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Thread: Obsession with Japanese culture?

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    Biker Doc_Holliday's Avatar
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    Obsession with Japanese culture?

    I was curious as to why so many westerners have an obsession with Japanese culture. Anybody who's been on the web enough has seen those animated characters with the large eyes and exaggerated features. I even see some of it on these forums, here and there. Note that this is not meant to be 'talking down' or judgemental of those who like Japans culture, I just am curious as to where this comes from. I personally enjoy my nations culture and my local culture, I seek no need to debase myself thousands of kilometres away and obsess with a culture that isn't mine.

    So, why?
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    Bronze Member iflewoverthecuckoosnest's Avatar
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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    The animated characters you mentioned are commonly referred to as anime characters, just so ya know. I'm not particularly immured with Japanese culture and anime, but I know plenty of people who are.

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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Quote Originally Posted by iflewoverthecuckoosnest View Post
    The animated characters you mentioned are commonly referred to as anime characters, just so ya know. I'm not particularly immured with Japanese culture and anime, but I know plenty of people who are.
    Thanks, I stopped myself from calling them cartoons because I knew there was a different name. Just couldn't quite put my finger on it.
    White and Red 'till I'm cold and dead.
    In Days of yore,
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    Wolfe the dauntless hero came
    And planted firm Britannia's flag
    On Canada's fair domain.
    Here may it wave,
    Our boast, our pride
    And joined in love together,
    The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
    The Maple Leaf Forever.

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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Same difference, really...anime is short for animation, so it's just Japanese cartoons, and then other names for different variations and types.

    I've been friends with a lot of otaku in my time(the folks who get obsessive about it) and there seem to be a couple of factors at play that stick out with a humanities/art history background.

    The first is that it's a bit of a Through the Looking Glass thing: Anime started to hit the American consciousness back in the late 80's early 90's(Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Daiguard), but the internet was what really made it blow up into something bigger then a tiny pocket geekdom(like my non-indian friends who are obsessed with Bollywood). The style of these cartoons imitates as much, if not more, Western culture then it does Japanese culture, and began with Jaoan's post WWII obsession with the West. Western Christianity, European Medieval culture, and more modern concepts like modern Western dating culture all were examined and played with as exotic ideas, in turn influencing Japanese culture and getting rehashed back to North America and Europe in a novel--but still very accessible because they were Western concepts to begin with--way. I could give specific examples, but you probably wouldn't be interested, Doc?


    One example that might resonate for you, is that one might argue that the strange hair colors and features, including the big eyes, are a stylized take on Western features and diversity of coloring. Consider that Japan, while having extremely concentrated urban centers, has very little diversity of and places an extremely strong emphasis on fitting in with those around you in every possible way, to the point of rather severe, if polite, xenophobia. The only different population, the Ainu, were hunted almost to the point of extinction, and few live outside of tourist traps to this day who would admit Ainu heritage for fear of prejudice and repercussions. Those who have a multi-ethnic background, even if partially Japanese, are treated very differently. People who cos-play, or dress up like favorite anime characters, do so with wigs and keep it very separate from their day-to-day life. They do not have the cultural freedom to experiment with strange hair colors and tattoos that an American kid into anime might have. The eyes, in particular, are usually considered a stylized version of Western features, a take on Western eye shape that has been ongoing since Japan became open to Western trade in the 19th Century. Paraphrasing, but one of the officials who met some of the first Western women to travel to Japan during that period wrote to friend that they had "dog's eyes" which he found "disheartening".


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    Lord Contrarian Denarius's Avatar
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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc_Holliday View Post
    Thanks, I stopped myself from calling them cartoons because I knew there was a different name. Just couldn't quite put my finger on it.
    They're cartoons, anime is just the japanese word for cartoons. Mickey Mouse is considered an anime character in Japan. Anime is a useful term for differentiating it from western animation, but calling them japanese cartoons does the same and is in no way incorrect. Before the mid-nineties "japanimation" was the preferred term.

    At any rate, for me at least anime was a HUGE part of my childhood. Cartoons being for kids, young kids at that, is pretty well ingrained into western thoughts. You get the occasional mature show, like Batman: TAS or Samurai Jack, but by and large those shows are the exception.

    That connotation is far less pronounced in Japan, to the extant that the teenage and adult demographics are significantly more prominent than ten and under. Anime grew up with me, cartoons for the most part didn't.

