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Old 2009-11-12, 23:00   Link #1
blanc
the dad from Totoro
 
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Americans and Anime - a thesis (looking for input)

Hi all

I'm a design and animation grad student working on my final thesis...

I'm developing an animated short that serves as a piece for non-Japanese anime fans...

Its geared especially for 'slice of life' fans, but it has a broader message. As Non-Japanese individuals who appreciate and relate with qualities of life and aesthetics communicated through Japanese media, we are attempting to connect with a media which is not made for us or by us and is not of our society or culture...

Which is sad and enormously dissatisfying... and I suspect many of us feel this way.

In response to this, I would like to create an animated short which puts a western, non-Japanese protagonist into a distinctly Japanese setting, with a SoL pacing and tone (because I think slice of life typically captures a uniquely Japanese sensibility...)

I'm curious what people think about this subject. about slice of life as a cultural portrait and as foreigners relating to Japanese culture through Japanese media...

this was long. i hope some people will read this
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Old 2009-11-12, 23:31   Link #2
Ricky Controversy
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Well, it sounds like an interesting piece, so long as you don't oversell your cultural message. Slice of Life will allow you to approach the issues you're describing directly, rather than allegorically, but please, whatever you do, don't confine yourself to only dealing with broad cultural issues. Integrate these as closely as you can with the more basic person-to-person elements of Slice of Life.

If you create a preachy piece, you won't make any impact with it. If you set out to have fun and explore cultural currents along the way, you're more likely to find some resonance with people. Not to mention a short format will leave you in an awkward position explaining yourself if you make any sweeping claims, rather than subtle implications.
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Old 2009-11-13, 00:37   Link #3
blanc
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That is EXCELLENT feedback! Thank you so much! I completely understand what you mean, but I'm curious if you could elaborate more on your thoughts concerning "broad cultural issues v. person-to-person elements of slice of life" and "exploring cultural currents while having fun"

not that these ideas weren't clear - they definitely were - but I find that you phrased them so well, I'm curious if you have any more thoughts! Thanks again!
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Old 2009-11-13, 00:43   Link #4
Sackett
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Location: I've moved around the American West. I've lived in Oregon, Washington, Utah, and Oklahoma
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Slice of life has a lot of potential in America.

Napoleon Dynamite for example- what is it but Slice of Life?
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Old 2009-11-13, 00:47   Link #5
Triple_R
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blanc View Post
That is EXCELLENT feedback! Thank you so much! I completely understand what you mean, but I'm curious if you could elaborate more on your thoughts concerning "broad cultural issues v. person-to-person elements of slice of life" and "exploring cultural currents while having fun"
I don't know if this is what Ricky meant or not, but my guess would be that he meant broad social issues like... gender issues. In other words, how gender issues play out in Japan vis a vis how they play out in America.

If you play that seriously, as opposed to just touching on it lightly while having fun, you risk having the entire work bogged down with it. It might start to sound like a political documentary which I think might detract from your slice of life focus.


Anyway, your idea is a very good one. If you do create this video, I hope that you share it with the rest of us.
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Old 2009-11-13, 01:02   Link #6
blanc
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Quote:
If you play that seriously, as opposed to just touching on it lightly while having fun, you risk having the entire work bogged down with it
absolutely, I completely agree

As far as cultural comparison is concerned, I'm looking to highlight the Japanese sensibility towards personal space and appreciating the beauty in design (simple, modern, traditional, etc)

Also the pacing of life (i.e. going down to the konbini for a canned coffee, really enjoying a cold beer, school life...)

if you look at so much of anime, the environments are so detailed and specific. they'll show 10 seconds of a characters room with nothing happening, just to emphasize the atmosphere - even in kid's programming. This is more-or-less unheard of in American TV

Quote:
Anyway, your idea is a very good one. If you do create this video, I hope that you share it with the rest of us.
Of course! (I'm so excited to be getting feedback on this!)
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Old 2009-11-13, 01:16   Link #7
SeijiSensei
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This isn't a direct answer to your question, but I was trying to imagine how this might work by considering existing anime shows and thinking about where a non-Japanese protagonist might fit in. Here are some musings:

Hataraki Man portrays a magazine editor in her late twenties struggling to cope with patriarchal attitudes and the pressures of the Japanese workplace. What if Hiroko had an American feminist colleague or friend to contrast her experiences with?

