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Anime Fandom and Growing Up “Asian”

ping-pong-the-animation-0104

This is an autobiographical post.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what anime fandom means to me. My “anime” life and my academic life are so tangled up together that I don’t actually know where one ends and the other begins.

My academic major is in Japanese studies and my goal in life is to translate professionally. One might call it a case of a hobby consuming my life, which I can definitely agree with to an extent. But I think it’s more accurate to say that my hobby was a springboard that allowed me to explore an increasingly relevant academic discipline. Being “literate” about Asia is an extremely important skill in today’s world, more so than ever before.

I could go on and on about Asia studies and how important it is blah blah blah but in the end, it comes back to anime. Anime was the first long-term exposure I ever had to an Asian culture outside of my own ethnic background, and many of the people I have met through this hobby are Asian, have Asian parents or family, or are connected to Asia in some way. I am half-Filipino myself. I might live in Australia, but for me, Asia is something that exists in my own backyard.

weaboo wapanese

I’ve been extremely busy with my academics lately. I had my exams this week, and today I attended a conference about promoting “Asian literacy” across Australia. I got to talk in front of some really influential scholars in the field, including Koichi Iwabuchi, who asked me to share some of my experiences as a student studying an Asian language in Australia.

That got me thinking. It’s my incessant desire to understand the “Asian” part of myself and the world that drives me to study Asia as an academic. It’s why I continue to study Japanese, long after I’ve learned enough to satisfy the “weaboo” criteria. But can I really consider myself “Asia literate”? As in, do I really understand Asia?

That’s a question Asia scholars love avoiding, first by problematising what we even mean by “literacy” and then by problematising the concept of Asia itself. But I think the general idea behind becoming “Asia literate” is developing that ability to accept and to think critically about another culture as well as your own.

So I thought to myself: I’d like to keep developing my thinking so that I can reach that stage. I’d like to contribute to the discussion about Asia literacy, in my own way, through my silly little internet blog about anime.

Before I knew it, anime has become not an escape from reality, but a way to connect with real people. That’s pretty neat.

Edit: Rikuo asked me some questions about my personal experiences with Asian culture, so I’ve decided to copy-paste my response here for those of you who don’t read blog comments:

My mother is Filipino who immigrated here over twenty years ago and my father is a quintessential white guy (he even has red hair!). Perhaps it’s the nature of being half-Filipino, but I’ve always felt like an in-betweener in both mainstream Australian (Western) culture and mainstream Filipino culture. I also don’t identify on a personal level with East Asian culture or any other kind of culture at all. Basically, I don’t belong anywhere.

Growing up, I never had any real conception of my Asian-ness. I don’t actually get asked about my ethnicity too often because I don’t “look” Asian. I never learned to speak Tagalog. I hung around with other Filipinos and Vietnamese, but didn’t really know the difference between them. It was only until I began to study Japanese in high school that I realised that there was diversity around me all along, and I became more conscious of my cultural heritage.

At university, I’m definitely more connected to Asian culture than I was as a child. My friendship circle these days consists mostly of Asians, and many of my classes bring me in contact with other Asians. (My Japanese classes have introduced me to Japanese students and teachers, but ironically, none of my close friends are Japanese.)

As far as I know, the label “Asian-Australian” isn’t nearly as common as the American counterpart. I’ve always identified myself as just “Australian”, because that’s where I happen to live. Australians seem to consider Filipinos as “Asian”, but to the East Asian ethnic groups, we’re somehow perceived as “not Asian enough”.

That article you linked does describe a social reality I’ve also observed. While I can’t compare the situation to America, Australians tend to perceive East Asians in particular as “elitist” and intellectually superior. In other words, we buy into the Asian stereotypes like hell. Australia has an “anti-elitist” culture, so the presence of Asian international students seems to have caused an imbalance in Australia’s education system, where many Australian students find themselves demotivated by the high achievers. Growing up, I also felt somehow threatened and intimidated by East Asians (mostly the Chinese), often comparing my academic scores to an elusive, imaginary “Asian” as a way of motivating myself to do better.

As for whether I perceive myself as having an advantage over other students when it comes to Japanese studies – definitely not. In fact, I have always perceived myself at a disadvantage compared to the native Chinese and Korean speakers in my class. While there’s a roughly equally proportion of Asian and mono-Australian students who take Japanese initially, at the advanced level, the proportion of Asian students is, like, 90%. I find myself working very hard to keep up.

At the same time, I think if I do have any “unique perspective” with Asian studies, it’s through my hybrid identity – because I identify as both Asian and Australian, and also as neither. So I’m deeply conscious that the so-called divide between cultures is pretty arbitrary. But that’s not really a unique perspective, per se, since it’s the mainstream academic opinion, and many Asian-Americans such as yourself probably also identify as a hybrid more than with one particular group.

