Read an interesting article the other day that got me thinking. It's on the subject of Japanese Cool, something I think we anime fans are at least passingly familiar with. Its interesting to think of the transition that Japan has undergone, from a military power to an economic power, now maybe to a cultural power.
Certainly those of us who appreciate anime and manga are grateful for the immense popularity that this form of expression has acheived in Japan. After all, we need those great series to keep making their way across the world! Video games too, something many of us play, is dominated by games whose ideas and polish come from the Japanese-dominated gaming industry. But there's a lot more than just these traditional venues that people can sample from Japan. Trends, sometimes crazy and insane, but often times fun and different, are embraced by the Japanese at a much faster rate than you might see in America. All those snazzy cell phones with crazy faceplates, camera phones, gaming phones, you-name-it phones, chances are it was big in Japan first. I'm just waiting for those cell phone mascots, the plastic pets you attach to your phone, that are so big right now to become popular in the US.
While some things in Japan will be forever weird... tentacle hentai anyone? It's refreshing to read about an alternative to the global culture exported by the United States, especially if you happen to live in the US. Some will argue that the culture the Japanese are exporting is not theirs, but simply regurgitated from their exposure to the monolithic american variety, and you legitimately argue this case when you look at the fact that most characters in anime or manga tend to look western. However, I think its very interesting to run the american culture through a Japanese filter and see what comes out. American Pop vs JPop, is there a difference? I guess it depends on the tastes of the individual.
The Japanese are a very homogenous society and they have been so throughout their history, a fact that I think aids them in exporting a culture that has a unique feel to it. Elements of their traditional forms of expression (themselves oftentimes borrowed from China in a similar fashion that western culture has been borrowed) such as Samurai, Ninja, a strong sense of honor, strict rules of social engagement, and more are imprinted upon the media they export, mingling with the western culture and making it accessible and interesting to those of us who enjoy watching a good anime.
Of course, not everything to come out of there is good. I recently read about a revival of the Disco Craze in Japan... some things are just better left dead. Still, what can you say. Those Japanese are off the wall over there. Gotta love it.
Sunday, January 04, 2004