Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Okay. Thesis. First part.

The first premise: Introducing the typical characters: Snufkin, Gandalf and Kisuke.

The first conjecture: Are they in fact Good or evil – and does it even matter?

I can think, from the top of my head, of three transit-prone characters that reside outside the protagonists’ comfort zone and tend to act as an accelerant for the narrative in whole. The Hobbit’s Gandalf, The Moomin’s Shufkin and Bleach’s Urahara Kisuke. Each of these characters is a foreigner, a migratory creature and a bohemian. Each of them practices pointless, minute functions that make them acceptable to “normal” people and each of them has an almost entirely vacant backstory. They are portrayed as so thoroughly charismatic, vital for the cogwheels of the story and yet so very briefly outlined (or nonchalantly), that you come to suspect this is either because their mystique is far more interesting than the truth – or they are in fact villains in reins.

Each of these characters satellites around the main protagonist. Usually in a very familiar manner. They mimic relatives or mentors, but not really. Gandalf has a very grandfatherly air about him and it’s not just the beard. (HP’s Dumbledore has a similar act about him, although by contrast, that role is very stationary.) He tends to look down on almost everyone, disconnected from everyday reality, always busy, always tense, always balancing his wizardly reputation with the ugly things he knows and hopes to keep to himself. His drug of choice is innocence and naiveté of younger species – a thing he can never again regain himself. He has seen too much, seen too much ruined. He gravitates towards young adventurers, because to him they are his missing heart. Entirely unable to protect them or even avert them from the perils the adventures pose, he tries his best not to fuck up and very little to care. Even if they all die, these are just long forgotten stories from his better days. Cursed with survival’s guilt, the Madonna-whore monkly disposition towards romance and virtual numbness of earthly form, all he can do is pretend to be an old hippy and occasionally use his staff on architecture and ghouls. He is long past his moment of heroic glory. He knows that the strings of all his businesses unfinished will eventually choke him and he will gladly retire and die.

Snufkin is not as dark and as dubious as the others. Probably, because he appears to be a lot younger and because he doesn’t really have to go through much to come to the Moominvalley every spring. His age is questionable, although voice actors tend to put him somewhere in his late teens, early twenties? Dunno. Neither is he entirely, strictly human, as I have heard his nose described as snout on more than one occasion and his half-sister is very very tiny. That said, he never regards his sister as his sister. They seem to be removed half-sibling or cousins at best in most of his affection originates from the fact she is cynical and smart. In contrast, he is very fond of his friend Moomin and even tolerates their mutual friend Sniff, with whom he shares no similarities (of character.) He briefly takes on a role of a foster father to a shock of orphans and does it well. He also, unlike the other two, shows a wide range of emotions, from playfully happy to aloof, annoyed and dismissive, to angry and and vandal. Snufkin is a wunderluster, albeit a rather mysterious one (you never know where he goes when he leaves his best friend.) But where he goes is never as important as the fact he always returns. He comes with new stories, which are not very important to him (or are intimate, really – the pearl of them being his encounter with Teeteewoo (still trying to find the correct spelling)). He is a calm and passive character, though very often and very obviously portrayed. His temper is challenged only when ownership issues arise and this is curious, considering Moomin is only able to thrive as such a positive character because he is constantly surrounded with things that inspire and protect his playfulness and innocence.

Kisuke, unlike the two, is less a migratory force and more an exile or a fugitive and unlike the two, inhabits a temporary real-estate from which he operates. Unlike the first two he also produces daily items of value (he has a legit candy store and an underground spirit dealership.) But like the two, he pretends to be far less important and wise than he actually is. Even going to great lengths to appear so to the people closest to him. We don’t, during the course of the narrative, clear out the fact he was an officer of his dethroned profession until very late in the story. (When it is long to late and proves nothing of his power anyways.) He is perpetually haunted by some of the things he created that got out of hand. He appears to be very young, but is actually quite old, as he has been dead for probably a very long time. (He is a soul shepherd, so that qualifies as a living entity, especially in the Soul realm. He’s not a zombie or anything. He looks great.) He does, relative to the lead character, act most obviously as the helper from the shadows. Like Gandalf, he is very two-faced – jovial and easily beaten on one hand and very dark and dangerous on the other. Like Gandalf, his history is riddled with magical powers, backfires and things he failed to mend before blameless people got hurt, but it is also very scarce. Neither of these men has any family, any relationships beyond friendship and never seems to show any interest in sex – less because they come from juvenile literature and more because their frustrations or intentions have to be abstinent from their actual warm bodies. Regardless of Kisuke’s benevolent appearance and his close relationships with some very beautiful and passionate colleagues, he is self-degrading, a fool and enthralled in saving the shadows. Not immune to gender, he also regards most women, safely, as out of his league. Unlike the other two, though, he openly mentors the lead protagonist in the early stages of their encounter. And like the former two, he also tends to wear a distinct hat. And clogs, in his famous case.

So why would I consider any of these men evil? Well, let’s take a look at it from their arrogance perspective.

