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Thing X is not meant for you and your Western sensibilities, Gaijin!


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ChibiKangaroo



Joined: 01 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:55 am Reply with quote
This thread is for the discussion of the above argument tactic (title of thread), which is VERY often thrown in to any debate about the merits of any particular anime. Invariably, someone will criticize something about a show, whether it is content or execution, or both, and someone else will try to delegitimize the substance of that criticism (no matter how valid the critique may be) by saying that "it wasn't made for you and your Western sensibilities." It is used as this trump card argument that is meant to defeat all other positions. The idea is, if you are gaijin, you can't possibly comprehend or appreciate whatever is intended for the Japanese audience so any criticism you might have is automatically moot.

Also, there are variants to this argument, such as "you're a girl! This isn't for you, so your criticism doesn't count!" or "I have X identity, so my opinion on this particular issue automatically trumps yours!" But, I'll focus on the "Western sensibilities" version.

I'll say that I understand the conceptual point of the "Western sensibilities" argument, if it were used in the correct context, which it almost never is in anime discussions. For example, correct context:

Person A: "Anime always has so many ninjas and martial arts stuff in it. What's that all about? I think that's a dumb, overused cliche."

Person B: "That's your Western sensibilities showing. You should understand that Japanese culture has involved these things, and thus they are common themes in anime."

Another example:

Person A: "Wtf, why is Oda Nobunaga in like 10 anime per year? That's an over used plot idea!"

Person B: Same answer.

Ok, that works. Even if Person A might be making somewhat valid points from a non-Japanese cultural perspective, it is totally fair to say that the content wasn't made "for them."

Here's examples where this argument doesn't work:

Person A: "Hmm, I don't really like the fact that anime Z appears to be about a fantasy of teacher T having sexual relationships with his underage students. That's kinda squicky."

Person B: "Sorry gaijin, that's not meant for you and your 'Western sensibilities.' You just don't get it, because only Japanese otaku can fully understand/appreciate this concept so your opinion really doesn't matter."

Another example:

Person A: "I'm really disappointed in Fan Service Anime S. The girls all seem to have absolutely no personalities and all seem to be one dimensional representations of T and A. The writing appears to not follow any kind of internal logic and the MC seems to just be a pure wish fulfilment vehicle for the writer. Also, there are a bunch of scenes that seem to involve non-consentual groping and it is treated as fun or comedic when in reality it's not funny."

Person B: Same answer.

These examples should speak for themselves, but to summarize, I cannot accept this "Western sensibilities" argument unless it applies to something that is an accepted Japanese cultural norm. I have studied Japan/Japanese. I lived in Japan for six months. Did the homestay and everything. We visited Japanese elementary and high schools. I never met a single Japanese teacher who was anything other than extremely professional, kind and dedicated to the well being of their students. I hung out with many Japanese college students, otaku types and otherwise. I'll never forget this one dude who hung out in our dorm and we were watching Dragon Drive together, and he was a total otaku type, and when one of the characters was introduced with an obvious "fanservice" look to her, he was pointing and laughing at the absurdity of the character. It was funny to him not because that appealed to him, but because he could easily spot a stupid pander.

Fetishy stuff in anime exists. That's cool. I like some fetihy stuff just like everyone else. But stop saying that all these fetishes are "Japanese sensibilities" or "Eastern sensibilities." We have the same fetishes in Western societies. If you want to say that an anime is appealing to a fetish and those otaku who enjoy that fetish, FINE! That is fair. But don't try to trump the argument based on some bogus ethnic sensibilities claim.

Okay, open mic Smile
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Blood-
It...it's not like I post for you or anything!It...it's not like I post for you or anything!


Joined: 07 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:34 am Reply with quote
Well, I have read your entire post and to my intense disappointment, there's nothing in it that I disagree with. Unfortunately, that's because your examples are so clear cut that it would be difficult to argue against any of them. However, sometimes, there is a grey area where it is not so clear what is an example of Western ethnocentrism and what is a knee-jerk "defend Japan/anime at all cost" reaction.

Still, it's nice to see you posting again. Wink
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Chiibi



Joined: 19 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:36 am Reply with quote
Hmm....I normally use this argument when characters are criticized to be "too young/old" to be in X relationship.....or the anime is accused of "incest" when cousins like each other or step siblings want to get married, etc.

Cousin and step sibling marriage is legal in Japan. It is not considered "incest" there. It doesn't matter if the children grew up together; if they do not share the same father or mother, anything goes.

