Friday, January 12, 2018

Food for Thoughts : Ancient Egypt and Anime

Miira no Kaikata

Food for thoughts : Ancient Egypt and Anime

A few months ago, I was playing an old game by Tilted Mill Studios called the “Immortal Cities : Children of the Nile”, which is a city-building simulator that was set on Ancient Egypt and centered on how we, as the pharaoh, build a wonderful civilization and constructed a grand Pyramid when we eventually die. I was captivate by how immersive the game was, and how the game kept true to the lore, and even got too engrossed in the gameplay that I kept playing it for hours and hours.

As an anime enthusiast, then I came to an opinion, wouldn’t it be great if there’s an anime set in Egypt?

Then, few months removed from that, the anime Miira no Kaikata, or How to Keep a Mummy, was announced. Of course, due to the title involving mummies and how I was playing the similar game, I quickly put the anime on my shortlist at what to watch, and when it does air, I was left with this question.

“Can anime actually take place in Ancient Egypt and be immersed in it’s culture?”

Why do I ask that? Well, Miira no Kaikata was set in Japan with a few Egyptian cultures mixed in to accompany the mummy. Don’t get me wrong, the anime was good, but was just that. By the time the anime ends, I kept pondering to myself that kind of thoughts.

Let’s be honest, there are only several titles that are actually set in Egypt or talking about stuffs regarding egypts. One of the mainstream titles that come to mind is the original Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime, as the Yami Yugi is a Pharaoh, whose name is Atem, and I don’t know about the anime, but the manga actually explored ancient Egypt from volume 32 upwards.

Yu-Gi-Oh! manga focuses much of the later arc in the Ancient Egypt.

There are several titles that came close to ancient Egypt, which is Magi. However, Magi is not set in Egypt. Instead, Magi is set in an Arabian night-like settings, with things referring to them, such as the main character names are Alladin and Alibaba, as well as Djinns and the likes.

Another reference of Ancient Egypt comes from the Fate/Grand Order game, in the form of Ozymandias. Ozymandias is the Ancient Greek name of Pharaoh Rameses II, and is actually written as a sonnet by an English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Ozymandias is not referenced in the game as Pharaoh Rameses II, yet it’s Noble Phantasm is called Ramesseum Tetrys, or the Shining Great Temple Complex, a reference to the fact that Ramesseum is the memorial temple of Pharaon Ramesses II. Lastly, the reward from ranking his bond to level 10 is Ramesseum itself that comes with a lore that explains the greatness of Ozymandias, or Pharaoh Ramesses II.

Ozmandias from Fate/Grand Order

This is a shame though, since Ancient Egypt offers a plethora amount of anime-like conditions that an anime could actually take advantage off. Sadly, there are only so much titles that delved in such setting.

Due to the short amount of anime titles actually taking places in Ancient Egypt, allow me to delve further in making Ancient Egypt a setting for an anime titles. What good factors it will have and how it will approach the audience. There are several factors that I managed to gather, thanks to the game Children of the Nile, as well as doing several websurfing and information gathering. Without further ado, let us begin.

1.  Pharaoh tends to be young

Let’s face it. When we talk anime, we want our protagonist to be either good-looking or bad-ass. And I am glad to inform you that the Pharaohs of the Ancient Egyptian history tends to be young, allowing an anime title to place a young and good-looking character in a position of power, which is the Pharaoh. In the history of Ancient Egypt, it is no surprise to see a child, commonly in their teenage years, take the position of Pharaoh due to the death of the previous Pharaoh, or their father, and there is no other candidate other than that young child. Of course, due to the young age, the need for a Vizier, or a Pharaoh advisor, is necessary so that the young child is not burdened too much with the task of being a Pharaoh that leads a civilization. For example, the pharaoh Tutankhamun is famous for ascending to the throne at the age of 9-10 years old and died only after 10 years on the throne, which is at 19 years of age. An anime example of this is Atem, from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime is very young pharaoh that inherited the throne from his father, and he has a Simon as his vizier, who helped him get through daily tasks.

Pharaoh Atem from Yu-Gi-Oh! is very young.

2.  Impressive Architecture

When we talk about the Ancient Egypt, or Egypts in particular, one thing almost always pop up to our mind, which is their impressive Pyramid, in the form of Pyramid of Giza, the tomb of Khufu. However, a few people knew that the Pyramid of Giza we actually see is only the core of the pyramid, with the outer fine limestone of the Pyramid is either stolen or fell off the pyramid as the years gone by. In the Ancient Egypt, the pyramid are grand building designed to house the dead body of a Pharaoh, and the pyramid itself is a symbol of their power and rule. And usually, it is coloured white thanks to the fine limestone acting as the outer shell of the pyramid, which radiates light when viewed from afar. Another one of their impressive architecture is the Great Sphinx, a statue of lion body combined with the head of a man. Through the Assassin’s Creed : Origins, we can actually see the ancient pyramids and sphinx in their magnificent original design, so why can’t we see it in anime as well?