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Posted on June 12, 2014, in Editorials and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. I’ve got an interesting question, especially since I keep hearing about how many Asians are in Australia.

    If Australians aren’t “Asia-literate”, are they “western-literate”, as in “Europe-” and “America-literate”? Asia is closer by, and there’s a very large Asian contingent, so I wonder.

    • Australia really likes to sell itself as a “multicultural” society, so the standard answer is that it’s both “Asia” literate and “Western” literate. But the reality is that the discourse is still driven by an Anglo-European point of view. The many ethnic groups in Australia aren’t totally integrated in our society (although we’re more integrated than many other predominantly Western countries, admittedly). We’re also a monolingual country. Schools have been trying to teach Asian languages with mixed results.

      But in terms of the proportion of our demographic, about half of all Australians are born overseas or have parents who are born overseas: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/business/jessica-irvine/australias-demographic-details-will-shock-you-almost-half-of-us-are-foreigners-or-their-children/story-fnj45kvd-1226810413762

      • I was actually thinking less of cultural heritage and cultural symbols being taken mostly from Europe, and the English language opening more American-influences, and more thinking about the daily lives, and the simple tropes.

        I’m not sure how to test it other than query Australians who visit Europe/USA, or Europeans/Americans who visit Australia, but how much of the current culture of these places are Australians literate in? How close in terms of societal norms?

        It’s also an issue here, since Israel is somewhat segregated from its surrounding country, and one could say the influence of western media, and the fact Israelis mostly vacation in Europe/USA has on the local culture.

        • I don’t think I’m qualified to answer your question since I’ve never been to either Europe or America.

          But my intuition says that Australians identify more with the British as a daily thing. We have a closer relation to that country, we play similar sports, and we’re also a Commonwealth country.

          • And for some reason, I find the Asians around me seem to have a British accent-esque when speaking English.

            • My cousin does that so much. I don’t even know why, but I like doing it too. I… I think I find it funny in the way English people like my “Herro how you doing” or other stereotypical asian accents. But for others I think they like it a lot.

  2. Well, the question is: How many tie do you still have with your Australian part? Do you willing to judge an Asian country’s culture on the standpoint of a part of that culture, or are you still judge as a Westerner?

    The best would be try to find a balance of both – you’ve got the advantage of your origin. It allows you to have many more perspective to look at.

    Also, you might want to narrow the “Asia” part to “West Asia”. The Middle East, Central, India Peninsula, South East Asia all has distingtive culture.

    (Also, you’re the second Philipino-origin person who live in Australia I know. The two do have a lot of common – namely both are fans of IS and fanfic writers. Well, life is a string of not! Coincidence.)

    • I personally identify more as Australian than as Filipino, with my caveat being that both Australia and the Philippines are very hybrid, multicultural countries. I identify with Australia because I live here, not because of some essential quality that makes me Australian.

      Narrowing down the boundaries of “Asia” is useful if we’re talking about specific aspects of culture, I agree, but in terms of the larger scheme of things – which is understanding other countries regardless of difference – I think a broader definition of Asia is more helpful in getting the message across.

      As for your last point, it’s a small world indeed!

  3. I’m mostly curious here. When you say “Asia literate”, do you mean understanding of the entire Asia, as in the many different countries and their cultures, or just a selected few? Because if it’s the whole Asia, that’s rather difficult due to its diversity, I think?

    • I think the issue here is not about gaining knowledge about whole regions or the entire scope of Asia (since no one can even agree on what constitutes Asia, anyway). Not even the most hardcore specialist will understand EVERYTHING about a country. It’s really more about understanding diversity itself. So the specifics of Asia don’t matter so much as the relationships we develop with these other countries that constitutes our “literacy”. Hope that makes sense!

  4. I don’t really know what’s going on here, as per usual, but I like commenting so I will. Language, history and culture of course, goes hand in hand and I think an understanding of culture is very important to fully come to terms with a language. I find that, so far, each language has its own quirks that may reflect that country’s history or otherwise, and I do think Japan’s anime/game culture is a promotion for Japan’s own culture and language and heritage – people want to understand what the underlying background is, or in my case, are just plain curious, especially in how they infuse western and eastern cultures.

    My sister once said to me once that Chinese (and by stretch I believe other Asian languages too) can be more in depth and complex than English can be, and I think appreciating that is a wonderful thing to do. I agree with her wholeheartedly. Languages are nice, I like them.

