200809151202.jpg While some think that the Potty Mouth Batman variant may be the trigger to a new comics witch hunt, it’s more likely that THIS kind of thing will be more alarming if someone wants to make a big meal of things.

Anybody who doubts the rapidly growing influence of Japan’s erotic cultural imports in the U.S. only has to spend a little time playing with a Hello Kitty vibrator while reading a fan-created pornographic Pokemon comic — or visit a “maid café” (now available near Los Angeles and Canada) where the waitresses all dress in costume — to realize it’s not just a fringe subculture anymore.

There is a good argument to be made, based on those characters alone, that we are all “turning Japanese” as the ’80s song goes — especially sexually.

That’s Brian Alexander at MSNBC. Brigid has some needed perspective:

You know that any mainstream-news story that leads with the Hello Kitty vibrator is going to be bad news, and this MSNBC column by Brian Alexander does not disappoint. Did I miss the moment when maid cafes became mainstream in the U.S.? Maybe Boston is just behind the times. I don’t have all day to take apart the fallacies in this article, but let me point out one obvious howler [snip]

To be honest, we long thought that the anime/manga menace might become some pol’s election year crusade, but since we have actual serious problems to deal with, and the national elections seem to have become entirely personality-driven, unless it turns out Obama once dressed as Kenshiro for Halloween, or Sarah Palin bought a complete run of …But, I’m Your Teacher for her kids, this is unlikely to come up.


  1. Takashi Murakami is not a manga-ka, he is a pop artist and an art director who steals/borrows manga tropes and has his team of (excellent) production technicians recreate his designs on a mass scale for galleries and clothing companies. He is an artist with a brand, not a cartoonist with a brand. There is a theory behind “superflat” and it is an interesting one, but it is contemporary art in the same sense that Matthew Barney’s or Kiki Smith’s art and theory are contemporary.

    The first thing we need to do is demonstrate that pop art borrowing from manga or comics is not comics at all.

    The second is to convince these people that drawings are fantasy, they are not the same as pornography.

  2. Oh, it’s still a fringe subculture, just a DIFFERENT fringe subculture. At the recent Diamond Retailer Summit in Vegas, I mentioned to a distributor of Japanese adult DVDs that one of their animation titles was available on the adult pay-per-view channel.

    Now… as Valerie mentioned over at Occasional Superheroine, for something to be successfully stigmatized, it must be mass-market, and it must be something parents do not understand. Comics were coded in the 1950s because all the kids read them. They were pervasive. The Dungeons & Dragons to-do of the 1970s was not successful because not many kids played the game. Now… manga and anime are mass-market. (Pokemon Red and Pokemon Yellow were two of the best selling GRAPHIC NOVELS in my bookstore last year, up there with 300, Persepolis, Watchmen…) Parents (and quite a few comicbook fans) don’t understand the manga style. Yes, manga is part of the greater medium of comics, but even with those nice age labels on the back covers, it’s easy to mix age groups. ESPECIALLY when you’ve got a gaggle of teenagers standing in front of the section, reading anything that isn’t sealed.

    As for the “satyrical” fanfiction? It exists for just about any popular mass-market property. I’ve seen pics of Fred Flintstone and Betty Rubble. Disney? I’m sure there’s a naughty pic for each feature film. This sort of thing won’t get the pundits hot-and-bothered. It’s gonna be something in a school or public library. (This has already happened.) It’s going to be visual. It might spread from a different medium, like a card game, with one or two cards being misinterpreted as satanic.

    Eternal vigilance. Proactive education. Intelligent marketing.

    And Heidi? If all else fails, we can blow the tunnels and bridges, mine the waterways, and the only way to leave or enter Manhattan is by helicopter, with the USS Intrepid being used as a private airstrip. Central Park could also be converted to an airstrip for cargo planes (once the Bushvilles are cleaned out). Although you might be better off up in Maine…

  3. …for that matter, Hello Kitty isn’t from manga or comics, either. It’s a commercial brand. I don’t see how anyone could blame our medium for some privately owned company’s decision to liscence and manufature a Hello Kitty dildo for individual customers. I could see them trying, but it wouldn’t be a very good argument.

  4. I agree with Pulphope, there is difference between pop-cultural impersonation and the original subject matter (recent political case-in-point: an internet strewn with the pictures of Sarah Palin in flag bikini with rifle).

    However, I don’t believe the larger media, numerous politicians, or most heads of the PTA in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas, etc. are as discerning (recent comic’s related cases: Eightball, Gordon Lee).

  5. In all seriousness, having lived and worked in Tokyo, I can attest firsthand to how stiflingly conformist the culture is. It’s not a secret. There is just such a powerful social impetus to conform and get along and not cause ripples, not stand out (this is why when you see a genius in Japan, they are intensely indivdualistic and self-motivated)…one successful social mechanism which makes this urge toward conformity bareable for the average citizen is that the culture at large actively encourages fantasy and imagination as a kind of “safety valve”– this is one reason we see so much Elvis costumes in Harajuku, etc. and one reason why it is socially acceptable for adults to collect toys and read manga and be kookoo about anime– or any other non-violent passtime. One time on a subway, I saw a typical businessman reading a really violent manga (imagery of a dog raping a girl, no kidding) in clear view of a group of schoolgirls in uniforms. the girl in the manga was exactly the same kind as the girls standing next to the guy looking at this stuff–both were aware of the other. I asked my editor (we were going to a meeting together) if the girls were bothered by this, what is the justification for this, etc. He was the one who told me their culture understood a drawing of such-and-such a thing is fantasy, a photo of it is something completely different. They respect the right of indivduals to think what they want in the privacy of their own minds. They don’t have the sort of protestant-catholic inhibitions we in the US have inherited and as Bill says, law-makers and pundits just don’t understand the purpose or intention behind the imagery. it just goes to show the potency of drawing as a persuasive, idea-oriented medium.

    Oh, I would argue this one in court if it came to it. Like Dee Synder with the PMRC. Fucking politicians and so-called moral guardians…

  6. I would hope the candidates would worry about the slowing economy, destructive storms and the war rather than some foolish comic witch hunt.

  7. Yeah. Wow. Talk about an article that minces words and doesn’t get its facts straight.

    I like Murakami’s pop art that borrows from anime and manga, but it itself is not as pulphope points out. He’s a pop artist with heavy sexual overtones. I picked up a small collectible figure of his lactating Hiropon while in Japan. From his Boston exhibit, I got a mushroom (ie aphrodisiac) filled print framed in my room and almost got him to sign the art book.

    Another nugget is when they mix the sexually suggestive Gurren Lagen in the same sentence as the sexually explicit Legend of the Overfiend. You might as well mix The O.C. with Debbie Does Dallas.

    Meanwhile, the sexual undertones or outright overt sexual issues of manga and anime fandom would make for an interesting article. Clearly this one doesn’t get it.

    As someone who’s worked in the US and Japanese comics industry, pulphope there surely has some good commentary. The bits from the posts here alone are fascinating.

  8. The only “problem” I see is that instead of jacking off to Wonder Woman and Zatanna, sad geeks are masturbating to hentai and anime.

    !xeneelk erom deen