Tag Archives: japan

Facebook blunders, Anime, and Nekulturny

Over the weekend, a New Hampshire state representative, Nikolas Levasseur made some ridiculous commentary on Facebook, saying that “Anime is the reason just 2 nukes wasn’t enough.”

Now, of course, for some, to be upset over this comment will be another example of oversensitivity and politically-correct responses to an ill-thought out, idiotic statement. But looking deeper, we can see that this is more than purely foolish rhetoric. Many people think Facebook is private and safe, but anyone who has been to “Failbooking” will recognize that what you say on Facebook may not stay among your close network of 500 friends. Indeed, we forget just how public the internet is. So perhaps Mr. Levasseur was just making an idiotic comment that one might make at a bar with friends, where some of his actual meat-space friends would say, “Nick, come on, that’s not cool.” And perhaps, he would have relented thinking that maybe “jokes” about thousands of people instantly dying are not funny in the least.

Perhaps this statement is also an example of someone simply being uneducated. As any Tom Clancy fan will know, a highly-charged Russian insult is to call someone Nekulturny, meaning “Uncultured.” A boorish, loud person might be prone to say such things. A person without deeper historic, or cultural appreciation for Japan might think it OK to say something like this. Maybe a way to prevent this kind of thinking is education.

Sure, there are things in anime that I find detestable, and I would not advise people to pick up and enjoy those titles. But, there is a huge variety of excellent, deep, moving, refreshing content within the anime genre that deserves to be seen and enjoyed. Most anime that we might find objectionable in the west is created for a subset of a purely Japanese audience, who has a different sense of what it means to enjoy something versus acting out on it. (We Americans seem to act out our violent fantasies, rather than leaving them in the realm of fantasy…just look at the murder/rape rate and compare to Japan.) But, to say anime is a reason a country should have been wiped out, and that a state representative is saying such things, is really inexcusable. If he read up a bit, he might realize, as Takashi Murakami posits, anime and the otaku subculture is really in response to the atomic vaporization of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So, I humbly submit a short reading list for the state representative, and hope he will begin to do some homework before shooting of his mouth again.

  1. Dower, John. Embracing Defeat
  2. Drazen, Patrick. Anime Explosion
  3. Gravett, Paul. Manga, 60 Years of Japanese Comics
  4. Hendry, Joy. Understanding Japanese Society
  5. Ibuse, Masuji. Black Rain
  6. Kelts, Roland. Japanamerica
  7. De Bary, Keene, Tsunoda, and Varley. Sources of Japanese Tradition, vols 1-3
  8. Napier, Susan. Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle.
  9. Schodt, Frederick L. Dreamland Japan
  10. Schodt, Frederick L. Manga, Manga, Manga
  11. Sugimoto, Yoshio. An Introduction to Japanese Society

Good articles on Adbusters

Roland Kelts has written a new article on Adbusters called “The Soul of Japan.” Kelts discusses the nature of Japanese popular culture, and connects some intriguing dots: Japan, being conquered by the USA, then officially occupied, followed up by years of US forces being present throughout Japan, has made Japan have a “little brother” complex, not allowing social maturation. He quotes Murakami Ryu, Murakami Haruki, and Murakami Takashi – the three big famous Murakamis (unrelated) with good effect.

Specifically pointed is Murakami Takashi’s point that because Japan lost the war, was completely firebombed, and twice atom bombed, then lost the divine status of the emperor; moreover, in a Confucian context: they lost their national father, they began to express their loss and underlying discontent in subcultural media, like manga, anime, and the like.

picture-1Another good article by Kelts at Adbusters.org speaks to the Japanese aesthetic of negative space, links Hello Kitty’s 17 lines to the success of minimalism, then talks to the attitudes surrounding garbage disposal and recycling, and how keeping the streets and planet clean fit into that matrix.

Japanese attitudes on trash have changed in the past 15 or so years. In 1994, we were burning almost all of our trash in the back-yard behind my small homestay family’s house in Gunma-ken. By 1997, it still had not caught on, but by 2000, recycling bins were popping up everywhere.

Funny thing is, anything you throw out, Japanese can tell how you live. If I threw out a pair of red boxer shorts, people would see them in the transparent bags that are used for showing which trash is which.

Growing up in NYC, we had red garbage cans for commingled recyclables by the late ’80’s with “curbside recycling.” It was fun and new, and always cool to think about the help to the environment. Sad thing was when you forgot, if a garbage cop found something in your regular trash, you’d get a ticket. The law took away our joy…and then when we learned that most of it wound up in a landfill anyway, we were sadly disillusioned. Still, the red trash cans were cool. Those who got them from the city later, had blue cans with white lids…they just weren’t as cool.

Great article on “Moe” and the 2-D complex


Lisa Katayama, author of the Tokyomango.com blog has a terrific article on Otaku culture at NYTimes.com

Here’s an excerpt:

Nisan is part of a thriving subculture of men and women in Japan who indulge in real relationships with imaginary characters. These 2-D lovers, as they are called, are a subset of otaku culture— the obsessive fandom that has surrounded anime, manga and video games in Japan in the last decade. It’s impossible to say exactly what portion of otaku are 2-D lovers, because the distinction between the two can be blurry. Like most otaku, the majority of 2-D lovers go to work, pay rent, hang out with friends (some are even married). Unlike most otaku, though, they have real romantic feelings for their toys. The less extreme might have a hidden collection of figurines based on anime characters that they go on “dates” with during off hours. A more serious 2-D lover, like Nisan, actually believes that a lumpy pillow with a drawing of a prepubescent anime character on it is his girlfriend.

According to many who study the phenomenon, the rise of 2-D love can be attributed in part to the difficulty many young Japanese have in navigating modern romantic life. According to a government survey, more than a quarter of men and women between the ages of 30 and 34 are virgins; 50 percent of men and women in Japan do not have friends of the opposite sex. One of the biggest best sellers in the country last year was “Health and Physical Education for Over Thirty,” a six-chapter, manga-illustrated guidebook that holds the reader’s hand from the first meeting to sex to marriage.

“Phenomenon – Love in 2-D” at New York Times

I think the most interesting idea was Morinaga Takuro likening the 2-d complex to attaining Buddhahood.

“It’s enlightenment training,” Takuro Morinaga, one of Japan’s leading behavioral economists, told me. “It’s like becoming a Buddha.” According to Morinaga, every male otaku can be classified on a moe scale. “On one end, you have the normal guy, who has no interest in anime characters and only likes human women,” he explained. “The opposite end, of course, is the hard-core 2-D lover.”

I was even thinking “Aum” vs. “Moe.” I never thought that someone would liken this non-standard affected experience to a mystical experience, even tongue-in-cheek. It gave me a chuckle. Moreover, it reminds me of Baudriallard’s “Third level simulacra,” that is, a similation of a simulation. I smell a presentation topic in the works for me!