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Made in Japan

Names like Richie Rich,Tom,Jerry,Superman,Scooby Doo,Fred Flintstone and George Jetson instantly ring a bell.

Names like Richie Rich,Tom,Jerry,Superman,Scooby Doo,Fred Flintstone and George Jetson instantly ring a bell. But do names like Bakugan,Kiteretsu,Naruto,Shouju,Hakusho,Ayakashi,Mgikano or Shinchan sound as familiar? Ask the younger generation of viewers and they will inform you these are characters from their favourite Japanese cartoon shows on television.

“It is a simple case of demand and supply. Japanese anime covers a wide spectrum of topics and is hence even watched by adults,” says Rohit Bhandari,senior vice president,AXN and Animax,which brought shows like Dragonball Z and Black Jack to Indian homes.

The trend initiated by Animax,which introduced anime in India,has caught on with the other channels as well. Nina Jaipuria,senior VP and GM,Nick India,says,“The aim of shows on Nick is to build a bond with them. Japanese shows serve that purpose quite well because they have compelling storylines. The superhero in the toon is also a role model for kids.” An instance would be of Ninja Hatori,a popular cartoon on Nick that has gone on to become a favourite with kids with its merchandise et al.

Nick,which started off with western shows,didn’t quite make inroads into the Indian market as the children found the shows too foreign to relate. Jaipuria rebuffs: “Western cartoons are still very popular. But Japan’s cultural milieu is very similar to ours,so kids find it easy to associate with Japanese characters. Also,Japanese animation series are characterised by a whole lot of action and colour and this draws the attention of the kids.”

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Devika Prabhu,Associate Director,Programming,Walt Disney Television International India,couldn’t agree more. “Most shows on Hungama centre around friendship,school and family—environments that Indian kids are familiar with. Also,the plots are simpler and so the show transcends all age barriers,” she says of her shows Shinchan and Doremon which are amongst the most popular among kids of all age groups.

With kids entering an imaginary world of action and colour through these cartoons,many parents have little or no regard for the Japanese anime culture. “Cartoons are meant to entertain children,not influence them to pick fights and beat people,” says Sushila Shetty,a housewife and mother of an eight-year-old boy. Bhandari reacts,“In my opinion,Tom and Jerry and Popeye the Sailor are the most violent cartoon shows. But here everybody understands that the brawls and violence are to create laughs. Why the step-motherly treatment to Japanese anime?”

Psychologist Seema Hingorrany,also a counselor with many cartoon channels,gives instances of kids who have experienced behavioural problems after watching shows like Shinchan. “Channels these days should be careful about what they show because this can cause behavioural problems in children. The intensity of language and the aggression must be measured.” Avinash Pinto,a regular viewer of Shinchan states,“Shinchan is a show that showcases friendship and affection. There are occasional fights and mishaps. But that’s what cartoons are supposed to be all about.”

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Despite the arguments,one cannot overlook the fact that the winning element in Japanese cartoons,however,is humour. Prabhu points out,“The element of humour present in these cartoons has a universal appeal which is visible through comical characters and situations. It is not verbal humour which is difficult to translate,” she adds.

First published on: 14-09-2009 at 02:44:17 am
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