What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

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What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby Athena » Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:39 pm

Since moving to Japan in May of 2008, I have discovered a feedback loop in my perception of and interaction with anime and manga. Anime/Manga make me recognise aspects of the Japanese experience, and aspects of the Japanese experience make me better understand anime and manga.

I often make the joke that before I moved to Japan (and in fact, I was falling out of anime fandom in the years between 2003 and 2006 for various reasons), I watched anime because it was exotic and different, but that since moving to Japan I watch anime because it is familiar. In fact, while back in Texas working on my MA I ended up watching considerably more anime and reading more manga than I had in either my time in Japan or for quite a few years prior to that point. The reason was clear pretty much from the outset: I was terribly homesick and anime and manga helped to fill a very real sociocultural void.

Given that I have a year of MA work back in Texas to compare to years of living in Japan (and being back again), I'm able to recognise that so much of my enjoyment of anime and manga, and specifically, the slice of life genre (be there other genres like drama, romance), derived from the personal meaning the settings and situations had to me, being that they are undeniably Japanese settings and Japanese situations. These settings are my settings. They situations are my situations.

And I've tried to reach back, and identify what about anime and manga it was that made me interested in it in the first place. I guess I can cite the complex characters, the sophisticated plots, and just in general the greater understanding of animation or comics as worthy of being considered great literature. I could point to the fact that often anime and manga explore the human condition in ways which American animation and American comics are only now starting to truly deal with. And maybe all of that would be true but...

Was it anime that instilled in me the need for the clickity-clack of trains constantly in the background? (You laugh, but going back to Texas, the lack of train sounds constantly disturbed me). Was it manga that led to me deep respect for Japanese school architecture and uniforms, even if I am deeply critical of the pedagogical methodologies utilised in the Japanese public school system? Or is it instead that these sounds and sights are only important to me now because of my deep connection to Japan, and this throws their presence in anime, even anime I've seen many years before into sudden hyper-relief? And what of the smells? Or the textures? These are not duplicated in anime, and yet now, when I watch an anime (say Tamayura, which takes place in fairly nearby Takehara), I am capable of sensory recall which includes smelling and touching.

In 2009, my first major awareness of this change was in rewatching Lucky Star. I had watched it twice before. Both times prior to my arrival in Japan. Bluntly put; I didn't get it. I didn't think it was funny. I didn't understand how it was so popular. Rewatching it after a year in Japan was very much like watching it for the first time. It was hilarious. All the jokes made sense. I understood the references. I had personal experience with many of the situations presented. And it made me wonder how much I had missed in the various series I had already seen. I didn't rewatch everything; that would not have been possible. So, instead, I restricted myself to anime which was slice of life. My conclusion: anime and manga, by virtue of being part of a unique Japanese intertexuality, simply has more meaning to someone with direct, personal experience of Japan.

Which brings me to my question: what do you think is universal in Japanese animation and comics, and do you believe that those without a personal connection to Japan are gaining a complete enough understanding of the works?
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Re: What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby Jasta85 » Fri Oct 05, 2012 9:36 am

One thing I noticed is that in anime there seems to be a small variety of certain phrases. This is hard to describe since I can't actually spell them out

for example whenever bad guys get their asses kicked and run away they always yell "I'll remember this!" or the prevalence of the word "baka" or "aho" in name calling. Either way I notice the same words or phrases being used a lot across a ton of series, I don't even know exactly what they mean in a lot of cases but I know exactly what context they are being used in.

Aside from that, there is almost always the prevalence large mammaries on women (either that or loli's).
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Re: What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby Athena » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:38 pm

Jasta85 wrote:One thing I noticed is that in anime there seems to be a small variety of certain phrases.


Most everyday phrases used in anime are genuine everyday Japanese phrases.

Aside from that, there is almost always the prevalence large mammaries on women (either that or loli's).


Which, to be fair, is not remotely accurate.
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Re: What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby TEKnician » Wed Nov 07, 2012 10:01 pm

Here's one reason why i prefer animated movies over live-action ones:

You can create a "human" emotion that is physically impossible to be conveyed by humans themselves.

Take, for example, the series "Ef: A Tale of Memories". The high-impact visuals, the artistic analogies used to convey various states-of-mind, as well as the deep vocal resonance of the characters and their animated bodies, all of these are simply unobtainable by physical laws. How do you expect a 14-year-old to mimic that type of persona without looking like a cheap "Twilight"? Exactly. You can't.

On a brighter side, the witty antics, the villainous laughs, the heart-wrenching moe eyes, the gravity-defying stunts, are just as unique to anime than live-action. You can see life from a whole new [2-Dimensional] angle! LOL
Almost as hard as fighting a Holy Paladin.
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Re: What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby BasharOfTheAges » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:05 am

When taken as a whole there isn't really much. It's gone from a pseudo-genre like state to a wide-open medium where people intentionally try to be different or fit themselves into sub-categories (which are all tidy groupings, but differ heavily from one another). Any current sense of sameness comes from over-consumption of a given category or categories, and/or nostalgia goggles.

The question really is like asking what's the same in all music produced in a given continent. If you have difinitive answers that aren't the plainly obvious (they all are noise produced by people or things) then you haven't broadened your horizons enough and heard all the things created just to be different. Even in a conformist culture, people will balk at the idea of universality and strive to destroy any sense of it by being different.
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Re: What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby requiett » Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:45 pm

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Re: What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby TEKnician » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:38 pm

requiett wrote:Carrot underscore carrot parentheses parentheses space colon three

requiett wrote:<_<() :3



period period period

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Re: What's universal in Japanese animation and comics?

Postby Zarxrax » Fri Nov 09, 2012 11:17 pm

I completely see where you are coming from. When I went to Japan it also totally changed my perception of anime. Within my first hours of arrival, suddenly tons of anime scenes were rushing through my head. There were so many different things that I had always accepted as "that's just how anime is", and I suddenly came to the realization that no, that's just how JAPAN is.

I have often wondered if people who live in places like new York or Hollywood sometimes have those similar feelings, being that their hometowns are constantly plastered all over TV?

But back to the original question. What is common across anime? Obviously you have the influence of Japanese culture. This creeps into almost all of them, where you can just look at it and say "yep, this is Japanese". But there are some anime out there which do a really good job of hiding it.
I think some other common things are as you already mentioned, settings and architectural styles. Also personalities of the characters themselves.
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