Archive for the ‘TV Shows’ Category

Connecting with Your Students Who Are Into Mangas (Japanese Graphic Novels Which Are Now Popular in English) and Animé

July 20, 2019

Death Note - the most famous manga of all time                                                                                                         Death Note:  Perhaps the most famous Japanese manga (graphic novel) ever written

Mangas are the new popular genre of literature currently sweeping through the world’s youth.  Are they something which should be accepted or encouraged by teachers and parents?  Are they worthy of respect?  This post will address those questions.

One of my teenage students is consumed with mangas, and this is how I came to know about them.  After investigating, I think the genre is worthy of respect, and something teachers and parents would benefit from knowing about.  However, they would like to know:

–What are mangas?  Why have they become popular?  What is the attraction?

–Are they acceptable?  Are they an art form, or are they trash?

–Should they be encouraged, or discouraged?

It took me a little while to understand what mangas were.  They are essentially Japanese graphic novels that span the entire gamut of fiction experiences covered in more traditional literature.  The best and most popular mangas are made into animé series.  Both mangas and animé feature characters with neotenic  features.

Mangas are divided into five general categories, according to target demographic audience (instead of by subject genre):

Kodomomuke:  for children

Simple and imaginative stories for children, which often teach morals and other good values, focusing on friendship, and solutions to problems.

Shojo:  for teenage girls, ages 10-18

Female lead characters, focusing on romance, interpersonal relationships, but also with action and adventure.

Josei:  for adult women.

Featuring adult women characters (and sometimes male lead characters), in action adventures, slice-of-life, realistic interpersonal relationships, romance, and serious subjects.

Shonen:  for boys under age 15

Young male heroes, focused on action, adventure, and fighting.

Death Note (in original Japanese with English subtitles), a psychological/mystery series, and one of the most famous mangas and animé series ever produced,  is aimed at the shonen demographic.  (Voice-over English versionVoice-over French version).   Death Note is considered to be one of the best mangas ever written.

Great Teacher Onizuka, a humorous series about the problems of a young male teacher, is also for the shonen demographic.

Seinen – for young adult men, ages 15-24, but including men ages 25-50

Tend to be psychological or action thriller/adventures (with more violence than Shonen).  One Quora writer stated that seinen plots ae similar to Game of Thrones.

Mangas and Animé in Asia

In Asia, mangas and animé are read and watched voraciously by ALL age groups.  Why?

Because animé can be produced much more cheaply than movies with real people, animé makes it possible to have a much wider variety of themes; it is essentially a pulp-fiction market.  Therefore, many ideas can be explored which are non-existent in Western media culture.  Authors have a much higher level of freedom to explore their ideas than do authors in the West.  However, readers/watchers in the West are more hesitant to share that they are manga/animé fans, as most non-Asian adults don’t yet consider it acceptable and normal, as it is in Asia.

What Are the Manga and Animé that My Teenager Is Reading/Watching?

If you are a parent or teacher who is worried whether mangas and animé are acceptable–if your teenager is watching animé series–I suggest sitting down and watching a series with your child, right from the beginning.  You might be surprised to find it captivating.  Even if you decide to watch only a few episodes, you will then have an idea what it is about.

Alternatively, I suggest watching some of the Death Note series linked to above. I have provided one link with subtitles, and another link that is dubbed in English (voice-over), and a third link dubbed in French.   These series are all produced in Japanese, and your teenager may be watching them reading subtitles.  Mangas, written in Japan, are now produced and sold in English, and many other languages.

Persepoliis Text Example.png                                                      Persepolis Text Example

So far, I haven’t personally seen or read a manga, but I have read one graphic novel, Persepolis.  This is a true story of a teenager who grew up in Iran after the Iranian Revolution.  I was really shocked when I found it being read in English class in our local high school, as an assigned book.   I then read it myself, and it changed my opinion.  It was an interesting story which held my attention. I included a photo of the text above so that readers may see just how the text looks, and what the reading level is.

I thought about poor readers.  There was quite a bit of reading here, and in a format more accessible to poor readers.  Also, teenagers who are extremely visually-oriented may be able to read this more than a traditional novel.  This doesn’t mean we should discourage traditional novels, but I do think there is room for graphic novels, as well.

I have watched both entire series of Death Note and Onizuka.  I thought they were both good series.  Some parents ask if Death Note is advisable for preteen girls and boys.  I would say yes.  While the story initially seems a bit macabre, it’s actually about a boy who finds a notebook, then discovers that if someone’s name is written in the notebook, that person will die.  So he decides to start doing good in the world by getting rid of all the serious criminals.  But after some time he becomes tempted by the power he has, and begins to use the power of the notebook toward his own personal gain.  This leads him down a morally-dark path.  However, these are just the sorts of moral dilemmas our children and pre-teens  are dealing with every day.  Our children endure daily conflicts with other students, teachers and parents–some of which lead to thoughts of revenge.  Such issues are explored through this medium of fiction, just as they are in other fiction mediums.

