Wrong About Japan is a biography revolving around the adventures of Peter Carey and his teenage son, Charley, as they travel around Japan both debunking and supporting common assumptions about Japanese culture and animation.
As a writer, Peter Carey becomes intrigued about Japanese culture, in particular manga and anime, when his son Charley becomes thoroughly obsessed with Akira, a popular Japanese anime based on motorcycle gangs and a gothic-looking protagonist. Sparked by their love and curiosity, both father and decide to travel to Japan with Peter promising Charley not to show him the "real Japan" (quaint houses, samurais, and artistic performances based on Japanese traditions, hot springs, etc.) although that is exactly what he gets.
Upon arrival, Charley admits to his father that he has been developing a friendship with a teenager in Japan, and in exchange for letting him practice his English, he would show the duo around. His name is Takashi, and he looks completely like he has been taken right out of a Gundam episode. Father is not impressed.
As their adventure continues, Peter visits and interviews the animators of such television shows as Gundam Wing and even meets Miyazaki, producer of some of my favourite films like Spirited Away. He meets them riddled with questions but soon becomes deflated upon hearing the truths behind these world-acclaimed animations. Peter is set in his ways that there is always a deeper meaning behind every anime. For example, he concludes that putting teenage boys in charge of big robotic mobile suits exemplifies autonomy, especially at a stage in one's life that seems controlled and confusing. Mr. Tomino, in fact states that the anime was made in order to sell robots to young children. *whomp whomp (cue disappointment).
Experience after experience, more disappointment is met by Peter. He blatantly offends Takashi after choosing to spend the night analyzing My Neighbour Totoro with a friend instead of visiting Takahi's grandmother's house for dinner. Charley despises anything "authentic" the dad tries to do including bathing with him in a hot spring. And who can blame him? The only little piece of salvation is at the end when the duo gets to meet with Muyazaki. Speaking very little English the two groups find themselves connecting through art, with the producer amusing them and showing them his drawings to make them laugh. In fact, I dare to argue that this is the most enriching experience for the couple because Peter is not obsessed with asking critical questions. He is simply there, enjoying Japan with his son.
I relate a lot to Peter, I really do. Having grown up watching anime and reading some manga books here and there, I always tend to try to delve deeper into the meanings and history behind the stories. Call it the flaw of an English major, but I tend to over indulge myself by finding symbols that may or not be there or explanations for things that are plainly put. And I love it. I think that is one of the many reasons why I love reading so much. It really can be a game of inception. Of course the game can also be being too distracted about trying to uncover these facts that it detracts away from a good story or simply put it is like being Wrong About Japan.
Fun Fact: A geta is a Japanese clog that has a heel indirectly on the end and/or toe of the sandal. Contrary to popular belief, this type of shoe actually makes it easier to walk on mountain terrain and not harder like most people would assume. I guess that explains why samurais wear this type of footwear in all the anime I've watched. Mind blown.