Meditating on the Use of Words from an Anime Blogger’s Perspective

The largest cliche in the online writing world deals with writers writing to other writers. If you browse self-publishing websites, many offer tips and tricks (some useful, some snake-oil) and write books targeting other self-published writers. I’m going to add my hat to the pile. Only this time, let’s discuss the use of words and lingo from the anime blogger’s perspective. If you are looking for goodies about a particular anime or Japanese culture, well, I have to take a break from research and watching anime every once in awhile.

Words are cool. Okay, they are more than cool. They are miraculous. Think  about what a word can do. When you read a name like Kirito, it can conjure a host of questions and mental images: what’s a Kirito? Hey isn’t that the Sword Art Online guy? Fans of the show immediately imagine what he looks like. The single word conjures emotions and reactions: love, hate, indifference, eye rolls, groans, and smiles.  Words connect the thoughts of the writer with you, the reader.

Words tug at your memories and your mental scaffold. Each of us carries a mental framework of experiences, knowledge, and emotions woven into a lattice. From that lattice words and images hang, organized in a way unique to you. No one else has the same lattice. However, words allow my lattice to connect to yours, however incomplete the connection may be.

If you think about it, it is amazing we understand each other at all. Words are utterances and drawings that connect different experiences of reality. Sure, we share some similarities, but some differences in experience are vast. Females have a different set of experiences than males, for example. Society socializes the genders differently, yet words still allow for connections. Anime fans, as another example, have a far different understanding compared to those who do not watch anime.

The Problem with Words

Speaking of overused words…

I’m sure you’ve struggled to express your excitement at one point or another. Awesome just didn’t seem to fit. The word excited felt too tame. You reached for a word to connect your feeling of elation with another person’s experience of the same. You’ve touched on a problem with words: over-use.

Over-used words lose their impact and their meaning, and words without meaning are so much air. Let’s take the word awesome. You see it used to describe anime and manga and just about everything that is merely fair nowadays. The word used to mean “creating an overwhelming feeling of awe”. It was used in reference to God and events that would drive a person to their knees with the sheer emotion of the experience. Now it is used to describe shirts and socks.

Speaking of that, let me show my Christian side for a little bit. I dislike using the words God and Jesus. Christians toss the words around too much nowadays. In many regards, they have lost their impact. The name of Jesus used to have power. It used to be awe-inspiring (see what I mean about overuse?) Now it is an everyday word. This should not be so. Such words as God, Jesus, and love should be used rarely and with purpose. We need to protect their meanings and their sacredness. Love is, perhaps, the most overused word of all when you think of it.

In the Hebrew Bible, writers avoided the name of God. In a similar way, the phrase “I am” resonates with power because it appears infrequently. For words to recover their impact, they need to fall out of regular use for a time. Sacred words remain sacred because they are used in limited context. This teaches the value of limiting some words to certain contexts.

Okay, let’s return to anime blogging. One of the most common words I’ve seen in anime blogging, and Internet writing in general, is the word fuck. As a writer, I hate that word (and I use the word hate intentionally–it is beyond mere dislike). I don’t hate it for its vulgarness; although, that doesn’t help the word’s status. I hate the word because it has no real meaning. You find it being used as an interjection, adverb, verb, noun, adjective, article, and every other part of speech possible. Fuck is used so often it no longer shocks most Internet readers. If anything, it reveals poor writing. Good writing will make the reader feel angry through good argument and illustration. Fuck does neither of these. The word is lazy. Expletives tend to be, but if carefully used, they can enhance good writing and pull the right emotion at the right time. But in order to work, they must be rare. Fuck is just too tired, too meaningless, to do this anymore. Well, other than make me feel disdain or disappointment.

The Foundation of Good Writing

Good writing requires a foundation in good word selection. I admit to being a poor wordsmith. I reach for the easiest, most common words here on JP. So excuse my hypocrisy for this section. Good-word selection determines how we connect with readers as bloggers. Yet, we have to mine deep word veins to find fresh words, words that retain their meaning. Words like awesome ramp up the rhetoric to the point where you can’t find a good word to capture what you want. You must reach for words like sublime or majestic, words meant for speaking about the sacred rather than the mundane.

Illustrations, metaphors, and similes still work for us, luckily. At least, as long as we stay away from cliches. As anime bloggers, we have the whole of anime to draw from. We can pull characters from different stories to illustrate our points. It can be as effective as Kirito’s double wield technique in the first part of SAO, or they can fall as flat as Rukia’ chest jokes in Bleach. We have to be careful. Not every reader may know our obscure references, but these help us avoid the use of tired words and hyperbole.

Horo Musuko Yuki Wandering son transwoman

Some may think: what does all of this word philosophy have to do with blogging? I just want to review anime! This isn’t a term paper or anything. This is the Internet! But as a blogger, you want people to read. To attract readers, you need to write well. Good writing is clear, concise, engaging, and choosy with words. Good writing draws readers over time. Not to mention it also makes you stand out from all the blogs out there that rely on the squishy word fuck for feeling.

I know this is a rehash post. I’ve written about these topics across various articles. But, as a writer, words matter to me. It troubles me how Christians will chant  Jesus. It grates on me as much as the word fuck because it is disrespectful. It undermines the name’s importance and power. Yes, I know it is intended as the opposite, but the fact many Christians feel multiple utterances are needed shows how much its power has waned. Likewise, words such as awesome have lost their impact.  New words like waifu retain their freshness, but over-use will make them expire quickly.

Words reflect thoughts. Writing provides insight into how a mind works, messy or ordered, precise or mushy. To end this rant (and rant it is): be careful of how you use words.

