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Lately we've been getting some questions such as this one, concerning bar reservation from something a user read from the Bartender manga. I think this is a bit off topic and may be better suited for Travel.SE.

When asking about out-of-universe questions, where should we draw the line? If possible, please provide some acceptable and unacceptable examples in your suggestions.

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I think that questions of the form "I've seen X happen in anime. Does this happen in real life in Japan?" aren't really questions about anime (usually). They're questions about Japan. There are exceptions to this, like when X itself is an anime-related topic. For example, asking a specific question about how realistic the portrayal of the anime production company in episode 8 of OreImo would be acceptable (I can't think of any questions regarding this at the moment, but it would at least constitute an acceptable topic).

However, if the same question could be asked without making any reference to an anime, and the answers would be the same, then it's not really an anime question. The linked question "Is it common for Japanese bars to require advance reservations?" is probably an example of that. Hence, I propose the following policy:

Culture questions need to be directly related to anime/manga. If a question about Japanese culture still makes sense removing all references to anime/manga, then it's off topic.

These questions might make sense on Travel.SE or JLU.SE, but they aren't squarely within the expertise of anime-fans. For those interested in such things, the Culture and life in Japan proposal on Area51 would include a lot more questions like this. Some of these questions might still get answers here, since most knowledgeable anime fans also know a lot about Japanese culture, but it isn't strictly a question about anime.

Some of these questions might still be able to converted into valid questions, though often not questions. If X is something that happens quite frequently in anime, though it seems to be less common in real life, then asking about the origin or meaning probably makes a valid or question. An example of this would be Why is "I won't forgive you" a commonly used threat?. Some of these questions will get answers of the form "Actually, this is common in real life in Japan, not just in anime". However, just asking whether it occurs in Japan is off-topic. Also, note that such questions typically need multiple examples to be reasonable. Depending on the trope, it may require more or less, but IMO three examples is a bare minimum.


As a note, strictly speaking, the tag is misused pretty frequently. It's not for questions about Japanese culture broadly. Those are off-topic. From the tag wiki, it's for:

Questions about anime and manga in the broader context of Japanese culture. Includes both questions about cultural origins for anime/manga references and questions about the cultural impact of a particular series.

Some examples of questions which are properly tagged are What factors contributed to the "golden age" of anime? and Why does censorship level differ between manga and anime?. It doesn't include arbitrary questions about Japanese culture, nor does it include questions about tropes (unless the explanation is certain to be based on Japanese culture).

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There are existing questions asking the reason for certain practice done by characters in anime/manga, which are culture-related.

Following the policy Logan M suggested, these questions would be off-topic, since the scenes in anime/manga simply reflect the culture in real life, and by replacing anime reference with an image or video in real life, those question would become Japanese culture questions.

However, I think those questions have value on Anime & Manga.SE, since they help viewers better understand the Japanese culture, so they can further appreciate the anime/manga itself. It would also be more natural for the people who see a certain scene in anime/manga and want to understand what is going on to come here and ask their questions here.

Questions from aside, we are bound to run into questions asking about references to real-life Japanese events/politics/people/popular culture/etc. in series such as Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Joshiraku or Tesagure Bukatsumono. Those topics are at odd with the site scope. However, to understand those references, it is necessary for the answer to draw knowledge from those fields to adequately explain them.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want our site flooded with direct questions about Japanese culture without any reference to anime/manga, since it would go outside the site scope and attract the wrong audience.

I currently can't think of a policy, since I'm not sure of all the cases that we don't want. However, I think a policy regarding culture questions should:

Allow

  • What/Why do [these characters] perform [this action]?
  • What is [this cultural phenomenon] portrayed in many different anime?
  • [This anime] claims [some cultural fact]. Is it true?

Using some example questions from Japanese Culture proposal as example, these questions would be allowed if there is a scene in the anime/manga/etc. mentioning the cultural practice:

  • Why does Japanese society put so much emphasis on hierarchical relationships? (上下関係)
  • Why are you supposed to take your shoes off when you enter somebody's home?
  • Why do the Japanese tie omikuji fortunes to fences and tree limbs?
  • Why does [this character] reject [this item] as omiyage (gift)?

    (Modified from What items are should you avoid giving as an omiyage (gift)?)

  • Why are [these numbers] considered lucky or unlucky in Japan?

    (Modified from What numbers are considered lucky or unlucky in Japan?)

  • Why is it rude to stab your chopsticks into your rice/pass food with chopsticks/other chopstick etiquette?

  • Why is it that lost items are often returned to the police rather than stolen?
  • What are the sociocultural factors that contribute to the very long working hours often seen in Japanese companies?
  • Why did Japan develop such a strong cultural objection to gun ownership?
  • Why do [the characters] say that towel is not allowed in onsen?

