Kill la Kill – Exploring our Relationships with Clothing?

Kill la Kill, Clothing Commentary?

I was hesitant toward Kill la Kill when I first started watching it. First, the style of the humor tends to turn me off.  The obsession with frantic humor is something I cannot understand.  Next, the level of fan service turned me off. The skimpy uniforms and creepy come-ons by the teacher Aikuro Mikisugi toward the protagonist Ryuko Matoi was off putting.  The environment of the anime was nonsensical.  Honnouji Academy was a school  that had special uniforms made out of a material called Life Fibers that boosted a student’s natural abilities to superhero levels. For example. a kendo student became an unstoppable sword master.  Of course, when the uniforms transformed they grew tiny and barely decent on the girls. To be fair, some of the guys also had this happen.

The story follows Ryuko as she challenges the leadership of the Honnouji Academy (the class president, not the principle) in an effort to learn who killed her father. She ends up finding one of her father’s inventions, a sentient sailor uniform called Senketsu, who gives her the ability to challenge the schools uniformed superheroes in duels. Ryuko stays with the Mankanshoku family, a poor family that provides most of the frantic comedy.

Kill la Kill - 06 -1

Despite the turn offs, I  stuck with Kill la Kill and was surprised by the layers the anime had. Aside from the interesting art style and compelling action sequences, the ridiculousness of Kill la Kill points at some ridiculousness on the part of modern society that we often miss. The anime was also self aware and pointed out how nonsensical it was.  Anyway, Kill la Kill points out several factors about modern society and media by taking those factors to satirical extremes.

Skimpiness in Clothing Equals Power

Kill la Kill - Power of Skimpy

Ryuko is constantly embarrassed by Senketsu’s (the name of her school uniform) transformation.  The uniform essentially becomes a tiny G-string with shoulder pads and a skirt that is barely there. Of course, this is animated with boob jiggle. However, this is a common trend among all the girls and some of the guys (excluding the boob jiggle animation) whenever they transform into their battle modes. This echoes a trend in video gaming where armor sets with the highest defense tend to have the most skin exposed. This is particularly true of female characters.

Next, it points to how much power sexuality has in modern culture. Everywhere you look are advertising with scantily clad men and women (mostly women) selling everything from food to toilet tissue. Even as Senketsu bares Ryuko’s midriff, you can see midriffs being used to sell ideas and products. A set of good abs is a powerful message of health, power, strength, and sexuality. Look at how many supermarket magazines focus on ab exercises.  Sex sells. In Kill la Kill, sexuality (in the form of uniform transformations)  is used to further political and personal agendas.

Later in the series, the main antagonist reveals her plot to fully enslave people to clothing. This is already done in our world by the proliferation of fashion standards and judgments posed on people by how they dress.  This brings me to the next point.

Clothing Denotes Caste

Kill la Kill Clothing Equals Caste

A caste is any group of people who are perceived as socially distinct from another. A class is a way of dividing people into sets based on a person’s caste. In Kill la Kill, the type of Life Fiber uniform a student wears determines both the student’s and their family’s social standing. At the top are 3-star uniforms. At the bottom are no-star uniforms. The no-star level are the vast majority and live life on a subsistence level. As you go up the hierarchy, families get richer.  Kill la Kill reverses how class and clothing are related.

In our world clothing reflects a person’s social standing, in Kill la Kill, a person’s social standing reflects their clothing. However, Kill la Kill’s world is actually closer to how we treat people. We tend to treat people in suits better than those in holey jeans and a ratty T-shirt. Never mind the fact that the person in a suit may well have no money at all and the person in the jeans may be a millionaire. Kill la Kill points out how how foolish these judgments are. In fact, by the end of the anime, everyone is naked. Social standing then comes down to personal abilities and character.

kill-la-kill Creepy Come ons

The anime’s fixation on clothing is little different from how we fixate on it. The anime’s ridiculousness points to how ridiculous it is to pass a snap judgment on a person by what they are wearing. In Kill la Kill, Ryuko’s uniform looks weak compared to those of the Elite Four in the school. However, her ability and character proves the snap-judgment wrong. Ryuko even goes beyond her uniform and challenges the antagonist’s power in her underwear. This points to how it much her character contributes to her ability to challenge the powers that be.

Kill la Kill has other obvious messages such as the corrupting influence of wealth. However, I found the satire and commentary on just how much importance we place on clothing (and the lack thereof) interesting. As an anime, Kill la Kill has its own unique style. The humor is not my cup of tea. The action sequences are done in an interesting and exciting art style. The hand drawn feel of the anime is appealing.  Although I didn’t care for the humor, it was well balanced with the action and story telling.

Don't be sure Ryuko

Ryuko’s relationship with her uniform Senketsu is interesting as well. It speaks about the love/hate relationship most of us develop with clothing and the meanings people place on what we choose to wear or not wear. Ryuko develops a friendship with Senketsu. In many ways Senketsu becomes a reflection of Ryuko’s character. This relationship points to how people relate character with clothing. A guy sagging his pants is viewed as less against a guy dressed in a crisp polo. A girl that wears a short skirt is viewed as a slut compared to a girl wearing a knee length skirt. Clothing is seen as a reflection of the person wearing it.

I did not expect Kill la Kill to have deep satirical elements.  Kill la Kill is actually a well put together action anime that pokes fun at itself and the modern world. It is a surprising look at things we don’t consider. Even if the writers do not intend this anime to be commentary, it still points to many issues of making assumptions of people based on clothing.


Nintendo: Video Game Savior and Love Hotels?

Nintendo_kyotoHow old is Nintendo? Older than computers. Nintendo was started back in 1889! Sony (founded in 1946)! Sega (1951)! Microsoft (the youngest at 1975). Long before the transistor existed, Nintendo was making playing cards called hanafuda. Back in 1633. Japan banned foreign playing cards because of gambling problems. That didn’t stop people from making other types of card games they can use instead. Hanafuda cards used images instead of numbers and the laws were relaxed a bit. A combination which let Nintendo’s founder Fusajio Yamauchi to step in.

An example of hanafuda cards. Nintendo still makes these using their properties. You can find Mario and Pokemon sets.

