, and the soil left so toxic that giant fungal forests have sprung up to feed on the toxic Earth. But we also see that life is possible living within nature, as the people of the wind valley portray. They also harness the power of the Earth, as all must do in order to live, but do so in a symbiotic manner: helping themselves through helping the Earth.

In the town of Nottingham, England runs the mighty Trent river. It's power so great that mankind has still yet to truly control her. A tributary of hers, the River Leen, runs South along the Western wall of Nottingham and into the Trent. The Leen is not such a big river and as such she has been greatly violated at the hands of man, but her place in our myths, both old and new, exceed her girth. I went for a walk along the Leen to follow her path, starting at the mouth.

The Trent and the mouth of the Leen

Instead of flowing freely, the mouth is covered with a sluice gate, used to help with flood prevention. I couldn't quite work out the mechanism behind it but I assume it's for restricting her flow at certain times of the year. The first hundred yards of the walk proved even less fruitful. The river flows under a road, a car park, another road and finally a power substation before I even got a glimpse of it. Here it flows deep in an artificial gorge, again for flood protection.

The first sight of the Leen

Walking up the seldom used footpath, signs of nature's action can still be seen even in this constructed environment. Lining the river is an area of disused wasteland, overgrown with thorn and bracken and now rendered completely inaccessible by foot. If people were to stop holding it back, this entanglement would spread just as the Sea of Corruption does in Nausicaa, both destroying what we have made and healing the earth beneath it. Despite looking like a chaotic mess, this area is far more complex, intricate and hardy that the man-made railings and buildings around it. Man-made systems are inherently unstable and require constant maintenance while natural systems are inherently self-righting and will return to a stable system by itself from almost any situation.

Travelling further up the way we get to the riverside town of Lenton, now a suburb of Nottingham. An important industrial, ecclesiastical and cultural settlement, Lenton in as old as Nottingham itself and has global importance and prestige. First the Leen heads up through an industrial area, disappearing for a while under a modern-style factory. This is the headquarters of Games Workshop, the creators of Warhammer. Standing in front is a collection of giant metallic statues of alien warriors, whose identity I don't have the interest to understand, but a friend of mine tells me this is in fact "Ghal Maraz", the eponymous Warhammer itself.

The Warhammer

Next is a subtle but amazing feat of civil engineering: the Leen is pushed down and underneath a canal, while keeping the flat level of each channel at the same height. As far as I can tell the river is pushed down through a subterranean tunnel while the canal is kept untouched. While this is quite impressive, the impact of having such a tunnel renders the utility of the river itself null. While in times of yore we would use her natural path to carry boats and resources, now we have created our own, more efficient river and discarded the old Leen. However, even if we no longer need her we cannot just get rid of her. We still must accommodate her path since we know that if we dammed her completely the Ghal Maraz of God would be brought down upon Lenton through flood, so although we've strangled our Mother, we cannot kill her.

The tunnel under the canal

Over the canal and into the residential area we now head. And here lies the Lenton Priory, a thousand year old Christian establishment founded by William the Conqueror. The great priory itself was destroyed by King Henry VIII under the Reformation and replaced by a smaller, extant Anglican church of Saint Anthony. There are many ancient tales of the priory, but the most important is that it lays claim to the grave of a Mister Philip Marc: the High Sheriff of Nottingham and nemesis of Robin Hood. Of course it is just a tale, but the area's connection to the tales of Robin Hood are strong and numerous.

The Priory Church of St. Anthony

Now the river flows up through seemingly endless suburbs and estates. It passes through tunnels and ditches, under bridges and buildings, split in two and rejoined. Violated beyond recognition. If Robin of Sherwood did walk along its modern banks he would surely not recognise its form or spirit. But yet it was vital for an array of human triumphs. During the height of British power the biggest factories for both tobacco products and bicycles in the world were built upon it, being Imperial Tobacco and Raleigh bikes. Today it flows through the world-class University of Nottingham, past Wollaton Hall (Wayne Manor in the Dark Knight films) and under countless small to medium businesses that hold the local community and town together such as the Rose & Crown and Johnson Arms pubs, Purple Frog estate agents or John Pye auctioneers. The area has seen better days, and with the fall of British industrialism many a old factory lays abandoned or on demolitionary death row. Here the sea of corruption has seeped in and built quite vast apocalyptic-esque landscapes locked off from the surrounding city.

The former Cussons Cosmetics factory: a common British household brand

As you leave the industrial areas of the city the factories give way to more residential areas like Bulwell or Hucknall. Here the river is not constrained so much and we start to see the harmony between man and nature. Here the streets and buildings are built around the river, rather than moving the river to fit our needs like further downstream. The river is still used by the people, but in a more respectful manner: fishing and feeding the ducks:
Fishing and feeding the ducks in Bulwell

Soon we have left Nottingham metropolitan, a more rural landscape appears with farms and forests. Here we have entered a new stage of human-river relation: one where the river has more power than man. Here the Leen's path is as nature intended, with fields and houses built according to her law. Paths and roads must obey her as they bridge and ford, I had to take longer than optimal routes to give way to her. Eventually I reach Newstead Abbey, a ancient and beautiful ecclesiastical property once home to both the laureate Lord Byron and the mathematician Countess Ada Lovelace. Here the Leen has been dammed to form a great reservoir lake upon which the stately home sits. Here in this romantic holy land I think is a wonderful depiction of the role of man in nature and our place.

