Are American comics popular in Japan

Japanese anime : What is our own is what is foreign

The last survivors of mankind have holed up in an area that is just twice the size of Germany. Three wall rings protect the settlements; the center belongs to the privileged. Outside, the "titans" lurk, devouring the hero's mother when they first appear. When part of the outer wall falls, there is a wave of flight - the land becomes cramped. Hope rests on a young border force led by a very dashing, very blond officer.

Who just hatched this siege fantasy? In view of our migration debates, it could come from the center of Europe. In fact, it is a scenario by the Japanese draftsman Hajime Isayama. His “Attack on Titan” mangas have now sold more than 70 million times - one of the strongest titles since the turn of the millennium. The anime television series of the same name was an instant hit in 2013. And not only in Japan, also in Germany a fan scene is looking forward to the start of the third season. The time has come on Sunday, July 22nd.

Anime are the most popular moving image format in Japan and accordingly differentiated, they have long enjoyed worldwide popularity. Like manga comics, on which most animes are based, they cater to all age groups and every need, there are science fiction and high school comedies, action and everyday dramas, Pokémons and pixel porn in a wide variety of drawing styles and with a joy in the weird, risky or chaotic, the makes mainstream animation production look pale in the west.

Myths from the Bible and superhero comics

There really seem to be worlds between the critically acclaimed anime films in the family-friendly tradition of Hayao Miyazaki and a series aimed at older fans like "Attack on Titan". On the one hand because of the war and horror elements, but also visually: "Attack on Titan" has a breathtakingly expressive, dangerous look - Otto Dix meets "The Walking Dead". The computer animations, which are often reviled by anime lovers, do not ruin this look, but make it even more dynamic. There is also a tendency towards polluted German cultural assets, from the “Meistersinger” decor to stimulating words such as “Sieg” and “Gloria” in the title songs.

Where the front runs here and who is terrorizing whom, one wonders at the latest when the hero Eren Jäger transforms himself into a titan. He does not lose his humanity in the process. The boy is inside a titan body, as the warriors of the "mecha", an original genre of anime, do in their futuristic combat robots. Is Eren-Titan the product of a genetic experiment? Is there a titan slumbering in each of us? The series does what anime in general does best: It breaks down the idea of ​​what is self and what is foreign in a rampant, also melodramatic narrative. A narrative that puts everything we think we know about this universe up for grabs.

The fact that “Attack on Titan” is so “readable” even in our part of the world is due not least to the fact that animes have always been influenced by other cultures. They are a water heater for popular myths and sign systems - from the Bible to superhero comics. The urge to mix is ​​evident on all levels, in the drawing of the characters, many of which would be less noticeable in the Swedish soccer team than in the Japanese, on the soundtracks that mix Handel, flamenco and jazz, in flowing genre transitions and the stories .

Anime also deal with problems in Japanese society

Like Eren Jäger in “Attack on Titan”, anime heroes are shapeshifters: between ethnicities and genders, nature and technology, this world and the hereafter. Dichotomous thinking or Manichean world designs are alien to the anime, even in the apocalyptic machine wars of "Mechas". Cross passes and changing sides can be found everywhere as structural principles, from the classic "Neon Genesis Evangelion" from the nineties to the successful newcomer "Darling in the Franxx", a mix of robot science fiction and love story that raises interesting questions about the psychosexual development of humanity .

Of course, animes also deal with specific problems in Japanese society. The trauma of Fukushima, the pressure to conform and succeed, the digital and commercial formation are just a few of them. The nationalism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is striving for a revision of Japan's unrivaled pacifist constitution, flares up. The military series "Gate", for example, lets the Japanese self-defense forces, which are only allowed to take part in peacekeeping, shoot warriors with swords and bows in a magical parallel world - a blatant plea for increased deployment abroad.

Everyone is their own ethnicity or lifestyle group

On the whole, the wild diversity politics of anime - some cultural scholars consider it the most progressive in current pop culture - has not changed. “Tokyo Ghoul” began in 2014 like a zombie scenario. But unlike the undead that have been roaming haphazardly through American films for decades, the Japanese ghouls appear as a well-organized urban community that forms increasingly complex coalitions. The visually getting used to because completely computer-animated thriller series "Ajin - Demi-Human" tells of a persecuted minority, a newly discovered species. She is human but immortal, which is why horrific experiments are carried out on her. And the audience has to constantly reposition themselves in relation to the enigmatic young protagonist.

The superhero story “My Hero Academia” shows how the whole thing works without age restrictions. It is based on the assumption that the normal are in the minority and that 80 percent of all people have been endowed with strange extras through mutation, with frog tongues, navel lasers or explosive sweat. Practically everyone here is their own ethnicity or lifestyle group - an interesting scenario in view of the still extraordinarily homogeneous Japanese society

2018 is a good year for anime fans. Popular series are back with the third seasons of “Attack on Titan”, “Tokyo Ghoul” and “My Hero Academia”; the finale of the longseller “Fairy Tail” is expected in autumn. The big international streaming services have also jumped on the bandwagon, because they realized that the audience of anime extends far beyond the target group of “male, young, nerdy”.

Specialized streaming platforms offer animes

Netflix in particular has just invested a lot, in licenses and in-house productions. The curatorial principle is, however, not very transparent. For example, only individual parts of the classic “Naruto” are available; There is a significant difference in quality with the Netflix originals. The strategy of shooting live-action versions, possibly even “Americanized” like the adaptation of the cult series “Death Note”, is not appreciated by true fans anyway.

They love mangas and animes precisely because of their unmistakable graphic qualities, their visual "artificiality", the mix of "autochthonous" and borrowed elements. And getting to the series material was not difficult even before the Netflix offensive. Specialized streaming platforms such as Anime on Demand and Crunchyroll offer several thousand animes in this country, dubbed or with subtitles. The sound of the characters is also important, the original speakers are real stars in Japan. In prominent cases, the broadcast in Japan will be streamed simultaneously, probably again for the third season of “Attack on Titan”.

If the season starts now, the walls around the human settlement will have crumbled. The heroes do not know who they can still trust, and a key phrase has fallen: "There is a world out there". In the end, he could also confirm the agenda of national-conservative Japan: go out and show the flag. Or it means that societies open up in the current conflicts and traditions have to be abandoned. Politics in anime is a darn complicated thing.

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