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Author Topic: EP266: Kachikachi Yama  (Read 21254 times)

eytanz

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on: November 12, 2010, 06:49:49 PM
EP 266: Kachikachi Yama

By Michael Underwood
Read by Lauren Harris of Pendragon Variety Literary Magazine Podcast

---

The howl of the northbound train builds in crescendo as I stand on the ledge of the platform and hold the man above the tracks.  He flails at me.

The Shikoku station is far from empty.  Groaning bodies dot the otherwise hospital-clean platform. A group of fleshmodded Gothic Lolita girls watch us.  They look on with inhumanly white faces and void-black eyes.  Twig-thin arms down to their knees wave in the wind. He begs.

My _denkigami’s_ polite but insistent voice chirps in my head.  _“Yamagata-sama orders the target to be eliminated.”_ Spirit of the fleshware machine in my brain, my _denkigami_ is a constant companion, and keeper of my leash.

The roar of the train grows louder, and bells ring in the station.  The man pleads for his life.  The train’s lights appear from around the around the corner.


Rated R For sexual situations and violence

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 258: Raising Jenny.
  • Next week…We leave earth for a new planet!



Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!

« Last Edit: December 03, 2010, 12:06:08 AM by eytanz »



ibabox

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Reply #1 on: November 13, 2010, 01:25:22 AM
"Ban-Kai"



Bdoomed

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Reply #2 on: November 13, 2010, 04:05:22 AM
haha.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


bolddeceiver

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Reply #3 on: November 13, 2010, 04:38:26 AM
Interesting story, a fun return to the classic cyberpunk mode (which I think has finally been gone long enough that it's fun nostalgia rather than tried overdone trope).  I would have liked it but for one huge wallbanger.

The main character starts identifying with Tanuki when she finds out that all he'd done to deserve his punishment was to embarass her employer; this seems to create the moral standard for the rest of the story.

Except, he didn't just embarass the guy.  The mode of embarassment was arguably double rape -- definitely rape of the wife, who he uses essentially as a puppet, forcing at least her body (no clear answer to where her mind was at the moment) into sex she doesn't consent to, and in my book rape of the husband, who, while he consents to sex with his wife, does not consent to what is essentially sex with Tanuki, if by proxy.

I recognize that for the characters the embarassment/shame would be by far the notable part, given the culture (though that calls into question the main character's "Well he only embarassed the guy" response), but the story seemed to be trying to use it to set Tanuki up as the wronged victim.  With the above in mind, I don't see anyone in the right here, and combined with the minimal characterization beyond "she's stuck by tradition into a life she didn't choose, he's a plucky hacker that happened to annoy the wrong guy, and he's an evil petty tyrant," it all ends up with the kind of grey/grey situation that leaves me wondering why I should feel anything for any of them.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 04:49:24 AM by bolddeceiver »



zerotkatama

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Reply #4 on: November 13, 2010, 05:36:58 AM
It was a fun listen. Those modded gothic lolitas gave me the creeps, as I think was the point.

One thing that made me giggle. When Tanuki was trying to get into the Zaibatsu and failing, all I could think was "Magikarp used Splash! But Nothing Happened!" and giggled a little. Was I the only one who made that connection?



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Reply #5 on: November 13, 2010, 04:15:19 PM
Interesting story, a fun return to the classic cyberpunk mode (which I think has finally been gone long enough that it's fun nostalgia rather than tried overdone trope).  I would have liked it but for one huge wallbanger.

The main character starts identifying with Tanuki when she finds out that all he'd done to deserve his punishment was to embarass her employer; this seems to create the moral standard for the rest of the story.

Except, he didn't just embarass the guy.  The mode of embarassment was arguably double rape -- definitely rape of the wife, who he uses essentially as a puppet, forcing at least her body (no clear answer to where her mind was at the moment) into sex she doesn't consent to, and in my book rape of the husband, who, while he consents to sex with his wife, does not consent to what is essentially sex with Tanuki, if by proxy.

I recognize that for the characters the embarassment/shame would be by far the notable part, given the culture (though that calls into question the main character's "Well he only embarassed the guy" response), but the story seemed to be trying to use it to set Tanuki up as the wronged victim.  With the above in mind, I don't see anyone in the right here, and combined with the minimal characterization beyond "she's stuck by tradition into a life she didn't choose, he's a plucky hacker that happened to annoy the wrong guy, and he's an evil petty tyrant," it all ends up with the kind of grey/grey situation that leaves me wondering why I should feel anything for any of them.

