Recently there has been a controversy between YamiSweet and the administrators of Bowlroll.net. The gist of it is that Bowlroll had removed some of her files from their server due to "TOS violations". However, this discussion isn't about this controversy as it's well documented and as far as the two parties are concerned it seems to have been resolved amicably and I am not, in writing this article, attempting to re-ignite the discussion. If you want to read more, please visit these pages: fav.me/d5ucxlq and fav.me/d65bv6j
I have been an admirer of Ms.YamiSweet work for quite awhile and I am definitely impressed by her level of maturity. In addition, I really do feel she did all she could to handle the situation well. As unlike many DA MMDers, she has, to the best of my knowledge, always taken pains to do things correctly.
What is more worrisome, however, are some of the comments on these pages and this is what this article will specifically address as there is some need to dispel some myths or misconceptions about the Japanese and their MMD Community (MMDC).
I believe it would be a productive exercise to better understand who they are, and how they differ from us. "Us" for the purposes of this discussion is all of us in the MMD community outside of Japan or as the Japanese terms us: "Overseas".
Because in the final analysis, if we understand them better, it would help bridge some of the miscommunications and misunderstandings. And this works both ways. Definitely, the Japanese MMD Community has some misconceptions about us also. However, there are some who are trying to bridge the communications gap on their side of the equation, so it is only fair if we do likewise and this article is but one small step in that direction.
After all, we all really do want to get along right?
As a start I'm going to quote verbatim from this journal as it is highly illustrative: fav.me/d65gjb0. This was written by one of the administrators of Bowlroll and is posted to their account on DA.
We know other people illegally edit Tda models, too.
Still we have to say your naked Tda model triggered many TOS violations.
Thus we decided to remove your edited models.
Chain of free creativity does not mean copyright free.
We hope you enjoy your MMD life in good manners.
What is important here is the "we decided". I am not sure how familiar any of you are with Bowlroll.net. It is definitely an important MMD resource for models in Japan. They have also recognised that a lot of people "Overseas" make use of their service. The interesting thing is that they have also made some effort to try to resolve misunderstandings over model use between the Japanese MMDC and Overseas MMDC. I refer you to these two documents on their website: bowlroll.net/about/readme and bowlroll.net/up/dl19160
The first, constitutes a set of instructions on how to write "readme.txt" documents and concludes at the end with a brief discussion on how to deal with non-Japanese users. We will revisit this document in a little more detail below as it is important. The second document is a template readme.txt that includes translation of Japanese terms and conditions in English. That is a huge step in trying to bridge the communications gap. We have not, on our side of the equation even attempted to do anything like that (well I have, my readme.txt for models released on Bowlroll have Japanese translations).
But back to the "we decided". Implicit in this statement is that some form of communications between the site operators and other concerned parties took place. These take down decisions do not appear to be arbitrary. This is important, because if nothing else, this shows us two things. They give a "damn" about what they're doing and they give a "damn" about what we're doing. You only need to read the following two sentences to fully understand where they're coming from. Whoever wrote this kept it straight and to the point. Basically, why they did it, that did only did it after some careful deliberation and "no hard feelings".
This is a very Japanese way of doing things.
And if you think about it, it's a very nice and "human" way of doing things. You will not, in general, see this type of ettiquette coming from an "Overseas" operation if you ever get on the wrong side of the equation.
And yet, there are comments posted by really ignorant DA MMDers accusing the Japanese of being xenophobic or having the temerity of preventing them from having access to certain models.
It is time to set some things straight.
Japan is a modern society. Unlike us (in the USA), however, they also have a lot of traditions and customs built into their social structure, many of it unique. Specifically, 2000 plus years of tradition and cultural values had to be absorbed into a cosmopolitan modern culture in the span of about 50 years (although arguments can be made that these changes initiated all the way back to the Meiji Restoration). However, this is not a history class, what is important is to understand that their thinking will be tainted by some vestige of their traditional culture. And there is nothing wrong with that. But it does require us to understand this if we are to really get along.
For starters, Japanese culture have two important elements that we need to aware of and these two elements are captured within the Bowlroll posting above. First off there is the element of "giving face", the second is a "respect for your seniors".
Note how the posting ends: "We hope you enjoy your MMD life in good manners."