  5. Sometimes the separation between “Asian” and “Western” is less distinct than one might presume. At least in America, even the innocuous label “Asian-American” can be problematic. You’ll rarely hear anyone call themselves “Asian-American” but instead it’s “I’m Filipino, I’m Chinese, I’m Japanese”–and psychological studies have proven that with white Americans, Asian faces are still associated iwth a sense of “foreignness” or “exoticism” that is distinctly “un-American.” Fortunately, I live in California, where it’s pretty diverse and Asian-Americans are pretty well represented but it’s not like that across the country. It’s typical to get the “No, where are you really from?” because it’s not enough for people to accept, “From Chicago, or Los Angeles.” Or maybe they’re just darned curious about where your grandparents or ancestors lived.

    From an academic standpoint, I can’t say that my being Asian has hindered my literature studies (which concentrated in British and American literature). I did get some curious looks and some questions while studying abroad in England because people waned to know why I knew more about Spenser and Donne and almost nothing about ancient Chinese civilization.

    • Sometimes the separation between “Asian” and “Western” is less distinct than one might presume.

      Agreed 100% with this!

      I knew more about Spenser and Donne and almost nothing about ancient Chinese civilization.

      Well, that is pretty amusing haha. I’d say I know more about ancient China than Europe, so the boot’s on the other foot with me.

      I’m curious why exactly you initially chose to study British literature, as opposed to, say, something closer to your own culture. I imagine that you got a lot out of studying something that’s not necessarily expected of you :)

      • Believe me–I went through a whole gamut of majors before settling on English lit. I would say my decision’s partly due to the US public education system, where literature and history is typically very Western-centric, so I had a lot of exposure to American and British literature early on. I did have a couple of English teachers/profs who gave us some Asian writers as well, including stuff by Amy Tan, Haruki Murakami, and Khaled Hosseini, but I didn’t get to read very many Asian writers until high school.

        Not to say that I’m culturally ignorant of my Asian identity. I grew up on Chinese fairy tales (Journey to the West, the Butterfly Lovers, Cinderella, Legend of Madame White Snake), so I think on some level, this has influenced my taste in fantasy tales. It’s just that so much of what I’ve read is Euro or American centric, so that’s how the chips fell.

  6. If you don’t mind, a few more personal questions.

    Are Asian-Australian or Filipino-Australian or related terms commonly used, and do you identify with them? (Asian-American and American Born Chinese [ABC] are prevalent here in the USA.)

    Does being ethnically Asian ever give you a sense of having an edge over non-Asians at understanding Asian and Japanese culture? Have you ever felt superior to non-Asian weaboos due to being Asian and thus being more “legitimate” or “genuine”? (As pig-headed as it sounds, that mindset tempts me all the time.)

    How diverse were the communities you grew up in? Did you have many Filipino/Asian peers? If so, did they tend to flock together or form cliques? (I grew up in a heavily Asian neighborhood. Furthermore, my personal relationships were dominated by Chinese peers, whose parents were friends with my parents. Even the more open environment of college has been slow to change these influences.)

    Were you born in Australia? Are your parents immigrants? Do they speak the Filipino language at home? Do you? How often have you visited the Philippines? (I’m an ABC [see above]. Parents are both first-generation immigrants from Taiwan. At home they speak mostly Chinese and Taiwanese with each other, and a mix of Chinese and English with me. I don’t know Taiwanese. I’ve taken classes in Chinese from a young age. I’ve visited Taiwan many times. In fact, I’m there right now!)

    Do you personally know any Japanese people? Do you talk with them about Japanese language or culture? (I stayed with relatives in Japan this summer. They are Taiwanese, but their second generation grew up completely in Japan. So I guess they count.)

    • Extra: Any thoughts on this article? Agree? Disagree? Learn something new?

      http://peril.com.au/blog/culture/comparing-asian-australians-and-asian-americans/

    • My mother is Filipino who immigrated here over twenty years ago and my father is a quintessential white guy (he even has red hair!). Perhaps it’s the nature of being half-Filipino, but I’ve always felt like an in-betweener in both mainstream Australian (Western) culture and mainstream Filipino culture. I also don’t identify on a personal level with East Asian culture or any other kind of culture at all. Basically, I don’t belong anywhere.

      Growing up, I never had any real conception of my Asian-ness. I don’t actually get asked about my ethnicity too often because I don’t “look” Asian. I never learned to speak Tagalog. I hung around with other Filipinos and Vietnamese, but didn’t really know the difference between them. It was only until I began to study Japanese in high school that I realised that there was diversity around me all along, and I became more conscious of my cultural heritage.

      At university, I’m definitely more connected to Asian culture than I was as a child. My friendship circle these days consists mostly of Asians, and many of my classes bring me in contact with other Asians. (My Japanese classes have introduced me to Japanese students and teachers, but ironically, none of my close friends are Japanese.)

