Student Resources

Chapter 1

Chapter One Summary

Alisa Freedman and Toby Slade, “Introducing Japanese Popular Culture: Serious Approaches to Playful Delights”

The introduction suggests ways to study Japanese popular culture and offers reasons why it is important to do. We outline the organizing principles behind the twelve book sections and the selection of forty contemporary and historical trends that have largely influenced artistic production and reveal much about society, politics, economics, history, globalization, gender, law, and other large concepts. We explain why each chapter focuses on a tangible object or phenomenon from which a whole body of work or a genre can be illuminated. We believe that this approach of building theory from data, and not attaching data to theory, makes for a useful teaching tool for beginners, encourages discussion among specialists, and destabilizes some of the more orientalist or fanciful theories. In doing so, we challenge readers to consider what defines Japanese popular culture and the contradictions underlying the term.

Chapter One Discussion Questions

Alisa Freedman and Toby Slade, “Introducing Japanese Popular Culture: Serious Approaches to Playful Delights”

  1. Should we take “playful” popular culture seriously? Why or why not?
  2. This introduction poses several questions about what popular culture can teach. Which questions do you find most important? Why?
  3. Why are you reading this book? What do you hope to learn?
  4. What is “popular culture”? To help answer this question, please describe one thing that is popular culture and another thing that is not. What makes “Japanese popular culture” difficult to define? What might “unpopular culture” include?
  5. Can popular culture present solutions to personal, national, and international problems? Why or why not?
  6. How has this book been inspired by students?

Chapter One Suggested Readings

Alisa Freedman and Toby Slade, “Introducing Japanese Popular Culture: Serious Approaches to Playful Delights”

McGray, Douglas. 2002. “Japan’s Gross National Cool.” Foreign Policy, May and June: 44–54.

Said, Edward. 1979 [1978]. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.

Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry). 2010. “Cool Japan/ Creative Industries Policy” Online at

Mark McLelland, ed. End of Cool Japan: Ethical, Legal, and Cultural Challenges to Japanese Popular Culture. Oxford: Routledge.

Chapter 2

Chapter Two Summary

Debra J. Occhi, “Kumamon: Japan’s Surprisingly Cheeky Mascot”

This chapter analyzes the creation, uses, and meanings ascribed to Kumamon, who represents Kumamoto Prefecture in western Kyushu and is arguably the most popular of the yuru kyara (mascot characters) trending across Japan. As part of the “Kumamoto Surprise” campaign intended to call attention to Kumamoto, Kumamon has enjoyed enormous success across Japan, and his image decorates a variety goods and foods. Recently, he has also promoted Kumamoto abroad, as various Japanese regions have marketed their charms overseas to attract tourism. Yet Kumamon has his critics and detractors, and his image has been put to unintended uses. I argue that Kumamon’s successes and misinterpretations provide insight into the cultural literacy needed to understand and appreciate yuru kyara.

Chapter Two Discussion Questions

Debra J. Occhi, “Kumamon: Japan’s Surprisingly Cheeky Mascot”

  1. Readers may have their own reactions to Kumamon, as a Japanese yuru kyara, a mascot, cuteness, and the like. How do these reactions reflect readers’ a) identity construction as members of various social categories and b) personal histories?
  2. Choose a familiar mascot from a sports team, brand, locality, yuru kyara, and the like, and compare it with Kumamon. What are the most important similarities and differences? What broader issues emerge from this comparison?
  3. This chapter represents an ethnographic present of 2015. What are the current developments in the world of yuru kyara and mascots in context of popular culture generally, and how might they recontextualize the chapter’s conclusions? Looking forward fifty or a hundred years, what changes do you predict may emerge, given the current trajectory?
  4. The chapter discusses various evidence supporting the contemporary Japanese yuru kyara phenomena. What evidence can be found for or against this kind of representation in other times or places?
  5. As with yuru kyara generally, Kumamon’s various layers of meaning in Japan often go missing or are lost in translation, and other meanings are applied in non-Japanese contexts. What other examples of this phenomena come to mind? What does this phenomenon imply for global flow of popular culture?

Chapter Two Suggested Readings

Debra J. Occhi, “Kumamon: Japan’s Surprisingly Cheeky Mascot”

Occhi, Debra. 2014. “Yuru Kyara, Humanity, and the Uncanny Instability of Borders in the Construction of Japanese Identities and Aesthetics.” Japan Studies: The Frontier 7 (1) 1-11.

Occhi, Debra. 2012. “Wobbly Aesthetics, Performance, and Message: Comparing Japanese Kyara with their Anthropomorphic Forebears.” Asian Ethnology 71 (1): 109-132.

Occhi, Debra. 2010. “Consuming Kyara ‘Characters:’ Anthropomorphization and Marketing in Contemporary Japan.” Comparative Culture 15: 77-86.

Occhi, Debra. 2009. “Tiny Buds Whispering: Ideologies of Flowers in Contemporary Japanese.” Social Semiotics 19(2): 213-229.

Chapter 3

Chapter Three Summary

Christine R. Yano, “‘Hello Kitty is Not a Cat?!?’: Tracking Japanese Cute Culture at Home and Abroad”

Hello Kitty, a Japanese character popular with girls of all ages in Japan since the 1970s, has made significant inroads into global popular culture through her disarming cuteness, clever design, and widespread distribution. In August 2014, the news that Sanrio corrected my script for an exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles to read that Hello Kitty is not a cat but instead is a little girl spread worldwide. This chapter surveys key reasons for Hello Kitty’s enduring popularity, including her globalization, commercialization, aesthetics, ties to Japanese culture, and social function in gift-giving.

Chapter Three Discussion Questions

Christine R. Yano, “‘Hello Kitty is Not a Cat?!?’: Tracking Japanese Cute Culture at Home and Abroad”

  1. How has cute culture become both a symbol of Japan and a global phenomenon? What is the nature of the phenomenon?
  2. What is the appeal of Hello Kitty—in Japan and globally?
  3. How does kawaii work as a function of nostalgia? What view of childhood does this nostalgia paint?
  4. What is the place of girl culture, both in Japan and in global venues? Who is “the girl” and why is she important?
  5. What is the role of kyarakutā in everyday life in Japan?  How does the proliferation of kyarakutā affect the visual world around us, as well as the affective world within us?

