Self-Identity and the Nature of Fandom

Alright, I know I am in the middle of a series, but I really need to list discuss this as I’ve tried to write about this topic several times but trash it before completion.

It’s about how we, as fans, react to attacks against our beloved media.

Let me first start by discussing the notion of partisan politics (well, Wikipedia calls it “polarization”).  It’s a fairly complex discussion point but this is an anime blog not a political one…so I’ll try to boil it down for you.

Partisan politics is often defined as sticking to your party’s (or your ideological leaning’s) principles.  It is often looked at as an irrationality, a “with us or against us” mentality which puts it into terms of “with my opinion or against it”.  There is great scrutiny about what process dictates partisanship but it creates a clashes between different groups based on these leanings.  People identify themselves by their party and internalize the values of the party.  This makes any attack against that party a personal attack and creates a much more personal level to the situation.

The above paragraph is somewhat technical so let me supplement it with an example.  Let’s say I live in a country with only two political allegiance: Alpha and Omega.  I normally determine which party I vote for by checking my own values and deciding, based on that and what the parties stand for, that I am most in-line with being either Alpha or an Omega.  But my rationale as a partisan voter is different.  My partisan reasoning would be that I am an Alpha therefore I would agree with Alpha values.  Instead of defining my political stance according to my own beliefs, my beliefs adjust to the political party.

This is a major issue in regards to debating issues.  Filtering out information that is not advantageous to supporting the predetermined position is a major facet of this partisanship.  Of course, this is more than a little debatable but I’ll try keeping this simple and not spend the entire post explaining various factors I believe are at play.  We can certainly debate the meaningfulness of the effects at another point.  Anyways, as this partisanship and polarization becomes a major factor, a filter for information begins to form.  Put simply, the information beneficial to the person’s side reinforces their opinion and they remember it easier while they throw out contradictory information to their stance.  There’s a quote that I’d like to use for this.

Here’s how politics works. There are always two sides. Let’s call them the “reds” and the “blues.”

If you’re a red, the goal is to make the blues look as bad as possible. If you’re a blue, the goal is to make the reds look as bad as possible. If they do something good, you ignore it. If they do something bad, you let as many people know as possible.

Have they raised money for a mental health charity? Don’t report that! Did they kickstart a project to help young women get ahead in game development? Definitely don’t report that! Did one of them send someone a death threat? Stop the presses, we need to get the story out now!

It’s pretty much as simple as that when it comes to bias.  It simply boils down to cherry picking what’s retained.  And this obviously builds a major issue.  All information is information.  Data is data.  Facts are facts.  Losing sight of facts makes it difficult to make well-grounded arguments.  Extreme cases of this bias creates the loud and angry sides yelling at each other on TV.  Two sides that refuse to acknowledge the other side’s valued points. This is when things get scary as the opinion that the individuals generate is not founded in thought anymore.

Now everything I’ve talked about includes only politics until now.  But it’s very easy to extend the argument to other subjects…and that’s where I get scared.  It’s easy to shift the topics from political parties and hot-topic issues to that of fandoms.  Consider movies, video games, anime, or other entertainment areas for example.  To mirror my words above, I may normally determine where I stand on anime related issues by checking my own values and deciding, based on that where I stand on the topic.  However, if I’m partisan in this topic, my would be that I am an anime fan/not an anime fan and therefore I would take the stance of this nebulous group.  It’s a bit of a stretch but I believe that the issues that laden partisan topics rear their heads in entertainment topics…and, of course, it’s this topic I’ll focus on from here on out.

The biggest reason I think these issues could come up is because, at its heart, part of partisanship is the emotional attack.  That an attack on the stance is an attack against the person.  This is just as easy to manage in entertainment mediums as in politics.  Key political divisions include those which ask about morality: abortion, right to die peacefully, and topics of that ilk.  These topics get people emotionally involved and many consider them “wedge issues”, issue which end up dividing groups.  Connecting this back to entertainment, these topics already strike close to home: it’s an entertainment medium and the fans actively pursue it.  An attack against the medium easily translates as an attack on the person because of this close emotional tie.  Blinded vision takes the statement as stated above and sometimes removes the possibility of seeing the validity of the other opinion, a problem as the commentary may have good commentary in it.