            Gandalf has no reservations from pulling people who are a) untrained, b) unwilling c) clearly expendable into path of peril. He forces Bilbo on a road that may end badly at any given moment. He does the same thing to Frodo. Surely, if he really wanted to, he could have made such a profound self-sacrifice at any time himself. He could lead the dwarves of Thorin’s company to Smaug any time, and also he could probably very easily fly one of his eagled straight into Mount Doom, straight into the lava. Job done. Glory to the heroic dead. But no. He likes his dirty work to be done by people who don’t yet appear, or are in fact not dirty. He likes to come into sight wise, kind and helpless, up until the point he starts to bully and manipulate. As I personally don’t fall for ‘wisely old men, ‘may I offer you a friendly advice?’ types ’ and enjoy seeing Deckard Cain’s ass kicked on every occasion, but it seems he has a knack for locating individuals who have it in them to be impressed. Hard to argue with a pointy hat, granted. Still. To be able to split mountains on one end and still employ random bucolic civilians to do your battles on the other is a work of a coward. And if he would say it’s not his business to win, then perhaps sticking his nose in it in the first place was, well, conceited.

            Kisuke doesn’t just hide from his true power; he hides from what he caused, because of it. He managed a lot of wrong with best intentions. He enabled the worst of antagonists in the story to roam to great extends and with devastating results. Most of this with things he created – just to see if they can be created. Some of it with his personality. He rooted people’s deaths, betrayals, acted as a catalyst in some of the things that enabled bad to return to the lead character’s world ... Oh, sure, he is able to lend great hands very often – very often at crucial moments. But he tends to skip the parts in which he is sole responsible for the mess in the first place. Behind his jovial mask is actually a long history of fucking up. His exile is voluntary and he is, to some regards, skulking from authority that would judge his crimes. In his pastime he helps kids become tools in mending the cracks he created. He is not an evil man as sadists or misogynists go, and far from wanting to cause repercussion, he is simply selfish and irresponsible. Oddly, the things he did, he didn’t do it to prove anything at all, he was just being curious. Being as old as he is, he obviously has history with most characters in the story of Ichigo & Co., some of which is quite dramatic, but he is strongest when coming in and out of a moment, pretending it does not concern him.

            And how would Snufkin be a villain? Well, he’s not. An anarchist and vandal, to some degree, and a hypocrite in the worst case, he isn’t really much of anything, except a constant reminder that beyond the skyline there’s adventure to be had and stories to be gained. But Moomin never really falls for that, so it’s okay. As he is benign, so he is always a welcomed sight.

Which only leaves the matter of their outfits. I have to mention this, because I am very fond of either green and/or traveler’s outfits. It doesn’t relate to their vileness, it just wraps the whole ‘nomad’ part real neat. All of these characters, less of need and more of part of character, only ever wear one particular type of an outfit. Any change is with much pomp and cause. Gandalf has a great, trusty, multi-layered wizard wardrobe, that doesn’t seem like it gets cleaned very often. I won’t even go into speculating on the conditions of his undergarments, because I have seen his friend Radagast and that individual has lichen growing on his head. I am very germophobic and wash my hands twenty and my hair every two days, nervous and edgy if I am unable to wear dry, clean, comfortable clothes. This doesn’t necessarily say I am spoiled or provided for. I have travelled as much as any of these – and always opted for keeping my undies clean. Moving on - the pointy hat is very useful. Especially considering the weather (rain, sleet, relentless sun …) and hiding rodents or small goats. Also beard, same reasons. The coat is large, protective and road-worn. He has good shoes, a good belt and his weapon of choice (Staff.). Like all of these characters, he furthermore smokes a pipe. There’s probably also a satchel in there somewhere.

            Snufkin wears all of these items, from old pointy hat which to him has great sentimental value (ironically), to good boots, only in green. And smaller. His backpack is larger, which leads me to suspect he has at least one extra pair of socks and underwear (I prioritize odd angles, I know.). He plays harmonica or the flute, smokes a pipe and tends to stop to make himself tea on several occasions. He sleeps in a tiny tent and gets sick and tired like any other traveler. Especially on the road back.

            Urahara Kisuke wears a lot less and is Japanese, so he likely wears no underwear at all. Nor does he need socks, because his footwear of choice is traditional sandals. Like both of former he has a distinct hat (albeit not pointy), smokes a pipe and can leave his house and walk great distances without needing additional cover. In reference to his former status, he wears diamond-shapes ornament on the ushiromigoro (lower backside) of his coat and a loosely tied green kimono underneath. Tends to expose his chest, much to approval of yours truly. He gets away with it, because he is a tall, shapely man. Regarding beard he is between the two, as he is neither clean-shaven as Snufkin (who does not seem to be yet in need to shave) not has an old man’s bush. He just has a sloppy stubble. And unkempt hair. As someone who often wears hats/caps myself, I do not hold this against him, as there really isn’t any other way to have it. You either have a hat or a do. Can’t have both. 


Shanika Tillson said...

So, what happened to your thesis? Well, hearing from your story, yours was going well. I do hope everything went well with it. When having trouble, it would be a good idea to get some thesis help to avoid problems and mistakes along the way.