Chapter Three Suggested Readings

Christine R. Yano, “‘Hello Kitty is Not a Cat?!?’: Tracking Japanese Cute Culture at Home and Abroad”

Allison, Anne. 2004. “Cuteness as Japan’s Millennial Product.” In Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon, edited by Joseph Tobin, 34-49. Durham: Duke University Press.

Yano, Christine. R. 2013. Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific. Durham: Duke University Press.

Japanese American National Museum. Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. Online at

Miranda, Carolina A. 2014. “Hello Kitty is not a cat, plus more reveals before her L.A. tour.” Los Angeles Times, August 24. Online at

Hello Kitty Roadwork Barrier in Shinjuku

Hello Kitty roadwork barrier in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 2016. Courtesy of the editors.

Chapter 4

Chapter Four Summary

Hirofumi Katsuno, “The Grotesque Hero: Depictions of Justice in Tokusatsu Superhero Television Programs”

The early 1970s were a golden age for tokusatsu (live-action) superhero television programs in Japan as the genre became political and morally complex. Since the debut of the prototypical tokusatsu superhero franchise Moonlight Mask (Gekkō Kamen) in 1958, the genre had centered on invincible superheroes and had portrayed justice in absolutist terms. However, the sociopolitical flux from the 1960s to the early 1970s upset the superhero’s identity, and these programs began to depict the possibility of justice with more ambivalence. This trend emerged in the Ultraman series in 1966 and was central to the rise of the 1970s igyō (grotesque and monstrous) superheroes.

Through analysis of Android Kikaider (Jinzō Ningen Kikaidā, 1972-1973) as a paradigmatic series, I explore how the portrayal of justice in the tokusatsu superhero genre reacted to the sociopolitical transition in the 1970s. My analysis of 1970s tokusatsu programs provides insight into themes of relativized justice and self-uncertainty that continue to appear in Japanese popular culture today.

Chapter Four Discussion Questions

Hirofumi Katsuno, “The Grotesque Hero: Depictions of Justice in Tokusatsu Superhero Television Programs”

  1. How is Moonlight Mask’s role as an “ally of justice” different from the heroism of classic American superheroes, such as Superman?
  2. What internal contradictions emerged in the production of the Ultra series? How did they symbolize Japanese ambiguity toward American power?
  3. In what ways do Kikaider’s igyō background make this superhero distinct from pre-1970s superheroes?
  4. How does the incompleteness of Jirō/Kikaider’s conscience circuit shape his heroic stature?
  5. Why is it difficult for superhero justice to be self-evident today? What twenty-first-century Hollywood superhero movies demonstrate this tendency?

Chapter Four Suggested Readings

Hirofumi Katsuno, “The Grotesque Hero: Depictions of Justice in Tokusatsu Superhero Television Programs”

Allison, Anne. 2006. Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination. Berkeley:

University of California Press.

Gill, Tom. 1998. “Transformational Magic: Some Japanese Superheroes and Monsters.” The Worlds of Japanese Popular Culture: Gender, Shifting Boundaries and Global Cultures, edited by Dolores P. Martinez, 33-55. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tsutsui, William and Michiko Ito, eds. 2006. In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons of the Global Stage. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hirofumi Katsuno, “The Grotesque Hero: Depictions of Justice in Tokusatsu Superhero Television Programs”

Television Series aAalyzed In Chapter 4:

  1. Moonlight Mask (Gekkō kamen), 1958-1959 KRTV (now TBS)
  2. Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu), 1963-1966 (Fuji TV), 1980-1981 (NTV), 2003-2007 (Fuji TV)
  3. Ultra Q (Urutora kyū), 1966 (TBS)
  4. Ultraman (Urutoraman), 1966-1967 (TBS)
  5. Ultra Seven, 1967-1968 (TBS)
  6. Android Kikaider (Jinzō ningen Kikaidā), 1972-1973 (NET, now TV Asahi)
  7. Kikaider 01 (Kikaidā 01), 1973-1974, (NET, now TV Asahi)
  8. Android Kikaider: The Animation (Jinzō ningen Kikaidā ~ THE ANIMATION), 2000-2001
  9. Kikaider 01: The Animation (Kikaidā 01 ~ THE ANIMATION), 2001
  10. Masked Rider (Kamen Raidā), 1971-1973 (NET, now TV Asahi)
  11. Rider Stronger (Kamen Raidā sutorongā), 1975 (TBS)
  12. Masked Rider Kuuga (Kamen Rider Kūga), 2000-2001 (TV Asahi)
  13. Ryuki (Kamen Rider Ryūki), 2002-2003 (TV Asahi)


  1. Starman (a.k.a. Super Giant, Kōtetsu no kyojin), directed by Iishii Teruo and produced by Shin-Tōhō, 9 films, 1957-1959
  2. Mechanical Violator Hakaider (Jinzō Ningen Hakaidā), directed by Keita Amemiya and produced by Toei, 1995
  3. Kikaider Reboot (Kikaidā reboot) directed by Shimoyama Ten and produced by Toei, 2014

Chapter 5

Chapter Five Summary

Alisa Freedman, “Tokyo Love Story: Romance of the Workingwoman in Japanese Television Dramas”

Since first broadcast in their current format around 1990, Japanese primetime television dramas have almost always featured workingwomen. The development of these dramas have paralleled the growth of a generation with more choices in employment and family than women before.

With more than twenty years of hindsight, I analyze early 1990s television dramas to understand the genesis of workingwomen characters that influenced this generation. A seminal example is Tokyo Love Story (1991), the first Japanese primetime drama to attract global fans. Tokyo Love Story balances expectations for female characters, while depicting them in new ways. It encourages empathy for women who take the initiative in romance and work but furthers beliefs that women who prioritize their careers can never be wives and mothers. Various categories of workingwomen have emerged since. Yet the narratives through which they have been portrayed promote the family as the nation’s backbone and the assumption that women’s happiness is dependent on marriage and motherhood. Surveying what has and has not changed since Tokyo Love Story reveals the television industry’s role in shaping gender norms and notions of women’s labor.

