Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Return of the Tiger

Just at the tail end of the Year of the Tiger, an anonymous benefactor styling himself "Naoto Date" donated some "randoseru" book satchels to a facility for underprivileged children. These sturdy knapsack-like bags are essentially required for elementary school children, and they are quite expensive. Appropriately, the satchels appeared on Christmas Day. Also appropriately, "Naoto Date" was the "real" name of a character from a manga and anime of around 40 years ago, whose alter ego was "Tiger Mask", a professional wrestler who kept his real identity secret, and who, having been brought up in such a facilty, donated much of his winnings to children in similar straits. This makes the Year of the Tiger an apt choice, too.

Since then, evidently inspired by this act of charity that caught the media's attention, more donations have been made to institutions across the country...almost 100 the last time I checked. Some of the gifts were randoseru, some were stationery items, or toys, or cash. A recent gift was a large quantity of fresh vegetables. It appears that people are giving whatever they can that they think will be of benefit to the children.

Some of the donations have come with letters from the anonymous donors, at least one signed with the name of another famous old manga/anime character, Joe Yabuki ("Ashita no Joe"), a boxer who also had an underprivileged childhood and also finally won fame and success--or at least a sort of redemption--in the ring. The letters sometimes say very little except that the gifts are meant to be used to improve the lives of the children. Sometimes they indicate that the benefactors were motivated by hearing or reading about the initial donation from "Naoto Date". A few of the donors mention that they are not rich, but want to contribute even just a little toward the children's well-being.

Some of the media coverage has been describing this phenomenon as a "charity campaign". What I particularly like about it is that it's not a campaign: it is a series of spontaneous charitable acts by people, apparently all individuals rather than organizations, to benefit underprivileged kids. The donations subsequent to the first one have been characterized as being "copy-cat" gifts; that's fine with me, too...these "copy-tigers" may have been motivated into action by the first and subsequent donations and the publicity they received, but to me that in no way diminishes the value of the gifts, or of the sentiment behind them.

I'd bet that the kids--many or most of whom are probably too young to remember even the reruns of the manga characters that were popular among people who are now mostly over 50--would agree with me.

No comments: