“It smells foreign in here” the man in the train said. Apparently, Japanese style curry is still considered foreign food by the Japanese, as is Omurice (rice omelet), as is any food that can be eaten with as spoon and fork. This is ironic in that Omurice cannot be found in any other culinary culture outside Japan. Dark, racist undertones can be read into this train scene. I read otherwise. The whole episode loves what’s foreign, and by extension, the show and Japanese popular culture itself.
Big words from a non-expert on culture. I don’t mind being wrong so I’ll just have to be corrected by someone who knows better. This isn’t about “pro-Japan ergo anti-foreign vs. gaijinaboo &c.” It is perfectly true that one can love one’s culture, nationality, and race while participating in wholesale consumption of foreign culture.
While there are weaboos out there who happen to be American and yet cheered against the USA Women’s Football Team vs. Japan in the Women’s Football World Cup this year, there are also fans who happen to like anime, and would even consider themselves otaku, without wanting to be Japanese or hate America. I am Filipino and am thoroughly colonially hegemonized by American culture by way of my education, etc. and am also an anime fan with weaboo tendencies, but I love my own culture and happily celebrate it.
What do cultures do when exciting foreign cultural elements show up? We find that the Zentraedi reaction to Minmay/Ranka isn’t far-fetched.
We repurpose it. When anime showed up in the Philippines in the late 70s, we dubbed it in English (as I said, we are American hegemonized – I cannot write in my vernacular anywhere as easily as I write in English). We changed names. In Choudenji Voltes V, the main characters’ names: Kenichi Gou, Ippei Mine, etc. were changed to Steve Armstrong, Mark Gordon, etc. This is NOT really much different from what Carl Macek did with Macross, etc. and turned it into Robotech (Hikaru Ichijou – Rick Hunter).
Similarly, Filipinos have repurposed Roman Catholicism (as brought by the Spanish colonialists) into this weird animistic religion wherein Saints pretty much behave like Shinto deities who have jurisdiction over localities, among other things in our Catholicism remix.
Why? It’s all survival strategy baby.
The foreign element cannot completely eliminate the native cultural structure, despite colonization. The natives, even if they find the foreign element exciting, will not completely replace their incumbent cultures. They will however, change it up, transform it, localize it, adapt it to local tastes, use local ingredients and elements, etc.
This happens with food (curry), this happens with culture (LOL anime), this happens with language: Engrish, Taglish, etc.
The culture is a construct tied up with self-identity, which is very important to psychological survival, must indeed preserve itself. It must survive, so it will change the foreign element. It will make natives who are “purist” about their consumption of foreign cultural units (weaboos, etc.) into social outliers. This should say something as well about why Heroman was the way it was, and Tiger & Bunny is the way it is.
But I think a great way to show how this survival strategy plays out is through music. Rock & Roll is foreign to Japan. It’s the music of the country that bombed their cities to dust. But they like it because it is awesome. So they will rock out. BUT they will Rock over Japan, Engrish and all. SURVIVAL STRATEGY!