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Lokarunith



Joined: 30 Aug 2011
Posts: 24
Location: Portugal

PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:13 am Reply with quote

Since I first started getting into Japanese culture I noticed various elements, symbols, situations, etc. that are very typical of their works. Of all those elements, typical to Japanese movies/novels/manga and anime one of them has really caught my attention, which is the idea that we all have another self, which can manifests itself as a twin, clone, double, alternative existence, alter-ego, reincarnation, time paradox, dilemma, etc.
I first realized this element when I noticed that in manga/anime it was very frequent for one of the main characters to have someone who is exactly like him/her and that the trope that one of the main characters is in fact a clone or a twin or a double which has taken the other clone/twin/double place is also frequent. I'll give some well known examples: Chobits, Naruto, Ergo Proxy, Evangelion, Paprika, Fullmetal Alchemist and Tsubasa Resrvoir Chronicle but those are not the only ones. The more I read the more titles I find which feature a kind of "another self"/doppelganger, specialy those dealing with the thematic of identity and self-alienation like Serial Experiments Lain or Perfect Blue.

In an attempt to understand why the thematic of identity and alienation is so frequent in Japan, Peter Grilli coments in a booklet inside the Criterion collection of 3 Hiroshi Teshigahra's movies (1962, 64 and 66) that the reason is the WW II: “The values of prewar Japan had been utterly discredited by their nation's defeat, the society emasculated by foreign occupiers for the 1st time in Japanese history. The so-called democracy that was being layered onto the Japanese body culture by temporary American rulers seemed ill fitted to a culture that had never valued individualism or freedom of expression. They wandered forth into a strange new world that had no identity of its own and was distorted by poverty and foreign occupation. Everywhere were symptoms of an existential dilemma on a vast national scale. In retrospect, it seems hardly surprising that the compelling themes of Japanese artists of the day were those of alienation, the search of identity, and the struggle for survival in a lasted landscape.”

I began suspecting that the doppelgangers were a manifestation of a lack of sense of self-identity caused by the clash of cultures in the post-war, but nevertheless after seeing the movie adaptation of the novel Dogura Magura, which was written in 1935 by Yumeno Kyusaku I know for sure that the WW II wasn't the origin of the trope. The main thematic of the movie are the search for identity and self-alienation. It's about a boy who wakes up in a psychiatric ward with no memory, searching for his past and dealing with a hallucination of himself that seems to have a will of his own and which he thinks it to be his twin. In the end I have no clear answer to why the thematic of identity and alienation is so present in Japanese culture as well as doppelgangers, so I'd love to hear your thoughts about this matter.

edit: made some clarifications


Last edited by Lokarunith on Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:25 pm; edited 3 times in total
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littlegreenwolf
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:35 pm Reply with quote
It's an interesting idea, but honestly I can't say it stands out to me as something Japan does more often than say Western media, especially in terms of Science Fiction and psychological dramas. I can easily off the top of my head list off a variety of Western tv shows that play with this idea, not to mention books and comics.
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NeburPT



Joined: 22 Mar 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:13 am Reply with quote
The search for identity is one of the main themes of Art (Heart of Darkness, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde, for example, all written in the Victorian era, deal with a fragmented and interior versus exterior projection of ourselves) and one of its main "purposes" is precisely that: to understand a certain culture you have to know what your "role" in it represents to you.

I'm not an expert on japanese culture, I've never been to the country, I'm not that familiar with japanese literature and music and personally prefer the korean cinema over the japanese. My contact with it is mostly limited to manga and a bit of anime and videogames, which are only a part (perhaps important, but only a part) of the whole "national identity". WW II was certainly important when we are talking of a national identity in abstract, but how is that war engraved into the current generations values and art? I also do not have an answer.

What I think we could discuss in a more concrete way is: what does manga and anime represents to you as a part of your identity and culture? Do you find it alienating and use it to escape "reality" or do you also use it in the search for yourself?
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Lokarunith



Joined: 30 Aug 2011
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:09 am Reply with quote
Quote:
What I think we could discuss in a more concrete way is: what does manga and anime represents to you as a part of your identity and culture? Do you find it alienating and use it to escape "reality" or do you also use it in the search for yourself?

Since a kid I grew watching anime ad as got older I became a big fan of Haruki Murakami which got me really interested in Japanese culture. One of the big reasons why I like it so much is because I feel it way easier for me to relate to Japanese characters and their philosophy than European or American and I built/am building my own way of thinking under it's influence.

Nevertheless I don't want to focus too much in the thematic of identity as that was only an attempt to explain why the element of the “other self” is so used in Japan. Maybe it's just me seeing things, that would explain a lot of things, but don't you think that we see a lot of doppelgangers in Japanese works, even if the main thematic has nothing to do with identity??
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NeburPT



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:22 pm Reply with quote
Lokarunith wrote:
Quote:
What I think we could discuss in a more concrete way is: what does manga and anime represents to you as a part of your identity and culture? Do you find it alienating and use it to escape "reality" or do you also use it in the search for yourself?

