Manga, Wolfenstein, and Japan’s America-Envy

The Japanese are coming! The Japanese are coming! Over my fourteen years, I have been inculcated with the idea that the Japanese are encroaching upon America’s cultural turf like a surreptitious owl approaching an unsuspecting mouse. Indeed, Kenneth Horowitz, millionaire and former CEO of Cellular One, has lightly remarked that video games are a nefarious Japanese plot to enervate the minds of American children. Moreover, one can observe various indications of a Japanese takeover. As Sony dominates the technology market, sushi competes with apple pie to become the all-American food, and American car companies lose mileage to Japanese companies like Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Isuzu. Through examples like these, the idea that Japan has been invading American culture is suggested times over. The lynchpin of the argument is the Japanese effect on the video game industry; therefore, it is the area that beckons the most pressing attention. Yes, people frequently claim that one of the most duplicitous Japanese’s practices is increasing the violent and sexual content in our video games; “Vice City,” the video game world’s newest furor, is one of a myriad of games that are spattered with Japanese credits that the American tongue is forced to either skip or desecrate by their very utterance. But, when did this alleged Japanese pollution of American culture begin? The first clamor about video game violence occurred in 1975 about a company called Exidy Games. This is a name that would take the Japanese fifteen minutes to pronounce, and even then, they would probably end up with ekijidi gamisu, therefore, I believe it is safe to say that Exidy Games is not of Japanese origin. Exidy Games released “Death Race 2002,” a racing game, in which the object is to run over stick figures with a car. Death Race 2002 was the first game to instigate a nationwide outcry; the game was later banned. Therefore, it is a fallacy to say that the Japanese fomented the initial video game violence. However, many Americans would still insist that those darn Japanese are culpable for today’s alarming trend towards video game barbarism. But, au contraire, we must never accept prejudices like these, for they are the bane of human existence. The metamorphosis from an innocu -ous “Pong” to a vulgar “Vice City” began in 1991, with a game called “Wolfenstein” which broke the barrier into explicit violence. “Wolfenstein” was released by Id Games, a company based in Mesquite, Texas, astoundingly part of America. From this turning point into extreme video game violence, a race began to see who could cause the elderly to puke the most. We have endured “Quake,” “Doom,” and “James Bond,” until finally we arrive today at “Vice City.” Yet, the masterminds of “Vice City” can be traced to Rockstar Games, another one of those suspiciously not-Japanese sounding companies. Yes, it was the Americans who spawned the violence in video games; while the Japanese emulate vileness, the Americans originated it. Japan produces artistic, creative games, with intricate plotlines like the “Final Fantasies” and “Zelda;” America out performs Japan with the three D’s: decapitation, defenestration, and decimation, and, the Japanese hail the American garbage superior. Japan, not America, suffered from a coin shortage in 1978 because of arcade games. Like a Freudian problem, the Japanese suffer from America-envy, not visa versa. America-envy begins with manga. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, manga is the definitive Japanese entertainment; they are comic books, but they surpass our American comic books. Manga are drawn in greater detail, and eschew a predictable storyline. Quite numerous in pages, they are even perused by adults, and can be adapted to any genre from dramatic to satirical to pornographic. Yet, what may be the most popular Japanese entertainment generates in American culture. In 1947, during the American military occupation, Osamu Tekazu created the first real manga, “New Treasure Island,” based on the book of a similar title by Robert Louis Stevenson. During the post-war despair and in a blighted economy, over 400,000 copies of this new Japanese comic book sold, and thus, manga as a new product was conceived. “New Treasure Island,” which was largely influenced by American ideas, impacted thousands of manga artists to come. College students especially could not spend their yen on manga quickly enough, even when the manga companies published new issues weekly, in gargantuan, three-inch thick volumes. After the students graduated, they continued reading avidly, and they passed their love of manga on to their children. Comic book readers in America are far less zealous; I know my parents gave up “Archie” a long time ago, or at least when they reached their forties. The Japanese often dub these immense volumes kommiku, as a sign of homage to their Western counterparts, despite having far transcended the predictable and almost farcical adventures of comics like “Batman.” Osamu Tezuka went as far as to create anime, animated manga, which evolved from Disney; he again began with epics from America such as The Diary of Anne Frank and Heidi. Although anime and manga have both diversified from their American predecessors, they still are largely American influenced. Almost all characters in both have American faces, with American eyes, noses, and smiles. Rarely are there Japanese-looking characters. The Japanese even use ideas from American cartoons, such as having an debating angel and a devil hover above a hero’s head. Much like the video game craze, the Japanese are swept by a phenomenon that is American in its conception; they improve the phenomenon, and yet still exalt the Americans as the true masters. As I discovered in my research, America-envy does not affect only the cultural arena; it also infiltrates the Japanese language. The Japanese have been adopting American words, but as their tongues tie in their pronunciation, they end up with Japanese versions. Orange juice becomes orenji jiusu, hotel becomes hoteru, and McDonald’s becomes Makudonarudo. Hip Huggers have become hipu hugasu. My Japanese teacher says that she has difficulty keeping up with all the Anglicized words becoming integrated into the Japanese language. People of Japan even incorporate words such as witsu lubu (with love) to supplement already existing words. The Japanese language has atrophied so much that the prime minister recently appointed a committee of linguistic experts to create words to replace certain English terms adopted into their language. (Can you imagine George W. banishing foreign words from our language? Well, on second thought, he might place a tariff on the word entrepreneur). The fact that such a plethora of American words enter their language shows that Japan is afflicted by serious America-envy. Those who claim that Japan is driving American culture down are writing calligraphy with the ink of ignorance. On the contrary, America is spray painting Japan.