Authenticity Is Two-Edged

A couple related topics. More like, how do I write subtitles for blog posts in lines of post rock tracks or A Centaur’s Life’s episode titles.

The West’s pursuit of authenticity misses the point

To riff off SDS here, I don’t know why this particular facet of cartoon idols need to be highlighted. If you wanted escapism, do you want a dose of reality in your escapism? How much? Do you want the bottom of your Large serving of soda from McDonald’s to say “You’re fat”? But clearly since I don’t quite get where he’s coming from, I probably am missing the memo on what spurred the post in the first place.

That said, SDS’s post does a good job highlighting the one aspect about Love Live that it shares with classic Yuri, which is the whole garden of otome thingy. At the same time, his overly-tropified understanding of that go-to-koushien thing is kind of tired. It’s like if you were to make a teen drama revolving around a high school sport, you might have one of the top players to have some conflicts about going pro versus going broke to win a game or something. I mean, talking to my soccer-mom-class coworkers I hear enough juice about their kids’ sports drama that reality is always going to be more strange and messy than fiction. Youth’s fleeting nature coupled with that once-in-a-lifetime achievement in a once-in-a-lifetime setting can be the perfect spark to ignite the mono no aware inside you.

It’s not about a thing. It’s about you, what’s in you, and how you feel about that thing.

What is really anime in a world where nobody even knows what anime is or how it’s made?

Is Neo Yokio anime? I think to some people anime is a class of media entertainment, and based on my casual observation as an American who attend cons and observe some other fans, yeah, for certain people in certain demos, it has a cultural meaning, weight, definition, context and more–a specific signaling of a set of ideas and values. That anime and games like Scott Pilgrim or Pacific Rim or Neo Yokio can speak to us and engage us in a similar way as anime does may be enough to say they are anime or what have you.

But to me this is ignorant of how the sausage is made. Yeah, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter really isn’t butter, but you may treat it just like how you treat butter. It also means in the 19th and 20th century lots of important men in suits litigated and set Supreme Court precedence over marketing, distribution and production of butter and butter-like products. Because I guess, people cared about butter a lot back then.

But if you’re going to say Neo Yokio, RWBY and Shelter are or are not anime in the same post, at least care to identify which one is not like the other two. (Hint: Only one has Arai and Kouno Megumi in it.) Or are they even alike? Is ScarJo’s Major more anime than FLCL’s Haruko? Is Kamiyama’s Major more Hollywood than, well, Neo Yokio anything? I think there is a dialog about culture being mixed with a dialog about what is or isn’t figurative butter, and that are going to just confuse things even more.

Also, I feel part of the problem is the lack of insight that’s in digestible pieces. Even the wokest Anitwitter are only beginning to be rid of people who can’t be bothered to know to stop using “budget” as a kind of excuse about TV anime. In the post-Sakugablog world, there are still much to do to at least get people on the down low enough to understand the Japanese process, and what that means in practice, and why Neo Yokio might be more anime than you think, and why Shelter is basically completely anime, and why Avatar isn’t at all.

What I can say is that Rooster Teeth, the guys who made RWBY, do not survive at near-poverty level to make their anime, nor are they part of the system that Japanese folks have build in which sustaining the development of new anime production talent is a major struggle. They own the copyright. When I see in the news about the Young Animator Project and how Japan’s government funds are going into indie production, I am happy that cool stuff are being made to give youngin some experience. This is the kind of “anime” that doesn’t exist in the vocabulary or awareness of “Is Neo Yokio anime” kind of discussion. The folks who made Avatar, which is as anime as anything that’s not actually anime, also are not a part of that industry–if anything they are like, the polar opposite. Which is to say, when it comes down to the entertainment of individuals, it’s nice to talk about, but it’s not really our business? I enjoy eating steak and watching anime, but I wouldn’t confuse the two activities, although I would care about the time and money allocated on both activities. Perhaps you could discuss how Star Trek Discovery locked behind CBS All Access can affect the amount of time and money someone allocates to a Hi-Dive subscription to watch LOGH? But this is pretty tenuous and really do not matter if one is “anime” or not. It’s more like, are these products affecting the same market seg in a similar way? This isn’t even what’s being discussed, anyway. What is really being discussed is a form of identity tagging, for lack of a better term.

