One thing leads to another

When one thing leads to another, sometimes it’s exasperating and other times it’s serendipitous. I was intrigued by a YouTube video mashup that combines scenes from the Japanese movie Final Fantasy VII Advent Children with a recording of Audioslave’s “I Am the Highway.”

Companies that hold copyrights to original audio and video recordings used in the kind of digital collages found on YouTube sometimes express concern about copyright infringement, but the exposure a viral video gains is free publicity for the original products. The benefits potentially outweigh the losses.

Final Fantasy is an immensely popular video game produced by Square Enix. In the 20 years since its introduction, it has acquired a huge fan base that is, nevertheless, mostly off my radar. The YouTube video clip is the work of an Australian FF7 fan. I shared the clip with a few other people, because it’s lovely. It’s been watched more than 18,700 times in the past year. One viewer commented, “[T]his song and video were meant to be together.”

I wanted to know more about the CG (computer graphic) art used to create the movie Advent Children from which the YouTube collage was made. I’d seen anime before, but Advent Children was lifelike. I’d never seen animation quite that beautiful.

Final Fantasy VII

The plot of the movie, which is based on the video game, involves a blood-borne disease called geostigma. The word—a single word taut with reproach—catapulted my thoughts to previous discussions of alienation and acceptance. I immediately wanted to learn who contrived the term geostigma and exactly what it was intended to represent. Geostigma sounded to me like the artificial territorial boundaries continually redrawn on the earth—boundaries the Web can ignore.

It was difficult to find much information in English about the scenarist for Advent Children, Kazushige Nojima, who wrote scenes for the video game and the movie, as well as lyrics and two related novellas. I watched the movie on DVD intently, wondering why I’d never heard of it before, as mesmerized as I would have been by the performance of a ballet.

The second DVD in the set provides details about the making of the movie, including a brief segment showing motion actors wearing markers at strategic points on their bodies. They enacted live scenes, which were digitally recorded and then reduced to only the lines connecting those points on their bodies. The moving stick figures became the basis for the incredibly intricate CG art. During the making of Advent Children, special animation software was designed to streamline production.

T.T. Thomas was rightfully annoyed by my obscure reference to geostigma in the previous post. During the movie, one of the characters explains, “It’s a symptom of alien matter infesting the body. The body tries to eliminate it and overcompensates.”

The “alien matter,” in the context of the movie, is a memetic signature or memetic legacy, a specific gene implanted in soldiers. On the Web, a meme is something viral, and the definition has evolved to be almost synonymous with trendsetting.

I watched the English-language version of Advent Children, whose meaning may have been diminished in translation. In one part of the movie, characters were referred to as “remnants,” and on the second disc, an English subtitle that seemed to mention the same characters read, “Avatars don’t get the memo.” When the English-language version of the movie was released last year, someone definitely forgot to send me the memo.

To clarify the conflict with the movie’s antagonist, who would use the planet as his vehicle to conquer the universe, the movie’s hero explains his moral obligation by arguing, “You don’t understand me at all. There’s not a thing I don’t cherish.” Notably, the word hero sounds the same in Japanese and in English. The movie’s themes are universal and open to interpretation, some of which the director and scenarist have provided to FF7 fans.

The second DVD packaged with the movie includes interviews, subtitled in English, with the co-directors of Advent Children, as well as the scenario writer, the artists, and the actors. Nojima, the scenarist, was asked to explain the movie’s theme. “I recently had a child and felt that my bloodline is being carried on,” he replied. “But my grandmother passed away shortly after, and it made me feel human. When a life disappears, a new one is born.” His observation is yet another kind of meme, a universal sentiment, a spiritual legacy of uncertain origin.

Nojima added, “I don’t just meet people. I’m part of a bigger flow that leads me to meet certain people. Life is more interesting when you think of it that way.”

When asked what motivated the movie’s hero, Nojima said, “I think it’s forgiveness. Not something as lukewarm as healing. You have to work hard to earn forgiveness. To be healed without doing anything would be too easy.”

4 thoughts on “One thing leads to another

  1. Sarah Jo Schlosser

    First of all, I am late to the party…I had never seen You Tube or anime before, though I had read about them pretty extensively. Reading about them, though, didn’t prepare me for what their capabilities were.

    Second of all, I am completely blown away by the Audioslave lyrics, as I had never heard their music before. If this song is common on playlists, then there is my culture, course 3 after the appetizer of anime and main course of You Tube.

    All these things to catch up on when your roots are in 20-lb cotton paper and Schaeffer pens. Nat never talked about this stuff.

    Just looking at the video, I saw a lot of Christian themes, particularly with the redemption/baptismal scene at the end. Not mentioning it as a promotion, just relishing in what I could gleen. For a Unitarian, I don’t think I did too poorly on that.

    That quote on forgiveness…that’s another one that’s gonna fester. I’m curious as to how much has to be done before forgiveness should be granted. I’m not thinking it should be easy either, but forgiving oneself is nearly impossible even with a full marathon ran, Thanksgiving dinner cooked, and children given birth to. The quota of self-forgiveness is never met in many circles.

    Perhaps, in terms of self-forgiveness, too much is not enough?

    Thanks for another thought-provoking entry, my friend.

    Jo

  2. T.T.Thomas

    Robin said:

    …Geostigma…
    During the movie, one of the characters explains, “It’s a symptom of alien matter infesting the body. The body tries to eliminate it and overcompensates.”

