Wednesday, March 11, 2009

G.I. Joe vs. japanese Godzilla: Ever wondered why?

One thing I've been thinking about is how 80's TV shows for americans involved saving the world from evil villains who wanted to dominate the world, while japanese cartoons involve saving the city from total anihilation by giant monsters (from space or elsewhere).

After watching a recent movie about the CIA, I realized it was all about war.

For Japan, it was Hiroshima. A city was completely destroyed and the country fell into chaos. On the other hand, the 80's were for the U.S. about the cold war and the cuban missiles looming like Damocles' Sword upon the free world (read-as: The U.S.)

So, we have G.I. Joe, we have the Marvel and D.C. Cartoons (including of course, Captain America), we have space operas, but all of them centered around an evil villain wanting to rule the universe/galaxy/planet/whatever, and a team of heroes wanting to counter them (He-man, Silver Hawks, Blackstar, Bravestarr, etc).

Meanwhile, the Japanese have Godzilla, giant robots fighting giant monsters (again, all in the city) or invaders from outer space...

Notice the difference:

East: The bad guys just destroy the defenseless city.
West: The bad guys want to destroy the government.

East: The bad guys are ALWAYS more powerful than the military (remember, who lost WW2?)
West: The bad guys are ALWAYS less powerful than the military.

East: The bad guys don't care who they kill - the more, the better.
West: The bad guys only threaten to kill - to lure the good guys into a certain death.

East: The good guys defeat the bad guys even at a technological handicap. They're SMART!
West: The good guy can only defeat the bad guys with greater technology (a lesson well learned during WW2: The gun is mightier than the sword!)

This philosophical difference is also appreciated during modern cartoons and TV shows.


Robotech: Aliens come and destroy the planet - well, almost all of it, and the good guys defeat them using their own technology.
Slayers: Demons can only be defeated by summoning even greater demons (and we have to thank they can't destroy the whole world... yet)
Dragonball Z: The (insert your favorite enemy) wants to destroy the Earth.
Voltron: Aliens want to destroy the planet. How to fight them? With a giant robot, of course!

He man vs. Skeletor and his evil henchmen...
Spiderman vs. (insert your typical villain)...
Batman vs. (insert your typical villain)...
Superman vs. (insert your typical supervillain)...
Knight Rider vs. your typical thieves...

Anime is often criticized for its excessive violence. But there's something we have forgotten: We may have been scared about 9/11, but it was the U.S. who put the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagazaki. Do we have the moral right to complain about the excessive violence in japanese cartoons? But I digress.

The main difference is that while we were worrying about the cold war and the russians, the japanese were still trying to cope with the destruction of not only two of their greatest cities, but of their whole civilization. The stigma is still there.

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