Chapter Five Discussion Questions

Alisa Freedman, “Tokyo Love Story: Romance of the Workingwoman in Japanese Television Dramas”

  1. Why are television dramas a good measure of public views toward women’s life courses? Are there any dangers of conflating television representation with lived reality?
  2. How have depictions of workingwomen on Japanese television changed since the 1990s? What has not changed? Are these changes similar to those in other countries?
  3. In what ways have television dramas influenced women’s emotional, family, and/or work lives in Japan? Which aspects of women’s lives have they not been able to change?
  4. Please describe any drama series you have seen that centers on a workingwoman. How is this series similar to and different from Tokyo Love Story?
  5. How do depictions of women on television dramas differ from those in novels, anime, manga, games, and other media?
  6. Why are television dramas still relevant in the digital age?

Chapter Five Suggested Readings

Alisa Freedman, “Tokyo Love Story: Romance of the Workingwoman in Japanese Television Dramas”

Iwabuchi, Kōichi., ed. 2004. Feeling Asian Modernities: Transnational Consumption of Japanese TV Dramas. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Freedman, Alisa and Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt. 2011. “‘Count What You Have Now. Don’t Count What You Don’t Have’: The Japanese Television Drama Around 40 and the Politics of Women’s Happiness.” Asian Studies Review 35(3): 295-313.

Tay, Jinna and Graeme Turner, eds. 2015. Television Histories in Asia: Issues and Contexts. New York: Routledge.

List of Television Dramas Discussed in Chapter 5

Alisa Freedman, “Tokyo Love Story: Romance of the Workingwoman in Japanese Television Dramas”

Tokyo Love Story (Tokyo rabu sutorī),Fuji Television, 1991

  • Before Dinner (Yūgemae), NHK, April 13, 1940
  • Off the Bus Route (Basu dōri ura), NHK, 1958-1963
  • Daughter and Me (Musume to watashi), NHK, 1961
  • Oshin, NHK, 1983-1984
  • Perfect Blue Sky (Dondo hare), NHK, 2007
  • Chiritotechin, NHK, 2007-2008
  • Carnation (Kānēshon), 2011-2012
  • Aguri, NHK, 1997
  • Ohanahan, NHK, 1966-1967
  • Dr. Ume-chan (Umechan sensei), NHK, 2012
  • Massan, NHK,2014-2015
  • Princess Atsu (Atsuhime), NHK, 2008
  • Gou (Gō: Hime-tachi no Sengoku), NHK, 2011
  • I Want to Hold You! (Dakishimetai!), Fuji Television, 1988
  • You’re in Love! (Aishiatteru kai!),Fuji Television, 1989
  • Classmates (Dōkyūsei), Fuji Television, 1989
  • Women’s Company (Oshigoto desu), Fuji Television, 1998
  • Tokyo Elevator Girl (Tokyo erebētā gāru),TBS, 1992
  • Long Vacation (Rongu bakēshon),Fuji Television, 1996
  • Love Generation (Rabu jenerēshon),Fuji Television, 1997
  • Around 40: Demanding Women (Araundo 40 ~ chūmon no ooi onnatachi), TBS, 2008
  • Shomuni, Fuji Television, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2013
  • Newswoman (Nuusu no onna), Fuji Television, 1998
  • Top Anchor (Toppo kyasutā), Fuji Television, 2006
  • Fake Bride (Hanayome wa yakudoshi), TBS, 2006
  • Stewardess Story (Stewardess monogatari), TBS, 1983
  • Perfect Woman (Yamato nadeshiko), Fuji Television, 2000
  • Unfair (Anfea), Fuji Television, 2006, 2006 special, 2007 and 2011 feature films
  • BOSS 1, Fuji Television, 2009,
  • BOSS 2, Fuji Television, 2011
  • The Man Who Cannot Marry (Kekkon dekinai otoko), Fuji Television, 2007
  • Woman Workaholic (Hatarakiman), TBS, 2007
  • Last Cinderella (Rasuto shinderera), Fuji Television, 2013
  • Dignity of the Temp (Haken no hinkaku), NTV, 2007
  • 101st Proposal (101 kaime no puropozu), Fuji Television, 1991
Tokyo Love Story

Rika and Kanji visit Ehime. Tokyo Love Story, Episode 10. March 11, 1991. Author’s screenshot.


Hiroko and Shinji say good-bye in Haneda Airport (where Rika first met Kanji). Hatarakiman, Episode 11. December 19, 2007. Author’s screenshot.

Chapter 6

Chapter Six Summary

Kendall Heitzman, “The World Too Much with Us in Japanese Travel Television”

This chapter examines three of the most popular travel programs in contemporary Japan. On all of these shows, an alienation from the very world such programming promises to make available reveals itself anew via a variety of distancing subject positions. On the domestic front, NHK’s celebrity-driven Tsurube’s Salute to Families (Tsurube no kazoku ni kanpai, 1995–present) spotlights regional Japan but puts the emphasis on the host and his celebrity guests. Commercial network Fuji Television’s long-running Ainori (1999–2009) demonstrated how it was possible for the entire world to play second banana to even anonymous, “regular” Japanese young people. NHK’s ubiquitous Walk the Town, Encounter the World (Sekai fureai machiaruki, 2005–present) would seem to solve the problem by removing the travelers altogether and having the camera itself stand in for them, but it proves not to be so simple.

It is worth asking how Japanese travel television shows reflect and resist a contradictory era in which the world has never been closer and yet is still kept at a respectable distance. Without denying the great pleasures of these clever, compelling individual iterations of what is often among the most banal of genres, it is also possible to perform a counter-reading that connects Japanese travel television to a mainstream unwillingness to confront a national past.

Chapter Six Discussion Questions

Kendall Heitzman, “The World Too Much with Us in Japanese Travel Television”

  1. What can a travel television program teach us about the world and what are its limitations? About the people watching it?
  2. Is it better to travel to one place and stay for a long period of time or to travel to a number of different places for short periods of time?
  3. Why do people travel? Are there any bad reasons to travel?
  4. What are some stereotypes of Japanese travelers, and how do these shows reinforce or go against them?
  5. If people from other countries were to watch the travel shows in your own country, what impressions would they take away regarding how you travel?