As for age gaps: the age of consent is 13. Girls may marry at 16. If people are uncomfortable with these facts, sure, I can understand why.....but the anime's writing isn't the thing to blame here. It's a culture difference.
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ChibiKangaroo



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:55 am Reply with quote
Chiibi wrote:
Hmm....I normally use this argument when characters are criticized to be "too young/old" to be in X relationship.....or the anime is accused of "incest" when cousins like each other or step siblings want to get married, etc.

Cousin and step sibling marriage is legal in Japan. It is not considered "incest" there. It doesn't matter if the children grew up together; if they do not share the same father or mother, anything goes.

As for age gaps: the age of consent is 13. Girls may marry at 16. If people are uncomfortable with these facts, sure, I can understand why.....but the anime's writing isn't the thing to blame here. It's a culture difference.


I get the "cousins" thing to some extent. However, I think your point on age is a bit misleading. A 13 year old cannot have legal sex with an adult in Japan. That would be punishable in any local jurisdiction. A 13 year old might be able to have sex with another 13 year old, depending on the local laws.

In other words, 13 is the legal limit under the federal law for statutory rape. But this has no impact on other sex crime laws in Japan. It simple means sex with someone under age 13 would be punished more harshly.

Edit: Also, on practice I doubt the legality is that much different than it is in the U.S. because the U.S. similarly forbids contact between adults and minors but contact between minors depends on the jurisdiction. Even in jurisdictions in the U.S. where it is technically illegal for two minors, they might be effectively unpunishable if they are too young to form intent. So I think that's another one of these areas where the differences are usually wildly exaggerated.
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Vaisaga



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:51 pm Reply with quote
Chiibi wrote:
Cousin and step sibling marriage is legal in Japan. It is not considered "incest" there. It doesn't matter if the children grew up together; if they do not share the same father or mother, anything goes.


A specific example of this I see a lot is in regards to SAO. The ALO arc is disliked for several reasons and I often seen Suguha's feelings for Kirito being one of the main reasons. It's blasted for supporting incest, even though Suguha herself openly acknowledges her feelings are wrong despite the legal system supporting her.
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Beltane70



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:03 pm Reply with quote
Chiibi wrote:


Cousin and step sibling marriage is legal in Japan. It is not considered "incest" there. It doesn't matter if the children grew up together; if they do not share the same father or mother, anything goes.


Even in the US, some states, including my own (New Jersey) actually allow first cousins to marry. It also legal in the US for step sibling to marry.
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Chiibi



Joined: 19 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:20 pm Reply with quote
Vaisaga wrote:
Chiibi wrote:
Cousin and step sibling marriage is legal in Japan. It is not considered "incest" there. It doesn't matter if the children grew up together; if they do not share the same father or mother, anything goes.


A specific example of this I see a lot is in regards to SAO. The ALO arc is disliked for several reasons and I often seen Suguha's feelings for Kirito being one of the main reasons. It's blasted for supporting incest, even though Suguha herself openly acknowledges her feelings are wrong despite the legal system supporting her.


Yes, exactly.

"Because they are cousins" is the last reason I would give when criticizing ALO.
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Vaisaga



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:29 pm Reply with quote
Also I do think there is some merit to a "well it wasn't made for you" argument more in line with what ChibiKangaroo says are bad examples.

Like if a person who hates harems watches a harem show and says it's awful because it has a harem in it. While that person is entitled to level that criticism, if they hate harems why are they even watching the show? The show is made for people who like harems and thus is going to have elements appealing to those people. There is a pretty pervasive attitude some people have where it's like every show ever is supposed to appeal to them first and foremost and it's garbage if it doesn't.
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ChibiKangaroo



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:39 pm Reply with quote
Vaisaga wrote:
Also I do think there is some merit to a "well it wasn't made for you" argument more in line with what ChibiKangaroo says are bad examples.

Like if a person who hates harems watches a harem show and says it's awful because it has a harem in it. While that person is entitled to level that criticism, if they hate harems why are they even watching the show? The show is made for people who like harems and thus is going to have elements appealing to those people. There is a pretty pervasive attitude some people have where it's like every show ever is supposed to appeal to them first and foremost and it's garbage if it doesn't.


