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Old 2012-11-25, 20:55   Link #61
Triple_R
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I think what Vexx is talking about is the classic spouse/friends "conflict" that you see in a lot of sitcoms (or at least you used to see that conflict a lot).

In other words, the husband frequently has to make this choice - Am I going to spend some time doing something with my wife this weekend, or am I going to hang out with "the guys"?

Ideally, there's some give-and-take here. If a man is always putting "the guys" ahead of his wife, then that's a sure recipe for eventual marital failure (if not collapse). OTOH, if a wife insists on her husband always spending his free time with her, that'll make the husband feel suffocated. So, practically speaking, sometimes the wife comes first; sometimes "the guys" come first. And in a balanced middle-aged male life, that's probably how it should be.


Also, I think we need to be careful here - Not all adult men in their late 20s or older are married. And not all have kids. I do think that "family" and "friends" have a bit of an inverse relationship: The more you have of the one, the less you need of the other. A single adult man in his 30s without any children or siblings may well need friends just as much as a 12 year old boy does.


All of the above being said, I get how "I will win through the power of Friendship and Love!" can seem really corny. Actually saying those lines just sounds wrong in a live-action show (TRL is right, though, about how an animated show can somehow get away with this.)

Still, there's some definite truth to the old saying of "No man is an island". So I do think that friendship is important, all throughout life.
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Old 2012-11-25, 21:36   Link #62
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Originally Posted by Guernsey View Post
This isn't just limited to just anime or more specifically shonen, I noticed that a lot of anime use that whole 'power of friendship' theme.
In ANY medium -- stories involve friendship in one form or another. It's human nature to rely on friendship to get through troubles.

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Originally Posted by Guernsey View Post
I wonder if it has anything to do with collectivism as in the United States we tend to value the individual rather than the whole.

The whole self-reliance thing is a myth; and it is something professed in North Korea. You can be a successful person or a bum. It is hard to make it anywhere without the assistance of others. In fact, the most successful people in America (and anywhere else) have people around them, who can provide them with support.
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Old 2012-11-26, 02:24   Link #63
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In response to Jan-Poo's query to Kirarakim and Vexx about the relevance of their replies, I refer back to OP's post.

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Originally Posted by Guernsey View Post
In real life, having friends is a good thing and friends come and go but it seems like in anime friendship is basically the only thing that is important. Does it have something to do with the culture of Japan? I know in the East, friendship and family is a lot more valued here than in the West.
He asked whether friendship in anime reflected a greater emphasis on friendship in real-life Japan. So, in that view, Vexx and Nightbat's replies are relevant to the discussion.

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Originally Posted by Guernsey View Post
I wonder if it has anything to do with collectivism as in the United States we tend to value the individual rather than the whole. With that siad why is this so prevalent in anime especially shonen?
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Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
I have seen it argued that there is a great deal of nostalgia for high school among Japanese adults. They idealize that time as the last period of freedom before the demands of the Japanese workplace radically restrict their lives. I have no personal experience to know how true this is, but I have seen it mentioned more than once when it comes to anime.

Nostalgia seems to be a strong component of adult Japanese culture... I suspect this emphasis on nostalgia derives from what I detect as a stronger historical sensibility among the Japanese as befits a culture that spans many centuries.
As to the above points, I don't think we'll get anything close to a definitive answer unless a native Japanese or someone who has grown up in their culture replies to this thread.

However, for what it's worth, perhaps we can exchange notes about school life and teenage life? I'm curious about the differences between East Asian (read Confucian) and Western (read European and American) attitudes towards those crucial formative years of our lives. I would hazard a guess that my experience of primary and secondary school (the equivalent of Grade 1 to 10 in the US system, that is, if Grade 10 actually exists in the US) is closer to the Japanese system than that of the West's.


I know for a fact that the friendships I formed in secondary school and junior college (no US equivalent; I spent two years in junior college preparing for the British A-level qualifications used for entry into British universities) are more meaningful and far more lasting than any friendship I have formed at work. In fact, it's probably more true to say that I haven't made any real "friends" at work. By that, I mean friends you regularly hang out with or confide in. I'm plenty friendly with almost everyone I work with but, ultimately, the majority of them would qualify more as acquaintances than friends.

