I fangirl Kubo-sensei like crazy and think he’s a GREAT writer so it’s a bit of a fandom game to persuade me otherwise.
It’s said that good writers hold up a mirror to ourselves and society. Maybe mediocre writers hold up tin foil or a kitchen appliance in which reflections are distorted. Whatever. To break the mirror metaphor and to give myself seven years bad luck, my point is that we all need bad writing and mediocre writing as well as we need great writing. For a sense of perspective if not to have something to wrap leftovers in. And I certainly need to laugh--some say bitterly, cruelly, with every one of my lit snob molecules gyrating--at some of the BAD things written about the GREAT Kubo-sensei.
The other day I was informed of a sincere attempt to accuse Kubo-sensei of plagiarism. This LJ-er, aware of Kubo’s volume 39 poem To err is human; to kill is the devil, had come across Ben Franklin’s aphorism, To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish. So--and I’m NOT kidding--she’d written a long rant calling Kubo out on plagiarism. The most amusing part was that folks in the comments were going “psssst, the original line is from Alexander Pope’s To err is human; to forgive divine.”
I’m really glad that I wasn’t the one who had to step in and teach a lesson about homage and allusion versus plagiarism because oh, I would’ve looked like such a literature snob.
People bait me. I can understand why--I’m fairly amusing when worked up. They’ve figured out already that the “ISHIDA IS A FAG” comments don’t stir a curl on my head but that the “Kubo is a noob writer but what else can you expect from someone who didn’t go to college?” comments usually get a mention in this journal. I don’t think the Kubo!plagiarist person was trying to bait me into a defense of my idol and neither do I believe that the earnest young person who is currently writing an IchiOri shipping essay about Bleach and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth wants to see me foam at the mouth. Am I naïve in believing that some people really want answers to “what makes a story original and a writer great?” and “how do I read for authorial intent?” and “who is Ichigo going to end up in bed with at the end of the tale?” I believe people want discourse about these things, not wank.
But the following quote is indeed bait. It’s a pure Belgian truffle tied to a string swinging back and forth the length of my broadening smile:
Why is Kubo always touted to be original yet people say he's influenced by love stories in other manga and that's the way he's going to go with the pairing in Bleach. Doesn't that cancel out the original part? And why do they say how great a story teller Kubo is yet want him to make sure the pairing in the end is the popular one fans want or else he's not a great writer? Doesn't that mean he's telling the fan's stories instead of his own?
Some bait isn’t worth snapping at. Because if your opponent is going to be deliberately obtuse about basic terms from “fanservice” to “feminism” all the while grounding his argument on a long ago radio interview in which Kubo supposedly said Orihime was the new heroine of Bleach but no evidence of the interview exists, your so-called debate is going to turn into a Who's On First skit.
I’m going to ignore the shipping bait in the above quote and address the un-originality charge because surely, the poster above isn’t saying that if Orihime’s fate turns out, erm, like that of so many girls in manga and anime or like her lookalike in Kubo’s favorite Honey & Clover that this development means Kubo Tite is a shameless thief of plots?
What if Orihime has the romantic happy ending more commonly associated with Disney love stories instead of Japanese tales of unrequited love? Does this make Kubo less of a thief because he steals from outside his cultural tradition? And what if he follows the Tanabata myth allegorically? Again, how unoriginal. The man may as well be heating up a Joseph Campbell’s soup of monomyth than cooking up anything special.
Surely the poster hasn’t heard the saying “Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal!” The saying, often attributed to Oscar Wilde, is actually a paraphrase from T.S. Eliot’s "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal", although Pablo Picasso has been attributed with saying the same thing: “Bad artists copy; great artists steal.” I’m surprised someone didn’t call Oscar Wilde out on plagiarizing the phrase!
In any event, a good turn of phrase, like a good story, works well in a variety of situations. Just change the lighting, camera angle, time zone, historical setting, intended age of audience—voila! What's old is new. There are only so many ways people can fall in love, but the number of lovers in world is infinite and each time someone falls in love, it will be a new, singular, special experience. Is it the falling in love itself that matters or the characters and situations involved?
Here’s where originality comes in. The point of being a good author is not to be different for the sake of being different. Eugene Delacroix, the French Romantic painter, said, “What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” Originality in the case of a little mangaka writing a story about ghosts and boys who fight said ghosts with swords doesn’t come in the structure of the story so much as it does in his immediately recognizable art style, his unrelenting insistence on making even minor characters more important than the plot, and the tragic hue assigned to even comic relief characters like Pesh and Don. Things are not always what they seem at first glance in Kubo’s world. Nice men take off their glasses and reveal themselves to be megalomaniac villains; monsters with holes in their chests grow hearts there, and oh yeah, almost everyone and his uncle seems to lose a hand or an arm--someone here on bleachness observed that this is maybe because as an artist, Kubo fears losing his own and takes it out on his characters. True or not, that sort of interpretation tickles me because the assumption of genius is already there. Looking to interpret the mangaka’s work, the critics can’t help but analyze the mangaka. It’s the sort of literary criticism unfashionable nowadays but Denis Dutton in The Art Instinct and others are touting the return of the importance of the AUTHOR in art.
Where was I?
I really want to write an essay. Kubo Tite is Awesome is the only theme I have so far, and I have no time but if anyone out there wants to engage me, please. I’m still having a ton o fun with Karenai's essay which is at 5 pages of comments now. I know it’s the shipping controversy that makes such an essay so popular but I’m just going to pretend to myself that it’s the literary nerddom of bleachness that keeps people posting. See, I can do denial too. Not sarcasm so much but denial, oh yes.