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 offers the possibility of following a non-Japanese survivor after a Tokyo earthquake. If you read the discussion thread for this show, you'll see that a lot of us were surprised by how "orderly," for want of a better word, was the reaction of the Japanese citizens portrayed. There was little in the way of panic, looting, or other forms of disorder which might surprise a non-Japanese observer.

Another recent show which might provide a backdrop for you is Mouryou no Hako, a rather strange detective story that includes a good dose of Japanese mysticism. I could imagine replacing the police detective in that show with an American who would have to learn about Japanese culture from the other characters in order to divine what was happening.

School slice-of-life shows seem like another excellent setting. Lucky*Star already has a character like the one you seek, the American girl Patty Martin, who is perhaps an even bigger otaku than the main character Konata. School Rumble has a couple of non-Japanese supporting characters attending a Japanese high school (Harry McKenzie and Lala Gonzalez), and one of the mains, Sawachika Eri, is half-English. In Nodame Cantabile, you have a rather pervy German conductor teaching in a Japanese conservatory. Adding a Western observer to Welcome to the NHK! would probably offer some rich material as well.

Working in the opposite direction, you might want to take a look at Monster. The main character is a Japanese doctor working in Germany soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His "fish-out-of-water" status is a recurring issue throughout the show.

Anyway, these are just a few ramblings that came to mind after reading your post. Good luck with your project, and don't forget to keep us informed on how it's working out!
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Old 2009-11-13, 01:17   Link #8
Ricky Controversy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blanc View Post
That is EXCELLENT feedback! Thank you so much! I completely understand what you mean, but I'm curious if you could elaborate more on your thoughts concerning "broad cultural issues v. person-to-person elements of slice of life" and "exploring cultural currents while having fun"

not that these ideas weren't clear - they definitely were - but I find that you phrased them so well, I'm curious if you have any more thoughts! Thanks again!
Sure, I'd be happy to expand on that idea since you're interested.

So, my first statement concerning the dichotomy of broad cultural issues and person-to-person elements is really a cautionary statement I'd make to anyone who is trying to touch on something significant as what you're describing--the distance inherent between the culture from whence anime comes and the culture of the many non-Japanese anime enthusiasts--in a Slice of Life story. The thing is, since you're not going to be putting that social issue behind a veil of allegory--often the case in Science Fiction or Fantasy stories--they will be directly observable and approachable. This is both advantageous and risky.

The advantage lies in that you can explicitly state what you see as the relevant social issue here, which means it's far less likely to go over peoples' heads. The risk comes in the potential to become preachy about the issue to the detriment of other things. Often, when artists have a specific tract they wish to make, be it social, political, religious or what have you, they will put their art underfoot to make it a vehicle for that idea and that idea alone. To be specific, in this case, coming on too strongly with your message would take the form of all of your characters being overly engrossed in the cultural dynamics at play to the point that their only recognizable features are their social ideologies.

The person-to-person elements I refer to are those regular human interactions that constitute the bulk of our lives, and really are the flowing blood of Slice of Life shows: the things that people generally take for granted like family relationships, friendships, the ordinary function of romance, having a job or attending class. It's important that, no matter how involved you get with your exploration of the culture gap between anime and much of its audience, you do not neglect to give your characters personality that pertains to these more mundane areas of life.

This sort of segues into my suggestion that you explore your cultural issues as a companion task to having fun. Taking a pragmatist's view, let's go ahead and say that anyone who was looking solely or even primarily to explore the culture issue you're describing, they'd read essays and editorials in relevant publications or conduct some independent research. But what you can offer them is a way to examine that issue while providing some entertainment. Now what shape that entertainment takes is entirely up to you, but you should never sacrifice enjoyment value to make a statement for one reason and one reason alone: no one will receive your statement if they're not having fun while it's made.

The link back from this point to the 'cultural issues vs. interpersonal relations' one is that a way to make this work is to avoid making big direct statements about the issue, but rather have it serve as an undertone to the character's daily dealings with the society around her. Since you're working in the medium of animation, the literary tools of narration and dialogue are at your disposal alongside visual tools like lighting, perspective, color, body language...and even sound cues. For a trite but useful example, maybe our western protagonist is, say, still a bit unsure of herself with Japanese table manners. Instead of saying this and making the viewer focus all of their attention on it, perhaps she hesitates some or stays silent in a situation where her friends say itadakimasu, and someone next to her notices and gives her a sidelong glance and/or nudge.

