The death of history comes when nobody is there to remember it

The title might sound like a bullshit sentiment, and it kind of is. Mostly because that is a personal point of view as someone who was a history buff in his teens. With the Internet’s sub-cultures still reeling on the loss of sadpanda, and that site-wide mirror being more or less a confirmed hoax at this point, it really made me think back how little we value history and its artifacts. Are you saying bunch of porn counts as historical artifacts? Very much so, especially if its older than decade or so. While most people will get stuck on the whole porn issue and what sort of porn it might’ve been, the same people don’t seem to consider what sort of sociological statements those pictures were making. For example, the much discussed (for better or worse) lolicon has gone through numerous iterations since the movement surfaced in Japan in the 1970’s. You can see its effects everywhere in the media in completely standard and normal ways, like Captain Harlock having having Mayu as a level of plot device, one of the reasons why Harlock still protects Earth from its inner deceit and alien threats. While Harlock could have numerous reasons, a character like this was surely influenced by the pop-cultural scene of the time. Similar things can be found in many other works in the era, culminating with Cybele Vol.1 seeing its Comiket publishing in 1979, and probably pushing itself to the mainstream popular culture with Comic Lemon People first issue hitting the magazine stands for all to buy in 1982. This magazine had such impact that modern Japanese popular culture wouldn’t exist without it in its current form.

Think what you may, White Cybele has a very classy cover

Much like everything in history, things are complicated. It is disingenuous to say that it is sexual objectification of children, but that’s what many seem to go to first. What lolicon was in the 1970’s and 1980’s was effectively what people understand with modern moe; the use of cute, young characters within works. Discussion during these eras were about affection towards these characters, and their desires. That must be emphasized; characters. By definition, a real person does not step into the equation. The age range of these characters was not defined either, like it is nowadays. These characters could be almost anything, as long as the visual style represented the idea of these cute, somewhat innocent characters and their visuals. The culture of cute is a very much a large component here, and with the 1960’s and 1970’s producing a generation that grew up on modern cartoons and comics in post-World War II Japan, it was more or less natural growth in terms of cultural landscape. Within this cultural scape, a lolicon wasn’t someone who had predatory tendencies towards children or pedophilia in any form; it refers for a preference for a certain style and look of the character. In many ways, the term moe has superseded lolicon as it carries largely the same connotation of cute characters. The historical background is largely the same, and even the marketing is similar. The term is simply more politically correct, perhaps to distance itself from how people consider lolicon to be only porn. I should also mention shotacon, which is more associated with female fans; the admiration of similarly cute, beautiful young men and boys. However, this term too is nowadays marred with its sexual connotations.

To put emphasize again; what determines these in the 1970’s and 1980’s is aesthetics. Young, cute looking characters that are the object of fan affection. As you’ve probably surmised, the Western use for the term is very different and based on different historical and cultural background, and partially reliant on intentional misinterpretation.

This is all terrible condensed, and needs its own proper post before I even attempt to cover the best years of Comic Lemon People, but one thing should be clear to most of my readers; the above isn’t exactly what what the Global, especially the Western, consensus is on the topic. We are talking about one nation’s rather major movement in popular culture history, which has been marred needlessly. Without reading around, listening to the people from the era from that specific place, reading and listening to first and second hand sources, you might think that pedophilia and lolicon are the same thing. In fact, they vehemently different; they are both qualitatively and fundamentally two different things. Drawn picture is not the same thing as a real person, or a photo of a real person.

Let’s assume we have lost fan made works from the 1970’s and 1980’s from the Internet and we can’t obtain physical copies anymore. The people who lived during that era are now dead and we can’t have their recollection from the era nor is there any properly documented interviews from them. Without first hand accounts, we can only rely on accounts that might or might not be correct. Writers may have an agenda and paint the movement in black colours, demonizing it to hell and back. Some sources might not even be in the same language as the target topic, misunderstanding major elements. Works that use sources that intentionally colour history is not uncommon, as history is full of propaganda. Be it political, religious or whatever, any and all events in history has different sides seeing different things. It’s like people watching a die from six different sides; they all see a different number. What we need to do is view that die from all angles and understand them for the whole picture.

LUM IS OVER is probably the best example of cross-cut of numerous creators from 1987 collaborating around Lum, with over thirty individuals pouring their affection in pin-ups and illustrations

It is not a secret that lolicon had a sexual element to it, but frankly everything has. It simply has been blown out of its proper proportions, probably because how influential Comic Lemon People was in the mainstream. Nobody seems to consider the 1970’s boy and girl characters as a result of this movement in itself, unless somebody directly mentions that shotacon was named after Tetsujin #28‘s main character, and that show had its inception in the sixties. Despite Elpeo Ple is cited as Gundam‘s household loli character (after all, she was named after Comic Lemon People, Kikka Kobayashi already was around in the first series. Hell, even Fraw Bow counts despite the character’s older age, but she still maintains that cute charm around her compared to most other female characters in the show. Don’t forget that Lum of Urusei Yatsura is considered the first real anime and manga sex symbol, and she is very much part of the lolicon culture of its era. Aalt, she’s too old for that. No, she’s the perfect age, because remember; it is about aesthetics of cuteness. Cuteness and sexiness do no exclude each other, as much as certain cultures think otherwise. Lum’s roundness, alluring eyes and soft body was in many ways first of its kind, trailblazing path to modern shoujo and even styles, where eyes got rounder and cuter with the time.

