Time for the Curtain Call

Shannon Drake | 8 Nov 2005 11:04
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The generation after mine, the ones who'll be telling us about how nice the home is as they wheel us up the walk, regards anime and Japanese culture as just another thread in the cultural tapestry. I thought it was weird that an ex-girlfriend had a frightening stash of Card Captor Sakura recorded from syndicated TV. But a generation of kids grew up with it as part oftheir lives. Pikachu and Pokémon are to them what Megatron and the Transformers are to us. Just wait until their nostalgia wave crests, then we'll be inundated with "funny" Flash animations of dancing Charmanders.

And this is only the beginning. American animation is moribund, save for the swashbuckling lads at Pixar. Even Disney is pushing stuff out to Korea. Japan and Southeast Asia are about the only places still in thetraditional animation business. The domestic animation industry is busy imploding and shipping work across the Pacific to guys who do it better for cheaper. The kids will buy the foreign animation because they're used to it, because they aren't creeped out by the style and because there's nothing else to buy. Anime is going to win by default, because there's little meat left on the bones of the American animation industry.

Manga follows anime and may even overtake it, as it is light years beyond our own comics scene, which is still largely men in spandex and theoccasional Transmetropolitan or Neil Gaiman. Manga has entire genres devoted to separate interests and targeted to separate audiences across the age/sex spectrums. There's the silly humor of a Love Hina, the dark bizarre Western-themed Priest, mysteries, comedies, romance - a genre for everything you could name. Manga is going to roll over the American comics scene still recycling things from 50 years ago, drawing them in a fancier way, and calling them new. While the domestic industry sneers "girls don't read comic books" and wonders why girls don't read comic books, girls read manga.

Seven cases of Japanese culture in a south Louisiana Waldenbooks mean it's time for the curtain call. My generation gave the world terrible nostalgia trips (swing!) and bad revival movies. Now we're being shown the door, ushered off the cultural stage as we dodder toward 30 and cultural irrelevance, at least according to the youth-obsessed mainstream. In our place comes a generation that grew up watching Japanese imports on TV after school, not on grainy VHS tapes they bought from a shady guy in a grimy comic shop.

With our exit goes America's long reign as the king of entertainment culture. The king might not be dead, but he's on his bed surrounded by mourners in pseudo-retro fashion. It's a matter of economics. A generation that's a voracious consumer of Japanese culture is rising towards its economic birth, bringing millions of dollars they will readily spend on something, anything, from Japan.

Millionaire playboy Shannon Drake lives a life on the run surrounded by Japanese schoolgirls and videogames. He also writes about anime and games for WarCry.

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