As I’ve written before, the Internet is a wonderful place where memes and ideas can easily move from person to person, though language barriers often keep many ideas from flowing between, say, Japan and the English-speaking world, unless appropriate bridges are built. One thing I like to do is find Japanese threads on 2ch or one of the matome (thread compilation) sites and see what Japanese fans are saying about international otaku. Sometimes I find whole translations of MAL threads about the “best girl” in a certain show into Japanese so fans here can follow the thought processes of international otaku. This genre even has a name: kaigai hannou-kei or “foreign reaction thread.” I recently came across a post in which a Japanese fan had a discussion with Justin Sevakis of Anime News Network, and translated the main points into a post entitled “Why do foreigners think Japan is like late-night anime?”
Most of the anime we all obsess over is broadcast at strange time slots around 2 am, and is known as shin’ya anime or late-night anime, with a viewership rating almost too small to measure. The OP’s point was that the tendency of foreign fans to see all of Japan through the tiny window of late-night anime series like How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend or Seishun Buta Yaro Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a terrible way to form an opinion of what Japan is really like, and will lead to misunderstandings that every Japanese is too shy to kiss a girl, and that every Japanese male obsesses over his younger sister. “It would be much better to watch mainstream Japanese dramas, which also have much higher ratings here in Japan,” the Japanese OP suggested.
In response, Justin explained that outside of major events and disasters, not much content from Japan enters the U.S. cultural awareness. For many Americans, the only contact with Japanese culture they have in a direct way is anime, manga, sushi and so on. Only 36% of Americans hold passports, and traveling to other countries isn’t as common as it perhaps should be. So it’s natural that major cultural exports like anime or video games form a larger part of our impression of Japan.
Some comments from the thread by Japanese readers were interesting…
- “America is a huge country, but in some ways, it’s got an ‘island country mentality’ just like Japan. So we’re the same.”
- “I kind of understand this. Japanese watch Hollywood films and feel they know what America is like.”
- “Why do foreigners think everything in Japan is about ‘the suicide rate’ or ‘the low birth rate’ or ‘hentai’…”
- “It’s just like the many Japanese who watch Hollywood movies and American TV dramas and dream what it’d be like to live there.”
- “Despite the fact that they can’t come into contact with Japan directly, they do know us pretty well. Especially the way ‘hentai’ has become an English word.”
- “I learned about America by playing GTA.”
- “You mean Full House doesn’t represent the real America?”
- “To be honest, it’s just nice to have them take an interest in our country.”
Do you think Japan is as it appears in late-night anime? Got any other opinions? Give us your thoughts on Twitter!
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