It was very different in school. In Singapore's case, school children start wearing uniforms starting from primary school (Grades 1 to 6), and all the way through junior college. Those of us who opted for polytechnics (to earn diplomas) instead of junior college would switch out of uniforms sooner. The very act of wearing uniforms promoted a sense of solidarity with one's school and classmates, and in Singapore's case, one's school spirit can be very strong, depending on the school's history and, to a certain extent, its pedigree.

I wouldn't describe this school spirit as "collectivism" though. It's more a case of group identity, in the way I imagine American undergrads would identify strongly with their universities, and especially with their university sports teams.

In my case, I was elected into the Students' Council during junior college. And I spent a heady year as a councillor, being heavily involved in the organisation of various school festivals, including the two most important festivals in our academic calendar, the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn celebrations. As student leaders, my fellow councillors and I were also responsible for leading the student body in cheering for our school teams at national competitions. Through all the ups and downs, we councillors became almost like a separate class of our own. It was a highly emotional day when we stepped down and handed the baton to the next batch of councillors.

The irony was that I wasn't anywhere near as active during my secondary school years. In fact, I wanted to be a librarian, but because I was a cadet scout in primary school, I got "drafted" into my secondary school's Scout troop. I hated it for the first two years, and did the bare minimum, with the troop's teaching adviser practically begging me and a few other "draftees" to at least pass the Scouting bronze standard before we got to Secondary 4, during which we were automatically promoted to Venture Scout status.

Even so, I actually enjoyed a few scouting activities, like camping, kayaking and hiking. It was all the inane "pass tests to collect merit badges" activity I hated. But the peculiar thing about my particular troop was that we had two extra activities bundled with our normal Scouting stuff: we could opt to be part of either the bugle band or the lion dancing troop, both of which, for some obscure reason, were affliated to the Scout troop.

Once again, I was co-opted against my will into the bugle band. We were awful. The joke among our schoolmates was that we were the funeral band. It was especially humiliating when you consider that our school's brass band was among the top in Singapore at the time, if not the top. But, curiously, through our shared suffering, the members of the bugle band developed a friendly camaraderie, and a very warped sense of self-referential humour that quickly acquired a notoriety of its own among the student body.

And that became the thing we has-been Scouts love to joke about whenever we get together every now and then. It may have been more than 20 years since we've graduated, but all we have to do is reminisce about those idiotic things we did as dense teenagers, and suddenly, it's like we're teenagers again.

No colleague I'd ever worked with could come close to sharing the kind of bond I have with my secondary school and junior college friends. Heck, even in university, I had already begun to miss those friendships, because people were already more individualistic by then.

So, if the Japanese experience is anything like mine, I'm not surprised at all to find so much emphasis on the "power of friendship" in anime. As SeijiSensei noted, it is indeed nostalgia that is at play. But more than that, it is nostalgia for a more carefree time when friendships truly meant the world to us.
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Old 2012-11-26, 04:07   Link #64
Irenicus
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^Interesting post, and thank you for sharing.

I would argue strongly however that this is a common feature of youth and less, though still partly, of culture. Young people do not have firm, closed identities. Friendships among teenagers mean more to each other than their adult selves would often admit.

But as I admitted above, it's also part culture, or perhaps I should say "geography," with a more complex use for the term. Put humans together "in a box," remove from their immediate view the chance to opt out, and some sort of collectivity will be worked out -- or goes down in flames. It's easier in Singapore, where geographic limitations and the less mobility of the general population means people have a much higher chance of sticking together over the years. It's easier in East Asian educational systems which, as shown in Japanese anime, enforce a class-focused system as opposed to subject-focused, so that except for a few electives, people take class together and it becomes a group identity. It's not as easy in some places like the USA, where higher overall population mobility stemming from culture and geography means people move around, all the time, and increasingly so, such that long-lasting friendships of the sort are much harder to forge and maintain. Does that mean they don't happen? No, quite the contrary.

And yes, uniforms.

This is generally viewed as a bad thing, because as your memories (and mine, too, but I shan't elaborate) show, the depth of relationships being created in such circumstances far surpass the times when people can, or know they can, stay individualized, but it might be good for some nonconformist individuals, whether they are by choice or circumstance. If nobody fits in too well, your being an outlier is sticking out less and there's space to move around. The prevalence of the "transfer student" notion in anime is a good example of this outlier identity, and the associated risks of ostracism and bullying inherent in their portrayals are good reminders of the downsides.

