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MADAO from Gintama

Drew this around April 2008 on Tegaki. Too lazy to draw another MADAO pic -__-;; Besides, the comments are really worth reading!!

I didn't mention this here, but i took a course called "Popular Culture in East Asia" , but my prof specialized in Japan, so it was like Popular Culture in Japan. It was a really cool course, where we watched movies and animes, and read some articles on Japanese history.

From the anime section, our required/recommended media was Princess Mononoke, Rurouni Kenshin, Gintama, Hetalia, and Code Geass.

So for my final essay, i wrote about Gintama :D I was hoping to maybe write something about Zura and the jouishishi or Takasugi, but i ended up taking all about MADAO orz..... And yeah, NEVER cite Wikipedia in an academic paper, but it had translations from Japanese, so i needed it.

If you read the essay, you will know why i don't write much, it's because i suck at it....

Here's my entire essay for that course:

Gintama: Depictions of Social Trends in Edo and Contemporary Japan.

The samurai didn’t stand a chance. First, the aliens invaded Japan. Next, they took all the jobs. And then they confiscated everyone’s swords. So what does a hotheaded former samurai like Sakata “Gin” Gintoki do to make ends meet? Take any odd job that comes his way, even if it means losing his dignity.
Synopsis of Gintama by VIZ Media [SORACHI, Gintama Vol. 1]

