Nuclear Boy, the Friend, and our international church

This post is a little like this video. It may seem goofy at first, but there is a point I want to take seriously. This is a video that has reportedly been shown on Japanese TV in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, to educate youngsters about radiation danger from Fukushima (you may have seen it in the BCC sidebar a few days ago). I think it’s safe to say that most Americans seeing this animation will have the same reaction I did, in thinking, “Now here’s something that never would have been done quite that way in the U.S.”

Yesterday I watched my kids scramble to rip the plastic sleeve off the latest issue of The Friend, which had just arrived at our house. As the kids were flipping pages, scouring each for the hidden CTR ring, I noticed the style of the Matt and Mandy comic, and how different it was from the Japanese style of Nuclear Boy. Indeed, how different all the art and design in the magazine are from Japanese style.

This isn’t to say I necessarily prefer one to the other, or would want a manga comic to appear in each month’s Friend (though I know a number of people who would just love that). It’s just that if the feeling of jaw-dropping foreignness I get from Nuclear Boy is also felt by our Japanese Saints when they consume church media, how can that feeling not interfere with their ability to learn and feel the Spirit? If we on BCC find it hard to have a serious discussion about these internationalization issues, because we are too distracted by talking about how Nuclear Boy just blew our minds (as the top-rated YouTube comment puts it, “That’s one major cup of weird.”), can we imagine similar levels of distraction for them reading Matt and Mandy?


  1. Chris Gordon says:

    I remember living in the Philippines as a kid and looking forward to the Tambuli coming in the mail–then the international version of the Friend, at least in the Philippines. Looking back, I’m not sure if Mom and Dad had an Ensign to read or a Liahona. The Tambuli, though, was something uniquely Pilipino and it was neat.

    But anyway, in the latest retooling of the Ensign, I’ve noticed way more submissions from readers outside the English-speaking church in articles and in those little vignettes. I think they’re trying. I kind of think the powers that be would be more than stoked if there were a correspondent or contributor of articles from each of the languages in which the publications are done.

    At the same time, there’s probably a benefit to having one voice (albeit an extremely slanted anglo one for now) to the publications, which I think will diversify together with the church’s collective population.

  2. Whew. We all just watched this together as a family. That was an amazing commercial I wish we could help the people of Japan. We lived there for 9 years, and we were all ticketed to go back this Wednesday. With much sorrow, we just cancelled the tickets, but my DH is still up in the air about whether or not he should go, so this is so near and dear to our hearts.

    On topic of Nuclear Boy, yeah, Japan has a funny, special way of communicating. Their poos on the curb your dog signs all have happy faces on them. It’s funny, and gentle. I don’t think Americans would have necessarily only done this differently, but also not made a cartoon or public service announcement at all. Sigh. THe art in the Friend and other publications would do well to be more diverse.

  3. “I don’t think Americans would have necessarily only done this differently, but also not made a cartoon or public service announcement at all. Sigh.”

    I think that’s probably right, meems. It has to be said that the video is very effective. It’s pretty amazing really. What makes it so jarringly different to American eyes is its forthrightness and unflinching way of addressing things. Poop is part of that, but you’re right, it’s more fundamental that–it’s the forthrightness in addressing this topic to kids in the first place (and in such detail–including the methods of cooling, history of nuclear power plant disasters).

  4. Julie M. Smith says:

    I’m struck by the fact that we never explain things to kids. And if we did, the phrase “worst case scenario” would not be included. Or “poo.”

  5. My sister owns a French copy of this Japanese kids book, Everybody Poops.

  6. We have Everybody Poops (in English) for our kids. It is a great book. I like that it pushed me a little bit to confront what made me uncomfortable about it, and realize that I didn’t have to be. One of my big goals as a parent is to not model discomfort with things that are not wrong. I don’t ever want my kids to not ask me about something important, because they sense that it is one of those “uncomfortable” topics. We talk about how there are inappropriate times or ways of discussing some things (can’t have them making poop jokes in Sunbeams), but undue embarrassment often played a damaging role in my childhood and I don’t want to replay that in my kids’ experience.

  7. SB2,
    I think the ad is brilliant. I also think that it would succeed with kids here, too, if the forcefield of media, parental, and governmental lameness wouldnt stand in the way of such an ad being created and aired on US television, anyway.

    I haven’t looked at the Friend in ages, but I need to do so (I think we get it in Finnish as an insert to the Liahona).

  8. I can’t believe this is “weird” for America at all. All I could think of the whole time was “South Park” or “Family Guy” and their scatological humor. The difference would be in the United States that it would be marked as TV PG14 with parental warning and shown on Comedy Central. Take that as you will.

  9. Jettboy is obviously just jealous of his more famous brother – Nuclear Boy.

  10. Stephanie says:

    This video is fascinating. I had the same reaction as Julie M. Smith. It is a really good way to explain a scary and complicated problem to children. I am very impressed. It makes me wonder how I can better communicate scary things to my kids. (And, oh wow, how I am praying for the people of Japan)

  11. Effective, however doesn’t it glorify constipation? That part of the metaphor seems like a stretch.

  12. I also wanted to overthink the metaphor, and wondered about encouraging constipation. However, I liked how it was a simple explanation of something that is so frightening to everyone involved. I loved the request to pray at the end. I do wish we handled frightening things here in the US with children in a more gentle, humorous manner.

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