Category Archives: Japan

Angels of Death: Fictional Detectives Who Witnessed a Suspicious Number of Murders

When I was little, I loved watching Murder She Wrote.  Well…okay, I mostly loved the incongruously peppy theme song. Those of you too young to have ever heard it, give it a listen and try to tell me it’s not a bop.

(That’s right. The video’s a two-hour loop. You’ll thank me later.)

What I never noticed, at least at the time, was just how many people wound up dead when fictional detective Jessica Fletcher was around. The woman is a dark harbinger. And she’s not the only one.

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Pop Culture Abroad: Entertainment Magazines from Other Countries

radiotimes-cover

No matter how much of an intellectual you fancy yourself, you’ve read an entertainment magazine. Maybe it was an issue of People at the hair salon. Maybe it was an old TV Guide in your in-law’s bathroom. Maybe it was an US Weekly perused sulkily while waiting in line at CVS behind an eighty-year-old couple who brought their weight in expired coupons and needed to be told, gently but repeatedly, that CVS can’t accept expired coupons. No, not even if she begs. No, not even if he was in the war.

Old man with gun

This argument is slightly more persuasive.

Pop culture periodicals might not be cerebral, but they can be educational, in their own way. Looking at entertainment magazines from other countries can help you understand what the average person in that country thinks and talks about. And since I have two such magazines at my disposal–one from England, the other from Japan–I thought I’d make a short post about them.

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Devilish Doujin: The World of Unauthorized (and Sometimes Filthy) Japanese Fan Comics

I just got back from Japan. Well, I say “just.” It was long enough ago that I’ve unpacked, but recently enough that I’m still wallowing in jet lag and not wearing pants most days. Anyway, I’m tired. And it took me ages to decide on a topic for this, my first post-hiatus article.

it needed to be something about Japan, that much was clear. But what? I considered writing about Rabbit Island, but that’s better conveyed by pictures (so many, many adorable pictures) than words. I thought about describing the pop  idol show I attended, but really, you can get the gist of it by putting on some AKB48 and hiring a criminally underwashed quasi-shut-in to thrash around your living room. Anything having to do with anime was out–I only let my weeaboo flag fly on Tumblr, where it earns me followers instead of the everlasting scorn I probably deserve.

Finally, I settled on doujinshi.

doujin

Yes, I edited this in a print club app, and yes, I have too much free time right now.

Years ago, doujin (Japanese fan comics) weren’t even on the radar here in the States. I should know–I spent hours online looking for a few scattered pages of “the one where the dog goes Super Saiyan” or “the one where Sailor Moon has a Pokemon.” Once located, these precious scraps were downloaded, saved to a floppy disc labelled “MOM DON’T TOUCH,” and stashed in a dresser drawer beneath my training bras and a copy of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. These precautions were probably unnecessary. I doubt my mom would have known what she was looking at, even if she had known how to use a floppy disc.

Now that nerd culture has become mainstream, many people are not only aware of Japan’s massive fan comic industry, but have read doujin themselves. For those of you who haven’t, or who are curious to see some of the books I picked up in Japan, I offer you the following. Continue reading

wEiRd JaPaN: 4 Genuinely Peculiar Things About the Land of the Rising Sun

“WTF JAPAN??”

The chorus thunders back and forth across the internet, erupting in reference to everything from cosplay to game shows to dating sims. “lol Japan is soooooo crazy!” subsequent verses exclaim. “They think weird things are normal and normal things are weird–and did you know they sell used panties in vending machines?” In the eyes of the web, Nippon is both glorious and surreal, a land of almost hallucinogenic strangeness, a place that severed all ties to reality the moment somebody slapped a cute anime girl on a body pillow, a country of loonies with coffin-sized bedrooms and Pocky addictions.

Sorry, internet, but I’m afraid I have to spoil the fun. Most of what is said about Japan in the Western media has been cherry-picked to reinforce a certain image. Not only are the “weird” aspects of Japanese culture less pervasive than Buzzfeed and its ilk would have you believe, but Japanese people are fully aware that those aspects are weird. No Japanese person looks at something like Cho Aniki and says: “Yeah, that’s a totally normal thing you see all the time here.”

Cho Aniki

“Heck, I do that every day on the way to work.”

In Japan, as in America, certain things are designed to be strange to elicit laughter. (The concept of humor exists in Japan. Bizarre, I know.) Assuming the Japanese take them seriously is like watching an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and assuming it tells you something deep and meaningful about the American psyche.

That said, there are some genuinely strange and fascinating stories buried within Japanese culture. I’ve assembled a few of them below. There aren’t any used panties involved (yes, I once saw them in a super shady store; no, they weren’t in a vending machine), but if you can muscle past that disappointment, I’m sure you can find something to intrigue you.

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