Gintama(銀魂), the manga, is written and illustrated by SORACHI Hideaki. It began serialization on December 3, 2003 and currently runs weekly in the manga anthology Weekly Shonen Jump (週刊少年ジャンプ Shūkan Shōnen Janpu). Gintama is categorized as a humourous gag manga. Due to its popularity, Gintama was adapted into an anime, and debuted on Japanese television on April 4, 2006. The anime is still airing with 186 episodes so far [Wikipedia].
The world of Gintama parallels to that of a Japan in the Bakumatsu era (1853-1868) and of recent times. Like Bakumatsu Japan, Gintama Japan has a crumbling bakufu, and swords sported by samurai were banned [STEELE] [SAMSON]. However, the distinct difference between the historical Japan and Gintama are western foreigners are portrayed as extraterrestrial aliens. Hence, the unique universe of Gintama allows its stories to touch on social events found in both eras. This essay will discuss two major social trends apparent across Bakumatsu/Edo Japan, contemporary Japan, and Gintama Japan.
In comteporary Japan, the salaryman (サラリーマン) is a male working in an office. It typically has a negative connotation, especially after the economic bubble burst in the late 1980s; they were viewed as “a worker cowering in fear of employee cuts or salary-reductions” (Salaryman). Before that the salaryman was a “corporate warrior armed with an energy drink” (Salaryman). The salaryman was also seen as lacking in motivation and originality. Thus, the stereotype of salaryman is often ridiculed in Japan (Salaryman).
The samurai of the Edo period were also viewed similarly by the townspeople in Edo Japan as how popular culture in contemporary Japan views the salaryman today. The samurai of Edo Japan existed during a time of peace. They adhered strictly to their stoic teachings. The townspeople of Edo would have seen the samurai as uncreative. The wealth of the samurai was handed down in tradition from their families, while the townspeople amassed their wealth by profiting from the wealthy samurai. Eventually, the townspeople had more wealth than the samurai class. When the samurai were poorer than the townspeople, the townspeople no doubt had an image of the samurai as a fool who could not manage his finance (STEELE).
The traditional corporate system in modern day Japan is based on a hierarchical personnel system, which is very reminiscent of the hierarchical class system in Edo Japan [MATSUMOTO] [STEELE]. Like the samurai, these were Japanese men that were usually employed in a single company their entire lives [MATSUMOTO] [YAMAMOTO , (translator)]. For the samurai, their unemployment came from the destruction of the class system during the Meiji Restoration [DE BARY]. For the salarymen, male office workers in a corporate business, their unemployment came from Japan’s economic recession of the late 1980s to 1990s [NADINCHEK]. The common result of these two social events was the mass unemployment of Japanese men. Since the world of Gintama is a melding of Edo and contemporary Japan, it can naturally hint of this problem in the series.
The character of HASEGAWA Taizo (長谷川泰三)from Gintama is a middle-aged Japanese man who expresses this Japanese social problem very well. According to the creator of Gintama, SORACHI Hideaki, in an answer to readers’ questions, Hasegawa married into his wife’s family. His wife’s family is a shogun’s retainer. By marrying into his wife’s family, Hasegawa obtains the position of being head of the Immigration Bureau (SORACHI, Gintama Vol. 15). Due to an incident involved with a prince from a foreign planet, and partially caused by himself and Gintoki, Hasegawa loses his job, and drifts from various jobs throughout the whole series (SORACHI, Gintama Vol. 1). Gintama as a contemporary manga also pokes fun of the salaryman image of contemporary Japan. As seen by Hasegawa’s nickname MADAO (マダオ) which stands for “marude dame na ossan (まるでダメなオッさん)” and translated as “totally useless middle-aged man” in English (Wikipedia). Life for Hasegawa was easy and peaceful when he was in the Immigration Bureau, just like samurai during peace time serving their daimyo, and salarymen working in the office that had little chance of promotion. In this sense, the samurai, the salarymen as modern Japan’s equivalent of the samurai, and a character in Gintama that embodies both qualities of the samurai and the salarymen are the same. It can be said that the historical samurai of Edo and the corporate warrior of Japan today came together to create the character of Hasegawa.
Another aspect shared by samurai, salarymen, and Hasgawa is the notion of glorified death. As stated in the Hagakure, the purpose of a samurai was to die a hounourable death (YAMAMOTO and (translator)). This idea of death bringing pride and honour to those connected to him still remotely exists in Japan today. Hence, the high suicide rates of Japan. When faced with pressure from work and society’s negative stereotype, the salaryman may be inclined to fall into depression and contemplate death (Salaryman) (MATSUMOTO). In Gintama, Hasegawa showed signs of wanting to commit suicide. In an extra in volume 14 of the Gintama manga, Sorachi suggests a virtual pet video game about Hasegawa. The game is about supporting Hasegawa until he can find a job. While supporting him, Hasegawa may sometimes play with a rope attached to the ceiling, and at that time the player must press the button B repeatedly to cut the rope (SORACHI, Gintama Vol. 14). In the Gintama anime, episode 155, an original episode created by the animation company, about Hasegawa trying to turn his life around by gambling on horses at the racetrack. Hasegawa loses everything he had and committed suicide, but it turned out to be a cruel joke the animators pulled on the audience (Sunrise). The idea for Hasegawa’s video game was probably influenced by the actions of depressed salaryman. In an interview with a fiftyish Japanese salaryman suffering from depression, he said that he bought a length of rope to place in the trunk of his car so that he would be prepared for the day when he would hang himself (WEHRFRITZ).
Japan’s recession from late 1980s contributed to the rising trafficking of drugs. To earn a living, some unemployed people turned to selling drugs. Of those unemployed some were illegal immigrants. Due to the bad economy and stricter immigration policy from previous, businesses did not risk hiring immigrants, especially those that did not look Japanese. The unemployed foreigners that chose to stay in Japan were forced to make a living through the underground economy, which included the selling of illegal drugs. Often times these were amateur foreign drug dealers that were more visible to Japanese authorities. The yakuza is known to allow foreign drug dealers to operate in public areas, such as train stations, streets, and parks. Hence, these foreign drug dealers are much more visible against the homogeneity of Japan. This is the reason why more foreigners selling illicit drugs are arrested by Japanese authorities than their local yakuza counterparts. Since more foreigners are arrested, they show up in Japanese media more often than Japanese drug dealers. This gives the sense to the Japanese audience that foreigners are bringing illegal drugs into Japan (FRIMAN).
