Hey, its been awhile.
Sorry about that, I just been busy doing some adulting, editing, cooking, driving, lots and lots of driving. But, I’m back and my early New Year’s resolution is to blog at least twice a month in 2022.
I will confess to this; I have watched a lot of amazing anime in my time away, Liz and the Blue Bird, Voilet Evergarden: The movie, Sound! Emporium, Super Cub, and others. All of these animes that I gave all share one thing in common, they have amazing, non-cliche writing, and they deal with deeper issues other than the typical anime b.s., like a guy who comes from another world to find (fill in the blank) but stumbles into a harem of super cute girl. Or, (not my favorite anime trope), super loud, super annoying, super ‘hero’ who has no idea that he (it’s almost always a male figure) gets some power then grows stronger as the anime goes along and blah, blah, blah happens.
Super Cub is an anime that I feel flew under the radar but turned out to be something special. Studio Kai, produced by Bandi Namco Arts, and directed by Toshiro Fujii and his use of the concept of ‘ma‘ in this anime. Ma means space, gap, or pause in Japanese. Ma is often referred as ‘giving concept of negative space’. In Super Cub, ma is use to let natural sounds carry the scene. A Super Cub is a Honda scooter that the main character buys because she wants an easier way to get to high school. This is a vast oversimplification of the story, but I’m on a roll with ma, so, I’ll write about Super Cub later.
Director Fujii lets the sound that the scooter carries the scene. No music, no monologue, just the sound of the scooter and nothing else. When the main character, Koguma, rides the scooter, you and the viewer, are with her. Fujii lets the sound of the scooter, of the tires on the road, the wind against the helmet fills the moments of the scene and not what most of us are used to hearing, music or some other districting noises.
It’s brilliant! When I was younger and wanted action, violence and gore in my anime. I would have never given this anime a second glance. Super Cub is a story about a high school girl, but I think you need to accept that it’s also a story about silence and what is happening around Koguma in that moment. Like so much Japanese art, the lack of features is what fills in the space on the canvas.
As a writer, I would love to learn how to achieve ma. In my books, I fill in pages with words about battle, dialogue between characters, and setting up the world that I’m trying to build for the reader. I am watching these “Master Class” videos about writing, setting up scenes, about world building, about everything except how to let the scene, the sounds in the scene and all the silent places that carry the scene.
In the world that I live in, noise is a constant. The noise that my cellphone makes. Those little annoying beeps, and tones saying that I have another urgent message about saving 20% on something that I do not need, or another email from someone asking me for more money b/c I made a political contribution to some other candidate a year ago and they just won’t leave me alone! Outside noise, cars, trains, airplanes, helicopters, are all constant noises in most people’s lives.
When I think of ma, I think of the silence filling in all that noise. I think of the absence of noise, the absence of unnatural light, of everything other than nature filling in all the gaps. I can remember hiking in the Sierra Navada’s with my dog years ago and just listening to the crunching of the rocks, pine needles, the small, slender branches under my feet. I can remember listing to my dogs soft breathing as he trotted just a few feet in front of me. When we stopped and ate lunch, I just sat there, miles from anyone and outside noises and marveled in the silence that surrounded me.
My dog is long gone, he was 15 when I put him down. I still remember his breathing on that trail. I still remember how his head bobbed up and down with every step he took. He was Huskey/ Sheppard mix, so he had the most beautiful blue eyes, and a long, fluffy curly tail. On that trail, we held a perfect silence between us that filled all the gaps in our world.
I’m going to leave you, my dear reader, with that image.
Thank for reading this.
Left Pannel of Pine Trees scene (Shorin-zu-byobu) by Hasegawa Tokaku. The empty space in this piece is considered to be as important as the tress depicted.