As every budding weeaboo (japanophile) knows the utter destruction of Tokyo in Japanese art is a common theme. Beyond this, the occurrence of characters who singularly hold the power to destroy cities and/or civilizations at a whim is similarly prevalent even if the setting is not modern or futuristic. Frequently this mighty characters do succumb and end up taking out whatever major population center. For classic anime examples, Tokyo is destroyed twice in the Akira universe, three times in the Eva one, and is leveled merely as a plot device in Magic Knight Rayearth. Perhaps oddest of all, major population centers are leveled for comedic effect in Slayers.
This is often perceived to be a form of emotional release of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese in their art that is exported to the States never seem to address the destruction directly, but replay it over and over again with a different twist each time. But as I said earlier, all this is known to your standard weeaboo fare.
A couple of points may have missed their OCD eyes as a well as those of the common consumer in the US. We here in the United States have no problem talking about the Bomb. Truman in his biography even beliefs. 1) We generally believe it is good to talk about the past in order that it doesn’t oppress us, 2) if not fully sorry, we are apologetic and empathetic to the Japanese people, 3) it is good that we got the bomb before the Russians or God forbid the Nazis. I also think that most people in the US think that the Japanese method of subversive angst towards the bombings is unhealthy, not that it is really our place to comment.
Ok, now cut to 9-11. Now that we have talked (via the media, federal elections, commission reports) to death the terror attacks we are secretly dealing emotionally in the same way that the Japanese have been with the bombings.
I just got out of “Cloverfield” and a week or two ago I saw “I am Legend”. Both dealt with the destruction of NYC. In media outside of film, the book “World Without Us”, which talked about nature reclaiming civilization should humanity mysteriously disappear, spent the first 150-200 pages giving a detailed example of how NYC would fall apart. This is especially poignant since the author could have chosen any other city in the world to analyze.
Cloverfield was the most upfront about their social commentary. In one scene, an extra says in the background , “Do you think it is another terrorist?” In a similarly brilliant move and just as self-aware move, the main character Rob Hawkins is getting a promotion to Vice President which forces him to move oversees to, you guessed it, Japan. Given the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that surrounded and promoted the film, it is pretty clear that J. J. Abrams is fully conscious of his own criticisms and that they aren’t just being inferred from this viewer.
So are we destined to see New York City destroyed again? Unfortunately I think so. Americans (North and South) have long understood that trade and culture meshing is a two way street. On this side of the Pacific, our lives have been enriched by the Japanese. Similarly, whether or not they are too isolationist or not to admit it, the Japanese people have been positively affected by our way of life. However, in this one small thing, I am not sure the continued destruction of NYC is healthy. In this case the media’s overzealous, impulsive reporting might well save us from having art that flirts with the issue as our only collective outlet. What’s more, as long as the effects are good and the story interesting, I will probably keep going back to see more. Bing on the big guns!
(See I could have been a film major. Maybe a shitty film major…)