Hey, Answerman! IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUES
by Zac Bertschy, Nov 1st 2007
Welp, we had a brief, unannounced hiatus last week but we're back and ready to go this time around. I'm still sick of talking about fansubs and Kodomo no Jikan, though, so this week we're going to tackle some IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUES; you know, like racism and politics and all that stuff. Sounds like a blast, doesn't it?
Well, there's an obvious short answer to this one; anime is primarily adapted from comics aimed at kids or adolescents, and rarely will you find a manga aimed at the 9-17 year old crowd that's bursting with political allegory or social relevance. Naruto is not likely to feature a storyline that's a thinly-veiled condemnation of American foreign policy.
You also have to consider the fact that right now in America we have a LOT of politically-charged entertainment. There's a war on, and politics have been as divisive as ever over the last decade or so. We have a lot of movies and television series that feature political content, or at least espouse a political viewpoint (even without being obvious about it). The climate is different here, so we're getting a lot of stuff like that. That another country's creative output doesn't reflect that isn't some kind of discrepancy, it's just a fact of life.
Anime is also basically escapist entertainment; just like you won't really find politically slanted episodes of Xena Warrior Princess, anime tends to be all about the fantasy of the situation. So while the anime series you're watching might have a moral to it - every Gundam show I believe eventually makes the same anti-war points - they're not really "political" nor do they cover socially relevant issues. That's not to say there aren't any anime series that have political or social themes to them; off the top of my head, I can think of Flag, a show Bandai is releasing about a war photographer, and of course, Fullmetal Alchemist. People tend to argue that the storyline in FMA wasn't political, but in an interview I did with the show's screenwriter while back for a magazine I no longer work for, they spoke - extensively, I might add - about how the war themes in the series were directly intended to comment both on Vietnam and the Iraq war. Of course, since the Japanese tend to be overzealous in protecting their image, the screenwriter's handler demanded we cut that part out of the interview before it went to print (there were a lot of other things in that interview I wish had made it to print; that show is a lot more complicated than some people give it credit for).
That said, your observations aren't incorrect, but I think it has more to do with internet forum culture than it has to do with any sort of weird correlation between liking Japanese cartoons and being a racist. If you want an example of some pretty heinous racism (although admittedly I'd be more apt to call it "xenophobia" as a social construct rather than out-and-out racism), there are a LOT of Japanese anime forums online that condone that sort of thing within their forums culture. In a sense, they're attempting to - albeit in a particularly awful way - protect their image as the "pure" fans, the only people who truly "get it", being native citizens of the country that produces anime as a cultural export.
That's kind of a flowery way to say "whether or not they intend to, some Japanese anime fans come across online as being really racist and xenophobic especially when it involves Koreans". Hell, ANN took a lot of flack a while ago from 2chan users (folks from the largest Japanese web forum) for having an "imperfect" encyclopedia, and most of the criticisms leveled at the site were about the methods of listing Korean animators on Japanese productions; so much so that it seemed a bit more fueled out of the aforementioned xenophobia rather than sincere concern for "incorrect information". I can understand (sort of) being upset about not differentiating between in-between animators and key animators, but the obvious underlying issue there was that key animators are almost always Japanese and inbetweeners are almost exclusively Korean on the articles they were complaining about. It's not a perfect example, and their criticisms were often valid, but it was difficult to ignore the fact that they were couched in this obvious angry sentiment toward Korean animators.
As for American anime fans, I would entirely prescribe the kind of racism you see on internet message boards to teenage forums culture. At some point along the way, it became "edgy" to scream racial slurs all over the internet, and there are plenty of anime fan communities out there that don't smack down that kind of behavior. Are these people actually racist? It's hard to tell. Most of them claim they're doing it "ironically", but to me, if your first impulse upon being given the chance to speak publically with no sincere consequences is to shout as much hateful racist crap as you possibly can, I don't really care if you want to claim "irony", you're probably pretty damn racist to begin with. It's a pretty small contingent of folks, though, so I wouldn't consider it a major part of anime fandom in the US; moreso a lot of misguided teenage anime fans who fancy themselves "edgy".
i saw a news article online about george bush banning anime. there is a presidential election coming up i was wondering if there is someone running who is not going to ban anime.
I've heard this sort of thing bandied about for years now and I have to wonder where it really comes from. I also hate this question and I get it more often than I care to admit.
