The Role of Satire: Crayon Shin Chan as an Example

As Shin drops his drawers and does another “ass dance” to delight his kindergarten classmates and horrify his teachers, I’m struck by the show’s sophistication. How can an “ass dance” be sophisticated? It’s not, but the satire of Crayon Shin Chan is. Satire cuts at ideas we often fail to see, and it is, perhaps, one of the most important forms of political literature. Now, the dub of Crayon Shin Chan differs from the Japanese. It’s Americanized so the satire resonates better, but the themes remain the same.

Satire uses humor, irony, and sarcasm to point out problems in society and to point out irrational behavior. It has a long history in the West with the writings of Horace–a Roman poet that pointed our how ambitions of the Roman elite were silly– and other ancient writers. Perhaps the best-known satire is The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales satirizes life in the European feudal period in raunchy, bawdy, and scathing ways.  Satire often couches its criticisms in humor. After all, criticism can be hard to swallow.

Shin Chan carries this tradition with a funny but scathing look at childhood: namely how businesses market toward children and the structure of family and school life. In one episode, Shin’s favorite superhero, Action Bastard, talks about some cheap plastic toy giveaway for the kids who collect 10 or so Bastard Stickers. The stickers happen to only be on a type of hot, spicy sausage no kid would like. Shin spends the episode trying to find a way to collect the stickers without eating the sausage. The episode strikes at the heart of kid-centered marketing methods. The children’s show will make a big deal of the giveaway and hype its viewers up. Only the giveaway involves some type of collection for what turns out to be junk. I remember cereal doing this as a kid. Commercials would advertise some sort of great giveaway, such as a Nintendo Gameboy (yeah, the original), if you happen to find a special token. Of course, the odds of finding these tokens were lottery-level probability. But that didn’t stop kids from wanting that cereal.

Shin Chan points out how such marketing tactics poison childhood. Shin’s young life revolves around Action Bastard. He schedules his day around the show and Action Bastard shapes his world view. While there isn’t anything wrong with this once the surface, it injects consumerism into a child’s life at a young age. At its heart, consumerism doesn’t want people to feel satisfied with what they have. After all, content people don’t go out and buy the latest and greatest. Action Bastard is a satire of his childhood injection of consumerism. Shin watches episodes which are structured like a commercial. Each installment has Action Bastard defeating the villain-of-the-week with some new gadget or move that is available in stores. While actual advertising in television shows isn’t so blunt, it does push toys and gadgets in that way.

The push toward consumerism undermines body-image and can create runaway debt. While each of us are responsible for our spending, many of us internalized consumerist messages since childhood (Collect them all! Be the coolest on the block!). Such impulses can become automatic or irresistible. Shopping releases dopamine, which explains why shopping can produce such highs. Consumerism creates the “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome found in American society. Car commercials like to play on that. Shin falls into the same problem with other kids on the playground. Being from a poor family, Shin often can’t have the latest Action Bastard figure or other new toy the cool kids have.

Shin Chan doesn’t limit its satire to consumerism. His parents have a stable, if dysfunctional relationship, caused by the strain of long work hours and long hours taking care of the kids. Mitzi, the mother, is a stay-at-home housewife who struggles with self-image (she has a coin jar for a boob-job) and boredom. The everyday routine of taking care of Shin and his 1-year -old sister, Himawari, grinds her psyche down. Her husband, Hiro, returns from a soul-crushing day at work (in his words) and looks for beer to unwind. He loves his family and his wife, but the grind of everyday bills and children wears at him. Mitzi and Hiro make half-serious cracks about very-late abortion of Hima and suicide. Neither are serious, but the dialogue points out how the everyday grind of work and child-rearing can wear on people. Hiro enjoys spending time with Shin and Hima. In fact, Shin and Hiro both love shows with skimpily clad and objectified women. But the inability to have breaks from the kids and work point to very real issues of modern society.

