The Uzuki-Chan Drama – Twitter imposing their morals on a foreign culture

These past couple of weeks, I’ve seen Hana Uzaki, the titular character from Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! showing up on my Twitter timeline a lot. Weirdly tough, her viral popularity isn’t one of people excited about her or of her becoming a new meme template. Rather, there is this wave of sentiment amongst people to try and “fix” her.

It’s a weird collective take that enough of the internet has globed onto that it’s become a talking point. And all I can think when I encounter is it: “Is this the first time these people have seen an anime character?”.

The general sentiment amongst the people I’m talking about is that Uzaki’s design is “gross”, that she looks like a 10 year old with some giant boobs latched to her forward facing side. The result has been something of a hashtag campaign that redesigns her maker her look more human. As well as the wave comments that follow to argue the artist’s sentiment.

For the life of me, I’m trying to understand where this is all coming from. There is nothing all that unique about Uzaki in the grand scheme of anime character designs. She’s short, high energy and stacked. If I had a mind to I could probably find a dozen other examples of characters in manga and anime that fit in that same mould.

The Uzuki-Chan Drama - Twitter imposing their morals on a foreign culture
Not sure if this is where it started, but it’s certainly the thing that seems to be used the most as the example. And it’s not even a bad drawing in itself, rather, its the dismissive tone of the artist that riles everyone up.

Which leads me to believe that almost all of this sentiment is coming from people who have little to no historic interaction with anime or other Japanese media outside of the super mainstream stuff. Coupled with the very idea of criticising a cartoon for doing exactly what a cartoon does: exaggerating features and aspects of a character for the sake of humour.

It just so happens that Uzaki’s exaggerated features paint her in a mildly sexualised fashion. Because let’s be real. This series is some mild ecchi at most, there are a ton of far more damning examples of anime characters for people to be outraged at.

This is a bandwagon people seemed to have jumped on while it’s good and hot. I noticed that almost all of the people redesigning Uzaki are actually younger than the character herself, who is stated in the very first episode of the anime to be a 19 year old college student. Thus most of the people criticising her for looking underage are ironically not in positions to have peers of the characters age and see just how varied in shape and size people can be. It seems that way at least anyway.

The whole thing feels like a low scale moral panic to me. One coming from a group are assigning their own morals, values and attitudes onto a character that comes from a country on the other side of the world. One with a culture that’s about as separate from western culture and values as any first world country can be.

The Uzuki-Chan Drama - Twitter imposing their morals on a foreign culture
Once again, a cute drawing in itself. But the art isn’t what’s riling people up, it’s the loaded language the artists are using. After a certain point though, I start to wonder who are simply doing it for exposure. Although inviting the toxic Twitter to come at them doesn’t seem like its worth any amount of expose to me.

A fact that many of the people criticising seem to missing out on. I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on Japanese culture whatsoever. I do, however, have enough self awareness to understand that imposing my morals and culture onto their media is shortsighted, reductive and wrong.

Does Japan have some attitude towards work, gender and age that I find problematic? Absolutely. Is it my place to tell them that they’re wrong? Of course it isn’t. That’s what culture is, there are plenty of aspects of western culture that the Japanese probably find abhorrent. They seem to have the self awareness to know that those aspects of our culture are ours to suffer and not theirs to interfere with.

To try and impose our morals and culture onto other peoples does seem to be a thing we’ve always loved doing in the west. To give an extreme example, look at the christian missionaries, going to Africa and imposing God into the natives. People who were thriving and going about their lives just find before us white folk came alone. Telling them how to live, how to dress and basically imposing their will on another culture, squashing it in the process.

More recent examples include the terrible Americanisation of older anime in the 90s, including the pains dubbing studios were forced to go to censor violence in Dragon Ball and Yu-Gi-Oh! as well as the likes of 4Kid’s now infamous Jelly Doughnut scene from the original Pokemon dub. As well as totally re-scoring anime for no reason I can understand today.