Chapter Six Suggested Readings

Kendall Heitzman, “The World Too Much with Us in Japanese Travel Television”

Gerow, Aaron. 2010. “Kind Participation: Postmodern Consumption and Capital with Japan’s Telop TV.” Television, Japan, and Globalization, edited by Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, Eva Tsai, and Jung-Bong Choi, 117–150. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan.

Iwabuchi Koichi. 2004. “Feeling Glocal: Japan in the Global Television Format Business.” Television Across Asia: Television Industries, Programme Formats, and Globalization, Michael Keane and Albert Moran, 21-35. London: Routledge Curzon.

Painter, Andrew A. 1996. “Japanese Daytime Television, Popular Culture, and Ideology.” Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture, edited by John Treat, 197-234. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.


A chance encounter with a wandering star: “You need to carry within you the life that he didn’t get to live.” Tsurube's Salute to Families, November 4, 2013. Author’s screenshot.


A colorful driver’s cap and bubble letters incongruous to the task at hand: “You are at Auschwitz.” Ainori, September 11, 2006. Author’s screenshot.

Walk the Town

Café denizens of Paris welcome us warmly. “Are you from Tokyo?” “Bravo!” Walk the Town, Encounter the World, June 17, 2014. Author’s screenshot.

Chapter 7

Chapter Seven Summary

Rachael Hutchinson, “Nuclear Discourse in Final Fantasy VII: Embodied Experience and Social Critique”

Due to its linear plot structure, deep psychological characterization, focus on disaster, and sheer length of text, the Japanese role-playing game may be readily analyzed as a narrative genre that engages with contemporary social issues from a certain ideological standpoint. Like film, literature, and other narrative forms, video games express ideas of the Japanese “self,” including the sense of national identity as well as challenges to it. This chapter examines the issue of nuclear power and anti-nuclear discourse in one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time—Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series. Examples are provided from Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X to show how the anti-nuclear message is conveyed through scripted dialogue, visual cues, cinematic sequence, and overarching narrative themes.

Chapter Seven Discussion Questions

Rachel Hutchinson, “Nuclear Discourse in Final Fantasy VII: Embodied Experience and Social Critique”

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of analyzing a game text for its underlying ideology?
  2. Do you think that players of this game would recognize the anti-nuclear critique? Does the player’s reading of the game depend on the context (for example, playing it in 1997 versus 2017)?
  3. Think about the games you have played. Did the developers include social or political critique in either the narrative or the gameplay dynamics (or both)?
  4. How does the player's immersion in a video game differ from a reader’s immersion in a book, or a viewer’s immersion in a film?
  5. Which medium is most effective for social and political critique?

Chapter Seven Suggested Readings

Rachel Hutchinson, “Nuclear Discourse in Final Fantasy VII: Embodied Experience and Social Critique”

Bogost, Ian. 2006. “Videogames and Ideological Frames.” Popular Communication 4(3): 165-183.

Frasca, Gonzalo. 2003. “Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology.” The Video Game Theory Reader, edited by Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron, 221-235. New York and London: Routledge.

Galloway, Alexander R. 2006. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Chapter 8

Chapter Eight Summary

Kathryn Hemmann, “The Cute Shall Inherit the Earth: Postapocalyptic Posthumanity in Tokyo Jungle

Tokyo Jungle (Tōkyō Janguru) is a survival-based adventure game published by PlayStation C.A.M.P. Studio for the PlayStation 3 in the summer of 2012. In Tokyo Jungle, the player is able to take on the role of a variety of animals that roam the streets of a Tokyo devoid of human life. Each animal has its own narrative; and, through continued gameplay, the player is able to combine these short scenarios into a larger story concerning the apparent extinction of humanity. At the end of the game, the player must decide whether to allow human beings to return to Tokyo or to fade quietly into oblivion.  

Tokyo Jungle’s story and gameplay features encourage the player to develop an antagonistic attitude towards humanity and its failed stewardship of the environment, a view that reflects the theories of posthuman philosophers such as Nick Bostrom and John A. Leslie. When examined in the context of other depictions of disaster in Japanese literature and television, the ideology of Tokyo Jungle demonstrates an emerging awareness and acceptance of philosophical posthumanism and a literally post-human world. Fears concerning disaster and the resulting annihilation of humanity are often assuaged by a representation of nonhuman harbingers of the postapocalyptic world as small, furry, and adorable. This link between cuteness and the nonhuman is tied to a broader connection between apocalypse and the feminine in contemporary Japanese media, in which adolescent female sexuality is often imbued with anxiety over the reproduction and possible extinction of the human species.

Chapter Eight Discussion Questions

Kathrn Hennmann, “The Cute Shall Inherit the Earth: Postapocalyptic Posthumanity in Tokyo Jungle

  1. Why do video games matter, and why are they worthy of study? How do they differ from other narrative media? Is it possible to read games for their stories or is gameplay more important?
  2. How would you define “cuteness,” and what is its appeal? Why are some animals cute, while others are considered frightening? Why do you think there is an association between young women and cute animals in many cultures?  
  3. As discussed in the essay, an executive at Sony expressed concern that audiences outside of Japan might not be receptive to Tokyo Jungle because it does not feature any playable human characters. How do you think operating as a series of nonhuman avatars shapes the player’s perception of the world contained within the game? What can games with nonhuman player-characters (or heavily stylized player-characters) do that more realistic role-playing scenarios cannot?   
  4. Why do you think Tokyo Jungle is set in Shibuya? How would the game be different if it took place in another city? How does Tokyo Jungle compare to other games set in postapocalyptic worlds, such as those in Bethesda's Fallout series and Microsoft’s Gears of War series?
  5. Why do we love postapocalyptic settings? Does our fascination with the end of the world lie in the process of destruction or in the regeneration that comes after? What sort of possibilities and potential does a clean slate represent?   

Chapter Eight Suggested Readings

Kathryn Hennmann, Cute Shall Inherit the Earth: Postapocalyptic Posthumanity in Tokyo Jungle

Bissell, Tom. 2010. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Vintage.