This is the equivalent of a Japanese bow. It is their way of saying "No hard feelings, this is just business, let us continue our relationship respectfully in the future".
The following sentence is also very revealing because of the way it is worded: "Thus we decided to remove your edited models."
Who are "we"? On the surface it could be read as the site administrators and concerned parties. I alluded to this above. It could also be interpreted as "we your seniors". A lot of you have watched Japanese animes about life in Japanese high schools, right? So you should be familiar with the concept of "sempai", where juniors are expected to address their seniors as "sempai" and give them due respect simply out of seniority. In most cultures, respect has to be earned so the concept can be strange to us at times. But, that same concept extends into the Japanese society at large and this is echoed in that statement. So read another way, they are regarding themselves as (in this case) YamiSweet's "sempais" and it is their way of expecting the recipients acknowledgement that the decision was made by her seniors.
So, some of you might ask: "how would you know these things"? Well, basically because in my career I have worked with Japanese companies and their executives. One of the biggest barriers was trying to understand what they're really saying, because they communicate like us and yet they don't communicate like us. And unless you take a little time to fully comprehend how they communicate, a lot of things will be lost in the translation, literally. When I am sitting at a conference table talking to them, they will talk in a particular way. After work, if I went out to drink with them, they would be far more open and very different. But the system of respect actually works and one of the key benefits is that it prevents unnecessary conflicts. Japanese etiquette is a system that is designed to give and receive respect. It prevents egos from being rubbed the wrong way and causing problems downstream.
When you engage in Japanese sports for example, such as Judo or Kendo, you see this behavior graphically. You bow to your opponent before and after the match. Win or lose, both winner and loser bows to each other to indicate respect for the other. You won't for the most part be seeing a Japanese kendo participant throwing around "high fives" after a win, nor the loser storming out of the arena in a huff. The system prevents this and is a safety valve that serves to prevent issues. The competition has a set beginning and a set end. Win or lose, the outcome will always end in a show of respect on the part of both participants. This concept can be found throughout the Japanese way of doing things and also applies for the most part to how the Japanese MMDC members behave within their own community. In modern day Japan, there are instances where this system has failed to be implemented and so they also have their share of "drama" as well as other issues. It is not a utopian society by any stretch as after all, they have human fallibilities just like anyone else. By the same token though, they also seem to have a far more unified MMD community than we have; but one factor in that is that they are all nationals from a single nation unlike the Overseas MMDC which is multi-national.
This leads nicely to my next point. I've seen the term "Xenophobic" thrown at the Japanese MMDC or at least at some of their members. But are they really? Honestly, I've used that term to describe the behavior of one rather well known Japanese modeler - but he only has himself to blame as I took what he posted on his webpage for exactly what it was - a general dislike for anything "foreign". Let me point out though that xenophobia does not automatically equate with racism. Japan is an island. This makes the culture easy to isolate from the rest of the world. So in some parts of the country, people can actually become very insular and even today it is possible that in some remote regions, the inhabitants have never met with a Westerner. People will always be suspicious of what they are unfamiliar with. I've been to places like that. The locals have never seen or have rarely seen a foreigner. They're suspicious of you, they're cautious when they talk to you and their kids hide behind their mothers when you approach in their direction.
It's called fear.
I am quite tall although I am no giant by any stretch of the imagination. When I approach people even over here, some people say I'm scary. So imagine how people who I literally physically tower over will feel when I first approach them. But when you smile at people. When your body language is open and welcoming, people tend to respond in kind. In the final analysis, we're all human. Nature makes us fear the unknown. It is a survival mechanism and if you would only think about it, the greatest threat to people are other people.
So are there Japanese MMDers who are xenophobic? Of course there are. Are there Japanese MMDers who are racists? Of course there are those too. The same can be said for those of us who are "Overseas". The MMDC community worldwide probably numbers in the thousands (probably an underestimate) so you will find all sorts of people in that mix. Some will be nice, some not so nice. Don't brand an entire nation, society or culture just based on the behavior of just a few.
Yes I've seen this remark posted quite frequently:
Hey this is not being xenophobic or racists. I've posted essentially similar remarks on my pages for example:
Editing and redistribution - OK per Terms of the License (CC-BY-NC-SA)
IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE TERMS DON'T MESS WITH THIS MODEL
Now that we're beginning to see some common ground, let us examine a little more closely what these are as it will give us a really good insight into the Japanese MMDC mindset. They are obviously having a discussion about what to do about us and not being able to read or speak Japanese it's hard for me to find these conversations but there are clues that they are having them and one of the places where it can be found is on Bowlroll's discussion on how to prepare readme texts.
