Do You Love Anime Memes from Japan?
Ever since the venerable Dancing CGI Baby and “All Your Base Are Belong to Us,” life on the Internet has been ruled by memes, which are units of culture that move from person to person, getting changed bit by bit as they go. Memes are great because they’re fun and get shared at the speed of light from Australia to Aruba, with most users able to understand them with little cultural background. The latest meme to steal the Internet’s heart is called Distracted Boyfriend, and we knew we had to get it on the fun, too. Looking at my brimming “reaction image” folder, which allows me to reply to Twitter and Facebook users with just the right amount of snark and smugness, I sometimes wonder if we aren’t on the verge of a major language change. What if words start to become less important than the communication derived from sharing that perfect “I see you are a man of culture as well” visual, or invent a new variation on the classic “I love Emilia” joke? What if we’re on the cusp of the biggest language change since the Great Vowel Shift of 1350?
Dialects are part of the wonderfully complex world of human language, and Japanese has many distinct dialects in use, although only a handful could ever be accurately perceived by us gaijin. While anime series featuring a token character speaking Osaka-ben is a common trope, accents from other parts of the country are more rare. One exception was the character Yozuru Kagenui from Nisemonogatari, who speaks a version of Kyoto-ben that’s very elegant and stylized (to say nothing of sexy as hell). Another dialect that shows up sometimes is Akita-ben, from the frozen wastes of Japan’s northern Touhoku region, with Ebina from Umaru-chan being the most famous representative. While characters like Yun from the New Game! anime speaking with cute regional accents as a “moe charm point” are all well and good, the reality is that anyone who moves to Tokyo will feel pressure to speak standard dialect and hide their regional accent. The only time I get to hear proper Kansai-ben is when Osaka-based Soft on Demand calls us with questions about an order we’ve made. Listening to the sing-song accents of the female SOD employees on the other end of the phone always makes me smile.