Has Anime TAUGHT You Anything About Japan? -- BURNING QUESTIONS

Topic started by mooned_knight on May 9, 2013. Last post by zaldar 1 year, 10 months ago.
Post by mooned_knight (44 posts) See mini bio Level 8

In Burning Questions, Sam Weller pontificates on, ruminates upon or investigates into any and all anime and manga topics.

PREVIOUS QUESTIONS: Has an anime ever made you ANGRY? *** How do you discover NEW anime? *** Has an anime ever made you CRY? *** Do Power Levels Even MATTER in anime?

First, think of all the hours and hours and hours of anime you’ve watched so far in your lifetime. The lost weekends, the marathon sessions and, most pointedly, the games of FINAL FANTASY you’ve played while it’s on in the background.

In all that time... did you LEARN anything?

I mean, besides the random proclivities of perverts, the exact model number of Amuro Ray’s first Gundam Mobile Suit (it's RX-78, BTW) and every single one of Luffy’s various Gum Gum attacks. Is there anything truly meaningful you’ve learned about Japan through anime? It’s culture, it’s history, it’s people... and no, I doubt RUROUNI KENSHIN is a literal retelling of the Meiji era.


For many North American otaku - - and I’d assume European and South American ones, as well - - anime tends to be the biggest cultural export of Japan that we consume. I think I’ve actually learned quite a bit about the country of origin for one of my favorite hobbies over the years. A lot of my knowledge, I'd say, concerns what the Japanese tend to... fear.

Think GODZILLA. But for food and trends, instead of nuclear decimation.

For example: C CONTROL dealt with the recession in a way that’s uniquely Japanese, addressing the future of the economy in POKEMON combat and philosophical monologues. WHITE ALBUM (while a melodrama) explored the less appealing sides of the very real Idol industry. Obvious examples like GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES dealt with the realities of WWII in Japan, and TENCHI MUYO had a lot of allusions to Shinto beliefs that might have gone over some viewers heads. There are countless other examples of history and culture intersecting with anime plots.

So in a lot of these shows, whether implicit or explicit, you are learning bits and pieces of history and what makes Japan, well... Japan. Some of the most interesting information can be found in the political commentary in the works of MAMORU OSHII, a legendary anime director. And often, Oshii deals with fears that are specifically Japanese.

Enter one of Sam’s favorite films: PATLABOR II

Now THIS is history I can get behind!
Now THIS is history I can get behind!

What first hooks me about this film is how wonderfully dense the landscapes and character renders are. Expressions are given weight while not being too over-the-top, and even though PATLABOR II is set in the future, it’s resemblance to contemporary Japan is very much on purpose.

A story of a city under siege and the intrepid, robot-using police force that battles against it, PATLABOR II is one of Oshii’s tightest scripts. It also contains some of the best commentary on modern Japanese fears of losing control of their country...

Post-WWII Japan is a topic that’s been covered pretty heavily - - and might even be seen as old hat - - but watching this film with 9-11s and the recent Boston bombings in mind, I found the issues of sacrificing liberty for security and what fighting war really means as being resonant as ever. In this future, Japan is still sitting there, nervous about being taken over again, being under siege.

PATLABOR II enlightened me to a certain fear that urban Japanese share - - at any moment, the tenuous peace they worked so hard to protect could be shattered. Earthquakes, nuclear catastrophe, and other factors still exist in Japan, and yet the biggest antagonist in this film is ourselves.

I'll cut the dissertation to a minimum here... after all, what do I really know anyway?

Ultimately, even if you’ve learned how to write some katakana or pronounce some phrases correctly in Japanese, the anime we watch are only just introductory courses to a richer and much deeper atmosphere. If you’re really interested in what’s going on in Japan, look a little beyond the anime and read interviews from law-makers, book authors, and English-speakers that just know “What’s going on, man?” Satiate your Japanese curiosity with some museum visits while you’re at it, too!

So how about Vicers? What anime has educated you a little bit about Japan? What things do you know now that you didn’t know back then, and why not share them with the rest of us!

Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow@cravesam

Post by Donwun (147 posts) See mini bio Level 12

Good article Sam

This is a very hard question to answer because i think anime perpetuates alot of Japanese sterotypes and idioms and by answering this question to a point i am exposing my own ignorance on the culture in reality.

Alas anime has really thought me how creative and intellectual the Japanes can be and has given me an insight into their culture and our own cultural differences more than anything else.

A couple of movies based on true events like Barefoot Gen were true eye openers but generally i try not to take everything i see in anime as a reference for betum.

I am however looking forward to interviewing a new friend I've made recently that lived in Japan for 4 years. She will be clearing up alot of misconceptions many of us westerners have had about the Japanese in regards to anime's depictions

Post by Marshal Victory (2,973 posts) See mini bio Level 14

One thing that seems to span any anime set in japan is the phrase " I see" . Also they seem to fight over "meat" at dinner time.. not in a dirty way. An from detective conan guns are rare as can be there.

Seriously tho after 40 some odd years of watching tv an hollywoods twist on culture, i would hate to hazard what is real an what is not in the reflection that is anime.

Things like this remind me of articles like this http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2008-04-27/opinions/36883730_1_larry-hagman-southfork-ranch-capitalism where people across the world think "Dallas" is how america is.So i hate to say something like Hataraku Maou-sama! taught me any thing but some laughs.But it did show me anime seems to have a problem getn Mcdonalds in the animation but not a problem as a sponsor.