Direct statements have their place, but if you're making a short piece, I suppose my concern is that any major tract statement would eat up too much time and keep us from seeing the humanity in the characters and connecting with them. It's really difficult if not impossible to make us form a meaningful connection with characters based solely on their circumstances.
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Old 2009-11-13, 01:25   Link #9
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I mean, I see where your idea is coming from, but I'm not sure that at a fundamental level there's much of a distinction to make between Japanese and America. I mean, a normal Japanese person would feel much more home in, say, New York City than in Beijing, and this holds similarly for an American (i.e. feel more at home in Tokyo than Beijing).

In a sense, a lot of things that we identify as being essential parts of "Japaneseness" when put in context seem more reactionary than "genuine." Especially after 1868, the Japanese obsession with the West led to an identity crisis (what did it mean to be Japanese when everyone was rushing to become as Western as possible?) - because of this, I believe there was a scramble to create a stable sense of "Japaneseness," by creating and rationalizing traditions. For example, baseball was popularized by the Japanese government during the late 19th century, but only after they made copious comparisons between baseball and the way of the samurai during medieval times.

Given this hypothesis then, I think we're forced to ask ourselves to examine the concept of "Japanese uniqueness" a bit more closely. Is there any fundamental reasons such uniqueness exists, or is such perceived uniqueness more a result of a fabricated system of traditions set in place in a reaction against how much Japanese and Western cultures have converged? This is a tough question to answer, but ultimately I would say that the Japanese are at their core not necessarily so different.

This is not to say that there are NO differences between Japanese and Western culture - it's just that I'm not sure how functional the idea of placing "a western protagonist" in a "distinctly Japanese" setting is - that is, whether this idea would actually lead to many interesting situations. Actually I think one of the big reasons why anime has become so big in the West is really how much we can relate to it all - on the surface we say that anime is strange and unlike American TV, but upon closer examination I think that claim falls apart. In looking at the small (but noticeable) differences I think we often lose sight of the huge amount of overlap/similarities. It may be sociologically interesting to put, say, an American deep in the African wilderness, but putting a Westerner in Japan just seems to me to be sorta like... putting a Bostonian in Los Angeles. There may be some small things here and there, but all in all this really isn't that dramatic of a situation.

Forgive me for being a devil's advocate here, but it's just something that I wanted to bring up and think is useful to ponder before launching deep into this piece. Sorry if it got a bit convoluted.

EDIT: Although, I guess if the project is short then that gives you opportunity to explore a more nuanced subtle aspect of the differences here. But at the same time, I'm not sure the small cultural habits of the Japanese can really be imbued with commentary past "oh well, all cultures have small things they like to do." This can certainly make for an amusing piece, but for one that wants to make a more interpretive, deeper statement about the interplay between the West and Japan, I'm convinced this wouldn't be easy. But maybe that's not what you're going for and I'm misunderstanding something...

Last edited by QED; 2009-11-13 at 01:36.
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Old 2009-11-13, 01:32   Link #10
Ricky Controversy
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Originally Posted by QED View Post
I mean, I see where your idea is coming from, but I'm not sure that at a fundamental level there's much of a distinction to make between Japanese and America. I mean, a normal Japanese person would feel much more home in, say, New York City than in Beijing, and this holds similarly for an American (i.e. feel more at home in Tokyo than Beijing).

In a sense, a lot of things that we identify as being essential parts of "Japaneseness" when put in context seem more reactionary than "genuine." Especially after 1868, the Japanese obsession with the West led to an identity crisis (what did it mean to be Japanese when everyone was rushing to become as Western as possible?) - because of this, I believe there was a scramble to create a stable sense of "Japaneseness," by creating and rationalizing traditions. For example, baseball was popularized by the Japanese government during the late 19th century, but only after they made copious comparisons between baseball and the way of the samurai during medieval times.

Given this hypothesis then, I think we're forced to ask ourselves to examine the concept of "Japanese uniqueness" a bit more closely. Is there any fundamental reasons such uniqueness exists, or is such perceived uniqueness more a result of a fabricated system of traditions set in place in a reaction against how much Japanese and Western cultures have converged? This is a tough question to answer, but ultimately I would say that the Japanese are at their core not necessarily so different.