Yellow Fever – The Sexual Preference for Asian Women

Yellow fever isn’t particular to otaku culture, but many men in the culture have it. Yellow fever is the strong sexual preference some men have for East Asian women–Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. These men feel more attraction toward Asians than other groups of women, often to the point where a man can struggle to form relationships with women of his own ethnicity or with non-Asian women (Chang, 2006; Chow, 2013). Whether or not anime feeds this fetish–and yellow fever is a fetish as we will see–is debatable, but anime does show female characters with the traits thought to fuel yellow fever.  Yellow fever isn’t limited to white heterosexual men. It also extends to Western women preferring Asian men. For this article, I’m limiting myself to just heterosexual men, but most of the argument should apply to the other groups.

Online dating data from the Facebook app “Are you Interested” and OKCupid has found (Chow, 2013):

  • Women get 3x more interactions than men.
  • All men seem more interested in people outside their race.
  • Black men and women get the lowest response rates.
  • All women, except black women, are most drawn to white men.
  • Men of all races (except Asian men) prefer Asian women.
  • Asian and Latina women prefer white men “even more exclusively.”

This data does not reflect offline dating, but there is a clear discrimination toward black people. Some of this overall preference for Asian women comes from Asian stereotypes, and these stereotypes form the core of yellow fever. It is interesting to note that Asian men–who presumably live among Asian women–don’t prefer them over other ethnicities. This suggests how powerful stereotypes can be for the preference. Presumably, Asian men lack the stereotypes Western men hold toward Asian women. These data tells us how yellow fever has embedded itself in online interactions to the point where Asian women struggle with dating non-Asians (Chow, 2013).  Zhang (2016) shares one of the comments of Asian women interviewed:

“I still feel like I have been objectified, exotified, and hypersexualized because of my race and sometimes I have trouble trusting people who find me attractive because of that”

A common refrain among the studies and interviews  I’ve read: “Am I loved for me or because I’m Asian?”

The East Asian Female Stereotype

Yellow Fever doesn’t always distinguish between Asian nationalities. Chinese women are sometimes lumped together with Japanese, Korean, and other nationalities. However, some men do prefer one nationality over others. Photo by Evawen

The exoticism of East Asian women goes as far back as Marco Polo’s travels along the Silk Road in the 1200s (Ren, 2014). The Western interest with the idea of the exotic East Asian woman extends throughout Western literature and with the opera Madame Butterfly, which glorified servitude and love of an Oriental women for a white man. The opera built upon and popularized the traits long attributed to Oriental women (Chang, 2006; Gattig, 2013; Ren, 2014) :

  1. Submissive
  2. Innocent with an open mind toward sex
  3. Better at sex than all other women
  4. Quiet
  5. Faithful mother

These traits play into male fantasies. Male culture looks for submissive women who are quiet (no nagging!), cute and innocent, but a she-devil in bed. Oh, but don’t forget she also has to be a faithful wife and mother too. These contradictions extend to any ideal female, but Asian women are seen as the living embodiment of these ideals.  The American Occupation of Japan after WWII cemented these ideas. Japanese prostitutes, often posing as geisha and other exotic women, serviced American soldiers and precipitated the idea of the East Asian as a sexual goddess. Then came Madame Butterfly and the influx of Asian war brides, who were seen as a kind of war trophy by many. Western media often shows Asian women as passive and submissive because it is attractive for many men (Ren, 2014). The image of the East Asian woman appeals to many men who are tired of feminists, with their values of independence and autonomy, and crave a “traditional” relationship where women were dependent on men (Gatting, 2013).

Booth girls play into Yellow Fever. Although it isn’t uncommon to see booth girls of all ethnicities. Photo by tenaciousme

This ties back to the old sense of male identity that has come under threat in recent decades. The traditional view of masculinity was of a dominate, bread-winning guy and a quiet, stay-at-home wife who submitted to his needs and needed protection. Never mind how this type of relationship didn’t exist. But masculinity’s current identity crisis may fuel yellow fever because of how Asian women are stereotyped to match masculinity’s ideas. In anime, you see some of these masculine ideals, particularly that of protection. So in that regard, anime encourages the problem.

But is it really a problem to like East Asian–Japanese women in the case of otaku? Isn’t it the same as liking women with blond hair or brunettes or blue-eyed girls?

The Mere Preference

“The issue of fetishism and preference,” Sheridan Prasso, author of The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient,  writes, “is so prevalent, so pervasive in relations between East and West, that even healthy, normal relationships often are tarnished by the accusation. (Gattig, 2013).

Fetish has two definitions which combine in the case of yellow fever. The first definition involves an abnormal sexual attraction toward something, such as a foot fetish. The second definition of fetish involves an object worshiped by people because of its supposed magical powers or because a spirit dwells within it. East Asian women are both sexually sought after because of their ethnicity and worshiped because of their supposed magical combination of ideal traits.

Yellow fever isn’t a preference as much as a subtle form of racism. We normally think of racism as a form of hate, but you can like an ethnicity and fall into racism. Racism involves a belief that a group of people have characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to their ethnicity (Chang, 2006). Black men are fast runners. Chinese are good at math. These are all forms of racism despite being “positive” statements. Who wouldn’t want to be a fast runner or good at math? But they reduce individuals to a bundle of stereotypical traits. Yellow fever falls under this same line of thought. Asian fetishism is brushed off as a compliment rather than being offensive. Asian women, after all, should feel flattered so many non-Asian men prefer them.

But it’s not racist to like blonds or brunettes, so why is liking Japanese women more than other women considered racist? Yellow fever is nothing more than an attraction to superficial attributes. Well, that alone is a problem because its liking someone for how they look rather than who they are, but let’s look into the argument.

