Monster Parent : Complete
Monster Parent - Summer 2008 [KTV - http://www.ktv.co.jp/mp/]
Original Air Date: 2008-Jul-01 to 2008-Sep-09 | Number Of Episodes: 11
Subbing Groups : Haruspex with help from XrayMind and Phoenix.
About The Subs
I am watching a 704x396 .avi soft sub version of this drama. The RAW files are provided by XrayMind, editing by Phoenix, and subs by Haruspex. The quality is excellent and I commend Haruspex and Phoenix for their work on this drama. As with all of the material on this website, I wouldn't be able to watch it and review it without the amazing efforts of the fansubbers out there. I used to help out greatly in the anime fansub world from way back, long before all this great tech was available, so I understand how difficult, time consuming, and love-labor intensive fansubbing is. I understand the feelings involved in putting out a release to the community. However, something that I believe strongly in is doing things for the right reasons, as anyone who has read my Kiina
review already knows.
The "streaming issue" has effected nearly every fansub group/individual out there and each one has been responding in their own way. Some ways are understandable and mature and other ways are not. The situation with the subs of "Monster Parent" is that Haruspex has subbed all 11 episodes but is withholding episodes 7 and 8 probably due to the fact that people have been uploading his subs to streaming sites. Haruspex has encouraged this same kind of withholding action to others as well.
Completing the subs for an entire series and then withholding what are probably crucial episodes towards the end out of spite is not the best way of getting a message across. Who are you sending this message to? Dedicated fans who have been watching the show since the beginning or to the assholes who upload the subs to streaming sites? Who is being made to suffer more? And for what ... an illegal act on top of another illegal act? There is honor amongst thieves but don't forget that you're still a thief. Robin Hood may have stolen from the rich to give to the poor but he still STOLE. Are you angry because you feel you have lost honor and respect or are you angry because your "legitimate thievery" is being stolen BACK from you by "illegitimate thieves" who sell your stolen goods for their own profit. That's more or less what this is about. Come on people. You're about as logical as the Monster Parents in this drama.
The concept of keeping subs within the dedicated community makes senses given the legal aspects around fansubbing, but the fact remains that no matter who does what, the actions of each party are going to be called into question by an outside eye. (I used to work closely with the commercial anime industry so I know how it works.) While trying to punish an invisible/unreachable entity who has disrespected your hard work, you only succeed in additionally disrespecting and hurting the dedicated fandom who easily outnumber the jackass (or asses) in question. This kind of narrow attitude will only keep more people from discovering and enjoying dramas and turning to streaming sites who could care less who gets credit for that hard work. If something can be done to spread the word about stopping or hindering these streaming sites, it needs to be done with the combined power and support of the Asian drama community. Punishing the community only further separates you from it and does nothing for the cause. What it does do is create a larger gulf between fans and fansubbers.
I see people say, "Streaming takes the joy away from our work lately" and things of this nature. How does this attitude help to find a solution to the true problem at hand? Do you sub for recognition and respect or do you sub because you can, because you want to, and so others can enjoy something entertaining, educational, and beautiful? What "joy" is there to speak of if you only do things to serve your own needs? I assure you that selfishness never brought anyone joy. Think about your actions, how it they affect others, and then think about if you're really helping the community or only serving your own ego.
On With The Show!
In Monster Parent, Yonekura Ryoko plays Takamura Itsuki who is an ace lawyer for a well established firm. Even though there are high profile reputations and billions of yen on the line when she is at the negotiation table, she is a woman who always accomplishes her cases with speed, precision, finesse and a pleasant but unflappable nature. She speaks her mind and can silence even the most intimidating business men with a glance, a word, or a smile, depending on her mood. She has never experienced stress and she has never lost a case ...
... at least not until she agrees to a favor of helping the Board Of Education.
One thing that I find absolutely fascinating about the character of Takamura-sensei is that she is, simultaneously, both the "normal" and "the other" in this drama.
First I need to explain something about the word "normal" ...
The word "normal" is the most useless word in the English language. I dislike the use of it in general and most especially in psychology it should NEVER be used. Why? Because the word presupposes that there is the possibility of ONE existing standard for which the definition is based. There is no such standard. The world is diverse culturally, politically, religiously, and philosophically and guess what ... so is each PERSON who lives within that world. By whose definition then is the word "normal" derived? The majority? That assumes the majority is capable of an absolute infallibility. How in the universe is that possible? "Normality" is relative, which means it depends - for it's significance - upon the nature of something else. The nature of things is forever changing due to infinite influences from everything around it. Ergo, there is no way to define the word "normal" in a way that universally describes any creature or concept on this planet due to the simple fact that everything is in a constant state of evolution.
So based on that ... why did I just use it?
When I say that Takamura-sensei is "normal" I mean that according to the current rigid nature and structure of Japanese conformist and social standards
, Takamura-sensei has acceptable behavior and communication for her social position, job status, and authoritative role. She is appropriately characterized. She is un-unique. That is what I mean by using the word "normal" to describe her character. On the flip side of that, according to the same standards, she is also "the other" when she becomes a observer with the Board Of Education.