This is not to say that there are NO differences between Japanese and Western culture - it's just that I'm not sure how functional the idea of placing "a western protagonist" in a "distinctly Japanese" setting is - that is, whether this idea would actually lead to many interesting situations. Actually I think one of the big reasons why anime has become so big in the West is really how much we can relate to it all - on the surface we say that anime is strange and unlike American TV, but upon closer examination I think that claim falls apart. In looking at the small (but noticeable) differences I think we often lose sight of the huge amount of overlap/similarities. It may be sociologically interesting to put, say, an American deep in the African wilderness, but putting a Westerner in Japan just seems to me to be sorta like... putting a Bostonian in Los Angeles. There may be some small things here and there, but all in all this really isn't that dramatic of a situation.

Forgive me for being a devil's advocate here, but it's just something that I wanted to bring up and think is useful to ponder before launching deep into this piece. Sorry if it got a bit convoluted.
Fair points all, though allow me to hit on the return here and say that moving between societies with largely similar core values can still be jarring if the mannerisms and idioms a 'native' takes for granted are substantially different than those of the 'outsider's' culture. Much in the same way that untrained but gifted artists can understand the concepts of their craft on a very intrinsic level, but get lost when talking to a less talented but more trained academic about it, it is possible to resonate very deeply with a culture but simply not have a method of communicating or connecting with it.

I believe the less dramatic differences between Japanese culture and Western culture can prove pretty compelling. If you think about the difference between, say, the cultures of American New England and The U.K., the underlying heart is shared by the two cultures, but I can't tell you how often during time in Boston I've seen Brits entirely baffled by how every day things are done there. If you really want to get down to it, there's enough of a difference between cultures as closely related as those of New York and Boston. I think in those terms, a Westerner could believably and compellingly feel displaced in a Japanese setting, even without resorting to the "Crazy Traditionalist Uncle's Dojo In The Mountains" setting.
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Old 2009-11-13, 01:49   Link #11
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Originally Posted by Ricky Controversy View Post
Fair points all, though allow me to hit on the return here and say that moving between societies with largely similar core values can still be jarring if the mannerisms and idioms a 'native' takes for granted are substantially different than those of the 'outsider's' culture. Much in the same way that untrained but gifted artists can understand the concepts of their craft on a very intrinsic level, but get lost when talking to a less talented but more trained academic about it, it is possible to resonate very deeply with a culture but simply not have a method of communicating or connecting with it.

I believe the less dramatic differences between Japanese culture and Western culture can prove pretty compelling. If you think about the difference between, say, the cultures of American New England and The U.K., the underlying heart is shared by the two cultures, but I can't tell you how often during time in Boston I've seen Brits entirely baffled by how every day things are done there. If you really want to get down to it, there's enough of a difference between cultures as closely related as those of New York and Boston. I think in those terms, a Westerner could believably and compellingly feel displaced in a Japanese setting, even without resorting to the "Crazy Traditionalist Uncle's Dojo In The Mountains" setting.
Oh yes, I definitely agree that there are copious small differences between how things are done in the West and in Japan. My only issue though, is whether focusing on these issues would actually lead to a meaningful look into Japan as a society, or merely be commentary on cultural differences in a more abstract sense. I think these differences (as you pointed out) exist between many pairs of places (even closely related ones), and my major issue is that pointing out these small things as a *culturally specific study* seems to have limited utility. How can you say that "this is Japan and an interesting statement on how Westerners view the Japanese" rather than "oh, this is another example of the small nuanced cultural divergences that are inescapable when you travel to a faraway place"? What necessarily makes this study "Japanese" in a meaningful way?
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Old 2009-11-13, 01:56   Link #12
Ricky Controversy
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Originally Posted by QED View Post
Oh yes, I definitely agree that there are copious small differences between how things are done in the West and in Japan. My only issue though, is whether focusing on these issues would actually lead to a meaningful look into Japan as a society, or merely be commentary on cultural differences in a more abstract sense. I think these differences (as you pointed out) exist between many pairs of places (even closely related ones), and my major issue is that pointing out these small things as a *culturally specific study* seems to have limited utility. How can you say that "this is Japan and an interesting statement on how Westerners view the Japanese" rather than "oh, this is another example of the small nuanced cultural divergences that are inescapable when you travel to a faraway place"? What necessarily makes this study "Japanese" in a meaningful way?
Ah, true, that's a good question. I may be getting too meta with this thought, but what if that ended up being part of the commentary itself? What if the character's difficulties are actually marked by some measure of resistance simply because on a basic level, she doesn't appreciate Japanese culture for what it is--different in nuanced ways, but overlapping in many core values--and perhaps play on the expectation of the less sociologically informed Western anime audience who perhaps plays out, in their heads, the expectation that Japan is radically different at its heart and the ties are only superficial?