Post by YotaruVegeta (652 posts) See mini bio Level 12

I think it's taught me most about that damn hill that high school kids have to walk up to go to school. What, everyone goes to the same school in anime?

Post by sickVisionz (4,332 posts) See mini bio Level 24

I've learned a lot, but most of it is like completely moronic stuff that only has a use if you're on Jeopardy or something.

- Students in middle school and up seem to wear outfits, although elementary students seem like they don't have to

- Girls wear swimsuit bottoms for TV (although this seems to be an old custom that is extremely rare in real Japan these days... I'd guess it's prevalent in anime because of it's usefulness in fanservice.

- There is a opposite valentine day type thing called White Day where girls give guys stuff.

- There is a thing called Golden Week where Japanese people do something for some reason and 9/10 times the anime and manga i'm into don't come out.

- Students have to be janitors at the school.

- Lots of names of foods and stuff

- You have to apply for high school

- Japan writes up and down and it's read right to left

- There don't seem to be school buses to drop kids off and pick them up to and from school each day.

- They take after school clubs hella serious.

- Class presidents in Japan are literally class presidents and every class has them unlike US ones where it's more like "grade president"

- Students behave in school and teachers can smack kids who get out of line (probably why they stay in line)

- Being lonely is evil, which is why most villains were just lonely/bored kids and every hero show aimed at kids is based around someone winning via the power of friendship.

Post by Marshal Victory (2,973 posts) See mini bio Level 14

@sickVisionz: Dam man thats a pretty good list.With out going to extreme archtypes .Good list well done.

Post by Frieza (240 posts) See mini bio Level 9

Anime has taught me that Japanese men are pussies... I'm serious...

Post by YotaruVegeta (652 posts) See mini bio Level 12

@Frieza: Men, or high school boys? As far as I know, I can count a majority of Japanese men in anime who are badass and take charge.

Post by Kino88 (284 posts) See mini bio Level 7
Yes and no,
Post by The Stegman (154 posts) See mini bio Level 7

There are apparently a lot of cicadas in Japan.

Post by DocHaus (938 posts) See mini bio Level 18

I learned more about the Sengoku period than I ever cared to know. Also a smattering of conversational Japanese, but outside of impressing some bros it's not deep enough to be useful.

Post by takashichea (16,555 posts) See mini bio Level 25

Spoilers for people who haven't watch Tari Tari.

In Tari Tari, I learn about the issues of declining birth rates which leads to schools becoming empty. Many of them close down.

In Pet Girl of Sakurasou and Bakuman, teenagers start early in their careers by middle school and high school.

In America, it depends on your location. In impoverished areas, opportunities to get your feet wet starts in college. The earliest I have seen is high school about 12th grade but for the cities that have a lot of middle class and above folks.

Not related to Anime

Megaman hints that some of the Japanese inhabitants harbor hate for Dr. Einstein.

Wily's first name, Albert, is taken from "Albert Einstein", opposite to Dr. Light's first name, Thomas, taken from "Thomas Edison". However, unlike Dr. Light, Wily has some of a resemblance to the person he is based off of. Although Einstien was a good man, he was referenced as the antagonist because he helped create the atom bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

From Dr. Wily's Trivia section


You have to apply for high school

That actually happens in my district in California. Students apply for high school by choosing schools and taking exams that affects our placement.

Great list by the way.

Post by YotaruVegeta (652 posts) See mini bio Level 12

@takashichea: Yeah, you either apply to a high school you want to go to, or you go to one you're zoned for. That's the deal with me. I'm in NY.

Post by takashichea (16,555 posts) See mini bio Level 25


Usually, I reply as quickly as I can. I was thinking of something new to bring to the table, but I exhausted my brain. I haven't watched a lot of anime especially older titles like you guys.

Thanks for the reminder, I forgot about the zoning part for my district. Usually, students who live near the school get a higher chance to get into their neighborhood school because they are trying to cut down costs for public transportation in my hometown. Some cities near me don't have public transportation. You either take city bus or the metro if your parents are too busy to drive you there. I have been seeing elementary school students taking the bus alone these days. I used to see high school students, veterans, and college students on the same bus 2 years ago. Now, I'm seeing really young kids early in the morning and in the evening like up to 7PM. That's 3 hours before the curfew law for minors.

Japan is highly dense in the urban areas. Train is much more convenient than buses. In my hometown, the metro is convenient but not at night.

OH WAIT! I got something new, shoes. I remember students have different pair of shoes not like PE at American schools. In Japanese schools, they take off their "outside" shoes and put on their school shoes.

Post by Petiew (245 posts) See mini bio Level 14

Japanese colds are incredibly dangerous, if you catch one you're going to die. Speaking of which anime also taught me this:

Post by zaldar (1,363 posts) See mini bio Level 15

Anime the different levels of respect in Japan and the different words that you have to use, the difference in saying good morning to your boss and your friend. The shoes thing that was mentioned before, along with the cleaning of the schools. I didn't know they could still smack kids in Japan though..where did you see that? It also taught me the basics of shinto. Kamachu especially taught me the fact they really do believe everything has a soul I mean there was a God of kickboards in that show...

On the darker side it taught me the evils of the idol industry and lolita and how much of an issue teachers having sex with kids and molesters on trains is in Japan.

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