Welcome! Selamat Datang! Bien Venue!

Dedicated to all those who are interested in world folklore, culture and nature. Comments and constructive criticisms are welcome!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Crescent Moon and the Lunar Race

Crescent Moon - a manga series about the Lunar Race which may be based on the Hindu Myth of the Chandravansha. Plus the fascinating story of King Ila, the progenitor of the Chandravansha and a brief look at Fruits Basket, another manga series.

I revisited the manga series 'Crescent Moon' by Haruko Iida, which I first read many years ago. The shojo manga series was published in the year 2000 under the title Mikan no Suki (literally An Incomplete Moon).

I thought the story line and concept was brilliant - successfully combining the modern everyday world with a mystical world of myth and folklore. In fact, it was comparable to Fruits Basket, another shojo manga series published around the same time. 

But Crescent Moon didn't do so well on the market. Only 6 issues were released compared to 24 issues for Fruits Baskets (overdone much). I think it was because of the confusing layout and poor editing - even I found it quite difficult to read. Which was a pity because the premise is fascinating.

A girl called Mahiru Shiraishi, who seems quite ordinary apart from a talent for bestowing good luck on whoever she touches, encounters a group of remarkable looking boys. Surprisingly, two of the boys start shadowing her and eventually she finds out that they think she is the one they had been looking - a descendant of a mythical princess.

The boys themselves are more than meets the eye - much more. They are members of the Lunar Race, shape-shifting reincarnations of legendary creatures : a vampire (Nozomu), a werewolf (Akira), a tengu (Mitsuru) and a kitsune (Misoka). They called themselves the 'Moonlight Bandits' because they are team of cat burglars - breaking into museums in search of an ancient gem called 'Teardrops of the Moon.' The boys appear to be orphans and live on their own in the penthouse of an expansive looking condominium in Tokyo.

Mahiru is in the centre. Clockwise: the werewolf, the kitsune, the vampire and the tengu.
The Moonlight Bandits can only transform into their powerful demonic or fae forms during the full moon i.e. about 3-4 nights in a month. However, physical contact with Mahiru - even a touch is enough - enabled them to shape shift at will, even when the moon is waning. Mahiru forms a bond with the boys and decides to help them to recover the Teardrops of the Moon, the true source of their power which they hope will restore the dying Lunar Race.

The Moonlight Bandits are not alone, they have an organisation behind them called The Moonshine Cafe. This is a wildly popular Cafe by day and a nightclub by night, right in the heart of Tokyo. Just like Trick McCorrigan's inn in Lost Girl, the Moonshine cafe is a front and it exists in two different worlds and could be a portal to the Fae world. The cafe is run by someone called Oboro, who appears to be one of the royalty of the Lunar Race.

The story does not make it clear why no attempt was made to recover the Teardrops of the Moon before but it's possible that the reincarnations of the Lunar Race never managed to meet up with a true descendant of the princess, until Mahiru came along.

In the story, Mahiru falls for one of the Moonlight Bandits - Mitsuru, the tengu. This is surprising, as Mitsuru was against her joining the group in the first place. He is also the least likable among the four, having been brought up by humans who 'betrayed' him, he hates the human race. Mahiru, follows the classic trope of a girl falling for the 'poor broken boy' whom she hopes to heal through 'true love.'

The enormously popular Fruits Basket follows an almost similar plot. Tohru Honda, an orphaned and very ordinary but warm and kind-hearted girl decides to be housekeeper for a family of extremely wealthy boys (and girls) in exchange for food and shelter. But the children of the Sohma family are cursed, they are reincarnations of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. The curse on the Sohmas make them unable to have physical contact with members of the opposite sex (normal humans), if this happens, they turn into their zodiac animal forms. This can be either laughable or traumatic.

Fruits Basket follows the same trope as Crescent Moon, the plain but hardworking and lovable Tohru Honda, falls for the 13th member of the Sohma family, the outcast Cat (who did not make it into the 12 year Chinese Zodiac).

Yuki Sohma (the Rat) and Kio Sohma (the Cat) have a crush on lovable Tohru Honda, in the Fruits Basket manga.

The story of the mythical princess in Crescent Moon
Back to Crescent Moon: The story behind the princess.

