Representation Matters Pt. III: My thoughts on anime (How I got into Japanese animation, what I think about it, and how it could be better in regards to representation)

Welcome back to my Representation Matters series! For those who are new to my blog or only occasionally read my posts, you can check out the first one here and my second one about me creating my own characters here. Now we’re going to get into part three.

This is no secret, but I have an appreciation for Japanese animation. I’ve talked about that subject a few times on this blog and I have a whole separate blog called Iridium Eye Reviews where I critique that form of animation in addition to obscure movies, short films, and documentaries from all over the world. My first exposure to it was when I was very young and saw Teknoman (the English-dubbed edited version of Tekkaman Blade) on UPN. I thought the show looked really cool and wondered what that kind of a cartoon it was. I watched more of the stuff that was on TV back then and when I was in high school, I got into renting and owning various DVDs of certain series. What I liked about some of the anime that didn’t get played on Toonami or the other channels was the uniqueness of the stories, finding pieces of animation with actual artistry, and finding different stories I would never get from Western animation. If you think all anime is just DBZ, Pokemon, Naruto, or god forbid anything that’s hentai, then please slap yourself. There’s so much more than what the mainstream talks about.

One thought that I had during my teens was that some anime was a bit of a consolation prize of sorts for me. Because these series were made by nonwhite animators and featured characters who would be considered POCs in different contexts, I subconsciously settled for this despite not being of Japanese descent let alone Asian. It’s probably no wonder I was a Japanophile during my high school years not just because of some shows I thought (some I still think are) were legitimately good, but it even got to the point where I took Japanese classes at a community college during my last two years of high school. I can still remember numerous words or phrases to this day and would technically be my “2nd best” language next to English. Sure, I didn’t always think “Most of these characters aren’t white, so I can find them to be more relatable!” all the time, but I can’t lie to you that it was something in the corner of my mind at times during that point of my life. That interest faded out later in college and I had a hiatus of sorts until not long before I started Iridium Eye a couple of years ago.

While I still like certain anime series and movies, the Japanese animation industry has been marred with racist aspects, too. As much as I give a ton of crap to Disney and other American media companies for their bigotry and they deserve to be called out on those things, I can’t pretend that even the Japanese companies don’t do anything like that. Sure, they’re not going to do racist things against their compatriots or even other Asian ethnic groups most of the time, but they’ve had very questionable things go on. There’s obvious examples like Mr. Popo from the Dragon Ball franchise, Jynx from Pokemon, or even Pyunma/008 from Cyborg 009. The backlash got so big that the creators eventually changed their character designs by changing skin colors for the first two and for 008 shedding the sambo imagery into a more realistic African man (okay, I think the Call of Justice version looks like an anime version of Childish Gambino/Donald Glover, but I digress). This problem hasn’t gone away. There’s a more recent anime called The Promised Neverland which did look like it had an interesting plot, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when I saw pictures of one of the characters called Sister Krone.

Image result for sister krone

I felt legitimately uncomfortable and that’s one of the less offensive images. She’s shown as this unstable psychopath while at the same time being subservient to a white woman who’s one of the villains in the show. Her character design is much worse in the original manga. This anime came out in 2019 and there is no excuse for this. If you don’t see what’s wrong with this kind of imagery, then let me remind you of this.

Those would be mammy figurines from the Jim Crow museum. This is the same kind of garbage that permeated the imagery of black women being servants, stupid, and being undesirable. That imagery has been around since even before the Emancipation Proclamation, and this is the same kind of stuff that people bash a certain Tom & Jerry supporting character or Gone With The Wind for. I know the creators of The Promised Neverland know better than this and they would NEVER write a white or Asian woman that way.

Here’s how anime can do better. They can write characters who aren’t Asian or Caucasian into characters one can take seriously across the board. They need to consult other ethnic groups for making certain characters. Don’t make race their only defining characteristic. They can also ask themselves this question: How would they feel if someone incorporated Japanese stereotypes in a character?

