Friday, February 26, 2010

Random Thought: The Japanese and (American) Football

In a bout of insomnia, I began to ponder the Japanese love of, of all things, baseball.  I won't begrudge them the game, but football, to me, makes so much more sense.  Consider how in anime, as well as Japanese culture in general, the Japanese people display a love of the following:
  • Convoluted, Complex Tactics: Hardly an anime goes by without some awesome fight during which either the hero or villain does something awesome or unexpected, and either he or some outside commenter stops to explain the implications and repercussions of just how cool those tactics really were.
  • Big Guys Slamming Into One Another: Mecha, Sumo and Godzilla movies all have one thing in common: It's all about really big guys grappling and brawling with one another.  Japan loves primal struggles pitting strength against strength, will against will.
  • Awesome Costumes: Preferably with wacky helmets and crazy shoulder pads.
  • Hawt Mascot Chicks: What male-oriented anime would be complete without some sexy female character flaunting her beauty and exhorting the hero to victory.  Why, some people even refer to such characters as "the cheerleader."
Obviously, football is very much about these things, and yet, when the Japanese go to pick an American sport to be fascinated by, they pick baseball.  The only reason I can think of: Japan borrowed alot of western ideas during the early 20th century, when they were coming out of isolation.  For example, the "big eyes, small mouth" style of anime drawing actually descends from early American animation (for example, Betty Boop), and baseball was much bigger in America then.  Football didn't really start to sweep America until the second half of the twentieth century, after the 1958 NFL championship game, at which point Japan was happily doing its own thing.

Still, seems like they'd be a great match, two great flavors that go great together.  I figure it would only take one obsessive otaku anime artist to popularize the game in Japan.

And guess what?  I was right.  One quick search later, I've discovered Eyeshield 21, a relatively new anime about American football that's really managed to put the sport on the map.  Who knows, maybe it'll eclipse baseball in Japan the way it's taken over the states too.
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