ANIME FANDOM IN THE WEST HYBRIDITY, IDENTITY, AND TRANSNATIONALISM

Katharina Freund

Overview
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Introduction & history Nerd identity, rejection of coolness Global, local, and transnational media Difference, transformation, & “empty” culture Moral panics and parental confusion The “carnivalesque”

What are anime & manga?
Anime アニメ  Japanese word for animation  Any animated television series or film created in Japan
Manga 漫画  Japanese comic books  Both have wide-ranging audiences in Japan (all ages, men & women)

Historical Background

First appeared in North America in 1970s
 

Incredibly specialized fan group Specific films/series, e.g. Akira (1988)

Fandom develops online
 

Fans can communicate and organize across long distances More material from Japan
Power Rangers (1993), Sailor Moon (1995), Pokemon (1998) Anime commonly seen on Western TV New York Times adds “Best Selling Manga” in 2009 Manga easily available in large bookstore chains

Japanese series picked up by American television

Widespread distribution & mainstreaming (2000-2010)
  

Who are anime fans?

What does it involve?
     


 

Online communities Fan clubs Conventions Costuming Role-playing Fanfiction Anime Music Videos Art Toy collecting Subgroups: gamers, yaoi girls, gothic lolita, media fandom, etc.

Identity, Coolness, and Nerd Pride
“If I wasn’t into anime, I’d be a gangster ho.”

Otaku おたく
 

Japanese for a person with obsessive interests Extremely negative connotations
 Withdrawn

from society  Moral panic
 1989:

Miyazaki Tsutomu, the “Otaku Murderer”  2001: Osaka School Massacre  2008: Akihabara Massacre

Usually used as an insult

Lost in translation

Images of merchandise sold on cafepress.com

Densha Otoko

電車男
 

“Train Man” True (?) story that has become multi-media phenomenon Sympathetic otaku protagonist

Nerds, Geeks, and Losers

“There is Life Outside Your Apartment!”

“We‟re all kindred spirits…”
“…Most of us weren‟t the coolest people in school, a lot of us were „the nerds‟ of whatever class, so, you know, if everyone‟s in the same boat why would you go out of your way to be cruel to other people who are just like you… The young teenage, 14-15, are worst years of your life, the ugly, gangly, awkward stage where you‟re trying to figure out who you are, so yeah I can see why they would use something like an anime convention which is so [in falsetto] „everybody loves each other!‟ as an escape instead of just an interest.” Female fan, aged 21.

Local, Global, Transnational

“The Simpsonzu”, by spacecoyote. http://spacecoyote.deviantart.com/art/The-Simpsonzu-46036660

Hybrid Media
 

Hollywood hostility to “foreignness” Sony: mukokuseki (無国籍, stateless) policy

Removing Japanese “odour” from products to make them globally accessible

世界 の

Sekai no

日本 てき

Nihonteki

Global

Japanese

“An American Classic”

Mixing Cultural Codes

“The rough transition and lack of continuity between the Japanese and American footage is a sign of… the dreamlike and monstrous scrambling of cultural codes. Our Wonder Bread heroes are not just turning Japanese, they‟re becoming altered beings in a parallel aesthetic realm, with its own internal logic, myths, and ethics. And maybe their audience is somehow transforming too… The tykes currently addicted to the show may end up becoming a mass market for more mature and vital Japanese popular shows now shrouded in hipster subculture – e.g., anime.”

(David 1994:73 quoted in Allison, 125)

Discovery of Difference

Allison: foreign-ness and non-American aspects of anime are what attract young people to it
 “…Whether

the attraction is coded as global culture or as culturally Japanese, it involves not only a perceived difference from American pop but also a constructed world premised on the very notion of difference itself – of endless bodies, vistas, and powers that perpetually break down into constituent components that re-attach and recombine in different ways.” (2006, p. 2)

Transformation & Change

Ranma ½
Takahashi Rumiko

Ghost in the Shell
Masamune Shirow

Sailor Moon
Takeuchi Naoko

Identification with the Other

“The desire for transformation, or the experience of some different identity, is a central concern expressed in the appropriation of anime by Western fans. Part of this desire for difference is because many fans feel some level of alienation from the dominant culture… The racism, prejudice, and nationalism associated with essentialist identities of Australianness create feelings of disaffection that generate a desire for new kinds of identifications.”

Norris 2005, n.p.

“Empty” Culture

Anglo teenagers in US, Canada, Australia feel a “lack” of culture

Fragmented: no shared cultural identity
“Our generation wasn‟t raised with as much of a sense of cultural pride as other generations, we‟re disconnected from our origins – if you have no relatives „back home‟, can‟t speak the language, and know very little about the culture or religion, can you really claim an identity to that background?” Female fan, aged 20.

“Mundanes”

Non-fans are narrow-minded, repressed, boring, called “mundanes” by some fans
“I think that‟s what‟s appealing about the whole anime fandom is that it‟s something different. You can go to school and be a part of a select few and everyone else, they look at you strangely, but you can, even if it‟s not the truth, you can at least you can pretend that maybe all these outsiders yearn to be a part of your little select group.” Female fan, aged 21.

Yaoi Girls

Yaoi: Genre about same-sex relationships between men Written by women for female audience
“The hell with what my mom thinks, the hell with what grandma thinks, this is what I like and if they don‟t like it they can go to hell!” Female yaoi fan, aged 17

Confusing Parents with the Carnivalesque
“Don‟t expect to get it.” – Bellafante (1993:88)

“Animania”

M: My parents wanted to come to the con this year to see what it was all about. Imagine how horrible that would have been! F1: [in shock] Why are you dressed like a skank – and why do you have that boy on a leash? M: [more shock] Why are you on a leash!? F2: Who is that 50 year old man and why Is he wearing a tail? F1: Why is he wearing a dress!!

Semiotics of Fandom

Anime fans stepping outside sign system of Western culture
 Using

signifiers that have unknown signified


Confuses Western parents & non-fans Hybrid slang: combining fandom, Japanese, English
“I’m telling you, it was the slashiest thing I’ve ever seen. It may have been a little OOC, but it was still a great fic. And I’m not even a big fan of that pairing, nee, Sarah-chan?” “Honto desu. Mattaku.”

“Convention of Fools”: Carnivalesque
Mikhail Bakhtin, 1984: Social theory used to explain gregarious and theatrical behaviour  Traits:

 Excess,

spectacle, theatricality, the grotesque  Inversion of traditional hierarchy  Flouting social and behavioural norms  Exposing the private and socially unacceptable  Free intermingling of bodies, extreme interaction

E.g.: American Wrestling (Barthes), Hallowe‟en

“The Glomp”

Extreme Interaction

Theatrical Clothing

Flouting Social Norms

Exposing the Hidden

Commodity Capitalism

Going Mainstream

In conclusion…


   

Media representations and historical changes in cultural identity Global flow of information and hybrid media Youth identity and identification with the Other Moral panic and parental fears Unique sign system adopted by youth “Carnivalesque” behaviour Role of commodity capitalism in fandom

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