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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Charisma Man

Do you know what's ticking me off? It's the fact that someone else came up with the concept of Charisma Man - and did it five years after I left Japan in 1998.

What the heck is Charisma Man?

Well... it's a comic strip about a nerdy guy from Canada who goes to Japan and because of his charisma has the Japanese falling all over themselves. The men love him because he's just so kakui (cool), while the women love him because they think he's got something they can't find in any other Japanese guy.

But, just as Superman (also originally half created by a Canadian), Charisma Man's one true krypotnite is the gaijin woman, who take every moment to snipe at him and his charisma.

Although not ever a fry cook in any alternate reality, I did become Charisma Man upon setting foot in Japan - and not because I consciously decided to be that way - grabbing a girlfriend on Day 2 (Ash), and could have had one on Day 1 if I was confident enough to have just planted a kiss on Ms. South or made some sort of suggestive comment that I know she would have enjoyed (as I later found out). But still... most other gaijin women could see me for the nerd I was (I was never a geek). Ash and South knew it, too, despite the manliness of my Alfred Sung cologne. 

Who is Charisma Man?

In reality, he's me.

He's also a whole lot of other foreigner guys who went to Disneyland, er, Japan, and found that the all of a sudden he was the main attraction at the fun park that everyone wanted to ride.

He's the guy who couldn't get a woman to look at him back in (insert country here), but upon setting foot in Japan he suddenly becomes Don Juan and Johnny Depp and Christiano Rinaldo and Tony Hawk and Chuck Norris and Jesus all rolled up in one. He suddenly became suave, good-looking, sophisticated and laid.

He became that foreigner guy in Japan that every other foreigner guy would look at and go: "How the fug did he get a girlfriend like that?"

If you have read any of my adventures in Japan, if I wasn't the inspiration for Charisma Man, I probably should have been.

Is it ego if it's true?

Yeah, well, I might brag about the conquests, but I also take myself down a peg or two while doing so.

I was Charisma Man with self-awareness.
Reverse racism is a problem for Charisma Man who just wants to be treated like everyone else... when other foreigners are looking. I used to take those massages, and free drinks, and what ever opportunity floated my way.
But here's the thing... when I went back to Canada after my three year sex romp through Japan, sleeping with women from all over Asia and driving my panzer through more of Europe than Hitler, the charisma that was magically bestowed upon me in Japan stuck around a while longer...

And still, I always knew I could be the flavor of the month. Charisma Man... not so much. I was too smart for my own good.

Ahh... so WTF is Charisma Man the comic strip?

Created by Larry Rodney, a fellow Canadian, who asked an artist friend, Glen Schroeder who living in Canada and had never been to Japan, to help bring Charisma Man to life. So he did.

The similarities end between Charisma Man and myself only with the physical depiction of the two-dimensional character. I mean Charis Man, fer crissakes.

Rodney sold the concept to The Alien (later known as Japanzine) with a single joke strip... but the editor thought they had something there and begged Rodney to create more.

Ten more strips were created - and then Rodney went back home - and figured he couldn't possibly write about Japan if he wasn't there.

Uh... yeah... For the record... before I started this blog 16 years after I left Japan, I was creating Wonderful Rife stories and being paid for them by an English-language magazine for two years after I left. It's no biggie... write what you know.

Still, Rodney had principals, and I applaud him for that.

Still... The Alien wanted more, so The Alien co-founder Neil Garscadden was tasked to continue the journey of Charisma Man.

Myself, like Charisma Man, deals with Japan in a muted manner... no harsh criticism, but rather quiet poking at Japanese social and cultural norms.

The two of us... we have experiences that most every gaijin male has had in Japan, except for us, we've experienced it in a different way.

This is so different from my experiences in Japan: I never taught kindergarten and all my students loved me); No one sat that close to me on the train (true); I would NEVER wear a Vancouver Canucks hockey jersey, but I would be lying if I said that women would gather around me because of my charisma, man; I never saw my neighbors and they never saw me, though they probably kept a better count than I did of every Japanese woman leaving my apartment at 11:30PM so they could make it home in time for their midnight curfew. That's 'women', not 'kids'; I never worked with other gaijin, but I'm sure my friends knew I was the captain of every sports team I ever played for even if I don't know how to skate very well. 
I have been described by more than a few readers as having the luckiest time ever in Japan. It's true. I had excellent friends like Matthew. I had excellent bosses in the Board of Education. I had excellent Japanese teachers who actually looked out for me and taught me things. I generally had nice students who treated me with respect and friendship. I had women chat me up wherever I went and ask me out to date or simply to want to try me out for size for the evening (or afternoon). I had some really, really excellent hair that I grew down past my shoulders, though there was that six-month period when I just let it grow without having it shaped (thanks Matthew for suggesting our barber buddy for the hair help). Although hair was awful before it was shaped, my charisma still shone through and I was not lost for female companionship. 

But here's the thing that Charisma Man and I both did that helped us immensely. We tried different things in Japan. We did our best. We succeeded. We failed. We failed again. We found the humor in our experiences. Japan could be an absolutely horrible place if that was your mindset. Ours was not. We were accepted for who we were (for real) by the Japanese... gaijin women be damned.

Of course, I did date gaijin women... because I discovered  - where Charisma Man did not - that everyone needs a little companionship sometime.

I was also a really nice guy. You know... with charisma.  If that sounds like ego, just note that in at least one case, we became famous and a global catchphrase. Hint... it wasn't me, despite the over 2.3 million visitors to this blog.

Okay, I never had the six-pack or package like Charisma Man, but I did receive lots of looks at the onsen. The Japanese women were trying to check out the goods, and the Japanese men were worried that my body hair was going to mess up the water; and only once did I go to an onsen with Western Women around, but I had Ash with me (along with others), so if they had something to say, they didn't in front of her. What I hated, however, was that the western and Japanese women always covered themselves up so I couldn't sneak a peek, but the men kept waving it all out in the open. Yes, thank-you... my penis is oki-sai. How long have you been in the water?
If you have read a few of the strips within this blog, you'll realize that Charisma Man is a pretty great comic strip.

You can check out some of the strips, and merchandising at the website: I'm an XL, of course.

Somewhere, living the dream,
Andrew "I'm up... I'm up!" Joseph
PS: Color image at very top is NOT part of the original series, but I liked the layout and color.

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