Tokyo Is Kyoto Spelled Backwards

Tokyo is Kyoto spelled backwards.

Recently, my English 2 class was given the opportunity to watch a brilliant and classic anime feature in class: Barefoot Gen.

The story is based on the attack on Hiroshima by the U.S. government and follows it in great detail, showing the emotional damage suffered by the Japanese and the physical effects on their bodies, minds, and lives. Based off of a manga by Keiji Nakazawa, it follows the story of a boy named Gen. Nakazawa-sensei himself was a victim of the bomb that dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. He lost his family to the attack and three decades later, wrote and drew the manga. It was then made into the movie(s).

The best part about this movie was that it had that older, crisp artistic style to it and it really brought me back to the nostalgic times when I saw anime on TV and wasn’t sure about what it was. However, the best personal experience I had was watching and hearing about what the other kids in my class thought of the movie- and anime itself. A few of the following express their thoughts and feelings:

“I’ve never seen a cartoon before that had that kind of stuff in it!”
“Did that guy’s eyes just pop out of his head?! Dude!”
“OMIGAWD! That lady’s breasts are showing!”

Of course, I had many comebacks and expressions to share with these people, but I let them stay locked in my throat, seething my tongue. I know it’s hypocritical, but one of my pet peeves is when someone comments so blatantly on something they don’t understand. However, I’ve realized that this is how humans try to make sense of that which they can’t comprehend. Still, it chaps my crack when one blurts out a comment without thinking.

Yet, this experience has allowed me to finally figure out what I want to explain to those who are not educated in the field of anime and manga in Japanese culture. So, for all you Otaku out there struggling with getting other Americans to acknowledge this media, here is an article for you! ^_^

For those of you besieged by people who can’t believe a cartoon for adults is serious.

In America, we hold a common notion that cartoons are meant to be for kids, unless it is a humorous, perverse cartoon, e.g. Family Guy, or The Simpson’s. But, when one who has rarely or never before seen an anime, the overall seriousness and depth of the show is a little overwhelming at first. Where they’re expecting some kind of joke or random act of violence, they may find a hard-core fight scene or an actual character dying.

Now, this may be because, in America, we have cartoons for adults that are meant to be extremely hilarious. But, we do need this. We all work hard trying to make a living and when we go home at night, we can sit down and have something to laugh at. It relieves stress and makes us forget about our worries for a short time. I admit, I am a fan of South Park myself, and I do look forward to watching it when I get a chance.

Japan has anime and other TV shows that have the same effect. You may have seen Shin Chan on [Adult Swim] a time or two. That’s only one of many other shows that they can relax to. Yet, many adults in Japan watch the more serious anime geared towards older people. I’m quite fond of Full Metal Alchemist and Death Note, both of which have their serious streaks. Shows that appear more deep and stern usually make us think more about life and, in a sense, become more sagely about the world around us. In other words, I don’t think a “cartoon” is always meant to entertain. It can also be used to stretch the mind and teach lessons that we may not have learned while in childhood.

For those of you besieged by people who don’t understand the term “graphic.”

Referring to the second expression in my “list” mentioned above, some people find a hard time believing what they’ve just seen when first experiencing an anime. Nothing says “explicit” like Sesshomaru sticking his finger deep into InuYasha’s eye, or Scar completely detonating Major Basque Grand’s head. Surely, this may be too much for the squeamish, but anime is not always flowers and sunshine (although anime like that do exist- but that’s besides the point!).

In fact, in the movie Barefoot Gen, you do see people’s eyes pop right out of their heads and dangle from their sockets, swinging like pendulums. You also see skin hanging off bodies like rags and women and children being disintegrated into nothingness, their shadows stained to walls. Yes, it is a vivid moment in the movie, but all these things really did happen. The scene brings to light the effects the bomb had on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events actually occurred and are painted in history. Graphic illustrations in many anime help to give the show a sense of reality. If a building is blown up, animators will normally show people blowing up along with it. It’s meant to show you what would actually happen, it gives a deeper sense to the plot and keeps your attention. America is used to having their shows usually “watered down,” although I do believe we are showing more graphic violence on TV nowadays. But, to see it in “cartoon” format is still a shocking incident for most Americans watching an anime.

For those of you besieged by people who believe nudity is for bedroom scenes.

Alright, it’s time to point this out. One of my top pet peeves, besides unashamed outbursts, is not understanding another culture and commenting on it like it’s wrong or beneath you and your beliefs. I want to cover this topic in all seriousness.

In Japanese culture, children are practically raised from birth to know that nudity isn’t about sex. As a matter of fact, some cartoons feature characters running around in the nude and kids are not affected by it. This is because Japanese children, especially, realize the difference between a drawing on TV and the real thing. Hey, a guy just ran across the screen buck-naked. Okay. That’s fine. No big deal, right? Well, for us it is. In America we deeply criticize those who would like to feature any kind of nudity for our children and their vulnerable minds. That’s why in the first episode where SpongeBob was “naked,” he was always covered or expertly hidden. However, in later episodes, we all just decided he was a regular sponge and, therefore, can run around naked and be seen fully without worry. Well, that’s okay too. It’s how we Americans are. However, decency and covering yourself up is a Christian notion. Now, I’m not dissing Christianity in any way at all, but it is the reason we scorn those who would like to be natural and let their bodily beauty show. We’ve been raised that way. And, that’s perfectly okay.

However, it does represent an obstacle when an American is watching an anime or reading manga with a woman without any coverage. I myself was slightly taken aback when I was reading my first manga, InuYasha, and Kagome was shown naked. However, I got over it and moved on. This is because, in Japanese culture, it’s okay to be nude. It’s a completely natural thing and they know it. How can something be forbidden if it’s true? I can’t say I know the answer to that question. It’s just how the world works and I’ve accepted that.

Barefoot Gen really is an excellent movie and it shows the history of WWII from the viewpoints of the Japanese in great detail. I loved the movie to pieces! I laughed and felt sad. I became frustrated and angry. It touched my heart and kicked me in the teeth. Good movies let you experience these emotions. Great movies move you to remember them.

Perhaps next time, I’ll dress up in a hakama outfit and teach my class how to use chopsticks and the phrase, “Itadakimasu!” Yeah… that’d be a job. But, as long as we have our differences with other nations, there will be misunderstandings and cultural obstacles to overcome. Then again, aren’t those cultural differences what make the world such an exciting place? I’d like to think so.

That’s it for my ranting this time around.
Lotsa love to all my fellow Otaku!
~Yosei (TheDarkAngel)

Oh, yeah. An explanation about the title of my article: Tokyo is Kyoto spelled backwards. It is. Think about it.
Putting it into Japanese hiragana,
Tokyo is: “To” and “Kyo”.
Kyoto is: “Kyo” and “To”.
Basically, just switch the hiragana around and you have the name of the other city. Fun, yes? Heh, heh, heh… I thought so… I thought it was clever…. well, Sayonara! ^_^