WaPo Review of Murakami, Killing Commendatore

“The middle of life is a second adolescence, with no one left to admire our suffering. All of Dante’s work is a beautiful, unconvincing riposte to the sense of anguish this age can bring: ‘Midway along the journey of our life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered from the straight path,’ he writes. Eventually he makes it to Paradise; but nobody reads that part.

“The great Japanese author Haruki Murakami grew famous writing about the tender melancholy of youth. (Norwegian Wood made him so recognizable in Japan that he left.) Reading books from that period, you feel sad without knowing why — and yet, within that sadness glows a small ember of happiness, because to feel sad is at least to feel honestly.

“Now, in his 60s, he has begun to consider middle age more carefully, as if he sees himself most clearly across a 20-year lag. It’s the subject of his underrated Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and also of his immersive, repetitive, big-hearted new novel, Killing Commendatore.”   –Charles Finch, “Haruki Murakami turns his gaze toward middle age,” Washington Post, October 8, 2018

Another review, posted on the blog Happy Antipodean on December 1, 2018, also likens Murakami’s novel to Dante’s poem.

Natsume Sōseki, The Wayfarer (Kojin) (1912)

“[I]t gradually becomes clear that marriages good and bad, arranged and romantic are constants in this narrative. Suffering from a kind of existential crisis, Ichiro’s marriage to Nao is in trouble. Ichiro even suspects that his feckless younger brother Jiro has been carrying on with Nao, and voices despairing references to Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s Inferno. The third part of the book covers the period after they all return to Tokyo from their travels. As Ichiro and Nao’s marriage continues to deteriorate, Nao is tight-lipped, refusing to argue or complain, while Ichiro seems close to a nervous breakdown.”   –B. Morrison, “The Wayfarer (Kojin), by Natsume Sōseki” (March 22, 2010)

See also our post on Sōseki’s 1908 novel The Miner.

Natsume Sōseki, The Miner (1908)

“Where Murakami’s introduction starts to go astray, however, is in his assumption that Sōseki’s chief ambition is to describe the mine as an entity in and of itself. Indeed Murakami believes Sōseki pretended to be uninterested in the young man’s personal experiences to avoid confronting ‘a major social problem head-on.’

“Murakami has the equation backward: Sōseki’s main objective was not to describe a mine but to present a modern-day vision of hell, and the mine was a convenient way of doing so. Sōseki is always interested in universal themes that transcend the here and now, and certainly the intensely personal, in order to work on a deeper level. In The Miner he digs deep down into human psychology itself.

“The descent into hell is a recurrent Sōseki theme. In his first piece of fiction, the 1905 story ‘Rondon To’ (‘The Tower of London’), his protagonist crosses the river Thames — recast as the River Styx — and passes under a portal, imagining he can find there Dante’s famous words from Inferno, as translated Henry Francis Cary, ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here.’ Sōseki’s first vision of hell was achieved by summoning up the ghosts of those who had been murdered or executed in the Tower of London. Sōseki explicitly links The Miner with ‘The Tower of London’ in numerous subtle ways, describing the young protagonist of The Miner as undergoing ‘degeneration’ as he descends into the mine in reference to Max Nordau’s 1892 theory of degeneration, highlighted at the beginning of ‘The Tower of London.’”   –Damian Flanagan, “Natsume Sōseki goes back to hell in The Miner,” The Japan Times (October 24, 2015)

See also our post on Sōseki’s 1912 novel The Wayfarer.

Contributed by Savannah Mikus (Florida State University BA ’20, MA ’22)

“Dante nell’Inferno di Fukushima: Lorenzo Amato intervista Kazumasa Chiba”

On January 22, 2020, the journal Insula europea published Lorenzo Amato’s interview with Japanese visual artist Kazumasa Chiba, who, over the last twenty years, has dedicated his art to translating scenes from the Commedia into contemporary political and moral commentary. “Come su un palcoscenico teatrale,” writes Amato, “Chiba si ‘traveste’ da Dante e si muove in grandi paesaggi allegorici costruiti su elementi culturali ibridi, che derivano dal sincretismo di cultura popolare giapponese e tradizioni classiche occidentali e orientali, antiche e moderne.” In 2012 he was awarded the Toshiko Okamoto Award for his work that interprets the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster as an Inferno in the manner of Dante.

Here’s a brief extract from Amato’s interview with Chiba:

“Dante nomina in modo molto chiaro le persone famose che secondo lui sono colpevoli di qualcosa, anche se sono ancora vive. Diciamo che questo tipo di poesia mi ha mostrato una possibile strada per affrontare con l’arte i problemi del mondo, e quindi anche sfogare la rabbia che a volte provo nei confronti di certe persone, politici o responsabili di avvenimenti importanti, come tutte le persone coinvolte nel disastro di Fukushima. Ogni volta che succedono disastri, o che vengono fatte scelte a livello politico che poi provocano conseguenze negative, provo una forte rabbia. È raro che le persone comuni possano avere un qualche impatto su quelle scelte, e a volte mi verrebbe voglia di mostrare il mio dissenso in forma di protesta anche violenta. In questo senso l’arte è un modo per sfogare questa rabbia, ma anche per lasciare un segno, ovvero per mostrare quello che penso.” — Kazumasa Chiba, in an interview with Lorenzo Amato, Insula europea, January 22, 2020

An exhibit of Chiba’s work, called “A Modern Interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy,” was shown at the Mizuma Art Gallery in Tokyo from August 21 to September 21, 2019.

