steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

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?
Tags: nippon notes
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