Up until industrialization, the entire family helped raise children. Grandparents would watch children in a regular basis, but now with families living far from each other, this isn’t always possible. What’s more, modern capitalism has increased human toil rather than reduced it. Okay, let me drop in a political disclaimer, I favor capitalism, but it must be tempered by socialism–public health programs, public libraries, and policies that balance income inequality capitalism inevitably creates. I am reminded of how Jesus told a rich man to sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow Him (Matthew 19:21).  Enough of that. Let’s return to the topic. Modern capitalism has increased the number of hours people work on the whole. For example, in medieval England, the serf worked half a day (about 4-6 hours) and craftsman would work 8-9 hours. However, neither would work holidays which took up one-third of the calendar year. France reported 52 Sundays, 90 rest days and 38 holidays free from work. Likewise, in Spain, holidays freed workers for up to 5 months the entire year. During the late 14th century, a time of high wages, workers only worked up to their normal yearly income. For most, that was between 120-175 days for the entire year. They averaged 1,440 hours (Schor, 1993). Americans work around 1,800 hours on average, but this is spread throughout the year rather than concentrated in blocks (harvest and planting seasons) as in medieval Europe (OECD, 2016).

Shin Chan points out how ridiculous our long workdays are through Mitzi and Hiro’s chronic exhaustion and tension. However, the family isn’t spending the money on luxuries. They spend it on survival. Society is off kilter if people in medieval Europe, with its more hand-to-mouth existence than ours, had more free time than we can have in an automated age.

See what I mean about Shin Chan’s sophisticated low-brow humor? The show points out other ridiculous aspects of modern life: relationships, school structure, parent-teacher relationships, NEETs, and other aspects. Satire provides a way for us to laugh at problems and, perhaps, become aware of them so we can make changes.

References

Schor, Juliet (1993) The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure. Basic Books.

OECD (2016) Average Annual Hours Actually Worked per Worker. https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=ANHRS

Good Stories. Not-so-Good People Behind Them: Morality and the Viewer’s Dilemma

A few months ago police charged the creator of Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki, with possessing child pornography. This past week, various anime news outlets pegged the director of Recovery of an MMO Junkie, Kazuyoshi Yaginuma, as an antisemite and Holocaust denier. His antisemitic views appear on his Twitter account. This creates a dilemma for viewers: how can we support a story that comes from not-so-good people?

The question lacks a clear-cut answer. On the surface, the answer seems to be a no. After all, every time you purchase a Rurouni Kenshin manga or purchase a DVD copy of MMO Junkie, some of your money goes to support Nobuhiro Watsuki and Kazuyoshi Yaginuma in royalties or wages. Watsuki had bought some of his child pornography on your dime. Your support also gives Yaginuma a larger platform for his ideas. Whenever a director sees success, their studio is that much more likely to book them for another project.  Because of this, it appears the best, moral course of action is to shun these works.

But it gets a bit more complicated.

Watsuki’s work supports the families of those that produce it: animators, editors, layout artists, marketers, etc. Likewise, MMO Junkie supports the livelihoods of the staff that created the work under Yaginuma’s direction, including the original author of the story. By cutting your support, you cut off the finances of these people who are innocent of the problems associated with Watsuki and Yaginuma. Of course, Rurouni Kenshin is an older work, but the funds produced from its continued sales rolls into the projects of the companies that hold its rights. In turn, these funds go toward new manga stories and anime. So when you avoid supporting either of these works, you reduce your support for future projects these companies may pursue.  Avoiding MMO Junkie (which is a great modern romance) hurts its original writer Rin Kokuyo, who is innocent of Yaginuma’s antisemitic tweets.

