Asura

Asura is the Sanskrit word for demon. Sura is used to refer to gods and asura literally means ‘the opposite of sura’. The only reason I decided to watch this movie is because the movie’s title sounded interesting. So I wasn’t expecting much from the movie.

Asura is the story of a boy who was abandoned in a forest when he was a baby. He never learned how to talk and he did whatever it took for him to survive, including cannibalism. There was a huge famine going on and he didn’t have anything else to eat. He is no different from an animal. He walks on all fours and eats raw meat.

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The protagonist- Asura

This isn’t anything new. We’ve seen many stories of abandoned kids and how they grow up. Even Tarzan did this. Unlike Tarzan, Asura actually shows what it means for a baby to be abandoned. Asura isn’t eating bananas and making friends with gorillas. Instead he is being chased, hunted down, attacked and feared. Most people don’t even use ‘him‘ when they talk about him. They use ‘it‘.

Asura’s mom gave birth to him and at first, she gave him lots of love and care. She didn’t have much to eat and she put up with it. It got worse with time to the point that she once ate meat from a rotting human corpse to feed herself. When she didn’t have anything to eat, she decide to eat her baby. She set up a fire and threw Asura into it. It started raining and she came to her senses. The reality of what she had done dawned on her and she ran away, leaving baby Asura all alone in the forest.

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Asura’s Mom

Asura grew up in the forest all by himself. He ate whatever he could get his hands on, including crows and dogs. He once attacked a monk who is far stronger than himself and got defeated. The monk took pity on him and gave him food. He named him Asura.

Asura left the village and went into the nearby village in search of more food. He killed the son of a noble because a stone the guy threw hit him and people hunted him down. He ended up falling off a cliff and was left to die. A young lady named Wakasa picked him up, cared for him, fed him and taught him words.

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Wakasa

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Wakasa and Asura

Look at how small he looks beside her. Asura is only eight years old and yet he knew a lot of things kids his age are not supposed to know.

Of course, this wouldn’t become a dark story if it ended there. Wakasa fell in love with a guy and it upset Asura because she was spending little to no time with him. Wakasa was the only human he ever came into contact with and the time he spent with her meant a lot to him. Asura tried to kill the guy Wakasa was in love with and ended up being hated by Wakasa.

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I’ll stop here and not spoil the rest of the story for you. Let me just say that Asura doesn’t suddenly get a happily ever after and look at the world through rose coloured glasses.

Here is an interesting question though. The movie is called Asura but Asura isn’t a demon. If anything, he is like a wild animal. It isn’t his fault that he kills humans. No one taught him that it is wrong. If one of the villagers killed him, it wouldn’t be that guy’s fault either. After all, if there is a tiger attacking the villagers and killing them, you need to get rid of it. The movie does a good job showing how terrifying Asura’s existence would be to normal people and it also shows Asura’s perspective, how the things he was doing aren’t wrong when you look at them through his eyes.

Asura has beautiful animation. The art is unique and has a hand-drawn feel to it. They combined it with nice 3D graphics. The music is also good and suits the mood.

Asura has lots of blood and gore and a dark story. It might even leave a bitter aftertaste. If you’re okay with cannibalism and the gore, give this movie a chance.

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See you next time ^^/

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11 thoughts on “Asura

  1. Just finished watching it. That is a great movie. The art is nice. The scene where Asura walks through the night, the one that follows Wakasa’s dad suggesting to sell her, it was impressive, the simplicity and power of his being was so well contrasted with the twisted and weak lives people of the village had to lead. And the final scene where he walks past the cart where Wakasa’s body lies, that was powerful as well. Well, I’d say the way they animated Asura is just great in general, not so much for the other characters though.

    Also the scene of Asura’s birth at the beginning, it was kinda amazing too. Things like that are hard to show in a movie, even more so in a cartoon. I don’t know what it was, the fact that the mother was too exhausted to even hold her baby or the way she took off her clothes to make a padding on the floor for the child she was about to give birth too, I don’t know, but this scene felt real.

