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Mayuri: Production Notes

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10/17/2012  Literary, Film and TV Inspirations
10/23/2012  Symbolism of Light, Color, and Walls in No Sign of Life
04/18/2013  Homoeroticism in That Which Comes Between Two Mountains
04/30/2013  The Language of Flowers

Literary, Film, and TV Inspirations

I draw on my own experience for the personal and emotional bits of Saisei, but for the plot itself I draw on the things I’ve watched and read.  As far as that goes, I think my tastes have always been a little different.  We all start out watching and listening to fairy tales.  At some point I guess most people decide that fantasy is for little kids, so all the girls in my class shifted over to “realistic” teen romance and all the boys were reading sports and car magazines.  I never changed.  I just kept on with fantasy because I never saw anything wrong with it.  I got into supernatural, science fiction, classic mythology and folklore.  I always liked mythologies with big pantheons; I grew up reading and watching films about Greek, Roman and Norse gods.  I’ve read Frankenstein, Dracula, loads of stuff by Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving, Orson Welles.  Those were easy.  Once I got into Japanese I searched out their stories, too.  My favorite is Akutagawa’s “In a Bamboo Grove,” which I also saw as the film Rashomon.  Actually, I’ve watched a lot of classic supernatural and horror films.  I’ve seen Hitchcock and Twilight Zone and too many others to name.  At one point in the Rescue Yukina case I have Yusuke reference Creature from the Black Lagoon.  That’s what I mean, real old films in black and white.  I’ve also watched more recent films and tv shows.  Some of them have been busts, like House of Wax and Number 23, but I loved Sixth Sense and The Others.  I’ve also got a soft spot for Alien, Resident Evil and Underworld because they had some strong female characters.  That’s one thing you don’t see much of in Yu Yu Hakusho, and I always took issue with that.

I guess other than fantasy, my primary genres have been police drama and detective stuff.  I’ve read Sherlock Holmes and seen a lot of movies based on it.  I’m watching two different tv shows about it now: BBC’s really amazing Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary where Watson’s a girl.  As for police drama/comedy, I watch NCIS and I’m getting into Castle, too.  Finally, for supernatural/horror, I’m currently watching The Walking Dead and the CW’s Supernatural.  They’re all great shows that I really recommend.

Symbolism of Light, Color, and Walls in No Sign of Life

I’m very much a minimalist when it comes to writing.  I hate to waste words, so there isn’t a lot of purple prose in my work.  The one thing that I do “splurge” on is symbolism.  I believe in the subtle messages given by changes in light, body language, colors, scents, settings.  The simplest things can help deepen the meaning of a story in ways we perceive but don’t consciously register.  Consider the use of light, colors, and walls in No Sign of Life.  In the very first scene, Atsuko shuts out the light from the apartment (symbolically, shutting out happiness and enlightenment from her and Yusuke’s lives).  Yusuke spends much of his time in the first half of the story in dark, shady or confined places, from his claustrophobic home to the shaded tree in the park, that dark little alleyway where he saves Masaru to the playground at night...though Yusuke notably meets Keiko and Kuwabara on an open rooftop above the school and an open but unfamiliar street, respectively.  When he dies, everyone and everything around him loses its color, symbolizing their lack of influence over Yusuke.  Then comes Botan, this beautiful brightly-colored person emitting her own light.  Yusuke spends a good portion of his time running away from her, hiding in dark places (even a closet!) and behind walls.  Eventually, after making the decision to give his life a second chance, he pushes through a wall and straight into the light so he can take Botan’s hand.  This, I think, is one of the most symbolic moments in the entire story.  J’adore.

Homoeroticism in That Which Comes Between Two Mountains

I shoved every bit of symbolism I possibly could into this story.  Some of it had nothing to do with Hiei and Kurama’s relationship (the various flowers and the time of day in the Kurama-centric chapters, for starters).  But That Which Comes Between Two Mountains is basically a study in how Hiei and Kurama relate to each other as romantic partners, so I thought I would focus on that so this doesn’t turn into an essay.  I should, however, note that most of the symbolism used here is classical in nature.  What can I say?  The first major case they went on took place in a castle.  I assumed the rest of Makai had a similar cultural timeline.  How was I to know there were advanced cities somewhere out there?  Come to think of it, if Yomi’s civilization is advanced enough that they can clone people in test tubes, why the heck are they still using swords and spears to fight?  Historically speaking, military technology has always been the first thing to advance!  *bangs head*

