Continued from A Christmas Dialogue: R1.
We’ve said that religion is commodified and transformed into pop culture that is devoid of most religious value, and one way this happens is through anachronism, or really, the usurpation of anachronism.
Lucky Star even satirizes the rhetorical nature of new years prayer. What they also poke fun at is the fetishization of the shrine maiden, or the hardcore fans that actually do have a shrine maiden fetish. An article at Sankaku Complex [SFW] would dismiss any attempt at saying the shrine maiden isn’t sexualized, perhaps not in a dissimilar way nuns in the West are sexualized. One commenter posted: “I love [that] japanese culture [has] something different than the whole anime/manga stuff. It’s like Japan [has] two (or more) complete distinct worlds… the old and cultural one impresses me more than the modern one, though I like both.” I don’t necessarily agree with traditional vs. modern culture as “complete distinct worlds,” but it is a very perceptive insight into how, as I said, anachronism is utilized as cultural (often nationalistic) capital.
Danny Choo has an excellent photoset of this on his blog.
So the thing here to think about is how the past is rearticulated in the present as “cool” – it’s how old is turned back into new.
The first thing that comes to mind in relation to this is Washinomiya Shrine, the shrine featured in Lucky Star. As most of you may know, it’s an actual shrine in the Kanto region which thousands of Luck Star fans have made a pilgrimage to.
Now the shrine maidens in lelangir’s example aren’t really encouraging otaku to ogle them, it just happens to be a side effect they have no control over and are probably not aware of. But in the town of Washimiya the locals have actually capitalized on the anime’s influence by selling Lucky Star goods and even allowing otaku to carry a Lucky Star themed portable shrine (known as a mikoshi) during festivals.
Never mind for a moment how silly this looks, consider that it’s a prime example of religion incorporating pop culture and, like lelangir was saying, old meeting with new. This all seems like harmless fun to me but who knows, a couple hundred years from now and maybe Konata and the others will be incorporated in the legends surrounding the shrine. Kind of a strange thought, isn’t it.
Something to consider: what is the purpose of religiosity? To me it smacks of ritualized wish-fulfillment. Isn’t prayer a wish? The formula of prayer (Christian, New Testament) can be broken down this way:
- (a) Acknowledgment of God as God, his power.
- (b) Worship and adoration of God as God.
- (c) Wishes, please grant them.
- (a) Further/final acknowledgment of God as God.
The Lord’s Prayer [ecumenical English Language Liturgical Consultation (eELLC) 1988]
Our Father in heaven, (a)
hallowed be your name, (b)
your kingdom come, (a)
your will be done, (a)
on earth as in heaven. (a)
Give us today our daily bread. (c)
Forgive us our sins (c)
as we forgive those who sin against us. (c)
Save us from the time of trial (c)
and deliver us from evil. (c)
[For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.] (b)
Is anime a form of wish fulfillment? Consider the fetishization of shrine maidens. The fetishization itself is a wish, and anime is the prayer answered: Lucky Star’s Hiiragi sisters, Kannagi: “Crazy Shrine Maidens” is another. The mikoshi Lbrevis shows us is the prayer continued. The religiosity here is not asking for daily bread (unless sexual gratification is substituted as the signified), or for leading the religious away from temptation/saving from the time of trial. Nonetheless, it can be read as religiosity.
Forgive me if I’m gonna break the cycle here or contradict what I said before (or strike another tangent), but after all that’s been mentioned so far regarding the commodification of religion, the question is, if the object of worship in the religion becomes the 2D “gods/goddesses” who simply parodied it for fetishization purposes, as opposed to the deities meant to be worshipped in the religion (and the values it promulgates), can we even consider that to be religious? Taking what ghostlightning said, for example, it might seem silly that God (or any gods for that matter) would accept a prayer meant to fulfill his/her self-serving fetish wish which actually diverts his/her attention from the deity he/she is addressing the prayer to in the first place.
I don’t see anything wrong with the intertwining of religion and pop culture, especially if this is meant to inculcate the values being taught by the religion, allow people to have a newfound appreciation for it or something, but the moment the focus of the worshipper shifts to nothing else but the fetishized aspect, the fetish will have then become a religion of itself. Take Haruhiism for example.
Going back to the mikoshi scene as Lbrevis shown, I’d agree that it looks harmless, especially when you regard it as nothing else but a creative way of performing the rituals of the Shinto religion. If, on the other hand, these guys are doing this to worship nothing else but the Almighty Lucky Star goddesses, it’ll be a completely different story, as I’ve also said in the aforementioned paragraph.
Before you proceed to the attempted conclusion, please indulge us and consider these questions:
- Can being a fan be a ‘religious’ experience (consider hardcore fangirl/boying/Haruhiism)?
- Does anime make you wish/want for things as you watch the shows? Or, do you feel that the show itself is a wish fulfilled?