Yakuza: more than “Gungrave” and “GTO”

What do you think of when you hear the word Yakuza? Many people on this side of the Pacific kind of get a blank look – the concept goes right over their heads until you say, “You know, the Japanese Mafia…” and then suddenly: recognition! Explaining the Yakuza as the “Japanese Mafia” is also apparently an acceptable way of describing the crime syndicate in the American press; I don’t know why. It could just as easily be argued that the Italian crime syndicate (most commonly associated with the word mafia) is the “Italian Yakuza,” except the Italians “were here [in the USA] first” (or whatever); but, I digress.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Yakuza than GTO, Gungrave, Gokusen, Texhnolyze, and Black Lagoon can give you, or if you’ve played Yakuza and are curious about the tendency toward full-body tattoos, I suggest starting with Wikipedia and working your way up from there. (The Yakuza 3 game trailer is here, by the way.) Continue reading “Yakuza: more than “Gungrave” and “GTO””

Eastern Culture: Manga and Anime Culture Part 2

That was the question I asked nearly six months ago when embarking upon my independent study with my advisor, Dr. Richard Reitan, a professor in the history department at Franklin & Marshall College. Since then, I’ve been conspicuously absent from the pages of Amish Otaku. About a month ago I graduated from F&M College, moved out of my apartment (with help!), began graduate school, and found out more about Sailor Moon’s blonde hair and blue eyes than I was expecting. (It’s the last of these that I’d like to share with all of you, the awesome readers of AO.)

Essentially, there are two reasons why many anime characters have Caucasian (that is, Western European) features – and why that doesn’t seem to bother Japanese audiences. My final paper ended up being more than forty pages long, and if you’re interested in reading it, please drop me a line; I’m more than happy to oblige. In the meantime, however, let me boil it down for AO. Continue reading “Eastern Culture: Manga and Anime Culture Part 2”

Eastern Culture: Common Suffixes

To be an otaku, one must know the proper suffixes to use—and how to use them. How can you tell when someone is using a suffix? Well, let me introduce “Jane Smith” and “John Brown” for the sake of clarity. In general, Japanese suffixes can be used with first names or last names, unlike “Mr.” or “Mrs./Ms./Miss” in English, which are usually used only with one’s surname.

In everyday life, “-san” (as in “John-san”) is the most common suffix and can be used whenever there is doubt about other forms, although I’ll be covering others in this article as well. Continue reading “Eastern Culture: Common Suffixes”

Eastern Culture: Manga and Anime Culture Part 1

This semester, I’m conducting an independent study with Franklin & Marshall College’s new Asian history professor, Dr. Richard Reitan. Using the anime Sailor Moon as a keyhole into something deeper, my research will focus on understanding why Japanese popular culture seems fixated on heroines and heroes with Western (Caucasian) features.

In the late nineteenth century, Japan actually looked down upon most other nations as less civilized. Indeed, the Western version of “civilization” in Japan was met with resistance, and in the early twentieth century many Japanese scholars and elites began to profess their belief that Japan and its people had something to offer the Western world without having to conform to its ways. Japan’s collective identity—highly militaristic and male-dominated—remained proud and strong until the end of the Pacific War with the United States and Allied Powers. The nation was truly traumatized after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their unconditional surrender to the Allies a short time later. Continue reading “Eastern Culture: Manga and Anime Culture Part 1”