Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations
I think by now you folks know what time it is, but just in case you do not, I will fill you in. It is time once again for my monthly OWLS post, for those who are unaware, OWLS stands for Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, and is an organization of bloggers and other content creators dedicated to promoting acceptance of all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
This month’s theme for OWLS is Folklore, as described below:
This month’s OWLS topic was inspired by the name of Taylor Swift’s new album, Folklore. Yet rather than using her conceptual definition of what “Folklore” means, we are going to use its original meaning: we are going to explore the traditions and cultures of a specific group and community within pop cultural texts.
I would also encourage everyone to check out the other bloggers featured on the tour, as they are all wonderful human beings:
13th – Megan (Nerd Rambles)
17th – Jack (Animated Observations) (Note: This post was originally supposed to go out on the 17th, but had to be moved back because of my schedule).
20th – Takuto (Takuto’s Anime Cafe)
25th – Dale (That Baka Blog)
Without further pause, here is my post for this month:
Urban legends are apart of almost every modern culture in the world. In America, many states have their own local legends, and some, like Nessie, aka the Lockness Monster have risen to international fame. While their popularity has gradually risen and waned with the shift from oral storytelling to the internet, some have remained just as popular as ever. Another folklore taled turned urban legend that remains quite popular is the headless horseman, originally called the Dullahan.
Originating from Irish folklore, the Dullahan is said to be the reincarnation of the Irish god of fertility Crom Dubh. It is believed that the original story of the Dullahan comes from shortly after Christianity was introduced to the Irish people, when the then King of Ireland Tighermas mandated human sacrifice as a way of appeasing him. As Christianity was slowly phased in, new tales about Crom riding through the night, still seeking human lives came about, and thus the modern idea of the Dullahan was born.
The Dullahan has since been featured in a number of media franchises, most notably so in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” where a soldier who lost his head during the American Revolution rises from the dead to find it. It has even found its way into the fairly mainstream anime series “Durarara,” originally written by Ryougo Narita. Durarara’s story is…eclectic, to say the least. It focuses on the life of high school students, gang members, a street doctor, and a few others as they live their life in the dangerous city of Ikebukuro.
However, one of its most notable characters is the Celty Sturluson, a Dullahan who came by boat to Japan to look for her missing head that was supposedly stolen. In the story of Durarara, she is given the title of “Black Rider,” for her Jet black motorcycle that shes uses to perform various jobs for Ikebukuro’s more “underground” residents.
Celty is also framed as being notably feared by most of the city, even despite the fact that she is actually extremely kind. Despite coming to Japan to look for her missing head, Celty’s memories are hazy at best, and as such she uses all the help she can get when it comes to accomplishing her goal.
However, “Durarara’s” representation of the Dullahan goes even further beyond that. Celty, along with the majority of the cast, have very ironic character arcs. Not only does Celty not know where her head is or much about her past, one of her most consistent fears throughout the story is that when she finds her head she will turn back into the Dullahan of popular legend, and it is only through her street doctor partner Shinra Kishitani that she is able to stay calm in a lot of situations.
“Durarara” is a standout story for a number of reasons. For one, its unique storytelling which shifts perspectives from episode to episode, and even sometimes scene to scene makes it to where it almost never gets boring. On top of that, the characters are all usually dealing with the same problem, whether it be a gang rivalry, the illegal activity of suspicious corporations, or even the revival of dead spirits, and because of that, the story can have a variety of perspectives on the same events.
However, its handling of urban legends, and the way it makes use of those legends as plot points in its story makes it all the more unique. Whether it be Celty and the myth of the Dullahan, or the variety of Japanese folklore and gang stories, the series continual delivers an interesting story line that often works to subvert the original meaning of the stories from which “Durarara” draws inspiration. While the show may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is absolutely worth checking out at least once. If not, maybe the Dullahan will come for you!
Something that I couldn’t really work into the post organically but that I thought was interesting regardless was this article from Nippon.com. In it, the author Itakura Kimie interviews Professor Iikura YoshiYuki, whose work focuses on oral literature and contemporary Folklore. The article focuses on how urban legends have shifted from oral tradition to online mediums, but also how the social spaces through which urban legends have traditionally risen are shrinking.
Professor YoshiYuki attributes this to a few things. First, the internet is becoming much more insular. It is becoming more and more rare for people to reach out in good faith to discuss whether or not something is real, thus leading to less discussion and less spreading of such legends. Second, urban legends have often been place where people project their real world fears. However, with false information available in excess, and political actors creating narratives about many different real world groups such as immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community, it is becoming significantly more likely for people to project their fears into the real world, rather than through tongue and cheek myths.
I guess the lesson for today then is to always question narratives, even if it comes from people you agree with, and do research comes from provably reliable sources.
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If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friendos!