    Asura was about 8 years old when he met Wakasa, by the way, they mention it in the movie =) But it’s true, he does look very small. Yet he is so deadly O.o I wonder how powerful he could have grown if he survived till adulthood and kept his wild animal-like life style. They would have gotten a real monster on their hands then :/

    I really like that the choose that name for the film =) The boy is like a wild animal, you are right. But yet he isn’t, as he was born human. It is a common way to think about the origins of demons in mythology as representations of the forces of nature, alive or dead, that our ancestors couldn’t explain or understand. Powerful predators would appear demon-like to defenseless humans of the ancient past. Even more so a predator you never seen before. So something like Asura, a human grown as a beast, would be very much like a demon, in this sense of the word.

    The reason I like that name though is because it reflects the motif of the movie so well. Asura is given that name at the beginning of the film by the monk, he just tells as that this is Asura, a demon. It is not a judgement, he just uses the word to call the child. Back then Asura lives a life of solitude, killing to survive, having no friends or company and feeling no need for one. His arch enemy through the series are humans, who also do the same, but all together. By humans I mean the whole population, just individuals. They, humans, just Asura, need no one, they don’t even have a way to communicate to an outsider. Because an outsider would be what, a wild beast or something? Why do you need to communicate with that? You can kill it if you need too, end of story. This is what Asura feels when he comes in contact with them. There is no dialogue, no understanding, only fear, aggression, violence. For Asura, humans must be a huge demon with million faces. Just as humans can’t understand or accept Asura, Asura can’t understand or accept humans. At the end of the film this allegory becomes almost literal, as you see this huge body of fire, arms and faces trying to squeeze the life out of this child. It feels the same as when Asura himself destroys a life of an animal by viciously biting it down with his teeth.

    There are three characters who are willing to show him mercy. The monk, Wakasa and her lover Shichirou. Wakasa especially, as she had been caring for him all that time, teaching him words and essentially making him human. Which later makes him acquire human suffering, the anguish of being rejected. You said Wakasa ended up hating Asura, but I don’t think it is true. The way she spoke to him was as if she was forcing herself to be cruel. I think she thought that she had to do it for the sake of Shichirou and the rest of the village, thinking that Asura would be a danger to them if he isn’t sent away.

    I think the movie has its own view on the difference between a human and a demon (or a wild animal). Remember how the monk said to Asura “repeat these words and become human”. Words are means of communication, something you use to work and survive together. Helping each other is a sign of a human. Fighting each other is a sign of a beast. Wakasa refusing to eat what she thought was human flesh is a part of that, she would rather die a human then live off someone’s death, thus going down the path of a beast. It is all symbolism in a way; the fact that it was horse meat only makes the whole thing more clear, as it wasn’t a culinary discussion. Yet Wakasa always knew Asura killed and even eaten people, but she never hated him for that. It is like the movie saying that being able to show mercy and forgiveness is as important to being a human as not trying to slice someone’s throat.

    Sorry if that comment was too long ._.

    P.S.
    Look at this picture, it is like a real art piece you can hang on a wall *_*

    • Yes. I loved the ending too. Asura risked his life to get that horse meat for Wakasa and she refused to eat it, despite his repeated pleas that it is horse meat.

      I also liked how she was willing to fight with wild animals to keep Asura safe. Her walking a path of no return soon followed and you feel like you can’t really blame her for what she has done, since you got to see that she would have been a great mom if her circumstances weren’t so brutal.

      No. I don’t see the title that way =) In Indian mythology, Asura are actual demons. You will find lot of names such as Narakasura, Ravanasura etc. You see that their name is typically paired with ‘asura’, making it obvious that they are demons. They are not forces of nature and they are not mysterious beings that you can’t explain or understand. They are a different species who are mostly vicious and evil and did a lot of bad things.