I didn't see it that way at all. It wasn't about Tanuki being the "wronged victim", it was about Yamagata ordering his samurai to prostitute herself in the service of his revenge. And she didn't start to identify with Tanuki then; on the contrary, she hated him more than ever when she found out.

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bolddeceiver

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Reply #6 on: November 13, 2010, 04:40:31 PM
Then what about all the "he might deserve it less than anyone else I'd killed" and what not?  Note that the line was "I hate Tanuki for the way I have to act," not for anything he did, and after finding out the slight she "hate(s) Yamigata-sama more."
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 04:52:47 PM by bolddeceiver »



stePH

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Reply #7 on: November 13, 2010, 07:02:57 PM
Then what about all the "he might deserve it less than anyone else I'd killed" and what not?  Note that the line was "I hate Tanuki for the way I have to act," not for anything he did, and after finding out the slight she "hate(s) Yamigata-sama more."
Still didn't make her sympathetic to Tanuki; she continued to play him like a vintage Stradivarius fiddle.

[edit]
and "he might deserve it less" != "he doesn't deserve it".
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 07:04:52 PM by stePH »

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Schreiber

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Reply #8 on: November 13, 2010, 11:14:42 PM
It might have been nice to see Tanaki come to an unpleasant end, but part of the narrator's victory is that she doesn't have to kill him.



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Reply #9 on: November 14, 2010, 11:48:51 AM
While I really enjoyed the reading, the story itself, with the perfect female killer who is beautiful, deadly, great in the sack and totally bound by notions of 'duty' and 'honour' that I can't understand, bored me. None of the characters have any real depth to them, we never even see Yamagata's wife but then it's clear that her defilement only matters so much as it reflects on his honour.

I just happened to be listening to this story on Remembrance Day and, as I walked home, happened to pass a small church procession to the local monument. While I loathe war that's a sense of honour and duty, though equally misguided, that I can at least understand.



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Reply #10 on: November 14, 2010, 02:03:26 PM
[an old  blueeyeddevil strolls through the digital world, his rhuemy eyes rolling in their sockets like overboiled eggs, a bored youth walks beside him, clearly along to play Athenian chorus. The hunched devil glances sideways as something catches his eye. His turkey-jowled face wobbles in surprise as his palsied, liver-spotted hand plucks up an item.]

"Great googaly-moogaly!"
"What is it, Uncle Devil?"
"It's a cyber-punk story! I hain't seen one of these since I was but a young lad." says the floppy-faced old coot.
"What's siper punk?" asks the youth.
"Cyber-punk, ya rascal! It's what people twenty years ago thought the digital world would look like five years from now." says the old man. His hands, shaking either from excitement or nerve damage, turn the object over. The old man takes a long sniff of the thing, like a man savoring a cuban cigar.
"Do ya smell that? That's reeeeal fake-bushido, that is. And look here" the old man says, pointing and squinting "A monofilament sword! Haven't seen one of those since, since...[he shudders] Johnny Mnemonic."
"What's a Johnny Noo-mon-ick?" asks the boy.
"Pray you never find out, boy." The man's wobbly face takes on a pensive look. "Thing is," he continues, "this one doesn't seem to do anything new. Ohh, look there, it's kind of a wronged-woman revenge story. Ohh, she even has a cortex-bomb. It's hard to pick out at first, but see there. Woweee, that's classic.
"So the woman's being forced to do things against her will?" the boy inquires.
"Weeell, not really. Ya see, if this woman really believes so much in bushido, she kills herself before she does anything dishonorable. So her being held hostage by the bomb in her head deosn't really work."
"Oh."
 "Yep," the old man says, carefully replacing the item.
"Aren't you going to buy it?"
"Nah, I'll just dig out my William Gibson books."
"What's a book?"
"It's the thing we had before podcasts."


--Forgive me, I had to do this.



KenK

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Reply #11 on: November 14, 2010, 05:59:49 PM
Sending a minion to exact revenge is the same as sending an expert gunslinger to take your place in duel that you instigated. But life is complicated and people aren't perfect. That was what I understood to be the author's intent.



