[DWJ] Howl's Moving Castle film

Elizabeth Parks henx19 at gmail.com
Sat Jun 21 11:25:26 EDT 2008

a bit rambly,

> We could have either dubbed in Dutch or Japanese with Dutch subtitles, and
> chose subtitles because we've only ever heard bad Dutch dubbing voices. After
> a while you stop noticing that you don't really understand one single word
> (and only notice when you *do* understand one, like 'present'-- the Japanese
> do give presents, don't they? Why use the English word then?)
>   Irina

I -think- though I don't remember for sure, that the use of the word
"gifto" was picked up for similar reasons to words like "rabu":
because it lacked all the associations in the Japanese words.
Gift-giving in Japan is a very ritualized process, and using a word
like "gift" or "present" instead emphasizes the fun of gift giving,
and not the etiquette.  Other words that can translate as gifts have a
lot more context, like o-miyage (gifts from another place, or
souveniers.)  If you go anywhere in Japan, you will see boxes of
individually wrapped food items or small gifts, which each person
absolutely MUST take back to their office and close friends/family.
When I worked in Japan, we frequently received such delicacies as
unagi cookies--unagi being eel.  I wasn't so fond of those, but if you
ever go to Kobe they make the most delicious little chocolates there,
dusted with a cocoa (pronounced ko-ko-uh in japan) powder, and I
highly recommend them.  I took some as omiyage to my office.  I guess
my point is that you don't bring o-miyage because you care or because
you want to (though sometimes you might); you bring it because you
bring it.  It's how it works, no matter the cost, difficulty, etc.  I
like to look out for o-miyage-ish presents in places that have a lot
of Japanese tourists, like Disney World or Hawai'i.  (Though honestly
I still bring o-miyage, even now that I'm back in the U.S.  It's a
nice tradition.)  But gift is a lot freer, and a little more

  Same way, "love" or "rabu" is used to represent a sort of love that
is not usually expressed in japanese culture. Felt, certainly, but not
expressed.  The more common "suki desu" is used to say that you find
-anything- likeable, and can be used on a crush as well as a true
love.  It's a less intense word, and saying it puts less pressure on
the person you say it to.  "Ai," or "ai shiteru," I have literally
never heard used in Japan outside of manga/anime.  Instead, when
someone is lovey-dovey you say they are "love-love."  A boyfriend can
be your "love-love" relationship.  A huge part of the appeal of these
words is that they are not subject to the traditions and expectations
that bind the actual Japanese words.  A huge part is just that they're
trendy, used in advertising and pop culture, and have that little bit
of cleverness. (Why do people say "baby mama" or "LOL"?  these aren't
words/phrases that are historically common, and we have other terms
for them.)  So yeah: I would say that words like that are used because
they're a little looser, and a little more cosmopolitan, and a little
more romantic.

Japan is such a weird society. . . if you walk down the street holding
someone's hand you will be stared at.  If you kiss someone on the
street, no matter how tamely, you will be looked away from, pointedly,
as if to show you how embarrassing you are.  Yet I had men stop on the
street, stare at me, and say something about "big, beautiful
mountains."  My chest was an object of much obvious interest (and
let's not even talk about the problem I had finding shirts that fit
over it in Japan.  Pants fit me wonderfully, as I'm short, but forget
any shirt that buttoned down the front.)

As for Hauuru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle), I was thinking
about this yesterday as I finished up House of Many Ways, and I felt
like I had figured out why I didn't like it that much.  I mean, it's
beautiful, and I like the beginning.  I usually feel like Miyazaki's
films don't end as well as they begin, though part of this with Howl
might have been that I saw it for the first time unsubtitled in Japan,
and my Japanese is mediocre at best, and it's harder to understand
anime characters than real live actors whose lips and facial
expressions help you pick up more, so I was a bit confused at times.
The problem for me is that Sophie lacked Sophie-ness.  Really, the
movie made me feel like Miyazaki had taken a chassis made by someone
else and filled it with his own things, but I especially didn't like
that Sophie got so passive in some parts.  Where was the endearing

My favorite Miyazakis are Spirited Away, by a long way (Sen to chihiro
no natsu), and one that Miyazaki only produced, called "whispers of
the heart" (mimi wo sumasheba, irrc).


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