Author profile:
Toyoshi Inada / Editor, Writer
After working for a Film Distribution Company and a DVD magazine publication as an editor, he became a freelancer in 2013. He specialized in film, manga, anime and pop culture. He was the writer of “Social Theory of generations of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” by Subarusya Linkage.

Quest for Heroism from Anima and Manga

In Western countries, anime is only for kids. However, adults in their ages of 30’s or 40’s in Japan still enjoy watching animation and reading manga. They revere a phrase or saying used in anime as their life lesson. Some people say it is an immature characteristic of Japanese, but I don’t agree with that. In my opinion, this tendency strongly relates to Japanese history.
At the time of World War II, people worship emperor as the living, spiritual god, and civilians uplift some soldier as an honorable hero. While connecting tripartite pact with Germany and Italy, Adolf Hitler and Mussolini were absolute dictators for Japanese nation also. However, Japan was defeated miserably and people felt that they were deluded by the hero who they believed in and trusted. That was the reason why they tried to avoid finding hero in their real life. Japan has had a problem of bringing charismatic person to heroism. While people are enthusiastic about John F. Kennedy becoming the president in the United States, there was none of those kind of political hero exist in Japan.
 However people always follow someone who they respect. Even if they are no social or political hero in their mind, it could be a religious leader if many Japanese are not atheist. Therefore, animated icon and manga character plays their cathartic heroism in exchange for having the real figure.
Writers who were born pre-war, they experienced the terrible loss in the battle and writers who were born post-war were given democratic ideology. Therefore even in fiction, they didn’t like the idea to draw a hero to play a role of political power. Heroes described in scientific fiction or fantasy world, story takes in a place in future, or in ancient times and scene might be in space and fictitious world. And those adult readers grew up and influenced by reading manga or watching anime which were created by those writers.

Also at that time there was another anime series popular in Japan. It was Sports-spirit-themed anime. Instead of those fantasy world, it takes a place in school activities in a small area, but still in fiction. In either case, Japanese anime was very different from the one in American comic which usually described a hero in political system in modern society.
 In conclusion, the reason why Japanese adults still looking for heroes in fictional world and guidance is that they are not custom to finding the one in real society. There are politicians and promoters who are highly respected, but not the way they admire charismatic figure like Son Goku from “Dragon Ball”, or Char Aznable from “Mobile Suit Gungam.” This will never change.

Photo credit: Carlos Torres / CC BY