Bogost, Ian. 2011. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Jenkins, Henry. 2004. “Game Design as Narrative Architecture.” First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, 118-30. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Wolfe, Cary. 2003. Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory .Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The Cute Shall Inherit the Earth: Postapocalyptic Posthumanity in Tokyo Jungle

Online Content

Crispy's! Official Website
Tokyo Jungle Official Website
Tokyo Jungle Wiki – English
Tokyo Jungle Wiki – Japanese
Tokyo Jungle Trailer – English
Tokyo Jungle Trailer – Japanese
Let's Play Tokyo Jungle Video Series by Foxman Plays – English
Let's Play Tokyo Jungle Video Series by kobekobe8323 – Japanese
TaQ's Page on
Sony AIBO Official Website
"My AIBO Obit" by Lance Ulanoff,2817,1929004,00.asp
Essay by Andrew Murphie on Affect Theory
"Transhumanist Declaration" of Humanity+
The Future of Humanity Institute's Website
The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement's Webpage
Nick Bostrom's Webpage
"Critical Posthumanism" Academic Collective Webpage
Introduction to Deep Ecology by Michael E. Zimmerman
Interview with Elizabeth Kolbert on Mass Extinction
Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research
Critical Gaming Project
Confessions of an Aca-Fan: Henry Jenkins's Blog

Chapter 9

Chapter Nine Summary

Mark McLelland, “Managing Manga Studies in the Convergent Classroom”

This chapter overviews how Japanese Studies, as taught in the academy, has changed over the last quarter century with an emphasis on the new agency exerted in the classroom by students who are fans of Japanese popular culture. I offer a brief history of the shift in production and consumption patterns of manga in the United States—from the perceived need for localization strategies toward an increasing demand for an “authentic” product. I describe how “comic books” were received as a cultural product back in the 1980s and go on to show how fans’ Japanese-language literacy that developed alongside increasing ease of access to original Japanese material via the Internet led to new fan-based modes of manga distribution and consumption. Unlike the old days when it was necessary to request Japanese materials in “hard copy,” such as a book or video from a library or bookstore, today almost anything can be found and downloaded in a few minutes via an Internet search. Much of this material has not been licensed for overseas distribution and hence brings up issues to do with copyright violations and the circumvention of official product ratings. I argue that these moral and legal issues have implications for classroom practice that is often unforeseen by students but which cannot be ignored by educators in the increasingly bureaucratized “corporate university.”

Chapter Nine Discussion Questions

Mark McLelland, “Managing Manga Studies in the Convergent Classroom”

  1. In what ways can fan knowledge and academic knowledge about Japan interact productively in the classroom?
  2. Do you think that academic knowledge about Japan and the kinds of information about Japan that circulate in the general media are different? Is this a problem?
  3. In the 1980s it seemed doubtful that Japanese cultural products would prove as popular overseas as Japanese electronics exports. What factors have enabled the widespread enthusiasm for Japanese popular culture in the ensuing decades?
  4. Do you think that the characters and plot development in manga and anime should be studied in the same way as those in novels and film? If not, how should these media be treated differently?
  5. Do you think that “under-age” characters in manga and anime are sometimes depicted inappropriately? If so, how?

Chapter Nine Suggested Readings

Mark McLelland, “Managing Manga Studies in the Convergent Classroom”

Armour, William Spencer. 2011. “Learning Japanese by Reading ‘manga’: The Rise of ‘Soft Power Pedagogy’.” RELC Journal: A Journal of Language Teaching and Research 42(2): 125-40.

McLelland, Mark, ed. 2013. End of Cool Japan: Ethical, Legal, and Cultural Challenges to Japanese Popular Culture, Oxford: Routledge.

McLelland, Mark. 2013. “Ethical and Legal Issues in Teaching Japanese Popular Culture to Undergraduate Students in Australia.” Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies 3(2). Online at

West, Mark I., ed., 2009. The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Chapter 10

Chapter Ten Summary

Laura Miller, “Purikura: Expressive Energy in Female Self-Photography”

This chapter describes purikura, both the machine and its photo-sticker product. Purikura encode many interesting linguistic and cultural features that reflect an incredible spectrum of imaginative thinking and playful creativity. The tiny photos offer a unique point of entry into understanding of contemporary concerns and worries. As a type of unregulated cultural production, they are often annotated and reflect a spectrum of cute, odd, or grotesque aesthetics and themes. Purikura are circulated among friends, plastered on cellphones and notebooks, and collected in thick albums. This genre of photography is significant as an example of how people are not simply consuming popular culture forms, but have creative control of them through their own unique appropriations and modifications.

Chapter Ten Discussion Questions

Laura Miller, “Purikura: Expressive Energy in Female Self-Photography”

  1. Purikura has also proved to be very popular among people in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Beijing. Why do you think this is the case?
  2. Why do you think purikura machines have not been successful when introduced to non-Asian countries, especially the United States?
  3. What are some of the ways the purikura machine developers and arcades have made modifications in order to attract customers?
  4. The proliferation of terms for types of purikura and its associated activities is an index of its cultural role and importance. Can you think of other examples in Japan where we find a similar expansion in vocabulary related to a specific cultural domain?
  5. In what ways are purikura different from selfies?

Chapter Ten Suggested Readings

Laura Miller, Purikura: Expressive Energy in Female Self-Photography”

Chalfen, Richard, and Mai Marui. 2001. “Print club photography in Japan: Framing social relationships.” Visual Sociology 16 (1): 55-77. 

Miller, Laura. 2003. “Graffiti photos: Expressive art in Japanese girls’ culture.” Harvard Asia Quarterly 7 (3): 31-42.

Miller, Laura. 2005. “Bad girl photography.” Bad Girls of Japan, edited by Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley, 127-141. New York: Palgrave Macmillian.

Chapter 11

Chapter Eleven Summary

Craig Norris, “Studio Ghibli Media Tourism”

Traveling to a real location popularized in Japanese popular culture offers significant insights into the blurring of the virtual and the real in today’s media-saturated environment. This chapter discusses the worldwide popular culture tourism inspired by Miyazaki Hayao’s anime films. In particular, I focus on the unlikely case of Australia ending up on the itinerary of many fans’ must-see locations. This tourism is made even more unusual as Australia has never been officially connected to any of Miyazaki’s anime. Forum comments posted to the Hayao Miyazaki's World in Australia (Miyazaki Hayao no sekai in Australia) group on the Japanese social networking site Mixi provide the data for this analysis. I examine the first year of posts to this group (April 2006–April 2007) to understand how the community first framed and defined the phenomenon of Australia’s Ghibli locations. This Ghibli group remained active even when Mixi declined as a social media giant. I argue that Japanese fans link Miyazaki’s anime to Australia to create opportunities to perform a range of identities and improvise a type of belonging or affinity for an otherwise alien and foreign location.

