How an obscure Japanese anime made a genuine attempt to understand Pakistan – Prism

Yugo saw Pakistan as a real country where human beings live and breathe.

One of the most lasting attractions of fiction is the possibility of representation it offers.

It is not this hope that – fiction consumers – you get to see yourself in a story. This idea that your desires, frustrations and experiences will be reflected in you. And not only his individual experiences, but also things that he considers part of his identity: culture, language, nation, religion and much more. This desire is intrinsically human. Therefore, entire industries are dedicated to the art of telling stories through various forms, such as novels, comics, television and movies.

Pakistanis are not different either. They also want to be seen, represented and reflected in the stories they consume, and in a way that aligns with the way they perceive themselves. And not only to be seen in their own stories and on their own screens, but also worldwide. There is this implicit understanding that while your own stories matter, what others tell about you is also important and has tangible consequences.

Your perception abroad can significantly alter the way the world treats you. The way your story is told can make you look like a citizen of a pariah state or a respectable country. Therefore, many Pakistanis have felt deeply despised each time their country, culture and customs have been unfairly treated by foreign or even border media.

Pakistanis appear on global screens largely through the prism of some limiting issues: terrorism, militancy, backwardness, poverty, which do not capture the rich cultural and social fabric of the country. It is in this context that I look Yugo the negotiator, possibly the first and only international anime set in Pakistan.

All photos are YouTube screenshots.

Yoke It started as a manga in 1994, written and illustrated by a duo from Japan. It was published by Kodansha, the largest manga producer in Japan, in its monthly report Late anthology. Yoke It was conceived as a seinen history – manga aimed at adults over 18 years. The first series of the series lasted from 1994 to 2004, after which he moved to another anthology where he stayed until 2015.

At the end of the first race, From yoke rights were bought by a smaller animation studio in Tokyo, which adapted it into a series of cartoons, Yugo the negotiator. The study hired a promising director and screenwriter to adapt the first arc of the manga, which was established in Pakistan. This arc lasted six episodes. The rights then went on to another study that adapted the Russian arc of the manga.

The premise for Yoke It is this: our protagonist Yugo Beppo works as a hostage negotiator for different clients and uses his skill set to rescue hostages. The scenario of the story is set when a Japanese merchant working in Pakistan is kidnapped in Sindh by anti-government criminals. The merchant's initial release fails because the Pakistani army intervenes in the negotiations and, consequently, puts the thieves to the limit. The careful dacoit leader refuses to return the hostage until all their demands are met.

At this point, the merchant's daughter contacts Yugo in Tokyo and asks her to negotiate for her father. Yugo agrees, but with the additional condition that this be done covertly and without attracting the attention of the Pakistani army. Therefore, the main story begins when Yugo arrives in Pakistan.

The show never reached a high level of popularity at the time. First, the entire premise of the program was unique. In an era where energy action anime were the norm, this was a story where the protagonist saved lives through what was basically equivalent to speaking. Second, Yoke was a seinen story decidedly aimed at adults and, therefore, was firmly committed to a gradual thematic exploration of the narrative rather than quickly tracing. Third, Yoke He settled in a country where most anime fans had no interest or knowledge. The fact that this anime has even been made is an achievement in itself.

So how exactly Yoke perceive Pakistan? The answer is complicated. Somehow, it follows a Hollywood template for Pakistani representation. Yoke It applies certain stereotypes to the country, as it highlights militancy, faith, unequal gender relations and power politics. Nor is he trying to clarify that Pakistan is a different place in the Middle East with a different language (some anime critics actually praised him for showing life in the Middle East).

However, where other stories often only stop at stereotypes, Yoke It goes beyond. In this series, Pakistan is not an exotic and dangerous land full of tyrannical terrorist leaders, but a real country where human beings live and breathe. From yoke Pakistan's different approach is very visible in the way it presents Pakistani characters and how it perceives the different forces at play in the country.

The main antagonist is Yusuf Ali Mesa, the chief of thieves based in the Kirthar Mountains. Mesa is a tall and imposing man who has spent years knocking down his rivals and establishing himself as the main leader of the bandits. With jihadist nuances and vague allusions to militancy, it was easy to make a character like him one-dimensional. Its initial introduction also reeks of stereotypes.

Haji Rahmani
Yusuf Ali Mesa

However, somehow, in the course of the next episodes, Yoke avoid this pitfall and what we get instead is a complex characterization of Mesa. He is a man who is not only a magician, but also a rebel with genuine reservations and views against the army and the current government. His character's motivation is based on two things: the protection of his people and a strong code of honor (as he defines it). Mesa admires heroism in people and despises cowardice. Their interactions with Yugo are compelling because they both have a strong internal core and contrasting worldviews.

Then there is Haji Rahmani, an ex-dacoit turned-magnet and Yugo's main ally. He is the fallen rival of Mesa who has been enduring the pain of dishonor for years. Now, he seeks to restore it by helping Yugo find Mesa. The scriptwriters of the program succeed particularly with this character by making their redemption one of the driving forces of the narrative.