An example of hanafuda cards. Nintendo still makes these using their properties. You can find Mario and Pokemon sets.

Nintendo dabbled in a wide range of different businesses. Nintendo owned a taxi service, a TV network, and even a love hotel chain. Yeah, the company that made Mario owned hotels where people could find the princess in her castle. Nintendo even sold instant rice at one point!

In 1966, Nintendo became a toy company. The engineer was named Gunpei Yokoi and, uh, single-handily saved the company with his Ultra Hand. The Ultra Hand was simple. It was just a criss-cross of plastic with scissor handles that let the hand extend when pinched and retract when opened. You’ve probably seen these things in the cheap-o toy section of dollar stores.But it proved immensely popular. Nintendo was also the first to make a Light Gun (the Zapper used to play Duck Hunt) and games like Ultra Machine, Love Tester, and Drive Game.

This is just one of the many types of love hotel interiors available. Although, Nintendo is not involved anymore, love hotels are still around.

This is just one of the many types of love hotel interiors available. Although, Nintendo is not involved anymore, love hotels are still around.

Nintendo remained a toy company in many regards. The video game systems it makes today are basically high-tech toys. The focus on fun over graphics is a legacy of Nintendo’s history. After all, even the taxi cabs could be fun if you had a wild driver! Love hotels don’t need a mention…ahem.

Why is Nintendo important enough to feature on JP? Why not Sony? Well, Nintendo’s NES (Nintendo Entertainment System, known in Japan as the Famicom, family computer) managed to save the home console market after the debacle Atari and other companies caused.  Eventually the market would have rebounded on its own, but Nintendo managed to speed the process.

Nintendo’s characters like Mario, Samus, and Link are household names. They provided a means to export a portion of Japanese culture back to the West. Although Mario is Italian, Bowser is essentially a kappa. Kids grew up with names like Shigeru Miyamoto and Genyo Takeda. We grew used to seeing Japanese writing scattered throughout the game worlds.

ash-misty-brockNintendo did much to open the doors to acceptance of anime and manga. Nintendo’s video game art is grounded in manga’s art style. Nintendo also introduced Pokemon. Pokemon is one of the most influential anime in the United States.

Let’s stop and consider what would have happened if Nintendo didn’t introduce the NES and SNES to North America. Sure, Sony or someone else would have eventually introduced a video game system that would crack the mess Atari left.

However, much would be different. Square’s Final Fantasy may never have been released. Without Final Fantasy’s release, Square may well have went out of business. Pokemon may never have existed or not appear at the perfect time to explode in popularity. The gaming industry itself may well be behind what we have today. People may not have developed an intense interest in console gaming. Nintendo pushed the console technology ahead for many years. That push helped open people’s acceptance of computers in the living room. If Nintendo didn’t exist, many of us may not have had exposure to Japanese electronic media. Or, we may have had much later exposure.

Nintendo has also imported many American ideas into Japan. Video gaming is an international hobby. This is something we often forget.

Luckily, Nintendo appeared and survived. It is likely Nintendo will out live Sony and Microsoft in the video game market. I won’t count out a company that is flexible enough to jump from playing cards to love hotels and to toys.


Cunningham, A (2013). The NES Turns 30: How It Began, Worked, and Saved an Industry.

Gladstone, B. (2010). How Nintendo Saved the Video Game Industry.

Nintendo. Wikipedia.

Japan, Anime, and Manga Essay Ideas for Homework Assignments

rosario-classroomIt is that time once again: back to school. That means essay writing! Part of the librarian profession is offering research help and writing instruction for high school and college students. Librarians are teachers at the core of the profession.

So, it is time I did my part! This article will give you ideas for future writing assignments and show you how to read (and use) references and citations. I will provide writing ideas and links to articles relating to the topic. You are welcome to cite me; however, I have already done some of the research legwork in my short bibliographies. I hope the articles will provide a good spring board for your essay assignments.

Understanding and Using Citations

white-album-2-studyJP uses a loose form of citation based on APA (American Psychological Association) citation.  The citation format emphasizes the date of the article.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.

–from Purdue Owl

By the way, that url looking thing is called a Digital Object Identifier. It works like a blog post’s permalink. You can paste the DOI at this website to link to the article. For example this citation:

Suzuki, Michiko (2006). Writing Same-Sex Love: Sexology and Literary Representation in Yoshiya Nobuko’s Early Fiction. The Journal of Asian Studies. 65. p.575. doi:10.1017/S0021911806001148.

You can paste that gobblygook  (excluding the period) after doi: into the website to find the article. Give it a try! Why not use a regular hyperlink? Well, DOI links do not change even if the location of the article changes.  Hyperlinks, as we all know, can break. It is a true permalink.

Most citations have the same components as APA. There are many styles with APA, Chicago, and MLA being the most common.

The point of citations isn’t to protect you from plagiarism. The point is to make it easy to find the articles. One of the easiest ways to search articles using citations is to use the author’s last name with a part of the title in quotation marks. This works in Google and in most library databases. . For example typing the follow into Google

Suzuki “Writing same-sex love”

Will give you the article on the first page (in the second link when I did it).

Citations also give you the journal or periodical name. You can search for that journal, narrow the list down to the issue and volume, and find the article that way. Quotation marks around anything in search engines tells the software to use “all of these words” as a single unit.

When to Cite in Text?

You must cite a source whenever you use it. This includes whenever you paraphrase, use a statistic, or idea. Basically, if it is not from your experience or accumulative knowledge, you need to cite. Quoting is only a small part of citing a source. For example, take a look at this sentence from one of my articles here on JP. Although, the statement does not quote or even paraphrase, I had to cite it because the information was not my own.

 Guys are expected to be well rounded in art, music, literature, and more just like in feudal Japan (Sughara, 2002).

APA uses parenthetical citation. The style you use will vary based on your teacher/professor’s requirements. Do you have the cite after every sentence? What if you are using multiple sources that have similar information? What I tend to do is to write the paragraph and end with a multiple citation that looks like this: (AuthorOne, 2001; AuthorTwo, 2011; AuthorThree, 2013). If you start using ascending order of the dates with this method, keep using ascending order each time you do it. If you use descending date order, keep using that order. This method is only recommended for relatively short paragraphs that reference the ideas of several authors. With longer sections it is best to cite after each set of sentences that have the author’s ideas.