      Let me put it this way. I think Wakasa getting angry there and walking away from Asura after that is just plot convenience. Wakasa saw Asura quietly hand over the weapon he stole from her when he asked him. She also knows that Asura can be kind and nice. If she actually sat down and talked to him, she might have been able to understand why Asura attacked Shichirou in the first place. Considering the kind of environment Asura grew up in, she should understand that Asura doesn’t understand how serious it is to hurt or kill someone. Wakasa is depicted as a kind and sensible woman. I don’t buy that ‘it is for the sake of the villagers’ part. She doesn’t know Asura well enough to decide that. I don’t blame her for what she said to Asura. To me the part that doesn’t make sense is, she never felt bad about it and never went to check on him. She knew what kind of a life Asura led and what would happen to him if she abandoned him and yet she did it. Taking care of a child doesn’t work this way. Her feelings towards him are supposed to be that of a mother’s feelings towards her child. When you raise a child, you get to understand that in the end, he is just a child who is unable to take care of himself if there isn’t someone taking care of him. She should have known that she would just be taking what little chance Asura has to become human by pushing him away and yet she did it. It is for plot convenience and I just went with what it appears to be than try and dissect the situation and make the post even longer :P Sure, her not wanting anything to do with Asura would have made more sense if Shichirou was actually killed.

      That picture does look really beautiful. I like the featured image too. The sight of an injured child lying on top of a pile of corpses is pretty powerful ._.

      • Yeah that too =) She probably would a good mother. We also didn’t spend much time with her, so I wouldn’t want to judge her actions based on a few scenes.

        Right =) It is an allegory though, of course they didn’t want to make direct parallels with Hindu or Buddhist demigods. They could have used any religious reference, but since the movie had a Buddhist monk it makes sense to use a Buddhist one. Other than that, the movie does not seem to be interested in theology, so I don’t expect the reference to run deep, like referencing particular traits of asuras or particular characters from religious texts or myths. Rather, I think it appeals to general idea of a supernatural being with an evil intent, and drive the allegory from there.

        What I said about forces of nature is sort of a sidetrack. I read a book where someone said “animals must think their predators are demons lurking the shadows”. I guess I liked that idea =) People make this easy arguments that all our oldest myths had been created to explain the phenomena we didn’t understand at some point, and then those original myths grew to become what we see today. I really liked one such where they were trying to explain why almost every civilization has dragons in their culture. The core idea was that it represents three main predators early humans faced: big cats (lions, tigers, leopards, etc), carnivorous birds (eagles and such) and snakes. So it makes sense that fusing it into one being would produce something people were impressed by =)

        She also saw him stealing that weapon though =) And she saw him attacking her lover for no apparent reason. See, you are right, she doesn’t know Asura well enough to decide anything, but she has to. If she lets villagers make the decision, they will kill the boy, no doubt about it. So by not telling them about him she already been deceiving everyone and putting them at risk without their knowledge or consent. So as a moral decision it seems that making Asura ago and letting him stay would be both very questionable, I don’t think it is possible to say that one was better than the other. Also, if she decided to keep Asura’s existence a secret she would make Shichirou her partner in crime, which could easily cost him his life when the daimyo learns about it. I don’t think there is a moral reason to chose this option and it seem to me that Wakasa just cared about him more than about Asura.

        Also, Wakasa is a simple young girl, not a psychologist or something, she doesn’t really know what is going on and she doesn’t have any reasons to believe that she could control Asura, so her decisions aren’t going to be optimal or something. If it was lady Torogai from Seirei no Moribito, then yeah, I would agree with most of your arguments =)

        You say it as if she has obligations to take care of the boy =) She has none :P She didn’t set up to raise this child, it was just her being kind to an injured kid which went on for a little long. You can’t place the whole burden of making a human out of Asura on her just because she is the is a kind person.