This sort of camaraderie-building is even possible for adults: a military at war is often a place to forge camaraderie under fire, where individual barriers dissolve into the larger collective that survives the years.

And since this kind of camaraderie among "war veterans" is in fact a highly valued and common fixture of the American dialogue, you might notice that the old West-East dichotomy once again, as it so often does, fails to acknowledge the common humanity in all of us or the other causes of differences which are not quite so cultural as they are logistical.

I think a valuable notion to the concept of friendship, from the perspective of the future (i.e. looking back into the past), is the notion of collective memory. Something in common, something big in common, helps maintain the value of that tie. And from the perspective of when "we were young," it was collective experience and collective action -- and, perhaps as important, a smaller need to make one's own choices and stake one's own boundaries. In a military you're all going to listen to orders. In a school, until the divisive and much dreaded final years when people need to think about where else to go, we're all sticking together whatever comes. So, "too much choice is a bad thing," maybe? Or more accurately, there's a trade-off that will be expensive to some and freely given for others.

[You also probably know that theorizing on the "collective memory" concept extends this sense of commonality to studies of nationalism and national identities, as well, but at the national level things are more abstract; old wars, current wars, common media, cultures, symbols, historic figures, motifs, language, and so on, maintained both formally and informally.]

And as for why the theme is so prevalent in Japanese anime. Well, it's not quite as prevalent in shoujo manga, I tell you (so that the really good best friend is often the setting's best character by far, as opposed to the heroine or the love interests), though it's still there and it's great when it's there; and you're laughed out of the room if you try and look for it in heavy dramatic "dark" action where dog eats dog and worlds are dystopic at best. Harems and such are also less inherently receptive to the theme. Horror/survival series thrive on subverting and corrupting these ties (and sometimes revel in the few success cases). But if you're surprised to find them in their full, uncorrupted glory in shounen series selling themselves to young boys and teenagers and people nostalgic for those times, or in high school settings where the nostalgia factor is even higher, well...

A last word: keyword of the day is not necessarily 友達 (tomodachi) as one would expect, but 仲間 (nakama), a subtle but interesting difference.
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Old 2012-11-26, 05:13   Link #65
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Originally Posted by Irenicus View Post
I would argue strongly however that this is a common feature of youth and less, though still partly, of culture. Young people do not have firm, closed identities. Friendships among teenagers mean more to each other than their adult selves would often admit.
I wanted to touch on this, the idealism of youth. My General Paper module (the equivalent of the anime's "homeroom") in junior college was a fiery affair, as you'd expect from a humanities class focusing on English Literature, Economics and History. There was also the fact that a few of my more vocal classmates were active members of the junior college's Debating Society (of whom I was a "part-time" member; I would have loved to be more active but the Students' Council took up most of my time after class). We had a superb "homeroom" teacher — incidentally the same teacher who advised the Debating Society — who moderated sometimes heated exchanges over a range of socio-economic and political issues. Looking back, we were so naive. But the passion, oh my, the passion with which we believed in our ideas... it is the fuel I'd like to think carries us forward to this day.

(It may also have bred the sense of elitism and entitlement that I'm often accused of, but that's a different story of a different personal journey. I make no apologies for the way it may have shaped my ego, as I am what I am, warts and all.)

The same passion was also very evident in the Students' Council. Some of my fellow councillors truly believed in the Kennedy ideal of "ask not what your country (ie, our school) can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". Some would say that our zeal approached fanaticism.

I would think this youthful idealism is what is being celebrated through anime "friendship". It recalls the time when our ideals were still pure, and not yet sullied by the cynicism of experience.

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Originally Posted by Irenicus View Post
It's easier in Singapore, where geographic limitations and the less mobility of the general population means people have a much higher chance of sticking together over the years. It's easier in East Asian educational systems which, as shown in Japanese anime, enforce a class-focused system as opposed to subject-focused, so that except for a few electives, people take class together and it becomes a group identity. It's not as easy in some places like the USA, where higher overall population mobility stemming from culture and geography means people move around, all the time, and increasingly so, such that long-lasting friendships of the sort are much harder to forge and maintain. Does that mean they don't happen? No, quite the contrary.
That's what I'd like to know. My limited knowledge of American high school life sadly comes from shows like, hmm, Beverly Hills 90210.

