Some of you may know that I’ve been trying to complete a full year of OWLs prompts using Natsume’s Book of Friends exclusively as a base for the essay. OWLS prompts tend to be fairly general so I thought this would be a breeze until I got a real test thrown my way.
I bring you July’s prompt :
- 7th Monthly Deadline: July 7, 2019
- 7th Monthly Topic: “Technology”
- Topic Recommendation By MagicConan14
For this month’s topic, we will be discussing how technology impacts our relationships with others and how it improves our lives (such as in communication, education, and etc.) by exploring the technology used in various anime and pop culture worlds.
- Ghost in the Shell
- Fullmetal Alchemist
Thank you very much, Aria. You keep me on my toes!
Natsume is a somewhat timeless setting. We don’t see much at all in the way of what we would consider modern technology. I don’t recall seeing any computers or gaming consoles in the series, but I think the kids do have smartphones. They just hardly use them which is by far the most outlandish thing in this series about a boy who can see Yokai. However, there really isn’t much I can point at that represents my idea of technology in this series.
A few of my wonderful OWLS compatriots suggested I take on the magic as a technology angle. And that is a very good angle. In the end, it serves the same plot purpose as technology does but it’s much more useful narratively speaking. Not to mention that the absence of easily recognizable technology in itself is important.
Let me try to explain this. No promises!
Technology in stories is basically magic that won’t drag you into the fantasy genre. Whether it’s existent technology or not. It allows your characters to do things that would normally be impossible for them. A cellphone is the same as a communication spell. The internet is a crystal ball allowing you to collect an almost infinite amount of information with little to no effort. Weaponry is interchangeable with offensive spells, and if you chose to diversify, you can have sleeping gas or tear gas to simulate enchantments.
There is very little actual magic that doesn’t have some type of technology equivalent. We have transporters (that have real-world potential) to instantly cover large distances. Truth potions and brainwashing drugs exist in the real world. The only common magic I could think of that’s not seen that often in other formats are love potions. But that’s only because we don’t want to admit a cocktail of readily available hormones/pheromones can do just that. It’s just so unromantic when you put it that way….
The nice thing about magic though, as far as a narrative is concerned, is that it doesn’t have to work. If you use real-world technology, you can’t really bend the rules too much. Sure, you can fudge the science a bit but ultimately, if you’re portraying something the audience is familiar with, it has to work more or less the way they are used to. Otherwise, you need to explain it or risk destroying the suspension of disbelief. And if it’s futuristic or inexistent technology, you still need to establish some general explanation for how it works, or else it might as well be magic….
Magic is much looser and therefore has a lot more narrative potential. It can fail without explanation to bring extra conflict and tension to your story. You can warp it to the needs of your plot and most of us have been conditioned to just accept that. I mean it’s magic, you can’t get too picky about it. It still needs rules or else everything falls apart but it’s more flexible.
And after all this, we get back to Natsume. Like I said, this post was a challenge. I needed to lay all that out for myself as much as for you guys.
There is a long-standing false dichotomy that exists between faith and science. I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive but at the same time, I recognize the trope. Yokai represents tradition, history, deep roots that wind their way back through the ages. For some reason, we associate technology with the future, shallow and ever-changing. Forget the fact that the need for invention is a defining trait of our species that has existed as long as our need for spirituality has… Still, that vision is in a lot of people’s brains and as such, technology would be an antithesis to Yokai.
This is why Natsume has an old fashion book on which names are written in ink, instead of a contact list of his phone. It would serve the exact same purpose, but man would it be weird…
Natsume’s world exists in a very specific bubble. One that is a little isolated, a little out of step with the rest of the world. Technology is the great dream of humanity. It brings us together and binds us to one another. It makes the world smaller and fuller. It shines a light in all the dark places. It’s tough to make those two worlds coexist.
I love technology. I’m that guy that needs to buy the latest gadget even when I very clearly do not need it. I get a little lost in it in fact. The idea of losing electricity for an evening terrifies me. What could I possibly do with myself…once the batteries on my phone, laptop and tablet run out? I guess I could break out the DS.
But there’s a world out there beyond or around technology that’s brimming with magic and wonder. A world of analogue books, of beautiful forests and fields full of flowers, a world where Yokai exist just out of sight. I might miss that world while I’m busy staring at my phone and that would be a shame.
Ugh, guys, I don’t think I did it. I may have failed this month. I tried though. I get points for writing my name, right?
It’s particularly sad as I’m kicking off the tour this month. Then again, I guess I’m happy I wasn’t following anyone. You know, how about we chalk this one up to experience and instead you check out this amazing blogger who will redeem me on this tour. Next up, we have the great Dylan with a video essay on Summer Wars coming out on Wednesday, followed by none other than the Patron of our current tour, Aria herself, discussing a show I will be watching soon. It’s SSSS.Gridman. I didn’t mean to make that sound like a teaser. That post will be out on the 11th so mark your calendars!
Sidenote: Have you notice that the word “Magic” sounds very similar in a huge variety of languages. I just thought that was interesting.