Over the years, I’ve probably gotten too much exposure to kids’ entertainment from both Japan and America. Because of that, as well as an idle comment made by someone I was talking, to I was recently thinking about portrayals of Japanese/American relations in each respective country’s cartoons and comics, and how interestingly they mirror each other.
In anime and manga, when an American character meets the primarily Japanese main characters, what almost inevitably ends up happening, especially if the American ends up being a friend or ally, is that he is able to understand the “true Japanese spirit” after his fateful encounter. Usually it’ll have to do with the determination and willpower of the Japanese, as well as just how much they can overcome in the face of superior forces.
But in American cartoons and comics, when a Japanese character appears, he almost always emphasizes honor. Honor is the most important quality in a Japanese character in an American cartoon, and there is always a point in the show, typically towards the end, where one or more American characters prove that they are truly honorable in the eyes of the Japanese character.
To some extent I think the American cartoon’s portrayal has to do with the mystifying image of the orient that has been a part of western fiction for centuries, while the Japanese cartoon’s portrayal supports the reassuring idea that, although Japanese people might not be the biggest or strongest, they can make up for that with intangible qualities. In either case however, this idea of winning over the foreigner and showing that, when you get down to it, respectable qualities remain very similar around the world, even if it’s portrayed through the lens of stereotypes and simple stories.
What do you think of this? Am I on the mark? Do you think things have changed significantly over the years so that this is no longer the case?