It’s been some time since I watched Death Note, but as I recall, it has a morally good ending.  Onizuka was good, but in my opinion, not appropriate for pre-teens.  I’d say it’s more appropriate for older teens and adults.  It also deals with realistic moral issues in a humorous way.

Most mangas and animé series seem to be dealing with action, adventure, relationships, and moral issues–exactly the same issues seen in all fiction mediums.  Yes, the format is different, but let’s now look at why some people like it.

Why Some People Enjoy Mangas and Animé

  1.  Getting Involved in Characters’ Lives and Ongoing Situations:  Many popular animé series have many, many episodes, similar to watching a whole series.  Sixty to one hundred episodes are very common.  A few even have 900 episodes, comparable to watching a soap opera that goes on for years.  This means that during the day, while doing other things, they may be eager to get back to the manga or animé to find out what happens next, and they may be thinking about the story and the characters’ lives and dilemmas.  (This is just how any of us feel while reading a good fiction book or when we are caught up in watching a series or daily soap opera).  In other words, the plots are really amazing, and the reader/viewer cares what happens to the characters.   Many plot lines are very complex, deal with many real-life issues on the cutting edge of current life.
  2.   It’s a good, positive way to relax.  Students have daily stresses from school, interpersonal relationships, homework, and physical activities and responsibilities.  Just as any good book or program can transport us to another place, and another life, so can mangas and animé.  Emotional involvement in the characters’ lives and dilemmas transports us far from our own problems, gives us a break, and returns us to our own lives refreshed, and more ready to deal with our own situations.  Reading/watching offers us a fantasy escape from our real lives, or even just an enjoyable fantasy adventure.  Also, seeing characters’ successfully resolve their dilemmas helps us gain positivity that we can, in fact, successfully resolve our own dilemmas.
  3. Manga and animé fans really enjoy this type of artwork.  Neotenous figures (characters with juvenile-appearing characteristics, maintained into maturity are very popular in Japanese society and culture) are a particular feature of both manga images and animé characters of all ages (and of many  people in Japanese society).  One feature of the character artwork which is highly appreciated by fans is the way through which characters show their emotions through artwork, rather than through words.   Stress might be shown by beads of sweat falling from the forehead, or excitement might be shown by the way a character’s hair is moving.  These sorts of things can be done in animé, but would be difficult to do with live, human characters.

Before we are too critical of someone liking this sort of artwork, we need to             remember that all artwork is primarily a matter of personal taste.  For example, my personal preference is very realistic drawing and paintings, while other people seem to enjoy modern art.  While I personally cringe at both modern art and animé art, everyone has the right to their own personal preferences.


Should you be worried if your children or your students like animé?

After investigating this topic, I would say NO, DON’T WORRY.

While the most popular series can be dubbed so that they can be listened to in your child’s own language, most animé is in Japanese, and your child will be forced to read subtitles in order to watch it.  While the language is not complicated, there is still a lot of useful vocabulary in the reading.  Even if it is not traditional reading, AT LEAST IT IS READING AND LEARNING  VOCABULARY (which is a lot better than many young people are doing today).

Even in stories that contain action and violence, the characters are usually acting out of motivations such as saving their friends, or saving the world.  In cases where characters begin to act selfishly, viewers see the moral problems this creates, and see the bad results the character brings upon himself.

As a parent, I would much rather have my child or teenager watching animé and thinking about all the issues presented, instead of a lot of less productive and less positive activities he or she could be up to.

As a teacher, it’s our job to expose students to various kinds of literature.  If students can realize that the teacher knows about mangas and can appreciate why some people could enjoy mangas and animé, students will also be more open to engaging with the teacher and class regarding more traditional literature.

I highly recommend to all teachers and parents to watch some or all of the Death Note series, at the links I have provided YouTube).  You will find the story surprisingly interesting, and your students will impressed that you have watched it.  It will give you another way to engage with your child, or with your students.  (Personally, I watch most of the series that teenagers tell me they are watching, and I recommend it to you, too.)

 

 

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Do Cat Thieves Give Clues to the Origins of Criminality in Humans?

November 12, 2012

Here in  North Africa, I watch the neighborhood animals, who belong to no one, and make their rounds in the same places daily.  We have a lot of street animals, and cats often jump in to our house through the windows (other people’s houses, too), in search of food. Some of them can get quite aggressive, especially with our own cats.  Our cats feel they have to go outside and “defend the yard” every time they see a cat jump in over the garden wall.  Of course they go absolutely wild if a neighborhood cat jumps into our house.

