Last month I had heard about a guy called Robert Morrow who had just been elected in Travis County, Texas as the chair of the Travis County Republican Party, and how he has already had a reputation for being, in his own words, “Donald Trump on steroids”. He’s been known for a series of tweets where he talks about outrageous conspiracy theories surrounding Barrack Obama, the Clintons, the Bush family and other politicians such as Rick Perry, accusing them of bizarre sexual activities and various abuses, and he particularly accuses Hillary Clinton of abusing various women. He’s also tweeted about how much he loves breasts and at least once he bragged that “if you Google ‘Robert Morrow 11 inch penis confirmed’ you get over 11,800,000 hits I’m just sayin'”.
For some reason I decided to check in on his Twitter feed after my brother joked about that time he told Time Warner Cable News to “get ready to have some fun reading my Twitter feed”, and what I found was truly a surprise. Apparently, his Twitter feed is filled with pictures of anime girls, and he spends his time rating “waifus” that people send to his Twitter account. Just look at it, if you dare. At first it might seem his account got taken over by a horny anime fan (not that I’d be complaining), but nope, that is actually Robert Morrow posting.
When I found that out I just thought, “Wow. I never thought I’d see the day”. No really, I never thought I’d see an American politician (let alone one of the Republicans) actually have an anime-filled Twitter account, and we’ll never see another politician like him again. That’s the only reason I took the time to write about this guy. It’s such a shame that Morrow himself is basically a troll let loose in political office, what with his braggart tendencies combined with his obsession with scandalous conspiracy theories, because if he was just a guy who liked sex and anime and didn’t like the political establishment I think he’d be alright. But since this is a guy who thinks he’s Donald Trump, and sort of acts like the bastard offspring of Trump and Alex Jones, it’s no wonder the Republican establishment wants to get rid of him so badly.
I have an aesthetic appreciation for anime, and I always have since my early teens, but I really don’t like the way other fans of anime act on the internet. If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, you like anime, and are following anime-related accounts, chances are you’ll come across a lot of memes clearly made by 14-year old kids about how anime is superior to cartoons because cartoons are supposedly made just for kids, and some memes about how if you don’t like anime then you’re probably just some idiot. Only in the age of social media, folks.
A lot of these memes are based on really shallow arguments that the people behind them clearly have no interest in proving. like how cartoons look like they’re made by children on Flash or CG (which would mean they’ve never watched any of the old episodes of The Simpsons), that they’re only made for children or family audiences (which would mean they’ve never watched anything made by Ralph Bakshi), that they are all censored and naive and if they aren’t made for kids then they are essentially mindlessly crude humor like Family Guy (again, if they watched Ralph Bakshi’s work, along the very first season of The Simpsons, they wouldn’t think so), and that they are all inferior to anime based solely on those generalized claims. They make very generalizing statements about cartoons, and about anime. They seem to judge anime as a medium positively but they only seem particularly invested in the popular contemporary anime shows and mangas , and it feels like not a lot of attention is particularly paid to anything outside of that, especially older animes. Going back to cartoons, it’s worth remembering that all the Western animation most of us are usually exposed to is Disney films, children’s cartoons, The Simpsons, South Park, Futurama, and Family Guy, so I can see where the asumption comes from, but it’s terrible how they generalize all forms of Western animation based on what they’ve been brought up with without looking outside of that.
I ask all those who are are deeply interested in anime as a medium and are invested in critically examining the shows you love: do you really believe that there is not a single anime show, or movie, that isn’t great, let alone outrageously so? And before you answer that, how many anime shows have you seen in your lifetime so far? I admit that I personally have not seen every anime there is, and in fact I haven’t personally watched a lot of anime every anime fan on social media seems to love, so in some ways I haven’t felt the emotional investment many people may have, but the fact I that I maintain an interest in the artistic medium itself is enough for me. To tell the truth, I don’t think all the anime shows that I have seen are all really good. In fact, I’ve seen a few that are actually very flawed (perhaps not totally bad, but flawed), or only OK, and I still really like anime as an aesthetic style that I work with, without ever feeling compelled to make the same blanket judgments about anime and cartoons that social media anime fans would make.
