Q:What kind of Japanese fiction works?
A:This presentation is mostly about comics and animation produced in Japan, but it covers also TV Shows and movies
Topic: Japanese fiction
General Purpose: To persuade
Specific Purpose: To persuade you that Japanese fiction is better than western fiction regarding comics, animation, movies and TV shows
Thesis statement: Although Western people see Japan as a calculating land with brutally efficient workers, they are in fact individualistic, expressive and sentimental if we can judge them from their works of fiction who surpass our own in various aspects
I. How other countries think of Japan
II. Thesis statement
III. Reminding the meaning of the terms manga and anime
I. First argument: Japan’s tendency to mix various influences from all over the world
A.Japan borrows various foreign things and merges them with other elements
B.Example regarding religion of Japan
C.This tendency in regards to fiction
II.Second Argument: How Japanese portray life, human
relations, nature and the world in their fiction works
A.Human nature is portrayed as it is
B.Japan’s popular culture has a tight closeness to the ordinary, everyday lives of its audience
C.Manga on any theme imaginable and toward any age range
D.How human relations are portrayed
III.Third Argument: Heroes’ fate after their struggle, death and the morality of the universe in Japanese fiction
A.What defines a hero in Japan
B.Death in japanese fiction
C.View of the universe as amoral
A1. Pornographic themes in manga and anime
B1. Japan’s cultural insularity robs it of relevance for other societies
I. Quote from Antonia Levi
If someone will say that Japanese people are imaginative, sentimental, expressive and individualistic might earn him strange glances in most countries of the world. Many Westerners see Japan as a cold, calculating land of ant-like workers with brutal efficiency. Students are seen as oppressed slaves to their studies, pounded down like nails until their imaginations and individuality are crushed, or until they are driven to suicide. Japanese social culture is often seen as blanketed under stifling layers of politeness and formality, characterized by endless bowing.
However, underneath all these there is the hidden Japanese soul. Almost all of the Japanese escape from reality through fiction works. These domestically created fiction works be it comics, animation, movies or TV shows enjoy great popularity not only in Japan but also in many countries of the world. Therefore, because these specific works are strikingly different from what we’re used to here in the Western world, it is inevitable to compare these two: the Western fiction works and the Japanese ones.
Hello, everybody, my name is ………… I will talk to you about Japanese fiction works and I will compare them to Western ones so as to enforce my opinion and persuade you of course, that Japanese fiction is better than Western fiction. Before starting, I want to make you acquainted with two terms. Manga, which is used to refer to the Japanese comics and anime, which refers to the Japanese animation.
As a first argument, I have to inform you that Japan has the tendency to borrow various foreign things and to tinker with them, merging them with native or other elements so that they become something new and often quite distinct from the original. As an example, regarding religion, Taoism was the original religion of Japan but this didn’t stop Japanese people from accepting Buddhism as well, and even acquiring some aspects of other religions in addition, like Christianity. In works of fiction this tendency of the Japanese means new and non-static entertainment through mixing different influences from around the world without having to suffice only to the myths and the influences of their own country.
For my second argument supporting Japanese fiction, I want to inform you about the way Japanese portray life, human relations, nature and the world in their fiction works. The world and human nature in Japan’s pop culture can be portrayed as they are, not as they should be. This allows Son Goku, Dragonball’s raised in the wild, central character, to be drawn naked, without the private parts-covering fig leaf that had to be added for American TV. It allows as well, the darker side of life to be portrayed. In an episode of Naniwa Kin Yudo, which is an anime TV series, the protagonist Haibara encourages the girlfriend of a customer, who cannot repay his loan, to work as a prostitute to cover her boyfriend’s debt. Scenes such as this can be disturbing but they are part of life and are neither denied nor hidden. Kazuhiko Torishima, editor of Japan’s best-selling comic magazine Shonen Jump states: “I feel sorry for U.S. kids, who live in an adult-filtered Disney world.” Moreover, Japan’s popular culture has a tight closeness to the ordinary, everyday lives of its audience.
American comic artist Brian Stelfreeze has said: “Comics in the U.S. have become such a caricature. You have to have incredible people doing incredible things, but in Japan it seems like the most popular comics are the ones of normal people doing normal things.” Part of the normalcy is that the characters that populate Japan’s manga, anime and TV dramas display plenty of character flaws and weaknesses along with their strengths and good points. Furthermore, as Ian Reader, a scholar of Japanese religions and popular culture, has noted: “Manga are simply too fascinating, colorful and rich a literary medium to be left solely to children. In Japan one can find manga on any theme imaginable and toward any age range.” which is certainly not the case with American comic books.
