Friday, December 12, 2008

Land of the Fee and the Home of the Gray:

They Graying of Japan.

This should scare you:

So there is this guy who is a vocal part of a podcast that I went and listened to (yeah Daryl I’m talking about you) and one of their past episodes touched on the graying problem that Japan still seems to be in the midst of both experiencing and ignoring. For those readers that don’t know what that above term encompasses, here is a basic look down that particular black hole of doom:

Location Japan; as early as the 1980’s sociologists began to realize there was a declining birthrate amongst Japanese citizens of child bearing age/capacity/whatever you wanna call it. The teenage wasteland became noticeable to the news-media and thusly the general public over the 1990’s so that by 2000 it appeared as a giant freight train only a decade or two away from smashing headlong into every aspect of society. Japan’s unique 20th century history and cultural indifference/economic proclivity to contraception also explains why, unlike countries like India or China, there has been no upward population explosion in a straight line that comes with ample food, availability of health care, and fan-service.

Throw together a baby boom and combine that with a rapid increase in life expectancy (no hydrogenated oil or hfcs over there) and you’ve got two thirds of the perfect storm. The other third is simple to state and complicated to explain and that is simply that a disproportionate number of Japanese women, Don’t. Want. Kids. Find one who feels that way and she’ll give you a whole bunch of reasons why, from the staggering cost of what it takes to raise a family over there, to simply that they would rather not get stretch-marks or even that they find the Japanese approach to sex rather off-putting (that last one is a whole post in itself but let’s just say that if you censor your porn and make crying during sex look like the norm… people are gonna end up confused). This aversion to reproducing is exacerbated by the fact that there is a small reverse immigration where professionally minded women are leaving that country and never coming back. The prospect of having to feed little juniour and grandma out of the same jar of mashed peas every night is not something they relish.

So now we have pensioners starting to overload the tax base, shortages of a work force for manufacturing, financial services, and public service, and a private sector which is looking at an aging consumer base. It is that private sector area which you anime fans should worry about. Anime is made by and bought by the private sector, and much as people still may not want to acknowledge it, anime is a youth product, and its domestic market is literally running out of youths. Anime productions and the things advertised on it are being outsourced to China not just because it’s cheaper but because there are workers there. Japanese universities are "going out of business" due to lack of students. A few more years it’s going to be dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

The graying of Japan will have an effect on anime and manga, end of story. How much anime is made, who it is made for, and how it is delivered (talking manga for those who can’t read small print anymore?). The current political administration in Tokyo has publicly stated it views anime and manga as a potentially valuable export - and as whenever the Japanese government likes something they tend to give it subsidies. That may mean producers could start seriously working on world-wide releases, delivering their animated media to global markets all at once. Either way, anime will change and for the first time it looks like the climate of the rest of the world will have an active and direct role in changing it.

The effects of the Japanese aging problem on the private sector was my economic thesis for my undergraduate work almost a decade ago and what was true then is true now; buy pharmaceutical stock on the Nikkei. For those with a netflix account I would recommend Katsuhiro Otomo’s Roujin Z (already over a decade old) as an interesting look into how popular culture was already handling this impending issue. Although this film unfortunately débuted in the U.S. when most of the audience was expecting “Akira part 2,” (I must have been the only one in the theater that thought it was interesting) anyone familiar with the way Otomo works will recognize the continued saturation of Japanese social issues poured over menacingly futuristic technology.

Unfortunately the available solutions seem to remain the same as well:

1) Waves of immigration (Japanese xenophobia a go go).
2) Massive amounts of young people fucking (picture unavailable) along with equally massive tax breaks and housing benefits for couples with children.
3) Robots… hey, why do you think they’re working on them so hard?

Yes Japanophiles, there may come a time where they will really want you to come live over there and pay them your taxes. But remember even if you live there for the rest of your life, it will only be your great grandchildren who will be eligible for citizenship.


Daryl Surat said...

When I inevitably get around to reviewing Roujin Z on the podcast (it's been requested a few times), I'll be sure to steal all of your ideas, read them without attribution and claim them as my own.

The Angry Otaku said...

Make sure it gets printed in Otaku USA