J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The Origin of Japanese Third Person Toys

The Origin of Japanese Third Person Toys by timtak
The Origin of Japanese Third Person Toys, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

The Japanese are into "3rd person toys," such as dolls, rather than 1st person toys, such as suits and guns (with exceptions).

This is Majinga-Z was a Japanese manga and anime super-hero created in 1972. Majinga-Z was the first giant robot into which the human gets in and controls, a style subsequently followed by most Super-Sentai (power rangers) Series, as well as the robot suit series, Gundam and Evangelion. Majinga-Z was preceded by Tetsujin 28Gou where a young boy remote controls a robot which debuted in 1956. These Japanese human controlled robots were preceded however by my schoolboy favourite, General Jumbo, a comic strip which appeared in the UK weekly, the Beano from 1953. Bearing in mind the timing, it may be that Tetsujin 28 Gou was based upon General Jumbo.

Difference between the two genres may be interpretted to centre on the relative importance of the robot and human controller. The "hero" of "General Jumbo," after which the series is named, is the human controller, whereas the hero of the eponimous Japanese series are the robots, Majinga-Z, Tetsujin 28, Gundam. In the English comic General Jumbo controlls a plurality of nameless robots, whereas in early Super Sentai series, and at least potentially in Gundam, a plurality of humans did, or could, control a single named robot. Finally General Jumbo is "Jumbo" in name only, because he controls an army of miniature remote control robots, whereas the robots that are controlled in Japanese manga and animation are almost universally enourmous, mega-robots.

Even if the Japanese did get their idea from the UK, they developed the idea, making it bigger and better. General Jumbo can not compare in complexity, human psychology or art to even one of the subsequent Japanese series such as Gundam.

The main exception to the Japanese preference for 3rd person toys, such as dolls and "figures", is the transformation belt (henshin Beruto) which enables its wearer to transform into a suit, into a third person figure in a sense.

My interpretation of the difference in emphasis revealed in English and Japanese human/robot series relates to a difference in emphasis upon the self as narrative or image. Westerners identify with their self-narrative that seems to control the body. Japanese identify with their bodies. If this results in a paradox, regarding how the Japanese could feel that their control is not their own, out of their control, then this may be resolved by consideration of appraisals of control and autonomy, its boundedness and even reality.

The term "third person" is not correct.

Our son Ray was named, in part, after the hero of Gundam, Amuro Ray.

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Monday, August 01, 2011


Perseverance Pays

Perseverance Pays by timtak
Perseverance Pays, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

This picture shows a large Japanese cram school or juku in which school students spend their evenings cramming facts that they anticipate will be asked in examinations, particularly university entrance examinations. The catch copy of this particular cram school is "doryoku ha minoru" or "perseverance pays."

The Japanese are incremental theorists (Dweck, 1999) believing that individual potential is limited only by how much one tries (Heine et al. 2001). The Japanese are therefore very much into persevering. While Westerners try hard too, they also tend to be entity theorists believing that the self is not infinately maleable so rather than banging ones head against a brick wall (or cram school), people are advised to find their forte, the area of human endeavour that matches their inate potential, in which they will be able to excell without out excessive perseverance.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.