Header image by particle9
One of the more common stereotypes about anime is that it’s filled with perverted fanservice. Of course, shows like Samurai Girls and Rio Rainbow Gate partially support this stereotype, but I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. I mean, modern American culture is just as hyper-sexualized as Japanese culture. Perhaps our tastes are different: for example, Americans tend to frown on lolicon and incest, whereas Japan seems to have an aversion towards the “butch women” fantasy. But, at the end of the day, the entertainment mediums of live-action TV and anime are more alike than most of us realize. For example, there’s an American show that was utterly trashed by gratuitous fanservice. It’s called Battlestar Galactica.
I’m not referring to the cheesy 1978 pulpfest starring Richard Hatch. To be frank, that incarnation of BSG never had many redeeming qualities to begin with. No, I’m talking about Ronald D. Moore’s infamous 2003 reboot. I was initially very optimistic about this show, despite my dislike of Moore’s work on Deep Space Nine. What intrigued me was Moore’s manifesto for the show: he wanted to make it a pioneer of “naturalistic science fiction.” It was a bold concept… sci-fi based on the practical instead of the fantastic. BSG was intended to be a hyperrealistic, down-to-earth show featuring hard science and believable characters. No archetypes, no technobabble, and above all no deus-ex-machina. It sounded like the sci-fi show we had all been waiting for.
In the first part of my East Meets West series, I talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the current trends in comic books and manga. I tried to make it fairly balanced, since I honestly believe America and Japan are putting out very different but entertaining products. It would be nice to see more melding from both sides, but they’re doing quite well so far. This second part, however, will be about video games, and you’ll see that I won’t be so kind this time around.
Because I believe that, on some level, BioWare is right when they say the JRPG market is stagnant, even if they couch their argument in marketing for their own game. I’ll explain in detail after the jump.
I’ve made it clear before that I like it when artists try mixing two cultural styles to create something new and interesting. Though that’s partly because I love artistic experimentation, there’s a practical reason, too. I’ve noticed there are certain things America is better at than Japan, and vice versa; and both countries have pursued ideas the other hasn’t. In this three-part series, I’ll analyze what I think are each country’s artistic advantages: why they’re good and what the other country can learn from them.
For this inaugural entry, my focus is on comic books. To make my comparisons easier to parse, “comics” will refer to American comic books and “manga” will refer to Japanese comic books.
As I stated in my “Four Laws of Moe” article, moe is a concept that is intrinsically linked to anime. The very term conjures up images of giggling Japanese schoolgirls, meganekko, and other archetypes found solely in Japanese media. But is it possible for moe to exist outside of anime? The feelings of paternal protectiveness which define this meme are not restrained by cultural boundaries, so why does moe itself have to be exclusively Japanese?
I’d like you to meet somebody. The masked female alien in the picture above is named Tali’Zorah nar Rayya. She is a character from BioWare’s Mass Effect series of space opera RPGs. As a Quarian, Tali’s hypersensitive immune system forces her to constantly remain inside her environment suit, protected from the infectious hazards of the outside world. Even a few seconds of exposure could be fatal. Throughout Mass Effect 1 and 2, you never to see her face… only the cold, hard steel of her mask.
Despite this, I still think she’s moe. Find out why after the break.