I know there are some anime series that are better at positive representation than others which I do appreciate, but I’d be lying if I said there was no bigotry in Japan. I’m not into anime as much as I used to even though I still review it. I think it can be sad that I do a better job at positive representation of multiple ethnic groups compared to animators on both sides of the Pacific at large.

All photos are under “fair use”.

The photo of Sister Krone is from The Promised Neverland and is property of Aniplex of America.

The photo of the mammy figurines is from Wikipedia.

 

Disney Double Standards in a nutshell.

For starters, I would like to thank K at the Movies for the term that inspired this mini-rant.

If someone likes Disney movies as an adult that’s okay, but if I tell people I like anime, I get made fun of.

If someone old enough to be my parents or grandparents rocks Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, etc on a short or jacket, no one says anything. I wear a shirt with Kimba the White Lion, then I’m supposedly weird.

Whenever the creators say or do bad things, they are easily forgiven. When I point out any unfortunate implications in these movies, then I’m over-analyzing or even called a racist or hateful for pointing them out.

Whenever Disney buys out a major company, it’s supposedly star spangled awesome. Any other conglomerate, then they are the evil empire.

Whenever Disney makes a new animated movie, it’s instantly awesome no matter what. When it’s any other company, it’s automatically garbage.

Whenever someone else uses princesses or fairy tales, they get called rip offs, but if you point out that Disney has plagiarized things (see: Kimba or Nadia: Secret of Blue Water), then it’s just coincidence or “everyone rips off something”.

Whenever someone says they hate Don Bluth or Dreamworks, it’s cool. When someone doesn’t like Disney, they are seen as villains!

Whenever Disney gives lip service to nonwhite ethnic groups, it’s progressive. When someone gets racebent, then it’s instantly Armageddon (See: the #NotMyAriel backlash).

Watch any cartoon with lots of anthropomorphic animal characters, and you get called a furry. Watch a Disney movie or cartoon with the same kinds of characters, and supposedly that’s exempt.

When an IP has a bunch of sequels or remakes, and that’s franchise milking. Disney does the same thing (especially their remakes currently), and that’s okay.

When some artist does horrible things, then they get shunned and blacklisted. When a Disney employee does horrible things, then they separate the art from the artist because their childhoods and fandom mean more than justice.

Those are examples I can think of at the moment. Anything of more double standards?

Why do you care so much about originality and rip-offs?

I’m sure there have been people thinking that question whenever they talk to me especially in this blogosphere. It certainly doesn’t help that I have a full-length concept album coming out in late December that involves innovators in numerous fields. Some of them were unfortunately plagiarized by more popular people and organizations which is quite unfortunate. I have certainly made an opinion post about it earlier this year if memory serves me correctly. Feel free to check that post whenever you can.

I don’t want to repeat too much about what I’ve said in previous posts or to namedrop certain examples especially certain film controversies you all should know about by now. Originality is something I cherish and I know people can really try to make something truly unique. I just shake my head when I hear people say that nothing’s original anymore. Those same people haven’t even tried in their lives. Even in my film review blog, I will even award an extra point or two for originality or at the very least something I’ve personally never seen before. It’s a virtue for me and that upcoming album Dear Innovare is an homage to several people.

