asiascape vistas

Techno-Culture, New Politics, and Philosophy in East Asia

Asiascape Vistas is a forum for discussion about the many and various dimensions of cyberculture found in or originating from East Asia. Its focus is on the interplay between these media and questions of politics & philosophy. Contributions are from the academic collective responsible for the core project, but other contributions will also be considered by that collective.
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“Tiger Mask” donation and Superhero Illusion

written by Mari Nakamura

A number of children’s homes in Japan have been receiving anonymous donations of school bags and other gifts since Christmas Day, under the name of manga hero “Tiger Mask” or “Naoto Date.” Tiger Mask is the ring name of a professional wrestler in a popular Japanese manga and anime in 1960s and 1970s. In the plot, the hero of the manga, Naoto Date, who grows up in an orphanage becomes a professional wrestler, donates his winnings to the orphanage to his childhood orphanage. Inspired by “Tiger Mask” donors, such benefactions to the children’s homes have become a nationwide phenomenon – the number of donations has reached 290 so far, according to a report in the Nikkei Shinbun. Not surprisingly, the mass media in Japan have covered this phenomenon as a heartwarming story.

Indeed, it is supposed to be welcoming news since it brings peoples’ attentions to children’s homes, in which more than 30,000 youngsters age 1 to 18 are living. They are often neglected by the Japanese society. Nevertheless, this phenomenon, to me, is not merely “a heartwarming story.”

We, perhaps, can see this phenomenon as a reflection of peoples’ illusion in the Freudian sense. For Freud, ‘An ‘illusion’ is a belief which may or may not be false, but which is held by the agent because it satisfies a wish.’ (Geuss 1981: 39)*. Becoming a hero is a belief which may or may not be false and one’s chance is rather slim but the reason one still believes that one will become a hero is that this belief satisfies some wish one has. In other words, the agent can fulfill their wish of being a hero via the “Tiger Mask” donation. Donation is a convenient means of fulfilling their wishes in this case. Making an anonymous donation in the name of manga hero is a process of wish fulfillment of the agent. This may appeal to some people with the illusion since this is more real and successful than other attempts to become a hero, i.e. playing video-games or cosplay (costume-play). One’s goodwill action as a hero is also acknowledged by the recipients, and the acknowledgements will be reinforced in the widespread reports of the mass media.

Of course, I do not want to criticise those donors and claim that all donors hold such illusions behind their goodwill. However, in some cases anonymous donations have reportedly been made under the name of other cartoon characters, such as Yabuki Jo, Laputa, Ayanami Rei, etc. If these donors simply want to make a donation they do not need to do it under the names of hero. They, more likely, want to fulfill their wishes becoming a hero.

If anonymous donations are driven by aforementioned illusion, it may be very interesting to think about the following questions: to what extent people’s external behaviors are driven by their illusions; what is the relationship between the reality (i.e. reading manga or making donations) and the illusion (becoming a hero)?

At any rate, the “Tiger Mask” donation is certainly more than "a heartwarming story."


*Geuss, Raymond (1981) The Idea of a Critical Theory Habermas and the Frankfurt School, London: Cambridge University Press.

What Is That Funny S-Shape?

In the history of comics, one of the great success stories has to be Thomas Nast, whose political cartoons were key in removing the corrupt New York politician William “Boss” Tweed from office and crippling his established power base. One of the reasons Nast’s cartoons worked where other avenues met with less results was that they could be understood by the illiterate; one only needed to see the fat man with a sack of money for a head to connect 2 and 2 together.

Nast is certainly not the first instance of using images to circumvent illiteracy, but as literacy rates have improved drastically in the 130 years or so since Tweed, you don’t really see comics having to deal with a population of specifically illiterate adults. Yes, there are works for children that do so, but because they are aimed at the young you don’t really get the same effect. And yes, you still have political cartoons that are easily understood on the visual level (name your favorite politician and put a Hitler mustache and/or devil horns on their head), but they’re again created in an environment where literacy is assumed.

When I look at that drawing of Boss Tweed, or pictorial depictions of Biblical stories from the Middle Ages, I don’t see that as specifically Tweed and that it’s a statement of corruption or that this painting is indeed the story of Job. I feel as if I do not have the right context, too far-removed from those times, and that in addition to that limitation I am also in a way restricted by my ability to read. I cannot capture that circumstance; while I could easily pick up a current comic or cartoon meant for adults in a language I do not understand and would most assuredly succeed in not reading it, I would still have a work that was created and meant for an environment where the average adult can read, no matter how minimal the text might be, and I might not have the proper cultural context.
I of course am not encouraging or promoting illiteracy, but as the world has moved away from it, I have to wonder if we’ll lose that method of creating comics for an adult audience, a style that arose out of a particularly great limitation. I also am curious about Japan, where literacy rates have been remarkably high for a number of decade and where comics culture has also developed greatly during that period.