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Originally Posted by Irenicus View Post
And yes, uniforms.

This is generally viewed as a bad thing, because as your memories (and mine, too, but I shan't elaborate) show, the depth of relationships being created in such circumstances far surpass the times when people can, or know they can, stay individualized, but it might be good for some nonconformist individuals.
I strongly believe that uniforms are a good thing, at least in Singapore, because it prevents stratification by social class. It doesn't matter whether you're from a humble background or a privileged background — everyone, rich or poor, wears the same thing. (Of course, people being people, there will always be ways to show off one's status, but the principle of uniformity regardless of social class remains very well enforced through the school uniform.)

There is a key difference between school uniforms in Singapore and Japan, though, and that's variety. There a number of schools here with very distinctive uniforms, unlike those in Japan (at least as presented in anime, and based on my own experience from having visited the country). This serves to heighten the sense of group identity, which generally tends to make schools mean more to us while growing up. In short, it was a form of esprit de corps.

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Originally Posted by Irenicus View Post
In a military you're all going to listen to orders. In a school, until the divisive and much dreaded final years when people need to think about where else to go, we're all sticking together whatever comes. So, "too much choice is a bad thing," maybe? Or more accurately, there's a trade-off that will be expensive to some and freely given for others.
Ah yes, the military. For Singaporean guys, we have mandatory military service. That's another bonding experience that is perhaps not so "youthful" but nonetheless equally instrumental in forging a shared identity. That's another long story, though, and I'm afraid I don't have much to share about national service that's positive, heh.


All in all, I look forward to read more about the Western perspective of youth and school life.

Last edited by TinyRedLeaf; 2012-11-26 at 07:20.
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Old 2012-11-26, 06:03   Link #66
Irenicus
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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
I would think this youthful idealism is what is being celebrated through anime "friendship". It recalls the time when our ideals were still pure, and not yet sullied by the cynicism of experience.
Agreed. We all admire that idealism, envy even.

And you know what the funny thing is? While people grow more self-interested (in a broader sense -- me and mine) as they age, they don't necessarily get smarter about defending them. Witness elections, worldwide. :P

In terms of Japanese anime/manga subculture itself, the more violent, action-y the setting, the more overtly at stake a friendship, but even something as light as K-On! emphasizes how close the characters are and how far we assume they are willing to go for each other. It takes a kind of idealism to be prepared to help your companions face the world's challenges or "move the body" as the old joke goes. These characters will never say "I have family to think about, I cannot help you."

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Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf
That's what I'd like to know. My limited knowledge of American high school life sadly comes from shows like, hmm, Beverly Hills 90210.
I'm afraid I cannot be the answer for you, though.

I'll share my own story, to clarify:

I grew up in Thailand, and finished grade 9 education there [to American readers: this is the end of middle school, as Asia is generally on a 6-3-3 system; it's like the metric, they make sense, you don't]. My youthful friendships there were just as passionate and free of adult pretensions as can be expected, and though it's been years since I've talked to any of them and my memory is fading, I still think I would eagerly embrace them if I have the chance. The bond, I'd like to think, is rather strong, and can be brought back to life given chance.

But then I moved to the United States, joining its pre-collegiate educational system in grade 10 -- sophomore year of high school, in their terms.

What does this means? It means I can observe the system and it is a first person perspective somewhat removed from Hollywood dramaland, but I am not a genuine participant. My perspective is different. For starters, I spent most of the first year just getting my footing in a new country with a new language. I was plenty smart, academically, got by, had friends, and nobody bullied me or anything, but it wasn't something that would make me jump at the chance to join them in a pirate crew for a grand adventure on the seven seas, or to build a society stranded on a deserted island. Chances are it might work out just fine, I liked those people, but the bond will be forged then, not before.

And that's basically the "shounen" friendship talked about in this thread, right? Are you yourself willing to join your student council buddies to restore Singapore's glory after a zombie apocalypse?

That aside, what can I share?

