Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shut Up Wesley: Shattering otaku expectations with Samurai Gourmet.

Nothing quite shatters the American Otaku psyche quite like being exposed to what is, the real Japan.  This isn’t new, but what is unfortunate is that it’s still a prevalent phenomenon out there.  Actual, factual, regular, real, Japan is nothing like an Otaku thinks it is going to be.  No, I don’t think any otaku is going to go to Japan and think the place is run by giant robots, dragon maids, and has a dating service for monster girls… what is going to happen is these wee-bee idiots are going to show up in Japan and expect that the social constructs that they are accustomed to in America are going to be there for them in Japan.  Sorry fresh, it’s not gonna happen.  Fandom is voluntarily suppressed in Japan much more in Japan than it is in the USA.  Admit to liking Pokemon as a fully functioning adult in the USA, and people just say “fine whatever” but in Japan it’s a great way to get fired.  Fans finding out that they can’t act like fans in the place where the things they are a fan of is a tough thing to deal with.  This happens the other way as well, with Japanese people needing actual psychological help when they come to New York and find out that no, it’s not just “Tokyo with white people” or when they go to Paris and realize that no, it’s not a Miyazaki movie with the Eiffel Tower in the middle of it.  Seriously, that's a medical thing, and they even have a help line they can call for when the cognitive dissonance destroys their brain.

Japan has social rules.  We are talking about a country where if you wear a suit without a tie, you are going to get all kinds of attention.  Mostly the bad kind of attention.  The reason you don’t know that is because it’s not really in any of the anime that ends up being popular overseas.  You wouldn’t judge American life just by watching Breaking Bad or Empire if you wanted to get an accurate idea of what the place was like, so don’t for a minute go thinking you’re getting an accurate picture of Japan from whatever the hell high-school themed anime you’re watching now.  Even if you have been to Japan, unless you’ve had to go apartment hunting, pay your electric bill, go grocery shopping, get your hair cut, buy toilet paper/condoms/feminine hygiene items, all the regular living life stuff, you still aren’t getting the real picture.  It would be like trying to form an idea of what the USA is like after spending a few days in Boston or something.


Why am I even bringing this up?  Because somehow, Samurai Gourmet on Netflix has a one-star rating.  Or I guess it had one when I checked it out last.  Things change, it probably won't stay that way but the fact that it happened at all leads to the sentiment of: What the absolute fuck?  This show is great and there are a bunch of reasons why.  Starring veteran actor and comedian Naoto Takenaka, it connects a number of small moments of zen that center around specific foods.  It shows real Japan …that mundane boring place where regular people go to regular jobs, not the factional-fiction (or fictional-faction, whatever you wanna call it) Japan of trash like what's in Lost in Translation, that seems determined to convince the world that everyone in Japan is actually originally from Mars and like OMG it’s just such a wacky place!  Samurai Gourmet is not Ruroni Kenshin with udon, it’s not Ghost in the Shell: Fast-Food Takeout Edition, it’s just a simple show about simple things.  And it’s that simplicity which is uniquely Japanese.  If you watch this show and come away thinking “oh it’s so bland, quick let me go check out Ouran High School Host Club reruns” then you know nothing.  You are that 12 year old who doesn’t like Empire Strikes Back because it’s "the most boringest one" to quote Red Letter Media.

Back in the 1990s Katsuhiro Otomo made a film called Project Z.  It was a well-made and excellent film which took a look into the aging population shift that is still happening in Japan today.  And everyone else in the theater I saw it in said they hated it.  Why?  Well, they were expecting Akira Part 2 basically.  Which is funny by itself, because if you actually knew anything about Japan in the late 1980s you’d realize how much of a social commentary Akira actually was… but all you could see was “ooo wooosh boom!  Motorcycles!”  So there is a real disconnect that American audiences seem to have and not realize it.  This continues to happen with weaboo fools, falling in love with a fictional Japan that doesn’t exist, and then having their brain short circuit when confronted with reality.  Will this ever change?  No probably not.  But you should still be watching Samurai Gourmet

 What do you mean  I can't cosplay 24 hours a day here?


Anonymous said...

Loved gourmet samurai, but have to disagree with your opening shots. I'm 22 from New York and living and working in Japan and paying bills . I can tell you the culture has changed and you are way outta touch. Maybe go back again with fresh eyes?

The Angry Otaku said...

...Shut up Wesley!
oh lol ok ok, sorry I just couldn't resist. I see your point though, and every experience is different. I am sure there are people who went to live and work in Japan during the late 70's that might have had a more progressive experience than I did. But as a whole, the stubborn obstinance of regimental living still exists at a level where it still does have a significant effect on social issues at a national level. It's like that "3 faces" Japanese saying; Japanese have 3 faces, one they show to the world, one they show to other Japanese, and one they show to no one. All 3 are still there and can't seem to always agree on which way to turn the wheel.
Also, please don't think I am poo-pooing on anything, but there are some clues you left in your comment that make me wonder a few things. 1) You said you're from "New York" not "NYC" 2) You said you are living and working in Japan, not Tokyo. These two things might just be how you chose to write things, or they could mean other stuff, I have no way to know. 3) You said you're 22. So I am gonna add all 3 of those up and wonder if you're not just some recent grad from SUNY whatever originally from Syosset who is living somewhere in Akita on the JET program (or Binghamton + Fukuoka, or something like that). JET is great but they do a LOT of hand-holding and it's quite a bit different from what I went through at Densu and a certain ForEx bank that shall not be named (never do Forex, it is an evil evil place). But hey, if I am wrong about your situation then hey, I told you I was just guessing here. Even if I am right, I am not disparaging it, I am just saying there are some significant differences which led me to the conclusions that I ended up coming to.