Yea, but I said that you can at least make that point as long as you are saying it is meant for people who are into harem fetish. But that's not how the argument is usually made. Instead the argument is framed in a way that harem are a part of "Japanese sensibilities" and dumb gaijin (other than the person making the argument) just can't get it. In other words, it is tied to ethnicity rather than personal tastes, which allows someone to be discredited based purely on their ethnicity or heritage. That is what I am complaining about. If you want to say a harem show is for people with the harem fetish fine. Such people exist across all ethnic and national lines. That being said, saying it is for harem liking people doesn't defend it from criticism on poor execution, only on the charge that it is bad purely for being a harem.
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Cam0



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:45 pm Reply with quote
I'm not sure what to say about the "it isn't meant for you" argument. I kind of think that it's an uninteresting argument, but at the same time I think it's valid.

Vaisaga wrote:
A specific example of this I see a lot is in regards to SAO. The ALO arc is disliked for several reasons and I often seen Suguha's feelings for Kirito being one of the main reasons. It's blasted for supporting incest, even though Suguha herself openly acknowledges her feelings are wrong despite the legal system supporting her.


Those that see SAO as a bad wish fulfillment fantasy where the main character is the ultimate chick magnet only had their opinion reinforced when even Suguha fell for Kirito. Or something like that, is what I thought.
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Parse Error



Joined: 09 Oct 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:55 pm Reply with quote
It's usually not so much a Western versus Eastern thing – there are people in Japan who like serious Sci-fi or dark Psychological Thrillers, and enough folks in the Anglosphere who enjoy content that ostensibly panders to Japanese otaku to make such shows attractive prospects for licensing – but it's still a matter of appealing to a relatively niche audience. While the last paragraph of the OP seems pretty reasonable, your original argument which resulted in this thread sounded as though you assumed virtually all anime viewers have more or less the same interests and expectations, yet its creators are counting on them to ignore longstanding conventions simply out of tradition. The reality is that concepts some people don't like continue to exist because there are other people who do like them.

Regarding Interviews With Monster Girls in particular, since it sparked this discussion, I happen to be glad it's set up the way that it is. Although I do enjoy seeing taboos violated in anime, especially ones I agree with in the real world, that's not really the itch that such a tame show as this is scratching for me. What I like about the situation it depicts is that the MC not only has a reasonable excuse to be around these girls on a regular basis, but most importantly, compelling reasons for not letting things devolve into raunchier ecchi territory or beyond.

I don't believe that fiction should have any obligation to instill good morals, and it seems that nobody else does either until it deviates from their personal interests. For example, when a superhero punches some mook into orbit, everybody claps or laughs instead of leaving the theater or ejecting the bluray out of disgust with the lack of due process, but how do we know their family wasn't being held hostage by the main villain in order to coerce them into being a human shield or committing whatever relatively petty infraction doomed them to their agonizing demise at the hands of the protagonist we're cheering for? Despite all the questionable police-involved shootings and the shocking number of people who have been exonerated on DNA evidence after decades in prison or even on death row, that kind of thing fails to elicit any noticeable outrage.

Thus, it would appear most people naturally realize that anyone who derives their sense of right and wrong from fictional works would have enough preexisting problems to pose a threat to society regardless of what they watch, play, or read, yet they choose to only apply this to the themes or works they personally favor. When some concerned citizens do raise objections to depictions of violence on the grounds that they might encourage unhealthy behaviors in the real world, they're largely dismissed and derided by the very people who use the same excuse for criticizing content that they happen to be uncomfortable with.

It might sound like I've been veering off topic, but much of the criticism of otaku-oriented content is about it glorifying things that would be inappropriate in reality. Fiction can indeed help to reinforce prejudices and behaviors that are already widespread and frequently condoned, but its influence is too subtle to create new social ills or cure the ones we already have. Nobody is going to start thinking it's totally okay for teachers to molest students because anime made it seem okay, nor will presenting the issue in a serious and negative manner eliminate any unhealthy inclinations they already feel. There's still absolutely nothing wrong with being personally appalled by something fictional, it's just that it ultimately comes down to a matter of individual tastes rather than this crucial moral battle it's often treated as.
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Blood-
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 2:23 pm Reply with quote
I just remembered what my number one pet peeve is associated with the issue CK raised. In Western entertainment it is pretty rare to mix tragic events with goofy or silly humour. There's black comedy, of course, that sometimes goes against this general tendancy, but in the main, if you have goofy or silly humour going on, you are not going to be watching a person split in half with a sword in the next scene.