Right then.  First, let’s look at some of the most obvious symbolism.  There is a flashback in the final chapter when Hiei wakes up in Kurama’s garden-scented bed (gardens have often been used as a metaphor for sexuality—case in point, the Victorian children’s classic The Secret Garden is largely considered a long metaphor for the main characters discovering their sexuality).  Hiei had been pierced quite close to his heart, and Kurama treated what could have been a fatal wound.  A healer finding and caring for an injured warrior is a common romantic motif used as far back as Homer's The Iliad.  It is the reason so many girls in fighting anime are healers, BTW.  In the same scene Kurama leans forward, his hair slips down over his shoulders, and Hiei looks at it warily.  I did note that Hiei could have been sensing the arsenal of seeds that Kurama keeps in his hair, but look at it from the perspective of someone who is just reading this story without having watched the show before.  Also keep in mind that long hair is considered very sexual in almost any culture, but especially in Japan, where a classical sexual invitation is just combing your hair.  Put it together, and the entire flashback becomes a dreamlike representation of Hiei’s discovery of his desire.

In the second flashback, Hiei casually drops a small bag on Kurama’s desk, and the bag contains an emerald ring.  Presenting someone with a so-called “sweet bag” containing a ring was considered a marriage proposal in the Elizabethan Era, or at the very least a sign of a serious courtship; this is the origin of the modern marriage proposal of getting down on one knee and presenting a ring in a velvet box.  This scene shows that Hiei, in the space of three months, has moved from just wanting Kurama sexually to wanting Kurama as his wife husband and partner.  He really doesn't need to be told to hurry up, does he?  Kurama rejecting the gift is basically Kurama rejecting Hiei as a romantic partner.  All in all, Hiei is amazingly calm about the whole thing and just keeps on trying.  When Kurama finally says that there is something Hiei could do to prove himself, the implication is that Kurama will accept Hiei’s advances if he does this one thing.  Hiei, naturally, leaps at the chance.

Let’s see what they get out of the theft.  Kurama gets a mirror that tells him he’s a traitor and a coward, which he is if you consider the fact that he knew perfectly well that the sword would drive Hiei crazy.  Also, Kurama knew he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his implied promise of a relationship with Hiei, which is all Hiei wanted in the first place.  The mirror represents Kurama's guilt and regret.  (Yusuke saves Kurama’s life, which makes it possible for Kurama to correct his mistakes, and Yusuke also takes the mirror from Kurama, symbolically relieving Kurama’s sense of guilt.)  Meanwhile, Hiei—having done everything Kurama wanted him to do and now expecting Kurama to accept his advances—gains a sword that can overpower your mind and make you do crazy and stupid things.  It represents a boner sexual arousal.  I was snickering as I wrote the scene where Hiei points the sword at Kurama and talks about conquering the world together…only for Kurama to say no and Hiei to lower the sword until it hangs “limply at his side.”  fastest boner Hiei ever lost haha

Ahem.  Anyway, later on Hiei thrusts the sword into Kurama and Kurama collapses against him, weeping and moaning, clinging to him and running his hands through Hiei’s hair.  Yep, this is meant to parallel a first sexual penetration.  It is painful and bloody, and though Hiei gets a moment of satisfaction from it (and his boner sword insists that he keep going and tear Kurama up omg stop), he quickly realizes that it doesn’t bring him any pleasure to see Kurama hurt in such a way.  But despite what Hiei thinks, Kurama isn’t a virgin a helpless victim here.  Kurama knew what he was getting into and allowed himself to be stabbed so that he could get close enough to reclaim the sword.  Kurama was in control the whole time.  And of course, as with all not-so-comfortable first times, Kurama’s physical wounds heal.  Hiei, on the other hand, shows up at Maze Castle with a normal adult sex drive rather than a horny teenager's a non-crazy-inducing sword and a lot of bitterness toward his once-idol.  Ultimately, though, Hiei needed to be hurt by Kurama; he couldn’t have had an equal, healthy relationship with Kurama if he kept thinking that Kurama had no flaws.  Likewise, Kurama needed to hurt Hiei for the exact same reason.  Everyone puts Kurama on a pedestal; his romantic partner needs to be able to see his imperfections and accept him for what he is.

…Damn, it turned into an essay after all.  Sorry about that!

The Language of Flowers

I cannot get enough of symbolism.  Almost every detail I include in this series has symbolic meaning, and the plants are no exception.  As Spock once said, “One can begin to reshape the [political] landscape with a single flower.”  In days past, flowers were a language in themselves, and while I realize that most people don’t really notice the symbolism of plants anymore, I use it extensively.  So, here is a rundown of all the plants we’ve seen in Season 1.

#1 No Sign of Life

Sunflower:  Keiko’s primary symbolic flower is the sunflower.  She wears a sunflower clip in her hair the day after she learns Yusuke is going to come back to life, and in the final chapter Yusuke brings Keiko a bouquet of sunflowers.  Sunflowers are generally considered a symbol of cheer and good fortune, so a character associated with sunflowers tends to be an energetic and happy-go-lucky girl.  However, less commonly known is that sunflowers symbolize haughtiness and constant devotion (because they raise their heads to the sun, adoring it while at the same time mimicking the haughty pose of someone sticking their nose in the air).  I felt they were a fitting flower for Keiko because they pretty much cover every aspect of her personality.