DadOfTwins

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Reply #12 on: November 15, 2010, 01:55:07 AM
Could not get myself interested in the story no matter how hard I tried.  I found the characters very obvious and almost cartoonish.
I love the cyberpunk genre but you also have to have a good story and a good character setup to make the story interesting.



wakela

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Reply #13 on: November 15, 2010, 02:51:32 AM
I did enjoy listening to the story, though I do agree with DadOfTwins that the characters were not particularly interesting, nor did they have any interesting decisions to make.  Everything pretty much played out like you would expect.  The more I thought about it, the more little holes opened up for me.

-I had the same response as bolddeceiver that the MC didn't think Tanuki's crime was worthy of humiliating herself and killing him, while I thought it was absolutely horrible.

-Seemed odd that someone who summon get a gang of yakuza to his defense wouldn't be more suspicious of hot women seducing him.  Why didn't he hack her denkigami?  Why wouldn't he do it just for fun?  It could have been an interesting scene if he asked her to let him hack her for kinks and she had to deny him without arousing suspicion. Why didn't he at the end when he knew who she was? 

-I'm uneasy with the idea that she killed her master.  Based on my understanding of bushido (which is poor) it's all about loyalty.  She has now stained her family's reputation more than whoring herself out to Tanuki did.  I think she would have gotten bonus honor points by being able to debase herself in the service of her master.  As it is she is treacherous and disloyal.

-I've lived in Japan for about 8 years now, and my wife is Japanese.  I asked her opinion about a samurai killing his master, but then I had to explain the whole story to put the killing in context.  She could not get around the samurai being a woman.  I told her that it's the future, and the story dealt with that, but I could not convince her.  This was a total deal-breaker.  I never did get a straight answer regarding in what situation a samurai could kill his master. 

I like the idea of samurai culture returning to Japan (as an idea for fiction.  I wouldn't want to experience it).  It would be interesting to compare a traditional samurai who was the product of generations of bushido, and a modern one who was new to the game.  It would be interesting to compare a samurai of old who was loyal because of societal pressures to a future one who was loyal because his master could blow up his head at any moment.  This story brought these questions up, but went for the bad-ass action rather than exploring them.  But like I said, I did like the bad-ass action. 

Found this reference:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kachi-kachi_Yama



wakela

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Reply #14 on: November 15, 2010, 05:11:56 AM
Maybe I answered my own question.  Maybe there is no bushido is this story, and she is simply a slave assassin who has been deceived into thinking she's part of something bigger to make it easier to stomach the killing.  Did she kill Yamagata at this point because she thought his revenge against Tanuki was unreasonable, or was this the first time she had disabled the denkigami?

A Japanese friend had once told me that all the bushido/loyalty business was invented by the Shogun in order to control the samurai.  Previously samurai switched sides all the time depending on who was winning.  Maybe this story is the latest iteration of the Japanese using bushido as propaganda.  I don't have any evidence that this is the author's intent, but it's a possible reading unless I'm missing something. 



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Reply #15 on: November 15, 2010, 10:43:56 AM
[an old  blueeyeddevil strolls through the digital world, his rhuemy eyes rolling in their sockets like overboiled eggs, a bored youth walks beside him, clearly along to play Athenian chorus. The hunched devil glances sideways as something catches his eye. His turkey-jowled face wobbles in surprise as his palsied, liver-spotted hand plucks up an item.]

"Great googaly-moogaly!"
"What is it, Uncle Devil?"
"It's a cyber-punk story! I hain't seen one of these since I was but a young lad." says the floppy-faced old coot.
"What's siper punk?" asks the youth.
"Cyber-punk, ya rascal! It's what people twenty years ago thought the digital world would look like five years from now." says the old man. His hands, shaking either from excitement or nerve damage, turn the object over. The old man takes a long sniff of the thing, like a man savoring a cuban cigar.
"Do ya smell that? That's reeeeal fake-bushido, that is. And look here" the old man says, pointing and squinting "A monofilament sword! Haven't seen one of those since, since...[he shudders] Johnny Mnemonic."
"What's a Johnny Noo-mon-ick?" asks the boy.
"Pray you never find out, boy." The man's wobbly face takes on a pensive look. "Thing is," he continues, "this one doesn't seem to do anything new. Ohh, look there, it's kind of a wronged-woman revenge story. Ohh, she even has a cortex-bomb. It's hard to pick out at first, but see there. Woweee, that's classic.
"So the woman's being forced to do things against her will?" the boy inquires.
"Weeell, not really. Ya see, if this woman really believes so much in bushido, she kills herself before she does anything dishonorable. So her being held hostage by the bomb in her head deosn't really work."
"Oh."
 "Yep," the old man says, carefully replacing the item.
"Aren't you going to buy it?"
"Nah, I'll just dig out my William Gibson books."
"What's a book?"
"It's the thing we had before podcasts."


