Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Phoenix Effect: Holyland

There's nothing left. 
This is the pure space we've prepared.
You and I.
It's our Holyland.

This isn't the first post I've tried to write about Holyland. It's an amazing manga -- far more mature than Naruto, Bleach and so on. The realism is astounding. Mori shows his work and research into not only fighting styles but their applications on the street. But more than anything else, the way that the protagonist, Kamashiro Yuu develops grabs at me like nothing else.

I love Naruto, both the manga and the character. But in the end, it never ceases to be a cartoon. He is too pure, too focused and determined on Sasuke, with such a small basis for it that the veil of comic-hood remains intact. It never ceases to be Magical Ninja Kids: the serial. But Holyland is entirely different. No magic. No concessions to the Rule of Cool. It's bare-knuckled reality broken down into frames and read from right to left.

But I don't think everyone would feel that way about the manga. It's the 272nd most popular series on It falls behind Yu-Gi-Oh a comic written about a children's card game created specifically for a TV show that doesn't make sense, Black Lagoon, a series that is unmatched in its attempt, and failure, to look legitimately cool (the whole thing reads like an unintentional parody of Tarantino), and many other works that have less heart and investment. I'm not surprised, nor particularly outraged.

I never believed that Holyland was the kind of work that would appeal to a large group of people. Knowing what I do about writing and life, I believe that Yuu exists as an outlet for Mori. He was created so that Mori could share his own life, tell his story to the world.

And I believe I've found a kindred spirit in him, and thus, in Yuu. His story revolves around a desperate attempt to find refuge in martial arts to escape his daily torment. But the refuge wasn't so much the violence that it provided but the stability it provided. If he worked, he would improve. The physical violence, I feel, is ancillary to the story. The true movement lies in the internal development and realization of the characters.

Why is this so important to me? See image below. And remember, reading is from right to left.

I only dabble in self-defense. For me, it's triathlons. For me, it's about never giving up. It's about leaving behind a life of cowardice and excuse-making. For me, I think this is right now, my true religion and faith. The Good News for me is that anyone can become stronger with nothing more than diligence. My deliverance is in seeing my race times drop and drop and drop.

Idolatry. I don't deny it. I have two gods. My strength and then, God. It's not always clear cut who rules my life. My family is so small. I know one other person in my life who has come to transformation by hatred as well. I latch onto Holyland because even if they are so far, I believe that Mori understands me more than almost anyone else could. And perhaps more than anything else, I wonder about what choices exist out there for me aside from hatred and fear.

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