Western Individualism vs Eastern Collectivism

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Western Individualism vs Eastern Collectivism

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Postby Grimmjow » Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:40 am

When we think about a lot of the main western complaints about evangelion, a lot of it ties to what traits we value in the west, mainly that of individualism. This causes a lot of the potency of the message of Evangelion to be lost in cultural translation. I think this can seen most strongly in two instances: Shinji's struggles and the anti otaku messages in Evangelion.

One of the biggest complaints regarding Shinji is his lack of individualistic drive. Shinji just allows things to happen to him. He doesn't seem to take much initiative and if he does it is driven by a desire for people to notice and care about him. In individualistic societies, this is not viewed positively. The ideal is the knight errant/aka lone ranger who performs deeds out of their own personal moral compass and does not care about the acceptance of the "sheep."

Shinji's ultimate victory at the end of the series is that he learns to accept himself and realize it is okay for him to exist no matter how others view him. In collectivist societies which place group acceptance and being useful to that group above all else, this is both counter cultural and inspiring. Yet to individualistic people, this is the bare minimum of self actualization. Every children's program drives home the point that you have to respect yourself regardless of what others think. Whereas collectivists might believe this as a profound step for Shinji, individualists view it as only a first step to a character many of us view as being impossibly frustrating.

The second key message deals with how our different cultures view nerd/otaku culture. In Japan particularly, as many of you have said before, otaku is not a positive term, particularly an anime otaku. This term implies that the person has given up on respectable society and instead wastes all their time, money, and energy on their hobby. It also implies a great deal of anti social behavior. Many have argued that Evangelion's brutal deconstruction of anime tropes is directed at otaku to get them to come out of their shells and experience the real world.

Yet, being a nerd in western culture is closely tied with individualism. Many believe their status as a nerd helps give them a unique identity apart from the "herd." Being a nerd has gradually become far more positive in Western culture, and it is widely believed you can enjoy certain "nerdy" media and still be a well adjusted member of society. Even the word otaku has been appropriated by the western anime community as a positive word akin to nerd. You can make an argument that the derogatory term weeaboo falls in line with individualism. Individualists dislike posers, essentially people who ignore their own identity to try to be something they are not. Thus the derogatory term weeaboo of a white person pretending to be Japanese, fits very well with individualists.

There are anti social nerds, but they tend to be rhetorically moved to the sidelines. Just look at a Youtube video of a brony acting odd, and you will see all sorts of comments saying, "We don't all act like this!" and "this guy is just a loser who doesn't represent us." Thus, Evangelion's message of growing out of an anti social shell is often applied to "those weirdos" who don't represent all nerds.

If anyone else has any other examples of how individualism colors people's reactions to Evangelion, please share them.

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Postby SawItAtAge10 » Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:21 pm

I thought the ultimate "collectivism" was the sea of LCL in EoE. However, I thought the overall message presented in the series was to maintain as sense of identity (which is difficult to manage regardless of a particular cultural boundary). Even in America truly being "unique" is looked down upon by certain factions (for example religious people often take issue with people who are "different"). Also, I'm not sure how much I agree with you about "nerd culture" in America. Yes, it started out as something very pure and legitimate especially in the sense that "nerds/geeks" did not used to have quite as much respect as they do now. However, I feel that the whole thing has become way too mainstream and has even opened a floodgate of posers jumping into the trend. For example, the "pseudo-intellectual glasses" are the ultimate symbol of the Nerd. But so many people get them just to be "cool". Not to mention (and I am deeply sorry if my next comment offends anyone, I'm just stating my opinion on the way things are nowadays) that the great Whore that Marvel has become epitomizes this extreme cartoonish escapism culture/mindset that Mr. Anno expressed such disdain for.

Getting back to your main point, you said Shinji only starts to take the first steps towards gaining a sense of individuality. I see it also has his embracing of reality instead of fantasies/dreams (as in Comics, anime, manga, movies, video games, etc. to fill one's time). I think that the last scene in the film epitomizes the need to break away from a dependency on escapism and to simply accept reality for what it is despite how harsh it might be (among other things being communicated in that scene).
FROM EVANGELION:
"Acts of Man are greater than acts of God!"

"I'm saying that I love you."

NOT FROM EVANGELION:
"You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold."

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Postby GAP » Wed Nov 05, 2014 2:09 pm

You know I think that while Eva is more or less aimed at Japan, I do believe that it has some points on human interaction and escapism. No doubt there are things that would be lost in translation as Evangelion is still for all intents and purposes an anime created for Japanese people but its themes resonate with most people across the world and disturbingly so. Still, I am beginning to realize that Eastern cultures places emphasis on 'we' rather than 'me' as the West seems to concern themselves with the individual while the East places emphasis on the whole. With that said, I still feel that Evangelion still relates to me on an individual level as it seems to tear down all of my excuses and lies. Its themes still resonate with me despite the fact that it is an anime series and its theme of relationships still linger in my mind.
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