--Forgive me, I had to do this.
This. Simply this.
I laughed out loud at the Johnny Mnemonic reference. And yes, that's what I thought when listening to the podcast, "I wonder if it pulls out of their thumbs...".
But cynicism and sarcasm aside, I do enjoy a good cyberpunk story every now and then, and this one was pretty good.

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Reply #16 on: November 16, 2010, 05:54:18 AM
Never try to break into Renraku Arcology.  It is just not worth it.

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Reply #17 on: November 16, 2010, 02:52:24 PM
This one was pretty good, not what I'd call groundbreaking, but decent.  The part that I liked best was the synesthesia fleshmod, and how it was tuned to be meaningful in the physical world, but random and distracting in the virtual world, a handicap rather than an advantage.  The rest was okay.  I don't claim to know much about Japanese culture, but I was surprised that she allowed herself to be used the way she was instead of an alternate route like suicide--and murdering her master at the end clashed with the entire honor system she claimed to uphold.  She claims her honor would be sullied by disobeying him, but murdering him, oh that's totally okay?



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Reply #18 on: November 16, 2010, 07:31:17 PM
She claims her honor would be sullied by disobeying him, but murdering him, oh that's totally okay?

I don't recall that claim myself.  My take was that the main reason she obeyed him throughout the story was because of the denkigami and in fact it was obeying him that sullied her honour, but she could do no other (except suicide by disobedience) because of the threat of it blowing up her head, mirroring her father's fate.

It wasn't until she learned how to hack the implant that she could restore her honour by killing the man who took it (and her father's).

That seemed to me to be the meat of the story.  In traditional Japanese culture, the Samurai would serve with honour and could refuse to carry out a dishonourable command.  It's possible, though I've reached the limit of my meagre knowledge and can't be certain, that the code of the Samurai required (ritual?) suicide if they did so.  Or perhaps not, if refusing a dishonourable command let them retain their honour.

Anyway, in the culture of the story, the Samurai's obedience is enforced, via the denkigami implant.  So the Samurai's master doesn't have to consider whether or not their commands are honourable, and so his use of the Samurai devolves from defending his honour (whatever that entails) to plain revenge or worse.  The Samurai doesn't like it, but can only opt out by dying, which might be honourable but not useful.

I like to think that she is going to go on and help other Samurai in the same situation so that they can regain their autonomy.



On a technical/website note (which I would save for a comment on the blog if I could), there's a problem with the story link on the main website.  There was an error when the story was posted and it was posted as episode 265 rather than 266.  (I'm not criticizing the error; stuff happens.)

Subsequently, the story title got fixed but because - as is standard in blog software - the link is based on the original title, it's still "ep-265-kachikachi-yama".  I guess this is fine (if a bit confusing), except that the "Keep reading" link just above the 'fold' (or 'jump', if you prefer) links to "ep-266-kachikachi-yama", which is incorrect and broken.

If this issue gets fixed (or even if it doesn't, I suppose :) ), eytanz/Heradel, please feel free to remove these paragraphs from this post, as they don't add anything to the actual story discussion.



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iamafish

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Reply #19 on: November 17, 2010, 12:46:21 AM
Interesting story. I think the main thing that kept my interest was the setting. I thought the mixing of the old samurai traditions and more modern Japanese culture was really interesting. This synthesis was especially well created in the hacking element of the story.

That being said I found the plot to be somewhat predictable. I thought it was obvious that the protagonist would go and kill her former master at the end and that she would have very little trouble shaming her target. Perhaps the problem here was that the story lacked any real conflict; the protagonist never met with any real difficulty in her task.

Likewise her character was somewhat flat. A good character creates problems for themselves through their weaknesses and solve them by overcoming those weaknesses. The protagonist here has the main problem she has to overcome thrust upon her by no fault of her own, so she never has to do any introspection or self-discovery in order to overcome it - all she needs are the right tools, which she gains during the story. It seemed that the character was essentially the same at the end as she was at the beginning.

