February 03, 2004

A wave of new spam is appearing in my InBox. Apparently there's a new tactic for spammers, just as ineffective in getting us to read them, but now they have a new tactic in getting around keyword filters. Now, instead of getting subject-line ads for prescription-free Viagra or Paris Hilton videos, with one letter misspelled or punctuated, you get totally random words. I delete them all the same, but now I occasionally get a laugh out of them before I do so. Take this example subject line from today's Bulk Email:

"arsenic eating freeswimmer explore exhalable counterflight"

Last night we spent in, due to hail and ice, and watched another Studio Ghibli Anime classic, "My Neightbor Totoro." Like "Castle in the Sky," it's primarily aimed at children, but there are some mature themes and mass appeal in each of them. "Totoro" was a testament to the originality and talent that Miyazaki has in his head. His ability to craft dramatic elements and intersperse them with fanciful, cute-as-can-be creatures is fantastic.

Anyone who hasn't seen Miyazaki's work should rent "Spirited Away", which won the Oscar for Best Animated Film for 2002. It's a bit more gruesome and a little out-there at times, but still a brilliant film. Even better is "Princess Mononoke" which has recently been released with some top-name actors doing the english voices.

"Princess Mononoke" is a great fable about how early industrialization conflicted with the spirits of nature, and a battle that ensued between them. It's amazing to me how Japanese culture can present the importance of environmental consciousness in the medium of anime like this. Japanese kids see this movie and make a mental note not to disrespect nature, otherwise this huge Gaian Boogeyman will come and get them. THEY get the message, for the most part. The struggle between industrialized humans and the natural world is played out in all it's anime glory, with armies of nature spirits, heroes and conflicted protagonists doing battle on large and small scales.

This is how Japanese kids learn to respect the environment. They have Miyazaki. What did American Kids get? "Captain Planet and the Planeteers." Thanks a lot for that! No, kids in America grew up more with the values of "G.I. Joe" and "Richie Rich", and grew up to think that they all deserved to be insanely wealthy, and that the country should kick the collective ass of any foe that dared oppose the flag. I will never forget Justin's favorite line from a G.I. Joe comic book: In order to stop a man who was about to burn the American flag, a grunt named RoadBlock warns, "Sir, please desist in your actions, or I will be obliged to reduce your head to a fine red mist."

So from American cartoons, American kids learned bravado, blind patriotism and that the world owed them everything. Japanese children, on the other hand, learned from Anime that it's all about harmony with your environment, and although there may be armies and huge battles, in the end it always comes down to your personal strength of character and beliefs. (This theme is widely used in Japanese anime and recently shown in the recent "Lord of the Rings" movies.) No wonder Japan has been quietly growing and eventually passing us as a world-class economic power.

This sounds more like the preface to a lengthy essay, but that's the "my two cents" version.

No comments:

Post a Comment