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Whenever we talk about the japanophile (or the wapanese or weeaboo or other terms), the rhetoric is that this person discovers anime (or something), starts to believe Japan is a superior country and culture to the one they currently live in, and if they stop believing, it’s because they realize that the ideal Japan of their imaginations does not match up with the truth. The assumption here is that because Japan is not simply the land of anime and Pocky, or ukiyo-e and sushi, that it trivializes the japanophile’s beliefs because there is this contradiction with reality. But what if we removed “Japan” from this process?
It makes logical sense for the japanophile to discover Japan, create a modified image of it in their head, and then desire it as a “superior” culture, but what of that potential for desire in the first place? Does Japan trigger this desire to be a part of a different culture, or is that sentiment already there to some degree, and that it takes Japan (or anywhere) to allow a person to focus those desires on a concrete example with a relationship to reality? As intelligent and visionary as human beings can be, there tend to be limitations as to how far we think or consider imaginary or hypothetical situations, and maybe this is just one version of that
If we remove “Japan,” then what we’re left with is a person who desires for a better culture and environment than the one they currently live in, where better means one more understanding, one which reinforces their beliefs and their wants. Whether that is out of some progressive vision or simply a venue to live out fantasies without consequence, I’m not stating any moral or intellectual prerogative to such feelings, but I almost find it to be a sort of utopian mindset.
This past Valentine’s Day, ExecutiveOtaku over at THAT Anime Blog offered a service for all of the single ladies and gentlemen who found themselves alone on February 14th, a “Harem Finder” that would allow you to enter into a Love Hina-esque setting, custom-tailored to your specific wants and passions. Though obviously a joke, the Harem Finder is not without historical precedent, at least in literary terms. In particular, the concept resembles the writings of utopian philosopher Charles Fourier.
Fourier (1772-1837) believed that the denial of passion was the most major problem with the world, and in his utopian writings he proposed a society where everybody would be able to indulge in their passions in a way that would benefit their society. For instance, a man predisposed to death and slaughter would find a job as a butcher. Fourier (somehow) calculated that there are 810 character and personality types to be satisfied. This of course includes sexual passions, so a sadist would be able to meet a masochist, same-sex relationships would be condoned, and so forth.
Priests and priestesses would gather everyone together and initiate extensive tests involving multiple meetings between potential partners, keeping in mind that “love at first sight” does not always happen. And for those dorks who worry about their physical attractiveness, Fourier has them covered too.
In Harmony sheer physical attractiveness will not have the colossal influence that it has in civilization where everyone is transfixed by the sight of a beautiful woman. Of course the Harmonians will not fail to appreciate physical beauty; in fact their judgment will be considerably more discerning than ours. But when it comes to the selection of sympathetic patners their choices will not be determined by physical charm. For their desire for sensual gratification will be satisfied in several different ways.
In a way, the concept of the “harem” in anime and manga is a form of utopia, acting as a very localized, almost self-functioning society where happiness is being surrounded by women (or men) and everything that happens in the world comes from that harem setting. The same idea could be extended to the most slicey slice-of-life shows, especially when you factor in their utility as a form of cathartic escape. These are, after all, “better worlds.”
In a different era, I think Charles Fourier could have very well been an otaku. He would spend every day after work focused on writing about his utopia, and his devotion to passion is well-represented in anime and manga. He also had a thing for lesbians, making it very possible that he’d be a big yuri advocate, and his obsession with precise calculations seemingly pulled out of nowhere (he determined that there are 26,400 men in the world who also enjoy lesbians) would not be that far off with numbers-obsessed mecha or idol fans.
He was also a life-long virgin, but I’ll leave those jokes to you.