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How Has Anime Changed As Japan Has Changed?

#1 User is offline   sentinel28a 

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Posted 23 July 2006 - 11:28 PM

Yet another thought-provoking question (or not)...

This is a kind of no-brainer question, in a way--of course anime has changed with the changing times. If it didn't, it would die, and in any case as generations of anime fans have changed, anime would have to change with them. Naturally, what Osamu Tezuka thought as hip and interesting would differ greatly from Haruhiko Mikimoto, Mamoru Oshii, and Ken Akamatsu. But I just find it interesting how things have changed, and are changing as Japan's population gets older and its worldview shifts in light of recent events.

For instance, Area 88. I own both the old 1983 VHS copy of this series, and the new one that came out last year. In the old one, Shin Kazama (main hero guy) is an ace fighter pilot fighting a war he doesn't want to be in, because he got shanghaied into it by a "friend" who wanted his woman. Whenever Shin marks on his calendar how many days he has until his enlistment is up, he throws things and bursts into tears, saying how much he hates killing. He does this a lot.

In the new version, Shin's background is the same, but he's much colder. He still wants to get home to his girl, but the people he has to gun down to get there doesn't seem to bother him as much. What happens, happens. He doesn't go on crying jags or bemoan his fate too much.

I'm also reminded of Robotech and Max Sterling saying, "We'll win this war without bloodshed!" I can't see that coming out of, say, Guts' or Asuka's mouth--or for that matter, even Spike Spiegel's or Inuyasha's. Granted, the Max Sterling of the Americanized Robotech was a lot less ruthless than Maximilian Jenius was in the Japanese Macross, because of censorship concerns. Still, I have to wonder if anime is undergoing the same sort of shift in outlook as Japan itself seems to be.

Any thoughts, or am I way off base here?

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#2 User is offline   Isildur 

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Posted 24 July 2006 - 05:56 AM

Actually, I believe anime has to some extent ignored the fundamental shifts in Japanese culture. In short, they've adopted an outward face for the medium. (If you don't know the significance of 'faces' in japanese culture, then I'm sorry you just need to study some more; the quick answer is that the phrase "in a country where nobody ever says precisely what they mean" from 'Last Samurai' is much more accurate a depiction of japan then the movie itself is).

In reality, a decade of crushing recession, an alarming population decline, North Korean hostility, and disenchantment with the American government have taken a much, much greater toll on Japan then a lot of people think.

#3 User is offline   sentinel28a 

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 01:42 AM

Oh, I don't know...you're not going to get geopolitical commentary from Sailor Moon, but there's been a few anime where you can turn up surprising tidbits about Japanese society.

801st TTS Airbats is Tenchi Muyo Joins the JASDF, but there's a lot said about how some Japanese see Americans (warmongering, big faced nutcases with giant boobs) that you might not expect. There's a reason why the bad guys in Space Battleship Yamato use red, white, and blue as colors, and Patlabor 2 actually has the US exercising the clause in the Japanese constitution that allows us to reoccupy the place if we deem it necessary. Of course, Tokyo Godfathers dealt with unemployment and recession, and I think the changing face of Shin Kozama shows that the Japanese (or at least, Area 88's producers) have much less of a problem with military force than their predecessors did in 1982.

Naturally, anime is a poor substitute for actually reading about or visiting Japan, but it's as close as a lot of people over here are ever going to get--one of the reasons why I think anime and anime conventions like ACen are overlooked as cross-cultural educational tools.

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