At Kotaku, we independently select and write things that we love and think you will like, too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of the sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices accurate and items in stock at time of posting.
French pastries are abundant in Japan. Grocery stores sell crème brûlée, small sandwiches and croissants. In Harajuku, people sometimes wait for hours to enter a maid café. Inside these cafes, women wear pale pink Victorian dresses and ribbons in their hair, covering half of their faces with a fan in one hand while sipping a small cup of chamomile tea with the other . Before the Kawaiisa cultural boom in the 1970s, it would be fair to take this for a snapshot taken in the streets of Paris. Alas, this is today’s Tokyo.
It’s not just limited to food and fashion, the anime has absorbed things that were once culturally recognized as French and made them their own. In fact, I’d dare say that some of your favorite anime and manga makers are just plain yes-aboos.
Think about it. Lupine III, one of the most famous and oldest figures in Japanese pop culture, is based on the infamous gentleman thief archetype of Arsène Lupine by French novelist Maurice Leblanc. Like Leblanc’s original character, Lupine III is suave, cheeky, and intelligent, constantly outwitting enemies and doing it with class.
This same character archetype is everywhere in the anime, Joker’s Persona 5 to the wicked Gentle tea drinker in My hero university, even Laurent Thierry, a literal French crook in Netflix Good pretender. Anecdote: Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature film took place in the Lupine III universe and presents an artistic style reflecting the pages of a Tintin comic.
Although the series is based in Tokyo, shots of the Tokyo Tower in Sailor moon strangely resembles the Eiffel Tower. The daily street fashion of Usagi and his friends is heavily inspired by luxury French fashion brands like Chanel, just as the visuals of girls’ magical transformations are rooted in French impressionism and cultural interpretations of France.
Roses aren’t a Japanese flower, but thanks to the anime, they’ve become synonymous with the Sailor Scout girls’ magical transformations and dramatized duels over the Rose Bride Anthy in Revolutionary girl Utena.
Sailor Moon animated backgrounds could make a perfect vaporwave cover (1992, Toei Animation) pic.twitter.com/p6tNN2DE3P
– Tohad (@sylvainsarrailh) May 8, 2019
Rose of Versailles is a manga telling the French Revolution from the point of view of a male guardian of Marie-Antoinette named Oscar François de Jarjeyes. Visually, it draws inspiration from symbols of French imperialism, cartoon renditions of the Palace of Versailles, the royal court and ballrooms, and a mix of triumphant military music and a J- soundtrack. Pop romanticized in a striking artistic style, melodramatic but art nouveau.
As if someone were trying to advertise L’Oriel for the French military at the time, its opening theme features Oscar trapped in a bed of rose thorns, before seeing her dressed in ‘a soldier’s uniform and standing on a hill with his long blond hair fluttering in the wind, then a white rose turned red.
Was this post a giant excuse for me to bring up one of my favorite anime and anime openings of all time? May be! Regardless of that purported claim and no matter where you look, French culture is all over the anime.
In 19th century France, maid outfits were strictly worn by the servants of a household. Now there is literally hundreds of anime characters dressed in them every season. On TikTok, it has become a fashion trend as people featuring men dress for fun. Despite its cultural origins, the maid-core aesthetic is more closely associated with Japanese nightlife hosts and anime fans on TikTok than in Parisian mansions of the Victorian era.
But where exactly does this fascination with France come from, you might be wondering. Well, that stems from a larger conversation about how Japan became a land of oui-aboos.
How Japan Became a Land of Yes-aboos
Japan has always had a loose historical relationship with France since the end of the 19th century, dating back to the Franco-Japanese treaty of 1907. But it was during the 20th century that the country became more infatuated with the French, thanks to the lifting of restrictions on international travel and the imported culture that followed.
In pre-WWII Japan, plane tickets were limited to diplomats and military commanders. So unlike other countries where people could go abroad, many Japanese visions of Europe were formed on its exported culture rather than actual exposure. As products, French cinema, and cultural movements like the Parisian avant-garde and art nouveau came to Japan, the Japanese turned to them and glorified them as status symbols. raised.
As Chinatsu Takeda explains in a Japanese academic essay (the summary of which is in English), Japanese women’s magazines would idolize luxury goods from France and other European countries, giving the impression that they were not only better than local luxury goods, but that they were a stepping stone to a sophisticated and elegant lifestyle. When international travel for pleasure and business first opened in the country in the mid-1960s, it was still considered a luxury. Only wealthy and educated Japanese could travel to Europe.
This is partly why the exchange student trope in the middle exists; the new student from America or Europe who would eventually fall into the life of the main protagonist is still considered culturally richer than his peers and from another world or more desirable. Or, if not, these characters are boastful, wealthy, and obnoxiously egotistical – Nanami Kiryuu, the blonde and wealthy Student Council member of Revolutionary girl Utena, is a very good example. If they are not strangers to their school, they are hime-sama.
Either way, the historical origins of this idea can be traced back to the manga and anime of the time. The first chapter of Monkey Punch’s Lupine III was released in 1967 and Ryoko Ikeda Rose of Versailles was first serialized in 1972. With Rose of Versailles, reports at the time claimed that the young girls were obsessed with Oscar, some even threatening to self-harm out of sheer fanaticism. The earliest examples of Japanese animation in the 1950s and 1960s were influenced by Western animation styles and Eurocentric imagery of Walt Disney.
This infatuation with France and French things only grew when the the kawaiisa movement started in the 70s. The kawaiisa movement was a cultural movement that began in the 1970s and lasted until the late 1990s before it manifested itself in the mainstream. After World War II, Japan struggled to part with the vilified image it had around the world during the war, and with an intense recession, people denied their rights to themselves. traditional Japanese screw. The kawaiisa movement and the early days of otaku culture were born as a direct reaction to this.
With kawaiisa, people were less interested in traditional Japanese symbols like kimonos, and more in love with cute, childish objects and trends that disassociated themselves from their pre-existing image. The image of Japan was quickly based on mascots like Hello Kitty, maid cafes, cartoons, and Harajuku and lolita fashion. It was an era that created a huge economic boom for the country after a long recession and led to what we now call Japanese pop culture. And, interestingly, many of the ideas that emerged from this cultural wave were influenced by what Japan saw as European culture.
When the oui-aboo culture leads to a psychological state: Paris syndrome
The infatuation of Japan – and by extension, the anime community – for France is perhaps doing them more harm than good. Indeed, according to the medical journal Rib and Professor Hiroaki Ota, it literally led to a psychological condition: Paris syndrome.
Paris syndrome is a psychological condition that refers to Japanese people who visit Paris only to find that it does not meet their expectations. According to SBS News, it is “an extreme case of culture shock” and can cause “an acute delusional state, hallucinations, anxiety, dizziness and sweating”.
In 2007, the Japanese Embassy in Paris reported that at least 12 people suffered from it each year. In 2018, it is believed that around 5 million Japanese visited France, so supposedly there are a lot more people going through this. The mere fact that Japan has become so in love with an idolized idea of Paris and so-called Parisian things that people suffer from literal hallucinations is crazy, but that also speaks to what I’m talking about here. Japan is a nation of oui-aboos, and the overly romanticized interpretations of culturally French things in anime are partly to blame.
So, the next time you watch an anime and see a maid outfit, a dashing and suave thief gentleman, or something aggressively Parisian, remember that there is a political reason behind it. From Naoko Takeuchi to Hayao Miyazaki, your favorite mangakas and anime studios are all absolute Francophiles.