I began to think about these intruders as thieves, because that’s what they would be considered, if they were humans. It’s easier for them to steal food than it is for them to hunt for it themselves in an urban environment.

It’s also easier (than working) for human thieves to do the same–either because they are lazy, or their environment didn’t give them other reasonable options, or because they are more greedy than others (white collar criminals?). I wonder how much of this laziness/greediness could be genetically determined, or if it is somewhat genetically programmed into all of us.  In fact, scientists are now finding evidence of this (see HERE and HERE).

My observation of cats in the neighborhood has lead me wonder whether ALL cats would be thieves if they weren’t fed by their owners.

Therefore, what keeps ALL humans from becoming thieves? Rather than asking the question who is likely to become a criminal (in human society), perhaps we should seek to understand this question  by asking instead, what KEEPS people from taking the easy route of becoming a thief/criminal? Instead of asking who cheats and why, maybe we should be asking, “Why doesn’t EVERYONE cheating/lying/stealing? What keeps those of us who are law-abiding citizens, so?”

I wonder if the answer lies in the environment.  Instead of saying that the environment causes criminality, perhaps the reverse is actually closer to the truth.  Perhaps we would all be criminals, except for if we have a positive environment which, as we are raised, gives us POSITIVE REWARDS (such as RESPECT or ADMIRATION) for becoming law-abiding citizens.  Those who grow up in impoverished environments (or cultural environments) where they never experience these rewards, are unlikely to become honest and law-abiding.

What do others think?

Middle Eastern Student Shares REAL Reasons Behind Anti-American Protests

September 21, 2012

Anti-U.S. Protests in Pakistan

The Arab World does not hate America because of their materialistic culture, their television programs, or their freedoms.  It’s not about that.  The real reasons behind the anti-American protests come down to an imbalance of power between the United States and the Arab World.

This week, one of my students commented on the recent violence occurring in reaction to the anti-Islamic video and the French caricatures.  She expressed a viewpoint which has merit, but which I have not seen reported elsewhere.  Quoting my student:

“The Muslims feel in competition with the West.  They feel that they have to be better, on top, the winners.  Every time the West does something, even on television, Arabs feel they have to compete.  For example, when America created the show America’s Got Talent, the Arab World created Arabs Who Have Talent.  When the West created The Voice (with Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton) the Arab World created The Voice in the Arab World.  To copy American Idol, they created Arab Idol.  They copy every single thing!  They always feel in competition with America, because they feel America hates them, and does not like Arabs.  They always feel they have to be the best, but particularly better than America, most of all.”

Egyptian Winner of Arab Idol

My student also explained that the reason Muslim populations always take the side against the United States in international disputes is that they feel the REASON America doesn’t help Palestine is because they are Muslim, and that they help Israel because they are Jewish.  (Of course, not every person believes this, but generally speaking, it is quite commonly believed, even among the well-educated.)   “Here,” my student said, “they always take the side against America because they believe America doesn’t help Palestine because they are Muslim; they help Israel because they are Jewish.”

Today I watched to see what the reaction in third-world countries would be to the second print-run of the French caricatures.  Surprisingly, I found only very minor protests against France, and continued protests against the U.S., such as mobs burning the U.S. flag and pictures of President Obama in Pakistan.

Why were the protests against France so feeble, while weeks after the YouTube video, the protests against America continue so strongly?

A BBC interview with Pakistanis, on the streets of Lahore following the protest, also supports this same point-of-view my student had.  The BBC asked, “Where is all the anger coming from?  Is it all over a low-budget movie, or is it something else?”  Half of the respondents said it was because of hurt feelings over religious insults, while the other half said something different:

“They’re not just angry because of the movie.  They have their personal political issues, their personal problems.  They are angry about the wars (U.S. power in the region).”

“Whenever the powerful countries try to take over the resources of the weaker countries (how America is perceived in the entire Middle East), obviously the people living in those countries will try to protect their rights, and try to protect their resources.  Every country should have equal rights with every other country (angry about lack of power).”

“They are angry over poverty and unemployment.  There are many rich people and very poor people, and the difference is very great.  They are angry because they don’t have enough food, and mostly because they don’t have enough power.  So they are not just angry because of a simple movie.

Basically it comes down to a question of power.  Those who are choosing to protest actually have underlying anger issues at the United States that go far beyond the YouTube film.  What they are angry about is the imbalance of power–that the United States seems so overwhelmingly more powerful than the Muslim countries, and the Arab World.  There were comparatively few protests against France  because France does not have the same overwhelming power and influence when compared to Muslim countries.

