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The HiME Carnival: origins & history

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The HiME Carnival: origins & history

Post by Break String SpinElf on Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:01 am

There's a darkness at the core of the HiME Carnival. According to the series, the Carnival commemorates and recreates an ancient battle in which the original Ikusahime fought & died. According to Jin Munakata, describing the origins of the Tamayura festival to Midori:

"The Tamayura festival is based on the legend of the Battle Princesses. It's well known in this region. These maidens fought hard to protect the ones they loved, but their lives were fleeting, as they all died in battle. They say that the tradition of tying ribbons to the Crystal Hall railing at the school comes from a story of how the maidens tied their headbands onto a tree that once grew in that spot. This was their prayer before going into that final battle: that they would once again be reuinited with the men they loved."

Fundamentally, the rituals associated with the HiME Carnival include many elements of human sacrifice (originally the Ikusahime; later their MIPs), with the winner, who becomes the Suishouhime, serving to renew & reinforce the power of an original foundation sacrifice, becoming the wife of the Obsidian Lord, enclosed within a huge crystalline structure in the Land of Fuuka. Human foundation sacrifices are known or inferred from various places throughout the world and feature in Japan, though they exist to a greater extent in urban legends than in history, with human pillars forming a particularly gruesome subset.

"Many myths of the world's creation start out with one man and one woman, making the entire population their own descendants."
- the Obsidian Lord

As the Shinsen Subs team reference in their notes at the end of the final episode, the characters of the Obsidian Lord & Suishouhime reference the primordial deities Izanagi-no-mikoto & Izanami-no-mikoto respectively. The legend associated with this pair, which contains a number of elements which could explain various enigmatic facets of the series, as it appears in the Kojiki, runs as follows: after the creation of the universe, seven generations of deities are listed, with the seventh being Izanagi-no-mikoto & his younger sister Izanami-no-mikoto. They descend the Ame-no-ukihashi, the "Floating Bridge of Heaven," to the island Onogoroshima, which rose from the sea after the pair stirred it with the Ame-no-nuboko ("Heavenly Jeweled Spear"). On Onogoroshima, they erect a central pillar, the Ame-no-mihashira ("Heavenly Pillar"), around which they circle before mating. This coupling produces two malformed children, Hiruko & Awashima, causing the pair to consult the gods of heaven as to the reason. Thereafter, they produce the eight islands of Japan, followed by a number of other offspring, the last of whom is the fire god Kagutsuchi.

Unfortunately, Kagutsuchi's fiery nature causes Izanami-no-mikoto to suffer grave injuries during childbirth, which result in her death & translation to Yomi, the realm of the dead. Many other deities are borne from her effluent & [im]mortal remains. Subsequently, Izanagi-no-mikoto beheads Kagutsuchi with the "ten-grasp sabre" Ame-no-ohabare, causing many other kami to spring up from his body.

In his grief, Izanagi-no-mikoto makes his way to Yomi in search of his deceased wife (who is also explicitly his younger sister). He eventually finds her but discovers that she has succumbed to decomposition. He flees, pursued by the hag Yomotsu-shikome before making his way back to the surface of the earth. His purification rituals produce several other important kami, including luminaries like Amaterasu, Tsukiyomi & Susanoo.

Of the various aspects of their myth which could be associated with the series, I propose the following: -

  • I agree with the identification of the Obsidian Lord with Izanagi-no-mikoto, and with the suggestion that Suishouhime represents Izanami-no-mikoto. In particular, Mashiro, the winner of the previous HiME Carnival & present Suishouhime, is referred to as the "Queen of Hell" (Shinsen Subs) or "Queen of Hades" (dub) by both Reito and Alissa Searrs, in the latter case presumably on the supposition that the Japanese concept of Yomi is cognate with Western ideas about Hell or Hades.
    Similarly, Mashiro, as younger sister of the previous Carnival's Obsidian Lord can & Mikoto, who carries the title Suishouhime in Mai-Otome, reflect the status of Izanami-no-mikoto as the younger sister (as well as wife) of Izanagi-no-mikoto.
  • Ame-no-mihashira, as a column, appears to form the basis for the columns which are erected upon the defeat of a HiME, as well as the Five Columns of Garderobe in Mai-Otome. In the Kojiki, Ame-no-mihashira appears as the the central axis mundi and thus shares its function with the Norse Yggdrasil, without which Miyu would be called Miu :3. In terms of this function and how it applies to the series, the tree which stood where the Crystal Temple may also represent this axis mundi motif. The columns in the entrance to the Land of Fuuka also resemble the "human pillars" from the urban legends namechecked above.
    In terms of Mai-Otome, the Columns, forming a central part of Garderobe's scientific monopoly, are paralleled by Miyu, who, due to her great age, is the go-to girl for Earl history, as well as arguably the planet's premier badass. Her knowledge of the Administar system also marks her out as having a central importance, similar to how her intervention at the end of the HiME Carnival proved so decisive.
  • remember Mashiro & Nagi's exit through a mysterious door in the library? In my opinion, there's a possibility that this gateway to another dimension (or Earl or wherever) serves the same function as the Ame-no-ukihashi, which joins the mortal realm to that of the heavenly gods. Both Mashiro & Nagi are "ooparts" (so to speak) and hence they are obliged to leave once the Carnival is over. Continuing the theme of Norse cognates, Alissa sends the Searrs' Golden Fleet an order to "open the Door to Valhalla" and they later search for "the gates the the Road to Valhalla." It is quite plausible to suggest that this portal was high on Searrs' list of targets. It's also telling that the power of Artemis is demonstrated through the destruction of a bridge.
    Though I can't recall this portal ever being referred to as Bifrost (the rainbow bridge in Norse mythology which connects Midgarðr, the domain of man, and Asgarðr, the realm of the Æsir gods) in the series, the term does appear in the Searrs Foundation's vocabulary in 舞HiME了: Mai HiME Ryou, a fanfic by one lucidfox exploring the possible connection between Mai-HiME & Mai-Otome (note to Break String SpinSelf: read more fanfic as you always enjoy it!).
  • Kagutsuchi, obviously. The sword which binds his sigil in the cave and which remains in his head until its removal enables Kagutsuchi to destroy the Obsidian Lord represents Izanagi-no-mikoto's ten-grasp sabre (which may also form the model for the katana wielded by Reito as the Obsidian Lord).
    In addition, the legend outlines why Mai & Kagutsuchi make such an effective partnership: Kagutsuchi brought about the demise of his mother, whilst Mai blames herself for her own mother's death.
  • Yomotsu-shikome, who relentlessly pursues Izanagi-no-mikoto through Yomi on behalf of Izanami-no-mikoto, given the connection between the latter and Mashiro as Suishouhime, could serve as a template for Fumi: Fumi's Element takes the form of a scythe, which is also the weapon of choice for the Grim Reaper. Quite a weak link, maybe, though the  Shinsen Subs team had also picked up on this, tentatively associating Fumi with the Greek chthonic god Hades.
  • Hiruko & Awashima, as children of Izanagi-no-mikoto & Izanami-no-mikoto who were sent away due to their being deformed, and who are not counted as legitimate offspring of the pair, seem a likely basis for the Orphans, who are similarly described as "lost" Childs in the series.
    In addition, IzaNAGI, as the father of these children, as well as others engendered during his post-underworld-journey purification, perhaps shares some functions with Nagi, who has the ability to produce Orphans. Nagi also serves, to some extent, as an avatar for the Obsidian Lord: Reito speaks to Mai through Nagi at the end of episode 22 when she seeks to arrange a meeting with the Obsidian Lord.