    The “alien matter,” in the context of the movie, is a memetic signature or memetic legacy, a specific gene implanted in soldiers. On the Web, a meme is something viral, and the definition has evolved to be almost synonymous with trendsetting.

    …and…

    To clarify the conflict with the movie’s antagonist, who would use the planet as his vehicle to conquer the universe, the movie’s hero explains his moral obligation by arguing, “You don’t understand me at all. There’s not a thing I don’t cherish.”

    …noting that…

    Nojima added, “I don’t just meet people. I’m part of a bigger flow that leads me to meet certain people. Life is more interesting when you think of it that way.”

    When asked what motivated the movie’s hero, Nojima said, “I think it’s forgiveness. Not something as lukewarm as healing. You have to work hard to earn forgiveness. To be healed without doing anything would be too easy.”

    Wow. To me, the above quotes, in particular, are worth the price of admission! And now, not only do I have a better (but far from complete) understanding of Geostigma (a word I immediately loved despite not knowing the meaning), but the recurring serial title of the (these) post(s), “Encoding Inspiration” is just perfect. I’m making up some other words, too: Geostigmata, Geostigmatic, Geostigmatist, Geostigmatize.

    How would one apply the essence of geostigma to some of the characters in a novel? Trouble is…is it symptomatic of good alien matter…or bad? Is the conflict one of core values versus transitory trends? Is a hero or heroine’s motivation a legacy of forgiveness mysteriously imprinted into hero DNA while the treachery of judgment is something that winds its double helix around the cold heart of the villain within and without?

    Geostigma, as described in the anime context above, is the symptom of alien matter infesting the body, be it a human body, a body of work or the ubiquitous spam that turns the web into a playground for our virtual stalkers, no matter what name we use. But can Geostigma be used as an “infestation” for good, and if it were, would it have a different name to describe its symptoms? Neogeostigma? Bellageostigma?

    More will be revealed, no doubt, knowing Robin! Like the guy said, I don’t just meet people—I meet certain people. I always have.

  3. Robin Mizell Post author

    I wanted to respond to these two comments this morning, but a samba/bossa nova band was performing in Goodale Park, and the weather in Columbus was unusually pleasant for late August, when the rattle of cicadas is usually accompanied by insufferable heat and humidity. I was imagining what to write when I arrived at the bandstand and spread my blanket on the grass in front of a pond half-filled with enormous waterlilies, their leaves shaped like the foliage of mammoth nasturtiums. When towheaded six-year-old replicas of Cloud ran along the edge of the lily pond, they were a scene from the movie we’re trying to analyze.

    Flicking the centipedes and spiders from my blanket, I glanced over at a neo-earth mother nursing her baby and a small group practicing tai chi in the shade of an oak. I listened to the singer introduce each selection to an audience that did not speak Portuguese. “I don’t want to steal you,” she said, translating lyrics that celebrated the diverse ethnicity, exuberant culture, and natural beauty of Brazil’s Bahia.

    I don’t want to twist someone else’s meaning to suit my purposes, but I’m human and, therefore, fallible. Can I discipline myself to absorb and pay tribute to what I like instead of being viral in the sense of merely imitating or reproducing a new interpretation, only to discard it in favor of the next meme or trendy influence?

    Final Fantasy VII Advent Children is not meant to be a self-contained story. In a society accustomed to vivid soundbites, the movie and its fans are anomalies. Advent Children is one episode in a multimedia series filled with symbols intended to provoke discussion and debate among fans. Mystery is alluring. It confronts us with the danger of declaring, “This is key. This is what it means.” The Bible, Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, Machiavelli’s Il Principe, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Think of the literature we value because it is open to individual interpretation.

    I learn to say, “This is what I call it.”

    Web 2.0 gives us one more opportunity to listen to others. “This is what it means to me,” they say. “This is my name for it.”

    Ryu Kaze translated the storyline of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children and provides his analyses of certain segments and characters, including this one:

    …the knowledge of those who die returns to the Lifestream with their spirits, and there it combines with all the other knowledge; so the Lifestream is a big sea of spirit energy filled with knowledge and memories, and when someone else falls into that sea—or is exposed to it through mako infusion—that knowledge fills their brains. If they’re not capable of handling all that extra knowledge that doesn’t belong to them, it can cause their mind to “break,” resulting in them going into a vegetative state (mako poisoning). Members of SOLDIER like Zack can handle this without losing their own place among all the extra knowledge, but people with inferiority complexes (most people, including Cloud) can’t.

    As the band performed its last few numbers, a man in his sixties walked confidently to the concrete apron in front of the stage. His skin was black, his head was shaved, and he was wearing dark sunglasses, stonewashed jeans, Italian leather shoes, ropes of heavy silver chain around his neck, and a sleeveless white undershirt covering a slight paunch. Slowly, he began to interpret the music in dance that was a blend of martial arts, samba, contemporary ballet, and hip hop. The effect was disconcerting but not unlovely.

    The last song was “Agradeço (I Am Thankful).”

    It’s beautiful here today.

  4. Sarah Jo Schlosser

    One: I am so very glad that the tornados spared you, the blog, and the day. I heard Columbus had some rocky weather and therefore linked to this site with some trepidation, hoping that you had added a comment.

    And WHAT a comment.

    THIS is why I fell in love with literature in all of its choice. THIS is why it is a fully-formed being to me.

    TWO: Thank you for your words, this image, and sharing a slice of it.

    J

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