The government does not and never really has shown even a passing interest in what anime even is. Your senator is not going to know what you're talking about if you write to him (or her) about anime. Considering such a thing has never, ever been seriously discussed by anyone in any capacity except for rumor-mongering, bored fans on the internet, I really don't get why people still throw this one around.
Also, you didn't read a "news article", you read something on some terrible forum or blog site written by an idiot.
Furthermore, there is no "pro-anime candidate". There's also no "anti-anime" candidate. People who are angling for the job of President of the United States have things to worry about that are actually important, like, you know, everything else.
This is a haiku about how much I suck. I really didn't want to put it in Flake of the Week because it's pretty funny, but there's no other place for it.
so much bluster and bile
answer man neither answers nor is
a man, sadly dies alone
Yowza. Here's another bunny photo. Deal with it.
I bet this bunny is good at writing haikus.
Our question last week was "What's the worst thing you've ever seen at an anime convention or anime club meeting? "
From reader Anna Huang.:
Worst thing I've seen anime fans do at a con is encourage species of the male population to attend YaoiCon, since YaoiCon apparently seems to be attended by "girls getting horny watching porn all day". Thus members of the male population are 'guaranteed to get laid' by attending YaoiCon.
Another, from Verna Venisa:
From Adam Singer
Worst thing I've ever seen at an Anime con? Unfortunately this horror story happened to me, rather than observing it, so I hope it still counts. Anyways, this particular event occurred several years back at Anime Central 05, I believe. It was later at night, so a couple of friends and I were wandering around. We just stepped out of the 'con suite area' after enjoying some free chips and bad karaoke when a random Cosplayer approaches us and starts making small talk. All 3 of us decide to be friendly and we make some small talk, when she decides to grope me below the waist. Now, it's kind of important to note this girl was not very attractive, and I can only hope she was cosplay because she had some pink Aeris-like dress sewed on around her. All 3 of us suddenly snapped to attention because this girl proceeded to grope my friend too, but didn't bother with the third friend, since he was cosplaying Lu Bu and had protective crotch armor.
Now, this story story is creepier for another reason; She had her boyfriend with her, and he simply stood a few steps away grinning like an idiot as his girlfriend grabbed at us. She then proceeded to try and tug down her top to flash us, but luckily only got halfway showing us what looked like two pancakes tucked in her armpits. It was like one of those nightmares where everything is happening in slow motion and you can't move to get away or stop any of it. Now, whenever we recall this traumatic event, we simply shudder and go back to repressing it deep into our skulls.
From Avery Lee McQuiston :
Here's the worst thing I've seen someone do at our local anime club. While watching Elfen Lied (known of course, for its graphic violence) as the bodies started to build up, the guy sitting next to be started pretending to have an orgasm. He started deeply breathing, shaking especially in the hips, and even moaning. He even brushed against me once before I moved away!
From Joanna Slawik:
Finally, from "Chi D":
Probably the worst thing I've seen a fan do a con was tenfold for me because I was at the receiving end of it. I was with a friend, having a break from the con and eating lunch with her. We were wise enough not to go to a restaurant like most of the others around us, because the places were packed with congoers. Unfortunately, there was no other place to sit but the curb outside the restaurant to actually eat our packed lunches. Bad idea. One con goer decided to go up and down along the line up and smile and shake her bum every few seconds for photo ops.
Without naming the character she was cosplaying, I'll describe it without giving it away- basically, she decided that the fully clothed version of her character was not worth dressing up as, so therein opted for the 'just woke up, whoops looks like I wore no bottoms to sleep' version.
As she was in the middle of shaking her butt, facing people in front of her, I had the misfortune of hearing my name from one of my other friends from inside the restaurant, and looked behind me. The problem was I was on the curb and the girl was standing, so my face was roughly her waist height. She was shaking her tushie, so when I turned around, I literally got smacked with a faceful of sweaty butt. [It was a very hot day outside].
I don't understand why con goers feel the need to dress up [or DOWN] as the nearly-naked version of a character. It is not creative in the least to wear a pajama top, post a sign on oneself, and deem oneself 'the sleepwear version of character so and so'. Or maybe, 'the just got out of the shower version of so and so'. It gives real cosplayers a bad name.
And in this case, it gave me a faceful of butt. Honestly.
Here's our topic for this week:
Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.
For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.
Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.
That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I hve so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.
Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!
Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.
We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.
Things To Do:
* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.
Things Not To Do:
* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.
So check this space next week for your answers to my questions!
See you all next week!
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