Articles Trash Culture For A Handful of Nippon
 

For A Handful of Nippon For A Handful of Nippon Hot

fatpika.jpgSpent a quiet afternoon last weekend in Uppsala, a small city some 70 kilometers north of Stockholm. The place is about three times as old as anything built by white folks in the US. In more recent years Uppsala is where the UppCon Manga & Anime-convention takes place. The BIG Manga & Anime Event in Sweden if you ask the local Nippophiles.


























 



Question was: would this be a place where it would make sense to rent a booth and sell games? There are after all some very manga-ish games out there and a lot of the Nippophiles have other geeky interests.



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The convention is held is an enormous glass and steel cube placed in the middle of huge slab of concrete. It looks a bit strange among the century-old buildings in downtown Uppsala. On the slab there are scores of kids running around. I felt very sorry for all the girls who, despite the cold, felt they had to runabout outside dressed up in so little. Monday morning must have seen a lot of colds. Anyhow. The convention has some 3000 attendants, mostly in nippo-costume and younger than twenty. One wonders where these fans go when they can’t hide that they are pushing thirty anymore. Perhaps they all take up live role-playing where you can be a wizard AND over nineteen.

japseven.jpgInside there are of arcade games everywhere.  And a dedicated video game hall where the racket is unbelievable. And dancemats. And there are people dressed up as big furry pets dancing on the dancemats. (Two out of place looking goth girls in SS-caps and matching leather outfits watches the rocking rodents. They probably got their Japanese sub-cultures mixed up.) Fashion-wise, the school-girl-vamp-from-space-look seems as popular as ever and I get a long lecture on Lolita Culture by a girl that looks like porcelain doll. There are lots of different Lolitas, you know.  Cute Lolitas, Sweet Lolitas, Punky Lolitas, Dirty Lolitas and so on. All the way to the False Lolita who is a shame and a disgrace to the whole of Lotlitahood. A curse on all of her petticoats. 
 

Some things grow on you after a couple of hours of mingling with the mangas. First of all.  A couple of fanzines aside there are no book/comic stores present. Or movie stores. I spot one booth selling Japanese music, but that is about it. A bit odd considering the whole culture is based on comics. There is actually not that much shopping going on at all, most likely because the audience is pretty young. Though there are a lot of stands. But most of them sell little cute things of one kind or another. Or promotes some little sub-sub-culture. There are PA announcements asking people to please take their seats for the concert that will start in 30 minutes. The band will only play a seated audience. No headbanging, please. We are Japanese. 
 

Come to think of it no one plays or sells CCGs. No Pokemon, no Yu-Gi-Oh, no nothing. Even weirder. Perhaps there is some geek-credibility-thing. Kids play Pokemon.  Pokemon is on regular TV. I used to play Pokemon, but now it has become so popular and commercial. Or perhaps not. The more I look at the crowds japtwo.jpgthe more I realize that people are mostly hanging out. Perhaps that is the point of the whole show. To socialize. To meet your online geek buddies. You are the only Punky Lolita in Scaryville and at last you can meet some other Lolitas (and a giant ferret and two SS-girls) and just hang out and talk about normal stuff.  Like all those incredibly cute things you can buy. You don’t want to buy card-games from some boring fart that is obviously over twenty. Like he’ll know shit about Baby Loilitas.

Lets go to the speed dating instead. The kids actually speed date, or speed chat. In three minute sessions along a very longtable. Eighty kids comparing notes on cosplay, favorite movies and the sufferings of Lolitas in horrible Swedish small towns. The noise-level is impressive and no one seems to need three drinks before to get going.   
 

I realize another thing after a while. It is the cute stuff that gets to you. Japanese style is either ultra-Spartan and meditative or obsessed with cuteness andtacky for tackiness own sake. And all the cute little monsters get quitetiresome. As does all the short skirts on giggling adolescent girls. A manga convention is a very un-sexy place, indeed, unless your thing is hordes of cute little monsters or giggling adolescent girls. All the creepy stuff with tentacles and that seem to happen at an instant in manga comics is very far away. Thankfully. 
 

In the end.  Coolest thing at the convention? Besides the wonder of cultural shock? The dolls.