How separate can a work and its author (or director) be? It’s more of a direct question with Rurouni Kenshin than MMO Junkie. Authors can (but not necessarily will) work their proclivities into their works. I haven’t read or seen Rurouni Kenshin; I can’t comment on its content. But authors can’t help but subconsciously add parts of their views and personality to a story. However, that doesn’t mean a work written by a pedophile is full of pedophilia. Directors influence the work (that is, after all, their job), but they still have writers and the source material that limits that influence. MMO Junkie doesn’t have anything antisemitic about it. It would be different if Yaginuma used it as a platform for his views, but he didn’t. I enjoyed its relatable view of modern romance. Couples have met on the Internet and on MMORPGs. And modern culture makes it difficult and awkward to connect to people. Yaginuma uses all kinds of visualizations and scenes to develop this idea and show how the characters struggle with being social. His work and his team did a great job with the small budget they had. Despite Yaginuma’s tweets, I recommend you watch the anime if you like romantic stories.

But I still haven’t answered the question of separation. Honestly, I don’t have an answer. The problem appears in American media with all the sexual abuse that has appeared in the last year. The actor may be excellent, but what of his poor, exploitative behavior? Film and animations requires vast teams of people to create. Someone on the credit list has done something exploitative or has a view they shouldn’t hold. But when it comes to ethics it comes down to knowledge. Can you knowingly support a work with controversy behind it?

As I’ve mentioned in many other posts, stories matter. They shape who we are. Rurouni Kenshin resonates with many people.  At some point, fans take over a creative work, not just through fan-fiction writing and fan-art, but also through the personal meaning fans attach to it. Watsuki’s charge doesn’t change the fact that his story shaped the lives of many of its fans. The work lives beyond the author’s conception of it. Likewise, MMO Junkie lives beyond the direction Yaginuma took it. Sometimes stories stand on their own merits, despite the behavior of its creators.

The dilemma extends to literature. Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, photographed nude children. Yet, his story stands on its own long after his death. Patricia Highsmith, author of the novel Strangers on a Train among many others, was racist and leaned toward antisemitism. Yet Strangers on a Train became a heralded movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, attempted to rape a 15-year-old girl as a teen. As an adult, Golding used his students in psychological experiments that ultimately lead to Lord of the Flies ( Wainwright, 2009). J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, dated a 14-year-old girl when he was 30 (Konigsberg, 2013). H.P. Lovecraft was a well-known racist. T.S. Eliot wrote antisemitic poetry (Julius, 2003).

Despite the issues with the authors, people read and study and enjoy these works. Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the Rye appear in high-school English classes. Watsuki and Yaginuma follow in a rather common tradition in storytelling. Of course, this doesn’t absolve them, but it does mean viewers and readers often consume and love stories created by people with views and behaviors that aren’t savory. Authors, directors, actors, and animators are, after all, human. From a Christian perspective, their actions don’t surprise (They can still disgust but not surprise.) because we live in a world distorted by sinfulness. Sinful people can create good works of art. If The Catcher in the Rye and Alice in Wonderland can stand on their own merits, Rurouni Kenshin and MMO Junkie can as well if you decide to enjoy those stories.

The dilemma comes down to you and how you feel. Of course, if you don’t like Rurouni Kenshin or Yaginuma’s various works, then you don’t have a dilemma. However, if you do, you will have to make a decision, knowing no matter what you decide you will sit in the gray. If you turn away from works with questionable creators, you also won’t be supporting the families of those on the creator’s team who are innocent of the creator’s views or behavior. If you support the works, a part of your funds will support views and behavior you find distasteful. If enough people decide one way or the other, either animation studios and their employees will feel a pinch, or the creator will benefit. Piracy doesn’t provide a third option. It only hurts the ability of studios to produce and their willingness to do so. If you decide to support the work, your decision falls in line with what fans of literature do. It comes down to your conscience.

Reviewers have it a little more difficult than a viewer with this dilemma. Anime reviewers must watch everything so they can have a framework to make their comparisons and understand anime’s storytelling, character, and animation trends. That means shows like Rurouni Kenshin that has influenced other creators need to be watched and understood (I plan to watch it eventually). Yet, here again, writing about such can go against the reviewers sensibilities. However, reviewers can hedge the issue by explaining the circumstances of the author, director, or other people involved in questionable behavior. While writing, reviewers can separate the work from the creator and explain how the work influenced other creators (as opposed to the original creator’s questionable behavior). While a reviewer may not want to advertise or recommend a work, they cannot deny the place the work has in the greater body of anime or literature. It takes some writing tact, but you can discuss a work without endorsing something you dislike. For example, a review of Mein Kampf may be able to explain how the writing style and content fits in its time period without endorsing its message.