When Seagulls Cry (2007)

Umineko no Naku Koro ni is a Japanese visual novel developed by 07th Expansion. The title translates to When Seagulls Cry in English. The series was released in Japan from 2007-2011, and globally through 2016-2017.

“The story focuses on a group of eighteen people on a secluded island for a period of two days, and the mysterious murders that befall them. Readers are challenged to discern whether the murders were committed by a human or of some other supernatural source, as well as the method and motive behind them.” [. . .]    —Umineko When They Cry, Wikipedia, 2018.

Fans of the series have pointed out several references to Dante’s work in the series, such as these found by readers on MyAnimeList:

“I’ve started reading Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy few days ago and I found several analogies with Umineko.

  1. “Names:
    Beatrice – name of deceased Dante’s love, his guide through Heaven
    Virgil – name of Dante’s guide through Hell and Purgatorio
  2. “Structure of Mt. Purgatorio is of the form 2+7+1=9+1=10, with one of the ten regions different in nature from the other nine ( last – Earthly Paradise). It may resemble 10 twilights of the Witch’s Epitaph.
  3. “Dante meets Beatrice at 10th floor, Battler meets Beato at 10th twilight
  4. “Seven Stakes resemble floors 3rd- 9th of Mt. Purgatorio (each floor represents 1 of 7 deadly sins.)
  5. “Magic circles in Umineko have a same names as the Spheres of Heaven:
    First Sphere of the Moon –> First Circle of the Moon” [. . .]    —Azakus, MyAnimeList, October 11, 2009.

To see more of the Dante references fans of When Seagulls Cry have found, check out the full forum discussion on MyAnimeList.

You can buy When Seagulls Cry and check out other games in the series on Steam.

Contributed by Philip Smith (University of the Bahamas)

Devilman Lady Vol. 16 Chapter 7 – Demon Lord Dante

“Ryo Utsugi makes another appearance in one of Go Nagai’s works, ‘Devilman Lady‘. This time, he is the reincarnation of Dante Alighieri, Mao Dante. He can be found in Hell where Devilman Lady must combat him.” — Contributor Savannah Mikus

Check out the full chapter here. Devilman Lady Vol.16 was originally published by Kodansha on July 21st, 2000.

Click here for another post about Go Nagai’s 1971 manga Mao Dante.

Contributed by Savannah Mikus (Florida State University BA ’20, MA ’22)

Hatsune Miku DIVINE-神曲- Xenon-P (2011)

“Ready for some history? How about the Vocaloid clan teaching you the history? These sets of songs come from Dante Alighieri’s most famous writing, The Divine Comedy.” [. . .]    –Demosthenes Alathea on VocaloiDemo, 2016

The tracklist for the album includes:

  1. Introduction –A Seed of Life-
  2. HIMAWARI
  3. Buy Them All
  4. Tatoo
  5. Eat Them All On The Table
  6. Hand To Hand
  7. Incubus
  8. Immortal Soul
  9. Rain of Tears
  10. Survive
  11. Come La Divina Commedia
  12. Birthday

You can purchase the album on Amazon.

Contributed by Savannah Mikus (Florida State University BA ’20, MA ’22)

Go Nagai’s Dante Shinkyoku

dante-shinkyoku-cerbero-nagai-go-infernoDante Shinkyoku is a manga adaptation of Dante’s Inferno by Go Nagai. Nagai is faithful to the text, as he includes snippets of the original poem (in the vernacular). Though he chooses not to include the entire poem word for word, he shortens main ideas for the sake of comic style dialogue and transitions. He also includes an intro introducing the Guelphs and their struggle.” — Contributor Savannah Mikus

The full Dante Shinkyoku series (originally released in 1994-1995) is available to read online here.

Click here for a discussion of Go Nagai’s work in relation to three other Dante-inspired graphic novelists (article in Italian).

Contributed by Savannah Mikus (Florida State University BA ’20, MA ’22)

Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game

Yu-Gi-Oh!

In 2014, the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise released a set of trading cards called “Duelist Alliance.” The set featured characters from The Divine Comedy, including Dante (“Dante, Traveler of the Burning Abyss“), Virgil (“Virgil, Rock Star of the Burning Abyss“), and Malebranche demons like Graff (“Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss“).

Contributed by Ramiro Castillo (University of Texas at Austin, ’17)

Impel Down Prison, One Piece

Impel Down

In the Japanese anime One Piece, there is a prison called “Impel Down” with five levels.

“Impel Down seems to be heavily based on how Hell is described in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Both are level-based, ‘inescapable’ prisons with unique forms of punishment per level, and the lower one traverses, the worse the punishments become.”    —One Piece Wiki

Contributed by Nicholas Hentges