The Weirdness of the Japanese
I hope Hollywood decides to make no more horror movies based on
Japanese ones. They're really boring and not the least bit
scarey. Right now I'm thinking of 'The Ring' and the 'The
Grudge' and I've seen ads for 'Black Water' which I absolutely
will not see or rent in the future because I learned my lesson
from those first two. Both of them I fell asleep watching. The
Ring, I know, got some good reviews and it was really beautiful
to look at but I didn't like the characters and I didn't
understand what was happening most of the time. I wasn't the
least bit frightened because I didn't care so much if bad things
happened to these two dimensional characters and I didn't quite
get what was supposed to scare me, anyways.
The problem with Japan is that it's not America. In college I
got interested in Anime films because they were really beautiful
and I loved the concept of using cartoons to tell a story, but
again - and please tell me if I'm really just stupid - I didn't
get at all what was going on. Like in this one anime all the
characters were really frantic about this glowing egg from which
a magical dragon would pop out of and I knew it had to represent
something - but what? I'm not Japanese. A glowing egg that a
dragon pops out of is just a glowing egg that a dragon pops out
of. That's all. I don't know what it means.
And what is the deal with Japanese school-girls? In all of these
anime films there would be Japanese school-girls who would be
represented as fully sexualized, eager and active. And the
movies would let it be known that they were thirteen or
fourteen. For a Westerner like me, it just seems more than a tad
bit creepy. I know, in Japan they have vending machines that
dispense used School-girl panties (Yes. True) And I also know
that books about how to rub up against School-girls in the
subway are best-sellers. It's their culture and I should respect
it and not make judgements ... but, c'mon.
I rather enjoy some Japanese video games, but again, the
weirdness just gets to me. One of the first games I played was
called Zone of the Enders on Playstation 2. It's what's called a
mech game, (ie) you control a giant fighting robot which you
ride in, in this case the robot also flies. I was already
familiar with this variety of game from watching the Power
Rangers on TV, mainly because of the delightful Amy Jo Johnson
AKA The Pink Power Ranger. My ten year old nephew was quite
confused as to why she was my favorite power ranger. He's older
now and I presume he understands my preference.
In Zone of Enders you fly around in your giant robot, but the
cockpit (so to speak) is at the top of a structure in the lower
mid-section of the robot that bears more than a passing
resemblance to a woody several stories high. Forgive me, but it
just makes me uncomfortable playing a game from the tip of a
huge robot penis. I don't why. Maybe it's just me.
Some Japanese video games I've enjoyed are Onimusha (the whole
series) and ICO. They were so great because of the lovely worlds
they created and if I never knew exactly what was going on,
well, they were video games and I alway knew enough that if a
monster attacks you then you fight it. The plots were just
beyond me and I learned to stop asking myself why this or that
was happening or who this person was and why they had wings.
Here's one I still don't get: For some reason in Japanese video
games chickens, of all things, seem to be set as the most
terrifying monsters imaginable. The hugest Boss fights would be
with gigantic, awful chickens. I've never been much scared of
poultry, but it must reach deep into the dark depths of Japan's
Time for a little cultural relativism. Is it possible that
perhaps some things about Americans seem a little off to the
Asian mindset? Perhaps they find some things about us 'weird?
Well, I've also played a few American video games where part of
the plot of the game involved the elements of fire, water,
earth, and air, like in Myst where you have to travel to worlds
that represent each one, or any number of other games where you
had to collect parts that represent the four elements and then
put them together in some meaningful way.
It makes sense to me, but is the whole world as familiar with
medieval European alchemy as we are in America? Probably not.
Not everyone has the same background of myth as we do. Joseph
Campbell didn't design their video games and movies like he did
for us, so if they're a little backwards in that area, it's
probably his fault.
Sad to say, I think this lack of cultural understanding is a
generational thing, too. A lot of entertainment product that
they wee ones are getting are coming to us courtesy of our good
neighbors in the Far East. Our kids are growing up with this
stuff. They know it, and they like it, while dinosaurs like me -
and maybe you, too - are perplexed and baffled. Ever have a kid
try and teach you Yu-Gi-Oh? I have and I guarantee you that I'm
not now, nor ever will be a skilled Yu-Gi-Oh player.
And one day when all these kids grow up, having been exposed to
all these foreign Asian games, we'll all seem like the weird
ones to them.
Well, we probably already do.