These types of problems will continue to happen. In fact, they will appear more often with the popularity of YouTube. YouTube viewers well know the problems with enjoying content created by people of questionable behavior. It’s up to you to decide if your conscience can bear supporting creators in such situations or not. You decide what messages you want to support and consume.

References

Julius, Anthony (2003) The poetry of prejudice. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/jun/07/poetry.thomasstearnseliot

Konigsberg, Ruth (2013) A Portrait of the Artist as Predator. Time. http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/16/portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-predator/

Wainwright, Martin (2009) Author William Golding tried to rape teenager, private papers show. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/aug/16/william-golding-attempted-rape

What Does Moe Mean?

Moe has a complex history and meaning. Most people believe it’s a certain type of anime character. Namely, cute, innocent girls with big eyes that do cute things. While moe does deal with this, it’s true definition goes beyond kawaii.

Now, some may wonder why it matters to define anime slang (moe isn’t really slang) precisely. However, anime and its associated terms have a large impact on story telling. In 2012, 60% of the world’s animated cartoons were Japanese anime (Cooper-Chen, 2012). Such a large market means anime terminology will have a widespread influence. Wherever people consume anime, moe and other terms enter people’s awareness.

Moe has roots in the 1970s and 1980s. During these decades, artists began creating characters specifically to inspire moe within people (Saito, 2017). It’s a common misconception that moe is just a name for images of cute girls. Moe is an affectionate response to fictional characters. The word comes from the verb moeru which means “to bud or sprout” (Galbraith, 2009). The verb describes how people’s feelings toward characters sprout over time. During the 1980s, marketers began to study which character designs, relationship patterns, and styles of drawing were most likely to create a this feeling of affection (Galbraith, 2009). This is why people confuse moe with a specific style of art or type of character. They are engineered to make you feel moe. Sagisawa Moe, a character from Kyouryuu Wakusei, Takatsu Moe from Taiyou ni Sumasshu, and Hotaru Tomoe from Sailor Moon S make good examples. In fact, the verb moeru combined with an abbreviation of Hatoru Tomoe to give us the word moe. Young girls with large, pupil-less eyes, glossy skin, small (or no) breasts and an innocent personality make the archetype for moe-seeking character design.

Feeling Moe

Sagisawa Moe from Kyouryuu Wakusei,

Feelings of moe vary. For some, it’s a mild sexual arousal and love for a character. For others, it is “the ultimate expression of male platonic love,” and for still others its pure love without sexual components. For many men, moe is an innocent girl that doesn’t “demand masculine excellence” and provides an outlet for nurturing that isn’t available to traditional masculinity. For women, moe is a romance without the “confines of womanhood”–childbirth and responsibility (Galbraith, 2009).

Because moe is an emotional reaction to a fictional character, it varies from person to person. However, it involves a desire for fantasy; it isn’t a desire to realize that fantasy.  Fujoshi, or “rotten girls,” provide a good example of these. Fujoshi are women who consume, produce, and reproduce romances inspired by manga and anime. They particularly focus on yaoi.

Women account for the majority of online fan-fiction like yaoi. Yaoi are stories that focus on relationships between androgynous men. People call fujoshi “rotten” because they are attracted to sex fantasies that can’t produce children. However, they embrace that categorization as positive, and most live heteronormative lives. Yaoi “erases the female in fantasy because female-male, or even female-female couples are too close to reality. (Galbraith, 2011).  Yaoi focuses on moe. In his interviews, Galbraith (2011) found moe drives yaoi, including its production and shared discussions between fujoshi. These discussions are even called moebanshi or moe talk. These discussions about favorite pairings (such as Link and Sidon, from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or Naruto and Sasuke) inspire more writing and conversations.  As Galbraith (2011) phrases it:

“Moe communication is about feeling out overlapping desires, or exploring one’s own desires through delving into the desires of others for the same or similar objects.”