Truth is, anime (as I know it) is not anime (as you know it). 

Personally, my framework is similar to Kelts’s in his Japanamerica book, where we live in on a rolling oroborus where the snake eats its tail yet it also keeps growing from the head. It’s really about the regurgitation of cultural appropriation. Japan takes what they like, make their own version to satisfy their locals. Rest of the world take what they like from Japan and make whatever the hell each of us (groups) like, with little respect to the original. This is why Japan is weird (and every time I hear Japan/anime is weird in this kind of discussion I go ugh). What the Neo Yokio guys think is anime is not really anime for a significant segment of people, such as a lot of folks in Asia, for an example. This is a ghettoized kind of a thing, like how only certain fans in English-speaking countries can appreciate (unironically) the term Japanimation, and what that word meant for a bygone era. Which is to say, what is anime is a socially and culturally sensitive and specific thing. The Black American experience is not going to be the same as the Asian, Hispanic or White American experience when it comes to anime, even if we are more alike than we are different, especially when compared to the South American anime experience or the French anime experience. (By the way, the term defined as sakuga in this discussion of anime is as ghetto as Japanimation, lol) What appeases Japanese anime fans and what resonate with them are probably not going to be the same as what stokes the fire of fans in English speaking nations or Spanish speaking nations or whatever. You’d realize that it’s kind of awesome that Pokemon and DBZ have the kind of international penetration that they have, if you think about it enough. It’s not until you appreciate our differences that we can appreciate how similar we are? I guess.

The sad thing is that fandom is driven to seek others who think similarly and like similar things, so the reality of this situation is probably clearer to people who hop fandom circles and other wide-eyed outsiders who dare to look inside this kind of dumb and messy situation. No big deal.

But I’m more interested in talking about how the sausage is made, so everyone should go brush up on their sakuga blog backlogs. Ultimately, 99% or more of anime still comes from Japan, made mostly by Japanese people, created by mostly Japanese core creators, for the Japanese market. I don’t really care about these western-regurgitation edge cases today, even if for people who are fans of those things, that could be 100% of their lives. That’s not what is anime to me–these things wouldn’t exist without the original, all Japanese sausage (and the sausage factory). I mean, even before Neo Yokio, there’s a lot of Chinese anime we have to deal with first! (And as a point of clarification, we should just call Avatar, RWBY and NY as American anime, because that’s what it is. Harder cases would be, say, The Red Turtle.)

And ultimately, this isn’t about gate keeping. This is about knowing what is what–you ought to know what you eat. You ought to know who made the things you are a fan of, how it’s made, why it’s made that way, is it ethical, etc etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s anime or not. If you don’t know and you have an opinion, maybe it’s a really good opinion, I don’t know, but it might just be a bit uninformed. People in Japan don’t really have hangups like, what is anime. They deal with sausages like how anyone would deal with sausages, and we ought to do likewise.

PS. This coming season, a seiyuu who goes by the name Takeda Rarisa Tago plays a regular role in Shobitch, as well as being the latest addition to Cinderella Girls (Yuzu). Takeda is a 3rd generation Brazilian Japanese, and joins the ranks of Bridcutt Sera Emi (or as I prefer: Sarah Emi Bridcutt) in “wow she’s got a weird and long name” in the anime credits. I’m guessing if someone want to translate Takeda’s name into English, it would be Larissa Tago Takeda, where her mom’s family name is in the middle? I still think Ru Thing is the weirdest name once you translate it into English, LOL.

Which is to say, it’s not even about Korean in-betweeners or, my favorite, Indonesian shiage teamsters. It’s about the process, it’s about how it’s being made. It’s about the flavors.

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