Japan during the Edo period saw the import of opium from British merchants to China. The British brought opium to China, and successfully got its citizens addicted. Japan saw this and was afraid the British would do the same to them. Fortunately, the problem of opium in Japan never escalated to that of China’s Opium Wars (WAKABAYASHI). As one can see, in both Edo and contemporary eras, western foreigners were seen as importing harmful drugs to Japan. This is also exhibited in Gintama.
In Gintama, the main importers of illegal drugs are space aliens, known as Amanto in general, which are the representations of western foreigners. The drugs are sold in a club owned and filled with space aliens. Even the main character Gintoki is quoted “You Amanto brought a lot of dangerous stuff with you. Can’t have you pushing drugs on kids. Pisses me off.” (SORACHI, Gintama Vol. 2). The space aliens responsible for the import of the drugs are the Harusame. The Harusame is the biggest crime syndicate in the galaxy. Their profits mainly come from the trafficking of illegal drugs. The Harusame could easily sell their wares in Oedo (大江戸) because of connections with the bakufu. Oedo is the name of the city where Gintama takes place in. There was a bakufu official, which was a frog-like space alien, that profited from these drug sales (SORACHI, Gintama Vol. 2). Notice all those involved with the trafficking of drugs in Gintama are space aliens, which are representations of western foreigners. Thus, it can be concluded that similar to both Edo and contemporary Japan, Gintama Japan also views western foreigners as the main source of drugs.
Manga as a medium has access to all ages of male and female in Japan. In recent years, whenever a subject needed popularity, it was often adapted into a form of manga. By becoming manga, the subject would be better known to the Japanese public (GRAVETT). Hence, manga is a very effective medium at spreading knowledge and ideas in Japan. Manga is read individually and this influences how the reader perceives the message and ideas conveyed by manga. When a person is reading manga by themselves, they are not influenced by other’s reactions or thinking. The reader’s thoughts are purely their own, and can remain their own because they do not have to worry how others would perceive and judge them based on their thoughts. This is unlike the medium of anime, or more precisely, television.
Many popular manga in Japan are often adapted to animation (GRAVETT). The most important criteria of a manga getting an anime adaptation is based on its popularity. The less significant criteria would be the subject matter of the manga. If the ideas expressed in the manga are too controversial for Japanese television standards, perhaps the manga will never receive an anime version. However, often times, popularity will triumph this factor. When that is the case, then the anime adaption of the manga will be toned down or changed for television. If that happens, the original message of the manga would have been altered, and the viewers of the anime would receive a different message than that of the manga readers.
The audience of manga and anime sometimes overlap and sometimes does not. While manga is a medium that reaches to all age groups in Japan, anime does not. Anime is viewed by those that have time to go home to watch it, and those are usually people that have not enter the workforce. Hence, animation production companies would only produce anime that they know will be viewed by a significant number of people. When this is the case, often times, manga are produced instead because manga can be read anywhere and anytime. This shows that anime is not as far-reaching of a medium as that of manga.
Also unlike manga, anime can be viewed with other people, and this may create a different experience versus viewing the anime by oneself. A group of people watching the same thing at the same time results in a single collective experience. People influence each other through talking or other ways of expressing their emotions. So when viewing anime with others around, your perception to the anime may not be entirely your own, but influenced by the other viewers around. When others are around, one may also miss details in the anime, since anime is active and fast moving on the screen, or others around may distract and results one to miss details. The manga is a collection of stagnant drawings, thus one can stare at the drawings as long as needed to gather information.
Even in the case of Gintama, there are differences that exist between the manga and anime versions; these are very slight differences, but nonetheless still exist. The main reasons to these changes from the manga to the anime are due to copyright laws and Japanese television standards. There are some material and jokes that have been altered to suit television criteria. The anime also has created some of its own material to prolong episode time. Hence, when a person either just reads the manga or watch the anime, they will receive a slightly different version of Gintama.
Weekly Shonen Jump, which is the anthology Gintama is serialized in Japan, is targeted to boys ranging from grade school to high school (Wikipedia). This would mean that the topics and theme in Gintama would be forced or changed to be suitable for that particular demographic. If Gintama was serialized in a manga anthology aimed at adult males, then its subject matter may have been very different. Almost all of Gintama’s humour has references in Japanese history, language, or Japanese popular culture. Gintama was never meant to be translated and imported outside of Japan. Those that are not Japanese and enjoy Gintama are people that know a lot about Japan. If Gintama was meant to be sold outside of Japan, it would not have all the Japanese historical and popular culture references. This demonstrates that even by adjusting the target audiences of the manga Gintama, it would have given readers other depictions of Edo and contemporary Japan.
The reason behind Gintama being able to hint at or bring serious contemporary problems into its own context may be owing to the setting and the fact that it is a comedic gag manga. By creating a juxtaposed world of Edo and contemporary Japan, Gintama is able to easily address trends found in either or both. The fictional world of Gintama allowed it to mention contemporary and historical social problems of Japan by masking them into a pseudo-era of Japan. This pseudo-era of Japan was not foreign to the Japanese readers because it was inhabited by many familiar elements and historical characters recognized in modern Japan. This is a reason that contributed to Gintama’s popularity and made it into a commercially successful medium for representing Edo Japan.
Not only is Gintama able to display historical social problems of Edo Japan to contemporary readers, it can also depict modern-day social problems to contemporary readers. The most important reason for Gintama being able to mention such important contemporary social trends such as the depression of salarymen and the stigmata of western foreigners trafficking drugs into Japan is all masked by the humourous nature of the manga. Gintama will always place jokes even into the most serious of situations to create a light-hearted mood. By doing so, the attention is diverted away from the serious problems, and instead focused on the joke. If social problems of contemporary Japan was Gintama’s main focus and Gintama treated it with gravity, it would not interest many people and especially not its targeted audience; making it an unsuccessful medium in channelling either historical or contemporary Japanese social developments.