People learn about each other through their taste in characters, settings, and situations. It’s a form of self-expression that allows people to connect through their shared moe. Moe  allows people to share deeply personal emotions through the shared feeling of fictional affection. The details behind the affection may vary, but moe still allows enough overlap to communicate.

Fujoshi see moe in everything, changing the way they perceive the world and imagine relationships between things. In Galbraith’s study (2011), the fujoshi he interviews saw how a road and a car can be a metaphor for an intimate, moe-inducing dojinshi they had read:

Hachi impulsively decided to use her surroundings as an illustration of the coupling: “Is this road moe? See, it’s virgin, freshly paved, but is doing its best with the cars on top. What if he was trying so hard to please his lover?” Megumi chimed in, “The road is a loser submissive in love with one particular car, the top, who is an insensitive pleasure seeker. In order to win his love, the road agreed to be his sex slave and is now being broken in by the top’s clients.” Tomo seemed convinced—by the creativity if not the concept—and joined Megumi and Hachi in laughter and a chorus of “moe, moe, moe.” The fantasy effectively reenchanted their world, adding a layer of potential to the mundane (the very ground under their feet!) and making the familiar other and exciting.

Fujoshi stand out against otaku in a key way. Otaku are typically people who use fantasy as an alternative for things they want but cannot realize for various reasons. Fujoshi are people who use fantasy for the sole purpose of play. They don’t seek to live through fantasy. Rather, its a place to let imagination, creativity, and emotions frolic without needing to ground them in some sort of reality. The difference is subtle. Both groups focus on fantasy and seek the confluence of affection called moe. They approach the quest from different angles. Waifuism is the otaku quest for moe. Yaoi is the fujoshi quest for moe. Of course, as we’ve seen there are still other paths for finding this comforting set of emotions.

Moe and the Male Gaze

Scenes can also inspire moe, such as this from Tsuki ga Kirei

Many people accuse moe as being a part of female objectification: cute girls doing cute things for guys to watch. However, as you can see with the fujoshi, moe extends beyond the sphere of objectification. You could argue fujoshi objectify men through yaoi. But the feelings objectification creates–possession and lust–differ from moe’s feelings. Of course, objectification can overlap with moe just as kawaii culture does. Objectification’s emotions can be confused with affection. People often confuse possession and the resulting jealousy with love. As publishers seek to leverage moe–after all, it sells–we see it mix with objectification more often because the combination pulls a wider, admittedly, male audience. This makes many believe moe centers on the male gaze on women and the gaze of fujoshi on men. But this isn’t the only part of moe. Moe allows men to explore emotional aspects society doesn’t consider a part of masculinity. One Western example, My Little Pony, creates moe, and it attracts men of all ages. However, society is more comfortable with the usual objectifying male gaze than with men exploring their nurturing, protective, and affectionate sides. This familiarity causes the confusion we often see, and the focus on the small overlap of moe-seeking and objectification.

Moe’s Contradiction

On the surface, moe appears a contradiction. It has an element of innocence to it, but it also has adult desires built into it. In our above fujoshi conversation, the innocence of the road changes to a sex slave. Moe often moves along this spectrum because it is pure fantasy. As fantasy, it allows people to project what they want or explore otherwise taboo subjects. For example, Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered a moe-inspiring character. She has an innocence to her that tugs at nurturing and protective feelings. At the same time, these feelings can shift toward sexual desire. English-language media over-emphasizes the sexual components of moe (Saito, 2017). It doesn’t always have to be sexual. Someone who grew up watching Pokemon, for example, may find themselves comforted by their favorite characters. This is moe.