That would take a pretty heavily textured presentation, but then I find I tend to enjoy shorts most when there's a lot of value packed into that span. What do you think? I'm interested both in Blanc's response and yours, QED, since you seem pretty astute. Am I just over-rationalizing it?
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:14   Link #13
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Originally Posted by QED View Post
Actually I think one of the big reasons why anime has become so big in the West is really how much we can relate to it all - on the surface we say that anime is strange and unlike American TV, but upon closer examination I think that claim falls apart.
I have to pretty strongly disagree with this.

American TV is significantly different from anime, in my view; very different.

This is due to at least a couple issues...

1) The Japanese have nothing akin to what I would call "political correctness", whereas the impact of political correctness can be seen on almost all American TV shows.

2) Romances are handled far differently in animes than they are in American shows. You put your average American TV show teenaged male protagonist into an anime harem, and he'd probably be having sex with every female in sight, to be blunt. But harem anime leads, by and large, do not do that, or even consider doing that. And there's a cultural reason or two for this, I believe...

You really, really do not see American TV shows handle romance the way anime shows do. You just don't.


Anime has become so big in the West, in part, because it offers something that American TV shows don't offer anymore. For one thing, it offers old-fashioned romances, that you just don't see on American TV shows any more. Not from what I've seen, anyway. And I'm a fan of old-fashioned romances.
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:18   Link #14
blanc
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Wow...

alright, well that was incredibly academic QED - I wasn't expecting that (in a good way)

You guys are giving me feedback I'd expect from my thesis professor BUT you guys know exactly what I am referring to concerning anime... which makes this all amazing for me.

How do I respond?

I understand your points concerning the reactionary element to what is consider contemporary Japanese traditions; however, these qualities are also deeply rooted in Japanese history, which goes far beyond government instated "cultural encouragement"

BUT, you are clearly well versed on this topic - much more so than I am, so I may be digging myself into a hole here...

I think at the end of the day, though, I would have to disagree with the claim that Western culture and Japanese culture are fundamentally rather similar. I am of the opinion, that, despite Japan's embrace of western culture and western emulation, they do so through a remarkably thick and evident "Japanese filter"

On a different note, I personally feel that the slice of life genre highlights key differences between western culture and Japanese culture... or perhaps "sensibility" is a better word than "culture"

I find that the pacing and tonality of something like lucky star wouldn't fly in the US in anything remotely approaching mainstream media, am I right?

I find that much of anime in the US has become popular not because of cultural similarities, but because of kickass action, giant robots, hot chicks, and various other "cool" uses of animation (naruto stuff, I don't know) not that I'm judging this variety, its just not what I'm pin pointing with my concept...

The whole point of this piece is to give something to the western anime fan who specifically identifies with anime, which relates Japanese lifestyles and Japanese cultural properties such as Lucky Star, Ichigo Mashimaro, My Neighbors the Yamada's, GA Geijutsuka, etc...

The sentiment I'm attempting to investigate is the dissatisfaction the western anime fan feels upon sympathizing, relating, or appreciating properties of these animations, which, at the same time, leave the viewer lacking or missing something from western culture...

Quote:
I believe the less dramatic differences between Japanese culture and Western culture can prove pretty compelling.
I'm with you on this one... I don't know how much drama I'm actually going for. I'd like to emulate slice of life and place a western in this world... looking for some kind of catharsis, maybe.

Also, I plan on doing this through a magical event, so there is a bit of allegory or fantasy involved in the premise
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:46   Link #15
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Originally Posted by Ricky Controversy View Post
Ah, true, that's a good question. I may be getting too meta with this thought, but what if that ended up being part of the commentary itself? What if the character's difficulties are actually marked by some measure of resistance simply because on a basic level, she doesn't appreciate Japanese culture for what it is--different in nuanced ways, but overlapping in many core values--and perhaps play on the expectation of the less sociologically informed Western anime audience who perhaps plays out, in their heads, the expectation that Japan is radically different at its heart and the ties are only superficial?

That would take a pretty heavily textured presentation, but then I find I tend to enjoy shorts most when there's a lot of value packed into that span. What do you think? I'm interested both in Blanc's response and yours, QED, since you seem pretty astute. Am I just over-rationalizing it?
Hmmm... so in order to really pinpoint something special to the Japanese, you are suggesting that we juxtapose Western perceptions of Japanese/West relations and reality, and show how the discrepancies between these two things lead to tension in how the protagonist deals with his/her predicament? That's pretty interesting actually... and would be a pretty good way to do it in my opinion, but I'm with you when you say that it would be pretty difficult to pull off. Then again, I don't think this project would be easy if framed in any deep sociological context.

