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Old 2012-11-26, 04:07   Link #64
Le fou, c'est moi
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Las Vegas, NV, USA
Age: 29
^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.
Irenicus is offline   Reply With Quote