I also have a major problem with the phenomenon of otaku, becasue it feels like its proponents proudly boast anime as their primary obsession above all else: academia, social life, other forms of artistic media, family, even the possibility of a romantic relationship. Somehow that fits in a strange sort of way. In the West, the word otaku has been taken to mean someone who was either an anime geek, someone obsessed with anime and Japanese culture, or a guru on these subjects, and is generally as a positive term, at least among people who consider themselves otakus. But in Japan, the word otaku tends to be a negative term used to describe obsessive people, and not just people obsessed with anime either, particularly people who are extremely obsessed and isolated. They might use it the same way we might describe the person who’s 30 years old but never goes outside, never interacts with people beyond the internet, possibly without taking baths or showers. It’s also been associated with men who cuddle body pillows depicting fictional characters (referred to as dakimakura). Some of the memes they put up, or at least the ones put up about them, seem to imply both the Western and Japanese definitions at once.
What’s the problem? The problem is that it’s fundamentally unbalanced. There’s nothing wrong with having a substantial interest in Japanese culture. In fact, as I said earlier, I maintain an interest in anime and Japanese culture, but the attitude I see from anime fans and self-described otakus on social media is not only noxious and immature, it’s also pretty harmful to the world of anime fandom as a whole. The current social media generation of fans seem to pride themselves on their obsession with anime and bark its superiority over other forms of artistic media, all without any kind of immaturity, and I’m sure a lot of people sharing the memes aren’t such extreme fans in truth anyway, just boasting behind anonymity within social media. It feels like they just continually make stereotypes of themselves and their subculture in their attempt the set themselves apart as a unique and misunderstood subcultural movement. Or, you could just say, that’s when you get when you have a bunch of people in their early teens making memes for everybody. Either way, it feels like people in the age of social media do a lot to turn fandom into fandumb.
Over a month ago I have been writing about my alter ego character in a notebook. Apparently I’ve given him a lot of rich symbolism pertaining to his character and his purpose in the world he is a part of. I write about my character on this blog for the pleasure of it, and because I feel the stuff I have written has been insightful enough that it merits mention. I have been working on this character for a long time, and through this time I have also found things about myself and my beliefs, so this character is very important to me. And I apologize in advance if it’s too long for you to read.
First, some background: He is a warrior, adventurer, treasure hunter, and protector of the world he lives in from the has the power of fire; both the fire that brings light and the fire of demons. He also has the ability to stay underwater as long as he wants so that he can swim like a free spirit beneath the waters, can eat a lot without getting fat, he has red eyes glowing in the dark, can open up a third eye for discovering hidden presences and pathways, and is abundant in spiritual energy. He can also access a kind of demonic super form. His birthmark is the Aum symbol written as a Siddham letter. He uses the powers associated with Satan and Chaos for the sake of righteous and heroic cause, and he always tries to do what’s right but also what he pleases. He’s a passionate, confident, and energetic young man who manages to never lose his youth, but he has a soft side if brought out by the right people, and lives in both indulgence and honor. Although he is also an intense and emotional character, he never seems to brood. He fights not out of any sense of duty or obedience, but out of his own instincts and because he wants to do it and believes in his actions. He’s basically a lot like me, or the kind of life I want to live. He’s one with that force of passion and chaos, and the primal fires, and he lives as a warrior with heat and light in his heart and the fabric of his being. He also shares my own ideas and beliefs, naturally, and looks like me except his look is perfectly executed. Aside from fighting and adventuring, he likes to eat, swim, love, treasure hunt, and rock, and he seems to get along well with wild animals.
Now that that’s over with, the symbolism and meaning that has become attached to the character.
Exhibit 1 – The birthmark
As I just mentioned, his birthmark is the Aum written in Siddham script. According to Hindu belief, the Aum represents infinite energy, God, and the divine. It also representsthe cycle of life, death, and rebirth from Hindu belief, as representing by each phoneme A, U, and M respectively, though there is also A for life and Um (or Un) for death. The latter is represented by two varieties of Japanese temple guardians: the komainu (lion-dogs), and the Kongorikishi (wrath-filled muscular guardians of the Buddha). In both cases, one has its mouth open and the other has its mouth closed. The open mouth is A, and the closed mouth is Un or Um, which together mean life and death.
It’s meant to connect to the characters abundant personal energy, a trait which was also inspired by Ichigo Kurosaki from the anime Bleach. May also represent a connect with timeless energy and force. It’s also meant to denote my alter ego’s role as the protector of his own world. Take from that what you will…
Exhibit 2 – The colors red and black
Alex’s two colors are red and black, which naturally are also my favorite colors. To many, they mean either evil or anarchism, but those connotations are not present here. It started with Shin Megami Tensei, where they were the colors of the Chaos faction, which I aligned with, and they were also colors of another favorite video game character, Shadow the Hedgehog (who I freely confess made machine guns look cool). But since then more symbolism got attached to it.