Since a kid I grew watching anime ad as got older I became a big fan of Haruki Murakami which got me really interested in Japanese culture. One of the big reasons why I like it so much is because I feel it way easier for me to relate to Japanese characters and their philosophy than European or American and I built/am building my own way of thinking under it's influence.

Nevertheless I don't want to focus too much in the thematic of identity as that was only an attempt to explain why the element of the “other self” is so used in Japan. Maybe it's just me seeing things, that would explain a lot of things, but don't you think that we see a lot of doppelgangers in Japanese works, even if the main thematic has nothing to do with identity??


Yes, I do believe you are absolutely right when you identified that trope, and I can remember many cases where it is present. For instance, it is very important in Naruto, where you have a main villain as a masked terrorist whose "utopia" consists of a world of illusions controlled by himself, a unified world with no lies or disagreements, almost like a single conciousness; another villain, Pain, hides his true identity fighting at a distance with doppelgangers (like Naruto and many other characters that incorporate that in their fighting styles; battles are often won with deceit and strategy); there's Itachi and his dual nature and hidden truth about his actions, one of the better written characters of the story; there's the constant conflict between obeying to a rigid system of rules and giving in to your emotions, etc.

I can even find that trope in Dorohedoro (Caiman's real identity and his search for it, or Ebisu for that matter) or Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (the stands are a reflection of your inner self and their powers reflect the user's personality). It is present in Vagabond (Matahachi's deceit as Sasaki Kojiro; Takeshi's change into Musashi and the quest for an inner growth) and Gantz (human beings are like data in a game, copied and reproduced collections of memories and flesh manipulates by mysterious technology), and is of course very important in Taiyo Matsumoto's work, which plays a constant game of contrasts (Black & White, Gogo Monster, Zero, etc). It's also one of the main themes of Satoshi Kon's films, as you have mentioned, or in Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

I could give many more examples, but as for the reasons why this trope is ever present in manga/anime I'm afraid I couldn't shine much light in this matter. I do, however, have the perception that modern japanese society still has many rigid customs regarding their education and about being open in their emotions, and believe that is one of the reasons for manga to be such a wide and open medium where people can express themselves without restrictions: it's quirky and excessive as a response to a system where people might feel restrained and just let themselves go in this medium.
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littlegreenwolf
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:55 pm Reply with quote
I still don't think it's a unique thing in Japanese culture, or overdone there, espcially since you are probably basing this on a very niche selection of a few titles that actually make it over here, which usually are the cream of the crop, and sci-fi. I will admit the culture is a bit repressed in expressing themselves, but then again all cultures put on masks and repress their inner selves.

The reasons this theme plays a major role internationally is that it's a major staple in psychology (it's Jungian) in general and addresses how an individual sees them self, and how society sees them, and if they need to pretend to be someone else in order to be accepted by society.

This trope plays with Jung's theory of Personas, which leads me to my favorite video game franchise - Persona, which plays with psychology to the max. Wish I had a good way of showing that one to my psychology professor a few years back, bet she'd love the idea/concept.

Pick any franchise in cartoons/comics/novels/tv shows and you'll find they play with the same thing at some point, via twins or doppelgangers or an alter-ego. LOST, Harry Potter, Sandman, Supernatural, Coraline, Watchmen, Batman, Doctor Who, Alice in Wonderland, Avatar the Last Airbender, Percy Jackson, Ringer, Dexter, Vamprie Diaries, etc. You can throw in just about every major Superhero comic ever.

It's just psychology, and simple stories can avoid using it to write story, but the the complex ones that make you think, especially about yourself use it heavily and end up being the ones that stick with people and that's why people like using it so much.

As to your question about what does manga and anime represents to you as a part of your identity and culture? Do you find it alienating and use it to escape "reality" or do you also use it in the search for yourself? I don't go out looking for anything in particular. Anime/manga are just mediums for story telling. If a story along the way happens to help me understand something about myself, great, but I don't usually go looking for it, unless it's by a director I know who plays with psychology in a way I like, like Ikuhara Kunihiko. He can give me a mind f#@^ any day. But then I go to art school and we're taught to express ourselves and our emotions visually, and tell a story with our art, so I just don't see anime and manga as a unique medium in this sense.
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Lokarunith



Joined: 30 Aug 2011
Posts: 24
Location: Portugal

PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:23 pm Reply with quote
I want to clarify that I'm not saying that that trope is only used in Japan, But Japanese have a very own way to approach the topic. I think there is a symbolism behind the element of the doppelganger that we as occidentals don't get. It's similar to the symbol of the butterfly, If we don't know it's meaning for Japanese we would have a hard time interpreting works like The Tatami Galaxy, Nijigahara Holograph, xxxHolic or Boogiepop Phantom (curiously they all feature the “other self” as a main topic).

To be more concrete I'll take the example of Paranoia Agent, the element of the doppelganger is presented to us in a very symbolic way. In the 7th episode we see one of detectives getting an ominous aura from a loony old man watching himself in the mirror and later there is a scene where in an hallucination he sees the old man duplicating himself, another scene where he breaks an egg to find it has two yolks is used to transmit a certain message to the viewer, but unfamiliar with it's meaning I can't decipher it.
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