At midday, a space-age knight wearing robes that are a cross between “Star Trek” and King Arthur is the first to suddenly appear at the college building. By late afternoon, the invading force of robots, androids, galactic monsters, futuristic samurais and saber-weilding amazons in long blond hair wearing mini skirts and long boots has completely occupied the lobby making the earthlings gather around them in total awe.
It’s the students’ Christmas party in this part of the university but no one is seen wearing the ubiquitous Santa hat. Instead, a lot are trying to look like anime or comic book characters. Instead of the usual Jose Mari Chan carols, people are singing anime theme songs in their original Japanese lyrics.
It was totally disorienting. Sometimes I thought I was in a theme park or some teenage playground. If they did not greet me first, I could not possibly identify my students among them, as they were heavily made up and sporting fancy wigs. Yes, even the guys. Even those who did not wear Transformer and other robot character costumes looked like dolls or toys.
“Why did you not join, sir?” the space-age knight, whose character I could not memorize, asked.
“I forgot to put on my cardboard Domo costume,” I said, feeling lucky that I was able to remember the name of the popular cartoon character, which is nothing but a brown bag with dots for eyes and a permanent saw-tooth smile.
I’m a fan of Japanese Zen minimalism, but Domo is too simplistic for me. It must have come from someone who, as the Facebook joke goes, is as lazy as the one who designed the Japanese flag.
My wife received a Domo pillow from her fifth-grade student during Teacher’s Day. The monster, which I could not describe as “kawaii” (Japanese for cute), now steals my nightly dose of warm embraces.
So that’s how I got the name of the only recently popular Japanese cartoon character that I know of and could have been my cosplay avatar, had they decided to include the faculty in the pretend game.
Well, it seems that at the rate it’s going we might soon be obliged to join. After all, who would imagine that even the academia, which used to be playground only for the mind, is no longer spared from the actual role-playing games of cartoon mania.
The university used to be the place where one has his first intellectual awakening that, according to the philosopher Allan Bloom, coincides with sexual awakening. It is in college where you “lose it,” so to speak, as you bravely face adult responsibility.
In the 1940s, university students in the United States were either left at the home front to design atom bombs or sent overseas to fight for democracy. In the 1960s, they joined anti-war protests and dreamed of revolution. Likewise, during Martial Law in the Philippines, students took to the streets or took up arms to fight for freedom.
During these times, there was just no time for pretend games and costume parties. Indeed as the American artist Ben Shahn would advise, they “take all seriousness seriously.”
Try telling that to today’s college student who would rather spend free time in the parallel universe of computer games, cartoon movies and comic books. Indeed, it’s a generation that refuses to grow up.
I am amazed at how, without any hint of hesitation, my students would talk endlessly about the same cartoon character they’ve been following since grade school or the same computer game they’ve been trying to master since then.
Back in grade school, we, too, tried to make Voltez V and Mazinger Z costumes out of cardboard boxes. Or a Superman cape out of beach towels. But it was only up to grade school.