In Balinese folklore, red, black, and white are the colors associated with a powerful witch demon Rangda, who was believed to be the queen of demons. Rangda’s colors are also attached to Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, change, destruction, and power, and Rangda is also believed to have been linked with Kali and Durga, the latter of which was the warrior mother goddess of victory over evil. Funny enough, while Rangda is seen in Balinese folklore as an evil demon, she was also seen as a protector in some parts of Bali, similar to Kali’s occasional representation as a protective goddess.
Speaking of demons, in Buddhist lore, the asuras (borrowed from Hindu lore) are depicted as red-skinned and the rakshasas (also Hindu in origin) are depicted with black skin, and both are vicious demons who, in Japan, were also tasked with protecting the Buddhist law. In Christian-influenced Western belief, Satan and his demons are commonly represented by the colors red and black, presumably because of their connection with sin, evil, lust, aggression, mystery, and darkness. It’s probably because of this that red and black have become so attached with Satanism (after all, it wouldn’t be Satanism without any conception of Satan now would it?). But there is still so much more to red and black here than just demons and Satan. In fact, the chief symbolism here is actually from Taoism.
In Taoism, there are the two natural principles of yin and yang, yin being the dark, passive, and mysterious principle, and yang being the bright, assertive, and magnetic principle. Yin is black and yang is white, but yang has also been represented as red, presumably because red represents qualities attached to the yang principle. Anyways, for Taoist belief, yin and yang must exist in harmony and as complimentary forces and do not exist as opposites that must triumph over each other. With that in mind, the key meaning is formed. Red means heat, force, and dynamism, while black means mystery, darkness, and space. Together, they actually represent energy in its most primordial form, and in the twin forces of heat and darkness. It could also represent light and darkness in union too, since fire brings light as well as heat.
Black is generally associated with the occult, demons, the left hand, disaster, mystery, death, and chaos, but in some cultures it represents life. In Japan black means life, while white actually means death. In China, black is the color that represents the element of water for some reason. Black also points to Kali and the Buddhist Mahakala, who was a Buddhist incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva. Red means heat, fire, vitality, passion, but in Japan it is also the traditional color of the hero and the color for expelling demons and illness (a bit ironic considering all this talk of demons from before), as well as the sun and summer. For my alter ego, red and black are the simplest symbols of his dual affinity for the bright power of fire and the dark power of the demons, for righteousness and vice, for the union of moral integrity and animal instinct, and for the directing of dark power and heat towards the pursuit of a just cause.
The theory of his color scheme is also evocative of Baphomet, not to be confused with Satan (though Satan does have influence here). Baphomet is a symbol of the union of or harmony between forces that are either opposite or mutually distinct. Thus Baphomet brings together the forces that I have mentioned throughout this section.
Exhibit 3 – The power of demons and chaos as a sword of righteousness
While the idea may have started with playing video games like Devil May Cry and Shin Megami Tensei, there are actually links to mythology and religious belief.
In Egypt, there is the god Set, who was the god of the desert and storms, and later evil and chaos. Even before the people of Egypt turned Set into a god of evil, he was seen as a wild, tumultuous, and sometimes hostile deity, but it is Set who protects the sun god Ra in the daily battle against Apep, the serpent of entropy and annihilation. Funny enough he was also seen as the lord of the red sands and Horus was the lord of the black soil. Set was also linked with the Semitic god Baal (or Hadad). In fact, there was a time when people from Western Asia, referred to as the Hyksos, ruled Egypt. They worshiped the storm god Baal, who became linked with the Egyptian storm god Seth, and they were both worshipped as Seth-Baal, sometimes in an almost monotheistic fashion, until the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt. Also, a friend and personal spiritual teacher of mine (who I remember as The Desolate One) told me a theory that when Set defeated Apep, he took on the power once linked with Apep, and that this is how he become the god of darkness, reviled as the god of evil. I think we both followed with the idea that Baal did the same after defeating Yam.
As usual though, much of my inspiration comes from Asia, and there’s a lot of symbolism to be found in Buddhist lore. In Tibet, there are deities who seem vicious and demonic, to the point that those who first look upon them unaware of their role in the Buddhist faith would construe them as no different to demons. But in truth, they represent the violent reality of both the cosmos and the human mind, and they serve the purpose of protecting the Buddhist faith and practitioners, and helping the practitioner attain enlightenment by clearing away the obstacles to enlightenment (at least from the Buddhist point of view). These beings are referred to as wrathful deities. They are based on violence and power, they have a violent nature and a demonic appearance, but they are not necessarily evil at all. In fact, they also symbolize the tremendous amount of effort and force needed to vanquish evil. In Japan, a similar term is Kishin, which means “fierce god” or “demon god”, and they are guardian gods.