First, in a busy city like where I live, people move around. There are those who stay in the same place for decades, but there are also many whose parents moved across the country to join the system at various points. This means the sense of sharing a common identity is much weaker. Schools like to oppose this by emphasizing "school spirit" and sports and teams, to limited success. In the United States, or more precisely the corner of the United States like mine, the communal spirit depends entirely on how much you're willing to put into it.

I suspect the atmosphere is drastically different in localities where people spend their whole youths around each other. This is much more likely in small towns or close-knit neighborhoods of well established cities. Suburbs are not conducive to healthy human bonding, while the melting pot means bonds have to cross boundaries -- healthier in the long run, since it means people are more sensitive to differences, to issues like racism, nor does it mean individual bonds are weaker, but it does mean a unified communal spirit is not so easy to find.

Second, on the matter of putting in your efforts and getting things out, I did participated and flourished for a year (Junior/Grade 11) in a debating club. I built ties which were deeper and more involved than usual, more reminiscent of my middle school days, but I did not keep it up, sadly enough. We were a smarter bunch than your average HS student, and yet we were as stupid as the other kids. People were characters, lively ones. Even then I was known as something of the quiet, intelligent guy, a little standoffish and out of the loop on the gossip department, but they all thought well of me.

So yes, such a bond is possible here still -- again, shared experience, shared activity, shared identity -- but one has to be proactive. This is especially pertinent because my last year I moved schools, and as a result basically isolated myself from trying very hard at keeping up with friendships. Made new friends, lost them to time and failure to keep connected, the usual.

Third, I really was not your typical high school student. Going by what I saw, what I hear when people talk, whether now or back then, American high schools are full of drama -- not Hollywood Beverly Hills drama, people do not usually get pregnant or drunk drive and crash -- but petty dramas that meant the world when we were young, you know the sort. She stole her boyfriend, he pissed on someone at a party, someone had drunk sex, she's a slut, etc., etc. I never went through any of that, I was just on the sidelines, not paying much attention.

Somehow I think a lot of Asian students in places like Japan are just like me, going through the motions, not exactly living out Kinpachi-sensei or K-On! life, which actually makes the high school friendships in anime all the more precious. People live vicariously through them.

Quote:
I strongly believe that uniforms are a good thing, at least in Singapore, because it prevents stratification by social class. It doesn't matter whether you're from a humble background or a privileged background — everyone, rich or poor, wears the same thing. (Of course, people being people, there will always be ways to show off one's status, but the principle of uniformity regardless of social class remains very well enforced through the school uniform.)
I don't necessarily means the uniforms, so much as the identity itself. A more close-knit group would, in turn, generally be less willing to accept new members and potentially weaken the ties.

They can be welcoming and courteous to outsiders, like the Japanese generally are, but few foreigners ever actually "become Japanese," sometimes even in absurd situations like the so-called "Koreans" who are born in Japanese soil and know only Japan. This is a big picture, of course. Smaller ones would be club rivalries, school rivalries, or the difficulties a transfer student in Japan has to go through to fit in, if Japanese fiction is to go by.

Uniforms themselves are interesting. They are a great equalizer, forces people to experiment with class symbols in funny little ways (read: petty, "my gold watch is better than your plastic"). On the other hand, they can literally be priced to exclude people, like sometimes happen in "high class" American private/British public schools.

Westerners in general, I find, do indeed view uniforms with a certain ambivalence. Here it is associated with "Catholic schools" and otherwise privileged schools -- they are status symbols, and, um, fetish symbols (add stockings or long black socks). According to semiotics thinking, they communicate something, that thing of which can vary greatly between places.
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Old 2012-11-26, 08:35   Link #67
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I love the shared experiences with friends that the others put in here.

Anyway, I also think that it is human to rely on your friends since no man is an island and also, there are just some things you can't do alone.
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Old 2012-11-27, 07:05   Link #68
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Just because you're a grown adult doesn't mean you don't need friends anymore. And you don't need to talk about it all day, either.
Yeah, I think it's nice to watch people being pals just for the sake of being pals -or the romance. Doesn't happen very often in real life, so kinda puts me in the positive mood seeing it being possible. The people in my area are just so grim and uncaring for the most part. Suppose it's the same in Japan, especially in the big cities.
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