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Hey, Answerman! [2009-08-14]

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Joined: 22 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:23 pm Reply with quote
i dunno what happened but the big lots down here (think glorified dollar store) has a whole bin of DVDs and Computer games. I found Beck's first 2 volumes for 3 bucks each! What a steal.

Also find the occasional big name titles (FMA, Inuyasha, Bleach) but mostly early volumes or middle volumes.

anyway, far as GI Joe goes...a horrible cartoon spawning a mediocre action movie? i honestly don't see the complaints.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 3:47 pm Reply with quote
The prior references pretty much said it all. But a recent example of more realism is Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.

Maria, in the far low left, is of "unknown origin", but is an Asian foreign illegal. Her skin color and her behavior indicates she is Southeast Asian (keeping in mind the show is pure satire). Her behavior matches a stereotype held of Southeast Asians especially just before and during WW II (being lower class compared to Japanese). Skin color was significant in government propaganda pushing the racial superiority of the Japanese, brown skin denoting inferior races and classes.

Kaere, the blonde, represents Caucasian. She is actually a "returnee" to Japan after having spent many years in an "unknown" foreign country. She has a split personality, and one of them is definitely American (she threatens to sue everyone at the drop of a hat, or a peek at her panties), while the other is an exaggerated traditional Japanese feminine.

The other characters are depicted as normal Japanese. They are light colored, because the Japanese are a more light-skinned race. White was, and maybe still is, very significant to the Japanese, primarily from Shinto religion where it represents purity. The Japanese rising sun flag had a pure white background for that reason. Also, far back in their history being light-skinned was a highly desirable trait and a marker for class between the leisure classes and the working class (same as in Europe--laborers were "brown" because they must work under the sun). The Japanese developed the use of makeup to achieve white skin as did the Europeans.

Matt Thorn's explanation really makes sense, and the examples in the video make it obvious. I would have mentioned the eye size as being normal for the simplified type of animation used in anime, since the eyes most easily convey emotion. Makes sense they would be prominent, as that would eliminate more complex drawing to show feelings. The Japanese have taken use of the eye to a high "technical" art. Reading how-to manuals for drawing manga is enlightening for the precise codification of the language of eyes.

It's easy to add much more significance to it, but I see the colors and designs as simple expedients developed to enable speed of production for TV. Movies and high-cost productions do offer more variety (e.g., Akira), but not necessarily more realistic as to race (Metropolis).

As an aside, one very good book specifically focused on racism in Japan and America as intensely expressed before and during WW II is War Without Mercy, by John W. Dower. He delves into culture and symbolism quite deeply. The follow-up, which is next on my stack, is Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. Dower is an excellent historian and writer, and I can't wait to get into that second book.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:35 pm Reply with quote
Re: portrayal of ethnic groups in anime
This blog post translation of a lecture on Katsuhiro Otomo briefly brings this up:
One could say that another one of Otomo’s “inventions” was his way of depicting Japanese characters with Asian facial characteristics, such as almond-shaped eyes and a low nose. For example, in Takao Saito’s manga, a character like Golgo may be Asian according to the story, but looks nothing like an Asian man. Again, Otomo’s blunt objectivity brought about a new kind of realism to an aspect of manga that had previously been dominated by manga’s “lie” of characters depicted in a borderless way. This too is a kind of realism that could only have been established in the 70s.

As for anime deals, the best deal I've gotten was getting FMA V.1 w/tin and opening it up to find that it had V.2-5 in it also, all for $50. I've gotten even better deals in manga. I got Short Program V.2 and Adolf V.1, both which can sell for over $100, for $8.95 and $8.49, respectively.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:18 pm Reply with quote
CCSYueh wrote:
Haterater wrote:
I really want to see more variety in the skin tone. If we can have many different color hair and eyes, why not the skin? At least see some tan. You can still keep the "features" of big eyes and different hair, just have a new skin tone, especially series that are set in fantasy, as there wouldn't be based on a specific country. I've seen so few in fantasy type settings, but maybe that's just me.

That is you. We, sitting here outside of Japan, are not any sort of audience that really has any say. If Japanese fans started demanding such a variety then we'd see it happen, but they apparently aren't. We're a secondary audience. Hell, yeah, I'd expect we'd see all the nations represented in the Soul Society or we should see that other areas deal with Hollows in a different style, but is it really that different from our shows where the safety of the planet lies in the hands of the American hero? If we were not ourselves a melting pot, do you believe we'd have a variety of skin toned heroes to choose from? It wasn't all that long ago we didn't.