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I talk for japfive.jpgwhile with this girl who makes clothes for these fantastic 50cm high dolls. And, mind you, these dolls are not just any kind of overpriced porcelain dolls, these are JAPANESE overpriced porcelain dolls. Each one of them goes for 600 USD before you even get around to make their costumes and paint their faces. And price tags aside the costumes are indeed spectacular. The craftsmanship is stunning and the detail fantastic. Barbie has nothing on thesegirls. And Ken (Ed. Note:  Not me, the actual Ken Doll) would kill for one of those suits. 
 

In the end,so I don’t forget that this is Japan, I get informed of the doll hobby’s darker sides. There are other kinds of 600 USD Japanese dolls. Ones that don’t have bodies of sexless athletic twelve-year olds. These are more Kasumi-like, with chests so big they fall over. And with working “other parts”, to quote the girl in the booth. The boy dolls can even “get happier” if you want them to.  Doll-both-girl says it as if it is a pretty normal thing. Every sweet, artistic Japanese thing obviously has its dark kinky twin. Just like the Cute Lolita has its False Lolita. And there is a drunken Dark Pikachu to every, adorable, furry Pikachu. Perhaps there is some cosmic balance thing going here. Something very YingYang-oriental wisdom-ish. 


 
The final question is of course, what bearing does this insight have on sushi?





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Comments (30)
  • avatarubarose
    Quote:
    Coolest thing at the convention? Besides the wonder of cultural shock? The dolls. I talk for while with this girl who makes clothes for these fantastic 50cm high dolls.

    They are called Super Dollfies. The knock offs are called BJDs. They a can be very beautiful or very creepy. Dollfie owners are a sub-culture all their own.

  • avatarGary Sax

    It's interesting how divorced the anime/manga culture has become than all the other nerd hobbies. That particular hobby has really gone out of its way to completely divorce from games, video games et al to try to do only its own thing.

    I've become so disgusted and bored with japanese culture. Some part of that has to do with japanese culture and some of it has to do with the filter I get it through. I never thought I would move back so decisively toward American and European entertainment and culture. I used to be in jRPGs, enjoy some anime, all that stuff.

  • avatarShellhead

    My girlfriend was a huge anime fan, but after a couple years of using her Netflix account to watch an average of at least 30 hours of anime a week, she got completely burned out on it. Lately, she has been watching nature documentaries and yoga workouts.

  • avatarimbiginjapan
    Quote:
    I've become so disgusted and bored with japanese culture. Some part of that has to do with japanese culture and some of it has to do with the filter I get it through. I never thought I would move back so decisively toward American and European entertainment and culture. I used to be in jRPGs, enjoy some anime, all that stuff.

    Now I'm painting with a pretty broad brush here and I really don't want to make a blanket statement about Japanese culture or people, as we folks on the other side of the Pacific would expect the same consideration.
    It often seems like the overt side of Japanese culture (by that I mean the "pop" culture that tends to leak over its shores) has fetishized affectation and artificiality to an insane degree. I'm sure many people would say the same about the US, but here we're usually talking fake boobs and eye makeup, there we're talking fake people. It's like there's a cultural aversion to human contact that forces people to create proxies, sometimes cute and sometimes terrifying, through anthropomorphic animals, dolls and robots.

  • avatarimbiginjapan

    For an example of what I'm talking about google "Eternal Maiden Actualization"...

  • avatarmoofrank

    A: Warren Ellis did a great novel called "Crooked Little Vein" about how fetishes have becomes mainstream. You have to get to the seriously twisted stuff now to even raise an eyebrow. It is only a half-serious novel, even with a chapter on Kaiju Bukkake.

    B: Japanese culture at large looks down on the Otaku who are into this kind of stuff. The culture is quite large and frought with pervy.

    A lot of Japanese culture still avoids this stuff, but Manga is rapidly becoming more popular. The sight of a Japanese businessman reading one is becoming rather common.

    I'm quite fond of some of the horror stuff, myself. And Sandi is obsessed with Blood and Blood+ at the moment.

  • avatarAnders Fager

    YO! Admin, I tried to upload a couple of images to go with this one. Did you get them?