The story also features other interesting characters. One is Rahmani's observant and sharp-minded son, Ahmad, and the other is Rashid, Yugo's friendly journalist, well informed but anxious. Then there's Colonel Shadle, a ruthless military officer who doesn't seem too worried about the hostage's life. However, the anime gives depth to the character by showing us his perspective and highlighting how the military understands the dacoit threat.

The lively landscape of Pakistan shows a reasonable level of detail. The first two episodes are set in Karachi, where there is a distinctive style visible in the form of trucks loaded with art, cars with horn, tight bazaar ravines, graffiti, restaurants and street vendors screaming. There are constant sounds of the city buzzing with children's voices, azan, motorcycles and random conversations in the background.

Of course, the anime still doesn't capture Karachi's full pulse, but the place never feels like the desolate desert that Hollywood movies imagine are Pakistani cities. This may have something to do with the medium itself, where animators really have to study the images of a city to draw it.

Karachi is a living and breathing city in the series.

While the & # 39; problematic & # 39; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the usual place for most movies / scenes set in Pakistan, here the rest of the story takes place in Kirthar, Sindh. Delivery of the arid and scorching mountain range series is fine too. The creators clearly seemed to have thought a lot, and a hint of imagination, what life would be like for thieves. Far from being a set of native thugs hiding in a mountain, thieves present themselves as a very human community with their own set of beliefs, fears and superstitions, something that Yugo recognizes and makes good use of.

The character designs in the anime follow the same pattern. There is a good detail in how Pakistani characters are drawn. Of course, historically speaking, anime as a medium has had a different way of drawing "Indian" characters with brown skin and slightly hardened faces. Yoke Use the same template for Pakistani characters. More importantly, each Pakistani character has a different face and no one has been caricatured as an evil-looking native.

From yoke The approach to faith is fascinating. The anime has as many characters as strong believers and yet refuses to believe its entire personality. Storytellers think more about faith here: it is this brute force that helps characters make sense of things and find their way in this world.

There is a long philosophical conversation in the first episode between Yugo and a Japanese professor where they suggest that, historically, the strength of faith is often felt by oppressed people as a mechanism of resistance against the powerful. This oppressed / oppressive allusion appears repeatedly as we see the fragile balance between the military and the thieves.

Since this anime probably develops in the Musharraf era, the story also does a good job of contextualizing Pakistan's domestic situation and the military's control over the country. The political situation is always in the background, but it has significant implications for all the characters involved. Fortunately, the story makes it clear that the entire conflict of the program is domestic and is firmly located in a local context. There is no global terrorist conspiracy in the game and there are no global powers competing for power.

Even Yugo, the protagonist of the story, does not have a shoe in history as his great savior, something that Hollywood movies love to do with their white heroes. There is not a single scene in the entire arch of Pakistan where Yugo performs an Indiana Jones-type killing against native villains.

The series had to imagine the life of Dacoit

Unfortunately, there is a major flaw in the series. Although the whole plot begins with the plea of ​​a woman and there is much talk about the honor and protection of women, Yoke It seems to follow an exclusively masculine narrative. The only Pakistani woman who appears in the story is Laila, a dancer woman that Yugo and Ahmad rescue from their captors.

Laila's character is where history is most delayed. In a program that seems to gradually break the perceptions typical of Pakistan, Laila appears stereotypically as a damsel in distress that sticks to her liberator, Yugo. On the other hand, and this is to the credit of the creators of shows, she definitely gains more agency as the story progresses and ends up being an integral part of Yugo's attempts to rescue the hostage. In addition, he makes deliberate decisions in history that go against what his partner asks him to do. However, this is still not enough. The series needed to improve a lot with respect to its female characters.

Despite this great flaw, Yoke It is not a bad show in any way. According to industry standards, it was considered a good anime, with a decent story and above average visuals. Although, as far as the representation of Pakistan is concerned, it is superior to what most Hollywood and Bollywood attempts have to offer.

While the program still imagines Pakistan with the same basic tropes, it respects the country and its people. This is a story about both Pakistanis and Yugo and their efforts to rescue their compatriot. Interestingly, the second anime arc, set in Russia, was heavily criticized for its poor research and contrasted with the Pakistan arc, which was considered a really good attempt.

Of course, a better representation will have to wait a while. Yoke I could not have diverged much from the global perspective on Pakistan, especially in 2004. However, the program offers the opportunity to see Pakistan in a slightly different (but not so different) way. More importantly, as a Pakistani, you can feel a certain level of satisfaction when you see your country portrayed and animated in one of the most popular media in the world.

Maybe someday we own anime and we represent our country and its people the way you want. But that is a distant dream. Until then, we will have to settle for what we have.

Are you looking at representations of Pakistan in the media? Write to us at [email protected]



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