I gave the link to this page above, but what I really want you to look at is the last section. The article is too long to reproduce here so please refer to the original text if you require further clarification. But basically it breaks down into the following concerns:
(1) The author emphasizes the need to incorporate some provisions in the readme text for non-Japanese users.
- Now isn't that really nice of them? Not only do they allow us access to their models, they're actually trying to take steps to make it easier for non-Japanese users to use these models and other resources. Really, they don't have to do this at all. Which is why we really need to slap those of us who whine about the Japanese denying them access to models.
(2) That the Japanese custom of threatening to take down models because of some infringement of use has no effect on the non-Japanese community.
- Haha - I could have told them that myself ... However, their custom of doing this should not be interpreted merely as someone on their side throwing a "sissy-fit". This is a cultural behavior which to them is a way for someone to express their extreme displeasure with some grievance. It's a method for them to say to others that they feel "insulted" and until the matter is resolved to their satisfaction, their participation is being withheld. We have seen this carried out recently by a Japanese modeler against others in the Japanese MMDC. It's worth reviewing that incident in this light.
- Basically, a well known Japanese modeler was upset that one of his models was used in pornographic depictions against his expressly written wishes. So he withdrew the model(s) from circulation and stated publicly why. This brought an outcry within the Japanese MMDC. People rallied to the modelers side, made postings sympathetic to his POV, etc. Finally, another modeler of repute (ie. a peer or person of equal standing) approached him to appeal to him to graciously allow others to have access to his models again. And that conversation would have included statements that reinforced that person's value and reputation, and so of course, he eventually relented. A very Japanese way of doing things. Unfortunately, the nuances of this type of stratagem would be totally lost when applied to "foreigners".
(3) Using a Japanese password is not effective and can result in them being accused of being racists.
- Well at least we know now that they themselves do not wish to be portrayed as racists and it backs up my point that most of them are not.
(4) They have noted that the overseas community is predominantly teens who are for the most part completely oblivious to the concepts of copyrights and respect for intellectual property.
- Actually, GOOGLE Translate used the word "ignorant" somewhere in that mix, but I was trying to be nice. The term, however, unfortunately does have some validity as we really have some stupid, ignorant and selfish people in our community.
(5) That they're dealing with "children" for the most part when dealing with the overseas community so be cautioned. At the same time, however, they welcome this.
- This is important and I will comment on this again further below. Japanese people, like all good people, are very concerned about the well being of children and this is reflected even in this short conversation.
(6) They generally welcome interests in the hobby from overseas, despite the problems and are encouraging further discussions, at least amongst themselves, to improve communications.
- Hey, why aren't we doing something like that? Why do we have to keep taking from them and not giving anything back? When you think about it that way, it really makes me angry when I see posts here on DA (and elsewhere) bashing the Japanese MMDC.
There are also some parts of that discussion that have been omitted simply because the computer translation totally fails to make certain segments comprehensible. But there is enough information there already to indicate that there are people over in Japan who are having a mature discussion on these issues.
However, I will revisit point 5 above as this is really important. The Japanese MMD demographics is generally older than the Overseas MMD demographics from what I can gather. Or at the very least, they are (for the most part) more mature.
I believe most Japanese MMDers are probably in their mid-20s to 30s. Definitely I know that there are many who are in their 40s and even 50s. Most are also male, educated and many are highly skilled technically or artistically. There does not seem to be a large teen component to this community but that just might be that they are mostly invisible to those of us outside of Japan. Also, there seems to be very few females. I've personally have come across a few, but in general Japanese female MMDers are either very few or very silent.
Overseas, we have a lot of teens, and a lot of females, way more of both. Yay for us! Especially, the females. The teens probably not so much ... but seriously, demographically, the Japanese and the Overseas MMDC compositions are very different.
