[Four boys walk in a line along a wall by the sea. The first one carries a fishing pole and the last one carries a duck. Image grabbed from Conspicuous Klux]
So… I’ve been wanting to write more about how anime does men a disservice for a while now, but other things keep distracting. In the spirit of my thought collections for the panel, I thought I’d muse some on Tsuritama and Space Bros (both of which I’m super-behind on… :().
While I’ve spilled a good deal of ink on the representation of women in anime, I think it’s worth considering the role of the medium in painting a picture for how Japanese men (and western men for that matter) should act in the 21st century.
On this front, many of the daily life type shows that center on men and boys (I KNOW, I’m missing Nichibros. I’ll work on it) do some important legwork of emotional development that’s missing from more straight-ahead shounen works or harem comedy. From where I sit, this is a positive thing since the slow redefinition of a “man’s role” in society leaves many questions to be answered.
In Space Bros, Mutta wrestles with a fundemantally boyish problem of competition with his younger brother and how to move forward as he finds himself falling off the “traditional” path to success. Many young men find themselves at odds with the mainstream narrative of man as “bread winner” (this is called the “success myth”) with the shrinking economy. Mutta moves home and goes through a difficult period of soul searching. What’s interesting here is how he transitions out of a “normal” adult life and into the space program. It’s subtle, but his understanding of his own worth in light of personal setbacks and its tension with his dreams is an interesting tale of what it’s like to be an adult, told from a particularly sensitive male viewpoint.
Tsuritama covers a similar space of male friendship among a bunch of teenage boys. Sure, one of them is an alien, but the problems of the two other boys (the loss of family members, the pains of growing into an adult, how to have fun when you’re sad) these things apply pretty universally. But what interests me here is the way in which emotions and expressing yourself is a central part of the narrative. As boys we are taught to value stoicism and strength. The fact that this show seems poised (I’m only halfway through because I started late) to deal with learning to cope with difficult emotions seems to me a positive message for teenage boys.
I’m not entirely sure where I want to go from here. I think Tsuritama might make its way over to Altair and Vega once I get a chance to chat with the other bloggers (since this is a pretty accessible topic), but Space Bros? I’ll have to watch the rest of the season before I think I’m ready to sketch anything out on it.