An excellent example of that comes from the recent treatment of a CNN report about anime.  It deals with a recently passed law which does not extend towards the anime and manga industry.  Below is their video commentary.  As I still attempt to follow my site’s PG-13 general trend, I’ll make the same announcement news stations give: some may find the content offensive.

The article is poorly done.  There’s no two ways around it.  It’s sensationalist.  Many people will point out that the “explicit” material they censor is nothing more than a slightly violent cover.  A much calmer story about the loophole of anime and manga would suffice.  Maybe it’s just me, but this is what I expect out of traditional news sources these days…pure view bait.  Country doesn’t matter…views generate money and controversy generates views.

But this is where things take a weird turn for me.  Fans watch this article and spin it in directions that make no sense.  I’ll link one below.  If you’re The Anime Fan or one of his viewers, please note that I have the utmost respect for him.   I feel somewhat jealous that he’s comfortable voicing his opinions in a video as I kind of hate my own voice.  I get that this video is a rant and I understand the frustration.  I use his because another user linked the video to me in conjunction with the topic of the CNN post and I have a response from that topic on hand from that topic.

And I’ll take an excerpt from the topic I mentioned above.  I directly address a couple of points in this video and they seem to differ from the rant’s commentary.

[The Anime Man’s] claims don’t match the points in the article and he’s obviously ranting without fully determining how he should pick apart CNN’s article. And it is reactions like this that sometimes scare me. His points aren’t purely founded in fact – he makes connections which clearly don’t make sense if you watch the video. For example, [he] describes it as if the journalist claims there is something wrong with the Love Hina scene (a traditional hot tub scene – I don’t like fanservice and it’s not my cup of tea, but I have no problem with its existence). The reporter says nothing of the kind. He says, and I’m quoting here, “But these are not children and they’re not being r***d. There’s a big difference”. A simple cursory listen will catch that he doesn’t accuse Love Hina of anything like the material he has problems with. This is a sinfully painful inaccurate accusation for [The Anime Man] to make.

Of course, I’m not one to purely pick on one man here.  Everybody makes mistakes and I admit I have a large pile of error posts which I try to own up to when they show up.  Except the concern is the seemingly frequency of such errors.  A petition, actually, multiple petitions go into the method of painting CNN’s argument with a fairly broad stroke (I will say though that the final of the three petitions is fairly well-reasoned in the sense that they don’t focus on the “sexually explicit argument”.  It is arguable though since they never claimed the cover was really bad and even verbally comment “there’s blood there”.  Why CNN censored the cover is up to interpretation  It could be sensationalist or possibly just allowing it to air without issuing a “disturbing content” warning).

And it’s this side of interpretation differences that concern me.  To so degree, I think CNN has an actual story hidden behind the layers of sensationalism and silliness: that anime and manga were no covered as part of the latest law and that there are explicit imagines in some anime and manga.  Does it go much past that?  No.  But I think that argument actually exists.  I’m not sure I agree with it but I think there’s still the argument.  And my fear is sometimes that emotional investment and the anger associated with a personal attack on the hobby causes individuals to ignore that point and to simple build straw men that make it easier to attack the other position.
Let me state that, through all of this, I’m an anime fan.  I can’t think of any other way to describe a person who spends time dreaming about how anime influences the world, who blogs until the early morning about the nuances of anime, and spends an inordinate amount of time putting anime-esc characters in medium that may or may not be anime-esc to begin with.  Anime is part of my identity and it’s hard for me to imagine a world where I’m stripped of my favourite characters, shows, and music…all of which originate from anime or visual novels.  But I also want to keep open dialogue.  Ensuring that the correct statements transfer and that they are properly interpreted is key to understanding debate.  Using the CNN example again, I’m not sure that their point makes sense.  In fact, there are plenty of individuals out there who read it and got the correct statement and rejected it for different reasons.  But what I do want to see is that people interpret the commentary correctly before deciding on it.  A response that occurs because of the close emotional ties without consideration of argument and reasoning itself rarely helps.