      As far as I know, the label “Asian-Australian” isn’t nearly as common as the American counterpart. I’ve always identified myself as just “Australian”, because that’s where I happen to live. Australians seem to consider Filipinos as “Asian”, but to the East Asian ethnic groups, we’re somehow perceived as “not Asian enough”.

      That article you linked does describe a social reality I’ve also observed. While I can’t compare the situation to America, Australians tend to perceive East Asians in particular as “elitist” and intellectually superior. In other words, we buy into the Asian stereotypes like hell. Australia has an “anti-elitist” culture, so the presence of Asian international students seems to have caused an imbalance in Australia’s education system, where many Australian students find themselves demotivated by the high achievers. Growing up, I also felt somehow threatened and intimidated by East Asians (mostly the Chinese), often comparing my academic scores to an elusive, imaginary “Asian” as a way of motivating myself to do better.

      As for whether I perceive myself as having an advantage over other students when it comes to Japanese studies – definitely not. In fact, I have always perceived myself at a disadvantage compared to the native Chinese and Korean speakers in my class. While there’s a roughly equally proportion of Asian and mono-Australian students who take Japanese initially, at the advanced level, the proportion of Asian students is, like, 90%. I find myself working very hard to keep up.

      At the same time, I think if I do have any “unique perspective” with Asian studies, it’s through my hybrid identity – because I identify as both Asian and Australian, and also as neither. So I’m deeply conscious that the so-called divide between cultures is pretty arbitrary. But that’s not really a unique perspective, per se, since it’s the mainstream academic opinion, and many Asian-Americans such as yourself probably also identify as a hybrid more than with one particular group.

      That was a lot to answer, whew! Hope that satisfies you :) And whoo, hope you’re having fun in Taiwan!

      • If I could upvote this thread I would. :)

        Also, being half-Chinese myself (my mother is pretty much yours, except swap out 20 with ~30 and Filipino with Chinese), I must say I feel almost exactly the same way about (discovering) my heritage that you describe in the opening paragraph(s). So…yea!

      • Thank ye, much obliged.

  7. Before I knew it, anime has become not an escape from reality, but a way to connect with real people. That’s pretty neat.

    This is a great finish. I haven’t yet found anime to be so influential in my life that it has become a way for me to connect with people, but it certainly has had a positive impact on my own self-awareness and even some of my daily behaviors.

    But, anyways, culture! I will continue to maintain that being involved in watching anime and the fandom was the best preparation I could have gotten for going to Europe other than actually having been to another country. Being so immersed in another culture’s media, which I dearly love, developed a sort of logical expansiveness in my mind that allowed me to be much more open to the quirks and traits of the numerous other cultures I encountered while over there. After all, if I can love only subset of another culture (and elements of the larger culture by proxy and learning), it’s not that much more of a step to love other cultures besides that one.

    • Yep, there are definitely advantages to being one of those weaboos ;) Europe must have been a great experience for you – you definitely do get more out of a trip to a foreign country when you’ve mentally prepared yourself beforehand to be open-minded and curious. I’m also glad you’ve gotten a lot out of being an anime fan (so far!)

  8. ケロケロ君!Filipino food or Australian food? Also, all this time I had this image that you were just a straight-laced white guy studying for your Japanese major. I don’t think I ever had the idea you were asian, much less Filipino.

    You make an interesting point about Asian-American vs Asian-x. Here in Hawaii, we don’t identify as Asian-American since I’d say over 70% of the population is asian. So we identify strictly as “what asian(s) are you?” (japanese, chinese, korean, filipino, etc.) The cool thing about Hawaii, too, is that since we’re practically an Asian island, anything asian is perceived as fine and dandy (points especially if it’s Japanese or Korean). Lots of people will talk about anime pretty casually, even adults (usually Ghost in the Shell or Akira). Everyone knows what anime is here and it doesn’t really have a stigma. Of course, we still do have the weird anime people :(

    Lots of people have this misconception that Hawaii is where you go to be Hawaiian for a vacation. Which is true but not really. The tourist attractions will pander to that for the tourists. But we’re really just an Asian mixing pot.

    Whoa. That went way off track. What were we talking about again?

    • Filipino food or Australian food?

      Ugh, both. Filipino food by a hair, I guess. (It’s healthier.) But I also love my meat pies and fish and chips… you’re making this hard for me.

      I had this image that you were just a straight-laced white guy

      This is not too far off from the mental image I have of every denizen I encounter on the internet: angry white guys until otherwise stated.

      Hawaii

      Bro, I didn’t know you were Hawaiian! I have heard about the high Asian population living in Hawaii, although I didn’t know the proportion was so high. Also pretty cool how anime and K-pop are so widely accepted – it’s a pretty similar deal in the Philippines.