The best way to examine the mere preference argument is from the perceptive of the women. First, people who lack culturally attractive physical traits have disadvantages in their careers along with their social and romantic prospects (Zheng, 2016). This puts pressure on women in particular. Yellow fever compounds this discrimination by adding more pressure to live up to the stereotypes. When they fail to live up to the stereotypes, Asian women are open to harassment and even violence (Zheng, 2016).  Yellow fever combines sexual attraction–the first definition of fetish–with the idea of an object with special, magical properties. This is more than feeling attracted to Asian faces. Yellow fever’s exclusivity shows its not just aesthetics. Otherwise, men with yellow fever would feel attraction to beauty in general and not just Asian beauty. How ever that is defined.

Yellow fever has the stereotypes of Asian women built into it because “racial fetishes always depend on racial stereotypes rather than pure aesthetic features, and second explicit disavowals of the stereotypes provide no evidence against the fact because the origins of sexual preferences are not usually transparent to those who have them. (Zheng, 2016).

But the mere preference idea does offer another argument: that it is a sign of color-blindness. Because it is a cross-racial preference, it shows it isn’t racist. However, yellow fever is a form of objectification. Asian women don’t always know if the guy is into them for who they are or if it is because of her ethnicity. This creates a feeling of interchangeability. This form of objectification, called, fugibility, is the opposite of love (Zheng, 2016).  Love means the beloved cannot be replaced with someone else with similar qualities. Yellow fever places a different between Japanese women and, say, Middle Eastern women and Western women when the differences shouldn’t matter. Instead of being color-blind, yellow fever emphasizes it. It also fails to recognize the fact East Asian women have experienced racialized patterns of treatment (Zheng, 2016).

Furthermore, blonds and brunettes don’t have the same history of exploitation, colonization, slavery, persecution, and exclusion because of their hair color. Nor does hair or eye color affect socio-economic and political opportunities. Race does. Asians and people of color experience this daily. Added to this is the fact white people are more likely to date within their race than outside it despite what online dating reports (Zheng, 2016). Online dating reports interactions, not actual dating patterns. Yet, there there isn’t a term like “white fever” for those who are interested in white men and women. Choosing to date non-whites, if you are white, requires some special explanation. White men with yellow fever are viewed as unable to date white women. As this thinking goes: many Asian immigrant women are of lower-class backgrounds, perfect for these inept men. Cross-ethnic marriages across other groups face similar implied judgments from people. Black men who marry white women fall under the suspicion of self-contempt—the marriage says black women aren’t good enough (Zheng, 2016). All of which is nonsense.

Because of all this, yellow fever isn’t a mere preference. It has too many stereotypes built into it, and the exclusivity stops it from being a mere preference. This isn’t to say everyone who finds East Asian women attractive has yellow fever. But if they are only attracted to East Asian women, that is the marker for the fetish.

The Cost of Yellow Fever

Of course, businesses are aware of the fetish and use it to sell music, services, and products. Objectification sells.

Yellow fever hurts women. It creates a set of standards East Asian women are expected to live up to and paints them with a broad brush. Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Korean women are all seen in the same way. Cultural nuance and individual personalities disappear. When ladies can’t live up to the standards, they face harassment and even violence (Zheng, 2016).

The existence of the fetish makes Asian women doubt their relationships with non-Asian people. She has to wonder if he loves the idea of her as an Asian woman instead of her as a person.

Yellow fever costs men too. It encourages a one-dimensional, false view of masculinity and of womanhood. It has created an industry of Asian mail-order brides who are supposedly submissive and less-intimidating (Chang, 2006). This reduces a person to an object that is as interchangeable as a shirt. Yellow fever stops men from forming true relationships.

Behind all of it is superficiality. The appearances of Oriental women varies far more than yellow fever acknowledges. Just as the personality traits are turned into a checklist, the fetish reduces outward appearance to a single ideal image of “Asianness.” Yellow fever doesn’t acknowledge culture differences or personal differences. It is a colonialist, chauvinistic perspective that disguises itself as color-blind ideology even as it encourages racism. Ironically, yellow fever works against itself. It prevents a man from forming a true connection with a woman he supposedly loves the most.

References

Chang, M. (2006). Made in the USA: Rewriting Images of the Asian Fetish. Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2005-6. Workd & Image 6.

Chow, K. & Hu, E. (2013) Odd Favor White Men, Asian Women on Dating App. Code Switch, NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/11/30/247530095/are-you-interested-dating-odds-favor-white-men-asian-women

Gattig, N. (2013) ‘Yellow fever’ and the fantasy of the Asian female. The Japan Times. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/06/25/issues/yellow-fever-and-the-fantasy-of-the-asian-female

Ren, Y. (2014) ‘Yellow fever’ fetish: Why do so many white men want to date a Chinese women? The Telegraph.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10935508/Yellow-fever-fetish-Why-do-so-many-white-men-want-to-date-a-Chinese-woman.html

Zheng, R. (2016). Why Yellow Fever Isn’t Flattering: A Case Against Racial Fetishes. Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 2(3), 400-419. doi:10.1017/apa.2016.25

Anime, Eating Disorders, and the Body Image of Men

Let’s talk about men and eating disorders and, of course this being JP, anime/manga. Eating disorders result from what’s called body image disturbance, a fancy term that means you don’t like how you look. It’s well known that women struggle the most with this: 60% of American women suffer from body dissatisfaction. But 30% of American men suffer from it too (Chisuwa, 2011).  Negative body image helps cause eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and exercise. Yes, exercise–excessive and compulsive exercise–falls under the eating disorder category. I want to focus on the male side of this problem. This side of the problem is often ignored. In fact, male eating disorders remains less studied than female in Japan (Chisuwa, 2011). Of course, I can’t discuss this topic without speaking a bit about women too. After all, women are 10 times more likely than men to develop an eating disorder (Goddard, 2014).