        True. The scene where he tries to climb up from this pit was impressive too. He wasn’t angry, didn’t cry, didn’t show self-pity, just tried to survive. It kinda shows the difference between him and normal people more than him roaring and biting strangers.

        • It is weird how it works in my mind. I am okay with Asura’s mother trying to eat him but Wakasa abandoning Asura pissed me off.

          I guess I don’t really see it that way because we do not have any dragons or vampires or zombies in our myths. All the bad people have names and reasons. We also have plenty of Asuras who were actually good people. They are intelligent and are capable of speech, not just violent animals. So a person acting wild won’t actually be called a demon here, he would just be called a beast.

          But Wakasa did know that Asura killed people when she picked him up and she didn’t seem to have a problem with it. She didn’t try to talk to him about it or teach him that it is wrong. She also didn’t have a problem with him eating raw fish. She saw that Asura was willing to part with her weapon when she asked him to hand it over. That should have been enough to see that the child was changing. If abandoning him was supposed to be a moral decision because she wanted to protect the villagers, she wouldn’t have picked him up in the beginning. It doesn’t make sense. What if he attacked her and killed her after waking up? So I don’t think it has anything to do with the villagers. It was just a plot convenience. Asura had to know what it felt like to lose the only person he ever cared about and that was all there was to that scene.

          She doesn’t have any obligations but I am going to argue that Wakasa actually came to care for Asura like a son. She was feeding him, going to places with him and taking care of him. It doesn’t seem natural to throw it all out of the window and never look back because Asura attacked Shichirou, especially considering that Asura was just a child.

          Yeah ._. To me the best part of the movie was Wakasa refusing to eat the horse meat. It tied up the movie for me. I am not sure why >.<

          • I know right :D XP

            Maybe Wakasa did have a problem with that, why not? I think she was driven by an impulse, there was no logic to her actions. Seeing a bleeding kid, she couldn’t let him die. That is a very understandable thing to do, and I feel like everyone would be expected to do so, to help him. It is a decision that doesn’t take into account all the circumstances and all possible outcomes, it is driven by simple empathy. She might have thought that she will have to do something about Asura later, but then she never got to it. And that is why she never spoke with him about his past, she didn’t want to have to make any decisions yet. The movie shows this too. When Asura takes her knife she says that she thinks he had killed people before. This means they never spoke about it, and this topic has popped up in Wakasa’s mind exactly when she was reminded of Asura being wild and dangerous.

            I think all of that is reasonable interpretation of what has happened. Now to add my speculations, I think Wakasa never intended to keep Asura with her for long. She never intended to see Asura grown up and fully transformed into a human. She was kind enough to take care of him, and that is all there was to it. Also, remember how the movie showed that at some point Wakasa stopped paying enough attention to Asura, choosing to spend time with Shichirou instead? That means she wanted to be with him rather than with the kid. They talked about leaving the village too, didn’t they? Of course Wakasa would not have taken Asura with her if she left. I think she wasn’t anything like a mother to him, at least she didn’t feel it that way, she was just a kind person.

            With all that in mind, relatively normal reasons, such as villagers’ safety or Shichirou’s involvement, might be enough to change her attitude towards Asura. I still don’t think she felt angry at him, she just wanted to drive him away, and she could only do it with words. And I think she had maintained her integrity as a person throughout the whole show, she never did anything that “wasn’t like her”, she never went against her own convictions. And I would not be surprised to hear a real story mirroring this one, cause it is driven but simple emotions and reasons that anyone real person can have too.