As you can see, citing sources is not really that complicated. Basically, if the thought is not your own you need to cite it.

Essay Ideas

anime-writingI can’t know what types of assignments you will have, obviously. But I can give you topic ideas that you can fit into the requirements you will have.

Geisha – History and Life

This idea looks at the history of Geisha and how they have become one of the best known symbols of Japan. Geisha are not prostitutes; they  are living reservoirs of Japanese culture.  You can look into how Japan might look if geisha did not keep traditional Japanese culture alive.

Geisha – The Art of a Life

This idea narrows down on the arts of a geisha from their kimonos to kanzashi to the arts they practice. You can relate how geisha are similar to Native American spirit people. Both try to keep their heritage alive.


Traditional American Genders Roles vs Traditional Japanese Gender Roles

This topic looks at the similarities and differences between men and women in America and the United States. World War 2 served as turning point for both cultures. The war changed the roles women played in society, opening the doors for equal voting rights and female careers.

The Hypocrisy of Societal Expectations for Women

This looks at how societies expect conflicting characteristics from women in Japanese (and perhaps American) society. Women are expected to be sexy but those that try are often called sluts. Japanese women are taught to be submissive but also oversee the household.


Teen Girl Psychology and Yaoi

This topic looks at how yaoi fills the needs of teen girls to be entertained and explore different relationship dichotomies. It looks at various ways yaoi explores increasing interests in sex and relationships.


Character Stereotypes in Anime and Manga

This looks at various tropes found in anime and manga. You can explore why these stereotypes are common and contrast them against stereotypes found in other comics.

Note: These articles are my own thoughts and observations. With most of these, I did not research anything with the exception of  There is Personality in the Blood . These articles might provide a starting place for your own considerations about manga and other literature stereotypes.


Anime Stereotypes:

Hair Color and Character Stereotypes

Other Essay Ideas

  1. Cherry Blossoms as a Symbol of Japan
  2. The Invasion of Pokemon and its Role in American Childhood
  3. Anime Blogging and How it Improves Writing
  4. What it means to be Otaku
  5. How Mickey Mouse Changed the Face of Manga
  6. Why are American Cartoons for Children and Japanese cartoons for Adults?
  7. Moral Lessons found in Anime and Manga
  8. An Analysis of Joseph Campbell’s Hero Story and Bleach

Offering a Helping Hand

Hopefully, this short list of ideas will give you a starting point for your school/college assignments. As a librarian, I am here to help. If you need help choosing a topic (and that can be hard, I know), proofreading, or research help, let me know. Your local librarian is also available to help.

You can email me: webmaster [at] japanpowered [dot] com. Darn spammers make us write emails this way, ’tis sad.

Oh, you are also welcome to send me questions about manga, anime, and Japanese culture. I am open to article ideas.

You can also message me on JP’s Facebook page. I will do my best to offer help or point you to the information you need.



Beyond the Boundary

Beyond the BoundaryThe sword of blood burns as it slides into Akihito, acid. His cry rends the air and swirls the pink hair of his assailant. His chest rises and falls against the blade as he looks at the large, open eyes of the girl that skewered him. He smiles and says, “Be-speckled beauty.”

Beyond the Boundary is yet another high school focused anime. Akihito is an immortal half-human, half-youmu. Mirai is an ikaishi, Spirit World Warrior from a family with cursed blood. Blood that burns and kills. Only Mirai isn’t much of a warrior. She needs practice and confidence. She thrusts her blood blade through Akihito again.

“How unpleasant,” Mirai says.

AkihitoThe series has heart and moments of charm. It flatly calls Akihito and the Spirit Warrior Hiroomi Nase perverts. Akihito has a thing for girls with glasses, Hiroomi has a sister-complex. Their perversity stays tame and comedic. Although, I found Akihito’s fetish outbursts annoying more than funny.  The girls in the series are certainly kawaii. Mirai is a source for soft-fan service. She takes a side job (because she sucks as a Spirit Warrior at first) posing in various fetish-friendly outfits for a photography side business ran by a youmu stone buyer. Youmu leave behind their essence in the form of a stone that Spirit Warriors use to collect bounties. Mirai’s outfits range from maid to pop idol. Thankfully, the series avoids typical fan service fair like up-skirt shots.

Mirai Pop Idol Fan ServiceBeyond the Boundary has a lot of action. Youmu are everywhere. The animation quality of action sequences is fair, if repetitive. Mirai thrusts, twirls, and threshes with her blood blade. She forms shields and can turn her blood into darts. She just doesn’t do it very often. Generally, the animation quality is consistent. Action doesn’t break down to action lines. Many of the sub-characters share similar face and hair designs. I found myself confused a few times because of this.

Unfortunately, Beyond the Boundary felt rushed. At the end of the 12 episode run, events grew frantic and stilted. Characters appear without warning and some fights are finished in flashbacks. Two episodes were stuffed with what should have developed over at least 6 episodes. The ending episodes were jarring with the hurried pace compared to the more sedate start. Apparently the budget was running out. This rush hurt the series.

Beyond the BoundarySo how do I weigh in? Mirai is cute yet has steel within her: good. The rushed ending: bad.  Akihito’s fetish was played up too much. Fight sequences were okay but not memorable. The anime is best called okay. None of the characters grabbed my interest. I am sure the light novel series handles the pacing and characterization better.

It is interesting how often fetishes appear in anime. We all have preferences and things that rev the motor. Anime is interesting in how it mentions and plays up these things. Beyond the Boundary is only another example. Anime also tends to focus on small things that happen in everyday life, such as how someone adjusts her glasses, and okays them up as part of a character. Mirai’s glasses adjustments speaks to her feelings in various scenes. In Attack on Titan, there is a character that has a habit of biting his tongue. These small everyday things are not usually mentioned in Western stories. In anime, they can be a source of comedy or endearment. Beyond the Boundary is a good example of how these little things are used to develop characters.

The Tongue-Cut Sparrow

Sparrows - Hokusai Once upon a time there lived an old man and an old woman. The old man, who had a kind heart, kept a young sparrow, which he tenderly nurtured. But the dame was a cross-grained old thing; and one day, when the sparrow had pecked at some paste with which she was going to starch her linen, she flew into a great rage, and cut the sparrow’s tongue and let it loose.

