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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, December 06, 2012


Kyari, Super Suits and Symbols

Kyari, Super Suits and Symbols by timtak
Kyari, Super Suits and Symbols, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
Clark Kent changes into superman in front of the mirror. He was superman all along. Superman is inside him. Superman's suit, a super imago (Lacan, 2002), is no more than a covering, a mask, something that 'envelops' the real (Baudrillard, 1995, p.2). The suit is essential, but only as a stage, a means, to conceal his identity. What is that super identity? Could it be the hard-boiled narrative that Western super heroes are always mumbling to themselves and the readers? Thoughts can fly.

Eschewing telephone boxes and toilets, Japanese superheroes transform in front of everyone with great aplomb, sometimes on stage. They use symbols to transform. And they also have, and sometimes become, suits. Often what the Japanese Clark Kenta changes into is a super suit. Their super form that -- vectored by the symbol -- possess them is often a sort of exoskeleton. They have bug eyes, but no mouths. Speaking, even mumbling, is quite out of the question. Ultramen are pure body, pure light.

Both types of super hero use the image and the symbol but in different directions, with reversed means and ends. The Western suit is the *means* to conceal and continue the objective: the super identity that the hero always was. The Japanese transformatory symbol, and Kyari Pamyu Pamyu's choreographed "Kata," are a means to transforming into ones super suit, or assuming the visual three-eyed* identity that Kyari represents.

*Kyari has two eyes on her face and another, that looks at her sometimes a "riken no ken" (Zeami). Zeami emphasised too that the Kata, the ritualised symbolic movements, are a means. One learns the kata, one manipulates the symbols, to go beyond them. The Japanese stop narrating themselves almost as soon as they started, but hey are not zombies (Rudd, 2009).

Image top left: Superman frente al espejo by Greenog, bottom right HG 00 Gundam by Chag

Baudrillard, J. (1995). Simulcra and Simulation. (S. F. Glaser, Trans.). Univ of Michigan Pr.
Lacan, J. (2002). The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience. In B. Fink (Trans.), Ecrits (pp. 75–81). WW Norton & Company.
Rudd, A. (2009). In defence of narrative. European Journal of Philosophy, 17(1), 60–75. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-0378.2007.00272.x/full

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