Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Add Blasphemy to Taste

Or, how to take a Japanese comic that's skating the edge and push it right over in English translation.

Now, I generally feel that God has a sense of humor, can look out for Himself, and doesn't need constant defense by His children. So I'm not throwing around the term 'blasphemy' lightly. I think ADV Manga has crossed the line with their translation of Chrono Crusade. I think they did it more out of ignorance than malice, but they did it just the same.

For the uninitiated, Chrono Crusade is the saga of the Magdalan Order, priests and nuns who fight demons with the power of God and guns. Sister Rosette, a novice of the Order, is one of the more enthusiastic and destructive members. Her partner is a demon named Chrono who's willingly been bound to a pocket watch and her own soul; this makes him look less demonic and act nicer. He can't use his full demonic powers while he's bound, although she can allow him to draw on her own life to do various magical things. She also interacts a good bit with the Order's technical consultant, a layman who's the usual sort of anime dirty-old-man. Since the show's set in the Roaring Twenties and she's a nun, though, the usual "pantyshots" are replaced with pantaloon shots. When Rosette goes undercover, though, her action sequences almost always require showing some leg.

Ohhhkay, you're saying. A nun who hangs out with a demon under magical contract, and some fan service. Yes, that's skating the edge (and probably isn't good theology), but it's not necessarily offensive. In fact, the manga has a remarkably wholesome spirit about its slapstick, and some very nice bits in its dark fantasy combats.

So what's the blasphemy?

Sister Rosette is equipped at present with two special types of bullets. One is a sort of enspelled silver bullet originally known as a "Good Word Bullet", which ADV Manga translated as a "Gospel" bullet. Okayyyy. The second type's center is filled with chrism instead of explosives, more or less acts as an incendiary, and was originally known as a "Holy Fire Bullet". ADV Manga translated this as "Sacred Spirit" bullets.

Well, number one, it's dumb. Obviously the manga was referring to the Easter Fire, which is appropriate to an incendiary, especially since chrism is blessed at the same Easter Vigil Mass where the Easter Fire is kindled. It skates the edge, but it is a great image.

Number two, it's dumb. While I appreciate that ADV Manga attempted to avoid calling these "Holy Spirit" bullets, I think it's fairly obvious that that's just what they're doing.

Number three, it's dumb. Not only does this translation do violence to what was meant, it also sounds stupid. If you're gonna blaspheme, at least make it cool. Call them "Paracletes" or "Advocates" or "Doves" or something!

Number three, it's blasphemous. And the manga writer is blameless; this is all the fault of Americans, who live in a country where Christianity is not a minority religion.

Sigh. It grits me, especially since the translation is otherwise well done, includes all the relevant English sound effects without deleting any Japanese sound effect art, and even uses attractive and readable fonts. The manga seems very cute, fun, and has a good heart, while still providing realistically tense and dark adventures. Sister Kate, the Mother Superior, is great. There's a well-deployed Fatima subplot (this is, after all, only a few years after 1917, though the Order must have good sources to know about the Secrets). Plus, you gotta love a manga with a character named "Father Remington".

I am concerned about seeing yet another demon contract, especially since it's in a Christian instead of a Shinto or Buddhist context. (Shinto/Buddhist demons aren't necessarily all that evil; they're just nasty monsters.) Demons, one feels forced to point out, are eeeevil. Traditionally, they made their choice back in the beginning of time and will not get a second chance -- can't, because angels are beings of spirit, not soul. But if you take Chrono as being able to repent, then you can enjoy his backstory of rebelling against the rebels against the rebels against God, and allying with a human holy woman (the founder of the Magdalan Order) in order to defeat his fellow demons. OTOH, an equal partnership is better than the coercive elements originally included in Inu Yasha, and still found in many fantasy anime and manga. (Yes, I'm all for grrrrrl power. No, I'm not for magical enslavement or "Sit, boy.")

Anyway. Buy the manga, read the manga, but scratch out every "Sacred Spirit" and replace it with "Holy Fire". Then send a letter to ADV-Manga telling them to mend their mistranslation.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Iraq and Roll!

First they beat Portugal. Now they've shut out Costa Rica, 2-0! Go, Iraq!

My Plans for Worldcon

I'll be flying into Logan in the early afternoon. Very early. Unfortunately, I can't check into my hotel room till 4 PM. So I need to find out if I can dump my stuff in the filk lounge or at the hotel. I'd love to kill time downtown, of course, but I'll probably already have eaten and you can't do the Freedom Trail encumbered with luggage! (Not after 9/11, anyway.) So I'll try to dump my stuff and then head for that Gardner museum, or the MFA, or something. All this is of course subject to change; if I run into fans I know, I'll probably head off with them.

Thursday morning I want to hit the Freedom Trail. If I go early, I won't run into too many crowds. I can hit the North End for goodies, and get to see the Constitution as well. Then I'll head back toward the hotel. If it's early enough, I'll visit one of the Russian bookstores for my Tanya Grotter fix. Maybe some more museum-ing. That's about all the sightseeing I'll probably do. (If there'd been any North End festas that weekend...but there aren't.) Worldcon tends to be all-consuming. If I get to run up to Chinatown for dim sum and Chinese bakery goods, I'll think I'm doing well.