Chapter Eleven Discussion Questions

Craig Norris, “Studio Ghibli Media Tourism”

Please discuss a Japanese popular culture property that has some connection to a real-world location. You may like to consult travel-related websites, such as TripAdvisor, or travel experiences posted to Tumblr, Facebook groups, YouTube, or other sites.

Using this as a starting point, consider the following questions:

  1. What is the relationship between the media property’s story world and the real-world location? Are there any strategies from fans or industry for expanding the story’s narrative through the location or using distinctive properties of the text or real-world site?
  2. What is the target audience for this media tourism location? Are there examples where this media tourism expresses something of the visitor’s own identity or connection with a particular community or location?
  3. What do the visitor or industry comments add to, or reveal, in terms of the location and brand’s meaning and value?
  4. Are there specific protocols or etiquette requirements involved when visiting these locations?
  5. Does media tourism provide an entry point into, or distortion of, the history, culture, and complexity of a location?

Chapter Eleven Suggested Readings

Craig Norris, “Studio Ghibli Media Tourism”

Bergstrom, Brian. 2014. “Avonlea as ‘World’: Japanese Anne of Green Gables Tourism as Embodied Fandom.” Japan Forum 26(2): 224-245.

Denison, Rayna. 2010. “Anime Tourism: Discursive Construction and Reception of the Studio Ghibli Art Museum.” Japan Forum 22(3-4): 545-563.

Norris, Craig. 2013. “A Japanese media pilgrimage to a Tasmanian bakery.” Transformative Works and Cultures. Online at:

Okamoto, Takeshi. 2015. “Otaku Tourism and the Anime Pilgrimage phenomenon in Japan.” Japan Forum 27(1): 12-36.

Iwabuchi, Koichi. 2015. “Pop-Culture Diplomacy in Japan: Soft Power, Nation Branding and the Question of International Cultural Exchange.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 21(4): 419-43.

Link to Mixi Group

Mixi group Hayao Miyazaki's World in Australia (Miyazaki Hayao no sekai in Ōsutoraria) ---

Chapter 11 Craig Norris, “Studio Ghibli Media Tourism”

11.1 Kiki cosplay Ross Bakery

Cosplayer Nadia in the Ross Bakery’s guest room. Courtesy of Tessu and Dalfe Nai.

Chapter 12

Chapter Twelve Summary

Ian Condry, “Hatsune Miku: Virtual Idol, Media Platform, and Crowd-Sourced Celebrity”

Hatsune Miku is Japan’s leading virtual idol. Started as voice synthesizer software in 2007, thousands of fans have created her songs, and she has, in effect, become the world’s first crowd-sourced celebrity. In addition to being associated with hundreds of thousands of songs online, Miku appears in television commercials, video games, and live concerts. What does this say about authorship and copyright? How has the creator of the software dealt with balancing openness and control? What does it mean to think of a character like Miku as a “media platform” that others can create with? I tackle these questions using fieldwork in Tokyo and the United States, as well as interviews with the CEO of Crypton Future Media.

Chapter Twelve Discussion Questions

Ian Condry, “Hatsune Miku: Virtual Idol, Media Platform, and Crowd-Sourced Celebrity”

  1. The author argues that considering Miku’s live performances alone is insufficient for understanding the phenomenon. Why? What else needs to be considered?  
  2. Do you agree with the author’s argument that it is important to separate “social values” and “economic values”? Why or why not?
  3. What is dōjin culture and why is it important for understanding Hatsune Miku?  
  4. What does the author mean by “celebrities are in some ways platforms as much as they are people”?  
  5. Can you identify other phenomena that display similar dynamics as Miku? How are they different?

Chapter Twelve Suggested Readings

Ian Condry, “Hatsune Miku: Virtual Idol, Media Platform, and Crowd-Sourced Celebrity”

Aoyagi, Hiroshi. 2005. Islands of Eight Million Smiles: Idol Performance and Symbolic Production in Contemporary Japan. Cambridge: Harvard East Asian Monographs.

Galbraith, Patrick W., and Jason G. Karlin, eds. 2012. Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kelly, William W., ed. 2004. Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Japan. Albany: State University of New York. 

Novak, David. 2013. Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stevens, Carolyn S. 2007.  Japanese Popular Music: Culture, Authenticity, and Power. New York: Routledge.

Ian Condry, “Hatsune Miku: Virtual Idol, Media Platform, and Crowd-Sourced Celebrity”: Web Resources

Mikumentary series of non-commercial documentary films by Tara Knight, -

Ian Condry lecture on “The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Media Success,” UTD eLearning, November 15, 2013,

“Songs Featuring Hatsune Miku,” Vocaloid Wiki,

Chapter 13

Chapter Thirteen Summary

Michael Furmanovsky, “Electrifying the Japanese Teenager Across Generations: The Role of the Electric Guitar in Japan’s Popular Culture”

Any popular-music aficionado on a visit to urban Japan will be struck by the ubiquity of musical instrument shops, many of which include small studios offering lessons in a variety of instruments. While keyboards are prominently featured, most of these shops give a special position to the electric guitar and feature entire walls full of brand names. The mystery of who is buying all of these guitars is solved by a visit to any high school or university student festival. Here one finds a world in which seemingly half the student body either plays guitar or is waiting to see a close friend play a rock solo on stage. I first examine the historical origins of the electric guitar’s popularity and the role of two men, Terauchi “Terry” and Kayama Yūzō, in triggering the so-called “ereki būmu” of the mid-1960s. I then discuss how learning the guitar became a rite of passage for many rock-music-loving teenagers in the 1970s. Finally, I posit theories as to why the electric guitar has been able to survive both the rise of the dancing idol singer and the domination of popular music by electronic keyboards to remain an icon of Japanese youth.