They are actually supposed to be benevolent, but their appearance is meant to instill terror into the forces of evil and drive them back, much like the appearance of gorgon heads on Greek temples or gargoyles on medieval Christian churches. It’s also interesting to note that some of these deities, according to tradition, were once the native gods or demons of the land prior to being defeated in magical combat with the guru Padmasambhava and converting to Buddhism. The only problem is this does mean these beings serve the Buddhist faith as a result of being defeated and subjugated by someone else, rather than by being convinced that it aligns with their own convictions.
The concept of demonic beings enlisted to protect the Buddhist faith is further expressed in Japanese Buddhism, though often it is after the demons are defeated or captured (such as with Fujin and Raijin). But that is not always the case. There is a story of a goddess named Hariti, who used to be a yaksha demon from Pakistan who killed human children in order to feed her hundreds of children. Siddhartha Gautama wanted to stop this so he hid one of her sons under a bowl, then he told Hariti that her suffering from losing one of her children cannot be compared to the suffering of all the mothers whose few children became her victims. Realizing the depth of her actions and feeling remorse for them, she converted to Buddhism and pledged to be the protector of children and childbirth, and promised to eat pomegranates instead of human children. Another story is the story of Atavaka, or Daigensui Myo-O as he is known in Japan. Similar to Hariti, Atavaka was once a child-eating yaksha demon, but after encountering Siddartha Gautama, he converted to Buddhism and become a yaksha king, protector of the southwest direction, and a vassal to the warrior deity Bishamonten. Atavaka was also considered the chief of all the spirits and demons protecting the land.
Japanese esoteric Buddhism also has a deity named Rastetsuten, who is considered one of the twelve devas who protect the four directions, the four semi-directions, the sun, the moon, up, and down. Rasetsuten protected the southwest direction of the heavens and was master of the rakshasa demons. In Hindu lore rakshasas were cannibalistic demons who practiced black magic, desecrated gravesites, disrupted sacrifices, and had venomous fingernails, but in Mahayana Buddhist texts they converted to Buddhism and served to protect the dharma. Another Hindu demon who takes on a protective role in Japanese Buddhism is the asura, who in Hinduism were previously considered demonic spirits who fought against the gods. In Buddhist lore they are merely semi-divine beings addicted to various passions, but most especially strife and conflict, though they are also capable of being virtuous and pious. In Vedic lore, the term asura was an epithet meaning “mighty” and referred to power and strength, and was attributed to various Vedic gods.
Come to think of it, it seems demons have been a force of protection from evil and fighting evil, as well as promoting evil, destruction, and chaos, for a long time in many beliefs outside of Christianity, general Western culture, and Islam.
In some cultures, while snakes were associated with healing, wisdom, and fertility, even before Christianity they were also associated with danger and darker and more chthonic forces. This was the case in ancient Greece, where serpents are most classically associated with the chthonic monster known as the gorgon (among whom was the famous Medusa). But in Greece, the oldest oracles were said to be protected by serpents (including the monster Python who guarded the oracle at Delphi), and the heads of gorgons appeared on temples to protect against malign forces. Gorgon masks were also carved to protect from the evil eye. Medusa herself appears in a temple to Artemis in Corfu, where she is a guardian of the temple. In Babylon and Assyria, there is the demon Pazuzu (who some may recognize as the spirit that possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist). He was an evil spirit of wind who brought plague, disease, famine, and locusts, but he was also invoked to protect humans from plague, disease, and misfortune, particularly the kind brought by a demonic goddess named Lamashtu. Mesopotamian folklore also describes storm demons known as Ugallu, who were also considered beneficial protective demons and were depicted and invoked in charms. In India, the yakshas are sometimes treated as demons, but they are also seen as benign earthly protector spirits. Demons and ghouls are also found as the hosts of the Hindu god Shiva, and those hosts are said to frighten even the gods Brahma and Vishnu. Even today there are believers in the paranormal and the occult who consider demons to be guardian spirits in the same sense that angels are, only that demons come from the darker side of the spirit world.