At the end of my discussion with my student, I asked, “So, what you are saying is that the only way to get the Arab World to stop protesting against America  is to stop helping Israel, and to become weak (at least weak enough to be no threat to the Arab World)?”

“Exactly!” my student replied.

–Lynne Diligent

WHY Parents and Teachers Need to Watch the Same Television Shows as Students Do

February 17, 2012

As a parent or teacher (even outside of America, and regardless of your religion or lifestyle), have you tried to instill proper values and behavior in your own children or students, yet watched while the following values and behavior appeared instead?  Have you wondered where this has been coming from?

  • Requesting a bulldog
  • Popularity of sushi
  • Proliferation of fake ID’s and even younger high school students attempting to use them
  • Underage drinking, even at home parties, where parents leave and let children party alone
  • Obsession with champagne
  • A sudden interest in learning Burlesque dancing
  • Requesting or attempting underage driving
  • Obsession with Ivy League colleges
  • Teenage obsession with wearing only “designer” dresses
  • Thinking it’s not normal for parents to make a “curfew” time
  • The idea that even young teenagers “go where they want, and do what they want,” and that “their parents give them the freedom to do so just like adults;”  they TELL their parents what they are doing, rather than ASK them.
  • Girls (even young girls) acting in a sexually aggressive manner toward boys (girls insisting that they both take off clothes)
  • Girls thinking that it’s normal to date older men secretly without their parents knowing about it
  • Thinking that normal parents just go to bed, and “don’t wait up for their high school children who come home late.”
  • Sassy, angry attitude toward any parents who question any of the above assumptions!
  • The idea that “success” in life equates ONLY to how much money you have, and how “glamorous” you appear to others!
  • Honesty, dependability, responsibility, and/or service to humanity are unfashionable, boring, stupid, and undesirable
  • Kindness to others is “out;” while “one-upsmanship” and rude “put-downs” at the expense of others are “in”
  • An expectation that life is supposed to be one continuous “party”

Any parent or teacher who is having trouble understanding teenage values and behavior today should IMMEDIATELY watch the three television series Beverly Hills 90210 ; Gossip Girl; and 90210 (a different show than Beverly Hills 90210).   Even watching a couple of episodes of each show will give you an idea of where this culture is coming from.  (Click on these titles for direct links to the series which should work worldwide.  Make sure to start with Season 1, Episode 1.)    These new values are coming directly from television.

Unfortunately, teenagers are now watching these shows WORLDWIDE.  Some are watching on the internet, in English (especially with the global rise in study of English, it is now accessible).  But in most countries, these shows are now dubbed in local languages, and right on the television.  Not only is American culture changing, but world culture is assuming that these TV shows represent traditional American values (which they most assuredly do NOT).

The people who made these shows recognized that they are FANTASIES of how teenagers WISH their lives were.  That’s what makes them fun to watch.  However, unfortunately, the children who grew up watching these (without any input from their parents) grew up assuming that this is what they WOULD be able to do as teenagers, and now, the upper middle classes ARE DOING it. Some of the middle class parents don’t know that their children are behaving this way.  Among more conservative families, parents should BEWARE if their child asks to spend the night with another family, because they are often going out, or even sneaking out to nightclubs.  It doesn’t help that the full age of majority in many countries is 18, rather than 21.

I live in the Middle East, and throughout our region, this is exactly how most teenagers are behaving.  The emphasis in our region is all on appearances to create the impression with others that you are rich (even if you are not).  Most of those who are rich turn their children (even girls) loose with plenty of money and the family chauffeur (usually driving an expensive, black, four-wheel-drive vehicle) for the weekend.  They certainly don’t wait up for their children to come home at night.  Most of the kids have fake ID’s and go to night clubs (which don’t even open until 11).  Their age is clear, but they just slip $20 to the doorman, who lets them in.

Father Knows Best

In the past couple of years, I’ve read a number of articles where generations following the baby boomers are now criticizing the work ethic of baby-boomers (born 1946-1960) and wondering where this work ethic came from.  It’s very clear to me now.  It came directly from TELEVISION (as well as from our parents, and from society in general).

Shows during the 1950s and 1960s (and even into the 1970s) showed children working hard, being kind, taking responsibility, and most importantly, GETTING RESPECT FROM OTHERS FOR DOING SO.  Some of these shows were Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, The Rifleman, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie.   In contrast, teenagers who behave this way today don’t get any respect from others.  Instead, they get “USED BY OTHERS” (in the words of a teenager I tutor).  Today, it’s showing-off and acting in accordance with the list above that gets a teenager respect from other teenagers.

–Lynne Diligent