Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Mind & Spirit" -> More Views On Anime And The Weakest Link

Dattebayo!

This is the phrase that is constantly added onto the end of sentences by our fictional guest today, Naruto Uzumaki. What does Datebayo mean? You might suspect that it is simply a translation of some Japanese phrase, because you know that almost all anime comes from Japan. However, it means nothing other than a key phrase that the lead character from the anime Naruto puts onto the end of his sentences. For our American audience, you might remember that the character played by Billy Bob Thornton switchblade in the movie "Switchblade" always would say "Uh, huh" after his sentences. Dattebayo is a bit like this, and it make Naruto one of the most interesting and unique characters in anime.

The twists in anime are so interesting and the span of the story arcs are so large that I do not want to spoil the anime for you. However, Naruto has a well deserved fan base because of the story. In many ways, the morals that the story tells cut right to the heart of Japanese culture, and they are the morals that make the Japenese culture so engaging.

As I have posted before, there are things that will make this anime unsuitable for smaller kids. There are multiple instances of old men that are Peeping Toms that sneak up on younger woman so they can watch them bath. The interesting thing about Japanese culture in this aspect is that they don't condone the behavior. Normally, this is considered perverted behavior and the characters will call it out as such. Also, there is alcohol that flows. In terms of actual sex, there is none. In terms of violence, there is a lot. And while not all of it is graphically shown, it can be very, very shocking. Clearly people die in this anime. If not simple death is disturbing enough, we have sororicide (killing one's sister), infanticide (the killing of a child), filicide (killing of one's child), patricide (the killing of one's father), matricide (the killing of one's mother), mariticide (the killing of one's husband) and uxoricide (the killing of one's wife) as Wikipedia would put it. If there is a "...cide" it will be found in Naruto.

However, I am not here to burry Naruto. I am here to praise it.

Why? Because all of Naruto has core values that cause the anime to be strongly redeemed.Those that are in Christ are going to recognize many of the core values of the anime are ones that we can embrace and pull close to our hearts.  These themes are ones that flow from the gospel.

These themes are as follows:

1. You only have one calling in life. To take care of those that call you family or friends. If you live your life for others, then you will find a well spring of strength inside of you.

2. Those that are cursed are not to be despised. If you hate those that are cursed, a curse will come back on you. Those that are cursed will cause your destruction.  But more than this, there are many who are cursed by things that go beyond their control, and while these people do horrible things, they are not beyond the grasp of those that can see beyond their pain.  The best thing a man can do is make their enemy a brother.

3. Life is centered around the team and the village. You should give your life for the village and the team.

This last value is one that I never see much in the USA and an attribute that I will devote the last half of this post to. 

In the anime, the story revolves around the warrior culture. Each of these characters are trained to be killers from a young age. If you have any talent, you are expected to be a soldier by the time you are 12-13. The truly exception killers are those that can lead at 10 years or younger.

However, these teams are given over to groups of three. This is the core of the warrior culture in the anime.   One of my favorite bits of animation in this series is the opening of episode #28 and following.  As the series has gone from year to year, they come up with new openings.  This particular year features a song from Asian Kung-Fu Generation, which is called Haruka Kanata. While the song is a great song, the animation is what perfectly captures the aspect of the team. Most of it is centered around images of the core three member team.

This group of three is normally lead by a leader or Sensei. The power in the culture is to have the three to operate as one. Often in this team, you will have the following:

1. The superstar
2. The leader
3. The brain
4. The strategist
5. The power

Now, depending on the group, these roles may be scattered around. In some, the superstar/leader/power may all be in one person. However, in most groups each member may take on some part of these roles. Therefore, it is only in the competion of the team does the real power happen.

While the weakest member of the team may call out that they are insecure because they know that they are the weakest, I almost never see the stronger members of the team say "hey that person is weak, let's get an upgrade to that person." Instead, the philosophy is "because I am strong, I will protect the weak."

Now, mind you, just because the weak person is weak, this does not mean that they can slack off. They must work hard. They must help the group any way that they can. They must be faithful. However, they do not have to worry that the other team members are going to leave them behind. As long as even the weakest team member is faithful, there will be a spot on the team.

Contrast the difference between this Japanese anime and the the American culture.