That's what I'm not understanding about it when it comes to fantasy, and I guess this goes to more than just anime. I think most people simply want to play things safe to insure sales and go with the "norm" in their respective medium. As those listed by you as well, even more factors for me to think about along with the rest of the stuff in this thread.

I wondered just thinking only of the type of anime with the multicolor hair and eyes, why it never evolved to skin tones to a larger degree. It doesn't have to be "normal" skin tones, can easily be a light shade of red, blue, green(which I'm sure we have seen for aliens at least). That's one of the reasons I like anime, variety in the art. No rules for having a weird hair style. If a creator said that pink haired, purpled eye character is French with no said stereotypical features, is it really hard to believe for anything else?
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:20 am Reply with quote
My perspective is I'm almost 50. When I was a little girl watching tv in the 1960's, I didn't really think twice about whether there was a character on my cartoons representing any race other than white because that was pretty much the neighborhood many of us lived in back then. Now I really can't conceive of going thru a day without seeng many people of a variety of races because that's the neighborhood I live in now & what is represented (by demand) in entertainment. I remember I Spy being the first weekly drama with a black actor in a lead role. I never didn't want to see diversity on tv. I was under 10 so tv looking like my neighborhood seemed normal.
In Japan, with a majority of the people looking a certain way, does anyone cry out for diversity on their tv screens? It probably doesn't occur to them to expect the characters on tv to look like the world vs looking like their own neighborhood so why would they make a fantasy not populated by Japanese?

Look at Charlie Brown's crew. Other than the hair, is anyone really specifically designed to look white? Could they not be just about any race if one changed their hair & skin tone? Could this not be said of many of the characters in the Sunday paper?
I was re-reading Saiyuki Reload Vol 8 & 9 today & our heroes do not really look Asian, but I was struck on one picture Sannzo was drawn so his eyes did make him look more Asian.
There's an Excel Saga episode that deals with anime style vs the more realistic Western anime style (a Sailor Moon style magical girl drawn both ways as I recall)
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 1:51 am Reply with quote
I guess I'm talking more in the cosmetic department for fantasy setting than diversity. For example, have a red hair, orange eye, light tanish brown(or any multi-color combination) character being the "polite" one in a group, showing more Japanese mannerisms, since fantasy setting rules is dependent on the creator. In this example world, there are no countries that we have here, thus would seem "normal" when we watch it. We would relate more to the character's personality and such. Would one sense a Japanese type character, another human race, or simply that person from fantasy land A?

We have the other color things to differentiate from the "norm" of a "average" character. Just because something is in a color/style/etc doesn't mean it has to be labeled as that stereotype in a work. Its whatever the creator wants them to be/act. And I guess that's what draws me about the subject. But, like its been said, people are used to "norm" so while I still love it, I do appreciate variety when I find it.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 4:12 am Reply with quote
'inside jokes' and references to anime can be huge spoilers in some cases. If you're denied the series' name, they could be trying to protect the effect it [the series] has on people. If you really cared, you'd simply do the research on the reference yourself instead of b&*%$.
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Joined: 16 Aug 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 4:29 am Reply with quote
I just wanted to say thank you to pparker for mentioning Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei in your post. I think it is great f%#@ing read!
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2009 2:04 pm Reply with quote
I have to ask the original person who asked the question to define 'minority', as well, a blonde-haired and blue-eyed person in Japan would technically be a minority and the Japanese characters would be in the majority. So, with that in mind, and in that specific example, anime is pretty progressive in it's portrayal of minorities.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:35 am Reply with quote
Heh, good point. Well, if you're not Asian and born in japan, I guess everyone else is a minority!

I think the person asking the question was thinking in terms of who's considered a minority in America, not exactly saying that what's considered a minority is the same in Japan.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:44 am Reply with quote
minakichan wrote:
I Anime characters with blond hair and blue eyes are no less Caucasian than those with purple hair and red eyes; they're all just "strangely colored Japanese people." .

So they aren't really caucasian, we just -think- they're caucasian because they don't look Japanese to us? Well, maybe, but then the question becomes why do they have so many blue-eyed Japanese in anime?