When the old man came home from the hills and found that the bird had flown, he asked what had become of it; so the old woman answered that she had cut its tongue and let it go, because it had stolen her starching-paste. Now the old man, hearing this cruel tale, was sorely grieved, and thought to himself: “Alas! Where can my bird be gone? Poor thing! Poor little tongue-cut sparrow! Where is your home now?” and he wandered far and wide, seeking for his pet, and crying: “Mr. Sparrow! Mr. Sparrow! Where are you living?”

One day, at the foot of a certain mountain, the old man fell in with the lost bird; and when they had congratulated one another on their mutual safety, the sparrow led the old man to his home, and, having introduced him to his wife and chicks, set before him all sorts of dainties, and entertained him hospitably.

“Please partake of our humble fare,” said the sparrow. Poor as it is, you are very welcome.”

Kimura Ritsurei. Sparrows

Kimura Ritsurei. Sparrows

“What a polite sparrow!” answered the old man, who remained for a long time as the sparrow’s guest, and was daily feasted right royally. At last the old man said that he must take his leave and return home; and the bird, offering him two wicker baskets, begged him to carry them with him as a parting present. One of the baskets was heavy, and the other was light; so the old man, saying that as he was feeble and stricken in years he would only accept the light one, shouldered it, and trudged off home, leaving the sparrow family disconsolate at parting from him.

When the old man got home, the dame grew very angry, and began to scold him saying: “Well, and pray where have you been this many a day? A pretty thing, indeed, to be gadding about at your time of life!”

“Oh!” replied he, “I have been on a visit to the sparrows; and when I came away, they gave me this wicker basket as a parting gift.” Then they opened the basket to see what was inside, and, lo and behold, it was full of gold and silver and precious things. When the old woman, who was as greedy as she was cross, saw all the riches displayed before her, she changed her scolding strain, and could not contain herself for joy.

“I’ll go and call upon the sparrows, too,” said she, “and get a pretty present.” So she asked the old man the way to the sparrows’ house, and set forth on her journey.

Koson. C. 1912 Sparrows Above Snow Covered Plum Tree

Koson. C. 1912 Sparrows Above Snow Covered Plum Tree

Following his direction, she at last met the tongue-cut sparrow, and exclaimed: “Well met! Well met, Mr. Sparrow! I have been looking forward to the pleasure of seeing you.” So she tried to flatter and cajole the sparrow by soft speeches.

The bird could not but invite the dame to its home; but it took no pains to feast her, and said nothing about a parting gift. She, however, was not to be put off; so she asked for something to carry away with her in remembrance of her visit. The sparrow accordingly produced two baskets, as before, and the greedy old woman, choosing the heavier of the two, carried it off with her. But when she opened the basket to see what was inside, all sorts of hobgoblins and elves sprang out of it, and began to torment her.

But the old man adopted a son, and his family grew rich and prosperous. What a happy old man!

This is a typical moral tale warning against greed and the importance of friendship. The old man deeply missed the sparrow after it fled its abuse at the hands of the old wife. He searched long and even searched a mountain. Now, consider this. How many sparrows and birds do you see everywhere? The old man knew exactly what sparrow he was searching for among the thousands of other sparrows that looked like his friend. That was how important this friendship was.

The sparrow then shows a universal virtue: hospitality. He even extended it to the greedy old woman; although the sparrow didn’t throw a feast like he did for his old friend.  Nor did the sparrow openly try to get revenge on the greedy old woman. He simply let her greed do the work for him. (Although we don’t know what was in the small, light basket!).

This little tale teaches us the importance of true friends and warns against greed. Its lessons are important for us today. Many of us live in greed addled societies driven by materialism and consumption. We must always choose the heavier basket full of the newest gadgets and baubles. The old man prioritized friendship and simplicity. He wasn’t greedy. In fact, he even adopts a son: another aspect that points to his generosity. He didn’t go out seeking wealth, only his lost friend. We too have friends that are lost, but many (including myself) tend to be greedy like the old woman. It is better to focus on people than things. We need to also go out and find our friend sparrow.


A. B. Mitford, Tales of Old Japan, (London: Macmillan and Company, 1871), vol. 1, pp. 249-250.

Shita-kiri Suzume. Wikipedia.

The Sparrow with the Slit Tongue. SurLaLune Fairytales.

Legend of the Legendary Heroes

legend-of-the-legendary-heroesEvery so often I come across an anime that I just can’t finish. Sometimes the anime is too violent for my taste; other times it is too silly (read: obnoxious). Legend of the Legendary Heroes couldn’t hold my attention. The title is slightly redundant too.

Legendary Heroes had some interesting things going for it. The main character had the special ability to understand, deconstruct, and use any magic he sees. Each kingdom had their own special type of magic that was guarded. It was similar to how military today guards their secret weapons. Well, the protagonist was able to use any and all those secrets. The protagonist is a stereotypically lazy do-nothing that is sent to find legendary magical relics.

legend-of-the-legendary-heroes-13-15The problem with Legendary Heroes is how it doesn’t focus on the interesting magic system or show any character changes. Instead it focuses on political hijinks that often left me wondering what was going on. The series had a poor habit of introducing characters and kingdoms suddenly and resolving the “conflict” in a single episode. Supposedly the conflict lasted for weeks or months; although, the viewer would never guess this without the characters mentioning it. What happens in just a single episode could easily span a season if done well. It felt like Heroes was aiming for Code Geass level complexity but didn’t have the running time or focus.

legend-of-the-legendary-heroes-part-1-4Characters were regularly introduced seemingly at random without any foreshadowing. Yet, the way they entered the story and knew the main characters left me feeling like I was missing something. Not to mention some of the political moves involving this characters made little to no sense.

To be fair, I only watched 8 out of 25 episodes. However, there wasn’t enough to hold my attention. I didn’t really see the next 4 episodes furthering the main story or even clarifying the main story. I couldn’t feel anything for the characters other then mild annoyance for several of them. Side characters entered the stage, died, and left no imprint on me. Often I just felt confusion: who was that? Why was he important? And the story left me without answers much of the time.

legendary-heroesI’ve seen worse anime, but Legend of the Legendary Heroes just couldn’t hold my attention. It had some interesting aspects, but they were just too underdeveloped over the course of the eight episodes I watched.