Now, I have an issue with rip-offs which you may know. I don’t throw around that term flippantly unless I can back it up with facts and obvious similarities. What I may not have mentioned was that I’ve been made fun of for some of my tastes allegedly being clones. Back in college, I got into a band called La Dispute. They are an experimental hardcore band that incorporates spoken word vocals for most of their songs. They were one of the first bands I ever saw at a basement show in my life when some friends and I saw them, Touche Amore, Into It. Over It., Tension Generation, and Former Thieves in someone’s home in Chicago. It’s weird to think some of those bands would get signed to bigger labels. Anyways, there was a (now ex-) friend of mine who have me crap for liking them because he thought they were a rip-off of mewithoutYou. I liked both bands then, and I disagree with that. Yes, both bands incorporate spoken word elements, but musically, they don’t sound alike. Besides, mewithoutYou isn’t the first rock band to use spoken word elements. Just look at Envy who’ve been around years longer and did post-rock elements before Aaron Weiss and company would do so. Even listening to Gil Scott-Heron or more recently The Last Poets really opened the floodgates wide. I can’t picture mewithoutYou or even La Dispute fans getting into The Last Poets and would be too scared to do so if you know anything about their lyrical content. This infuriated me because I never got my official comeback against this person. One time on Facebook, he admitted to watching the Never Say Never documentary. Yes, I’m talking about the Justin Bieber one and he said he liked it. I verbally thrashed him online telling him he had no right to make fun of me for liking La Dispute if he was a Belieber. What shocked me was the lack of insulting towards him. If I said something like that, I’d be clowned for weeks! Why does he get a free pass?

Part of that lingering resentment still exists with me today. Do you know how many times I’ve been severely tempted to insult bloggers for what they like if I know if something is a rip-off or problematic? Doing that would be like an abstract revenge for being made fun of for liking La Dispute back in the day despite my musical tastes changing since then. It’s like I would be doing unto others what was done to me as I would dish out that verbal barrage. However, I’m not good at insulting people and I feel like I behave in a respectful manner even when I rant. The anger I feel more often than not is towards other bloggers, so it does put me in check that way. With that being said, if someone calls something a rip-off, yet gives a free pass to something that genuinely is, then I will call that person out. No, I don’t need to name examples as to when I would have that kind of talk with someone. I guess originality and striving to be original was an attempt to be taken seriously despite upholding that virtue or a way to prevent myself from being bullied. I’ve certainly been bullied and/or mistreated for far worse reasons, so don’t get me wrong. Toxicity breeds toxicity as I’ve thought about shaming people if they liked something that was a clone whether I declared it to be so or not.

As I’ve said before…liking things is really hard.

Shedding The Vestiges of Music Fandom Within

I liked the wrong genres for the wrong reasons since my high school years
5 star reviews and independent spirits caught my eyes
Namedropping bands most have never heard of was a wasted talent
Things have slowly changed once I wanted to know more about my heritage
It only went to show that the bands I hated and even some that I liked were sheltered
I mean, if I wanted to hear first world problems in musical form, I’d listen to pop punk
The originators have become even more apparent once I delved into classic soul and blues

Cultural appropriation ruled for decades in the realm called rock and roll
As the original innovators still haven’t been renowned in Cleveland
I was insulted and mocked for liking music in my college days
While I can’t distance myself in that regard (I’m a musician, you know)
I have to shed so much of what I used to like to codify more of what I stand for and honoring the innovators in music who never got credit

No matter if they are pop fans or the indie elite, I will not take your judgmental pretensions.

Fandom As Idolatry

Cel-created characters and comic strips have become gods
To those begging for heroes in their psychological wanting
Living vicariously through fiction
When it caters to those who look like them (the most)
Schisms erupt between various incorporated sects
There is no reformation in those attempts
Theme songs become worship anthems
Movie quotes become scriptures
Cons become congregations
Regardless if the followers believed in an Elohim or not
The irony is strong for different reasons
Even when it comes to real people, they become deified
Not realizing they would soon prove to be quite mortal in some time
Who knows? Maybe what I’m saying is blasphemous.

Fans, Geeks, Nerds, and Whomever…How can you stay hopeful about what you like?

Uh oh. It has happened again. I’m dealing with a wave of cynicism and frustration yet again.

After dealing with a rough week, some of the aftereffects have been kicking in although not for the same reasons as to how I became frustrated over a week ago.

I know a lot of my followers would self-identify as being nerds, fans, or somewhere in between. Not going to lie, it’s mainly because of my other blogs instead of this one, but I appreciate you checking out the Ospreyshire page from time to time despite a certain other blog being currently on hiatus. There are times where I’m a bit jealous of you, so I have to ask you this simple question.