The Differences Between Male and Female Eating Disorders.

Men and women react differently to the pressures that cause eating disorders. Negative body image, social pressures, gender roles, perfectionism, and media push on people to achieve often impossible ideals. Those ideals, however, differ by gender. Women feel pressured to be thin; men feel pressured to be muscled. They also focus on different body areas. Women fret about their butts and thighs more than any other parts of their bodies. Men worry about the upper body, their chest, arms, and abs (Cordes, 2016).  Male body ideals require strong muscle definition and a V-shaped, toned body. Female body definition requires thinness with large breasts and medium (not too wide!) hips.

These American standards have become global standards as American media pushed its messages into other cultures: “the United States possesses a Western culture that exerts enormous influence on the rest of the World” (Tan, 2013). These standards redefine traditional cultural body ideals. They don’t replace them, however. For example, the ideal male Japanese body image lacks the bulky muscles of the ideal American male, but it has still shifted the ideal. Unfortunately, Japanese men haven’t been studied as much as American men when it comes to eating disorders. But the few studies performed found Japanese men also underestimate their weight and muscularity. In a comparison study, male and female Japanese body esteem scores were lower than Americans, Chinese, and Israelis (Chisuwa, 2011).

Japanese Eating Disorders and Body Image

In a study from 1994, 60% of Japanese women surveyed admitted to binge eating at times and 15% admitted to vomiting occasionally. In fact, eating disorders go back further. Shutoku Kagawa (1683-1755) observed patients who would eat only small amounts of food for days, months, and even more than a year. When these patients were forced to eat, Kagawa wrote, they would vomit (Chisuwa, 2011). Considering this, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Japanese culture struggles with eating disorders as much, if not more, than the West.

In similar surveys of men, most expressed general satisfaction with their bodies; however, most desired more muscle, just like their American counterparts. However, whereas Americans wanted muscle to increase attractiveness, Japanese men wanted muscle to help their athletic abilities. They also didn’t want the bulky muscles Americans like. Japanese men also wanted to be a little taller, but not tall enough to look down on people. In Japanese culture, conformity to social norms remains valued. This conformity contributes to eating disorders.  Chisuwa (2011) writes about how children develop eating disorders when they attempt to conform to their parent’s pressure to lose weight or stay thin. Mothers in particular play a role in enforcing traditional body ideals. Teens even ask mothers for help with weight concerns and dieting.

These cultural ideals of how a body should be extends to behavior. Appearance, behavior, and people’s perceptions entangle into three categories of male ideals that each contribute to male body problems across Japanese and American culture.

Categories of Male Ideals

Although there are only 3 categories of masculinity, each have different subcategories of men. This chart comes from Yue Tan’s analysis of men’s lifestyle magazines from various cultures in 2013.

Vigorous and Macho1. Tough and Macho. With a traditional cowboyish look and temperament, the model is muscular in physique and determined in facial expression.
The sharp, angular lines of his face speak of toughness and resolution. With tanned skin, in leather or cowboy clothes, the model appears nomadically unkempt, strong-willed and lion-hearted.2. Vigorous and sunny. Like a boy next door, the model often wears a coy, innocent, and brilliant smile. His skin is tanned. His clothing is sporty and
casual. His look and posture are those of someone who is amiable and easy-going.
Refined and Sophisticated3. Refined and Gentle. With the look of a well-learned intellectual, the model
appears cultured, polite, graceful, and good-mannered. He is often dressed in
preppy style (e.g. shirts, argyle sweaters, etc) and wears glasses. His hair is always neat and tidy, and his appearance is always clean and classic.
4. Stern and Sophisticated. With a confident and firm look, the model impresses the viewers as mature and reliable. He is dressed in formal attire (usually suits).
Trendy and Cool5. Trendy and Cool. Clothed and accessorized in the latest fashion, the model is likely to stand in a provocative posture and displays a freedom-loving and rebellious temperament. His facial expression is either numb or aloof, thereby creating a sense of distance between him and his viewers. He often leers at people and assumes the attitude of indifference and scorn.
Other6. Sensual and Sexy. Often in sexually arousing attire or revealing, tight clothes such as swimming suit and underwear, the model usually looks away from the camera and refrains from appearing smart and sophisticated or springy and sunny. His facial expression and posture—such as caressing his own body—often seem unnatural because they are contrived to seduce his viewers and arouse their sexual desire.
7. Androgynous. With exquisite features, the model dresses and behaves in a more feminine way or wears makeup. He appears in a more delicate, meek, and dependent posture.

Men are expected to sort themselves into these categories. Each ideal has its own body types to achieve, and all of which are not easily attainable by men with school, jobs, and family. Despite having multiple categories, the macho category retains the most focus. The American male ideal focuses on aggression, violence, and big muscles.

Think about typical American action films. A male hero, usually heavily muscled, uses violence to win the day. This links the macho category, muscles, and violence together. Male characters in general are more likely than female characters to be aggressive in media. This contributes to men’s feelings of inadequacy. Few can be James Bond. Strangely, when it comes to sexualized images of women in the media, this too has been shown in studies to increase men’s negative perception of themselves (Tayler, 2016). Violent stories with sexuality make men feel worse about their bodies according to Tayler (2016):

“It is possible that very violent images may be seen as more unsettling and threatening, or they may cause viewers to feel alienated from the stereotypical  masculinity with which such violence may be associated.”