A long time ago, a young fae prince (the manga calls him a demon prince but I think fae is more appropriate) became trapped/lost in a palace. A young princess heard him crying and helped him to escape. Before he left, they made a pact that they would marry when they came of age. The princess grew up but forgot about her promise to the fae prince, or rather she thought that it had all been a dream. But on the day of her marriage, she was abducted and carried away to the Fae Kingdom by members of the Lunar Race. The princess was reunited briefly with the fae prince but she was deeply chagrined by the fact that she had broken her promise to him. Meanwhile, her father and the other lords of the land, raised an army and invaded the Fae Kingdom and killed many of its inhabitants, including presumably the fae prince. The humans also steal the Teardrops of the Moon from the Fae. Eventually, the princess was 'rescued' and reunited with her groom.

One of the interesting characters in Crescent Moon, is a transgender called Katsura Shion, the resident singer/pianist at Moonshine Cafe. His/her fans believe that Katsura are twins, one taking over when the other is indisposed. In fact they are one and the same person, changing genders according to the cycles of the moon. (Bear in mind that a woman's monthly cycle are supposed to follow the waxing and waning of the moon...) Katsura is also known as the 'mirror demon' - no idea why. However, the story does not delve into Katsura's background and the character is not fully integrated into the plot, which is a pity. I can imagine that someone who literally changes from male to female would be very useful to the Moonlight Bandits. The female Katsura could work as the entertainer while the male Katsura could be one of the Bandits or vice versa - it would be an unbreakable alibi.

While researching this series, I was quite surprised to discover that some of the ideas in Crescent Moon may have originated from the Hindu myth of the Chandravansha. Yes, Chandravansha can be translated to Lunar Race or Lunar Dynasty. And best of all, this is not the only noble house in ancient India: There are also the Suryavansha (Solar Race), the Agnivansha (Fire Race) and the Nagavansha (Dragon Race). It might be quite interesting to write a fantasy fiction based on these Houses/Dynasties, a sort of Asian Game of Thrones.

Katsura Shion, the singer who changes gender every month is probably based on the story of King Ila (Eela), the originator of the Chandravansha. While hunting a deer, one fine day, the young King Ila accidently barged into the sacred/forbidden grove of Sharavana, belonging to the goddess Parvati. He did not know that a curse had been placed on the grove - any male entity (even plants) which enters the grove will be changed into a female. Thus, King Ila found that he had been changed into a woman.

He begged for help and Parvati allowed him to be male one month and female on alternating months. But the male and female form could not remember what happened to the other. Anyway, the female King Ila met Budha (this is the son of the moon god, Chandra), married, conceived a child and gave birth to a son called Puruvaras. Puruvaras is traditionally credited as being the progenitor of the Lunar Dynasty. However, I don't quite agree with this, obviously the progenitor of the Chandravansha is King Ila himself.
With Budha's help, Ila then made a horse sacrifice to Lord Shiva,In ancient India, the horse sacrifice is the ultimate sacrifice, not surprisingly considering how noble and valuable a horse is. Lord Shiva accepted his sacrifice and granted him his wish to become male permanently.

Akito held sway over all the zodiac characters... note that Kio Sohma (the Cat) is not in this diagramme.
There is also a character of ambiguous gender in Fruits Basket. This is Akito Sohma, a person we all assumed was a controlling, cold-hearted and cruel young man. Akito held sway over all twelve/thirteen zodiac characters and Tohru tried hard to find out Akito's zodiac sign in order to break his hold on the Sohmas. However, several issues later, we learn that Akito is actually a young woman. Not only does she have a male name, her hair is cut short and she always dresses in male clothes. Apparently she was raised as a boy in order to head the wealthy and powerful Sohma clan. Akito's character devolved in the series, from a powerful enigmatic figure into a jealous, possessive and spiteful person. She was possessive of some of the male Zodiac members and spiteful towards the others, often resorting to violence. She was particularly vicious towards Kio Sohma (Kio is an anomaly; the outcaste Cat who should not exist and Akito intended to lock him up forever) and the beautiful and high-spirited, Isuzu Sohma, whom she probably saw as a rival. Isuzu desperately wanted to break away from the family and like, Tohru, wanted to find a way to break the Sohma curse. I somehow feel Akito's later behaviour is out-of-character and the writer should have maintained the aura and mystery until the end. If character is plot than the plot is flawed.

Anyway, despite it's huge cast of characters, Fruits Basket manages to fully fleshed out most of its characters while Crescent Moon is epic in scope but poorly executed, probably due to flagging fan support.

Akito Sohma is in the centre of the plot in the manga.

No comments: