Sunday, May 20, 2018

New Superheroes & New Generations

I immediately fell for “Anpanman” on BTS’s newest album, Love Yourself: Tear. The rhythm is incredibly infectious and the layers of vocals, including a luring synth-modified V for the Intro, pull you right in. In typical BTS fashion, though, once I dug into the lyrics, a whole new attraction arose. I used and thank for their translations.

I did not know of the Anpanman superhero and his world before this song. He was introduced in 1973 in a Japanese picture book by Takashi Yanase, who worked on Anpanman until his death in 2013. The franchise has spread across Asia for 45 years, becoming extremely popular in both merchandising and publications, including manga, a comic strip, and a long-running TV show.

Music enjoyment was impacted this week by another mass shooting and killing spree in a high school in the United States. We crave solutions. I think there are 4 lessons in this song that we can use to help construct a more positive future that might make conditions less ripe for horrific situations such as this.

1. We have a personal responsibility to help each other.

Suga sings:

I don’t know
But I have to do this, Mom
Who can it be if it’s not me?
You can call me say Anpan

Anpanman is quite a the odd character. BTS members have historically described their own awkwardness in detail. Yet, they persisted.  As they have risen in fame, their advocacy has spread beyond themselves and surroundings to others. They firmly believe that the more one has, the more one should give.

That attitude of servitude needs to spread.

2. We must work with what we have and give it freely.

J-Hope sings:

I don’t have biceps or pecs*
I don’t have a super car like Batman
It was my dream to become a hero
But the only thing I can give you is Anpan

Anpan is a Japanese jam-filled bun. Anpanman fed children using his head, which is an anpan. Not the most glamorous of superpowers, but what’s more basic and vital than keeping people well-fed? Many of the characters in his world had connections with food and I like the symbolism of that: the importance of feeding each other with helpful things. BTS live who they are- they give what they have. That’s a healthy view of life.

Whether with food, advice, or moral support, we should feed one another well.

3. It’s going to be tough and we’ll fail.

Jungkook and Jimin sing:

But still, even if I have to use all my strength
I will stay by your side
Though I’ll fall again
Though I’ll make mistakes again
Though I’ll fall into a mud pit again
Trust me, because I’m a hero

I love that BTS admits we’ll screw up. We will ALWAYS fail along the way- the only way to avoid failure is to do nothing. To blame other people. We see this type of behavior pattern so much today and it has to stop. We must try. Accept temporary setbacks. And try again. Together.

That is the true mark of a real superhero.

4. New voices and songs can accomplish much.

RM and Suga close out the song singing this:

I’m a new generation Anpanman
I’m a new superhero Anpanman
What I have is this song here
Lemme say “All the bad men, cop out”

We all carry a song of some kind. I hear similar messages echoed in voices, like Cameron Kasky, that rose to prominence after the Parkland shootings. To me, the young people like Naomi Wadler, who stood up at the podiums during the March for Our Lives, said things similar to what BTS is declaring. I hear the same intent in the actions of people like James Shaw Jr.. It doesn’t matter what skills we have or don’t have or our age. It just matters that we will work together to force the bad attitudes, behaviors and ways to stop controlling things.

I, for one, welcome the new superheroes and generations.

*Translation note: This line is a perfect example of why we need translations from those who really understand the languages involved. As a basic learner of Korean, I can't see how this line translates to this. I see it as saying something like, "I don't have an awesome cape". I'll go with the biceps and pecs interpretations, although as was seen on the BBMAs, BTS definitely has pecs. 

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