      What were we talking about again?

      Hula dancers.

    • That just seems like my country^^ My country Brunei has a mixed race population, but a majority of them are Asians – ranging from Chinese, Filipino, Malays, Indian, Indonesian, etc… So likewise, we just identify as “what Asian are you?” Anime is also a pretty casual topic here, at least as far as I had experienced firsthand. You won’t get weird looks or get insulted for being a fan. Although in contrast, we are pretty ignorant, or to put it in better terms, “non elitist”. While there are few exceptions, we don’t really understand and comprehend the tropes in exact details, so we are really casual to the extreme. In fact, I think some might not even know what “otaku” is”, so using the word doesn’t really has any negative connotation whatsoever^^” Also, our tastes in anime are generally pretty mainstream. Chances are, anything popular in America, it’s popular here.

  9. It seems as though Australia has a fairly similar culture to the UK where I live. The notion that people from Eastern Asia are intellectually superior is a very common stereotype, and the Uk is also a melting pot of many cultures. Within the general population, high intellect and status is often stigmatized. Quite worryingly, our anti-elitist culture has dramatically grown in recent years. In a recent European parliament election, UKIP (a heavily right wing party) gained the majority of seats. This was largely due to the party’s leader presenting his persona as “a bloke from the pub” rather than somebody from the upper echelons of society like most other party leaders.

    But there are some stark difference between the two cultures that I began to see whilst reading this post. If you told somebody in the street that you were Asian in the UK, they would have a very different perception of you than what people would think in Australia. In Britain, being Asian means that you originated from South Asia, rather than the East. “Asians” in the UK are rarely viewed as an intellectually superior race, but rather a group that usually exists in the lower tiers of society. With my heritage coming from Pakistan (both my parents were born there), I am considered to be Asian. People from the East are almost invariably referred to as Chinese, regardless of whether they are Korean, Vietnamese, and in many cases, even if they are Filipino. This is in large part due to the UK’s demographic, in which there is a much larger Indian and Pakistani population than Eastern Asian groups, so people from Eastern Asia are bundled together into one mass.

    The “Asians” in the UK are rarely viewed as the high achievers, since they excel in very few fields (with the exception of medicine). Rather than it be demotivational to have an Asian in your class, they are often perceived to be easy people to surpass. Of course, there are exceptions, since I am quite academic myself. I have always been made aware of my heritage, that I am different from the white society. This is the case for many people with a similar background to me, and this often leads to segregation on a large scale. The town I live in has a startlingly evident divide where the residents go from predominantly South Asian to white. It would be interesting to contrast this with Australia, which as you stated “likes to sell itself as a ‘multicultural’ society.” Britain on the other hand seems to hide that fact, and it often dismisses its large immigrant population. With the recent political advances of right wing parties, the disdain towards immigrants, and South Asian cultures in particular, is apparent.

    Sorry if I went a little off topic, but I find it very interesting to contrast the two countries. I love to hear about how people from South Asia are perceived in Australia since there seems to be some clear differences between how the two countries view their immigrant population. And I like to see the “Ping Pong” screenshot at the top! I’m really into that series at the moment!

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences! It was very enlightening to hear about what the situation is like in the UK. From what you describe, Australia is a lot more openly multicultural than Britain. While racial communities still tend to live separately over here, there’s a lot of racial mingling in cosmopolitan areas. If you walk down a street in Melbourne, you’ll see so many different people of different nationalities on the street you’d find it difficult to tell what country you’re in at first glance.

      To answer some of your questions: there’s a fairly large amount of South Asians in Australia, especially Indians. Unfortunately, Indians are more heavily prejudiced against than other kinds of Asians. I’ve heard my own family members utter some shockingly racist remarks about Indians and how uncaring, opportunistic they are, etc. Part of this has to do with how many taxi drivers and other relatively unskilled professions tend to employ Indians.

      In general, though, Australia really likes its immigrant population – as long as they’re skilled and can speak English. Australia expects immigrants to conform to Australian standards and to know really obscure trivia about Australian history before they can become full citizens. There was actually a funny report that many native-born Australians are incapable of passing our citizenship test. There’s been more effort in recent years to promote Asia literacy nationwide, but it doesn’t match the rate at which Australia’s immigrant population is growing.

  10. Interesting post, as always. I’m also racially mixed in that my mom is white and my dad was Korean. However, since I was raised by my mom, I never learned any Korean. Like you, anime is what helped influence me to major in East Asian/Japanese language and literature at my university. It’s funny that whenever people ask what race I am (which happens sometimes) I say half Korean and half white/American, though really it should be half Japanese and half American since I know way more about Japanese culture and language than Korean XD Some people have thought I’m Japanese based on looks too.