  • avatarhancock.tom

    Fortress: Japanitrash (tm)

  • avatarubarose
    Quote:
    YO! Admin, I tried to upload a couple of images to go with this one. Did you get them?

    After you upload them, YOU have to insert them into the article. The forth and fifth bullet in the submit article instructions explains how to put images into your article.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Weep with me, won't you, for the death of western civilization.

    I miss when "anime" was "Japanimation" and meant SPEED RACER, STAR BLAZERS, CAPTAIN HARLOCK, BATTLE OF THE PLANETS, and ROBOTECH.

  • avatarAnders Fager

    >After you upload them, YOU have to insert them into the article.

    And this can't be done now? I had some cool pictures of Pikachu dressed up as a SS-ferret.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    MOTHERAGOD! Don't encourage him Uba!

    Sorry Anders, we've disabled all further picture posting. No pictures. Nothing else to see here. Move on.

  • avatarKen B.

    Anders, you can always edit your own articles. You just can't publish them directly, but this one's already published.

    I was the one who hunted down the current Pikachu photo. It seemed to sum up the situation very well.

  • avatariguanaDitty

    Ya know, as long as anime is still putting out stuff like TEKKON KINKREET (Black & White) I'm ok with it. It's far and away the best movie I saw last year.

  • avatarAnders Fager

    Ken, I'll mail you the right ones.

  • avatarMillion Dollar Mimring

    Anime churns out a ton of garbage. Manga churns out a ton of garbage, and it's saddening to see it take up such a large section at book stores. But you can find some good stuff in the two. Granted, I'm hard pressed to think of one right now, but I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water in regards to the two either.

    But if you're burned out on Japenese culture, try the Korean made Oldboy.

  • avatarNot Sure

    I watched Oldboy just recently. That's a pretty screwed up film.

    I recommend it to all F:AT people.

  • avatarGary Sax

    The Koreans *are* known as the Italians of East Asia.

  • avatarShellhead

    What? I thought that the Koreans are like the Irish of East Asia... hard-drinking and quarrelsome. Though it's true that they do use a lot of garlic in Korea.

  • Mr Skeletor

    This was awesome. I wish we had that kind of shit down here...

  • avatarMerkles

    Barnes...you need to go real old school Japanimation---back to 8th Man/Tobor! Just saw an old DVD of those cartoons this Christmas. (side note--that early 60s show actually seemed to have quite a few story lines picked up by Star Trek: TNG---like Data's evil brother Lor.)

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Oh yeah, man, 8th Man is cool as shit. I like ASTRO BOY and all that Tezuka stuff too...KIMBA THE WHITE LION and all that...

  • avatarAnders Fager

    >Anime churns out a ton of garbage. Manga churns out a ton of garbage

    Hollywood churns out a ton of garbage. Hong Kong churns out a ton of garbage. The gaming industry churns out a ton of garbage. The porn industry churns out a ton of garbage.

    Its the same all over the place.

  • avatarKen B.
    Quote:
    The porn industry churns out a ton of garbage.


    YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!

  • avatarShellhead

    Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is shit.

  • avatarKen B.

    Added Anders' spiffy pics to the article.

  • avatarPseudoIntellectual

    "I'm looking for a bento box, it cant be pinku (that's Japanese for pink) or any girl color. It has to be of 2 or more kotoba (that's Japanese for 2 compartments) and has be be chibi (small) sized. And has to be really kawaii (cute). Also It has to be about 10-20 bux. And you have to post pics of it first (i want to make shure it's kawaii [cute]). And it would be nice if it came with matching chopstick holder (WITH chopsticks). OH! and it CANNOT have any cartoon pictures, or be made out of plastic. It has to be made of ceramic, or something like that. Also it would be nice if it was made in japan. and not in china or corea (Korea) or whatever. I have found a bento box similar to the one im describing in e-bay, but it was 1 kotoba, and i don't want my gohan (rice) to touch my other things (it can get wet and i would not like that, plus 2 compartments looks more kawaii)"


    I've never been a very big fan of Japana-stuff...

  • Mr Skeletor

    Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is shit.

    Just hopefully you don't choke on it and die, lest we have to tell your mother.

  • avatarubarose

    Bento boxes are excellent for sorting Lego, when you are building the big models. Muffin pans are good too.

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