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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.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Western Super-Friends as Pure Mind

Western Super-Friends as Pure Mind by timtak
Western Super-Friends as Pure Mind, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

"Transformers" started in Japan but has become popular in the US, which also has its own Gundam in "Iron Man". There is an "Iron Giant" based on Ted Hughes story ("The Iron Man"), and Lilo's friend Stitch.

In my opinion, however, the Western imaginary friends that mirror the many super robots in Japan, are the plague of ghosts that have been helping us out recently. The first one I saw was in 1969 on the BBC in the tv series "Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)".

The basic pattern of Western 'human plus super-friend' dramas is that a detective is helped by a ghost or ghosts. The ghosts have no body only a message, a will, and the human's job is to let their will be done, so that the Ghost can disappear. The genre includes "The Sixth Sense," "The Dead Zone," "Tru Calling," "Ghost Wisperer," "The Medium," "Raines," and "The Listener." "A Gifted Man" though a doctor is along the same lines.

Their protagnoists have a lot in common with the geniuses that read minds in "Lie to Me," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," and the various "CSI."

All of them, by their extrasensory, or extra sensitive powers of perception are able to read the message, the words, the will, of the superbeing that has not been said and act upon it.

The human heros are, contra the Japanese humans, the puppets of their super-natural friends. And yet it is they that are the titular characters. In almost all cases (Dr. Malcolm Crowe from Sixth Sense and Hopkirk as possible exceptions) it is the 'reader' that is the central character, or self with whom the audience identifies. Westerners, perhaps due to the Judeao Christian influence, like to see ourselves as 'readers' who carry out the will of supernatural friends.

In Japan, though the robots are controlled, they are heros, the eponimous/titual characters, the focus of attention. No one buys Amuro Rei dolls, or Nobita Posters. The Japanese robot superheros are body and self at the same time. Will, such as that of Nobita and Light is fallible, external, and leads people astray.

It is interesting, but probably conicidental that in Japan technology and robots are associated with the West, and that human-ghost interaction is the most famous theme in the traditional drama of Japan. It is as these culturals have found imaginary friends in each other. Again coincidentally, or due to the spread of TV, the super robot genre started, as far as I know, in the late 60's early seventies about the same time as Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

Images copyright their respective copyright holders. Please comment or contact me via the email link on nihonbunka.com to have this image removed from the Net.

Thanks to Ɲ for inspiring these observations.

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