    (Modified from Are you expected to be naked in an onsen resort? If so would it be unacceptable to wear a swimming costume?)

  • Why are New Year celebrations Shinto, marriages Christian, and funerals Buddhist in Japan? [Should be split into 3 questions, each cite examples from anime/manga/etc. Hard to actually pull this off, though]

(Although I list these questions here, some of them I doubt will never get asked here, since there is no anime talking about them)

Disallow

  • What is considered [rude/taboo/good] when [doing something] according to Japanese culture?
  • What is the origin of [some cultural practice]?

Using some example questions from Japanese Culture proposal as example, these questions would be disallowed:

  • Are Ninja as culturally popular in Japan as they currently are in English-speaking countries, especially the USA?
  • Does Japan have a similar or equivalent practice of [another culture's practice]?
  • In what situations is a yukata worn versus a kimono?
  • As a visitor from the United States, is it polite or rude for me to bow?
  • Is shrugging your shoulders considered rude in Japan?
  • What should you bring when you are invited to a Japanese person's home for dinner?
  • Does Japan have a similar or equivalent practice of [another culture's practice]?
  • What are the earliest known origins of onigiri (rice balls)?
  • When did the association of white flowers with death and funerals begin?
  • When did tattoos become associated with yakuza?
  • What are the differences in dress between geisha and maiko? Do they have different responsibilities as well?

I hope to use these example questions to draw a line of what to include, and what not to, from which we can observe and generalize it into a policy.

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  • I agree, these questions have value - If people don't understand a scene because of cultural reasons, it seems to me that they should be allowed ask about it. I think your examples are quite apt – Toshinou Kyouko Apr 28 '15 at 20:46
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This answer comes as a counter-proposal answer to @nhahtdh's.

Let me first state my fundamental viewpoint: If we allow these questions to be asked without using anime as context, we open the door to all kinds of off-topic questions. Everything from programming to outdoor living becomes on-topic. And that's... bad.


Following the policy Logan M suggested, these questions would be off-topic

This is incorrect. The anime cited in these questions (well, at least three of them) is required to give the question context.

Take, for example, Why strike stones taken from inside a pot against each other?. If we remove all references to the anime, we get:

I saw someone taking two stones from a pot, and striking them against each other. What does it mean? Is it some kind of supernatural belief?

For all we know, it could be starting a fire with two blocks of flint. The environment, actions, and characters present in the scene are necessary to answer it. Even if you saw someone doing this in real life, you wouldn't have the context of the son leaving home.

Contrast with Check and circle marks in test papers, and you get:

I came across a test paper containing someone's score. However, it is interesting to note that the correct answers are circled while the wrong ones are ticked (checked?). As far as I know, ticks are for correct answers and circles are for incorrect answers (unless I've been living in a shell, which would be embarrassing).

The person who wrote this intentionally placed an incorrect answer for question #1. As you can see, it is checked while the rest are circled. Does this mirror how Japan marks the test papers of students? If so, why?

Aside from the possible lacking context that this is happening in Japan, nothing changes. It is a question about how a test paper is marked, not about anime, nor even about its characters. You could argue that you'd have to know about Keima Katsuragi answering the first one wrong intentionally, so I'm willing to let this one slide with an edit (to show the focus).


However, I think those questions have value on Anime & Manga.SE, since they help viewers better understand the Japanese culture, so they can further appreciate the anime/manga itself

Perhaps this will sound harsh, but why are we tasked with helping people appreciate anime and manga? SO is not asked with helping people appreciate code, Math.SE is not tasked with helping people appreciate math, and so on. While it is fantastic that we can help people understand their favorite anime and manga through our site, it is not our responsibility to sell the medium.

Moreover, it's hard to make the argument that anime is really culturally fulfilling. While some like Uchouten Kazoku will provide more cultural themes, if we judged Japanese culture by anime, we'd not only severely overestimate the amount of lolis in Japan, but also miss out on things that are truly important to their culture. (Kind of like learning about World War II by watching Captain America.)

If they want to understand Japanese culture better, that's up to them. We could also help them better understand Japanese language used in anime and manga by making those kind of questions on-topic, but that would be silly. Instead, any questions require context from the anime or manga in order to be answered. ((Good), (Bad))

It would also be more natural for the people who see a certain scene in anime/manga and want to understand what is going on to come here and ask their questions here

Of course. So, come ask about the scene. Describe the characters, atmosphere, and how they relate to what's going on. The anime has to give the question context.


Those topics are at odd with the site scope. However, to understand those references, it is necessary for the answer to draw knowledge from those fields to adequately explain them.

Yes. This is an ongoing problem. We will frequently have questions that require information from the real world, such as this world map question. This is why we have contributors that have varied interests, such as physics, language studies, programming, art, and so on. But, this is not to say that this varied skill base is where we should focus the site. That's a bad idea.