Works Cited
DE BARY, William Theodore, 1919-, Keene, Donald., Tsunoda, Ryūsaku, 1877-1964. Sources of the Japanese tradition. Columbia University Press, 1958.
FRIMAN, H. Richard. "Gaijinhanzai: Immigrants and Drugs in Contemporary Japan." Asian Survey (1996): 964-977.
Gintama Ep. 155. Dir. Yoichi FUJITA. Perf. Sunrise. 2009.
GRAVETT, Paul. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. New York: Harper Design, 2004.
MATSUMOTO, Oki. "People Power, Japanese Style." Newsweek 3 April 2000: 60.
NADINCHEK, Jon. "Consumer confidence and economic stagnation in Japan." Japan and the World Economy (2006): 338–346.
Salaryman. 26 November 2009. 3 December 2009 .
SAMSON, George. A History of Japan: 1615-1867. Standford: Standford University Press, 1963.
SORACHI, Hideaki. Gintama Vol. 1. San Fransisco: VIZ Media, LLC, 2007.
SORACHI, Hideaki. "Gintama Vol. 14." SORACHI, Hideaki. Gintama Vol. 14. San Fransisco: VIZ Media, LLC, 2009. 46.
SORACHI, Hideaki. "Gintama Vol. 15." SORACHI, Hideaki. Gintama. San Fransisco: VIZ Media, LLC, 2009. 86.
SORACHI, Hideaki. "Gintama Vol. 2." SORACHI, Hideaki. Gintama Vol. 2. San Fransisco: VIZ Media, LLC, 2007. 137.
STEELE, M. William. "Edo in 1868. The View from Below." Monumenta Nipponica (1990): 127-155.
WAKABAYASHI, Bob Tadashi. "Opium, Expulsion, Sovereignty. China's Lessons for Bakumatsu Japan." Monumenta Nipponica (1992): 1-25.
WEHRFRITZ, George et al. "Death By Conformity.(mental health in Japanese workers)." Newsweek International 20 August 2001: 18.
Wikipedia. Gin Tama. 3 December 2009. 3 December 2009 .
YAMAMOTO, Tsunetomo and William Scott WILSON (translator). Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. Stackpole Books, 2002.



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