View Single Post
Old 2012-11-26, 06:03   Link #66
Le fou, c'est moi
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Las Vegas, NV, USA
Age: 29
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."

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.

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.
Irenicus is offline   Reply With Quote