    What you said about most anime fans you meet being Asian is also interesting too since, whenever I go to anime conventions or trading card tournaments (such as for Weiss Schwarz) I would say Asians outnumber other races. But among the many personal friends I’ve made over the years who like anime, either through work, online, or school classes, most are surprisingly not Asian.

    • You’re half Korean? I would never have known. It’s funny how you say you know more about Japanese culture than Korean culture, since I’m in the same boat except with Filipino. I actually know more about Korean culture than Filipino culture (because I’ve taken a few units about Korea). Nevertheless, I would still say I identify more with the Philippines than with Japan or Korea. So… it’s complicated!

      I also find it curious that most of the anime-loving friends you’ve made are not Asian. The cool thing about anime is that it appeals to everyone, regardless of racial distinctions.

  11. As someone from Malaysia, I really don’t know what to think of Filipinos as ‘not Asian enough’. For God’s sake Middle Easterners are technically Asians.

    I have a buddy in the US who is part Filipino, part Caucasian. His Filipino mother emigrated to the US, his dad is your average WASP. And while I’ve never seen him in person, he doesn’t really strike me as Filipino.

    The things we discuss all the time is either video games, religion, politics and everyday life. He never even knew I was Malaysian until I told him, he thought I was a Westerner of sorts. This is likely due to the fact that I sound like an American English speak IRL and I write like one too.

    I can’t speak how our ‘Asianness’ affects us. We don’t watch much anime, we talk games for the most part. And from my personal experience, if you talk about games with anyone who is passionate about said game, you somehow become a ‘gamer’ with no real sense of national identity. When it comes to gaming discussions, I always imagine a faceless white male until said otherwise. Idk what that says about me but I think I’m not the only one.

    Regardless, I think when it comes to the things you love, whether it be religion, films, games or anime, borders and cultures really break down. My Filipino/American buddy may be a Christian and I may be a Muslim, but we’re both geeks at heart, have normal lives and make fun of our own politicians.

    From that, there’s some sort of beauty in it I guess.

    • Bravo, really well said! Especially at the end there.

      Yeah, I find the lesser reputation Filipinos have to be kind of sad. The stereotype seems to be that narrow eyes = Asian. Filipinos are also very, very Americanised, so their traditional culture isn’t as pronounced as other, more outwardly nationalistic Asian countries.

      I’ve felt the same thing as you about the internet breaking down national borders. Whoever you meet on the internet these days is more likely NOT to be the stereotypical white guy. (I admit I still tend to assume whoever I’m talking to is American = white = male unless otherwise stated.)

      While it’s true that a person’s ethnicity isn’t important when getting to know them through their hobbies, you end up learning a lot more about them when they do come out and describe themselves. So I like conversations like these – they’re good to have once in a while.

      Back to actual anime and stuff next post though ;)

      • I agree with you. I live in an area of the US with majority population being Filipino, and I can say there is a lot of diversity in Filipino people. Some look almost Chinese(my cousin is actually half Filipino-Chinese), and some look part White or Latino.

        Even though I grew up with Filipino friends and classmates, I did not really know anything about the Philippines except “Adobo” and “Bakla”(don’t think I spelled that right), because everyone’s so Americanized, even though their parents speak Tagalog. Chinese-Americans on the other hand usually talk more about their culture, at least from my experience, and some families(like my father’s) cling to some of their social norms like the dreaded “ke qi”… This means if my parents and grandparents go out to dinner, when the bill comes, they will be… arguing over who will pay the bill, like… “No, I will pay the bill!”, and they will keep arguing over it for minutes before someone finally gives up.
        I think it is more-so that Filipino tend to be more accepting of adapting to western culture than Chinese, but that’s just an observational guess.

        I once heard about a girl who was given a gift from her aunt, and she accepted it… and later on, that same aunt complained to the girl’s mother, calling her selfish for accepting the gift. @_@
        Well, it’s not that bad in my family, but I feel sorry for her. >_<

      • Malaysians are mostly compromise of Malays (which I am), Chinese and Indians. I’m no human genetics/racial expert but SE Asians, that is the surrounding of Indonesia, Philiphines, Malaysia and everything in between aren’t squinty eyed with light skin. I guess the demographics of brown skin, normal eyed, black haired Asians is something most of the world isn’t familiar with.

        I find it hillarious that Filipinos eat rice with their hands like Malaysians do but Thai people mostly use spoons. I learn that from a bunch of Southern Thai students who were foreign exchange students on my course. The country sharing the border eats rice differently than us but the country across the sea eats the same. It’s the little cultural things.