Dating and Marriage in Japan

from Bokura ga Ita

from Bokura ga Ita

Japan and the United States have different views of dating and marriage. There are many similarities, as well. Marriage has a long history in Japan, a history that is based on gender roles influenced heavily by Confucian views. I won’t get into these views in this article. If you want to learn more about gender role expectations in Japan, gender roles of women, and how China’s Confucius has even influenced anime, follow these links.  This article will focus on Japan’s dating culture and marriage attitudes. Keep in mind, I am an outsider looking in.

Japanese Dating Culture

Women pray for good relationships or good luck in love during "Tanabata", or the Star festival, at Jishu shrine in Kyoto. Reuters

Women pray for good relationships or good luck in love during “Tanabata”, or the Star festival, at Jishu shrine in Kyoto. Reuters

The point of dating is to get to know someone. The rules of dating, courtship, vary across cultures. However, the point remains the same. There are a few key ideas that are identical to dating in Japan and in the United States. These ideas are good advice for anyone seeking to develop friendships and romantic relationships:

  1. Express interest in the person: genuinely want to learn more about her.
  2. Listen to him. Don’t just hear.
  3. Don’t rush the physical.  It only hurts relationships.

Physical Intimacy – Sex

anime-datingI will expand on the third point. It is one of the key differences between Japanese dating customs and American dating customs. Several studies have found a correlations with the amount of time a couple waits to have sex and the quality of their relationship. Those couples that wait until marriage report the highest satisfaction and quality (Willoughby, Carroll,  & Busby, 2014):

This study found that the longer a couple waited while dating to become sexually involved, the better their relationship was after marriage. In fact, couples who waited until marriage to have sex compared to those who started having sex early in their relationship reported higher marital satisfaction, better communication patterns, less consideration of divorce, and better sexual quality.

This brings me to the key difference between Japanese and American dating. Physical intimacy, even between professed couples, is a slow process. Kissing, hand holding, and sex do not come until after kokuhaku (more on this in a bit). Although there are always exceptions. With many couples, the physical intimacy part develops slowly (Back to Japan, 2011; Larkin, 2005).

Physical displays of intimacy in public are taboo. This lends to the slow (in American eyes) development of the physical aspects of dating. In the United States it is normal to express interest in a person through touch, kissing, hand holding, etc. This isn’t to say you won’t see this in Japan too. However, the idea of uchi-soto weighs heavily on people.



Scene from The World Only God Knows

This is a concept that outlines Japanese behavior in public. Japanese society pressures people to be respectful and considerate of others, even at the expense of your own needs (Larkin, 2005). This is why PDA (public displays of affection) are taboo.  The Western ideas of honesty and openness are seen as both attractive and problematic. Because of ucho-soto, many Japanese people are oblique about expressing their feelings. The concept of amae (behavior that shows desire to be loved or take care of you:  Strowhorn; 2013; Kirai, 2007). This involves people trying to read each other’s feelings (Larkin, 2005).

Japanese men tend to be subtle and indirect when approaching women because of these societal norms. That is, when they approach women at all. This is one of the differences to consider with Japanese dating rituals. Dating follows a different course than Western standards. Again, there are exceptions.

First Comes Friends

Before dating there is gokon. These are group blind dates. A group of friends get together and mingle. This lets each group take stop of each other.  The approval of friends when dating is often important (Back to Japan, 2011). After several gokon, often between 5 or 6, people pair off for coffee, movies, and other typical date activities. However, these are generally done in public. The couple is still not considered dating. They are only feeling each other out – rather than feeling each other up.

Next comes Love


Scene from Memoirs of a Geisha

Kokuhaku is the next step for people who are into each other. This is the “dating” phase. However, it is a strange practice in Western eyes. One that is said to make many Westerners uncomfortable (Back to Japan, 2011; Larkin, 2005,

Kokuhaku is the confession of love often seen in anime. “I love you” is a strong concept in the West. It is not something we typically tell someone we are only starting to date. However, in Japan, this is the initiating confession for dating. The Western habit usually uses the phrase “I like you” to give wiggle room.  However, in Japanese the three words for love all mean love ( 好き suki, 大好き daisuki, 愛知てる ai shitteru), only with increasing degrees (Back to Japan, 2011). There is no equivalent to “I like you.”

After kokuhaku, dating follows a more recognizable route: meeting the parents and private dates. Physical intimacy starts to ramp up. The speed depend on the couple.

Then Comes Marriage

sword-art-online-weddingMarriage rituals vary based upon family expectations. This really isn’t much different from the United States. I will instead focus on the reality of marriage in Japan: the trends and ideas behind it.

Like many societies, marriage in Japan was arranged for much of its history. The purpose of marriage was the continuation the family line. Women were raised to be the “good wife, wise mother” and sacrifice herself for the good of family and country (Bardsley, 2004). This, as I mentioned in this article, has changed in many circles. The traditional gender roles still persist: married women in Japan feel the household tasks are unfair. Japanese men often do now share in housework. Because of this view, women who work are often not seen as contributing to the household.  (Kaufman & Taniguchi, 2009).


Artwork found on the Sword Art Online Soundtrack

Unlike the West, Japan never associated virginity with chastity and purity. The closest idea to the Western virgin was the otome (maiden) who was thought to be lacking sexual desire in addition to experience. The Western ideas of virginity in relationship to marriage – that is, women should remain virgins for her husband – didn’t appear until the 19th century (McLelland, 2010). This isn’t to say it was okay for women to have sex. During the Tokugawa Period, both men and women could be considered adulterers. Married women, unlike men, were penalized.  Women were property of husbands or fathers. Adultery was a property dispute that was left to the decision of those involved. Punishment could be everything from a fine to death (Stanely, A, 2007).

Marriage Trends in Modern Japan

2003-8-16-weddingChildren are exclusively associated with marriage in Japan. No marriage means no children, generally. As many know, Japan’s population is on the decline.