As for your question list, I see some that would be good questions.

Why does [this character] reject [this item] as omiyage (gift)?
Sure! Maybe that character had a specific reason to reject that item.

... Unfortunately, I also saw quite a few that would be bad questions.

Why do the Japanese tie omikuji fortunes to fences and tree limbs?
Absolutely not. This is entirely about Japan, and has nothing to do with anime, even if you found an anime with someone doing it.

And yet, you place some questions in the "disallow" pile that I think are bad for the same reason.

As a visitor from the United States, is it polite or rude for me to bow?
Why is this more off-topic than the one about omijuki? If I rephrased it as Is it rude for visitors from other countries to bow in Japan?, would that be "on-topic"?


If we do not have a policy in place like @Logan's, then we will be forced to accept these questions as on topic:

  • Why are pagodas pointy?
    (I saw a pagoda in an anime. Why is it pointy on top?)
  • Why do people drive on the left side of the road?
    (In anime, people always drive on the left. Why?)

At this point you're probably thinking that we can just downvote or close the "bad ones". But that leaves us with the issue that the criteria used to select "bad" questions will become entirely subjective. People will say road rules obviously have nothing to do with anime and close it, but anyone who's curious or unsure about what Golden Week is will probably be more than happy to leave it open.

Recall the text of that Logan posted above.

Questions about anime and manga in the broader context of Japanese culture.

Asking what Golden Week is, or why a test is scored backwards, is not about anime, nor about manga. (Nor related media.) It is about Japanese culture, or worse, culture in general. It belongs here as much as asking "What's Christmas?" on Movies & TV.


My opinion: We should retain @Logan's policy on the matter. If a question cannot be asked without requiring details or context from an anime, manga, or on-topic medium, the question is off-topic.

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  • As a visitor from the United States, is it polite or rude for me to bow? Actually, I think it might be on-topic (in the context of my answer) if the asker can provide an anime reference showing people rejecting a bow from foreigner (for example). However, the chance is extremely slim. The same goes for your edited version. Does hair become whiter with age? (and the other question) These are bad examples. They are not related to culture. – nhahtdh Apr 29 '15 at 2:56
  • @nhahtdh Pretty much every question posed there is on-topic by that standard. Nevertheless, I will replace those two questions with equally absurd cultural questions. – Killua Apr 29 '15 at 2:57
  • Regard to Why strike stones taken from inside a pot against each other? My point is that if you remove anime reference and add sufficient real life context, the question would become a viable culture question. – nhahtdh Apr 29 '15 at 3:00
  • Pretty much every question posed there is on-topic by that standard. On retrospect, it might be the case. However, the fact that we require an anime/manga reference to serve as context for asking the question will limit the questions people can ask. – nhahtdh Apr 29 '15 at 3:05
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    @nhahtdh I provided an explicit reason why witnessing the act in real life would not be enough context. You would have literally no way of knowing the boy was not coming back, or where he was going. And yes, my point is that we do need that context; it seems that you're suggesting a policy in which the idea of "context" is way too lenient. (A single example is not context.) – Killua Apr 29 '15 at 3:07
  • Then how do we know if an equivalent real life example does not provide sufficient context compared to one from anime? – nhahtdh Apr 29 '15 at 3:15
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    @nhahtdh I don't think I get what you're asking. To be clear, I'm saying that only anime context should be allowed. (Questions giving only real-life examples are off-topic.) – Killua Apr 29 '15 at 3:20
  • (I think my thought has stray a bit too far). I mean the current policy may disallow more than what we think. Let's say if the question includes enough information (context, etc.) that it can survive even when any mention of it happening in [some anime] is removed - won't this be disallowed by the current policy? – nhahtdh Apr 29 '15 at 3:49
  • What would you think of "Why does [the character] tie a fortune to a tree limb?" – Toshinou Kyouko Apr 29 '15 at 6:26
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    @ToshinouKyouko Seems fine. Keep in mind the character may have a motivation outside the culture itself, so that's the kind of information that makes the question feasible. – Killua Apr 29 '15 at 6:46
  • @キルア okay, this makes sense. I think it's the wording of "remove anime reference" which is confusing. – Toshinou Kyouko Apr 29 '15 at 11:24
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As long as the purpose of the question is to understand what you're watching, then it should be fair game.

  • If you want to know what that white and black ball-shaped finger-food anime characters often eat is, then that should be fine.
  • If you want to know why and when they add suffixes to everyone's names, that should be fine.

Both of those questions would essentially be about something that exists in real life, and that exists independently of anime.

Most viewers would assume that they are both real-life phenomenons, and they would be justified in coming here and asking about them.

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