asiascape vistas

Techno-Culture, New Politics, and Philosophy in East Asia

Asiascape Vistas is a forum for discussion about the many and various dimensions of cyberculture found in or originating from East Asia. Its focus is on the interplay between these media and questions of politics & philosophy. Contributions are from the academic collective responsible for the core project, but other contributions will also be considered by that collective.
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“Tiger Mask” donation and Superhero Illusion

written by Mari Nakamura

A number of children’s homes in Japan have been receiving anonymous donations of school bags and other gifts since Christmas Day, under the name of manga hero “Tiger Mask” or “Naoto Date.” Tiger Mask is the ring name of a professional wrestler in a popular Japanese manga and anime in 1960s and 1970s. In the plot, the hero of the manga, Naoto Date, who grows up in an orphanage becomes a professional wrestler, donates his winnings to the orphanage to his childhood orphanage. Inspired by “Tiger Mask” donors, such benefactions to the children’s homes have become a nationwide phenomenon – the number of donations has reached 290 so far, according to a report in the Nikkei Shinbun. Not surprisingly, the mass media in Japan have covered this phenomenon as a heartwarming story.

Indeed, it is supposed to be welcoming news since it brings peoples’ attentions to children’s homes, in which more than 30,000 youngsters age 1 to 18 are living. They are often neglected by the Japanese society. Nevertheless, this phenomenon, to me, is not merely “a heartwarming story.”

We, perhaps, can see this phenomenon as a reflection of peoples’ illusion in the Freudian sense. For Freud, ‘An ‘illusion’ is a belief which may or may not be false, but which is held by the agent because it satisfies a wish.’ (Geuss 1981: 39)*. Becoming a hero is a belief which may or may not be false and one’s chance is rather slim but the reason one still believes that one will become a hero is that this belief satisfies some wish one has. In other words, the agent can fulfill their wish of being a hero via the “Tiger Mask” donation. Donation is a convenient means of fulfilling their wishes in this case. Making an anonymous donation in the name of manga hero is a process of wish fulfillment of the agent. This may appeal to some people with the illusion since this is more real and successful than other attempts to become a hero, i.e. playing video-games or cosplay (costume-play). One’s goodwill action as a hero is also acknowledged by the recipients, and the acknowledgements will be reinforced in the widespread reports of the mass media.

Of course, I do not want to criticise those donors and claim that all donors hold such illusions behind their goodwill. However, in some cases anonymous donations have reportedly been made under the name of other cartoon characters, such as Yabuki Jo, Laputa, Ayanami Rei, etc. If these donors simply want to make a donation they do not need to do it under the names of hero. They, more likely, want to fulfill their wishes becoming a hero.

If anonymous donations are driven by aforementioned illusion, it may be very interesting to think about the following questions: to what extent people’s external behaviors are driven by their illusions; what is the relationship between the reality (i.e. reading manga or making donations) and the illusion (becoming a hero)?

At any rate, the “Tiger Mask” donation is certainly more than "a heartwarming story."


*Geuss, Raymond (1981) The Idea of a Critical Theory Habermas and the Frankfurt School, London: Cambridge University Press.