Ask Sensei! Decemberween edition

Welcome back, class. I trust by now you’re all recovered from your respective Thanksgiving feasts. Here I have the handout that I promised to — what’s that, Takasaka-san?… (notes empty desk in the front row) Why yes, you’re quite right. Shiraishi-kun seems to be absent today. I suppose it’s just as — I mean, I hope that he is well.

oreki x chitanda
art by マダコ | reprinted w/permission (pixiv illust: 53483413)

I appreciate everyone’s questions and will try, as always, to do them justice when I answer them. This time, pochumufc asks via Tumblr: “Would like to know what’s your take on the detective novel Hyouka, also its anime adaptation. Are there any such good novels and subsequent anime with such good detective story?” Apparently we have similar tastes in this area, Pochu-san. I certainly enjoy a good detective story myself, and have seen rather less of this genre in anime than I would like, given that I’m more than a little too late to board the Detective Conan train. That being said, in general I have very little familiarity with any of any of the forms of media from which anime series are usually taken, including both manga and light novels. So while I did enjoy the Hyouka anime, and always considered it underrated, I don’t know anything about its source in print media. Tantei Gakuen Q is a 2003 detective series that I can recommend, with Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo being older still (1997) and possibly more famous as well, though I haven’t yet got around to watching it. I also credit Hyouka with the single most brilliant use of the Conveniently Placed Object that I have ever seen, in its onsen episode, so there’s that too.

Philip asks from Facebook, “To what extent, if any, do you think the much broader availability of anime is affecting its production and marketing?” To be entirely honest, I find myself doubting that the anime production companies in Japan, along with mangaka and those who create the other works from which anime series are derived, make very many decisions based on what they think anime fans outside of Japan will like or appreciate. I have done zero research on this question, though it interests me greatly, and so I could be entirely wrong about this. But my sense is that the Japanese take tremendous pride in the anime and manga industry, as well they should, and consider chiefly (if not exclusively) the interests of Japanese fans in what they produce. Now what the American anime production companies do (along with those that produce anime dubbed in Chinese or the Romance languages), and how they make their decisions, seem to me entirely different matters. But I must admit, Philip-kun, that I wish I knew more on the topic. Since I don’t think that this is something on which a few quick Google searches will help much, I might have to see what I can discover the next time I’m in Glorious Nihon, which is coming up in about a month.

Speaking of which, some time ago our own Samuru asked my advice for first-time visitors to Japan, and on preparing for the trip. Apart from the obvious preparatory steps such as finding the cheapest and most convenient flights, getting a new passport if need be, and ordering some cash from the international teller at your bank (Japan is even still a largely cash-based society, and while many stores and most hotels will accept credit cards, it is most convenient to operate using cash), there are some things for which you must prepare yourself before landing in Japan. First of all, Japan is a monoculture. Regardless of your political persuasion, living in a multicultural society is something most Americans, Canadians, and Europeans are used to, and expect in day-to-day life. That is not to say that all Japanese citizens come from a single people group, only that they all adhere rigidly to a common set of societal rules, many of which are unspoken. So it’s of utmost importance upon arriving in Japan that you watch others carefully for cues as to how to behave. Of course, most Japanese people recognize that visitors to their country may sometimes “mess up,” and certainly an embarrassed look and a sumimasen will cover a multitude of “sins” in such cases. But operating smoothly in any foreign culture takes practice, and that takes time. All that being said, I want everyone who visits Japan to enjoy themselves, and I suspect that most Japanese people do as well. If you don’t quite feel confident enough to plan your own trip, by all means go on a guided tour. These range from day trips via companies such as Japanican to all-inclusive affairs lasting several days to a few weeks. On my first trip to Japan in 2012, I went on a group tour with PacSet Tours, and since then several other similar companies have also sprung up. Whatever you choose, my advice is to go, and see whatever you can.

I see from the clock that my time is up for today, so I will end by wishing all of you (even Shiraishi-kun) a merry Christmas, and all the best for 2018. And I will look forward to seeing all of you (even Shiraishi-kun) at our next class.


One thought on “Ask Sensei! Decemberween edition

  1. Thanks for answering my question! I hadn’t considered a tour…that’s a good idea. I will look into those. I once saw a tour that showed different Christian sites in Japan but I don’t believe they are still active….I wanted to go on that one. I will check out the ones you suggested 🙂

    I am sure I will be messing up a lot of cultural norms….but I am sure it will go well.

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