Anime and the World, Part 2: Animated Films

So, my last post looked at how anime has influenced live-action movies.  This post, following that idea, extends to anime its forces on animated films.  More specifically, how anime directs the direction of animated movies.

One of the major, and probably most obvious, shifts is in the animation style.  I’ll use a simple example: the Disney princesses.  To the unfamiliar, it is simply a collection of the Disney female protagonists.  A chronological ordering of them is below:

Now, let’s consider a couple elements of anime art.  First and most obvious is eye size and style.  Anime is well known for its amazingly large eyes compared to the rest of the face.  While the best known examples worldwide tend to break this habit (coughMiyazakicough), this is probably one of the most iconic aspects of the anime art form.  Consider, for example, the general RPG rulebook Big Eyes, Small Mouth.  It is a game designed to emulate anime and allow tabletop game players a route to role play the anime atmosphere.  The fact that this game book even uses the definition of “big eyes” should be an indicator about how important famous this aspect of anime art is.

Random side note – It actually is kind of fun and recursive when there are rumours that the design of anime characters was influenced by the disproportionate eye size of cartoon character Betty Boop.  But that’s a story for another day.

But why bring this up?  Well, look at the “princesses” above.  We can see a distinct shift in many of the characters drawn since 1989.  You can see a major proportion change of the eyes.  Considering the increased focus attention anime had since that time, it seems a possibility that this style in anime shifted to Western animated films like this Disney franchise.  Of course, this is a jump of logic in that correlation equates to causation. and it is entirely possible that this is just pure and random coincidence.  However, it does seem less likely when the shape of the eyes are also considered.  Another distinct aspect of anime eyes is a reflection of light, often highlighted as a white dot.

I literally picked the first result from searching “anime character”

What interest this brings is the correlation this causes with the animated characters above.  You can see that this is distinctly visible reflection of a similar variety after the long jump in years.  In fact, if you search the original frames of the human characters in Disney’s older animated films, you will find their pupils are fully shaded as oppose to having a slight reflection ala anime characters (again, images were grabbed with really quick Google searches).

I think this subtle shift reflects a major adjustment in the animation style, one that comes from the anime industry likely.  There are countless examples of older anime from between this gap of time which show this distinction.  I’ll just add an example below using Lupin III’s pilot from 1969.  The best looks is probably around 6:44 or 6:45.

Of course, this again doesn’t prove absorption of animation style.  I would suggest, however, that this is a fairly strong case and would warrant further consideration as a vector of communication between anime and English associated animated films.

Conversely, one strongly proven aspect of influence is in outsourced or co-produced works.  This connection would seem obvious at first blush but it is worth mentioning since there are a large number of works which reflect this; there are some examples of animated films released in North America hiring Japanese animation studies for their work.  No where is this more apparent in my mind than the animated rendition of The Hobbit.  I’ve attached a short clip below.  Though the title goes without saying (and seriously, did you NOT expect this to happen?), there are minor spoilers.

Smaug is probably the most anime styled dragon I’ve seen in a while.

Now, what makes this truly interesting and a strong link to me is the studio which worked on this film.  Much of the animation team later worked together in Studio Ghibli later.  There was a strong working relationship between these animators and Rankin/Bass Productions.  The animation of The Last Unicorn was done by the same group.

Another great example of this is the Transformers franchise, which had its iconic first season animated by Toei.  Actually, a lot of Toei’s work can be place here period…most are television shows and would be subject to another post.

Of course, the influences aren’t purely limited to the visual.  It’s important to recognize that, much like the film side, tropes are often carried over for historical reasons.  I won’t rehash that discussion, and as such this post will feel short…but I don’t think it’s worth repeating (that and I’m dead tired right now).

Yeah…this post is short.  I know that.  I think a major aspect which limits the connection between the film side with anime is the focus of most anime on the episodic form.  There are some influences on the movie industry but they are somewhat limited because the singular focus is on Miyazaki’s preferences…him being the singular popular figurehead of anime film.

The next topic, and probably the longest, will focus on how anime has influenced other animated television.