A view across the reservoir to Newstead mansion (left) and Newstead Abbey (right)
Close-up of the abbey and the "Romanticist's Window"

Through empathetic stewardship, man is able to build upon nature in a way that is sympathetic to her needs, functional for ours and beautiful for God. The reservoir provides freshwater for the bustling city of Nottingham, while being a haven for waterbirds, fish and flora and fauna of many kinds. A pure conservationist may deride the destruction that creating a reservoir makes, but they fail to appreciate the base right of human survival. If we are part of nature then we have as much of a right to her treasures as any other part, and actions of disruption cannot always be seen as unjust. Such is the religious mindset: we have been given consciousness as gardeners of the world and we must love nature as nature loves us. Just as in Nausicaa, once the valley's woods become infected, the men must burn them down. Not out of selfishness or malice, but out of a mutual need to survive for both their village and the valley. They harness the wind for their power, but ride with it, rather than despite it. Nausicaa fears and trusts the Ohm, but act as their guides if they lose their way. I think this is the core message of Nausicaa, one to be not nature's oppressor or to be oppressed by her, but to act in unison as her guide and protector.

Nausicaa the gardener and Nausicaa the steward

If such matters of utility are met, a strong underlying order can be established upon which for man to truly shine as an aesthetic ape: from the chaotic but ordered natural beauty Newstead came the Romantic movement and the art of programming, and as such from Nausicaa empathy and action comes the saving of the world.

Nausicaa the Messiah

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Thursday, 27 February 2020

Map of Anime Studios

If you pay attention to the settings of your anime, I'm sure you will be aware that many shows are set in tried and tested real-world locations, there is a modern trend of making the show's world match onto a tangible setting. This is often done as a bonus to dedicated fans, or as a homage to locations that are important to whatever the show is about. For instance Yuru Camp's camping locations are all real-world places (mostly around Yamanashi) and as you can imagine, this will bring in customers to these places so really it's of mutual benefit of both artist and landowner. While this trend is exciting, many anime are set in set locations for a more concrete reason: proximity. Just as the majority of Hollywood films are shot within a days trip from Los Angeles, many anime are based on the area around where the production is happening. Why invent something new when you can use the real world around you for inspiration?

Here is my map of anime studio locations (ignore the dodgy formatting):

This utilitarian fact has lead many an anime to be set around the major hubs of anime studios. The most prominent and important of these hubs are the neighbouring Western-Tokyo cities of Suginami and Musashino. Suginami being one of the special wards of Tokyo proper and Musashino being just outside (but still within Tokyo prefecture). These two areas house the vast majority of modern (and historical) anime studios, and as such are by far the most common location for anime to be set (bar Akihabara/Sotokanda).

Even in the beginning, the first Tokyo animation studios were primarily located in Western Tokyo, with the three titans of the 60s/70s: Mushi Pro, Tatsunoko Pro and Toei, being located in Suginami, Musashino and nearby Nakano respectively. And when a tree spreads its seeds, the concentration will be highest just under its boughs, so every new studio that sprung up saw fit to set up shop in these areas too, generally studios were formed by older staff, and they would build their company nearby their parent, so the trend is for Mushi/Tezuka descended studios are built in Suginami (Sunrise, Madhouse, Shaft), while Tatsunoko descended studios are in Musashino (Production IG, JC Staff, Pierrot).

But there's something even more functional than that: and it's about taxes. Corporate taxes obviously function differently depending on where you are located, and the difference between being locating within the Tokyo special wards and without them includes a special prefectural municipal tax on top of the cities municipal tax. This pushes smaller companies out of the special area, while the larger companies can remain inside. But to leave Tokyo is to leave the forest, and so companies are pushed specifically to West of the city. This is because while the city of Tokyo may end, the prefecture extends West another 50 miles (but not any other direction).

Map of Tokyo prefecture. Special wards in purple. Suginami is 杉並区 and Musashino is 武蔵野市.

This factor means the animation divisions of super-companies will be often in Suginami (A-1 Pictures, AIC, Ultra Super Pictures), while smaller start-ups will be outside (Gainax, Actas, Science Saru).

Another, often mindblowing, realisation is that many studios are located literally within the same building as one another. Studio WIT and Tatsunoko Production are two of these, and are a mere 80m from a restaurant named "Kamavaki pizza". And the offices above Kamavaki are the HQ for Production IG. The most impressive of these is the imposing tower block of "Integral Tower" in Ogikubo, Suginami. It holds a total of four studios within its walls (Trigger, Ordet, Sanzigen and Liden Films). The building itself even played a central role in Trigger's Luluco.

There are of course outliers. As you can see from the map, there are a few studios located around the country, but these are few and far between. The two biggest are Kyoto Animation (Kyoto) and PA Works (Toyama). It is clear that these studios' strong individual styles, come from there relative isolation. The other out-of-Tokyo studios are GoHands (Osaka) and Gaina (Fukushima).

Gainax has recently been in the news for their fraudulent practises. Central for this was their use of facading holding companies to protect their assets. Looking at my map, these stick out almost comically. We love you Yamaga.

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