She is an outsider. She doesn't belong. Her presence doesn't fit with, or create harmony in, the group dynamic. She is considered rude, insensitive, inappropriate, and very KY. (Short form of "kuuki ga yomenai" which literally means "cannot read the air". It refers to someone who is bad at reading the atmosphere of a situation or is completely out of touch with the common group.) She is a foreigner in this educational environment; a gaijin.
The totally ingenious part of this setup is that the audience can then relate to Takamura-sensei on multiple levels and they are able to see situations from dual positions of understanding. Takamura-sensei is both the "collective common sense of the Japanese people" while at the same time being the "inconsiderate and flippant gaijin who doesn't understand the delicate social balance". This goes along perfectly with the clear negative duality in that the issues brought up in the drama do not have definitive answers and sometimes no discernible party at fault - something a lawyer like Takamura-sensei expects and needs to do her job. Instead, like the very real issue of Monster Parents in the Japanese school system, the roots of the problems go deeper than that which can be probed by loggerheaded parent/teacher/principal meetings that result in something akin to external stalemates or communicative constipation.
From a psychological and sociological perspective alone, this drama is so full of rich, tasty goodness it's like a 3 Musketeers bar! Well, actually, let's be honest. I guess given how the icky, rancid subject matter makes you feel while you watch it, Monster Parent is more like that whale that exploded in Taiwan
back in '04. I have heard about the Monster Parent syndrome for a long time now. I have read about it, I have heard about it from friends of mine who teach in Japan, and I have experienced my fair share of Monster Parents on the American end working in family therapy. I have sat in horror, just like Takamura-sensei, as the only person with a logical mind in the room, listening to adults say the most shocking and disturbing things.
Monster Parents exist everywhere, not just in Japan. This drama, however, addresses the issue of how the Japanese school system has been affected by it's new open policy to allow parents more "say" in how the school educates their children. In a society that embraces conformity as a necessary construct for harmony and success, parents have previously had no rights to speak on issues surrounding their children in school, or have simply stayed respectfully quiet. It is understandable then how now, thanks to this new change, parents are coming forward to get more involved in their child's education. The problem is of course, how much is too much, and how do you close a door you previously opened without further backlash? I am reminded of a beautiful line in the Korean version of Boys Over Flowers where the mother says something like: "You can't retrieve a card once it has been played". In other words, I hope you know what you're doing because once the pebble starts rolling down the mountain, it may quickly become an avalanche. Said avalanche, that has clearly been a destructive force to the Japanese educational system, students, and teachers alike, is the subject of Monster Parent.
Monster Parent presents it's content by pulling actual incidents from the headlines, as well as, most likely adding their own uniquely written ones. It seems, from the few episodes I have watched, that a lot of these incidents, if not all, are pulled from a book that was published last year by Yoshihiko Morotomi, a professor at Japan’s Meiji University. Yoshihiko-sensei illustrates hundreds of incidents of the Monster Parent phenomena, two of which have already been dramatized within the first few episodes of the show. One of the situations, covered in several newspapers in Japan and the United States, talks about how a Japanese school put on the play "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (in the drama it is "Little Red Riding Hood") and how, due to pressure and harassment from parents and guardians, all 25 students were cast as Snow White. There were no dwarfs and no witch because such concepts of, let's say "deformity" or "less than perfect appearance", would be insulting to the children (and their parents) and also it would be an injustice to the other children to select just one girl to play the title/star role. Now, those of you who have just thrown your hands up in the air and said, "Good lord that's nuts", I want you to take a step back from yourself and think about Japanese culture, traditions, and beliefs. Now draw a connecting line between all those things and follow the logic of how such a situation could have inevitably come to pass.
While I cannot begin to address all of the factors that created this distressing zeitgeist happening in Japan, I can talk about the communication factor that I believe is at the heart of the problems depicted semi-fictitiously in the drama.
Let me try to sum up the COMSIT (communication situation) in Monster Parent. The now secondary authority figures (the teachers and principals) are failing at their ability to acknowledge the new authority (the parents) and the newly developed one directional communication system they have chosen to adopt. To help the teachers and the principals get adjusted to this new system, they involuntarily get tongue whipped (and not even in a nice way), insulted, bullied, spayed, neutered, and psychologically tortured until they concede to recognizing their demotion ... oh yeah, and then they have to apologize ... loudly. Yep, that about sums it up! When I watch this horrendous excuse for communication depicted in Monster Parent, all I can hear out of the parents' mouths is Strother Martin saying, "What we have here ... is a failure to communicate!" and all I can hear out of the teachers' and principals' mouths is LeVar Burton, bloody and defeated, saying, "My name is Toby ..."