There is inspiration that follows a similar principle: Tantra. In Tantric Hindusim, things that are considered dark, taboo, even unspiritual can be considered sacred and/or valid pathways to the divine. Most recognized among their belief is the belief that material pleasures can be dedicated to God and that seemingly negative forces can be transformed into positive forces and religious bliss.
Outside mythology, the spirit of the righteous application of demonic power lives on in modern culture. In Japanese video games and anime, demons aren’t always a strictly negative force. And sometimes, in those settings, individuals associated with demons fight demons and protect the world and humans from evil with the help of their power. The anime Blue Exorcist is about a young man named Rin Okumura who is the son of Satan, but he fights demons and wants to defeat Satan (the Christian Satan). In the anime YuYu Hakusho, the main character Yusuku Urameshi is the main protagonist who protects the human world from various supernatural threats and he apparently has demon blood. In fact, he can access a demon form with some wicked long hair! In video games, Shin Megami Tensei lets you use demons and their power to potentially do good depending on your point of view. Demons are categorized by alignments based on the two axes of Light-Neutral-Dark and Light-Neutral-Chaos. For example, Kishin refers to warrior deities, and they are attached Light-Chaos, my personal favorite alignment for demons. Perhaps Light-Chaos can refer to the righteous manifestation of the power of the demons. And who could forget the Devil May Cry games, which feature humans with demonic blood who fight demons with the help of the power of demons. Most famous among them of course is Dante, who has become a true hack and slash icon and a personal inspiration for me and my alter ego.
Exhibit 4 – Heavy metal culture
Probably because of my own interest in heavy metal music, the character I talk about here inherits influence from heavy metal music in his design and background. He has long hair that’s basically a mixture of Nikki Sixx’s hair from Motley Crue and a Japanese hairstyle I found one time.
I often draw him making the sign of the horns with his hands. It’s a sign that was officially introduced to heavy metal by Ronnie James Dio, after he joined Black Sabbath. He claimed he based it on the sign that his grandmother made with his hands: the malocchio. It was apparently used to ward off curses such as the evil eye. Since Dio, the sign of the horns has become a universal element of heavy metal culture, despite musicians of other genre and cultures copying it randomly.
My alter ego has by and large copied my fashion sense, which has absorbed other insignias of heavy metal culture. Among them, the sleeveless denim jacket and the bullet belt, both of them associated with traditional heavy metal, thrash metal, and speed metal, though the bullet belt can be found worn be fans of more extreme metal sub-genres, such as black metal and death metal, and members of such bands. Both fashion items were chosen as nods to heavy metal subculture.
My character’s black jacket was initially based on a black long-sleeved jacket I usually wore, which I believe was made of cotton. But this jacket has become replaced by a black jacket made of leather, which is pretty much based on the denim and leather done by many old school heavy metal bands (except that I prefer black denim to blue denim). Denim and leather back then was such a recognized element of heavy metal fashion that it was the title of an album by one such band: Saxon.
But it’s not just the fashion of heavy metal that’s important. In fact, it only makes sense that my character, and I myself for that matter, would associate with heavy metal music. Heavy metal is the only music that represents what I feel I come from. Metal was the music of power and aggression, it’s the only music that has a lot of the kind of lyrical subject matter I like (demons, war, myth, lust, and warriors, among other lyrics) and to such an awesome sound, and it has a subculture that embraces what are in my mind the values of the warrior, the rebel, and the devil. It is aggressive music, raw energy, and the instrumentation channels said aggression to create a sublime sound, and many of my favorite metal bands channel aggressive music to make what is ultimately a positive sound. And the energy and passion I feel from the music is certainly a positive influence. So however you stretch it, metal deserves the influence it has. Because of the tendency of heavy metal to feature lyrics about demons, Satan, and the occult, it can be a good example of channeling inspiration from darkness to create something righteous, strong, and true.
Exhibit 5 – The action hero
The action genre is very influential not just from anime and video games, but of course action films. Early on I and one of my art teachers likened my alter ego to characters such as Dirty Harry, who upheld the law and busted criminals by flunking regulations and breaking the rules, thus exemplifying a classic example of the trope of the renegade cop, better known as the cowboy cop. Other well-known examples of the trope include Die Hard, Cobra, Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Last Action Hero, and Demolition Man.