An odd thing happened to me on a trip to Japan last year to visit my oldest daughter who was an assistant language teacher at the time in a small town in Kyushu. -Everyone- kept telling her how COOL I was. (FYI, this was absolutely hilarious to my daughters.) No one ever said -why- they thought this and the only things I can think of were, I'm over 6' tall, blue-eyed, and wear a beard. None of which fit -anyone- in small town Japan.

So maybe they're going for exotic? It seems likely to me that anime lets the people watching it mentally act out being -different-. Mecha, gunplay, women actually slugging male jerks, and tall blue-eyed blonds are all escapism.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 2:56 am Reply with quote
I never got time to email my sweetest deal in so I'll just mention the two biggest ones here.

The first was courtesy of my old job at Sam Goody/Suncoast. I had special ordered a ton of anime that we didn't have on hand. I figured I'd buy it piece by piece over time once it all got in. Several others had made dvd/cd special orders as well that week. Well when we got the next weeks shipment with all the special orders......the barcode stickers did not work. The system didn't recognize them for some reason. So we used the SKU numbers to ring them up.....well someone really screwed the pooch on this somehow. Virtually all my dvds rang up at about $2 give or take. I wound getting about $400 bucks worth of merchandise for about $45 after tax. I finished off 3 series and got a whole month's worth of new releases that night. Have to give props to the one assistant manager that night who said "oh well it's their screw up, enjoy" heh.

The other was when I helped gopher at a con. I don't want to give the name of the con or vendor out so people might try and cash in themselves. The guy did what he did as a favor to me. AT this con I helped gopher and set up the Dealer's Room the day before the con. That basically meant helping vendors unload their stuff and get it in. Well this one guy was having real problems. His wife couldn't make it as she was quite pregnant. They do the cons together with their store. He got there very late because his van broke down on the way. So while people are finishing setting up at like 7pm he's just rolling in. Set up ended at 9pm. He had to set everything up himself. Well I stuck around til like 11:00pm helping him set everything up. I also came early in the morning to help with finishing touches. On Sunday I helped him break down everything and pack up what he had left. To show his appreciation he gave me a big grab bag of free stuff. We'd talk during set up and breakdown so I had mentioned shows I like etc. He gave me a grab bag all of series I had mentioned. OST's, 2 wall scrolls, some dvds, and misc items. To me it wasn't so much the monetary value as it was the man doing that for me to show his thanks when I was just happy to help.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:40 pm Reply with quote
kizoku wrote:

So maybe they're going for exotic? It seems likely to me that anime lets the people watching it mentally act out being -different-. Mecha, gunplay, women actually slugging male jerks, and tall blue-eyed blonds are all escapism.

Not sure about that. Why only that particular exotic type? That seems to be the more popular thing to mix in with other "white" toned easily.

I'm also disturbed reading about how two black characters from the High School Musical manga were changed to "white" and everyone else stayed the same. In this case of the manga being a work from a franchise outside Japan, exotic would have fit those two characters nicely, but instead the "safe" choice was given. Either of how like many said of white toned characters being "beauty" or maybe just being comfortable of it. Haven't read it to see if the manga was like the musical or based in Japan.

Image I found:

I think the hair is retained, only the skin has changed.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:09 am Reply with quote
jsevakis wrote:
I was reminded by Brian's column this week of a Japanese friend of mine, who one day changed his Facebook profile picture to a picture of him... in HIP-HOP BLACKFACE.

I am hilarified.

Bear in mind that blackface has a strong political meaning in the US which doesn't necessarily transfer to other countries, even Western ones. E.g. plenty of great English actors have blacked up to play Shakespeare's Othello, and there was nothing demeaning in their intentions.

To put it another way: Country music fans like to dress up as cowboys. Does that make them racist towards cowboys? Japanese hiphop fans see cosplaying "black" as the same kind of deal.

[/late post]
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:18 am Reply with quote
I would say that blackface has more than just a political meaning attached to it.

I don't think dressing up as a cowboy is exactly the same as portraying yourself as a different race. Anyone can be a cowboy given that they live in that part of the world. Also, cowboys are not a race.

I think that as you are further removed from diversity, the more comfortable you feel about doing something like blackface.
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