What do you think? If there's anyone more au fait with Japanese mythology, please feel free to let me know if I'm on the right track or chasing my tail here.

Previous HiME Carnivals

As the HiME Carnival takes place every 300 years, it may be germane to provide a list of dates of previous Carnivals. I'll also add a few historical notices as necessary. Please, if your knowledge of Japanese history is less superficial than my own (i.e. based on more than Wikipedia), feel free to add, subtract or insult.

NB the datings are given in "Western" blocks of 300 years. My limited understanding of the Japanese calendrical system suggests that there are few reasons to interpret these spans differently.

1704
Edo period. Shogun: Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (1680-1709). Relevant era names Genroku (1688-1704) & Hōei (1704-1711). He was also known as Inu-Kubō due to measures he took to protect dogs.
Emperor: Higashiyama-tennō (1687-1709).
Japan at this period - under the sway of a shogun and having a policy of sakoku, which placed strict limitations on foreign contact & trade - forms the probably model for Zipangu in Mai-Otome.

  • 1700 - kabuki & ukiyo-e become popular.
  • 1701 - court disputes led to the 47 ronin's revenge mission.
  • 1703 - Great Genroku earthquake & subsequent firestorm affects Edo. Tsunamis devastate the coast of Honshū.
  • 1706 - Edo hit by a typhoon.
  • 1707, 16th December - Hōei eruption of Mount Fuji.
  • 1708, 7th-8th August - flooding on the Sakawa river due to ash fall. Dams created by ash broke due to heavy rainfall.

1404
Muromachi period. Shogun: Ashikaga Yoshimochi (1394-1423). He was a minor in 1404 (he reached majority in 1408), who took over power when his father Ashikaga Yoshimitsu abdicated, albeit retaining power in some sort of bid to become Emperor. Era name Ōei.
Emperor: Go-Komatsu-tennō (1392-1412). Reigned in Nanboku-chō from 1382-1392.

  • 1397 - failed uprising in Kyūshū.
  • 1397 - ~Ara Ara~ Kinkaku-ji built in Kyoto.
  • 1398 - organisation of the administration.
  • 1399 - Ōei War.
  • 1402 - failed uprising in Mutsu.
  • 1404 - Yoshimitsu recognised as Nippon Koku-Ō by the Yongle Emperor.

1104
Emperor: Horikawa-tennō (1079-1107). Relevant era names Kōwa (1099–1104) & Chōji (1104–1106).

  • 1105 - a red-coloured snow fell over much of Japan during the sixth month.

804
Emperor: Kanmu-tennō (781-806). Era name Enryaku (782-806). His removal of the capital from Nara to Heian-kyō on 17th November 794 marks the beginning of the Heian Era.

  • 804/805 - Saichō introduces the Tendai school of Buddhism to Japan.

504
Traditionally, the reign of Buretsu.
Chinese sources mention king Bu, usually identified with Buretsu's predecessor Emperor Yūryaku.
End of the Kofun period.

204
Traditionally, early in the reign of Jingū-kōgō.
Chinese sources shed light on contemporary Japan, listing over 30 small states, the best-known of which is Yamataikoku, which is located either on Kyūshū or in the Kanto area. During the early 3rd century, Yamatai was ruled by the famous queen Himiko, who was regarded by her people as a powerful sorceress, and who was eventually succeeded by a female relative during the 240s.
Towards the end of the Yayoi period.

96 BC
Very early reign of Sujin-tennō.
Yayoi period.

396 BC
Towards the end of the reign of the obscure Kōshō-tennō.
Terminal Jomon period.

696 BC
36 years before the traditional foundation of the Japanese Empire by Jimmu-tennō.

996 BC
Possible date for the first Festival if it's associated with the legends associated with Izanagi-no-mikoto & Izanami-no-mikoto?


Last edited by Break String SpinElf on Fri Jun 24, 2016 12:54 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added note re: Edo Japan as model for Zipangu.)

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