The Uzuki-Chan Drama - Twitter imposing their morals on a foreign culture
I’d like to reiterate one more time. The quality of the art is utterly irrelevant. From what I can tell, it’s a matter of body image and people wanting to normalise realistic bodies in media. Which is admirable, but kind of lost on a totally different culture. One where obesity isn’t really an issue.

This whole miniature moral panic comes from the same place at those old 4kids alterations though, those redesigning Uzaki’s appearance to make her more suitable for their personal tastes, which in most cases turn her from a pretty generic looking anime character into a just as generic looking western character, one they would feel more comfortable consuming in their own media. Which is somewhat hypocritical given the over-sexualization and a lack of normal body types in our own, western television and movies.

What makes this all the more bizarre to me is that Uzaki herself isn’t even that heinous of an example of a character looking too young and acting in a sexualised manner. Uzaki is more clueless about her actions that actively trying to be seductive in anything she does. And from a culture where there are countless examples anime with sexualised demons and dragons appearing with the bodies of prepubescent girls; getting mad over a vertically challenged 19 year old with big eyes and bigger boobs seems to add another strike against trying to argue whatever point it is they’re arguing.

Hell, half the echhi shows out there are set in high schools where the girls range from the ages of 13 to 17, the fact that this character is the one that got everyone’s ire up seems so quaint compared to the countless better examples this moral panic patrol could have used as the flag for their stance.

The Uzuki-Chan Drama - Twitter imposing their morals on a foreign culture
After a certain point though, it became difficult to separate those who genuinely had an issue with the character design from those either mocking it or satirising it.

This drama will come and it will go away, I wouldn’t be surprised if I never see this issue show up again after this post goes live. But there’s no doubt that some anime character will become the target for another, similar moral panic amongst Western Twitter again in the future. Imposing their views on sex and violence onto a culture that is doing just fine without anyone else telling them what to do. When all they needed to do accept that some things from other cultures weren’t made for them, rather than coming through like a battering ram.

In the end, maybe these people who are jumping on the band wagon and implying pedophilia on the creators and the audience that enjoys this anime should just actually go and give Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! a chance. Then they’ll realise that it’s ultimately a pretty harmless and cute slice of life comedy that isn’t really worth all the drama. Especially when there are battles closer to home they could be battling instead.


 

One Final Note: This post was never intended to be an attack on any of the artists featured within the post. Hence why I erased the names of the accounts that posted them. You can probably search them out if you need to, but I’d ask that you don’t. This post was meant as a wider talk about imposing moral values upon others while only using this event as example.

3 thoughts on “The Uzuki-Chan Drama – Twitter imposing their morals on a foreign culture

  1. You said it. I was having a lot of the same thoughts looking at the fights over Uzaki’s character design, the “fixed” redesigns, all that. It really is amazing that this is what people are getting angry over. These are great points to bring up, especially regarding western cultural superiority. It’s maybe a different kind from the “let’s send missionaries into Africa and Asia to assert our dominance” thing but it’s also very arrogant and narrow-minded.

    When I hear accusations that we western anime and game fans are trying to “gatekeep” our hobbies, this is partly what I think of. To be clear, I don’t like the kind of gatekeeping that tries to keep potential fans out by putting up massive barriers to entry; everyone should be welcome. At the same time, those potential fans should try to understand and be open to series and games with styles they’re not used to. And if they don’t like those styles, then there are plenty of other works for them to watch that will suit their tastes. Instead, there’s this push to fundamentally change the works a lot of us enjoy and to shame those who like them as they are.

    If it were just about criticism, that would be fine, but when you see visual novels getting booted off of Steam and manga removed from sale for similar reasons, often after outrages on Twitter and other social media platforms, it’s clear that it goes well beyond. And that’s not something any of us need to stand by and accept.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your input. It terms of Gatekeeping, I agree. And that’s the opposite end of the spectrum. Since the age of the internet, I really do believe that all fandoms eventually ruin whatever it is they’re fans of, both for themselves and anyone looking to get into it.

      Liked by 1 person

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