PS: When did we agree that the protagonist was female? =p.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Triple_R
1) The Japanese have nothing akin to what I would call "political correctness", whereas the impact of political correctness can be seen on almost all American TV shows.

2) Romances are handled far differently in animes than they are in American shows. You put your average American TV show teenaged male protagonist into an anime harem, and he'd probably be having sex with every female in sight, to be blunt. But harem anime leads, by and large, do not do that, or even consider doing that. And there's a cultural reason or two for this, I believe...
Do you really feel this is that fundamental of a difference? Yes, the Japanese are willing to put a lot more stuff in anime than Americans are probably willing to put in their TV shows (this is actually something I constantly point out to friends), but in what way does this in any special way show that the Japanese are unique?

I think that my point is that these differences arise from cultural idiosyncrasies that are more deliberately developed aspects of Japanese life rather than some basic difference in the character of the Japanese people. When we watch anime, perhaps it's the superficially unfamiliar elements that hook us - the political incorrectness and treatment of harem themes are good examples - but it's ultimately the familiar motifs that keep us watching. For example, if they set a harem romance in, say, Tokugawa Japan, before the more modern *Western* ideals of dating and marrying for love inundated the Japanese consciousness, then you'd probably stop watching after the novelty wore off. And Tokugawa Japan is the biggest source of what we know as "Japanese tradition."

(I actually might write a research paper on this topic soon - how otaku culture in Japan has affected Western perceptions of Japaneseness, and what social implications - both in the West and in Japan - such perceptions have. This entire thread is actually helping me focus my thoughts a lot)

Quote:
Originally Posted by blanc
Wow...

alright, well that was incredibly academic QED - I wasn't expecting that (in a good way)

You guys are giving me feedback I'd expect from my thesis professor BUT you guys know exactly what I am referring to concerning anime... which makes this all amazing for me.

How do I respond?

I understand your points concerning the reactionary element to what is consider contemporary Japanese traditions; however, these qualities are also deeply rooted in Japanese history, which goes far beyond government instated "cultural encouragement"

BUT, you are clearly well versed on this topic - much more so than I am, so I may be digging myself into a hole here...

I think at the end of the day, though, I would have to disagree with the claim that Western culture and Japanese culture are fundamentally rather similar. I am of the opinion, that, despite Japan's embrace of western culture and western emulation, they do so through a remarkably thick and evident "Japanese filter"

On a different note, I personally feel that the slice of life genre highlights key differences between western culture and Japanese culture... or perhaps "sensibility" is a better word than "culture"

I find that the pacing and tonality of something like lucky star wouldn't fly in the US in anything remotely approaching mainstream media, am I right?

I find that much of anime in the US has become popular not because of cultural similarities, but because of kickass action, giant robots, hot chicks, and various other "cool" uses of animation (naruto stuff, I don't know) not that I'm judging this variety, its just not what I'm pin pointing with my concept...

The whole point of this piece is to give something to the western anime fan who specifically identifies with anime, which relates Japanese lifestyles and Japanese cultural properties such as Lucky Star, Ichigo Mashimaro, My Neighbors the Yamada's, GA Geijutsuka, etc...

The sentiment I'm attempting to investigate is the dissatisfaction the western anime fan feels upon sympathizing, relating, or appreciating properties of these animations, which, at the same time, leave the viewer lacking or missing something from western culture...
As to the first half of your post, I'm not sure the fact that traditions were taken that were initially deeply rooted in Japanese history is compelling evidence to believe that the traditions were not revived for more shallow, self-serving reasons - to put this in perspective you may want to take a look at the article "The Invention of Edo" by Carol Gluck.

I think the first reaction of an American when watching anime is "wow this is so weird!" It's a human tendency, but we immediately latch onto differences in anything we see - the only reason lucky star wouldn't work on US television, in my opinion, is because the differences are highlighted enough that an American audience would never get past the initial shock to appreciate the cultural overlap. I also don't think slice of life is a heavily used genre in America, which is also a factor (although in my view there's no reason why SoL shouldn't be able to be popular in America).

So yeah, anime initially hooks you because of all those Japanese quirks, but I don't feel that's why you keep watching (see my response to Triple_R).