Others have mentioned the jarring way in which the protagonist doesn't react appropriately to the revelation of what exactly her victim did. It seemed like knowing it would make her hate him more given how despicable the act was.


Rachel Udin

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Reply #20 on: November 17, 2010, 01:34:47 AM
I like the idea of non-European Science Fiction and Fantasy, so thumbs up for that, but I think if you are going to do it, do it well. And I felt that this wasn't done well enough. It felt a little plastic, like the story hit the "Ethnic" wall and didn't want to surpass it. This is to remind authors who attempt this, that books aren't enough for research to pass those ethnic walls. You need to know real people too, so you know what walls you can crawl over.

I think I might have bought this story better if it were ninjitsu... but then I still need more from the characters beyond the honor code, which was a little dicey--I'm with the crowd on this one, the Japanese culture understanding and the character development seem weak. I needed more from the story and characters to feel attached.



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Reply #21 on: November 17, 2010, 03:08:48 PM
I don't recall that claim myself.  My take was that the main reason she obeyed him throughout the story was because of the denkigami and in fact it was obeying him that sullied her honour, but she could do no other (except suicide by disobedience) because of the threat of it blowing up her head, mirroring her father's fate.

It wasn't until she learned how to hack the implant that she could restore her honour by killing the man who took it (and her father's).

If that's the case then I REALLY don't get the story.  She claims to live by the code, this is evident because she complains about him whoring out his samurai.  But she violates the code herself everyday by following dishonorable commands, so I'm less sure why I should be sympathetic about it.  Yes, he has done wrong by putting her in this position, but she has control of her own actions if not her own fate.  She murders her master at the first opportunity, but not because it is honorable, but because it is convenient.  The code is irrelevant to her behavior, so can she even really be called a samurai?



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Reply #22 on: November 17, 2010, 03:13:01 PM
I looked up Kachikachi Yama, to see what it was from, apparently it is an old tale:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kachi-kachi_Yama

Interesting ideas there, especially the details of the tanuki's original crime.  I can see the connection here with the story about revenge against a tanuki.



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Reply #23 on: November 17, 2010, 03:32:58 PM
Hey guys! I've been listening to Escape Pod for about a year now, and the inclusion of the feedback got me to start haunting the boards a couple months ago, but I've never posted before. I must say, I've always been enlightened, challenged, and amused by the discussions that go on here!

I actually really liked this story, I think mostly because at the moment I'm right in the middle of reading Shogun (by James Clavell). It's set in feudal Japan, circa 1600 A.D. and has been a fascinating look into that tradition. To address a couple concerns that were raised already, assuming that Shogun gives a reasonable representation of samurai culture, I thought that it was perfectly reasonable that the main character A) was a female samurai and B) was plotting against her master.

I do agree that the characters were all fairly cookie cutter, and it would have been nice to see more complexity of feeling boiling behind the veneer of her self control. On the whole though, I was really caught up in the idea of combining this feudal culture that I've been immersed in with the cyberpunk aspects of the story and so was sad when it ended.

 :)



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Reply #24 on: November 17, 2010, 03:54:36 PM
Hey guys! I've been listening to Escape Pod for about a year now, and the inclusion of the feedback got me to start haunting the boards a couple months ago, but I've never posted before. I must say, I've always been enlightened, challenged, and amused by the discussions that go on here!

I actually really liked this story, I think mostly because at the moment I'm right in the middle of reading Shogun (by James Clavell). It's set in feudal Japan, circa 1600 A.D. and has been a fascinating look into that tradition. To address a couple concerns that were raised already, assuming that Shogun gives a reasonable representation of samurai culture, I thought that it was perfectly reasonable that the main character A) was a female samurai and B) was plotting against her master.

I do agree that the characters were all fairly cookie cutter, and it would have been nice to see more complexity of feeling boiling behind the veneer of her self control. On the whole though, I was really caught up in the idea of combining this feudal culture that I've been immersed in with the cyberpunk aspects of the story and so was sad when it ended.

 :)

Have you listened to Escape Pod 192:  "Sumo21"?  You might get a kick out of that one, infinite parallel Japan's sumos dueling in a shared virtual world.