This post really ought to be about my new manga transdub project, but it appears I’m back on my bullshit, because the whole discourse surrounding the “wrongness” of scanlation that I constantly see on social media, frankly, drives me bonkers, in part because people on “either side” of the issue never seem to be asking the useful questions or speaking from a shared set of facts.
In the end, the point of all this is to say that copyright is a legal and not a moral framework, and as such its principles are fundamentally mutable in accordance with what we want our culture of knowledge and creative exchange to be. If that goal is, as those who first envisioned copyright wanted, to facilitate exchange rather than stifle it, it is high time we acknowledged that copyright as it stands now not only isn’t working but is actively impeding that goal. To that end, scanlation could be one means to push back and reassert very real rights that have been lost along the way, though much of what falls under that heading is rather hard to defend in its current form.
I’m not here to defend Ghost in the Shell in any of its manifestations, for as regular readers of this blog already know, I find it mostly to be authoritarian drek for ammosexuals. Only Stand Alone Complex comes close to living up to the series’ intellectual pretensions, perhaps because it has much more time and space to develop its thematic threads. What I do want to push back against, though, is this notion that the opinions of Japanese people are somehow irrelevant. For if, as Berlatsky argues, the live action film is an assimilationist fantasy, then that makes it even more Japanese, not less, and the very moment in the film he brings to bear in support of his argument, the lack of shame for abandoning the past, is actually what aligns it perfectly with the problem of how Japan’s own imperial history works in the politics of the present.
The theatrical elite that seek to shape Maya’s destiny have, quite literally, no regard for her genetic family, only for how her social relations might be reshaped so as to further their own ends. Similarly, as we see in the kindai period, education, particularly those educational institutions created to serve elite/bourgeois ends, fractures family in service of a society largely beyond the individual’s control but to which the state demands a precise form of obeisance. Contemporary Japanese society has not escaped this mobilization of shōjo culture–if anything, it has simply adopted a new mask.
Mononoke is for many, once even for myself, a sacred object, a relic that embodies a transcendent anime ideal and to which, much like the bones of martyrs, the “true fan” must pay obeisance after a long pilgrimage. Even now with my ideological misgivings I have to admit that the film is breathtakingly beautiful, its pacing clear and direct–it tells its story well. But the question as to whether it’s a good story, one that bears the ceremonious retelling that an anniversary would seem to demand, remains an open question.