So I mean, I'm not sure I understand where this dissatisfaction is coming from. Objects like "giant robots" and etc. are certainly culturally interesting objects, but I don't know if they go far past the surface of the issue.

Then again, as I mentioned originally, maybe I'm completely overthinking the intent of this project. If it's to explore some of the small cultural peculiarities of the Japanese, then I think that's fantastic and you'll have a great time with it. But if it's to make any generalizations or interpretive statements about Japanese culture in the abstract, I think the project will need quite a bit of thought and might become very complex very quickly.

Woo that was a long one.
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:47   Link #16
Ricky Controversy
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Originally Posted by blanc View Post
I think at the end of the day, though, I would have to disagree with the claim that Western culture and Japanese culture are fundamentally rather similar. I am of the opinion, that, despite Japan's embrace of western culture and western emulation, they do so through a remarkably thick and evident "Japanese filter"
Well, I feel like QED and I largely agree on the nature of this landscape, so allow me to try to clarify that this 'filter' is the issue of manners/idioms that I was trying to articulate previously. Post-Meiji Japan...well, how sincere the 'roots in tradition' image some people try to advocate is up to interpretation, I feel that it was rationalization for accepting what concessions to Western progress had to be accepted to be competitive in the modern world. But, nevertheless, the power of that idiomatic filter, the customs and ways of life that survived in spite of a shift in core values definitely makes a big difference.

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On a different note, I personally feel that the slice of life genre highlights key differences between western culture and Japanese culture... or perhaps "sensibility" is a better word than "culture"

I find that the pacing and tonality of something like lucky star wouldn't fly in the US in anything remotely approaching mainstream media, am I right?
Probably not. One of the idioms that does separate us is that in Japanese culture, the connection drawn between temporality and sadness has survived as part of their creative aesthetic, where (average) Western audiences tend to desire instant gratification. While I didn't like Lucky Star for various reasons, the relative idleness and aimlessness of it does generate a very Japanese sense of drifting through time rather than rushing through it.

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I find that much of anime in the US has become popular not because of cultural similarities, but because of kickass action, giant robots, hot chicks, and various other "cool" uses of animation (naruto stuff, I don't know) not that I'm judging this variety, its just not what I'm pin pointing with my concept...
This is probably true as regards the anime that is considered 'mainstream' acceptable in the West, but there is definitely an audience for the more thoughtful things. Western intellectual/artistic culture is still very vibrant and patient, it's just hidden by a bigger population.


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The whole point of this piece is to give something to the western anime fan who specifically identifies with anime, which relates Japanese lifestyles and Japanese cultural properties such as Lucky Star, Ichigo Mashimaro, My Neighbors the Yamada's, GA Geijutsuka, etc...

The sentiment I'm attempting to investigate is the dissatisfaction the western anime fan feels upon sympathizing, relating, or appreciating properties of these animations, which, at the same time, leave the viewer lacking or missing something from western culture...
Okay, so it seems the discussion has helped you articulate your goals a bit more precisely. To proceed anew from here, you need to first pinpoint what, specifically this character feels is missing. Is the character a stand-in for Western culture as a whole, and therefore has a whole laundry list of expectations? Or is it maybe one particular thing? The former makes your statement clearer, while the latter makes the character more potentially resonant, if that feeling that something is missing is one that meshes with their persona as a whole.

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Also, I plan on doing this through a magical event, so there is a bit of allegory or fantasy involved in the premise
Okay, that's absolutely all right, just make sure you don't get too ambitious with this short: keep the fantasy elements in check so they don't detract from your Slice-of-Life emotional development time.


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Hmmm... so in order to really pinpoint something special to the Japanese, you are suggesting that we juxtapose Western perceptions of Japanese/West relations and reality, and show how the discrepancies between these two things lead to tension in how the protagonist deals with his/her predicament? That's pretty interesting actually... and would be a pretty good way to do it in my opinion, but I'm with you when you say that it would be pretty difficult to pull off. Then again, I don't think this project would be easy in any sociological context.
Granted, that's why I was wondering if I was perhaps taking it too far, and I'm still wondering about Blanc's thoughts on that specific facet. As a note to Blanc, if you choose to explore an angle this layered, you need to give some very detailed thought to your protagonist so that you can make subtle things like expectation, perception and the conflict between them come through. You'll be working textural overtime from a narrative perspective...I can provide some consultation on that as a writer, if you're interested, but I imagine you can handle this on your own.