It’s not even Comic Lemon People that made its wake. While Lemon People might the one that’s on the tongue of most Westerners when talking about lolicon serial comics, Manga Burikko was its direct rival. Not only did it coin the term otaku, but its main editor Ouzuke Eiji wanted to produce shoujo manga, or girls’ comics, for boys. He called this New-Wave shoujo manga. His influence, as well as the whole era’s, is vividly felt in the 1990’s shows. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is probably the most prominent example of this alongside Magic Knight Rayearth. In truth, the whole movement was well under within animation and comic industry in Japan in the mid-1970’s with Majokko Megu-chan being an early magical girl show that was prominently aimed at boys, much like Cutie Honey ended up being. By the 1990’s, lolicon as a style and aesthetics had become the mainstream visual flavour and style. This continues to this day, hence why moe was needed to surface as a specific and direct continuation. Historically speaking, lolicon and bishoujo fell under the same overall umbrella, with both having some differences but exactly the same aim in visuals.

I had two covers to choose from for Manga Burikko my archives, and this was the one that most wouldn’t find all that objectionable

It wasn’t just these two aforementioned comics; lolicon and loli was quite honestly everywhere with major companies and major magazines advertising and selling products proudly labeling their products with lolicon. This wasn’t about the porn, but again the style. Major players like Uchiyama Aki were publishing in standard comic magazines aimed at both boys and girls all the while he was working on adult magazines. He was publishing clearly labelled lolicon comic in same magazine as Ozaku Tezuka, and they were both doing characters that fit the same exact aesthetic description.

As you’ve probably surmised, lolita complex in Japan is very, very different from what it is considered as in North America and Europe. However, that definition crept into Japanese mindset as well in the late 1980’s and was more or less set in stone in the 1990’s, when the term mostly vanished from the common use. Perhaps the most commonly cited incident that put a negative tone on the term and its proper surroundings is Tsutomu Miyazaki kidnappings, where he kidnapped young girls, murdered them and not just raped their corpses, but also ate them. Moral panic is caused by lesser things, though Tokyo High Court ruled that he acted on his sexual fantasies rather, which of course was directly linked to his hobby as an otaku. The cultural backlash was understandable, but perhaps it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Discussion about loli and lolicon in Japanese context, in even Japan, does not consider its proper place as a mainstream style and only applies the bastardised understanding of it, partly influenced by the Western misconceptions, party by the intentional obfuscation and and partly by sheer misunderstanding. It is no wonder the term has different application nowadays, even when the whole modern Japanese comic and cartoon culture stemmed from it.

You may argue that language changes and whatever arguments for non-sexual use for loli or lolicon once existed doesn’t matter. Language may change, but its historical context should not. To use an example, the Finnish word neekeri is a direct loanword of nigger, but it had none of the negative connotations to it until the American negative connotations were associated with it. Before that, it was another normal way to name black people. However, with new generations fretting the term and its origin, censorship has forced books to remove the term and even candies change name. There is a chocolate pastry filled with cream that used to be called Nigger’s Kiss, but nowadays it has removed all branding from this and renamed itself as Brunberg’s Kiss. The past generations have demonized what was harmless word and such it is viewed as one, even in its proper historical context.

The point really being that I was making is if we lose first-hand information sources, we might as well rely on hearsay. However, when a historian has first hand information, recollections from an era from an independent person, it is a treasure of information that can be compared and contrasted to what is known from the era either from other first-hand sources or official records. However, when it comes to popular culture movements and events, official records are always dubious at best, unreliable at worst. That is why a place like sadpanda was such a treasure trove, because it contained not only author’s own works from forty years ago, but also serial comic magazines and self-published works, filled with fanart, letters, opinion pieces and news on politics and events that affected the pop-culture of the time. These sources are imperative to understand not just the lolicon scene we’ve been talking about, but the whole comic and animation culture of the time. That is only one view point, reading newspaper magazines and other sources is as important as well. Thus, losing one of them, any of them, will impact on how later generations are able to understand history. History just doesn’t happen; it a never ending movement forward. Most of what I’ve said about in this post has been by going through era specific first and second hand sources, some of which were on sadpanda.

Human history is fragmented at best. At worst, it is a puzzle that has lost an amount of its pieces. We should aim to keep every bit of history safe, even if we object to them. A statue of a South State’s general should be left as it is, to remind people that there is history and that it is a complex mess of human actions and perspectives. We should not allow destruction of any kind of resource, statue, book or whatnot, to be destroyed simply because it might offend sensibilities or it simply doesn’t fit modern culture. The moment humanity decides to ignore this in favour of some sort of one truth above all, history creeps toward its death. History is a tapestry painted with fine tipped brushes of endless shades, not with broad bristles in primary colours. Those who forget history are bound to repeat it may be an old saying, but it is a saying that will get repeated down the line, if people continue to be Brutus to history’s Caesar.