Modern masculinity is designed to foster this negative body image through relentless media messages found in movies and in advertising. In the 1980s, Western masculinity saw a shift toward outward appearance as a method to sell products and fashions to men. While women have suffered from this type of marketing for a long time, companies began to target men’s insecurities in order to sell products (Tan, 2013). Dissatisfaction pushes people to consume products that claim to help them achieve the ideals the media sells. In turn, these messages and increased feelings of insecurity creates eating disorders and compulsive consumption. As I’ve pointed out, this isn’t limited to the United States. Japan and other westernized countries deal with this.

Anime and manga don’t help the issue.

Male Body Image and Manga and Anime

It’s taken me awhile to get down to this point, but anime and manga foster feelings of insecurity in men through the same mechanisms I’ve outlined. Manga and anime reinforce body ideals and the ideal categories of masculinity. They feature ripped, aggressive men doing their hero thing. Look at Ichigo and Goku. All of then are chiseled. Beautiful anime girls contribute to the feelings of inadequacy. Although, waifuism acts as a release valve for those who lack confidence to approach women in reality. But the retreat from the physical world proves the power of media’s messages. Waifuism can leave women feeling inadequate just as pornography does.

Sometimes obesity, another eating disorder according to medicine’s view, results from how media pushes on insecurities. Some people use food to escape their insecurities instead of trying to achieve the media’s ideals. It serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Waifuism and heavy anime consumption does the same thing. They came from a negative self image (there are exceptions to this). In all cases, you are still giving into the messages of consumption–which is the final goal of marketers. Content people don’t consume as much as those who are dissatisfied with themselves. Consumption leaves a hit of dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical, but it is short lasting and requires more consumption to achieve.

Anime and manga offers an alternative male idea to mainstream America, but for most this body ideal isn’t attainable either. We forget that models on magazines look as they do because its their job. They spend hours sculpting their bodies in the gym. Those of us who do other work can’t take the necessary time to exercise and eat as needed to attain the look. Manga and anime model their characters off of these body and from people like Bruce Lee, who made martial arts and fitness his life. However, you will see just as many anime heroes that have thin “nerdy” body types. They aren’t muscled or ripped. They are a thin, normal. However, you rarely see husky men as main protagonists. They are usually supporting cast, like Naruto’s Choiji Akimichi. But alternative body types do exist, even though most shonen action heroes end up ripped like Bruce Lee or hulking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Knowing it’s all fantasy and not attainable blunts the messages’ influence, but contentment with oneself is tough to achieve. Even if you reach it, it can be lost without vigilance. Negative body image remains among the most powerful forces in marketing. People who are content don’t want or need as much, and they value what they have, which reduces their need to buy the newest and shiniest. Because of this, our economy doesn’t want us feeling content. Anime and manga doesn’t collude with marketers to make men and women feel inadequate.

Rather, it is a subtle momentum in how everyone thinks. Heroes need to be strong. Muscles mean strength. The connection was innocent in the age before consumerism and mass media. It was maybe even useful, but now the connections foster negative body images and lead people to eating disorders.

The pressures trouble me. It’s not like we can completely disconnect from media. After all, we enjoy anime and manga. Marketing in western countries is everywhere. People pay companies to market for them. That’s what you are doing when you wear a Nike shirt. We can’t avoid the factors that contribute to negative body image and eating disorders. The only tool I concluded that helps is mindfulness. Being aware of the messages peddled and how they make me feel helps me curb the desire to bulk up (not that I have a body that could).

In fact, emotions play a significant role in eating disorders. A problem called alexithymia appears in many cases of eating disorders. Studies estimate between 23-77.1% of anorexia patients and up to 56% of bulimia patients show symptoms of this problem. Alexithymia is the inability to identify, describe, and mange emotions and separate them from physical sensations. People with the issue struggle to overcome their eating disorders because they can’t identify the emotional reasons behind their eating disorders. Eating disorders act as a way to regulate the emotional response because of this lack of awareness (Beradis, 2011).  Stress is felt as hunger, for example. People who struggle with alexithymia “eat their emotions” without being able to pin down those emotions or regulate them without some involvement of eating behavior.

As you can see, healthfulness goes beyond the health of the body to the health of the mind and soul.

Male eating disorders and body image problems deserve more attention. Anime and manga can (and does!) work to reduce these problems by featuring stories that address them and by creating male heroes without the extreme musculature. Anime does a decent job of this with many of its heroes, but many shonen heroes eventually end up with muscles that few men can attain in reality. But it comes back to us. We need to take action to reduce our consumption of messages that hurt body image, such as men’s lifestyle magazines, and look toward developing a healthy attitude toward our bodies.

References

Beradis, Domenico & others (2011) Alexithymia, Body Image, and Eating Disorder. Body Image: Perceptions, Interpretation, and Attitudes.  135-153.

Chisuwa, Naomi & Jennifer O’Dea (2011) An Historical Perspective of Body Image and Body Image Concerns Amoung Male and Female Adolescents in Japan. Body Image: Perceptions, Interpretations, and Attitudes. 1-26.

Cordes, Martin and others. (2016) Male Body Image and Visual Attention Towards Oneself and Other Men. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 17 (3) 243-254.

Goddard, Elizabeth and others. (2014). Cognitive flexibility, central coherence and social emotional processing in males with an eating disorder. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry. 15. 317-326.

Tan, Yue and others (2013). The Construction of Masculinity: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Men’s Lifestyle Magazine Advertisments. Sex Roles. 69. 237-249.

Tayler, Laramie & Jhunehl Fortaleza  (2016) Media Violence and Male Body Image. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 17 (4) 380-384

The Legacy of 4Kids Entertainment

4Kids Entertainment. I’ll wait while you hug the porcelain and bring up your last meal.

