Let's be frank. I will not deny that I've been fervently following the same Japanese anime series for 10 years: "Detective Conan (Case Closed)" has continued to be addictive. Whether it is for a study break during a stressful time of the academic calendar, or a holiday treat, the ever-evolving series' 800+ episodes always generate some excitement within me. Yet, instead of rambling on the elements that have attracted me for so long content-wise, I will reflect on some of its cultural implications.
I started watching the series as an elementary schoolgirl in mainland China, where the series has been ranked as the most popular anime creation for numerous times throughout the years. Simultaneously as local school students learn about the cruelty of the war between China and Japan 70 years ago, their knowledge of Japan is complemented by anime series like "Detective Conan", a manifestation of Japanese soft power. In my opinion, although these "soft" cultural aspects are unlikely to alter the "hard" political conflicts that persist throughout the post-war decades, they are informative in shaping a more objective view of China's neighbour.
It is said that the appreciation of the literature, visual art, music and food only helps one scratch the surface of a foreign culture. Understanding the behavioural trends of people would allow one to understand a culture more deeply. Although as a fan of literature and the other arts (including the art of cuisine, surely) who believes in their power to allow one to grasp the essence of a culture, I eventually came to accept this theory more by reflecting on "Detective Conan", among some of my other personal experiences.
One may argue that animes would also fit into the first category. I contend that it fits into both, for series like "Detective Conan" offers a window for one to peek into the mundane life of another country. However similar Chinese and Japanese cultures may be from history, one can immediately spot nuances in day-to-day behavioural patterns. Sure enough, virtually anyone who has watched the series would know a little Japanese vocabulary and basic facts about the country. These all fit into the first category. Yet, by following how people interact with each other, the kind of vocabulary they use to people of different social groups, their movements and actions, one could truly delve deeper into that other culture. The theory is not perfect - there are many exceptions besides "Detective Conan", but it did get me thinking.
Recently, China has been celebrating its 70th anniversary of the victory of the war with Japan. Whilst I believe we should always commemorate the history of one's nation, we should also move on in furthering diplomatic relations through "softer" means. "Detective Conan" offers the Chinese youth a platform to decide to what extent they should balance their negative impressions of the Japanese from history classes and what they personally observe in anime series.