In the USA game show "Survivor," the constant struggle is to find the "weakest link" in the the tribe and vote them off the island. There is a constant battle of alliances an temporary agreements for people to know that they will continue to survive. However, at the end of the day, there will only be one left. It is about watching out for oneself.

Recently, I had a conversation with somebody on how they shape their team. They were saying that they were always "looking for an upgrade." In other words, they thought that the team was pulled together for them. In essence, they had control over the team, and you should be swapping out part of the team like you would be swapping out pieces of a car. If you found a better muffle on eBay, you should order the new muffler and throw out the old.

I philosophically disagree with this. The teams that we are given are not about "what can they do for us" but "how do we work together for the common good." Mind you, I believe in those that do more work should be paid more. You need to reward the superstars on your team. Those that do less should not get the same compensation as those that do more. However, people are not mufflers. Each person has something to add to the overall team. If you find that you are paying a person too much money, then you should downgrade their salary. If you find that one person is doing 150% of the work of another person, you should upgrade their salary to compensate.

Those with a bad attitude? Shoot those people on site. They pollute the entire work force, and diminish good beyond expections.

But at the end of the day, it is about the team. And team don't give up on each other.

As a parting shot, here is the opening video and lyrics.  Now, I'm never sure quite how long a video will be posted to Google video, the post does not depending on this video being around for a long time.  But if it is here, please click on it and watch it.

What you will see is a variety of images, but notice how often a series of three pops into the frame.  In almost all instances, these are the teams of three that compete for each other.

Maybe Americans can learn a bit from the Japanese.



Haruka Kanata (Far Off Distance)

Hit the gas! There's no need to finagle, oh yeah!
We'll go all through the night.
I'll complain at the end, the balance is zero, oh yeah!
We'll whittle the days away...

When you open your heart a little, and pull someone close to you,
Your feelings will surely reach them deeper, yeah...

Hurry it up! Wring it out!
Though my legs are all tangled, they will surely take me far...
Even if I steal it and manage to grasp it,
If it isn't you, then what's the point?

So I'll go further and further away!

Hit the gas! There's no need to finagle, oh yeah!
We'll go all through the night.
I'll complain at the end, the balance is zero, oh yeah!
We'll whittle the days away...

When you open your heart a little, and pull someone close to you,
Your feelings will surely reach them deeper, yeah...

Hurry it up! Wring it out!
Though my legs are all tangled, they will surely take me far...
Even if I steal it and manage to grasp it,
If it isn't you, then what's the point?

So I'll go far into the distance...

Your world will become a thing of deceit
painted all in white...

4 comments:

tmm said...

Great post, uncle Ted. I highly enjoyed that show... it pounds "others before self" over and over and over again, as well as love your enemy. Kind of interesting that their culture would figure that out, and apply it in a pop comic/cartoon so readily while, as you said, we sort of do the opposite.

I kind of got irritated at the script writters in the Shippuden series, though, because they figure out ways to draaaaaaag the story out way longer than they need to, but oh well, I guess that's marketing.

The show has great character development, and turns out their names are puns in Japanese. A Naruto is an @ sign, and a strange fish wad that looks like an @ sign that you find in ramen. Naruto's crazy about Ramen. Anyway, they put stuff like that in the show too.

tmm said...

Great post, uncle Ted. I highly enjoyed that show... it pounds "others before self" over and over and over again, as well as love your enemy. Kind of interesting that their culture would figure that out, and apply it in a pop comic/cartoon so readily while, as you said, we sort of do the opposite.

I kind of got irritated at the script writters in the Shippuden series, though, because they figure out ways to draaaaaaag the story out way longer than they need to, but oh well, I guess that's marketing.

The show has great character development, and turns out their names are puns in Japanese. A Naruto is an @ sign, and a strange fish wad that looks like an @ sign that you find in ramen. Naruto's crazy about Ramen. Anyway, they put stuff like that in the show too.

Theologic said...

Timu-kun,

The question is what is your favorite anime?

Uncle T

tmm said...

Heh heh hmmm... favorite anime... hmmm well, as a movie, I'd have to say Metropolis, followed closely by Blue sub no. 6. They're what got the ball rolling for me, I never realized that cartoons could be beautiful/artistic. It was weird.

Then, series wise... maybe
1. Cowboy bebop (best soundtrack & ... everything, with the additional advantage of the hero dying so it can't be drawn out)

2. Trigun (also, not too drawn out)