Speaking of Demolition Man, the main character John Spartan and not to mention the film itself have both been very inspirational. Before being cryogenically frozen, Spartan was the baddest cowboy cop in Los Angeles, busting exceptionally bad criminals without regard for proper protocol or concern for collateral damage. After being frozen, he wakes up to find that LA has become San Angeles, a crapsaccharine state without passion and no freedom to do anything other than following the plans Dr. Raymond Cocteau has for your life, and eventually Simon Fenix, the worst criminal Spartan has ever faced, also arrives after being cryogenically frozen. He eventually defeats and kills Fenix, but also challenges and topples the pristine order of San Angeles through the destruction of the cryo prison (though Fenix kills Cocteau before all this happens). Spartan then challenges the people of San Angeles to try and live in a world of both order and wild freedom, thus echoing the idea of a character who fights for freedom and to preserve justice.
My favorite anime characters are pretty much always action character with weapons (albeit swords instead of guns), such as Ichigo from Bleach. Of all of them, Ichigo always had a lot of appeal. He was hot-headed, and hot-bleaded, but he never gave up, never backed down, and always tried to fight for what he thought was right because he wanted to.
Exhibit 6 – The demonic super form
The alter ego’s demonic super form is ostensibly a combination of Super Sonic from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, which itself was based on the Super Saiyan state from Dragon Ball, and Dante’s Devil Trigger state from the Devil May Cry games. Similar tropes also appear in various other video games, as well as anime. My character’s particular super form also derives from not just Satan with his horns, but also the flaming aura that surrounds the Buddhist wrathful deities of Tibet and Japan.
The super form also has a third eye, which is ostensibly derived from Shiva. In fact, the flaming aura itself is also a manifestation of the flaming aura of both Shiva and the goddess Kali
Exhibit 7 – Other mythological/religious elements
My character frequently uses weapons that have some link to Asian religious themes, often as bonus weapons, including the vajra and the trishula, which are attached many Buddhist deities, along with the Hindu gods Indra and Shiva respectively.
My alter ego’s jacket is set to have a flaming ram’s head on the back of it, which is an allusion to the Hindu god Agni, the zodiac sign Aries, and the Egyptian symbolism of the ram as the soul of the sun god. In this light, the ram is a symbol of the spirit of the sun, fire, heat, light, energy, and enthusiasm.
Like myself, my alter ego wears a Satanic pentagram, which represents not just Satanism, but the powers of darkness and demons, and in this case the principle of using the powers of darkness to pursue a just cause and righteous ideals.
When my alter ego belt buckle is a monstrous demon head, based on the Kirtimukha and Rahu. Kirtimukha is a demon-like image that sometimes adorns temples to Shiva and halos that surround the Shiva and his family. It represents the hunger that pervades the universe and drives all life as attested to in Hindu belief and mythology. Rahu was a demon in Hindu myth who tried to devour the sun. There is also Tao Tie, a fiend from Chinese mythology who represents hunger. I have also considered using a lion’s head for his belt buckler (possibly with a demonic twist). It was inspired by Isamu Nitta’s belt buckle from Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne (which is based on Azazel from Soul Hackers), but it can also be a nod to the lion as a symbol of the Zoroastiran spirit of destruction, Ahriman, based on the Mithraic depiction of Ahriman or Arimanius.
I must also mention the fan-made Grey Jedi Code associated with Star Wars, which I have already described in full here.
As I mentioned before, my alter ego’s abilities are often based on my own traits. Such as his ability to swim being based on my like of water and personal desire to swim more, and the food thing being related to liking to eat like an animal, and eating a lot without getting fat as a kid. And the animals thing is not just related to Shiva or the Horned One, but the fact that I like to talk about animals as a kid.
In general, his preference of weapons (katanas and machine guns) is inspired by video games, particularly Shin Megami Tensei, Final Fantasy, and Shadow the Hedgehog, as well as my interest in Japanese martial arts and American action films.
And that’s pretty much it. I took way too damn long writing this because I needed to get everything down that needed to be gotten down. Either way I hope this long post can be appreciated as an assessment of my own alter ego and the ideas that shape it, and thus the ideas that actually have shaped me as a person and relate to me as a person to the core of my self.
There is something present in both Western and Eastern popular culture that I really think needs to stop: the glamorisation of life in high school. In popular culture it is presented as one of the most important times of your life. While it is true that you won’t get another chance at it, there will be so much more in your life after high school is over.
Do you know what high school life is characterised by? Social awkwardness, academic pressure, a great amount of pressure for young people to conform, the looming threat of being placed into harmful and dangerous social interactions, peer pressure, and of course, the odd suicidal feelings every now and then (although many of us survive those). Not to mention, mounting feelings of weakness, desperation, and failure. It’s also a time where many of us fall in love but don’t handle it well. Somebody stop me! I’ll admit that there are good times one can experience in high school, but let’s face it, high school in general is a bad and pointless time that no one who had an informed choice would put themselves through.
