I will preface this with I have watched my fair share of anime, and have gone to anime conventions in the States. I like things with sad endings, and anime is rife with sad endings. Here is a sad ending for any anime lover who dreams of a life in Japan.
Anime is not Japanese. Now, I don’t mean that it doesn’t come from Japan, I mean it is culturally not Japanese.
|Sweet Hair Brah!|
The people in the shows are not Japanese, physically or culturally. Men in anime have interesting hair, some of them have spiked up hair, some of them have have long flowing hair, in any case there is a large variety of hair styles and colors. Japanese men have short black hair, I would say that a fraction of 1 percent of the male population has anything other than short black hair. Middle school, high school, and public sector workers are not allowed to dye their hair (unless they are preventing grey hairs), men are required to keep their hair short enough that it does not cover any part of their ears, or eyes. There is very little variety in men’s hair styles. Japanese women are lovely, but not very busty unlike in anime. Japanese people have brown eyes, they usually have monolids, and their eyes are less round then most other races. Anime characters however have huge eyes, abnormally huge. Culturally the people in Animes are absolutely not Japanese. Japanese are a remarkably cohesive people, they are very shy, and work very long hours. Anime would never sell anywhere if this was how the anime characters acted. Japanese also have no interest in watching reality on their televisions, so the characters are always extremely... extreme.
|Real life anime proportions|
I think most people can easily concede that the characters in Japanese shows are not very Japanese, but there are other facets that make anime Japanese right?
|Looks real to me|
I’ve been working in a Japanese elementary school for the last 6 months, Ben has been working at the middle school, and we have friends that work at the high school, so I can confidently tell you what is true and false about the portrayal of schools in Japan. I am excited to tell you that the way they are drawn is usually very accurate. Big windows, long halls, one large communal teachers room, seats in neat rows, and large chalk boards at the front of the classroom. The one thing you will often see in animes, but rarely in real life is grass, real school grounds are dirt, dirt, and only dirt, no grass, rarely any trees. Here are a few things that seem like they could be true in animes, but I have never seen.
Anime taught me I should expect bento boxes, cute bento boxes, with octopus sausage. In reality, all the students eat the school lunch, which is served in plates and bowls on trays. I am the only person in my schools that brings my own lunch. Children in anime are allowed on the roof. Not a single school that I’ve heard of allows anyone, let alone students on the roof. Students are also required to wear school uniforms, so the kids look very homogenous. Japanese school girl skirts are also much longer then they are portrayed in anime, and are usually knee length, they are usually very dark colors, not the bright colors found in Anime.
|Not even close|
One of the funniest things to think about when I think of some poor sucker coming to Japan because of what they saw in anime is how sorely disappointed they will be about the technology. Japan is nowhere near a robot revolution, which might not be surprising, but would you believe me if I told you that America is way more technologically savvy? My work computer runs windows 95, and my primary method of communicating with my bosses is by fax machine. People only pay in cash, my bank doesn’t have an online banking option, and in order to withdraw money from the ATM, I use what looks like a check book. Not only is Japan not the technological wonderland that anime (and western news sources) makes it out to be, it is way less technological than America.
|Still weird in Japan|
Now you are most likely thinking, “So maybe nothing in Anime does not portray Japan. Doesn’t matter, at least people like it there.” At this I sigh an make a very sad face. I think this might be the saddest part for anime lovers. Anime is just as popular in the United States as it is in Japan. I’m very sorry to tell you that there is just as much of a stigma against anime lovers here as in any other country. The only anime I ever see on TV is what I would consider cartoons, like Anpanman, and Doraimon. There is an Anime channel for people with a premium television subscription, but it shows the same stuff as cartoon network back home; One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach.
Now trembling you may work up the nerve to ask “At least it’s easier to buy right?” If I wanted to buy Anime, I would have to travel into Tokyo. In a normal DVD shop, the Anime section would probably take up 1/15thof the collection, which from my experience is about the same as in The States. The price isn’t better either; actually, usually anime tends to be more expensive here. Online shops are definitely your best bet.
For any anime lover that mustered up the courage to read to this point, and can still see through the twin waterfalls pouring down their face, I offer you a tasty morsel of hope. There is a place, where the people look and act like anime characters, the café girls are cute, high tech gadgetry dazzles, and anime is cheap and plentiful! It’s called Akihabara, a small district of Tokyo. It is what an Anime dreamed up, and is a fascinating place to visit.