Chapter Thirteen Discussion Questions

Michael Furmanovsky, “Electrifying the Japanese Teenager Across Generations: The Role of the Electric Guitar in Japan’s Popular Culture”

  1. Japan produced two outstanding electric guitar instrumentalists (Terauchi Takeshi and Kayama Yūzō) in the early pop era (1961–1966). However, no Japanese rock guitar god took their place in the rock era (1969–1975). Why did Japanese rock fans of the 1970s take little interest in their own homegrown guitarists?
  2. Unlike some young British teenagers in the early 1960s such as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, Japanese electric guitar fans took little interest in African-American blues guitarists and their image and sound. What are some possible explanations for this?
  3. What are some unique characteristics of B’z, Japan’s most successful electric guitar-based rock band?
  4. The Runaways achieved great success in Japan and helped pave the way for the adoption of the electric guitar by many female high school and university students. In what sense can this be seen as a re-gendering of the instrument?
  5. How would you explain Japan’s resilient oyaji-band scene built around American and British rock cover bands featuring men of the so-called dankai generation?

Chapter Thirteen Suggested Readings

Michael Furmanovsky, “Electrifying the Japanese Teenager Across Generations: The Role of the Electric Guitar in Japan’s Popular Culture”

Cope, Julian. 2007 Japrocksampler: How the Post-War Japanese Blew Their Minds on Rock ‘N’ Roll. London: Bloomsbury.

Bourdaghs, Michael. 2012. Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop. New York: Columbia University Press.

Furmanovsky, Michael. 2010. “Outselling the Beatles: Assessing the Influence and Legacy of the Ventures on Japanese Musicians and Popular Music in the 1960s.” Ryukoku University Intercultural Studies 14: 52-64.

Michael Furmanovsky, “Electrifying the Japanese Teenager Across Generations: The Role of the Electric Guitar in Japan’s Popular Culture”

Recommended Playlist of Songs Featuring the Electric Guitar by Artists Mentioned

  1. Takeshi Terauchi & Blue Jeans – “Tsugaru Jongara Bushi”
  2. Yūzō Kayama – “Black Sand Beach”
  3. Spiders – “Furi Furi”
  4. Golden Cups – “Ai suru kimi ni”
  5. The Tempters – “Kamisama onegai”
  6. ‪Speed, Glue & Shinki – “Stoned Out of My Mind”
  7. Princess Princess – “Diamonds”
  8. X Japan – “Kurenai”
  9. B’z – “Guitar Crazy Rendezvous”
  10. Scandal – “Harukaze”

Chapter 14

Chapter Fourteen Summary

Jayson Makoto Chun, “The Pop Pacific: Japanese-American Sojourners and the Development of Japanese Popular Music”

In a manner similar to how Paul Gilroy (1993) looked at the “Black Atlantic,” where Africans and Americans interacted to create a hybrid culture we often identify as “African-American” culture, so has emerged what I dub a “Pop Pacific” as a space of transnational cultural construction of “Japanese popular music.” This hybridized popular music culture largely took root from the mid-1920s with Japanese-American jazz musicians performing in Japan; in the postwar period, the presence of music on American military bases in Japan and the growing interplay between television and Japanese music corporations accelerated and mediated this transnational flow. By the turn of the new millennium, the Internet allowed for near instantaneous access to information and provided easier means for fan interactions, helping to expand the global market. A study of the “Pop Pacific” reveals the hidden transnational and hybrid aspects of Japanese popular music. I focus on the transnational links between Japan and the United States and show through the U.S.-Japan music connection that much of Japanese popular music was part of a larger global web of world music, and so labels of national origin like “Japanese” or “American” hide the true nature of transnational web of popular music.

Chapter Fourteen Discussion Questions

Jayson Makoto Chun, “The Pop Pacific: Japanese-American Sojourners and the Development of Japanese Popular Music”

  1. What was the influence of Japanese Americans like Johnny Kitagawa and Utada Hikaru on Japanese popular music?
  2. Explain this quote in your own words: “A study of the U.S.-Japan music connection will reveal that much of Japanese popular music was part of a larger global web of world music and so labels of national origin like ‘Japanese’ or ‘American’ hide the true nature of the transnational web of popular music.”
  3. How did Kitagawa and Utada adapt their products to fit the tastes and values of the Japanese society of their times?
  4. Do you think Kitagawa and Utada could have gained mass mainstream success in the United States as artists? Why or why not?
  5. Find another example (singer, song, movie, or television show) of the “Pop Pacific” in which United States and Japanese influences are combined to create a transnational cultural product.
  6. To what extent could you consider Japanese Popular Music to be transnational?
  7. Now that you have read about the “Pop Pacific,” do you think all popular culture is transnationally created in one way or another?

Chapter Fourteen Suggested Readings

Jayson Makoto Chun, “The Pop Pacific: Japanese-American Sojourners and the Development of Japanese Popular Music”

Bordaughs, Michael K. 2012. Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop. New York: Columbia University Press.

Galbraith, Patrick W and Jason G. Karlin, eds. 2014. Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media. New York: Palgrave McMillan.

Stevens, Carolyn S. 2008. Japanese Popular Music: Culture, Authenticity and Power. New York: Routledge

Chapter 15

Chapter Fifteen Summary

Patrick W. Galbraith, “AKB Business: Idols and Affective Economics in Contemporary Japan”

In 2010, Japan led the world in sales of recorded music. That year, the idol group AKB48 had the top two spots on the Oricon Yearly Singles Chart and accounted for a significant percentage of overall CD sales. By 2011, AKB48 had all top five spots on Oricon, a record achievement that they repeated in 2012. That year, each of their top five singles sold over a million copies. In subsequent years, AKB48 continued to be one of Japan’s best-selling bands and has spun off sister groups in other locations. Although the members of AKB48 are sometimes referred to as “national idols” in Japan, it is a core contingent of fans who purchase the bulk of their CDs. In some cases, a single person buys hundreds, even thousands, of the same CD. This chapter discusses the techniques employed by AKB48 to inspire this fan activity. Drawing on literature on affective economics, I explain what has been called “AKB business,” which is a model for an idol industry that is booming in contemporary Japan and beyond.