Feeling a little better?

Anime fans detest 4Kids for how they localized and censored and cut series like Pokemon, One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and others. However, the company is behind successful children’s shows that didn’t suffer the same fate: Cabbage Patch Kids and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Before we mark the company as a villain for anime, we have to consider the time period it committed its anime atrocities, as some fans see it. Hyperbole much? Saban Entertainment also gave Dragonball Z the same treatment during its US release (Daniels, 2008).

But at the time, anime wasn’t mainstream. Sure, it was around, but it wasn’t a part of the American childhood. Despite what anime fans say, 4Kids helped popularize anime. Al Kahn, the head of 4Kids, spent over 20 years distributing and promoting childhood stories. He saw kids playing Pocket Monsters on a business trip to Japan, and he convinced Nintendo and the owning companies to bring the game to the US. He also gave it its iconic name (Tsukayama, 2016):

He decided then that the game needed a cooler name than “Pocket Monsters.” “I didn’t like the name ‘Pocket Monsters,’” he said, partially because it didn’t sound different enough from other monster games. “I wanted the name to be more Japanese-y.”

The statement is a little tone-deaf, and his Americanization of the anime proved controversial and uneven. He kept many of the Japanese names of Pokemon, like pikachu, but changed other aspects of the show. For example, he changed the name of the game’s protagonist from Satoshi to Ash Ketchum. The music and scripts were also rewritten to suit American children (Tsukayama, 2016).  Japanese food was replaced with American foods because the company worried that American children wouldn’t recognize rice balls were food, leading to the (in)famous scene of Brock referring to rice balls as jelly donuts (Champers, 2012).

TV stations resisted the show, thinking it was too strange and too much like anime. Many shoved it into the 6am slot, a poorly performing time, but soon that slot was seeing more viewers than the prime after-school slots (Tsukayama, 2016).

But 4Kids’ concerns may not have been too far off, considering the time. During the 1990s, anime was still hidden in a cultural niche despite Ghibli film releases. I’m not justifying what they did, but their localizations did introduce children to Japanese elements. It was a step toward wider acceptance of anime and Japanese culture. They ran into trouble when they tried the same tactics with One Piece in 2004. By this time, people had become used to anime’s Japanese elements, so when one of the most popular show about pirates hit the US, localization wasn’t necessary. But 4Kids wasn’t with the times.

Instead, the company followed their habit and eliminated One Piece‘s Japanese and violent elements, never mind how violent American TV had become. 4Kids digitally changed all firearms to look like toys. Cigarettes became lollipops or poorly edited out, leaving smoke trails behind. They also cut a large number of episodes, including entire story arcs, and compressed multiples episodes into one.

As you can imagine, fans weren’t pleased.

Considering the US’s history of children’s shows, 4Kids’s decisions make sense. It was a few years after 9/11 and violence in media was under fire. Although TV continued to show ever-escalating levels of violence despite the outcry in some areas of the country. But 4Kids had fallen out of touch with its now-Japanese-culture savvy audience. Eventually the Japanese animation studio that created Yu-Gi-Oh!, 4Kid’s flagship earner–earning $152 million for the company between 2001 and 2009–claimed 4Kids owed it for making secret agreements with TV stations and home video companies and handling royalties in shady ways (Gardner, 2011).

A series of bankruptcies followed with the most recent happened in September 21, 2016. The company attempted to distance itself from its now tainted and infamous 4Kids brand by renaming itself 4Licensing Corporation on December 21, 2012 (4Licensing, n.d.; United States, 2012). But the damage was done with fans as the meme “What if 4Kids got show title” shows.

The Dangers of Localization

One Piece and Yu-Gi-Oh! suffered the most from 4Kid’s localization. Pokemon survived mostly intact with only jelly donut-level problems and a few cut episodes. 4Kids had a role in making anime more mainstream in the US, although the most avid 4Kids hater would deny that. However, the company failed to pay attention to their audience’s level of comfort and acceptance for Japanese elements as time passed. Their Pokemon and early Yu-Gi-Oh! localizations had cut a road for new anime fans who wanted the genuine experience. Also, by 2004, anime communities had sprung up online that had access to uncut episodes of One Piece and more.

The removal of Japanese elements and violence can compromise the vision and message the author intended. Violence in anime, for example, may be a comment on the human condition. Eliminating it removes that message. In One Piece’s case, removing cigarettes and making firearms look like toys, denies the danger and roughness of pirate culture. It hurts characterization.

Japanese culture references reveal part of the author’s identity and experiences. It gives context to the story, and without those references, the message of the story may garble. Not to mention it is insulting to substitute American elements for Japanese. It suggests American (or British, or French, or whatever culture is substituting for Japanese) is superior. It also insults the intelligence of the viewer. After all, even a child who had never seen a rice ball and know its food when characters eat it.

Now some aspects of localization are necessary. Some idioms don’t translate well between cultures, and sometimes you run against language limits. Some languages have words others do not have have, so an approximation is needed. 4Kids helped American children wean into anime, but as exposure and understanding of Japanese culture became common, localization of the type the company practice wasn’t necessary.

Vilifying 4Kids

Segments of the anime community can’t forget what 4Kids did. Memes still circulate about the company’s handling. Anime fans are understandably sensitive to localization. They still have the dub vs. sub debate raging. However, even subtitled anime are localized. Localization can only be prevented by watching anime in Japanese and being immersed in Japanese culture. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a story as close to the original as possible. However, dubs play an important role in making anime more accessible, which benefits the medium outside of Japan. 4Kids doesn’t fully deserve its smearing in the community. Yes, they handled their properties poorly, and they were….unsavory…..in their “Japanese-y” approach to Pokemon. Their method denigrated Japanese culture.

