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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Runes and Rings

Runes and Rings by timtak
Runes and Rings, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
The short horror story "Casting the Runes" by Montague Rhodes James (1911) is typical of the author's oeuvre "one of the best in the genre", which is described on Wikipedia as having the following structure:

1) a characterful setting in an English village, seaside town or country estate; an ancient town in France, Denmark or Sweden; or a venerable abbey or university
2) a nondescript and rather naive gentleman-scholar as protagonist (often of a reserved nature)
3) the discovery of an old book or other antiquarian object that somehow unlocks, calls down the wrath, or at least attracts the unwelcome attention of a supernatural menace, usually from beyond, the grave such as the monster above top.

Casting the Runes was made into The Night of the Demon (The Curse of the Demon) and also inspired "Drag Me to Hell." and Kate Bush's single, The Hounds of Love.

The plot of the book and both movies is essentially similar. The protagonist provokes the anger of a person with supernatural power who casts runes, something written on a piece of paper, or object otherwise invested with symbols (a cursed button) which a certain period of time later, causes them to be dragged into hell.

The protagonist does not realise that the curse is real but the audience does since they have, at the start of the narrative, been shown the curse's effectiveness in killing a previous possessor. The only way to obviate the curse is to pass the symbol onto someone else, ideally the person from whom one received it, which the protagonists do with varying degrees of success.

This structure is exactly that of the famous Japanese horror movie,Ring (1998) (the climatic scene of which starts 4 minutes into this video) except the curse in Ring takes the form of a videotape rather than runes, and the monster, Sadako (above bottom) comes out of a TV screen rather than as called up by a linguistic curse. We are shown the effectiveness of the curse at the beginning of the movie. Some of the protagonists do not really believe the curse. Those that survive do so by passing the curse onto another. The ring continues.

But as predicted by Nacalianism, Western monsters are stored in language (runes, a piece of paper, a linguistic curse) whereas Japanese monsters are stored in images (scrolls, mirrors).

Drag Me to Hell takes on a bit of Asian motif in that in one scene the monster appears to be emerging from the image - the protagonists cell phone screen - and as in Asia, the genders are reversed. In "Drag Me to Hell" and most Asian horror, the monster is a woman.

What is going on? I am not sure but I feel like I have been passed the curse and I still have not passed it on. I am trying though.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.