In addition, Timothy Craig which is an author, writes in his book entitled “Japan Pop!” that, human relations are a pervasive topic in Japanese pop culture, as one would expect from a society that places great importance on the group, harmony, and the smooth management of conflict. Human relations are also portrayed with a sophistication that does justice to the complexity of human affairs. Issues are many-sided, emotions are mixed, solutions are neither easy nor obvious, and outcomes are often ambiguous – not unlike real life. He continues by saying that, in Japanese fiction the human characters are more real. They exhibit a fuller range of human emotions and are put into more realistic situations, sometimes with unpleasant outcomes, than allowed by Disney’s “perfectly preserved, stiflingly safe fairytale-based storylines.”
For my last argument I will talk about heroes’ fate after their struggle, about death and the morality of the universe and therefore god, in Japanese fiction. We here in the Western world, are used to good being only good and be rewarded in the end and evil being only evil and be punished in most of the cases. This is not the case in Japanese culture. It’s not unknown in Japan for heroes to become villains and vice versa. Moreover, the Japanese hero is defined by motivation than in the West where heroism is more dependent on result. The ideal Japanese hero is not only self-sacrificing, but also unconcerned with personal gain or survival. The hero’s willingness to give his or her all to it is what counts. Winning doesn’t matter either. Losing and gaining nothing confirms the hero’s altruism and renders his or her sacrifice all the more tragic. Many characters also, meet meaningless, undeserved ends. And fans love that aspect, the fact that bad things, even death, can happen to any character at any time. It doesn’t matter how brave, how good, or even how popular they are.
According to my opinion, this fact is absolutely in accordance to how our own world works. Death and bad things generally, can be around the corner for any person, no matter how kind or good-willed he or she is. According to a book by author Antonia Levi titled “Understanding Japanese Animation” that doesn’t happen on American TV where virtue is rewarded and evil is punished. That’s mainly because America is a Christian culture that believes that the universe is, or it should be, a moral place. The Japanese peoples’ take on this is that universe is amoral. Shinto as well, has no moral code at all! It simply celebrates life. Heroism and self-sacrifice may define a japanese character as a hero, but they will not save him or her. The universe simply doesn’t care.
On the opposing side now and regarding manga and anime specifically, some of you may have noticed and may say that a lot of these works have pornographic themes. Wrong. According to the author of the book “Understanding Japanese Animation” these works are actually a very small portion of the total production of Japan in manga and anime that is disproportionately exported to the Western world.
Another opposition stated by quite a few people, expresses that Japan is a one-dimensional economic power marked by a cultural insularity that robs it of relevance for other societies. Wrong again. The success and presence of Japan’s cultural exports in countries apart from Asian ones such as U.S.A, Canada and most of the European countries is strong evidence that Japan’s culture does have relevance for other societies.
To conclude, and quote author Antonia Levi, it’s not just that Japan’s pop culture deals with dilemmas in a more realistic fashion, or that it raises issues considered taboo in other countries. Its willingness to show death and other bad stuff restores a kind of tension, a genuine dramatic emotionality that Hollywood and TV seem to have forgotten about.
Clements, Jonathan and Helen McCarthy. The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 Stone Bridge Press, 2001.
Craig, Timothy. Japan Pop: Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture East Gate, 2000.
Levi, Antonia. Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation Carus Publishing, 1998.
Patten, Fred. Anime Stereotypes. Newtype, Issue Dec.2003 A.D.Vision
For my third argument supporting my opinion, I will talk about the presence of female heroes in Japanese fiction. In the Western world apart from such exceptions as Wonder Woman, She-ra and Xena the role of superhero has traditionally been reserved for males, and targeted a predominantly male audience especially in comic books. This is not the case with Japanese fiction. Japanese don’t neglect females be it on the starring roles of their fiction works or as a target group audience. In manga specifically, there exists a separate genre called shoujo manga with many sub-genres itself, which raises issues and has stories related and devoted to women.
The presence of females as featured heroes in manga, animation and TV shows has been much stronger in Japan than in the western world. As the book “Japan Pop” specifically reports: “in Japan girl heroes are now as common and popular as boy heroes. The reasons for this are complex and, while hardly due to a greater feminist consciousness in Japanese society, are clearly linked to the increase in recent years of female artists.