Peony:  Botan’s primary symbolic flower is the peony.  She is named after them, she wears a peony-patterned kimono, and I even have it as part of her personal fragrance.  Peonies are symbolic of spring and are considered the ultimate in feminine beauty.  Peonies are also considered a good luck charm that wards off evil.  Because of this, peonies are often included in Japanese tattoos, and so they have also become popular with men and suggest “a devil-may-care attitude and disregard for consequence.”  So, beautiful, good luck, popular with guys and carefree?  Sounds like Botan to me!

#2 That Which Comes Between Two Mountains

White Rose:  Kurama’s primary symbolic flower is the rose, and the variations in color mirror the changes in his personality.  Kurama uses a white rose to battle Yatsude, and presumably prefers white roses at this time.  White roses symbolize silence, wistfulness, virtue, purity, secrecy, reverence and humility.  Kurama’s primary concern at this time was atoning for his past and purifying himself spiritually, two things he doesn’t actually feel he can ever do (hence wistfulness, virtue and purity).  He was also concerned with taking care of Shiori (reverence toward her as well as silence and secrecy in regards to letting anyone know about his past).  The exact meaning of a white rose in full bloom varies, but white rosebuds are a very clear symbol of “one too young to love.”  Note that Kurama meets Hiei immediately after the white rose is crushed.  We do not see Kurama use a rose for a long time after that, but the next time we do, he favors red instead.  Personal note: I think Yusuke was responsible for this change—not because Kurama fell in love with Yusuke, but because Yusuke freed Kurama of his previous guilt and despair and made it possible for Kurama to fall in love with Hiei without any of his previous reservations.

Lily:  Kurama grows these flowers for a little girl he sees in the park.  Lilies represent purity and innocence.  The symbolism is that even in the cold, barren woods, innocence can still be found.

Carnation:  Kurama sees an old man carrying a bouquet of not-so-fresh carnations and secretly gives them some life.  Carnations, especially pink and red ones, represent love.  The symbolism is that love should not fade over time.

#4 Colorblind

Red Rose:  Kurama’s primary symbolic flower in its most used form.  He uses it the first time we see his Rose Whip and continues to use variations of red and pink until the end of Season 2.  Red roses are “the” rose, the kind everyone thinks of when they hear the word, which is probably why they are Kurama’s symbol.  Conveying mature romance, passion, and sexual attraction, in the Victorian Era’s language of flowers they represented a love so deep that it can’t be spoken of in polite society.  Interestingly, red roses are also a symbol of courage and power.  Considering in his image song Kurama calls himself the Romantic Soldier and says that "love, for sure, is the power to make miracles happen," I think it is safe to assume that love is central to Kurama’s character.  ^_^;

Lotus:  Kurama uses this flower to defeat Genbu (whose core attribute was faith before she lost her faith in humanity).  The lotus is a water-element plant that symbolizes spiritual enlightenment because of its ability to rise up out of muddy water and blossom into a pure flower.  It also symbolizes rebirth, and in some cases even represents a mother’s womb, which makes it particularly appropriate because Kurama found his own sort of faith only after he was reborn as Shiori’s son.  The point is that Kurama is proving his own faith to Genbu, and in doing so he reawakens hers (this goes along with Kuwabara proving his courage and righteousness to Byakko, and Hiei proving his own honor, respect and politeness haha yeah right to Seiryu).

#6 Beyond the Warded Window

Plum Blossom:  When looking for Kurama at his school in the third chapter, Hiei uses a plum tree as his perch.  Plums blossoms were once more popular than cherry blossoms in Japan.  They are a symbol of spring because they are among the first flowers to blossom, even before the snow melts (this was also meant to indicate the story's mid-February timeframe).  According to this site:  As a “friend of winter,” the plum blossom most vividly represents the value of endurance, as life ultimately overcomes through the vicissitude of time. The fragrance of plum blossoms “comes from the bitterness and coldness,” as the Chinese saying goes. Souls are tempered in the depth of experience, growing in inner strength and unyielding courage. 

Cypress:  These are the trees that line the path to the Tarukane Estate.  In most traditions the cypress symbolizes death, mourning, despair, and sorrow.  According to Roman myth, the tree grew from the sorrow of a youth who mistakenly killed the pet deer given to him by Apollo.  The sap that runs down is thought to resemble teardrops (appropriate considering Tarukane deliberately causes pain to Yukina in order to collect her tears).  The cypress is also symbolic of perfection and the call of heaven.