||home / august 2002 / chasing otakuism
The Great American Misunderstanding?
By fellow Animefringer Steve Diabo
NOTE: This article is printed as a usable, quotable reference of service to anyone wishing to defend their beloved anime in lieu of the recent squabbles in the media over child pornography and the like. Feel free to copy it, keep it, take it to bed with you and put it under your pillow.
This year's Anime Expo was the first one Animefringe covered as an official member of the press, and by all accounts, the festivities went off without a hitch. Anime freaks, cosplayers and idle hobbyists alike made a brave pilgrimage from the far corners of the galaxy to the annual otaku Mecca of North America - and much fun, frolic and waiting in line was had by all. I, myself, had every intention of going, but my "real job" at a local newspaper kept me too busy - also, squandering my wages on Baby Ruth and Cognac didn't help much either. But I severely digress.
For those of us that remember, 2000's AX was not as flawless as the past two have been. Excitingly enough, in 2000, the Anime Expo Committee managed to secure dealings with the Disneyland Resort Hotel in Anaheim to hold AX2K there - a much larger venue than the past ones with the potential to be, bar none, the greatest AX to date.
What was unforeseen was the fact that not everyone staying at the hotel would be there for the Expo. Many of the guests would not know to understand or at least tolerate the myriad cultural discrepancies between our culture and Japan's. Sure enough, some little kid managed to buy himself something special from the dealer's room and next thing you know, the whole damn thing turned into a panty raid. Disneyland Gestapo shaking down defenseless doujinshi artists, concerned parents in an uproar over the return of the Yellow Peril, the LAPD brutalizing Sailormoon cosplayers mistaking them for streetwalkers, nuclear holocaust, babies crying, et cetera - it was not a pretty picture. Needless to say, the AX managing contingent and Disney have since neglected to engage in any collaborative efforts.
The scenario was a textbook example of what happens when east meets west in conservative America. I'd hate to play the Illuminati, but it's an undeniable fact that the Japanese export we embrace for its unique characteristics is less than understood in the reality-skewed, politically correct, lawsuit-happy USA. As anime slowly encroaches into the mainstream, more and more conservative lobbyists are tooting their own horns over 5-foot-tall cartoon girlies with big boobies, dirty old men who like to collect panties, and naked silhouette transformation scenes.
What's more, with the current hubbub over child pornography, some of our more ignorant leaders and lobbyists are branding many kinds of anime, if not ALL anime, as softcore child porn. This is, of course, utterly wrong.
America's traditional mentality with cartoons is preventing anime from being recognized as a medium instead of a mere genre. A medium is something like a movie, a book, a magazine, a song, a theatrical production, et cetera. Anime is one of these mediums, and it has its own genres within. It is a way to tell a story - any kind of story. Unfortunately, just like movies, books, magazines, music, theatrical productions and more, there are some stories told with anime that not everyone can agree is kosher.
How often, though, do you see people pissing and moaning about all magazines in general just because they caught their kid reading Hustler? Cat Fancy, National Geographic and Newsweek had nothing to do with it; leave 'em alone! And hey, wasn't the Bible a book? Does that mean that since there are books about poon, we should all start burning Bibles? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Well, that's what anime is forced to deal with on a constant basis in America.
There are a thousand different kinds of anime - comedy, drama, action, suspense, and yes, pornography too. Plenty of it is really raunchy and rather slimy, with lots of high-pitched moaning and tentacles, too. Hey, if you don't like it, don't watch those ones. When you walk into a video store you're not obligated to go past those swingy doors into that small room in the back. Just pick up your copy of Serendipity and go home.
In fact, there's even anime for your kids. Ever heard of a little someone named Hayao Miyazaki? In general, his work just happens to be, in my humble opinion, the most heartwarming, well-met children's entertainment around. Just because some giant-breasted schoolgirl with pink hair is getting butt-raped by a magical roving fist from Uranus surely doesn't mean Kiki and her delivery service are to blame...
So is all anime doomed to forever be painted with the same brush? Well, in my opinion, it will continue to be grossly generalized for a few years, but as information grows and is absorbed, the heat will eventually die down. It's just too bad that sensible, positive information seems to travel so damn slow in the Land of the Free... Good thing I live in Canada! Phew!