Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Charisma Man Walks Among Us
I briefly mentioned Charisma Man in an earlier post after Tom introduced me to its greatness, but found it far too brilliant to lay buried in an entry with a half dozen other links no one would bother to click on. The comic ran from about 1998 to 2005 in an old gaijin mag called The Alien (which later became Japanzine), and I'm currently on the lookout for a reasonably priced copy of the out-of-print collected series. (If any gaijin out there can help me on this quest, I'd be much obliged.)
Charisma Man is the epitome of the arrogant, self-interested, ill-qualified English teaching gaijin who flees a humdrum existence in his native country to seek fortune, respect, and lots of hot sex. Upon reaching Japan, he is transformed into a muscular hunk of pure confidence who draws scores of hot females to his side until he encounters his arch-nemesis: Western Woman.
What captured my attention most about this strip is this idea of a misfit gaijin not being able to make it in his home country, and coming to Japan as an easy way to gain power and popularity. Just like Superman on Earth, the most ordinary of Western attributes become extraordinary feats here in Japan. Guys who worked deadbeat jobs back in the West discover that their ability to speak one of the most in-demand languages in the world instantly qualifies them for a high-paying teaching position that demands instant respect from the Japanese people. Those misfits from the Western dating scene can come here and—with the help of a little confidence—win instant attention from females of all ages, sizes, and levels of English ability. The capacity to consume more than three glasses of beer, reach tall items on shelves, accomplish the simplest of home-repair tasks, wield a phallus longer than four inches, and instantly answer colloquial English questions impress people like magic. And even the simplest of Japanese language skill or chopstick handling will never fail to impress a crowd.
But this existence is all a facade. However much his newfound powers boost his ego to superhuman proportions, Western Woman proves that Charisma Man's popularity is all a sham by knocking him back to his true geek status. I see plenty of guys here using their gaijin status just to win girls, but the Charisma Man phenomenon goes deeper than that. Success in Japan for all but the truly qualified is just a lot of smoke and mirrors; most gaijin aren't doing anything that any number of Westerners couldn't do as good or better than themselves (in the classroom or the bedroom). Without real talent you are nothing; and all the colloquial-English in the world won't deliver you real success. Maybe every gaijin needs a Western Woman to hold up the mirror and show him his true form.
Still, for those who can't stand the reality of that mirror, Japan makes a great hiding place. Why face the humiliation of your pathetically-low Western job qualifications when you can make a real salary, sleep with dozens of women, and be worshiped as an eigo no sensei instead?
For more Charisma Man strips, click here or here. This article is also informative reading.