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Sawney Bean, That's Me
I was a little apprehensive about watching my latest anime, Attack on Titan, because I assumed from the title that it would be a space drama involving war with a moon of Saturn, and that's not generally my bag. Even when I realised that the Titans were actually anthropophagic giants from a mediaevalesque alternative Europe I wasn't that reassured. Indeed, even having watched the series on DVD I still find the title misleading. Why isn't it called Attack on the Titans, since there are hundreds of the buggers - or even Attack of the Titans, since they're the ones who generally seem to be on the offensive? The Japanese title, Shingeki no Kyojin (Advancing Giants) doesn't clarify matters much, either.

Anyway, no matter. It's an excellent series, with some great action animation (our heroes move about using steampunk Spiderman gear that makes no sense but is lovely to watch), stirring music, a complex world, heroism and intrigue, interesting characters, and truly creepy monsters. The Titans are as stupid as they are stupendous, and chomp you up with silly grins on their faces - an unsettling way to go. There's an unusually high death count amongst characters that you've come to know and like, and humanity loses more often than it wins, which sounds depressing but somehow inspires instead - a neat trick.

Anyway, here's a question. At one point two of the Titans get captured, and are nicknamed Sawney and Bean by the humans (these are their names in Japanese too). It took me a moment to locate Sawney Bean in my memory banks, then I remembered that I'd come across him in the 1970s on a visit to the London Dungeon, depicted in a gory diorama eating unwary passers-by in his cave in sixteenth-century Scotland, along with his cannibal kin. So the names are appropriate, but I wouldn't have said his was a household name, certainly south of the border. Could he be more famous in Japan, for some reason? Did the makers of Attack on Titan expect people to get the reference? Is the world full of Sawney Bean conversations that I somehow happen to miss?

Just how famous is Sawney Bean?

Never heard of Sawney Bean!

I am over here in the USA. I had heard of him, but only in some obscure library book. Pretty sure he is not much known. Also was he real?

Edited at 2014-03-25 12:50 am (UTC)

Semi-mythical at best. Note how the date shifts from "15th- or 16th-century" to James VI & I.

Nine

Never heard of him. But there is a strain of Anglophilia and general British-Isles-knowledge in Japanese pop culture which pops up in very odd places sometimes. *can think of five separate manga/anime set in London without pausing for breath*

Ooh, I'd love to see an anime set in London! Are there any you'd recommend?

ROD the TV!!! Although it's not the London we know and it's only towards the end. In a way, it's the quintessential anime London, though.

*quickly googles* I see it's a sequel - can you say whether I'd need to have seen the earlier stories first? (I'm happy to do that, if they're good.)

It's not essential, but the British Library is heavily involved in the first thingie (which is quite different from the second, but shares universe and some characters) so you might want to anyway.

Thanks! I've just finished my current series (obviously) so I was wondering what to watch next...

I have to admit, this is one of my favourite of all animes. Let me know your thoughts? For I'm curious.

Will do!

I am entertained to note that the anime you are being recced below is both one I have seen and one that did not come up in my initial London-anime brainscan.

I am fond of Victorian Romance Emma (no relation to Jane Austen) for comedic slice-of-life, and Hellsing (both series) for violent crack-with-vampires horror-action. (The first Hellsing anime is more action/procedural and the second more horror-- one of those cases where there were two adaptations of a manga which was still in progress when they started filming, so the first anime departs from the manga in many particulars. Both will give you a Japanese attempt at a Scottish accent. Both have better dubs than usual because they hired actors with the correct accents.)

Edited at 2014-03-25 09:05 am (UTC)

Thank you - they will go on my list!

And there is this actor guy with a name that would be familiar enough to trigger a joke by someone who knew the folklore.

I hadn't thought of that! But yes.

I recognized it and thought it was a nicely obscure reference. I assume it's also obscure in Japan.

Sawney Bean? In an anime? Gosh.

Nine

Can Christie-Cleek be far behind?

Just how famous is Sawney Bean?

Funny you should ask.

(I have no idea, because I knew about Sawney Bean from sometime in middle school onward, reinforced by Harlan Ellison's "She's a Young Thing and Cannot Leave Her Mother" in high school. I do not feel I am a useful benchmark here.)

My nephew-by-marriage has written an (unsold) screenplay about Sawney Bean.

Interesting! I see there is a film called Sawney: Flesh of Man from 2012, which updates the story - perhaps that put the kybosh on it?

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