Is It Possible For a Foreigner to Become Japanese? The Mystery of Half Japanese Anime Characters
One thing I like to do is post jokes and memes related on Twitter and see how readers react to them. Recently I posted a cute meme of Karen from Kiniro Mosaic expressing a wish to become totally Japanese, to which I’d added, “I’ve tried this, Karen, and it doesn’t work.” Kin’moza is a super cute anime about two British girls, Karen (who is half Japanese) and Alice (who is full British), who go to high school in Japan because they love Japanese culture so much. Naturally both girls are blonde, because to to the Japanese, all Westerners are blonde, even if they aren’t.
While the idea of a foreigner wanting to become Japanese might seem silly, the basic concept is reasonable, since we all want to feel we’re a part of the society around us. My wife and I specifically set out to ensure my kids identified as either 70% Japanese and 30% American, or 70-30 in the reverse direction, because my experience has been that people who are culturally 50-50 between countries don’t “feel” they’re a part of either place. It worked out pretty well: my son, who attends university in Tokyo, feels a closer connection here, while my daughter attended high school in Australia and currently feels closer to America (and recently switched to her American name).
One staple of anime is to create characters who are haafu (half Japanese), which usually unlocks amazing skills like the ability to speak languages perfectly. Here are some examples of not-quite-Japanese characters in anime and real life…
- Asuka Souryu Langley, probably the most famous recent haafu, is actually one quarter Japanese, one quarter German, and half American, though raised in Germany. She takes pride in speaking Japanese perfectly, but can’t write kanji characters well. I often wonder if her lack of social groundind is why she’s so angry all the time…or maybe it’s just the Red Eva, coming for a visit.
- Makise Kurisu. She’s a full Japanese who graduated from university at age 17, something that Japanese are fascinated with because no one inside Japan would be allowed to do that, no matter how gifted. In reality, I could see Christina having a closer connection to her life back home than to Japan, where she didn’t grow up.
- Menma from AnoHana is half Japanese and half Russian, and one reason she’s happy to have found the Super Peace Busters is, she had trouble making friends before.
- Madoka Ayukawa from Orange Road is a badass former biker girl who turns over a new leaf through the influence of the story’s main character. The writers realized Madoka was too cool for a Japanese person, and retroactively made her half American partway through.
- One student I taught when i first came to Japan had been born in Michigan and grew up there until the age of 3, with English as her first language. Although she could speak English very well, I was once horrified to see her denying her language skills because of peer pressure.
- I often think about Haruhi voice actress, who was also born in the U.S. and came to Japan several years later. Maybe some of the problems she went through over the past decade were in part related to her confused past?
- Oddly enough, the above-mentioned Karen is half Japanese and would presumably have dual citizenship, so she’d be free to feel as Japanese as she likes. It’d have been more realistic if it had been Alice wanting to become Japanese, though less adorable
Valentine’s Day is coming, and as we always do, we’re having a huge sale both on chocolate products from Japan, as well as personal “ecchi” toys for guys and girls, so whether or not you have someone special to celebrate with, everyone is happy! Best of all, if you order before Valentine’s Day, you get one of these kawaii Megumi stickers! But you need to order soon!