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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, July 6, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: "SCARLET OHARA," "CHARLES BONAPARTE," FREEZING (2011?)

In last week's mythcomics survey of a particular LOVE HINA arc, I wrote:

More often than not, manga-serials are written with a definite conclusion in the author's mind. This doesn't always mean that they qualify as having a "unity of action," however. I did regard the completed story of HELLSING to comprise one big myth, and though DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND is still a "work in progress," I judged that the most recent addition to its storyline suggests the high amplitude of a mythcomic.

I went on to state that LOVE HINA's entire story did not embody an entire myth, but that at least one story and one long arc could be taken as mythcomics, making them parts of the story that had a higher value than the whole, so to speak. I suspect that this week's entry, FREEZING by writer Dall-Young Lim and artist Kwang-Yun Kim, will be the same, but like VAMPIRE BUND the entire story has not appeared yet. I've now read 12 of the 29 extant collected volumes, and I would judge that FREEZING doesn't have BUND's level of complexity. Within the twelve volumes I've read, I've encountered no single stories or arcs worth analyzing, as I found in LOVE HINA, but I did take note of two vignettes.

Vignettes, as I've noted here, are never as fully developed as short stories, though the former can still have the semblance of a "beginning, middle, and end." The essay references the origin of Batman, which is a vignette within the context of a more cohesive story. In FREEZING, however, the vignettes I examine take the form of short flashbacks in the heads of characters undergoing long story-arcs. The flashbacks are meant to give the reader greater insight into both the characters and the world they inhabit.



FREEZING follows a pattern made popular by 1994's NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. In the older manga/anime, Earth is invaded by giant aliens, and the only Earth-people who can stop them are a handful of high-school students with special abilities. FREEZING follows the same pattern, but employs a much larger coterie of characters, possibly in imitation of 2001's BLEACH. There are two principal characters, Japanese Kazuya Aoi and his partner-in-peril, the bizarrely named "Satellizer El Bridget," but neither of them is directly involved in the two flashback-vignettes I'm considering.

Both Kazuya and Satellizer belong to the military forces ranged against the mysterious "Nova" invaders. All males in these special forces are, like Kazuya, called "Limiters," while all females, like Satellizer, are called "Pandoras." The female characters of FREEZING are the more formidable fighters, in that their bodies are able to play host to quasi-organic implants called "stigmata." The implants make the women stronger and more resilient than ordinary humans, as well as giving them the power to manifest "volt weapons" out of empty air. Most of the storylines are devoted to the experiences of the Pandoras, who, despite having received their powers through genetic manipulation, are also implicated in a variety of quasi-Christian references, which narrative strategy may also owe something to EVANGELION.



The first vignette is named for the female scientific genius responsible for the implants. I have no idea why the creators named her after Margaret Mitchell's Civil War heroine, although the "Seven Seas" English translation uses the surname "Oohara," possibly to deflect lawsuits from the Mitchell estate. Scarlet's flashback establishes that she's the consummate scientific overreeacher, who plans to create a new species of Pandoras. She finds herself in conflict with her superior Doctor Aoi, father of Kazuya, because Aoi believes "the survival of humankind will be granted to us by the heavens." While Ohara believes that all of their scientific techniques are totally the creation of human culture, Aoi believes that they can only enhance what God has given them, and believes that Maria Lancelot (note the Christian choice of names), the earliest Pandora, "is involved with God somehow." The irreconcilable differences of believer and non-believer only last seven pages, but they're meant to underscore Ohara's future actions, as she takes the Pandora experiment into new and dangerous territory-- thus confirming Aoi's reservations, if not his religious interpretation of life.



The focus of the second flashback displays an equally puzzling name; despite being one of the female Pandoras, she's called Charles Bonaparte, apparently named for the father of Napoleon I. But whereas the original Bonaparte was a minor nobleman, Charles-- who chooses to go into a flashback after beating down a fellow Pandora, rich girl Elizabeth Mably-- was originally a poor girl abandoned by her family. She's taken in by Director Spenser, a politician involved with the Pandora project. Spenser adopts Charles, who turns out to have Pandora potential herself. Spenser, however, displays an almost Nietzschean contempt for the lower classes. He first meets Charles when she's being bullied by a nasty gang of urchins, and he tells them, "Entitled trash heaps like you confuse the goodwill of others with god-given rights." Later he expatiates further on his quasi-aristocratic views: "Less powerful people shun responsibility and make no attempt to become strong. They demand equality, all the while doing nothing but caring for themselves."



In contrast to the first flashback when the female Bonaparte ends her sojourn into memory, her point-of-view is somewhat refuted. Her opponent Elizabeth rises despite having been beaten and overpowers Charles in their second fight, making the ironic comment that "true victory belongs only to the righteous" and "that is why your strength will fall to my weakness."

If these two flashbacks were integrated into stand-alone stories, I probably would regard them only as "near myths." However, because the two vignettes occur as roughly independent sections of very long, complicated arcs, I regard them as having the status of mythic vignettes, in the same way that I regarded the Origin of Batman as having its own amplitude apart from the larger story in which it appeared.


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