How can you stay hopeful about what you like?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting more jaded than usual when it comes to being a fan of certain things. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it liking some things such as obscure movies, anime, music (listening and making it), or even playing video games which I rarely even do. I haven’t touched a video game in ages and I ended up playing Genesis stuff for a brief nostalgia kick. Even then, I felt empty. Was I really doing ANYTHING constructive by being into these things? Maybe I really was more stupid than I thought ever since my childhood. I just can’t understand how so many of you can be confident in what you all like.

For me, I’ve been bullied for what I liked. There have been times where I “hated” things out of spite to tick off some people who were giving me a hard time. Sure, I was derogated for worse things in my life, but that always annoyed me. I didn’t realize some of those same people were insecure for reasons I don’t know, but that’s irrelevant. Part of me wants to just stop liking things that gave me happiness. I wouldn’t call it joy since most of those hobbies and interests didn’t go that far or had that kind of edification to them to be honest with you. I create more than I consume especially when it comes to fiction or writing lyrics.

This may sound irrational, but I had thoughts on how I can or should deal with this matter. I’ve seriously wondered if I should bash people for what they like or shame them for being into certain kinds of fandoms. What if I told people that what they do isn’t constructive? What if I asked them if someone like me was into the same interests, would I get insulted or looked down upon? Should I tell them that they should be interested in more constructive or more important things? I’m sick of being moralized upon, so there’s something inside that wants me to do the same thing as revenge for what happened to me. There were so many missed opportunities for me to demoralize those who insulted me for having certain (nerdier) interests. Call it internalized anger. Call it me righting a wrong. Call it me trying to better myself, but I can’t hold onto this frustration for this long.

I feel that I need to be constructive. It’s not just working lots of hours for me. I need to create more than I consume. Whether it’s music, poetry, fiction, or my other interests, I feel the need to be constructive and I have to cut off distractions in my life.

I really am jealous of all you fans. I wish I could be as blissful and carefree as you. You all probably have better lives than me and have a healthy balance in life. I wish I wasn’t so dismal no matter how hard I attempt to break these negative feelings.

Fighting Doppelgangers (Why Do the Masses Exalt Them?)

Image result for k9999 tetsuo

IMG_4111

Deified clones storm the way
At the altar of superficiality and petty fandom
The subterfuge from the creations of expensive gods
Becomes canonized into the minds and hearts of their deluded believers

The congregation bows to the duplicates
Without question or concern
Entertained by their subpar existences
Owed to others far greater than their mediocre lives

It’s time to silence the cacophony from this overpaid choir

There are those who want to expose every lie churned out
And to expose the real originals to drive the point home
What’s the matter?
Can’t handle the dosage of red pills and sodium amytal?

Woe to those who craft the precepts of denial
Ronnie Martin said it right when the good are starved
From decades of being forgotten
KRS-One was right. The thief is no greater than whom they steal from.
They will know their idols shall crumble
The true history shall appear
The clones will fall asunder at all costs


All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

Images of Tetsuo and K9999 are from Retro Injection

Tetsuo Shima from Akira is property of Katsushiro Otomo and Kodansha.

K9999 from The King of Fighters series is property of SNK Playmore.

Fan art of Claw and Scar is from WhiteLionWarrior at DeviantArt.

Claw from Kimba the White Lion is property of Tezuka Productions.

Scar from The Lion King is property of Disney.

Fandom Hypocrisy (A Rant)

This has been on my mind for a while, and I need to get this off my chest. I can’t stand various fandoms at times. Whether they are gamers, sports fans, otaku, music buffs, movie fans, comic nerds, bookworms, or whatever, they can get on my nerves.

It’s no wonder why I haven’t been getting into some of my own interests outside of non-fiction or my own creative projects and it’s not just because of how crazy busy my work schedule has been for months now.

