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.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Japanese Super Friends as pure Body

Japanese Super-Friends as pure Body by timtak
Japanese Imaginary Super Friends as pure Body, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

A sub-genre of superhero fiction are partnerships between super-friends, and a human (often a boy). This genre is particularly popular in Japan.

These super-friends are controlled by an otherwise ordinary mortal man or boy. Mazinger-Z was a giant robot radio controlled by a boy. Pokemon (pocket monster) Pikachu is kept in the pocket of his friend, ready to fight at his bidding. Doraemon, another robot, lives in the closet of a boy called Nobita, ready to help the latter in the many ways he can. Gundam is a robotic suit worn by a boy called Amuro Rei. Ultraman is an extraterestial giant that possesses and is possessed by a squadsman called Hayata; unlike Clark Kent and Superman, Hayata and Ultraman are not quite the same thing.

Others similar entities include Tetsujin-28, the god of death in "Death Note", the mother-possessed (!) suits in Evangelion, the giant mecha that appear in every series of Super-Sentai (Power Rangers), and duality observed in the Masked Riders such as Kamen Rider Denou.

Western superheroes are far more likely to be a unity that only appears dual due to the fact that for some of the time, the superhero poses as a normal, but "secret" "alter ego." Western superheroes are dual only epistemologically. Japanese superheroes are ontologically dual.

Japanese super friends are often but not always giants, and often but not always robots. They are also often unable to speak. Pikachu can only say its name, Ultraman can only pant. Many Japanese superheros and characters (such as hello kitty) do not have mouths at all, or have masks which cover their mouths.

Lacking in language, these super friends often carry out the will of their human partner. The super-friends are *all body* - taken to the extreme in Gundam and Evangelion - that provide the power, or technology to carry out the human will.

Western Imaginary friends on the other other hand, as I will argue in a seperate post, are often all mind and no body. They provide their human friend with information. Western super friends above all speak to their human partner. The human carries out the will of the imaginary super-being.

Images copyright Mazinger-z by joeszilvagyi, Doraemon by Wacko Photographer, Pikachu by ntang, HG 00 Gundam by Chag and ultrama photographed by me but all characters/images copyright their original creators.


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