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Going Native in Avatar Shogun and the Last Samurai

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 678
  • Category: Samurai

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A stranger in a new land must get accustomed to their new lifestyle. In Henry Clavell’s Shōgun, James Cameron’s Avatar, and Edward Zwinks’ The Last Samurai, the protagonists must find a way to learn and live through the native culture. Going native is need for survival in an unknown place. Wearing the clothing, learning the language, falling in love, taking part in lifestyle activities, and risking their lives to be trusted are part of going native. All three works show the protagonist learning to speak the native language. Nathan Algren in The Last Samurai and John Blackthorne in Shōgun learn Japanese and Jake Sully in Avatar learns the Na’vi language. Algren picks up some words while staying with Taka and the family. He begins to say some words at dinner and they become excited, trying to teach him some more basic words. Blackthorne is taught Japanese words from the beginning. Mariko serves as his translator, teaching him along the way. The Jesuit priests make a translation dictionary to help him learn faster.

At one point, Blackthorne is told that he has six months to learn Japanese or the entire town dies. Neytiri is put in charge of teaching Sully the Na’vi language. They spend every day together trying to get him to become fluent. By the end of each work, Algren, Blackthorne, and Sully all know how to speak the new language adequately. Dressing into the new culture is also part of going native. Algren and Blackthorne both start to wear Japanese kimonos on a daily basis. Before going into battle, Taka even offers her late husband’s suit of armor to Algren. Sully doesn’t just dress like the Na’vi people but he also takes the body of an avatar. His new body is the same as the Na’vi people. He wears his hair in braids like them and small adorned pieces of clothing. In the end, he leaves his human body and decides to fully live in his new avatar body. All three characters end up dressing and looking like the people of their new culture. When Algren, Blackthorne, and Sully have to earn the trust of the people, they must put their lives at risk to prove they are one of them.

When Katsumoto is retained in Tokyo, Algren tries to help him escape. He must risk his life to get Katsumoto out of the room and past the guards armed with guns. He knows there is a very slim chance he will make it out alive but he takes his chances before Katsumoto is forced to commit seppuku. Algren even goes back to save Nobutada, Katsumoto’s son, when he knows the guards have opened fire and he has no protection. At one point Blackthorne comes close to committing seppuku to prove he values the life of the village and is willing to give it up in payment for theirs. Blackthorne also risks his life when he saves Toranaga during the earthquake and while distracting Ishido as Toranaga escapes the castle in disguise. He slowly gains Toranaga’s trust by saving him multiple times.

Blackthorne eventually becomes hatamoto for his loyalty and trust. Once the Na’vi people distrusted Sully, he has to earn their trust back. To prove himself worthy he has to bond with Toruk, the greatest beast in the sky. He becomes the master of Toruk and shows the Na’vi people he is truly on their side, thus gaining back their trust. All three men risk their lives to gain the trust of the people and become part of them. So many things go into becoming immersed in a new culture. Looking like the people, speaking their language, and gaining their trust is all part of it. Once someone has gone native, they are embraced in a whole new world they did not know they could live in. Their prospective of the world and life change as they become more intertwined in the new customs. Slowly but surely, they give up their old life to enjoy a new and greater one.

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