I have been told by a fellow colleague of mine in psychology, who happens to be Korean, that I suffer from "a bias of equality". The concept being that I have an preferential concept in my mind that everyone, regardless of race and culture, is entitled to - by the simple fact that they are a sentient being - an equal opportunity to speak on, make decisions about, and live according to, their own individual needs and beliefs. Essentially, she suggests that it is biased to try and promote a generalized idea of human rights into some societies that already have established systems of hierarchy based on age, gender, and social status. I have struggled with how I feel about this "bias of equality" for a while now, especially when I think about how I watch Asian drama and interpret any concepts from it. I don't think it's wrong to believe that there are inherent rights that should be granted to human beings. I think that this idea of equality is generally positive. It allows me to recognize both sides of a situation and push the possibility of both people (or groups) having their ideas and feelings understood by each other. This encourages empathy and sympathy rather then encouraging indifference or even equanimity. Equanimity, while being something I strongly believe is a fundamental aspect of healthy living, does not always lend itself to being helpful in problem-solving types of COMSITs.
In studies of communication, one of the first things you are taught, is the idea that 99% of the problems in communication stem from parties being unable (or unwilling) to empathize with, or understand the position of, the other. My "bias of equality" comes from a strong desire to see everyone being heard fairly. I don't believe there is anything wrong with this idea, nor do I feel it is a true bias or prejudice. If it is, then it's a tendency to presuppose
that there is always going to be a miscommunication going on between people that is creating more problems then it is solving
. This idea is at the heart of what Monster Parent is addressing. Teachers are talking to parents who refuse to listen and parents are talking to teachers who refuse to understand (and vice versa). If there were equal levels of empathy, respect, and understanding, then it's possible everyone could be heard and a solution crafted from mutual understanding. In Monster Parent, however, there is nothing but endless, looping compromises and forced deference. There is no possible solution that can be found when selfishness and subjugation is at the core of the communication.
Let's use the fansubbing/streaming issue going on the community right now as a good demonstration of this.
The parents depicted in Monster Parent come from selfish positions where all they care about is exercising their new power. They claim it's about their child's best interest but how is a parent standing in the back of a classroom every day harassing the teacher, interrupting lessons, and, in some cases, psychologically torturing an adult, helping any child? It only serves the parents' need to be in charge, to take charge, and to be heard, where they previously weren't allow to before.
It further serves a need to be recognized as an authority that has power, like the teacher, over how their child should be educated. In the same vein, fansubbers who prefer to punish the fan community at large through withholding actions, especially on something they have already completed, exercise the same kind of power play. Who benefits from these selfish actions? The parents depicted in Monster Parent say things like, "It's a parent's duty to protect their child!" and while that is absolutely true, the bottom line is what are you teaching your child through actions that border on criminal and sociopathic in the name of said protection? Similarly, what kind of message does selfishly punishing fandom send to the streaming sites that threaten the entire community
through their actions? Parents are angry. Fansubbers are angry. Children are suffering. Fandom is suffering.
Teachers and fansubbers have the same goals: To educate, to help people grow, to contribute something additional to society. They both sometimes have thankless jobs. They both are under appreciated and undervalued. They both are often seen as a threat by other people in positions of authority. Fans and fansubbers alike are threatened by the greed and idiocy of streaming sites, but how are things being handled in a way that is truly helpful? I can sympathize AND empathize because I have experienced those same things years ago when anime was a niche community, similar to how Asian drama is now.
I have worked on fansub teams in the ancient past and I know how it feels to work your ass off on something, present it to the community, just to have some greedy schmuck come along and take credit for your work. I have also had web based businesses that depended on advertising revenue to survive and pay for bandwidth and server fees. However, the fact remains that the true problem cannot be addressed, by either party, with attitudes that cater to the "self" instead of "the greater good".
Miura-sensei says in the drama that "School is not the place for you to decide who wins and who loses." He is correct. It's a place to teach and promote the growth of the mind. Subsequently, volunteer work in a community is not a place to practice stroking your own ego and demanding recognition for your efforts. It's a place to share your skills and abilities with people (students) who can learn from what you provide to enhance their own lives.
As an American and a therapist, watching this drama is challenging. I have to pull in all of my training, limited cultural competence, and maximum focus, to try and navigate the feelings, thoughts, and bias that inevitably emerge from the sea of my own beliefs. The problem of monster parents in Japan has been well documented and the reasons for the overwhelming abundance of them runs deep in social, political, economical, and cultural undercurrents. Indiana Jones couldn't find his way to the root of this problem even if he was teamed up with Lara Croft, Sherlock Holmes, and ate a steady diet of Scooby snacks.
Issues related to the growing occurrences of monster parenting, bullying, shut-ins, massive suicide rates, and other disconcerting social phenomena in Japan (and China and Korea as well) are things that have been discussed, rejected, and argued about by the media, Asians in general, my colleagues in psychology, and a host of other groups. Clearly these problems require a great deal of further examination.
I would urge anyone watching this drama to do their share of research in order to understand the heart of the matter past a narrow assumption that every parent in Japan is some kind of nut job and that the Japanese school system is flawed. Neither of those things are true as an absolute. The truth is, if you're going to watch Asian drama, you owe it to the culture to have as much education as you can to broaden your perspective and appropriate level of deference ... which is something most of the parents depicted in this drama don't even bother with. The majority of their actions fly in the face of the very fundamental principals that Japanese culture derives it's strength from: uniformity, structure, and above all ... respect.