The decline in population is linked to a decline in marriage. Marriage on the the decline for several reasons.

  1. Educated men prefer to marry younger women and women who are less educated. Educated women do not want to marry less educated men.  The number of educated women are also increasing (Yang & Yen, 2011;Raymo & Iwasawa, 2005).
  2. Women dislike the inequality in marriage (Yang & Yen, 2011).
  3. Japanese men do not want to marry a women who demands equal sharing of housework (Yang & Yen, 2011).

Because of these problems there are several trends that are on the rise:

  1. Women are marrying much later, when at all ( Hirakawa, 2004).
  2. There is an increased interest in international marriage, particularly of Japanese women marrying Western men (Bardsley, 2004; Hirakawa, 2004).
  3. Declining marriage rates equate the decline in population.

Women are experiencing problems with finding suitable Japanese men mostly because of increases in women’s education levels and a dislike of traditional female roles in marriage. Many Japanese men have yet to change their views.

Dating Doldrums


The World Only God Knows…literally. It is the world only Katsuragi knows.

Okay, I am sure many of you are celebrating. Yes, Japanese women are interested in foreign boyfriends. Conversely, foreign women find it hard to snag a Japanese boyfriend because of the same problems Japanese women experience (Japan Times, 2005).  There are problems with international dating. Language barriers and cultural differences are just a few.

Yes, guys do have a chance to find a “hot Japanese girlfriend.” There are differences in cultural and dating rituals to keep in mind as I have outlined. Girls can find a cute Japanese boyfriend as well. These relationships may seem easier on the surface. However, language and culture are significant barriers that cannot be underestimated. It is important to understand why marriage is on the decline because it reflects on the difficulties people everywhere have. It is difficult to make a connection with another person. It takes patience, understanding, and openness. It is impossible to fully understand a person; she will always annoy and surprise you.

Pokemon love Wallpaper__yvt2Despite the cultural differences in dating, people everywhere want to find someone to trust and share their lives with. Something about modern society has made it more difficult (or perhaps simply made that difficulty more visible) for two people to make that connection.  The physical part of this connection is important, but it cannot be overemphasized. The emotional connection is what lasts throughout life.  As I illustrated with research, it is often best to keep sex out of a blossoming relationship. Emotional context is important for the physical aspects of relating to another person. It is an outgrowth of loving that person for who they are rather than letting hormones rule decisions.

Dating and marriage faces similar problems in the United States. It is difficult to trust another and put her needs above your own.

This article touches on generalities based on culture and research. There are always exceptions. Dating and marriage is a personal, intimate activity. Everyone is different. It is best to not have preconceived ideas about a person. Language and culture are barriers for dating internationally; however, it is possible to move beyond them with openness, understanding, and shared mutual interest in the well being of each other. Dating is not about finding someone to complete you. Dating is about a complete person finding another complete person to share life.


Amy Stanley  (2007) Adultery, Punishment, and Reconciliation in Tokugawa Japan Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2.  pp. 309-335

Back to Japan (2011). Japanese Dating Culture.

Bardsley, J. (2004). Women, Marriage, and the State in Modern Japan: Introduction. Women’s Studies, 33(4), 353-359. doi:10.1080/00497870490453631

Christianity and Gender Relationships in Japan: Case Studies of Marriage and Divorce in Early Meiji Protestant Circles.

Kaufman, G. & Tanighuchi.  (2009). Gender and Marital Happiness in Japan. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 69-87

Kaufman, G. & Tanighuchi. (2010). Marriage and Happiness in Japan and the United States.  International Journal of Sociology of the Family, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 25-48

Helen Ballhatchet (2007). Christians in Japan.  Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 177-201

Hirakawa, H. (2004). Give Me One Good Reason to Marry a Japanese Man: Japanese Women Debating Ideal Lifestyles. Women’s Studies, 33(4), 423-451. doi:10.1080/00497870490444947

Kirai: A Geek In Japan (2007). Amae.

Kubota, Y. (2009). Matchmaking gets divine touch.

McClelland, M. (2010) Kissing is a symbol of democracy!” Dating, Democracy, and Romance in Occupied Japan, 1945–1952″ Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 19, No. 3 (SEPTEMBER 2010), pp. 508-535

Raymo, J. M. (2003). Educational Attainment and the Transition to First Marriage Among Japanese Women . Demography, 40(1), 83.

Strowhorn, Percy D. III, (2013) “The United States and Japan: A Cross Cultural Analysis of Gender Roles and Intimate Relationships”.
Global Honors Theses. Paper 9

Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., & Busby, D. M. (2014). Differing Relationship Outcomes When Sex Happens Before, On, or After First Dates. Journal Of Sex Research, 51(1), 52-61. doi:10.1080/00224499.2012.714012.

Yang, W., & Yen, P. (2011). A Comparative Study of Marital Dissolution in East Asian Societies: Gender Attitudes and Social Expectations towards Marriage in Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Asian Journal Of Social Science, 39(6), 751-775. doi:10.1163/156853111X619210



.hack QuantumI have yet to watch the famous .hack anime series. So, I was a little lost when I jumped into the 3 episode Quantum original video animation. The series caught my interest. It follows Sakuya, Tobias, and Mary as they play the latest MMORPG, “The World R:X.” Their adventures quickly take a turn for the worst when the three girls run across a player called Hermit and strange events in the game world.

The reality of virtual reality gaming hits home when Mary doesn’t wake up from the game world.

There isn’t much time for character development in just 3 episodes. Quantum relies on character stereotypes: the ditz, the calculating serious one, and the cautious protector for the girl’s in-game persona. hack-quantum-girls

.hack//Quantum was an interesting watch. Although, I was lacking background from the other .hack series I could follow what was going on. I find series that look into virtual reality and how it affects reality quite interesting. Before going into librarianship I studied computer programming and video game design as an undergraduate. Of course, I grew up playing video games too. I was an 8bit and 16bit console child.

The short episodes briefly explored what would happen if a person could “fully” enter a game: feeling pain and have the game affect you in reality. Sakuya, for example, receives a wound in the game that made her hand in real life continually tingle. I can see events like these being remotely possible. Virtual reality interfaces wouldn’t even have to stimulate the brain directly to do this.

sakuyaThe mind is easy to trick. Think about the last time you woke from a nightmare. However, stimulating the brain and body with electric impulses could certainly lead to problems. I tend to get fragged often in first person shooters. I rarely play them because I tend not to like them and get motion sick playing them. Now imagine feeling something uncomfortable every time you get shot or killed.

