We live in tumultuous and uncertain times, and for many of the most vulnerable people in the United States, especially minorities, fear has been ramping up in their everyday lives. Comparisons between the newly elected President Trump and Adolf Hitler abound, and not without reason. Just before Trump’s inauguration, the second season of the Amazon original series The Man in the High Castle premiered. While the alternate history series had been fascinating and compelling ever since its premiere last January, in light of recent events, its poignancy has been downright spooky. It presents a picture of what life in the United States in the sixties might have looked like if the Axis powers had won the Second World War and divided up the U.S. between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. The series is based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, and follows Juliana Crain as she and the people close to her become caught up in resistance activities orchestrated by an unseen, eponymous mastermind. Besides being exceptionally well-written, one point that separates this from other alternate World War II histories (and there are an abundance) is that in The Man in the High Castle, a few characters have ways of glimpsing alternate paths of history and incomplete pictures of possible futures, which they desperately try to piece together to understand how to change the dystopian world they live in.
Ever since I finished my reread of the Percy Jackson books, I’ve been thinking about the way modern fantasy writers pull World War II into their magical settings. There’s an ongoing cultural fascination with this particular war, possibly because it’s the last major world conflict that we can paint as having obvious good and bad guys, but the way it’s utilized in fiction doesn’t always work or make sense.
Writers like to add some sort of magical twist into the real historical war, whether it’s giving hitherto unknown powers to actual historical figures, or running a parallel magical conflict alongside the non-magical one. Some of them do so in a meaningful way that does justice to the actual history they’re using; others, not as much.
Last year I made a post about Studio Ghibli’s upcoming movies and finally the time has arrived where I can talk about one of them in more depth. A couple weeks ago, the trailer for The Wind Rises was released and wow, I think it’s going to be a film that crushes our hearts. Maybe not quite Grave of the Fireflies level, but close.
Ransom Riggs’ New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about Jacob Portman, who is not a happy teenager. He has no real friends, school is a bore, his parents are barely parents at all, and his future is both well-planned and depressing. The only interesting part of Jacob’s life is his grandfather, Abe Portman. Abe is a Polish Jew who fought in the later years of WWII. He speaks three languages, knows his way around more than a few weapons, and can tell a tall tale better than anyone.
His tales are mostly about the orphanage on an island in Wales where he was sent as a war refugee. He also keeps a cigar box full of whimsical photographs; one has an invisible boy, another has girl floating, another has a skinny teenager lifting a boulder over his head, and there are many others equally as strange. However, not everything is as sunny as it seems—after a horrific incident Jacob is forced to face his worst fears. Using the clues that his grandfather gave him in his tales and photos, Jacob must find out what made Abe run and who or what he was running from. Grandpa Abe has a secret, and Jacob is determined to find out the truth. However the truth may be just a bit… peculiar.
Theatre is often seen as a way to escape from the woes and troubles and hard truths of everyday life. However, the most powerful and ultimately uplifting shows I’ve seen are the ones that tackle those issues head on.
It’s a sadly little-known fact of American history that tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese and part-Japanese heritage were interned in camps across the country during WWII. The supposed reasons behind this internment were officially fears that Japanese-Americans would spy for or otherwise betray America to the Japanese, but the real motivation was prejudice and racist hatred.
Inspired by Star Trek actor George Takei’s own experiences in an internment camp, writers Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione penned a musical called Allegiance and assembled an all-star cast to perform it (said cast includes Takei himself and Broadway goddess Lea Salonga as well!).
Here is some Lea-heavy music from the show to whet your palate—hopefully a full cast recording will be appearing soon.
This first is “The Mountain’s Heart”, which totally made me tear up; of course, Lea Salonga often has that effect on me.
And “Second Chances”:
Allegiance will be running for the next two months at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. If you are in that area and have a chance to check it out, I urge you to support this important show and its creative team by attending. If you are like me and find yourself locationally challenged, though, never fear: they plan to move to Broadway once the show closes in California, and, “barring unforeseen circumstances”, will be bringing the original cast with them.
I trust Miyazaki. I trust that he will deliver a wonderful story that always has a hidden meaning. I trust that that story will be well executed. I trust that the animation will be superb. And I trust that the characters will be well-developed.
I do not trust that his stories won’t send me into uncontrollable sobbing fits.