For a start, we do not have many original content creators. By the same token, we do have a lot or extremely talented model editors, many of which are female. This female component in our Overseas MMD demographics is very very important. One of the reasons why I say this is because there is one problem that seems to plague the Japanese MMDC but seems to be almost absent from the Overseas MMDC. This is pornography using MMD models. Probably because the Overseas MMDC has at least half of it's demographics being female and this population has checked the growth of this type of material outside of Japan. And also the large teen component is a factor in this. Yes, I know teenage boys love to see "boobies" but that's nature. By the same token, teenage boys don't tend to be pornographers. The creation of pornography is a behaviour of older males, not the product of hormone crazed teenage boys. Healthy teenage boys would be much more interested in chasing real skirts rather than ones on screens or prints.
The other important contribution that the overseas female population of the MMDC brings is even more important and its implication is immense. "Guys" don't look at "Gals" in a realistic fashion. If you look at the Japanese made edits of existing models, nice as many of them are aesthetically and technically, they are done for the most part by males. The end result is that the models are "doll-like". Most girls and women are not "doll-like". If you look at the edits done around the DA galleries; and I think I would be correct in making the claim that the majority are made by female MMDers; the portrayal of females as represented by these models are far more realistic and reflect the female image as it really exists in the real world or images of females as women want to see themselves.
You do not have to be a rocket scientist to fully understand the full implications of this.
I do not know why the Japanese MMDC does not have a large female component. May be they do but they remain silent or may be they really don't have a large female demographics at all. The root cause is something in their culture or society and I am not knowledgeable enough about this area to be able to even make an educated guess as to what these factors may be (but I have a rough idea which I'll keep to myself). Yet, the vocaloid characters themselves are predominantly female and idealised females at that. Many have exaggerated female characteristics and are designed for the most part to visually appeal to males. This fact alone is problematic from a moral standpoint. I am no feminist. I can't be anyway as I'm a guy, but I value the concept that we generally have in the West of not seeing women as chattel or being there as mere accessories for males.
So what is it that the Japanese MMDC really expect from us?
There is enough at least antedotal evidence around to indicate that in general that the Japanese MMDC welcomes overseas interest in a hobby that they created. At the same time, they do seem to be alarmed at the way the Overseas MMDC have in the past behaved. Definitely, there is a breakdown in communications and expectations. Probably on both sides of the equation but are there solutions?
I believe that there are and I will briefly outline some of the things we could do balance out the equation so that both communities can move forward productively.
1. The Japanese MMDC have huge concerns about their rights with regards to intellectual property. We need to understand this fully. This starts by understanding their expectations and we do not have to guess what these are as they are repeatedly posted everywhere and you don't really have to look hard to find these.
In a nutshell, read their readme.txt and FULLY understand what they are saying. Do not guess or make assumptions. A lot of what I wrote elsewhere in other journal discussions on MMD and copyrights apply here. The Japanese themselves have taken pains to document these and you just have to learn to read their readme.txt to be able to fully understand what they're saying. Yes, it can be hard as many of the references are in technical Japanese but they are still comprehensible enough.
But look at it this way, the little time it takes to digest the contents of their readme.txt palls in comparison to the time it took to building those models that we all covet. Plus they're free for the most part. So where's the pain in making some effort to respect their wishes? Bear in mind also that the Japanese modelers are for the most part not creating models to be torn apart to make other models. For heaven sakes show some respect to their "art". BTW, I don't allow my models to be used for parts at all. We should be grateful that some Japanese modelers are "OK" with it, but by the same token we need to respect the wishes of those that would be offended to see their work raped - and I am deliberately using that work because that's exactly what it feels like for an artist to see their work desecrated.
Also, a lot of Japanese models are collaborative works. This means the copyrights of several different parties may be involved but the readme.txt are too brief to cover all these in detail but they usually reference other documentation and it pays to pay heed to these to avoid problems. So pay special attention when you see statements like these in readme.txt:
Use this model in accordance with Piapro Character License of Crypton Future Media, Inc.,the copyright holder of this character.
* Piapro Character License
These links lead to specific documents detailing what can or cannot be done. Very rarely are Japanese models covered under a Creative Commons license, which means that they are FULLY protected by copyrights. (Creative Commons works are usually copyright protected works too - so don't assume you can do whatever with those either). But the Japanese are very particular about the way people go around doing things. They are a very "neat" society in the sense that they believe strongly in regulated systems. They are expecting that we play by the same rules they are, and we should, as our societies through our
governments have treaties with them agreeing to respect their copyright laws; just as they are expected to comply with ours. Seriously, they're not asking for anything here that we aren't expecting of them. THINK ABOUT THIS.
