Another world

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

  • Wandering around Japanese cities can often be a somewhat eye-opening experience. Their culture is quite unique; the bowing, the funny way they greet you as you enter stores and restaurants, the way their magazines are back to front, and their ultra complicated toilets. I could go on, but suffice to say there are a number of things that set Japan apart from even its nearest neighbors.

    Today I found myself in a part of Osaka that seemed to be entirely dedicated to gamers and fans of Anime and Manga; Japanese cartoons and computer animation.

    Around every corner there were large open stores that seemed to spill out onto the street with brightly colored signs and mix of several different audio sources all playing at once. I went exploring and it wasn’t long before I found myself staring at things and thinking “What the…?”

    Many of the stores I wandered into sold Anime/Manga figures, little pvc models of popular Anime and Manga characters with their impossibly large eyes, breasts, and long legs. Some stores had rows and rows of vending machines dispensing figures, while others were clearly more targeted at the devoted collector.

    These figures are not cheap either. By way of an example, the main figure in today’s picture, is (I believe) Boa Hankokku, and this Christmas themed figure was selling for ¥39,000 (£320 / US$516). Behind that, the figure with blue hair was on sale, marked down from ¥19,800 to ¥16,800 (£138 / US$222).

    I suppose collecting these little figures is not that much different to collecting anything, be that tea pots, stamps, vintage cameras, or whatever else you can think of. But as I looked at the various figures, many of them in fairly advanced stages of undress, I wondered what kind of person collects them, and where do they put them? These little dolls might raise an eyebrow or two of the people outside of Japan, but here Anime and Manga comics often seem to cross a rather blurry line into what seems to me to be porn, albeit rather bizarre cartoon porn.

    But then that’s the thing. In this country where people go to great pains to be polite and respectful, and where the culture would seem to be very conservative, there are stores everywhere selling adult material from sketchy Anime comics, to DVD’s, and beyond.. way beyond! So while a country like India might feel like a world away, Japan itself is a door to another world; a virtual fantasy world where everything is possible, legal, and completely bizarre to the casual uninitiated observer.