Despite all of this, 4Kids has an important place in American anime culture. They helped make anime mainstream to the point where Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! weren’t considered anime. They were considered cartoons. This small distinction allowed anime to move from a niche and into the American childhood. It created several generations of anime fans that later moved toward other anime series, such as One Piece. No matter how much the anime community vilifies 4Kids, the company had an important role in the development of anime in the United States.

Reference

“4Licensing Corporation Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy | Business Wire”. www.businesswire.com. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160922006380/en/4Licensing-Corporation-Files-Chapter-11-Bankruptcy

Ali, R. (2009). Yu-Gi-Oh! & Cabbage Patch Kids U.S. Parent 4Kids Entertainment for Sale. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/04/AR2009080401638.html.

Chambers, S. (2012) Anime: From Following to Pop Culture Phenomenon. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications. 3 (2) 94-102.

Daniels, J. (2008) “Lost in Translation”: Anime, Moral Rights, and Market Failure. Boston University Law Review. 88 (709). 709-745.

“UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION: FORM 8-K: 4Licensing Corporation (December 21, 2012)”. Edgar Online. December 21, 2012.  http://yahoo.brand.edgar-online.com/displayfilinginfo.aspx?FilingID=8990367-1208-18945&type=sect&dcn=0001140361-12-052927

Tsukayama, H. (2016) Meet the man who made Pokemon an international phenomenon. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/08/04/meet-the-man-who-made-pokemon-an-international-phenomenon/

How Anticipation Helps the Enjoyment of Anime

I enjoy a good Netflix binge, but in our age of on-demand content, we lost the value of anticipation. When we can watch anime whenever we want, for as long as we want, we lose the slow build of excitement waiting can bring. Unfortunately, American society disdains patience. Sure, we say patience is a virtue, but in practice we hate waiting. But waiting helps us enjoy anime more.

For example, each week I look forward to spending a Saturday night watching Toonami. After working all week, it’s a great way to unwind. Now, I could watch most of Toonami shows online. I could binge on DBZ Kai, but I don’t because I prefer the wait. On weeks when I am socially exhausted, Toonami helps me push through the week. Small goals help keep us motivated. When I sit down to watch DBZ Kai and the rest of Toonami, I quite enjoy the time.

Anticipation helps us savor by building excitement and looking-forwardness. Looking-forwardness makes my couch feel softer and my tea taste better. That’s the odd aspect of habit. Habits comfort us more when they are special and when they endcap our time. Time endcaps allow us to shift our thinking from, say, work to hobby. I use Toonami to shift to relaxation. I have a habit of using Sundays as a Sabbath, and Toonami starts that relaxation day. I anticipate this time. Before I wrote this article, I enjoyed a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate cake. I promised myself early in the day that I would have this snack. I could have had a slice of cake with dinner, but that would have broke the all-day wait I allotted. I enjoyed the cake more because I made myself wait for it.

Anticipation differs from hype. Hype involves expectation and excitement. Anticipation lacks the expectation aspects of hype. When I anticipate something, I don’t have expectations. For example, I still enjoy my time relaxing with Toonami even when the episodes are let-downs. Sometimes, I will hype myself. In those cases, I set myself up for disappointment which makes it harder for me to enjoy the relaxation time. We see hype disappoint people most often in the realm of video games. People allow expectations to grow to the point where no game could hope to match them. Anticipation lacks these vaunted expectations. Expectations quickly get out of hand with the Internet’s echo chamber. Some expectation naturally comes from anticipation, but I find it best to avoid videos, articles, and trailers for content that excites me.

For example, I looked forward to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m a big Zelda fan, but I decided to impose a media blackout. I’ve only seen one early video about the game before I decided to eschew all coverage. I want to know almost nothing about the game until I play it for myself. I am an old-school gamer–the type that grew up drawing maps and making my own guides while I played. I prefer going in without any expectations or knowledge.

In the same way, I blackout anime that I find interesting. When I saw the trailer for One Punch Man on Toonami, I avoided anything that had to do with it. Doing this allows you to avoid anyone coloring your viewpoint. The articles and videos we consume can sway your opinion long before you see the first episode of an anime or read the first page of a manga. Only after I finish a game or series do I seek out reviews. By then, I have my own opinion about the work and want to see what others think.

Cultivating Anticipation

Anticipation is easy to cultivate, and difficult to stick with. The trick is to delay gratification and make that a habit. Waiting to eat my slice of chocolate cake took some effort, but I enjoyed the cake and tea all the more for the wait. Setting small, delayed goals helps you learn resistance to impulse.Instead of bingeing on an anime right now, push the marathon to a future day of the week. Make this a Friday night habit. The habit will endcap the week and help you build anticipation.

Over time, these small habits will transfer to larger concerns and finances. Delaying gratification helps you control your spending habits. Impulsive purchases quickly add up. However, you can use manga and anime purchases to motivate you. Don’t buy the latest copy of Tokyo Ghoul until after you finish Economics with a B. Use it as a reward. Now, this may feel like depriving yourself. After all, some of your friends will continue to buy things, and they will own more than you will. However, you will appreciate what you have more. Your wallet will be healthier too. You’ll also discover the odd result of anticipation: you need less to feel happier.

This isn’t to say the occasional impulsive purchase is wrong, but it shouldn’t rule your actions all the time. Consumption should be planned rather than be automatic. Planning creates anticipation and allows you to set goals to keep you motivated. But this requires discipline. You may need an accountability buddy when you get started.