The original look of a Pyramid is magnificent.

3.  Intriguing Culture

The culture of Ancient Egypt is unique, much like the other culture from the rest of the world. However, the culture of Ancient Egypt is yet to be exposed upon, unlike the cultures of Ancient Rome, Ancient Greeks, or even the Feudal Japan, making the Ancient Egypt culture a prime candidate to add upon a new things. As stated before, their pharaoh lineage is intriguing, their ways of making cuisine is also unique, their architectural approach is nothing like we’ve ever seen before, their frightening yet revolutionary embalming technique, and there’s also their writing system, which looks distinctive. By utilizing this rarely-explored culture, the opportunity to open up a new audience as well as those who know Ancient Egyptian culture is prime, as those who are interested by the culture will seek upon the anime to learn more about the culture, while the more knowledgeable audience can compare their knowledge or be amazed from the culture shown in that anime.

The culture of Egypt is immersive as well.

4.  Classical Music

One thing that is always close to a new setting is music. Feudal Japan has their own distinctive music that truly immersive to the setting, as does Ancient Rome, or even Medieval times. And thus, it is no surprise to see Ancient Egypt with their own music. The music can sound Eerie at times, but those eeriness can be soothing and distinctive at times, allowing us to be immersed in their ancient culture. Below is the example of Egyptian music, made by the amazing Brandon Fiechter.

5.  Egyptian Divine Beings

When one thinks of Egypt, then the thought of Egyptian gods and goddesses immediately came to mind, such as Osiris, Horus, and Ra. Their history accounts are as diverse as the one found in the Ancient Greeks, and can even be the same, such as Amun, or Amun-Ra after fusing with Ra, being the father of all gods, much like Zeus. They all are unique and diverse, and opens up a room on how to utilize them. If the anime we talk about focuses on more harmonious time, then the civilization will ask from the gods a favor to make sure their civilization prosper, such as by worshipping either Hapi or Hathor, or even Osiris. However, if the anime in question delves on war, then the soldiers will look for the favor from the god of war Montu, or the likes. The possibility is endless.

Renekton, from League of Legends, is inspired from Sobek, an Egyptian God.

6.  Historical Figures

Ancient Egypt also hosts several important figures from the past. One of them being Tutankhamun, one of the youngest yet prosperous pharaoh in the history, and one of the most well-known pharaoh around the world, with his death mask a prominent symbol of a pharaoh. Another character from the ancient Egyptian history is Cleopatra, commonly known as the most beautiful woman in the world, I think. However, Cleopatra is not from Ancient Egypt, but from a more different time, which is the Ptolemaic Egypt, and thus, had more different cultures than the Ancient Egypt.

Cleopatra, as seen in Assassin's Creed : Origins.

7.  Ancient Egypt are rarely seen

And of course, this factor is the one that persuaded me to write this article. The amount of anime associating with or even set in Ancient Egypt are limited or even very low, making the Ancient Egypt a prime candidate for a setting. By utilizing this, the anime in question will become the first of the kind, where the mistakes of interpreting several historical facts that were inaccurate will be forgiven and even open up more opportunity for other anime or even manga and light novel to take place in this kind of setting. Light novel and manga might be the first steps to achieve this, but to acquire a more international interest, adapting it to anime will be necessary.

Bakura from Yu-Gi-Oh! series.

And there it is, the 7 important factors of what will make Ancient Egypt settings be wonderful and intriguing to see in an anime. However, take note that even by utilizing those 6 factors, the anime is not a guaranteed success or anything of the like, as what I note is what makes Ancient Egypt so unique and distinctive that one should ponder whether or not it will work in an anime-like setting. There are opportunities to gather more interest from the public by utilizing such settings, but we cannot be sure as how impactful it will be to the anime industry.

I enjoyed writing this article, since I am also a nerd when it comes to talk about history and mythological facts. I first got exposed to the Ancient Egyptian settings thanks to playing the game Age of Mythology, a spin-off to the popular Age of Empires franchise, which deals with 3 (now 5) interesting races, one of them being ancient Egypt. From there, I learned mainly about the gods and a fraction of their cultures, However, the recent exposure to the Children of the Nile opened up so much knowledge from the Ancient Egyptian culture for me, which inspired me to write this article.

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