Thursday, September 07, 2006

Plastic Forms of Escape III

Probably for the better, my appetite for brightly-colored injection-molded plastic has significantly diminished, from its hoary heights three years ago to a little more than a passing yet learned interest.

Credit where credit's due, but a significant factor in this precipitous drop-off was the passing of the venerable and cluttered and charming Dr. Tongues' 3-D House of Collectible Toys up around east Burnside and 14th.1 Since Tongues fell victim to the double whammies of recession and the commoditization of geekdom2, I have steadfastly refused to take my business to some bullshit faux-geek hipster boutique, & of the few purchases made since3 are of the online variety.4

Just this past glorious Labor Day, however, I was at the local Fred Meyer marketplace, & betwixt the aisles were the ever familiar clearance tables. I've never had much luck at the clearance table market5, but this time these bizarre, cutesy, Japanese-animination-esque, robotic- or at least power-armoured monkeys caught my eye. A cursory look-over revealed them to be from some Jetix television series, which, like so many cartoons today, has adopted a very heavy yet watered-down "anime" look, or at least character design, to it. 6

Of course, I don't give a shit about the show. The yellow one, "Hyperforce Nova," with clenched fists nearly the size of her head, was making eyes with me. Her clearance sticker marked her down from about $8 to $5.50. Good enough for me.

Later(!), enjoying a pint at Hedge House, girlfriend points out to me that the table was one of those "60% off whatever the sticker says," so I check my receipt, and sure enough, I paid a mere $2.25 for this cutey-pie!!

Waitaminute! This looks familiar…

Rearward-swooping spikey-thing at the top of her head? Check. Fin-like ridge thing that starts above and between the eyes and curves back and then down behind the head? Check. Large, bug-like eyes which suggest protective eye-wear? You betcha. Small mouth, or at least set at such an angle as include the chin, sorta? Yep.

Familiar... like... looks like..

[snaps fingers]

Oh yeah! Like Ultraman Astra!!

Always thought Astra stood out in a crowd, the jaunty motherfucker.


1 Dr. Tongues, however, perseveres on the infobanh
2 Seriously. I mean, comicbook shops that rely on the sale of Pokemon cards to stay afloat? The absolute glutting of the movie-houses w/ comic-book after comic-book adaptation? Adult Swim? Ugh.
3 Stikfas,
of course.
4 Credit where credit's due: my girlfriend still buys me an action figure my birthday and/or X-mas. Ahh.
5 As opposed to Fat, who has had some
decent success, scoring everything from Gundam model kits to GBA games, the jerk.
6 I'm not sure if its ironic or sinister or simply cross-cultural exchange at work, but:

A) Far as I can tell, JETIX is a block of animated programming on the Disney channel that features Japanimation-esque series. In other words, Disney appropriating Japanimation styles & design.
B) Generally acknowledged alpha-patriarch of the Japanese manga AND Japanese animation, Osamu Tezuka, cites the art and animation of Walt Disney as his inspiration (Mickey Mouse, it is said, is why Japanese manga & animation character have those big eyes).

4 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Seems to me that most recently-produced western cartoons for kids go in one of two visual directions. Either they rip off the Ren 'n' Stimpy/Genndy Tartakofsky flat-'n'-pastel style or they go for a please-mistake-us-for Japanese feel. (The flat-'n'-pastel stuff is pretty directly descended from Hanna-Barbara, I think.)

The new Teen Titans was the first west-produced 'toon I noticed that heavily appropriated the manga conventions that much anime rests on. Hell, it even topped off its own package with a faux-Jpop theme song. The new GI Joe 'toon could, in a bad light, be mistaken for a Japanese action show. (The abysmal but very glossy Eureka 7, for example.) That's a good thing, I think, because it demonstrates decent production values, and is a whale of a lot better than the toy commercials we grew up with.

It's an old story. Many of the best westerns we ever produced were ripoffs of Kurusawa's samurai films, themselves westerns transposed to feudal Japan.

6:41 PM  
Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

Here's the thing, though: I think Japan is the only other culture to be taking part in this sort of level of exchange with the U.S. You could give a nod to martial arts films but then you can quibble about whether its Chinese or Taiwanese (or Korean or Thai, for that matter). Besides thats just in film. American culture will cross pollinate with all sorts of facets of Japenese culture - probably because they're the only other culture out there that enjoys CONSUMING as much as we do, albeit in different ways (I'd posit Japanese consumerism is driven by taste while its American equilivent seems more focused on volume - just a thought).

12:35 PM  
Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

The only comparable level of intertwine I can think of is in rock and roll. The most important English rock bands (Stones, Zep) were all working from an American template of blues and R&B, and many of their songs seemed to inhabit an odd imaginary America. In their aftermath, you'd get American bands singing with faux-English accents, because all their favorite bands did! These guys (Guided by Voices, among others) are clear examples of the queerest contradiction of rock and roll: it's unquestionably an American art form, but its greatest historical practitioners have generally been English.

Besides these appropriations and reappropriations, there's the realm of the truly bizarre. I'm told, for example, that there's a subclass of Japanese crust-punk bands that only sing in Finnish, as a tribute to the Finnish crust bands that inspired them. Inevitably, there will be a NYC band that covers the Japanese version of these Finnish songs, and then a Finnish band will draw their inspiration from...and...and so on world without end.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

The fundamental genius of the white race and its western civilization lies in its capacity for appropriation of other cultural forms. Not merely capacity, but genuine enthusiasm for such appropriation! Much could be said in support of this fact, but I will present only this minor parable:
All punk clubs have a reggae night;
No reggae clubs have a punk night.

5:35 PM  

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