3 thoughts on “The death of history comes when nobody is there to remember it

  1. I read your article. I think it’s a misconception to say Lolicon/Bishoujo was mainstream back in the 1980s or 1990s. It certainly was not the common current of thought held by the majority. Interest in anime, manga, and games was always considered weird if you’re past a certain age, which is why Comiket and 2D-Complex Lolicon [Otaku] were all considered a subculture. What Japan had that made it unique to the United States is that it’s much easier for people to sell niche products. In the United States, companies like Origin (Ultima) had to sell their soul to Electronic Arts just so their games could appear on the shelves of Wal Mart and its ilk. Whereas in Japan, it’s easier to distribute magazines like Lemon People to the small number of people—relative to the total population—interested in it and for these sorts of people to make a pilgrimage to a place like Comiket.

    That said, the majority of what was localised outside of Japan in regards to anime, manga, and games feels like it veered towards the Lolicon-influenced media. Western localisers ignoring national treasures like Sazae-san and gunning for series like Sailor Moon or Takahashi Rumiko’s works. It took until something like 2009 before at least half of the late-night anime in the Kanto region consisted of anime with the Moe style, but only a small fraction of television owning households in Japan watch those. The rise of those shows is mainly thanks to their growing popularity in the overseas market.

    What I’m saying is that there were a lot of manga magazines in Japan, and the artists influenced by the super cute art-style regarded as Lolicon/Bishoujo and Moe made up a small fraction of it. You’ll understand if you ever gain the opportunity to browse the full manga magazine library Japan has to offer.

    1. By the time 1990s rolled around, and even at the end of the 1980s, the hard largely been retired and transformed while bishoujo had taken its place. Certainly lolicon had been a sub-culture phenomenon within its own subculture toward the end of the 1970s, yet comics like Urusei Yatsura brought it to the forefront of the mainstream. After tall, that comic and show were massively successful and were imported across the globe. Certainly, there has always been a stigma towards the otaku culture, term Manga Burikko actually coined alongside bishoujo and were taken to the common lexicon. Hitting the mainstream in Japan, even if momentarily, is even easier thanks to the example you’re giving about US population size. Though this doesn’t always translate accurately elsewhere, like in the UK or other parts of Europe, where it depends on the population density per square and culture whether or not something small can become mainstream.

      Of course, Western localisations would gun down for what’s most marketable over cultural classics. The 80s and 90s weren’t the time for those. Spain was effectively Mazinger ground zero, causing shows like Red Baron being relabelled as Mazinger. France itself has the term “French exception” regarding how much Japanese comics and cartoons they had. Theirs had the widest of genre selections, all the while the Nordic countries mostly got adventure shows like Starzingers and Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin. While some of the shows from the 70s have their own influences in there with the budding subculture, it wouldn’t be until later ’80s in the US where direct descendants in form of Fight! Iczer-1 and Project A-Ko would make their landing.

      The way late 70s and early 80s lolicon comics were, and some of their subsequent animations, were massively influential in how they broke ground and explored themes, something we still see replicating in much more blatant form even. It’s easier to get to the mainstream in Japan too, even if momentarily, and leave an impact. Anime and comics do enjoy the specific spot in Japanese culture of being celebrated by the importers and its fans all the while being shunned in their own manner, much like American superhero comics experience similar treatment. As a side note, that’s rather opposite to e.g. France and Belgium, where their comics are still consumed to the very old age and there isn’t a similar stigma, perhaps because the cultures have their own, somewhat more classy fanatics culture.

      As for the library bit, it’s easier to find examples of this subculture within the magazines of the time rising steadily until the mid-late 80s. When you have people like Osamu Tezuka and Azuma Hideo readily for consumption, alongside many other names, the direction’s influence is evident across the board. Too often the focus is put on the explicit content. However, lolicon itself is an offshoot from the whole culture of cute thing and it didn’t just appear from nothing. That said, lolicon was one of the things that furthered the installation of the culture of cute alongside 70s cute handwriting phenomena and as a method of generational sexual expression in some cases like Akina Nakamori’s Shoujo A was. You wouldn’t find only otakus consuming this content, however, as part of the general audience would see and consume parts of this sub-culture. Not all of the general audiences, of course, but enough to seep into the general consciousness of things to the point of creatin demand of large number of competing bishoujo comics as well as the necessity to introduce Adults-Only label to some of the comics. Meanwhile, Jump and other comics would introduce the aesthetics on their own, something that’s still part of the comics to this day. Even if it was a small fraction of comic creators explicitly using this style, it didn’t prevent some of the most popular franchises of the 80s and even the 90s have their roots in the 70’s sub-culture movement and leave influential works in their trail. With the amount of animation and comics increasing every year in Japan, we’ve seen people who consumed these comics and cartoons in their teens showcasing their influence further, within each era’s own style and take. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon is just one of the many that followed the aesthetics.

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