Caught up in the superhero craze

Clockwise from left: Leena Zawawi, a 22-year-old student says, she has chosen to dress like Hone Ana from the Jigoku Shoujou anime series because she feels a bond with the eerie but confident character; Yusmiruddin Mohammed Yussuf, says that in each of us there resides a superhero, patiently waiting for the right time to emerge; for Izzat Al Hakim Azman, just by showing off his knowledge of superhero literature, he landed a job in the retail line.

Superheroes and their awesome powers have always had a hold on kids. Who would have thought that the exploits of our childhood heroes sometimes stays with us even as we outgrow such childish fare?

For instance, the Ambassador of Japan, Shigeru Nakamura may be 63, but his fascination for superheroes is undimmed by the passage of time.

When Nakamura was at the Kingdom of Characters exhibition at the National Art Gallery recently, all it took to make him smile was the mere mention of Ultraman. The staff of Japan Foundation of Kuala Lumpur were certainly surprised when he gamely struck a playful pose next to this most famous of superheroes to have emerged from the Land of the Rising Sun.

"For me, Ultraman is a symbol of justice," Nakamura beamed.

Nakamura also confessed to having other favourite superheroes, apart from Ultraman. When he was growing up in the 1950s, his favourite superhero was Tetsujin Gou 28, a giant robot so big and strong that it could pick up battleships with one hand.

"Tetsujin taught me good will always overwhelm evil. He was more realistic than Ultraman because he had the human touch. He got his orders by remote control from a boy who won him in a competition," he explained.

Nakamura said Japan's history may have played a part in the country's popular "character culture". After the trauma of the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention the humiliating defeat in World War II, the Japanese turned to comics for relief. The popularity of comics grew, and this became the foundation of the manga industry.

Later, with the advent of television (in 1962, Japan recorded a total of 10 million TV sets) and the computer, the flourishing genre was taken to another level - with movies, animated series and video games.

The superhero phenomenon, also huge in the US, seems to be catching on in Malaysia with the emergence of BoBoi Boy, a fully Malaysian-made, 3D animation by Muhammad Anas Abdul Aziz and Mohd Nizam Abd Razak, which airs on TV3.. (Of course, before that, we had Cicak Man on the silver screen in 2006.)

Nizam, the managing director of Animonsta Studios, said he always wished he had super powers when he was growing up. It was this childhood fantasy that helped in the creation of his character. He said he and his partner had to excavate childhood memories to create their superhero.


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