Of course, there is the pleasure side of the equation that Quantum doesn’t have time to delve into. Sword Art Online touches a little on how virtual reality could affect sexuality. As you can tell, the idea of virtual reality and how people would use the technology fascinates me.

In any case, Quantum shared many elements with Sword Art Online. It definitely makes me want to look into the other .hack series.


Hentai: What is it, really?

Hentai - HistoryHentai. Yep, I am going there! Some information here may be considered graphic. You’ve been warned!

Hentai is as valid a branch of manga and anime as shonen and shojo. Hentai has a long history and conflicted definitions. The word hentai is a compound word that describes a person, action, or state of being sexually abnormal. Hentai describes a sub-genre of erotic literature rather than all erotic literature. The word nōmaru is sometimes used as an antonym for hentai. H (pronounced as etchi or ecchi) and ero refer to any manga and anime with sexual content. Hentai only refers to sexual situations that are considered perverse and fantastic:  bizarre partners and gang rape, for example. Western fans often use H and hentai interchangeably.

Hentai has three different definitions:

  • change of form or shape
  • an abbreviation for ‘hentai seiyoku’
  • metamorphosis (as in the change from caterpillar to butterfly)

Hentai seiyoku translates roughly to “abnormal sexual desires.” During the Meiji period (1857-1912), this was a branch of Japanese sexology. The term attached to works that contained bizarre sexual content between 1912-1925. Before this, such literature was called, “erotic, grotesque nonsense.”

Brief History of Hentai

Shunga print by Kitagawa Utamaro 1753 – 1806

Shunga print by Kitagawa Utamaro 1753 – 1806

Hentai can be traced back to the dawn of manga. Manga has roots in Buddhist scrolls dating to the 12th Century. These scrolls had little political cartoons of animals making fun of nobles and clergy. These developed into ukiyo-e prints. These prints were made from wood engravings and allowed for faster production than scrolls made by hand. Ukiyo-e’s shunga engravings were used as sex guides during the Edo period.  During the 20th Century, Japanese art styles adopted Western elements. This mix eventually produced the style of manga drawing we know today (McLelland, 2006).

After World War II, both manga and hentai exploded. Astro Boy and others appeared during this time. Japanese press was free to explore all the themes that the focus on wartime literature prevented. Nikutai Bungaku, carnal literature, appeared everywhere. This was a reaction of the survivors of World War II as much as a reaction to the removal of wartime press rules.


Model in a military pose from Fuzoku Kagaku magazine 1954

Those who survived the war often only had their bodies. Everything else was destroyed.  This gave people special appreciation for their bodies as a possession. This was also the first time women’s bodies were displayed in public. Petting couples and other public displays of sexuality appeared. H (etchi) came to describe sexual literature around 1952.

The 1950s saw the revival of love suicides, a genre of love story that was popular before the War. Love suicide is considered abnormal, hentai. Homosexual relations, sadomasochism, fetishes, lesbian relations, and even seppuku saw focus magazines. Hentai fetishes range from loincloth maniacs, male disembowelment, and up to the iconic tentacle (McLelland, 2006; Ortega-Bren, 2009; Serendip Studio, 2012) .

About that Tentacle

Sexuality and tentacles dates back to 1814 with the novel Kinoe no komatsu, and an illustration by the famous Hokusai Katsushika. Yep, Hokusai drew the first image of tentacle porn.  Hokusai is one of the most famous artists of Japan. He created a series on Mount Fuji that showed the mountain from a variety of perspectives. The most famous is below.

One of Hokusai's most iconic works. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

One of Hokusai’s most iconic works. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

In the tentacle illustration, Tamatori, who stole a jewel from the Dragon King, is captured and has consenting sex with the king and his army of octopi (Lunning, 2012).

Toshio Maeda is considered the creator of modern tentacle hentai. Anthony Bourdain (2014) interviews him on Parts Unknown. In 1986, Maeda used a tentacle to depict sex acts in his Urotsukidoji manga. Penises, body orifices, and penetration were illegal. This law drove the mangaka to get creative. The tentacle became a phallic symbol. Maeda also relied on demons for his scenes. If it wasn’t for the censorship law, it is possible that the tentacle may have remained in historical obscurity.

Hentai Appeal

ecchi-bedThe abnormal aspect of hentai is what creates its appeal. It creates a fantasy world of demons, octopus, and other sexual hijinks that are impossible to perform. You will find women with penises, furries, demons, and things from the outer edges of imagination. Hentai is categorized as lacking personable qualities. There is a barrier between the viewer and the scenes because of the lack of realism. Hentai provides an outlet that explores darker, odder regions of human psychology. It provides a means to shake people out of their standard thinking as some post-WWII advertising did. For Western audiences, hentai is often taboo. For some people, the fact hentai is animated fantasy allows them to approach it more readily than American porn.

he Ecstasy of Saint Therese. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647-1652.  The expression of pleasure of Saint Therese caused a fair bit of controversy.

The Ecstasy of Saint Therese. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647-1652.
The expression of pleasure of Saint Therese caused a fair bit of controversy.

Hentai has a reputation for being poor quality: skipping frames, poor story telling, and more. Of course, this assessment extends to other genres of anime and manga. However, hentai has many similarities to Baroque art. Baroque art often depicted moments of ecstasy, such as the Ecstasy of Saint Therese.   Saint Therese experienced various visions. She described these visions in often sexual terms.  Bernini shows a scene of an angel just about to pierce the saint with an arrow.  Hmmm. a metaphor perhaps? Explains the look on the sculpture’s face, doesn’t it?

Hentai takes it a little further with drawing of internal cavities and other details to get the point across. Like Baroque art, the beautiful and the monstrous can co-exist. A rape scene, for example, may be beautifully detailed. Baroque has many works that beautifully portray a brutal death or event.  Hentai and Baroque art have many similarities (Pena-Pimentel, 2010).

