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Asian Studies

Asian Studies

The research describes the features of anime subculture, which was widely spread among the youth worldwide starting from late twentieth century. In addition, this paper aims to reveal possible reasons and factors of the above-mentioned phenomenon’s popularity by considering typical borrowings of Japanese culture. The art export is discussed in the interpretation of cultural influence in the context of globalization. The research tags are: Japanese culture, youth subculture, the subculture of anime, manga, cultural globalization.

Globalization is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the late twentieth century’s stage of world’s development. Common phenomena in the economic and political development of different national societies contributed to the expansion of intensive intercultural-governmental contacts and migration of people. Considering the process of globalization, it is impossible to accept either positive or negative sides of it. On the positive, side there is the transparency of borders for talented people, turning the results of their work to be the property of all nations, not just the particular one. Thus, such achievements are available to all humanity. The negative aspects of globalization, first and foremost, lie in the possibility of the loss of own cultural identity. There is not only simple interference as a result of cultures’ interpenetration, but cultural expansion often occurs, sharply shaping into a problem of national identity.

People have observed similar processes in the 90-ies of the twentieth century when Europe and others were under the strong influence of the American culture (Cohen). At the same time, the world society slightly showed apparent massive interest to the East, especially Japan (Flynn). Despite the downturn in the economic development of Japan in recent decades, its cultural appeal is still growing. Global cultural influence of the land of the rising sun has increased in various areas ranging from food and pop music to art (Flynn). The fact that Japan adheres to the concept of soft power played an important role in the art-sharing process, which is based on the creation and broadcasting of information, as well as the management of information flows (Bukh).

Until recent times, the national popular culture was not considered by the Government of Japan as a world power tool. However, in 2000, the Japanese government decided to implement measures to increase the share of export revenues of the Japanese industry (Bukh). The bulk of the revenues should fall on the export of manga, Japanese comics, anime, Japanese animation, and related products. In recent decades, there is not just the growing popularity of these genres. One has all the rights to admit the present boom of interest in Japanese animation and Japan as a whole (Shōji).

Many suggested that the process of globalization and its centers move to the East, which generated a specific globalization that can be seen in the example of Japan. One of the components of Japanese globalization is associated with the spread of spiritual culture, the Japanese art of ukiyo-e and subokuga, tea ceremony, ikebana and bonsai art (Flynn). The other components are more focused on enjoying great popularity samples of mass culture: karaoke, anime, cosplay, manga, or terebi dorama (Hays). Thus, mas media and mass culture of the early 90-ies of the twentieth century contributed to the emergence of interest to Japanese popular culture and its further export throughout the world gaining many anime fans daily.

Furthermore, the research considers in details the content and verbal form of anime and manga subcultures that have arisen under the influence of Japanese animation. Since there is no consensus about the pros and cons of globalization, the opinions on the anime subculture are diametrically different. Some people believe that this is the most harmless trend among all youth subcultures; others see it as an absolute evil, which illegally imposes alien cultural patterns and values (Lily). To better understand this subculture one has to realize what anime is and why it is attractive to foreign viewers.

The concept of the subculture is treated uniquely. The term of youth subculture refers to the culture created by young people for themselves for the purpose of self-realization, self-identification, and development of social roles and status. Any youth subculture is not intended to chase the commercial goals; moreover, it does not tend to advertise itself. The term of informal youth groups refers to groups or associations, which are formed independently of the desires and intentions of the adults and are the result of the relevant actions of young people themselves.

There are several subgroups with specific names identified in the framework of anime subculture’s fans (Davis):

  • Passive anime followers or ordinary fans of Japanese animation, who watch anime series, but do not take part in any discussions or forums;
  •  Cosplay followers, active group of fans of the anime genre, who identify themselves with any anime character, being called by their hero’s name, wearing similar clothes, using in their speech related words and expressions, and playing role games;
  • Kameko, anime and cosplay fans, who take pictures of the cosplay followers;
  • Manga fans, who are involved in drawing the comics;
  • Otaku followers, people who are maniacally enthusiastic of anime and manga. In addition to discussions on various forums, the latter create websites which are devoted to the genre of anime in general or a particular series. Otaku people also spread magazines, create online dictionaries for beginners, organize anime festivals, cosplay contests, and collect figurines of anime characters.

The appeal of anime and manga for young people from different countries and cultures is rather addictive (Hays). Here is why. First, the style of anime and manga is graffiti-like, making pictorial language fairly simple and attractive to young people of any age, staying in the memory for a long time. Second, there are many types of anime, each of which is aimed at a particular age and gender category (Davis). There are anime for boys, girls, men, women, children and so on. Moreover, there is also a clear age-grading, for example, anime for boys aged 13-15 years, or anime for girls from 18 to 25 years, etc.

Each type of anime has its own peculiarities in plotting, character, and behavior of the characters, background music, etc. For example, anime characters, designed for girls and women promote beautiful women’s features. On the other hand, anime for boys is known for its disdain for the female images, who are invisible as gray mice. To the fore here come the adventures that take place with the main characters, but not the experiences. Typically, such genres of anime are of a different set of various images and characters that represent a cohesive team. Of course, there are deviations from these laws: the anime is not always possible to clearly divide audience by the targets. Some genres of the Japanese animation are intended for public viewing, for example, the so-called kazoku or family anime and cartoons (Allison).

Being different by the age of the audience, anime is differentiated by genre as well. In addition to well-known dramas, tragedies, comedies, action, or cyberpunk fiction, the Japanese animation has other interesting genres, such as Mahou Shoujo (Allison). Shows of this type are intended for girls up to 13-15 ages and tell about the witch girl, or a girl who miraculously managed to get some magical artifact. Another interesting Japanese invention can be considered a genre of doubutsu (literally ‘an animal’), where the characters are rather humanlike creatures than animals. A part of the audience, both in Japan as well as in the West, has a particular interest in such a genre as hentai. Hentai is a Japanese painted pornography, which is known for its distortions splashing out all the secret fears and phobias at the viewer.

The third feature is the voice of anime. In Japan, there are special actors called seiyuu, who are the voice actors for scoring roles in the animated series. Seiyuu truly transform into their characters and act out the role, filling the drawn character with all the depth and psychological insight. Only in Japan, there are special schools for anime voice actors (Tokyo School of Anime). When dubbing anime in another country seiyuu work loses its value, and the viewer gets much less pleasure from the show than the carrier of the Japanese language.

Fourth, all the aesthetics of Japanese cinema include the tranquility of Zen Buddhism and its contemplative foundation. Nevertheless, any Japanese movies or cartoons pay respect to the deities or spirits, which they worship thus representing the main aesthetic line of the Japanese cinema. In addition, Japan Foundation plays not the least role in the spread of the Japanese popular culture, operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and dealing with the spread of Japanese language and Japanese culture abroad.

In conclusion, there are fears that the subculture of anime fans is more involved in the processes of globalization as long as world youth listen to Japanese music and wear clothes in the Japanese style. Thus, it increasingly moves away from their cultural roots. The spontaneous, not controlled by anyone, borrowing from Japanese culture has both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, the process of borrowing enhances peoples’ knowledge about each other, helping to bring them closer. The cultural influence is refracted in a host of national culture and can enrich it to kick-start a new round of development. On the other hand, overly active borrowing, especially among young people, is not innocuous: it indicates the cultural vacuum in young people’s consciousness and is dangerous by the possible loss of ethno-cultural identity.

 
 

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