So what will I be doing at Worldcon?

Filking, of course! In addition, I've agreed to be part of the chorus for The Filkado, so I'll be attending rehearsals on Thursday and Friday nights and performing on Saturday afternoon.

Gawking: I really want to see the retro art show. The one at Chicon in 2000 was one of the highlights of the con and stood up well against the nearby Art Institute's collections; this one is trying to be just as great, though with more emphasis on the post-pulp era. Another must-see is the Doc Smith exhibit. Anybody who thinks he wasn't a heckuva writer has never tried to write that way. Fifty Years of Hugo Awards, Worldcon history, and fannish history exhibits also sound fascinating. This is the kind of stuff Seattle's science fiction museum is apparently not going to do, so somebody has to. Also, I fully intend to gawk like a fangirl at all the cool hall costumes and writers I've adored since youth. (I'll try to put on a cool exterior while I do so, but I'll still gawk.)

Shopping: the huckster room, the art show, all that good stuff. I don't have much money to spend or room to pack, and I'm slightly booked and CD'd out at the moment. But that'll make it more fun to windowshop without guilt. (And if I find something I can't live without, there's always UPS.)

Talking: the real reason for Worldcon's existence. I will attend panels and listen to other people talk, then mouth off myself in the ancient custom of fandom. I will also chatchatchatchat with pretty much everybody I meet, also in the ancient custom of fandom. I will also meet up for the first time with people I've known for years and years.

Swim: If I remember to bring my suit.

Eat: Either at really nice restaurants with food from heaven and plenty of company, or hurriedly at the cheapest greasy spoon I can find. The first option will probably occur fairly frequently. If it does, it will probably start with me and two other people trying to head out for dinner and end with twenty or more folks who agglomerated with us along the way. This fannish dining procedure can either occur speedily or take more than an hour. It is also quite possible that I will eat many meals for free in the filk lounge or con suite when someone brings in a pizza or some delectable dish, but I'm not counting on that. I do plan to get some seafood while I'm there...mmm, fresh! Dim sum from Chinatown for sure, as I must eat chicken feet and unidentifiable rolls of goodness. Spanish food if I can. Also, I'd like to get some Malaysian food (Tiger Lily nearby, Penang in Chinatown, Pinang in Quincy Market), since I still miss it from college.

Sleep: Probably from three in the morning until ten or so, if the curtains are thick. If not, I'll wake up ravenous for breakfast at seven or earlier, and have to come back to my room for a nap afterward. My total number of sleep hours will probably be adjusted to include shower time, since everyone knows a shower equals two hours of sleep.

Church: there's a Catholic chapel in the Prudential Center, right on my way to the Convention Center. It has about a zillion Masses a day as well as on the weekend, so getting my Sunday obligation done will not exactly entail hardship. After church, the Movenpick or dim sum!

So I fully expect to enjoy myself this Worldcon. If I don't, it'll probably be my fault.

Solemnity of the Assumption!

Today's the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Roman Catholics, and the Feast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos for the various flavors of Eastern Orthodox. Pretty much the same thing, though. Mary, the new Eve, joins her Son, the new Adam, in Heaven. Like Him, she must "fall asleep", but also like Him, she lives and is taken body and soul into Heaven, leaving behind an empty tomb. All this is remembered according to the ancient traditions of the Church. But it's not so surprising, really, considering that folks like Elijah and Enoch also got taken up into Heaven. (Btw, some believe that, like them, Mary didn't even have to die. Official Catholic teaching doesn't say either way -- just that she was taken up into Heaven.)

In this, Mary represents not just herself, but the Church and all humanity. God uses Mary to show us what the end of life might have been for all of us, if Adam had not sinned -- merely a step from one world into the next. But He also shows us that death is still not anything a Christian need really fear, for Jesus wouldn't have sent his old mother into anything too dire.

The readings for the Vigil Mass on Saturday night are pretty interesting, by the way. The first reading is all about the Ark of the Covenant and the people, and the psalm is about the Ark and God: "Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness." This may seem weird, but why was the Ark holy? Because it contained the Commandments -- the Word of God. And what did Mary contain for nine months but the Word? The first Ark also contained manna from the desert; Jesus is obviously our food provided by God. Finally, the first Ark contained Aaron's budded staff -- and if you can't make the proper Flower of Jesse and virga/virgo poetic comparisons here.... ;) (I'm sure you could also say much more meaningful things about how this compares to Jesus' authority to speak.) After showing us Mary as daughter of Israel, we see her again in the Gospel as Christ's first follower and Mother of the Church. Very cool.

But let's face it: it's the Sunday readings that we all like the best. We get the "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." We get the psalm where "The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold." We get the "firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" and the Magnificat.

This weekend, the Pope visited Lourdes. In Boston's North End, they have a great Fisherman's Feast celebrating the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady, Help of Christians). It's a happy thing, this Ladymass. We celebrate not only Mary and God's favor to her, but the eternal life we may look forward to ourselves.