I know this seems silly. After all, it’s just watching anime. But small habits accumulate and create your character. I like the anticipation period. While it can be mentally painful, when I finally reach the planned point, it is just that much more enjoyable. And length of time affects enjoyment. Once a week anime binges work well for me. I punctuate each month with a movie binge day too. I will set ahead most of a day once every month or 2 and marathon various movies or video games. Rarity makes me appreciate them more.

Anticipation remains a forgotten virtue in our on-demand world. Without it, we fail to enjoy stories, video games, and other aspects of life to the fullest. While it’s cheesy, the best really does come to those who wait.

2 Steps for Better Anime Blogging

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You, the anime community, are great. I’ve seen a lot of positive things in my time with you, and its time we extend some of these positive aspects to other parts of the Internet. Lately, the Internet suffers from vitriol and low-leveling writing: crudeness, profanity, and bad writing. Yet, most of the anime blogging community I’ve seen is helpful and avoids excessive crudeness. The writing quality is decent too. Let’s be clear. I’m not saying other sections of the Internet blog world are worse than the anime community. Nor am I saying the anime community doesn’t have problems. However, much of what we see online–misinformation, political bias, excessive crudeness, personal attacks, slander, and other problems–can be reduced if all of us work at it.

I’ve written against excessive profanity and other writing issues in various articles. I won’t beat that drum again. Other than to tell you to stop it! It really does make you look foolish. Ehem. Anyway, there are two specific issues affecting blogging communities. I’ll address both of them and offer simple solutions to fix them.

Monetizing Blogs with Advertisements Hurts Blogging

Who doesn’t want to make a living with their blog? I tried using advertisements here on JP to make a buck or two. However, a few years ago I realized I was a hypocrite. I hate advertising. I don’t merely find it annoying or dislike it. I passionately hate the level of advertising found across the Internet. Yet I was also contributing to the problem. So I took down all the advertisements.

After I dropped the ads, I saw my traffic increase. I’m not sure if removing ads helped that, but I like to think so. I will promote my books time to time, but I try to keep my book promotions to a minimum. I dislike seeing authors over-peddle. However, not all advertising is bad. Some is needed, but it should be kept to a minimum.  Ironically, if advertisers would reduce the number of ads by, say, 98% they would likely see more people paying attention to them. Rarity creates interest. When a room of people are talking, no one can hear what is being said.

In any case, the level of advertisements used on the Internet chokes access. Ad blockers are required to be able to load many websites. Not to mention it is very difficult to blog for a living. The best way to do that is to write quality books (not that I claim my books are quality) and freelance for magazines. A blog is a way to reach out to people who may find your content interesting or useful. And it all comes down to being helpful to your readers. Blogs that splash advertisements everywhere do not have the reader in mind. They don’t try to give to the reader; they want to take from the reader.  These blogs and websites are self-serving rather than other-serving.

So the first step of our blog movement: reduce advertising. Remove most ads from your blog and kill all those terrible pop-ups, including those that ask the visitor to follow your blog. If they want to follow you, they will. Place the RSS feed or email someplace visible but out of the way of your articles. I refuse to follow blogs that beg me to follow them. But if I like a blog, I will hunt the sidebar for a subscription box.

Also be sure to install adblockers on your browsers. Maybe if people stop seeing pennies come from ads, more will take them down. I don’t know about you, but I long for the day when advertisements are rare but useful.

Return the Social to Blogging

One of the biggest problems blogs face is the immigration to social platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media have stolen the conversations blogs used to enjoy. I feel like I am railing against the inevitable, but most blogs starve for comments and discussion. I’ll admit social platforms are more convenient for discussion. After all, blogs are fragmented. You can talk to many bloggers on Twitter, but you can only speak to a few (or one) on their blog. However, this is akin to having a private conversation. Social platforms are noisy places, full of asides and interruptions.  Blogs provide spaces for more specific, quieter conversations. Blogs have more in common with friends getting together at a bar than Twitter or other social platforms do. They are closer to meeting at a busy city square.

Perhaps the most important part of commenting on blogs deals with the author. Many bloggers labor in isolation. They feel as if their little blog, which sees little traffic, is lost in the void. They grow discouraged and think about quitting. Just when they are about to order the blog to commit seppuku, a comment pings. Someone has read an article and liked it! They really liked it enough to comment! Comments light a fire under bloggers. Comments encourage, even the argumentative ones.

Bloggers can also encourage each other by writing responses to posts on their own blogs. For example, you can write a response about this article and rip at me for being way off base. Article responses between bloggers help readers discover new authors. It also helps create a better community by feeling like a community. Instead of a blog floating in isolation, it responds and adapts to the conversations of its community. It joins those conversations. The anime community does a great job of this. Not to mention these response posts help you keep writing. It can be tough to come up with ideas week after week.

So the second part of our blog movement is to comment on posts and write response articles. If you like a blogger, let them know you support them. They may well return the favor! But if they don’t return the favor, don’t worry. You contributed to the health of the Internet as a whole.

Small actions add up. While these two solutions are relatively easy (outside of losing advertising income), they improve your small bit of the Internet. Taking your conversation to a blog encourages the author to keep writing. It also helps blogging feel less isolated. Remember, blogging is the original social media. And bloggers need to help the conversation by replying to comments and writing good, useful articles in the first place. Blogging can’t be self-serving. It has provide value to the reader in order to succeed.

This is where most bloggers, and websites for that matter, go wrong. They try to take from readers (usually money) instead of give. Writing is a relationship. There has to be more giving than taking for relationships to succeed. If you give quality writing and information to readers, many will give you their friendship, interest, and (sometimes) money.