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"Oh Hiro. You save me and real estate market."
For those who love manga and are interested in the world of graphic novels, here’s a special comic with a lot of Asian influence that’ll get your attention. Fred Chao’s "Johnny Hiro" chronicles the life of a young Japanese man named…well, Johnny as he tries to make ends meet in New York while experiencing wacky mishaps along the way. It’s also a quirky look at what makes New York one of the most mentally intense places to live in the world while providing commentary on Asians living in America.
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With the rise of anime/manga culture on the Internet over the past decade, who here thinks Japanophiles are all over the place? One person on Quora posed the question that seems to boggle people’s minds: "Why are so many people Japanophiles?". I once responded to it and later found out answers were still trickling in by other Quora users. Regarding Japanophiles in general, can we really blame them for being a bit too obsessed with Japan?
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I present to you: Cafe Bar NAGOMI! Yes, this is an actual “imouto” cafe in Japan.
Ever had or wished you had a little sister that made you go D’AWWWW every time she tried to make you smile? Do you get giddy (or wish to gleefully experience the moments) when your little sister acts pretty mean towards you and later apologizes for her behavior with a sad, puppy face? If so, you might be having a case of “imouto love”.
A subject that continues to fascinate me is the otaku’s love for “imoutos” (Japanese for “little sisters”). Imouto characters are prevalent in Japanese pop culture and it makes you wonder why male otaku are quite drawn to them in droves. Do most of them wish they had a little sister that relied on them?
If you’re curious about how much “imouto love” there is out there, here are some examples. Besides the most prominent series that features an imouto lead, Ore no Imouto Konna ni Kawaii Wake Ga Nai (“My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute”, also known as Oreimo), other titles include Imouto wa Shishunki (“Younger Sister Is In Puberty”), Koi Kaze, and Boku wa Imouto ni Koiwosuru (“I Love My Little Sister”). Imouto love is also implied in certain anime/manga series. There is currently a wide variety of adult-oriented material (a majority in the form of PC games) focusing on little sisters loving their precious oni-chan (“big brother” in Japanese) and/or vice versa. Japan sure has quite the sister complex, doesn’t it?
An article on Senile_Seinen talked about "imouto love" in a review for Oreimo and the author stated that the subject is becoming popular because of Japan’s low birth rate. He goes on to say that few Japanese people below the age of 30 have a sibling. They don’t know what it’s like to have one, so seeing media featuring siblings in wacky moments together fascinates them.
I’m curious about the mindset of creators behind imouto material: is there anything super-special about having a little sister rather than a little brother and/or older sibling? Well, besides the fact that the little sister has tendencies to look up to the older brother and can be extremely adorable as hell. There have been studies floating around about how having a sister can be beneficial in one’s life. Having a sister (younger or older) can make you a kinder person. Sibling conflict provides great education as well. Fights between siblings usually teach them how to control their emotions in heated moments. Siblings will also stick by you even after when parents pass away. Some important factors to note are that girls like to listen and they are often more talkative than boys. This gives female siblings an edge, compared to male siblings, as you can confide in them emotionally. Older sisters can be bossy and start ranting about life though, which seems like something the otaku don’t like.
Regardless, if you have a female sibling, you’re in luck and have a good chance to turn out to be a emotionally healthy individual. I do believe that Japanese otaku (who may not have had experienced the joys of having a younger sibling) honestly want a real young, cute girl who looks up to them in all aspects of life and/or is willing to listen to them (like an imouto would). It seems that otaku want a sense of control over someone to give themselves a shot of confidence. Does anyone really give otaku a sense of hope at all? Perhaps the structure of Japanese society should be blamed for how their parents turned out, since their behavior does have huge effects on the children they raise.
A couple of final questions I would like to pose to everyone: how would you believe the otaku will react if they actually had a real little sister that matched their expectations? Will they believe that reality (in their eyes) isn’t as deceiving as they think it is? Let’s just hope that otaku don’t want too many little sisters. Then again, Japanese men haven’t had the greatest reputation as of late.
Now, if you excuse me, I must rescue my precious Nanako-chan from the evil Shadows.
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(The last thing we might see of the manga in America will be a scary black man who resembles Space Cobra & speaks Kansai-ben Japanese.)
Last week, I found an tweet stating that VIZ Media might be ending Hideaki Sorachi’s Gintama with Volume 23. Amazon has the book up for pre-order with a description saying “Final Volume!” This is a huge concern as I liked the VIZ translation (although they had some huge misses) & the manga is still ongoing in Japan. With the Gintama anime making its comeback & the series being somewhat popular around the world, you have to wonder how much Japanese cultural references a non-Japanese person can take.
So, what does North America like about Japanese culture? Mostly things that are pop-culture/entertainment-related to a huge degree. Even if people are interested in those things, they may not be fully interested in the Japanese lifestyle (which Gintama parodies frequently). Why are some Americans not interested in the overall life of other countries? There is also the fact that there’s TOO much focus on entertainment. People would rather hear about who’s dating who, etc. than keep up with more educational & enlightening matters. Can we blame mass media for controlling what people should hear? Also, some might think “How does learning about other cultures make me feel better?” In a sense, some Americans are taught to mostly care about themselves more so than others.
The market for manga in the U.S. is mostly teens & young adults. Teens seem to crave action, drama, easy-to-follow plotlines, & strong, attractive characters in their stories. Volume 1 of Gintama doesn’t start off that way unfortunately while the series is technically episodic in nature. Also, Gintoki Sakata isn’t the typical JUMP hero as he can be pretty lazy, greedy, selfish, & hypocritical at times. In all honesty, Gintama is a title that reflects the real life of adults living in Japan. Do most American teens even care about the life of a everyday adult in Japan in the first place? Not when they’re fed information on lots of anime & manga that look cool, but may not have much substance.
The recent minisode of the Gintama Podcast discussed the fate of the manga in America. Doc, the host, made an interesting point about how the anime joked frequently about being cancelled & ending prematurely. The VIZ descriptions can be a little wacky. Also, in the chapter (Episode 138 in the anime) containing the cover character of Vol. 23 (Kanemaru, the Black Dragon), there was a comment made by Shinpachi that an all-black Yorozuya group would never sell in Japan. However, it’s hard to imagine an American publishing company (humor book publishers might be a different case) make a joke about ending a book run. One final note is that the Japanese jokes & references get even more obscure in later volumes of Gintama. Granted we don’t know the actual sales numbers of the VIZ manga, is it worth it to continue translating Gintama to an audience that may never get the jokes?
Regardless, VIZ still gets a lot of props for localizing the greatness that is Gintama and publishing 20+ volumes. In any case, we’ll have to wait until this August to truly find out what will happen then. (UPDATE: The title is officially canceled).
We’ll just make due with the anime, right?