Kawaii is often confused with moe because of their overlap. Kawaii, or cute, focuses on the design of characters and objects. Kawaii often creates moe, but it doesn’t always. A cute skirt, for example, may be kawaii, but it doesn’t create moe because the skirt is a physical object. However, if it would become a metaphor or a reminder for a fictional character, it could generate moe. It works in the same way as the road in Galbraith’s example. The road and its cars may create feelings of moe in the girls, but they aren’t kawaii.

Defining Moe

So we’ve come down to creating a single definition for a complex, variable set of emotions. First, moe isn’t a type of image or character design. It’s the emotion inspired by those designs. Second, moe provides an indirect way to express your feelings to others by sharing why you like a character or relationship. It’s a taste in characters, settings, and situations that comes from your experiences and preferences. With this in mind, I’ll offer my definitions:

moe (mo-eh) noun. The feeling of fondness and affection a person feels toward fictional characters or toward any setting or object that reminds the person of those characters.

moe-talk (mo-eh-tôk) noun. The mutual sharing of fondness and affection people feel toward a fictional character that creates a feeling of connection between the people involved in the conversation.

References

Cooper-Chen, Anne (2012), ‘Cartoon Planet: The Cross-Cultural Acceptance of Japanese Animation’, Asian Journal of Communication,  22 (1), 44.

Galbraith, Patrick W. (2009). “Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan”. Electronic journal of contemporary Japanese studies.

Galbraith, Patrick W (2011). Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan. Signs. 37 (1) 219-240.

Orbaugh, Sharalyn. 2010. “Girls Reading Harry Potter, Girls Writing Desire: Amateur Manga and Shojo Reading Practices.” In Girl Reading Girl in Japan, ed. Tomoko Aoyama and Barbara Hartley, 174–86. London: Routledge.

Saito, A.P. ( 2017). Moe and Internet Memes: The Resistance and Accommodation of Japanese Popular Culture in China.Cultural Studies Review, 23:1, 136-150. http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/csr.v23i1.5499

Lessons Learned from 7 Years of Anime Blogging

January 2018 marks my 7th year of blogging. JP began as your average anime review blog and morphed into the history and analysis blog you read now. It’s also a platform for my writing hobby. At first, I had delusions of making money off of JP, and I guess, in a way, I have through book sales. Although the sale of my books only covers the hosting fees. Editors are expensive, after all. But I find writing and educating people in the process rewarding. I am pleased with between 1200-1800 readers visiting JP most days. I used to have advertising on JP, as I’m sure some of you remember, but after some thought, I stopped that income stream because, well, I loathe advertising. There is far too much of it, and I felt morally obligated to stop adding to the problem.

So what have I learned in 7 years? Well, that I still have a lot to learn for one. I’ve learned, much to my surprise, that I can stick with a single topic (as broad as it is) for 7 years. That is quite a feat for me. I have a bad habit of jumping from project to project before any are finished. It’s been a source of frustration for me, and I still flit to and fro, but I’ve managed to finish several books (of various quality) and stick with JP. It’s quite an achievement.

I’ve also learned about fear. People have quoted me, used my articles in academic articles, and even as part of high school and college lessons. Many see me as an “expert,” that amorphous word that makes people view just some joe as important. As if my keyboard mashings mean something more than another person’s eloquent pose. I keep waiting for someone to point at me and call me out as a phony. All of this adds more fear to the writing process. As any writer will tell you, fear always lurks whether you are drafting a novel or banging together a blog post. We fear how other people will receive our writing. Is it good? Or rather, did I minimize its sucktatude? As people accept your sucktatude as worthy of citing, you add in the fear of being revealed as the schmoe you are. But here’s the secret, every writer and researcher is just a schmoe. Writing is profoundly human. After all, writing is just a form of drawing. We have a habit of viewing experts as more-than-human. The only difference is the level of practice and carefulness of thought experts do. I make no claims of being a careful thinker, as many of you have noticed with my sloppy image selection and sometimes slapdash writing.

Fear can be debilitating at times, but only if you allow it to be.