        I also find very similar things when it comes to Malay and Tagalog, a simple example is selamat which means thank you in Tagalog, safe in Malay but is derived from slm meaning peace from Arabic. Sorry if I’m boring you with this talk of linguistics but it’s so fascinating that humans share such things.

  12. Hmm, I usually refer to the Philippines as part of “SEA”, or South East Asia… and then with China, Korean, and Japan, I refer to those as “East Asia”.
    I usually have to use those terms when I explain about cultures/societies in those parts of Asia since they can be quite different in different “regions” of Asia but shared between certain countries in the same “region” of Asia.
    For example if I want to explain about the whole plastic surgery topic, I will want to use “East Asia”, so people won’t assume I am including India or Saudi Arabia as countries that have high incidences of plastic surgery.

    Where I live in the USA, the majority of the population in this city is Filipino, followed by either Chinese or Mexican/Latino, but of the Asian people I know, we do still refer to ourselves as just “Asian”, “Filipino”, or “Chinese”. I actually do not hear “Southeast Asia” used here in real life, only online(particularly for online game servers).

    For me, I am just half Chinese, so I can’t really say I’m “Chinese”, so I usually just go with “Asian”, or if I feel like explaining, I will explain I am “half Chinese and half Japanese born in a US airbase in Okinawa and moved to USA at 5 years old with no knowledge of Chinese language and only somewhat fluent in Japanese”.

    I do not really understand the meaning of “Asia-literate”, though. Does that refer to fluency in an Asian language, or Asian culture/society?

    • To be “Asia-literate” could mean a bunch of things. It usually means to have some kind of working knowledge about Asian culture/society, and to have a working knowledge, it often means knowing the language, although that’s not always strictly necessary. (It certainly helps, though!)

      I personally interpret being “Asia-literate” not as knowing things about Asia but being open-minded and willing to learn and communicate.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  13. Frog-kun your non-asian-ness actually kind of shows in this post. =P

    There are quite a few subdivisions in Asia: East Asia being the most well-known one (China/Korea/Japan; Viet is half-n-half), SEA (where Philippines goes under), India subcontinent, Middle East, and Turkic Central Asia (where the various -stan nations go, and Mongolia/Siberia, when they don’t consider themselves an isolated group). The most interesting aspect? None of these cultural groups really accepts others as their own. Their attitudes, even those regions neighboring one another, make it seem like they’re from completely different continents…

    East Asia is what we most prominently think of as “Asian”. They are also the most elitist of the group, both culturally and intellectually. A common joke among East Asians is that “we all hate each other”. So unless the other is from the same country, the number of derogatory stereotypes will easily shoot through the roof. ^^”

    This is particularly so for Japan. Its cultural xenophobia is well known among other East Asians. But at the same time, the other Asian cultures often consider it an outcast, accepting Japanese concepts (like anime) as “Asian” when it suits their views and kicking them back out to the moon whenever Japan does/makes something embarrassing — much like a half-adopted half-disowned child of the family…

    I’ll stop droning on now lol. Bit of a culture nut. XD

  14. Back to anime. What do you think of Mahouka and its right-wing nationalism? What would be enough for someone like Tatsuya to understand the people of Great Asia Alliance, or Asian as the whole? And what would be enough to be called a Japanese?

    Or everyone has adopted a radical look because of wars? The reverse of anime and arts in general?

    Also, don’t push yourself too much. Even to the north Vietnamese Kinh people, a lot of things of the southern doesn’t make sense, and vice versa, although we’re one same race.

    • I can’t really comment on Mahouka since I’m only watching the anime and the anime hasn’t really gotten to its right-wing nationalist parts yet. But as for what I think of uber nationalism in general, it’s something that’s obviously harmful and can’t be fixed overnight. Many overt nationalists are that way because of very limited experiences with people from other cultures, so the only way to fix that kind of attitude is to encourage as much open dialogue between different countries as possible. In the case of the Japan-China-Korea relations, I think it means Japan needs to sincerely apologise for the past, rather than attempting to sweep ill feelings all under the carpet with pop culture.

      As for what it means to be Japanese, I honestly think it just means having a Japanese citizenship on your birth certificate and/or passport. But I understand that Japanese nationals (and even those that don’t identify as nationalist) think that it’s all about ethnicity and who your parents are. I don’t buy into the “homogenous Japan” myth at all and I think it’s snobbish/elitist to expect nationality to be so narrowly defined.

      My impression is that the author of Mahouka sincerely buys into ideas about Japan’s uniqueness, the inherent “Japanese-ness” of otaku culture, and that if he wrote any story, these ideas would probably seep into the narrative somehow. It’s not an uncommon stance among hardcore Japanese otaku, but it is a regrettable one.