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PS: When did we agree that the protagonist was female? =p.
When I've never accepted he/she or him/her as valid and decided I was feeling feminine tonight. Heh.
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:48   Link #17
blanc
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This is also a side bar, (and I was only living in Japan for a few months, but...)

Masculinity in Japan? totally different. The main stream guys in tokyo are all sorts of effeminate, which I really began to appreciate, while I was there...

But thats not what I'm doing my piece on, I just thought that was a fairly non-superficial difference between Japan and the west. Oh yeah, and they're like 99.9% homogeneous, which is bound to create some fairly massive and deeply rooted cultural differences beyond minor nuances, right?
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:51   Link #18
Spectacular_Insanity
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Well, in fact there are a lot of times "Westerners", as you put it, are occasionally protrayed in Japanese SoL anime, but very rarely are they actually portrayed as accurately as I would expect a non-japanese living in japan to be. I mean, the foreigners portrayed in japanese anime are either portrayed as either completely ignorant (which if they really were, why were they in Japan?) or far too familiar (a non-japanese could not possibly NOT have questions about what stuff is, like strange foods, etc).

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I'm just pointing out the fact that any portrayal typically follows a model of stereotype, as westerners (almost always female) are shown to be loud, brash, extremely outgoing, and (more often than not) blonde.
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:51   Link #19
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Originally Posted by blanc View Post
This is also a side bar, (and I was only living in Japan for a few months, but...)

Masculinity in Japan? totally different. The main stream guys in tokyo are all sorts of effeminate, which I really began to appreciate, while I was there...

But thats not what I'm doing my piece on, I just thought that was a fairly non-superficial difference between Japan and the west. Oh yeah, and they're like 99.9% homogeneous, which is bound to create some fairly massive and deeply rooted cultural differences beyond minor nuances, right?
Perhaps you should take a trip to a high-class hostess club =p. But yeah on average I'd say that the Japanese people can be construed to be more reserved.

PS: I've never actually lived in or visited Japan, but have studied it pretty extensively. I plan to go there this summer (hopefully).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectacular_Insanity
Well, in fact there are a lot of times "Westerners", as you put it, are occasionally protrayed in Japanese SoL anime, but very rarely are they actually portrayed as accurately as I would expect a non-japanese living in japan to be. I mean, the foreigners portrayed in japanese anime are either portrayed as either completely ignorant (which if they really were, why were they in Japan?) or far too familiar (a non-japanese could not possibly NOT have questions about what stuff is, like strange foods, etc).

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I'm just pointing out the fact that any portrayal typically follows a model of stereotype, as westerners (almost always female) are shown to be loud, brash, extremely outgoing, and (more often than not) blonde.
Yeah, there are a LOT of Western stereotypes in Japan, and a lot of them are unpleasant. This sorta fits the model that Japaneseness itself was largely a reactionary construct to Western influences though.

(And the length of and thought put into my responses have an inverse relationship with how late it getssssssss...)
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Old 2009-11-13, 02:59   Link #20
blanc
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Alright and that last thing I wrote was not in anyway a response to everything above it...
I hit send on that before I saw any of those responses...

Quote:
Okay, so it seems the discussion has helped you articulate your goals a bit more precisely. To proceed anew from here, you need to first pinpoint what, specifically this character feels is missing. Is the character a stand-in for Western culture as a whole, and therefore has a whole laundry list of expectations? Or is it maybe one particular thing? The former makes your statement clearer, while the latter makes the character more potentially resonant, if that feeling that something is missing is one that meshes with their persona as a whole.
this is a key set of questions specific to my concept, I'd say. Hitting at the core of what I'm trying to achieve. And for that reason difficult to articulate

But its so good all of this was brought up!

I think maybe its time I hit you with the narrative pitch to get some advice on how this is all sorts of not right:

I imagine the protagonist being a male, american otaku...

who, through the use of a magic box (i.e. the internets) is introduce to a Japanese schoolgirl named Michiko... she comes through the box and brings him back to her home, which is in the box, but we find that once in the box, you can exit through the front door and its straight up Japan - a tokyo suburb, small street, with homes and train station nearby....

and then Japanese things ensue...

This is the problem I have - I have narrative ideas and I have conceptual ideas.

In order for my thesis to have any form of academic foundation, I need to start with my conceptual ideas, but getting them into a narrative form is proving difficult and incompatible with my typically prolific, yet, now, oddly stifled creative side...

help
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