            Now all of what I said concerns how Wakasa, the simple village girl, might have thought and felt. We, the viewers, can then judge her actions in a different way. Your argument about her being able to make Asura lay down the knife belongs to this category, I think. It is something you can argue about as an outside observer, but it is not what Wakasa would be necessarily thinking about. Even if she was, she might have not drawn a conclusion that Asura is changing for the good, maybe even the opposite. We don’t know, and the film never showed Wakasa as a wise and perceptive person. It reminds me of our argument about Anna from 3 Level Combination, only our roles are switched =) I was arguing that Anna’s passive role in Hogu’s life was not what she genuinely wanted, and you said “She had to go out of her way to save Hogu and I felt that not going out of your way didn’t qualify as neglect ._.”. I like that opinion. Also Anna is way more perceptive than Wakasa and in her case there is no real danger or stakes, again, comparing it to Wakasa’s situation. So the fact that Wakasa didn’t notice the possibility that Asura could be improved and so on, I definitely don’t think she is to blame here =)

            Just for the record, I think the rational conclusion from that knife incident was to recognize Asura as dangerous. The fact that he picked a weapon is way more important than the fact that Waskasa was able to make him drop it, the later was a pure luck. Next time she won’t be around (or Asura won’t listen) and someone will be hurt. And high possibility that someone will get hurt, while not being informed about that possibility beforehand, outweighs all the nice things such as Asura possibly-maybe becoming better. But that too, is viewer’s argument ^^/

            • You’re right. Wakasa didn’t have to go out of her way to keep helping Asura and is supposedly a normal person. But she won’t be a normal good person in my book. The fact that a person could walk away from a child knowing full well that the child won’t be able to support itself doesn’t sit well with me. To me what Wakasa did is no better than a person finding an abandoned, injured kitten, taking it home and then leaving it at the same place after two days because the kitten turned out to be more trouble than the person expected it to be. You could argue that the kitten got to live two more days because of the person’s kindness and it is true. At the same time I feel that if you’re going to take it back to the same place and make it go through the same things again, what you’ve done won’t make a difference. That is how I see it ._.

              • I see =) I won’t argue about Wakasa not being a good person. Personally I feel like she did very well and deserves to be praised, considering who she is and her circumstances, but that is my personal judgement. I don’t think the movie has anything to say here though, both ways of looking at her are fine, same as with Asura’s mother =)

                I am not trying to make any further arguments, but just want to say that Asura does owe his life to Wakasa. He survived, learned human ways and found piece in the end, all thanks to her. In a way, it is the same as with his mother, she gave birth to him and took care of him for a while, only to abandon him later (the circumstances are very different though, of course); but he still owes her. That parallel is probably intentional too =)

  2. I would say that Wakasa is a normal kind person, the kind of nice person you could have for a neighbor, classmate or co-worker. She probably wanted to marry Shichirou, have kids and spend the rest of her life with him. Asura was no more important to her than a random villager’s kid. Her favoring Shichirou is fine.

    I’ve actually been thinking about it. I was absolutely fine with Anna not helping out Hogu but Wakasa not helping Asura gets on my nerves. I guess in the end it is because Asura was a child. When you’re dealing with someone older, they have their own ideas and way of life. They can make their own life decisions and support themselves. It doesn’t work that way with a child. Children are dependent and they might grow up with a ton of mental problems if you don’t give them normal parental love. They could even die if you abandoned them. Though I admit that it is just my instinct formed from all the time I spent taking care of my cousins taking over.

    • I thought your experience as a responsible older cousin played a little bit of role in how you feel about this episode =) Both 3 Level Combination and Asura are very emotionally packed stories too, maybe I would have felt the same way you do if I had an experience talking care of a child o.o

      I know what you mean about Asura being a child. By the way, it is almost ironic that in the end Hogu died and Asura survived ._. Like, you are right, kids are kids, they need to be taken care of; yet Hogu, who is almost a grown up, is the one who managed to get himself killed, exactly because people didn’t take care of him well enough. That is why I like well crafted stories like these two, they give you food for thought.

      • I guess ._.

        I think Asura getting to live is just another plot convenience. The writer didn’t want him to die. He was hunted by people and thrown off a cliff and yet he managed to live. The same happened when the villagers burned down the bridge. You would expect his luck to finally run out but no, he got to live again. I would say that in reality Asura wouldn’t have gotten so lucky. He would have been killed >.<

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