is simply well done. Partly it is because I find the Japanese style of storytelling enjoyable. But it is also true that there are
a considerable number of anime that actually get me thinking about issues. American cartoons have rarely elicited the
same reaction. One second you may be enjoying a light-hearted tale about some art students visiting an antique shop &
the next a character is subtly commenting on the nature of worth vis-a-vis cost. Its these moments I love. I decided it
might be fun to run a series of articles to tackle some of my favorite examples of anime philosophy.
Bakemonogatari. On my other blog I posted a
review of it. While not necessary to get the gist
of what I'm writing about it may help understand
some of the terms I throw at you. Oh, and from
here on there will be spoilers.
In the second season of Bakemonogatari main
character Koyomi Araragi discovers his younger
sister Tsukihi is actually a type of apparition that
enters a pregnant mother, kills the child, and
assumes its identity in order to carry on its life.
Tsukihi remains unaware of what she is while
Koyomi deals with this revelation.
Koyomi has come to the conclusion that his sister's status is irrelevant. It all culminates in a intellectual and literal battle
over who is 'right' in this situation.
his own views on others (subjective good vs. objective good), it is not what I wanted to focus on. And that brings us to the
question at the heart of this article:
Given the real thing and an indistinguishable fake, which is worth more?
question consistently across all circumstances.
This is the answer most people would given if no further details were presented. We like 'real' Christmas trees, 'real' Nike
products, 'real' food, 'real' designer handbags, 'real' knowledge, and the list goes on and on. From this perspective the
fake is not only inferior, it may be downright evil.
Consider the recent incident where a white person was found to be masquerading as black. The anger and contempt
directed at her was something interesting to watch. Or you could consider the many cases of people impersonating
Native Americans. In both cases the preference for the 'real' is visceral. How can these 'fakes' ever be 'worth' as much as
the genuine article? Equally true is the extent bigots often hold transgendered individuals loathsome because they don't
meet their internal definition of 'real'.
Note that the proponent of the real over fake position in this series, Kagenui, is also exceedingly violent. Perhaps you can
take from this a certain amount of truth; take a preference for the 'real', 'authentic', 'pure' too far and it inevitably leads
to conflict. Because when I was listing off the 'real' things we all like I'm sure there was some disagreement, let us move
They are equally valuable.
Maybe you find that real Christmas trees and plastic ones each have their own charms. Or maybe you value shoes based
on price rather than style or brand. Obvious knockoff? Not a problem! An apple or a processed candy bar? I could go for
either. Real knowledge vs fake knowledge? If both lead to the same result does it matter?
This view pops up a lot when discussing brands and knockoffs. It also comes up when discussing encouraging the import
of generic medications into a country. After all, if the medicine does everything the original does who cares if its a 'fake'?
On a more serious note, consider cases where children have been switched at birth. Or a stepparent coming to love
a child as if they were their own flesh and blood. In both situations the child's technical status as 'fakes' doesn't matter.
In Bakemonogatari it is Oshino that is identified as holding this view. A laid-back man that helps both humans and
apparitions and uses violence as a last resort seems to embody this view. Plato or Socrates (or Plato through Socrates)
postulate that if an evil man attempts to be indistinguishable from a virtuous person the two are equivalent as long as
they are behaving in a virtuous manner. Which brings us to the third position.
The fake is worth more.
You know what? Fake Christmas trees are awesome. No cleaning hassle. No smell. They may be better than living trees.
Cloths that look like they are a designer brand? Perhaps there is a certain satisfaction in sticking it to the fashion industry
that you just can't get by buying those designer handbags. Vegans certainly prefer their 'fake' meat to the real thing.
Let us return to the issue of children switched at birth. It is never the case where the child insists on the returning to
their biological relatives. The bond they have with those that raised them is stronger (more 'real') than that to their
blood kin. In the art world fakes are generally looked down on. Still, some actually acquire their own value and should
original be destroyed or unavailable they could be seen as more valuable. In fact there is a cave in France called
Lascaux which had to be closed to visitors due to threats to the cave paintings there. A full-sized, detailed model
was created nearby for visitors. In this case (and others where artifacts need replica stand-ins) which is more valuable to
the public? Is it the real thing that they cannot see, touch, or photograph? Or is it the indistinguishable fakes that often
let them do all three of those things? I'd wager on the latter.
Kaiki represents this view in the series. He is a con man (just as Kagenui describes him) who aims solely to increase his
wealth. His argument is that "the fake is of far greater value. In its deliberate attempt to be real, its more 'real' than the
real thing." Kagenui bringing up Xun Zi and his theory that all humans are inherently evil is interesting. From that
perspective the evil person trying to act good does have more value since it is a conscious effort rather than an inborn
talent. There is much to be admired in such an effort but does effort add value in the way proposed?
Well, this has been my somewhat rambling look at a question that interested me. I may do another. We'll see.