So why the hell would you glamorise that in TV and movies? In the West that seems to be what we do all the time, from the days of Luke Perry and John Hughes, to the modern age of clean-looking hunks and air-headed ladies to the cue of cringeworthy pop soundtracks. As though we seem to think these are one of the best years of our lives, when actually they could easily be one of the worst. This is most likely tapping into the teenage mentality that there’s not much more after high school life (which is likely a contributing factor in youth suicides), but there’s a lot more in this life for you to be a part of.
But don’t ever think the West is the only guilty party here. In Japan, we find the academic setting very prevalent in anime and manga. Now I don’t mean be negative about anime, because I actually like anime, nor do I intend to criticise any particular works of anime or manga, but I feel I should be honest about how sick I am of the recurrence of the academic setting in anime and manga.
I am not familiar with high school life in Japan, but I imagine it’s almost like in the West except probably, if you think about it, worse. Why? For starters, there’s an enforced uniform code in Japan, much like in the UK and other countries. That alone implies a sense of conformity involved. And if I know Japan, then all the academic pressure is there, but probably worse. In anime and manga, the academic setting is just plain uninteresting, partly due to the fact that it recurs so often. And I’m not just talking about shojo or slice-of-life genres. You even find it in shonen anime and manga, and action and supernatural anime and manga. In those kinds of anime and manga, it’s ridiculous how someone with power of any sort is still confined in high school, when he/she could easily use his/her power to break free of his/her rut. Wouldn’t that be grand?
Even the magic academies that appear in some anime is just meh to me, although it does make an iota of sense given that it is a means the characters in a story can learn about how to use their powers. Still, magic academies are still an academic setting by definition, which means, surprise surprise, it’s like a high school (though often with dorms)!
I’m just sick of culture being saturated with glamorised high school life, as though it somehow relates to us. Newsflash, most people think school sucks. Why in the hell would anyone in school want anything other than escape?
Let’s face it, the only thing high school is good for in both West and East is as a fetish or source of fetishes, especially in Japan though.
You know what sucks in the UK? There’s virtually no anime on TV. If you’re an anime fan, than you have to buy DVDs or go on the Internet. The only anime on TV is the occaisional Studio Ghibli movie on Channel 4 or Film4, which you’re likely to get on DVD anyway, or stuff aimed at kids like the Pokemon, Bakugan, and Monsuno anime on CITV, which I would never dare to watch. You can sometimes hear about anime and see clips on the NHK World channel, but only if you have Sky HD. Having to buy DVDs is fine, but it can be costly, at least in my experience. The prices, depending on the DVD range from as little as £3 to as high as around £50, and a lot of the anime I find on Amazon UK are between £8-£20. Not to mention, there’s not a lot of high street stores in the UK where you can physically buy DVDs anymore, so it’s very likely your only source of DVD’s is online retailers (it should be noted that online retailers is the main contributor to the downfall of high street retailers which used to provide physical anime). There’s also the ability to watch anime online on sites like YouTube, Anime Network, and Crunchyroll.
You know what would be cool? If we in the UK had an anime channel, that way if ever you are a fan of anime and watched TV, you’d have a go to place for anime programming, including stuff you might not have seen, even potentially new programming, plus anime movies outside the Studio Ghibli line. That would actually be kinda cool. Or alternatively, an Adult Swim section for Cartoon Network UK for late night anime programming (in America, there is an Adult Swim, segment on the Cartoon Network channel, which features more mature anime programming and more adult cartoons), or possibly an Adult Swim channel for the UK.
The sad thing is, there were anime channels in the UK, like AnimeCentral, CNX, and Showcase TV, but all of them have now been defunct since years ago (AnimeCentral was defunct since 2008, Showcase TV closed in 2009, and CNX closed in 2003; incidentally, all three of them weren’t even up for a full year). The other sad thing is that lack of interest and demand and financial issues with parent companies is the main contributor, that and the Internet.
I’m just sick of the fact that, in the UK, Spirited Away and other Studio Ghibli films are pretty much the only face of anime in the UK, or at least the acceptable face of anime in this country. And that’s odd, considering the impact of the movie Akira when it was released, and back then it was the first time many outside Japan experienced anime. Some argue that anime is getting more erotic, or at least more trigger happy in terms of panty shots and fanservice, as well as more sexually suggestive female characters and even more suggestive moe content and somewhat underaged-looking characters, and that this is limiting it’s reach in Western countries including the UK, unless you’re on the Internet where this is no problem. But then, you have British censorship laws that make it very difficult to show anime on TV and the damned cultural and societal differences between the UK and Japan.