    Most cartoons aimed at adults are based around crude humour and cursing, which has it's place to be sure but doesn't lend credence to the idea of animation being a valid medium.

    Let's compare an anime and a cartoon side by side.



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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc_Holliday View Post
    I seek no need to debase myself thousands of kilometres away and obsess with a culture that isn't mine.
    In what way is it debasing to be interested in another country's culture?

    Personally, I like the anime, the video games, the history, the mythology. Japan is an interesting place.
    Yikes, all that cultural appropriation that used to be here tho

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    Sr. Member Rhaethe's Avatar
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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Quote Originally Posted by Denarius View Post
    They're cartoons, anime is just the japanese word for cartoons. Mickey Mouse is considered an anime character in Japan. Anime is a useful term for differentiating it from western animation, but calling them japanese cartoons does the same and is in no way incorrect. Before the mid-nineties "japanimation" was the preferred term.

    At any rate, for me at least anime was a HUGE part of my childhood. Cartoons being for kids, young kids at that, is pretty well ingrained into western thoughts. You get the occasional mature show, like Batman: TAS or Samurai Jack, but by and large those shows are the exception.

    That connotation is far less pronounced in Japan, to the extant that the teenage and adult demographics are significantly more prominent than ten and under. Anime grew up with me, cartoons for the most part didn't.

    Most cartoons aimed at adults are based around crude humour and cursing, which has it's place to be sure but doesn't lend credence to the idea of animation being a valid medium.

    Let's compare an anime and a cartoon side by side.

    Not that I have a horse in this particular race, but the comparison you give is not exactly accurate. There are plenty of Japanese anime series that are focused to adults and contain crude humor, cursing and the like, that aren't hentai, which is its own thing, mind you. There are also western animated series / pieces that are just that, animated pieces that are nothing like "Regular Show". Since we are cherry picking .... here are some clips from Super Milk Chan, which is fairly "Regular Show" in flavor.




    Conversely, there were some good non-Regular Show pieces done by western folks






    Now, I will grant you that there is less "serious" western animation than eastern. However, I wouldn't say that one was superior to the other.

    Just like I like some movies, and dislike others, there are plenty of anime/animated movies I like, and plenty I dislike. Entertainment is just that to me ... entertainment. I don't discount western animation automatically, nor do I give auto-accolades to Japanese animation. They both have their good pieces and their trash.

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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Thanks for the insights everybody, I'm starting to see how it might have actually started from childhood, pokemon and the sort. Also the cultural stem from ww2 is something I wouldn't have thought off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quetzal View Post
    In what way is it debasing to be interested in another country's culture?
    I never said having an interest in any culture is debasing, I made sure to avoid saying that. I said obsession, that was my choice word. Like when it comes to the point that somebody partakes in Japanese things more than Canadian, American, UK etc. I'm interested in a lot of cultures but I don't feel the need to obsess over them.
    White and Red 'till I'm cold and dead.
    In Days of yore,
    From Britain's shore
    Wolfe the dauntless hero came
    And planted firm Britannia's flag
    On Canada's fair domain.
    Here may it wave,
    Our boast, our pride
    And joined in love together,
    The thistle, shamrock, rose entwined,
    The Maple Leaf Forever.

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    Lord Contrarian Denarius's Avatar
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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhaethe View Post
    I don't discount western animation automatically, nor do I give auto-accolades to Japanese animation. They both have their good pieces and their trash.
    I actually like a lot of western cartoons, including the Regular Show.

    I would say that anime has far more garbage than western cartoons. It has a big problem with pedophilia, incest, and harem shows. It is seriously an epidemic.

    I even specifically said that there are good and mature western cartoons, it's just that the anime industry has far more than it's fair share.
    Trust is knowing someone or something well enough to have a good idea of their motivations and character, for good or for ill. People often say trust when they mean faith.

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    Re: Obsession with Japanese culture?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doc_Holliday View Post
    I never said having an interest in any culture is debasing, I made sure to avoid saying that. I said obsession, that was my choice word. Like when it comes to the point that somebody partakes in Japanese things more than Canadian, American, UK etc. I'm interested in a lot of cultures but I don't feel the need to obsess over them.
    Fair enough, thanks for clarifying. In that case, it's no different than any other obsession really. Some people take it too far and it gets unhealthy.
    Yikes, all that cultural appropriation that used to be here tho

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