Mothers and Demons – The Women of Cross Ange


Cross ange 8The history of Japan is filled with female figures, mythical and historical that are as powerful as they are dangerous. They are mothers, demons, and gods, holding the power of life and death in the palms of their hands, and for that reason they are worshipped and feared in equal measure. The story of Japan’s creation, and the roles of its gods demonstrate the power that women hold within Japanese belief and mythology. The Brother and Sister called Izanagi and Izanami are said to have created the islands of Japan and its deities. Izanami gave birth to the Japanese islands as well as to a large number of deities, but giving birth to the fire god Kagu-tsuchi was too much for her. During this painful birth, she was badly burnt, and after one final effort she bore the gods of metal, clay, and water from her vomit, faeces, and urine, only to perish and disappear into Yomi-no-kuni (the underworld). Izanagi in his grief chose to enter the underworld in an attempt to return Izanami to the world of the living. But, instead of following him back, Izanami instead begged him not to look at her in her current state. However, Izanagi could not resist and looked, but seeing her putrefying body, swarming with maggots, he exclaimed: ‘What hideous and polluted land have I come to unawares!’ Read more of this post

Comedy, Carnivalesque, and the Naked Body in Anime: Why the issue of ‘Fanservice’ is more complex than it first appears


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Japanese culture has long been viewed as a curiosity, from the period of European colonialism when The Orient was a place of exotic otherness, to modern day society where Japanese popular culture is viewed as extreme, perhaps hedonistic, as opposed to the more refined tastes of the west. When viewing anime, it is possible to see how it, as a cultural medium, promotes an orientalist view of Japan with its astonishing visuals, along with the numerous exotic and strange creatures and creations. Part of the exoticism within anime is the explicit use of nudity, and more revealing situations where male and female characters are seen in their underwear, or in a more exposed, even fetishistic light. Read more of this post

Outbreak Company – Cultural Imperialism and Development


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In my last post about Outbreak Company I explored the dissemination of mass culture as a form of soft power, a way of maintaining political, and cultural power within a globalised and changing world. Outbreak Company presents us with an example of Japan using its cultural wealth to create political, social, and economic links with another country. Shinichi acts as a ‘Moe Missionary’ so that Japans government can use this element of popular culture to their own advantage and help cement important relations with a country that no one else currently knows about. There are clear similarities here in the way western anime fans have come into contact with Japan – indeed, many bloggers and fans may only know about Japan through their limited knowledge gleaned from watching anime, reading manga, or playing games. There is much more to Japan than the national cool of anime culture, and most foreigners will never penetrate the barriers of language – we just have look at how poorly anime comedies, and those shows that focus on specific cultural and social aspects of Japanese life can be treated – and culture well enough to see Japan as the average Japanese sees it. Read more of this post

Outbreak Company and the dissemination of mass culture


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The premise of Outbreak Company seems a little odd at first – developing good relations with another nation (in this case one in a fantasy world) through the use of popular culture. However, once we look a little closer at this series whilst also exploring real world examples we can see that such a premise has been used before on multiple occasions, and is arguably central to the Japanese governments attempt to enhance its standing in today’s globalised world. Indeed, culture – be it political, religious, or social – has always been one way for a country to strengthen its position with its neighbours, or perhaps in a foreign country. If we look at the process of imperialism throughout the 17th-20th centuries we can see how elements of the conquered nations culture were supplanted by the conqueror. Culture can be used to rebrand a countries image, change how it is perceived in the world, and recreate a powerbase that was once lost. Read more of this post

The complex nature of anime


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There are many anime series every season that are labelled as ‘bad’, or ‘rubbish’, with numerous bloggers, or people on twitter talking about how stupid they are, and how boring characters or stories may be. I do think that many anime are often mislabelled, with people taking their lack of cultural understanding to mean that a series is badly written or directed. Perhaps people forget that anime is Japanese and therefore incorporates aspects of the countries history, culture, and social norms. This may seem a little odd since it is fairly obvious that anime is Japanese, but perhaps western audiences have become so used to watching anime, that the notion of a culturally and socially embedded medium is either ignored, or never springs to mind. Read more of this post

Construction of gendered identities within the school environment


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As I have pointed out in previous posts, anime provides a dream world where the audience can escape from their everyday lives in a world of fantasy. Some anime may take the fantasy element literally, with series set in magical worlds, or in futuristic science fiction settings or dystopian landscapes, but others present a more subtle form of escapism, one where the escape is into the everyday. This everyday is often highly idealised and romanticised, and predominantly takes place in or around school grounds. One of the central themes that most recent anime share (at least those series set in or around school) is the position of school in the central characters lives, and how comparatively little importance is placed upon formal education and all that it encompasses. Instead, the school grounds become important as a space where ‘family’ relationships are created and reshaped. Read more of this post

The ‘Family’ in School Centric Anime


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The world of dreams and fantasies that school centric anime portray further allows them to explore the complex nature of the Japanese family and its place within Japanese society. The ‘Japanese Family’ is full of diversity, with differences and differentiations depending on social class, historical cultures, legal cultures, and economic conditions (White, 2011). There is not a single, all-encompassing ‘Japanese Family’, although the Meiji Government (1868-1912) attempted to create one with their reinterpretation of the ‘ie’ household (extended family based on patrilineal descent). This version of the Japanese family became a matter of state concern in the establishment of a modern nation, but it only exists because of the force of ideology and power promoting it; it is a dream of what a family should be, rather than what it is (White, 2011; 129). The family is often viewed by the state as a continuation of its power, ideology and morals, a unit that recreates social and cultural norms and can pass down a sense of belonging to something substantially larger than itself. It is therefore essential to have a solid family structure in place in order to create society, and to engender the moral imperatives of honour, self-sacrifice, and pride. Read more of this post

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