Hentai is a genre to itself. Yaoi, yuri, and ecchi are all different aspects of the wider eros genre. Yaoi and yuri likely started as part of hentai. Over time, these genres become more acceptable and moved out of the genre.

Like American porn, hentai has a fair level of misogyny. Misogyny itself could be considered an abnormal fetish.

yaoi-BL-hentaiHentai, like any erotic literature, is an uncomfortable topic for many people. Depictions of sex are as old as humanity. The oldest depiction is about 7,200 year old figurines of a man and woman having sex (Diver, 2005). It is likely even old depictions will be found. It is important to understand the origins of literature and how they influence others. Hentai has leached into popular anime through fan service. Hentai, such as panty fetishes, are no longer considered abnormal. Likewise, other genres influence hentai stories and artwork. Hentai, like all anime and manga, is an international product. Japan and the United States have influenced each other across this and other literature genres. Hentai will continue to influence the other genres. Hentai will continue to change and evolve to reflect people’s interest in what is considered odd by society.


Bourdain, A. (2014). Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: Tokyo.

Diver, K. (2005). Archaeologist finds ‘oldest porn statue’ The Guardian.

Lunning, F. (2012) Tentacle Trance: Slithering Sensuality in Illustration Influenced by Anime, Manga, and Gaming.

McLelland, M. (2006). A Short History of ‘Hentai’ Gender & Sexuality in Asia & the Pacific.

Ortega-Brena, M. (2009). Peek-a-boo, I See You: Watching Japanese Hard-core Animation. Sexuality & Culture 13. 17-31.

Pena-Pimentel, M. (2010). Baroque Features in Japanese Hentai. International Journal of Comic Art (12) 2. 469-486.

Serendip Studio (2012). Sex and Work: Japanese Host Clubs and Hentai into Context.


How do you make Animated Anime Images?

dandy-punchThey are everywhere online. The humble animated gif from the 90′s Internet has returned with a vengeance. So how do you make them anyway? Well it is actually really easy. First, you need images and an image editor. I like to use Photoshop, but it is an expensive program. Luckily, the excellent open source GIMP is available for free. I will be using GIMP for this post.

First you have to find the images. You can draw them yourself, but for those of us who are less artistically inclined, you can lift them from youtube videos or DVDs. Here’s how:

  1. Queue the scene you want to use for your animation.
  2. Pause the scene and press the Print Screen button on the keyboard.
  3. Paste the image into GIMP or Photoshop. If you are using GIMP, you may have to right click the “floating selection” and select “To New Layer.”
  4. Press the play button on the video and immediately pause it again. If you do it right, it will move the play head only a few frames ahead.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have all the frames you want.

You can create a decent animation with only 4 images. The Space Dandy animation I will be making for this tutorial only uses 4 images.

Create a new image. It is best if the image size is identical to your screen size. That way, when you paste your screen shots, you won’t have to move the screen shot around.

Now crop all the images. If you have them aligned correctly and the images are on all different layers, you only need to crop once.

gimp-animation-filterIn GIMP, go to Filters > Animation > Optimize (for GIF). Gimp will create a new optimized image. Be sure the layers are in the correct order. Each layer acts as a frame in the animation.

You can preview your animation by going to Filters > Animation > Playback.

gimp-gif-exportClick File > Export…. This opens a save dialog that lets you save your animation. Navigate to where you want to save it, type the file name and “.gif.” In the next window, check the “As an animation” box. You can turn off “Loop forever” if you want the GIF to run only once. The default frame settings should work fine for most GIFs, but feel free to play with them to get some cool effects.

That’s all there is to it! The hardest part of making animated gifs is stopping the video at the right time for the animation sequence you want. It can take a few rewinds to get it right. Windows will not take a screen print unless the video is paused.

Here are the frames I used for the animated GIF I made. Feel free to use them for practice.

There are other ways to make animated GIFs. You can import video files and edit the frames. However, this method can become a headache if you have a large file. This copy and paste method works best for short scenes (which is what animated GIFs are all about!). It lets you control how fast the GIF loads. Most GIFs don’t need much more than 4 – 12 frames to look nice. Importing videos give you dozens of images to contend with. Although my method is annoying with youtube videos. It is easy to miss a frame with print screen. Also, sequencing entire sections of video can cause copyright problems.

Animated GIFs are good ways to spiff up a blog.  They take a little practice but by your third GIF, you will have this technique mastered.

Happy giffing!


Other Tips

GIMP has a single window mode that is rather nice (Windows > Single Window Mode).

If you are using a video player like Windows Media Player, you can move ahead and back a single frame at at time by pressing the right or left arrow keys while the video is paused. This makes screen captures really easy.


GIFs are limited to 256 colors. The file format will also dither an image. Dithering makes the file size smaller, but it creates a dotted or checkered effect. Dithering can make an animation look choppy or like it has artifacts. It is best to keep images simple.

It doesn’t take many frames to make a nice animation. Sometimes just 4 frames are enough. The animated gif below uses only 4 frames.


Be careful of loops. If you want the animation to continue smoothly, the last frame and the first frame must be identical. One way of handling this is to reverse the frame sequence. If you have 4 frames, the third frame becomes the fifth frame, the second frame becomes the 6th frame, and so on. This will reverse the animation back to be beginning. Depending on what you are doing, this may not look very nice. The best animated GIFs are seamless loops. They are not choppy or jerk back to the beginning. This Space Dandy gif doesn’t follow this looping rule. If it did, it would look slower and less like Dandy is pummeling you.


Be careful of the size of the GIF. Because an animated GIF is a series of images, they can get large fast. A large GIF takes a while to load and looks choppy. It is best to keep GIFs small. I wouldn’t make a GIF much more than 500 pixels wide or tall.

 Anime Memes

Memes are easier to make. Take a screen shot, set it against a black background (this is often optional), and a witty sentence or quote. GIMP is a good application for creating your own memes too.  You don’t need to use meme generators when you have GIMP. Memes are another good way to spiff up your anime blog posts. Here are a couple of memes I made.

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Memes and animated gifs are good ways to add interest to your blog posts. They are a bit of a fad in many ways, but fads are cyclical. Good memes and animated gifs can draw attention if they are unique and witty. Have fun with them!

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