Movies and myths and meanings, oh my!

Throw me a good story rooted in Japanese mythology, and I will make every effort to try to watch or read it. It worked with Studio Ghibli favorites like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, other series/movies like Mushi-shi, Summer Days With Coo and (GeGeGe no) Kitaro, and probably countless other series that I’d love to get around to eventually.

YO_headshot 8 (2015)Japanese mythology also happens to be at the core of a new book by Yoshiko Okuyama, an associate professor of Japanese studies at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The book, Japanese Mythology in Film: A Semiotic Approach to Reading Japanese Film and Anime, takes a scholarly approach of analyzing films with such themes, including anime like Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and the aforementioned Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, and the live-action Onmyoji, Onmyoji 2, Dororo, Mushi-shi and Departures. But before you click away to go watch, say, Himouto! Umaru-chan, scared off by the phrases “semiotic” and “scholarly approach” in the last sentence, I should note that the book’s written for pretty much anyone who knows anything about Japanese films and mythology. If that’s your thing, then you’ll probably want to check out this book. Here’s a link; you can get 30 percent off cover price by using the code “LEX30AUTH15” at checkout.

book cover (color)But let’s say paying $60-$85 for a book is a tad out of your price range at the moment. No worries; you can still get a taste of what she wrote about through a series of talks she’s going to be giving on four major islands in the next few months. Her first talk is actually coming up … ummmm … Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Hilo Public Library. Which is less than 24 hours from when this post is going live. Apologies for the really late notice; I’ve been dealing with (yet another) cold these past few days. Here’s the list of other confirmed appearances to date:

Kauai

  • Sept. 19: Hanapepe Public Library, 10-11 a.m.; Princeville Public Library, 3-4 p.m.
  • Sept. 21: Kauai Community College, Office of Continuing Education and Training (OCET), room 106 C/D, noon-1:30 p.m.; Lihue Public Library, conference room, 5-6 p.m.

Maui

  • Sept. 22: Kahului Public Library, 6-7 p.m.
  • Sept. 23: Wailuku Public Library, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
  • Sept. 24: UH-Maui College, noon-1 p.m.

Oahu

  • Oct. 2: UH-Manoa Center for Japanese Studies Seminars, Moore Hall, room 319, 3-4 p.m.

There are a few other tentative dates as well; I’ll add them to the Ota-cool Incoming calendar as I receive them.

By the way, while I’m talking about Ms. Okuyama, let me throw in this quiet announcement and see if anyone notices: I recently accepted her invitation to speak for an hour at UH-Hilo about things related to the local anime/manga fan community. It’ll be on Tuesday, Sept. 15 — a few days after HawaiiCon wraps up, and on the last birthday of my 30s, to boot! Exact time and location have yet to be determined. It’ll either be fun or a total train wreck … hopefully more of the former than the latter. Fingers crossed!

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