Anime violates this Western tendancy all the time. I happen to dig it, usually, and I'm certainly not here to tell you that you should like it if that sort of thing isn't your cup of tea. But I do get miffed when viewers indicate that this tone is inherently wrong and the creators are making a mistake in doing it. That to me is a prime example of imposing a Western standard on a non-Western style of story-telling and deeming it "wrong."
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ChibiKangaroo



Joined: 01 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 2:24 pm Reply with quote
Parse Error wrote:
While the last paragraph of the OP seems pretty reasonable, your original argument which resulted in this thread sounded as though you assumed virtually all anime viewers have more or less the same interests and expectations, yet its creators are counting on them to ignore longstanding conventions simply out of tradition. The reality is that concepts some people don't like continue to exist because there are other people who do like them.


My point wasn't that everyone has the same likes and expectations. I certainly am going to assume that everyone has the same level of intelligence and sophistication, because I think it would be utterly unfair to start with an assumption otherwise, particularly when we are dealing with this tricky ethnicity topic. However, I think it should be clear in both this thread and the original thread (since I reiterated it several times) that I have no problems with people advocating on behalf of personal tastes and I have no problem with personal kinks, even relatively "taboo" ones. My issue in both threads has been when people explicitly tie personal kinks to ethnic proclivities or stereotypes absent some kind of obvious evidence that it is in fact a widely accepted norm in that society. Again, I really don't think it should be necessary to spell this out, but in all of my time in Japan I did not meet a single teacher who was a creepy lech engaging in illicit sexual relationships with his underage students, and I have never seen any evidence presented that this is an accepted Japanese cultural norm. So no, you cannot simply say that that kink is endemic to "Japanese sensibilities."

Quote:

It might sound like I've been veering off topic, but much of the criticism of otaku-oriented content is about it glorifying things that would be inappropriate in reality. Fiction can indeed help to reinforce prejudices and behaviors that are already widespread and frequently condoned, but its influence is too subtle to create new social ills or cure the ones we already have. Nobody is going to start thinking it's totally okay for teachers to molest students because anime made it seem okay, nor will presenting the issue in a serious and negative manner eliminate any unhealthy inclinations they already feel. There's still absolutely nothing wrong with being personally appalled by something fictional, it's just that it ultimately comes down to a matter of individual tastes rather than this crucial moral battle it's often treated as.


It is a bit off topic because I'm not talking about the merits of things that go against social norms. I am purely talking about people claiming that fetish material is part of "Japanese" or "Eastern Sensibilities" as an automatic trump card to defeat any and all otherwise legitimate criticism. I highlighted the relevant part of your response. Personal tastes are fine, claims of ethnic sensibilities are not absent proof of widely accepted cultural norms.
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Chiibi



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 3:07 pm Reply with quote
Parse Error wrote:
I don't believe that fiction should have any obligation to instill good morals, and it seems that nobody else does either until it deviates from their personal interests.


Eh, it probably should for young children's fiction....because that is the age when they are the most impressionable. You don't want them watching stuff with bad morals until they're mature enough to understand they must not imitate that behavior.
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Parse Error



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 3:53 pm Reply with quote
ChibiKangaroo wrote:
My point wasn't that everyone has the same likes and expectations.

It very well may not have been, and certainly wasn't if what you really meant to say was something more along the lines of what you posted here. What I was pointing out is that regardless of intent, your initial wording which caused things to go in this direction did imply that they do, or at least ought to. To be exact:
ChibiKangaroo wrote:
Blood- wrote:
I have a pretty strong, "sigh, that's anime for ya" filter.

And that's the problem Blood-, you shouldn't have to. But anime producers know we have these filters so they often don't care to do better.

Whether it's East versus West, otaku versus non-otaku, connoisseur versus philistine, or whichever labels one agrees with, what you were suggesting there is that anime producers rarely put in enough effort in general, as opposed to them putting too much effort into pleasing people whose preferences differ from yours and Blood-'s. That's what was originally being refuted, and it's hard to see it as a misunderstanding when you clearly stated that nobody should need to ignore certain aspects of shows that are aimed at an audience they're not part of, because the producers should simply "do better" instead.

ChibiKangaroo wrote:
It is a bit off topic because I'm not talking about the merits of things that go against social norms.

Most of my response was aimed at the topic in general, not you exclusively. The majority of instances where the cultural differences defense gets trotted out, it is because someone raised a moral objection to something.
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