Over the last several years, I’ve seen how the Internet can shape behavior offline. As I study the anime community, I notice how much the hobby affects identity. It’s no different with sports. People often identify themselves with a certain team or another to the point where it becomes a part of who they are. Identity is a complex topic. Habits shape identity, and identity shape habits. We tend to behave as we think we should behave which becomes a habit that reinforces that sense of self. I’m a writer (identity), and writing (habit) reinforces that identity. Likewise, writing has created that identity. In fact, the habit of writing came before anyone began to identify me as a writer (I still don’t see myself as a writer). Anime as a culture has the same influence and habits associated with it. Cosplaying, attending conventions, watching each new anime season, blogging, chatting about anime, reading manga, collecting figures/manga/anime, and other habits form the identity of otaku. Much of the behavior is done online.

I’ve been reading a book about Christian ethics that spends much of its space speaking about how narratives shape identity. The Internet contains various narratives that shape who we are. The anime community is just one example. You also have 4chan and various other subgroups that have their own narratives. I’ve noticed whenever I dig through Reddit, 4chan, or even just browse Facebook for research ideas my attitude and views change a little. I find myself feeling depressive or angry as I read so many depressive, lonely, or angry comments. The narrative begins to shape my perception. Of course, it fades when I stop reading, but if you consume that narrative day after day, hours at a time, it will shape your viewpoint for the worse. Likewise, the messages of anime–seen hour after hour–will shape your perspective. Of course, much of anime has positive messages of loyalty, friendship, perseverance, and the like, but it also have negative views of women and skews perspective of sexuality. Habitual consumption of such stories will affect your identity. We are often not even aware of such influence. For example, most societies today believe in the narrative of scarcity, the idea that resources are finite and we are in competition for them. Consider how different it would be if we lived by the narrative of shared, plentiful resources. Yet, we often don’t consider the narrative of scarcity in our everyday lives even though we live according to its narrative. Likewise, those who consume the Internet’s delusional negative messages or those who consume anime’s messages will live according to those narratives, often without awareness of that fact.

Of course, over 7 years I’ve learned the value of citations and how misleading Wikipedia can be. I’ve also changed how I write and research. I’ve shared those realizations in the past. Change is the only constant. Well, that and typos and grammar fowl ups (see what I did there?). As I’ve changed my perspective over the last few years, I’ve moved away from anime reviews and rather superficial editorials to more academic-styled articles. I hope I didn’t write them academically. After all, when one pontificates as academia would desire the one writing to do, writing can be difficult to comprehend and assimilate into one’s own collective experiences to reduce vicissitudes within one’s own life.  Academic writing hurts. But the change in writing has brought more of you to my website, for which I am grateful and humbled.

I’ve considered what new directions JP will go in the future. As I write this, I have about 1 year of articles waiting in the queue. I like to write ahead so you get a new article every week as you’ve come to expect. It also lets me take breaks. Seeing the number of drafts drop is oddly motivating too, but I’m a gamer so I guess that makes sense. I’m also a Christian, and I’ve been considering writing a few more anime and culture related posts from that perspective. So far, I’ve mostly been writing from my secular, well as secular as anyone can be, librarian perspective. My first research love is early Christianity. I enjoy reading Pliny the Younger, Josephus, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Eusebius, and other early Christian (and Roman) writers outside of the New Testament. My interest in Japanese culture and history is secondary. But I’ve been considering how (and whether) to merge these two interests together. Is this something that would interest you?

I am always open to suggestions for articles. In fact, some of you have sent many that have turned into articles. I do what I can to dig up information, but sometimes I’m limited in what I can access (I’m still searching for an accessible copy of the book The Catalpa Bow for an article, for example. It’s an expensive book that’s out of print.) so it can take some time for me to write to your suggestion.

Over the last 7 years, I’ve learned (or rather, I am learning) anew how to learn. And that has made writing JP for you a great experience. I can’t say for how long I will continue to write about Japanese culture, otaku culture, and anime. Life can force change when you least expect it, but until then I’ll see you each week.