Many of us are into cultures from a certain foreign country, and feel that many things produced from that country are funny, interesting, or thought-provoking. Or maybe you’re a general culture nut and feel all the world’s cultures have something unique to offer.
In my case I’m still very enamored with Japan and Japanese culture, but there are other countries I’d like to turn my attention to someday. When I first saw Japan’s anime over 15 years ago I said “Wow, this stuff is so amazing – how did they think of this?” and I marveled at how different it was from the American cartoons I had seen up to that point. Based on my limited experience, I felt Japanese animation was more serious, had better art, and was somehow unspeakably unique and creative. I could start watching practically any series out there and enjoy myself for hours on end.
Jump forward to the present, and things have changed quite a bit for me. While I still do watch anime now and then, it’s harder for me to stay interested and there are many shows that just don’t catch my eye from the first few minutes. So what happened?
Surely, I’ve aged quite a bit and some might have said matured, so that “cartoons” are no longer appropriate for my age group. But I don’t feel that is the real issue here.
Instead, you could say I’ve simply gotten tired of Japanese anime, or more accurately gotten used to it. How could one ever get used to a form of entertainment and expression which is so “unique” and “creative”?
Herein lies the connection to this article’s main theme, which is that when observing a culture from the outside in – meaning when you aren’t a part of that culture – you have a certain bias towards many of the products of that culture. With a country like Japan that has been culturally separate from most of the world until relatively recently (~200 years ago), there is a large base of history, practices, ideas, and ways of expression that are naturally different from other countries.
But the more you engage with that country, whether it means living physically within it’s boundaries or consuming a great many of it’s products from afar, you become more attuned to how they do things. Patterns start to emerge, such as certain art styles and certain commonly-used character personalities. Just like your own culture, at some point you say for the first time “This is cheesy!”, and that realization is an important step on the way to truly understanding that country’s culture.
This is generally a good thing since it gets you viewing other countries closer to the way you view your home country. It also may spur you to branch out into other areas of interest, like Japanese dramas or even something like classical Noh theater (using Japan as an example).
Of course, some of us will stubbornly stay fanboys (or fangirls) towards a certain product or type of media, and thats OK too (: