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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 16, 2012


NMB48 and Tarzan

NMB48 and Tarzan by timtak
NMB48 and Tarzan, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

The climax of the chorus of the recent chart topping song by teenage girl-band, 'idol group' NMB48 is "steel panties," refering to their collective intention not to take them off for their boyfriend until they are 20 years of age. The song's title, "Junjou U19" means "Pure (i.e. non sexual) emotion or affection, and the "U19" may mean under or equal to 19, since the lyrics mention adulthood which is considered to be from 20. The boyfriends are going to have a long wait in some instances because at least one of the members is 13 years old. Yes, indeed, only 13 years old.

Having seen the video, it seems that it has been created with the intention to include as many ways as possible of allowing the viewers to feel that they can or will see the "steel panties" refered to the in the lyrics, with low camera angles, miniskirts, rotating girls, somersaulting girls, girls lying down, hanging from wires, rolling over balls, on tightropes, a trapeze, podia, and finally fired from a circus cannon. I think it is very inventive, but not to my taste.

Japan is bursting at its creative seams. Donald Richie's "The Image Factory: Fads and fashions in Japan," details the many ways in which Japan is a powerhouse of creative image making. Alas, the myriad images that Japan makes are different, and often not popular among those with Western sensitivities.

A big problem for human society, perhaps the biggest, is encouraging men and women to cooperate. There are two extremely effective ways of doing this. 1) Persuade all members of society that they are neutred men. 2) Persuade all members of society that they are wombless, bloodless women. The West takes the former route, Japan the latter. In each case it is imperative that the unattractive parts of the idealised sex are banished: their desire in each case is taboo. Jesus was a man in his ability to lead, be righteous, brave, and strong but there was no one iota of lewdness about him. The idealised woman in Japan is similarly, self-sacrificing and supposedly berift of desire. The Western "gentle" man, and Japanese "idol" stop at the waist, they are castrated, spayed, anaemic, and perfect.

This repression however, gives rise to even greater desire for its disolution, for (in the West) a gentleman who is also an ape man; Tarzan/Earl Greystoke a combination of pure male sex and complete gentrified repression. I think that NMB48 are the Japanese equivalent of Tarzan/Greystoke, pure sex, and pure chasity rolled (often literally) into one steel pantie.

The idealized synthesis of purity and sexuality (Ranger, 2011) is also found to an extent in the British lady, such as portrayed by Audredy Hepburn (who was tremendously popular in Japan) in the naivity of the characters played by Marylyn Munroe (though she was a little too sexy, and not quite pure enough for Japanese taste) and the disembodied chamellion Lady Gaga who almost seems a little Japanese. However, In Japan there is a desire for a more extreme synthesis which is why we see thirteen year old chidren, in miniskirts, singing about sex, wearing "steel panties".

Other examples of Tarzan, that the Japanese need to import if they are to enjoy, include the macho heroes such portrayed by Arnold Schwarnegger, and Sylvester Stallone, who are an idealised synthesis of testosterone and righteousness.

NMB48 poster by MadAdminSkilz copyright Kyoraku Yoshimoto Holdings Co., Ltd.

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