2. I believe that there is a certain element in the Japanese MMDC that expect to be treated with respect on the "sempai" basis. To accommodate this is actually very easy. CREDIT EVERYTHING PROPERLY.
The Overseas MMDC community has an abysmal record for giving credit. From the Japanese standpoint this is extremely disrespectful. If you need a clue look at how detailed the credits are at the end of Japanese made MMD videos.
Just jump on YouTube or even a lot of pages here on DA. Basically, all you get is an "I did this, aren't I great!" and zero notation on the resources. Sure, some of these are by "kids". Even the Japanese have acknowledged that this may be the case and have tried to make allowances for this. But by the same token, if you're old enough to make an MMD picture, you're old enough to learn to make proper credits. I'm sure Japanese children of the same age can do it, so why can't our children? And if you're not a child, and you don't credit properly, you're just being disrespectful, period.
MMD models are free. The software is free. Almost all MMD resources are free. This is only possible because of the generosity of others. You don't have an automatic right to use these resources just because they're free. There are obligations for using these resources and the number one obligation is to be respectful to those who made these resources free in the first place. Is it that hard for some people to understand?
3. STOP THE DRAMA. Seriously we do not need more of this type of crap: fav.me/d5xp8mi
This type of behaviour does not portray the Overseas MMDC in a good light. Even if a lot of us are "children", it really helps that we be seen as "well behaved" children.
Definitely there are things that the Japanese MMDC does not have to deal with is this type of nonsense and cyber-bullying. MMD is a community effort. Running away and taking your toys away when something upsets you is something that should have gone away with most children after they leave kindergarten. To the best of my knowledge, no kindergartener is engaged in MMD. If you behave like one, well please go back to kindergarten and take remedial classes and leave the rest of us in peace.
As for cyber-bullying. Well that does seem to be an issue our community does need to deal with and since some people in this community are already beginning to take steps to address this, I'll leave that discussion for them.
My point here is that we need to get our act together, adults, teens and kids, if we're to be taken seriously as a community by the Japanese MMDC.
4. Don't just take. We need to give back.
We do not have a lot of original content creators for MMD. There are probably some really good reasons for this but, those of you who can, should make at least some effort to put some work back into the worldwide MMDC resource pot. Simply making your work available to the Japanese MMDers on their access sites like Bowlroll.net would be a big help in that direction.
But there are other things we can all do, and if you're still wondering what these might be, please re-read points 1-3 above.
5. COMMUNICATE. This has not been easy, but let us keep trying. Some Japanese modelers have DA pages and this is certainly one vehicle. But there are others mediums and channels. The language barrier is an issue, but the very presence of elements of the Japanese MMDC being here on DA is indicative of the fact that at least some of them are willing to go out of their way to bridge this gap. We should reciprocate as best we can. Here is a real human challenge, but a nice one. In an ideal world, there won't be a Japanese MMDC and an Overseas MMDC, but just simply one MMDC. It would be interesting to see that happen, but even if it doesn't, we can all work at making relationships a lot more harmonious than they are at present.
From everything I have discerned, the Japanese MMDC seems to be receptive to better relations. This is a very exciting opportunity, so it only takes effort and thought to make it happen. We need to better understand them and their expectations. At the same time we also need to dismantle their view of us as being only problematic. The ball is in our court now. Are we going to drop it or return it?
I am sure that there are probably other ways to improve the relationship between the Japanese MMDC and ourselves. They certainly seem to be willing to take steps towards improving relations, likewise we need to begin to reciprocate. It is unproductive for them to view us as being primarily a "concern", we need to take steps towards showing them that we can also contribute positively to the MMD hobby. At the very least we can demonstrate good faith even if we lack the ability
to add to the overall resource pool.
If you really, really think about it and have half understood the ramblings I've wrote above, the Japanese MMDC actually only has one real expectation of us. And it is not something that they would'nt expect from the members of their own community. I will spell it out for those of you who might be a little slow on the uptake.
Thanks for reading this. These are my personal views only which are worth exactly 2 cents. If you wish to take up any of these points further, please feel welcomed to add your thoughts in the comments section below.