People in the UK aren’t used to any cartoon that’s not Disney, Simpsons, or anything that’s not for kids, and they stereotype anime outside Ghibli as all violent, sexual, and weird. From my point of view, this perception and stereotyping is nothing more than a popular, acceptable form of fascism (though to be fair, I tend to be very embracing of the violent and sexy side of anime that made that anime I like great), made even more a double standard by the fact that Family Guy, which tends to be very violent and vulgar, particularly in newer seasons, is mainstream in the UK, and airs on two channels here. So here’s the thing, why would we embrace Family Guy, but not anime, given both can have the same things (though expect some disappointment on the sexy side in Seth McFarlane’s cartoons)? But at least we get anime magazines like NEO and others.
The sad thing is, we probably won’t get anime on UK TV unless it was particularly popular, thanks mainly to the Internet. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I don’t think I can safely judge, but I just want an end to the bullshit attitude we have towards anime, and cartoons in general.
Whenever I come across anime in the West, more specifically the West’s reaction to it, I find it stereotyped often. All Western culture seems to think of in anime are giant (often transforming) robots, spiky hair, coloured hair, male characters with a , magical schoolgirls, and superpowers. And don’t forget your daily dose of tentacle porn. Hell, the books you can buy that show you how to draw it resort to mediocre illustrations and stereotypes.
It’s just another case of Western cultural observers choosing their own ignorance over actually trying to understand. It’s this ignorance that sometimes makes those who like anime feel isolated by those who see it as childhish and alien, or at worst nothing but insane pornography.
As a fan of anime, I also dislike the how anime fans, otakus, or people who really love Japanese culture are portrayed as disgusting, hardcore nerds, having never “grown up” (a term of phrase I will rip on not too long after this post) or having no life. It’s no different to negatively stereotyping any group of people instead of understanding them or just not picking on them.
I know I haven’t said much, but I’m just expressing general hatred of ignorance towards anime, and how lots of people lump anime together all the same thing as Naruto, Dragonball, Magical Girl, Haruhi Suzumiya, Gundam, and hentai (a little like how some lump all heavy metal together as the same thing). But of course, none of this is gonna stop me from enjoying it.
Japan. What a country. I haven’t been there myself, but god I wish I could go there. It has so much that I like and I want. Sure, it may not have had a pretty past, it may have something of a collectivist culture, has a reputation of shame being a primary agent of social control, and, from what I hear, an extremely harsh prison system, but the bad can’t possibly overwhelm the good. In fact, here’s what I like about Japan.
Technology (well, mostly video games)
Japan is where lots of my favourite video games come from. Pokemon, Shin Megami Tensei, Sonic the Hedgehog, Asura’s Wrath, Dynasty Warriors, and others. I find it hard to forget the experiences provided by the games Japan brought us. I like some Western games, but over all they can’t compete. Japanese games inspire my ideas of design (I intend to be a game designer in the artistic sense, and creative director, in the future), and that’s good enough for me.
Religious culture and mythology
Japanese religious life seems to be a syncretism of Shintoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, though life is still secular. Buddhism first came to Japan from Korea in around the mid-6th century, and over time, it became a part of Japan’s culture, and the source of some awesome religious art and architecture, it has had such great appeal to me ever since. Then there’s Shinto, which also inspires equally cool religious art and architecture.
I like anime and manga, and its culture has frequently given me ideas. I’ve always appreciated anime, especially some of the famous dark anime movies from the 80’s and 90’s, and some of the brighter stuff in the modern age, and the sexy side of anime, and some action anime shows, like Bleach. Of course, some modern Japanese games feel like anime, due to presentation and voice actors, to both good and bad effect. I’m not sure where I’d be without it.
Katanas are awesome. Fact. Everyone on the Internet agrees. OK, I guess I get that from video games, but all pathways to the katana are acceptable in my eyes.
It’s mingling of “move forward” with “treasure the past”
Japan is very progressive with technology. Moving forward is definitely a thing for Japan. But from what I hear, the Japanese still respect their age-old traditions and cultures. They treasure their past and its traditions. Hell, there’s still a lot of unspoiled nature and wilderness in Japan where the cities don’t tread. We have a lot to learn from them.
I forgot to mention Japanese cuisine, ninjas, and samurai, just to get that out of the way.