      • I have yet to open any Japanese historical textbook but if they don’t say how the Japanese were horrible horrible people on the rest of Asia, they need to apologise. In Malaysia, the Chinese got it worst.

        Hey, new topic for your blog! I look forwards when you do discuss it. Nothing rakes in view more than nationalism!

        What could possibly go wrong?

      • Say hello to the Ooguro Ryuuya. He wiped out the enemy and revived his ally. A devil at best, and an Otaku’s wet dream at worse.

        Do you think a soldier, even the one that had came closest to God, could truly get past of his experience and embrace the future?

        Vietnamese does, but looking at Chinese and Japanese now, I doubt it.

        Also, do you know that in 1972, when the then Japanese Prime Minister, Kakuei Tanaka, apologised for what Japan did during the war, “Chairman Mao told him not to apologise because ‘you destroyed the Kuomintang, you helped us come to power’,” Prof Dujarric says.

        This would be a good read: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25411700

  15. As a fellow Australian, what would you think of the statement that “Australia is a land of stereotypes”? I know this is a question which comes out of the blue, especially for one who is born and raised here however it seems to have come to my attention that we are a people who often apply stereotypes to people, both in humor and in seriousness. I know this is a global issue as well however from what I have seen, things which here are taken as the normal sense of humor would cause serious offense overseas. I suppose I myself may be being stereotypical of my own people in saying this but from my own observations I can honestly say that Australians seem to impose stereotypes on everyone, normally in good humor but in many cases this is not the case.

    I am not certain though I am lead to believe that out of all the countries in the world Australia is amongst the worst for the stereotypes presented in its humor and of course some of the language chosen so I must ask as someone born overseas… Is the comparison really as stark as some would suggest? I know many of those who migrated over here often joke about their own heritage and that slightly concerns me as I consider that some of the humor Australians put forward may seem a bit… Well… Disturbing to someone coming here who was not at the very least used to similar humor elsewhere and that these people may feel pressured into degrading their roots in order to fit in with the culture. I’m not saying that I frown upon the humor at all, rather if it isn’t hurting anyone then I don’t mind it but well, my concern is that it may be so… Well I suppose the entire question I’m asking is if there is something fundamentally morally wrong with the way this society presents itself to foreign nations through its humor and its behavior.

    • Sorry, I would like to alter my post, having mistranslated part of your post as you having been born overseas, I’m not sure how however it seems my mind has… Sorry again. So please ignore the ” as someone born overseas” part. Thank you. Sorry again for any confusion V_V

    • I can’t speak about other countries in detail, but the way I see it, the cultural stereotyping stems from one particular desire; Australia must have a unified sense of cultural identity. This is where the Bogan image comes from – it’s an attempt to create a uniquely “Australian” identity. All the other racial stereotypes are used to enforce our Bodan image – the stereotypes showcase our “Bogan” sense of humour. I’ve been told (and shows like What Really Happens in Bali enforce this as a stereotype too) that Australians act more “Bogan-like” when they are overseas.

      I’d hesitate to say this attitude is “fundamentally morally wrong”, but it is certainly misguided. Part of the Australian image is to encourage interracial mingling. Relatively speaking, it’s not hard to live in Australia if you’re a foreigner. We have a well-known reputation overseas for being friendly and accommodating. Our attitude encourages “acceptance” (you and I are mates, therefore equal) but not really understanding. So Australia’s culture is deeply resistant to influence from non-Anglo European countries. That goes all the way back to the White Australia Policy – even further, in fact. Failing to acknowledge cultural differences beyond superficial aspects entrenches the idea that “White Anglo-European” culture is the default culture of the world. Pretending that everyone is the same on the inside does nothing to solve issues like racism. The sentiment is noble but ultimately very naive.

  16. This was a rather enlightening perspective.
    Growing up as a Taiwanese/Chinese American, I didn’t really think about the cultural connections to the anime I watched. I mean, as a kid the most I knew about Japan was that it was somewhat Chinese influenced(character wise) and had samurai, etc(yeah, ignorance).

    There’s a sense a mysticism that was given to Japan because it seemed to this technological and cultural superpower(likely because of the economic boom that lasted until the 90’s). But as I grew older, it was interesting to see some of the historical relationships different cultures and nations had. When I visit Taiwan, I can still see a lot of remnants of the Japanese influence from its occupation. And though Japanese and Mandarin are obviously very different linguistically, the use of kanji gave me a bit of a jumping off point to at least get a feel of its culture.

    I don’t think Asian heritage necessarily gives you an edge in understanding of other cultures, but your heritage can let you know how interconnected the world is. It builds various bridges.

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