I know not all fans are like this and I do support some bloggers who touch on some of those topics, so let me make that clear. However, I’m just frustrated and disillusioned by so many people and how shallow they can be. You have all these major issues going on like racism, the economy, politics, police brutality, homelessness, and other social ills going on, yet people complain about just trivial things with what they like/or don’t like in what they watch/play/listen to.

It also bugs me how people have freaking civil wars over movies, TV shows, or albums as if their whole identity is tied into whatever is to their liking, and that needs to stop. On one hand, you have people who think what they like is immaculate and the creators can do no wrong while freaking out that anyone would DARE dislike or mention some flaws. On the flipside, those same people will bash anything and everything from one creator as if they’re always in the wrong. Whenever someone does mention something like an unfortunate implication or having bad messages, some fans freak out and say “They [the creators] didn’t mean it!” as they try to hand-wave something away. It doesn’t change the fact that those actions were still done and/or could easily be interpreted in that fashion.

I do apologize if I get a bit theological here, but I think some fandoms could be intense enough to be a form of idolatry. Regardless whether you believe in a deity or not, it really becomes ironic. Instead of some Baals or Molochs, you could have someone like a theist replacing their god(s) with let’s say…superheroes, video games, or whatever’s on HBO. For those who aren’t sure about any higher powers out there or believe that said higher powers are fictional, then wouldn’t it be ironic to follow something involving fictional characters like most movies or TV shows and be obsessed with them? I’m not bashing anyone’s worldviews, so let me make that clear. I’m just wondering why and how people do these things or why they can excuse they’re own behaviors.

The level of stupidity and pettiness from these rapid and hypocritical fans has been getting on my nerves. You’re entitled to your opinions, but this self-righteousness needs to stop now. I can’t stand the double standards whether it involves anything revolving around “nerdy stuff” or to something as severe as racism or politics. I suggest to re-examine your thoughts and beliefs to what you like or dislike and figure out why you’re so willing to attack or defend depending on your positions.

Seriously, I can name a few examples of some fandom hypocrisy online and in real life. Allow me to call out some of this facepalm-worthy behavior…

Don’t say that something has too many people dying when you like Game of Thrones, Evangelion, or watch a lot of war movies.

Don’t tell me that such-and-such is a rip-off of so-and-so when you like The Lion King, Inception, or even some of Led Zeppelin’s music.

Don’t tell me that something is too biased politically when you like Last Man Standing, Glee, or you get your news from either MSNBC or Fox News depending on where you stand with your partisan beliefs.

Don’t tell me that something is too violent and bloody while you like Attack on Titan, Mortal Kombat, or a majority of Tarantino flicks.

Don’t bark at me when you think something’s too mainstream when you like St. Vincent (the singer), Bon Iver, or Juno.

Don’t tell me something is childish when you watch anything from Disney or Dreamworks. Actually, one could make a case that adult cartoons like South Park, Family Guy, or Bojack Horseman are juvenile in their own rights.

This needs to end. I know this blog was mainly for my music and spoken word project even though I haven’t recorded a lot lately, but I’m still willing to share my opinions about various things going on. People really need to check their priorities when it comes to what they like and how they live. Thanks for reading and dealing with my frustration.

Katauta #45

I had a great conversation with my friend Jeannette the other day with how I was able to feel more confident in my interests and how blogging has allowed me to be more assertive with people in regards to my opinions.

The imagery I chose for this poem involves some movies and memorabilia in my small collection even though it’s not all of it. Yes, I also plug my indie film/documentary/world cinema/anime/short film review blog Iridium Eye on there, but it was relevant.

Here’s a list of the things shown in this video:

Haibane Renmei: Hanenone soundtrack
This Is Not a Film DVD
The Place Promised In Our Early Days DVD
Strings DVD
Before Your Eyes DVD
Read Or Die DVD autographed by Crispin Freeman
Kimba the White Lion promotional NBC black & white cel featuring Kimba and Claw
Battle Royale Shirt

Interestingly enough, I’ve reviewed all of those thing on Iridium Eye. Just sayin’. Haha!

Hope you enjoyed that poem.