Chapter Fifteen Discussion Questions

Patrick W. Galbraith, “AKB Business: Idols and Affective Economies in Contemporary Japan”

  1. AKB48 is promoted as “idols that you can meet.” Why is this significant?
  2. Estimates suggest that AKB48 does not make an immediate profit performing live at their small theater in Akihabara. Why, then, do they perform there?
  3. AKB48 completely dominates the Japanese charts in terms of CD single sales. Why and how? Is it because everyone in Japan loves them?
  4. AKB48 regularly holds a General Election, which has become a media spectacle and important part of “AKB business.” What is the purpose of the General Election?
  5. Are the idols of AKB48 exploited? Are the fans? Why and how?

Chapter Fifteen Suggested Readings

Patrick W. Galbraith, “AKB Business: Idols and Affective Economies in Contemporary Japan”

Galbraith, Patrick W., and Jason G. Karlin. 2012. Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture. New York: Palgrave.

Galbraith, Patrick W. 2014. The Moe Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing.

Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Patrick W. Galbraith, “AKB Business: Idols and Affective Economies in Contemporary Japan”

For extra teaching materials, I would recommend that the class view “Aitakatta” (I Wanted to See You) being performed at AKB48 Theater in Akihabara. Also "Heavy Rotation" performed by Oshima. I would also recommend watching some footage of the AKB48 General Election.

Documentary Films about AKB48

Documentary of AKB48: No Flower Without Rain (Shojotachi wa namida no ato ni nani wo miru?), directed by Takahashi Eiki, produced by Toho, 2013

Documentary of AKB48: To Be Continued (Shojo Tachi wa Ima no Jibun ni Nani wo Omounodaro), directed by Kanchiki Yuri, produced by Iwai Shinju,, Toho, 2011.

Documentary of AKB48: The Show Must Go On (Shojo tachi wa kizutsukinagara), directed by Takahashi Eiki, produced by Kubota Yasushi,, Toho, 2012.

Open-Access Book  

Patrick W. Galbraith and Jason G. Karlin, Media Convergence in Japan. Published by Kinema Club, 2016. Licensed under Creative Commons -,

Chapter 16

Chapter Sixteen Summary

David Novak, “In Search of Japanoise: Globalizing Underground Music”

From their early days in 1980s Osaka, the cult noise-rock group Boredoms has been an icon of Japan’s deep musical strangeness among a dedicated fan base of North American listeners. Propelled by charismatic leader Eye, Boredoms’ bizarre performances and recordings—as well as high-profile collaborations with U.S. indie stars—were received by overseas fans as part of a culturally localized experimental genre they called “Japanoise.” This chapter traces the “cultural feedback” of Japanoise as a cyclical production of intercultural exchange and media circulation, which shows how the shifts, time lags, and breakdowns of popular media are increasingly essential to global receptions of contemporary Japan and to the promise of underground music as a transnational network. Boredoms have been continually rediscovered by overseas audiences, as they transformed over decades from local Japanese punks to wild-eyed emissaries of trans-Pacific psychedelia. Along the way, Japanoise has come to represent a “submergent” force of global culture, which fosters and fuels the social imaginaries that regenerate the possibilities of underground music in a digital age.

Chapter Sixteen Discussion Questions

David Novak, “In Search of Japanoise: Globalizing Underground Music”

  1. How does this chapter present the concept of “cultural feedback” as a central theme of Japanese globalization? How do Japanese ideas, things, and people circulate across the world? What factors contributed to “Noise” becoming received as a symbol of Japanese culture in the United States?
  2. How does the author describe the conditions of underground music networks in the 1980s and 1990s? Do you think Boredoms would have been received in the same way today, in the context of digital online distributions? 
  3. Why is Japanoise so difficult to define as a form of music? How do the examples in the article relate to or differ from other popular music styles with which you are familiar?
  4. How did Boredoms win over foreign audiences, even though their music was so noisy and unfamiliar? Can you think of any other examples of Japanese pop musicians who have “crossed over” to achieve overseas success?
  5. In what ways did Boredoms’ success in the United States impact their reception in Japan? What is the phenomenon of “reverse importation” (gyaku-yunyu)?

Chapter Sixteen Suggested Readings

David Novak, “In Search of Japanoise: Globalizing Underground Music”

Condry, Ian. 2006. Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Durham: Duke University Press.

Matsue, Jennifer. 2009. Making Music in Japan's Underground: The Tokyo Hardcore Scene. New York: Routledge

Novak, David. 2013. Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation. Durham: Duke University Press.

Sterling, Marvin D. 2010. Babylon East: Performing Dancehall, Roots Reggae, and Rastafari in Japan. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stevens, Carolyn. 2008. Japanese Popular Music: Culture, Authenticity, and Power. New York: Routledge.

David Novak, “In Search of Japanoise: Globalizing Underground Music”

David Novak, Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation,

Dave Watson, Sore Diamonds: The Unofficial BOREDOMS Side Projects/ Cameos Discography. Available at

Footage of one Hanatarashi performance (with alternate sound source) is available at

Good quality footage from the Boredoms 1993 U.S. tour is accessible at

Parts of 77Boadrum film by Alan Poma can be viewed at

To view footage of 111Boadrum, visit

Chapter 17

Chapter Seventeen Summary

Eun-Young Jung, “The Rise of K-Pop in Japan: Understanding the Complex Relationship between Japan and Korea in the Popular Culture Realm”

Popular culture in Asia, including music, is intensely transnational, involving not only exchanges with Europe and North America but also among countries in Asia. The dynamics of popular cultural flows within Asia, however, are much more complicated and locality-specific than they may first appear to be. In this chapter, I trace the rise of K-pop in Japan, its promotional strategies, and the racist discourse that has emerged in reaction.

The flow of Korean popular cultural products into Japan since 2003 has produced a strong fan base, but has also encourage anti-Korean sentiments to flare anew. K-pop’s popularity in Japan, spread widely and rapidly through social media as well as television appearances, live performances, and CDs/DVDs, has been engineered by collaborations between Korean and Japanese production companies who “repackage” K-pop musicians for the Japanese market. Essential to this process is the use of Japanese language: translated lyrics in K-pop songs, inclusion of original J-pop songs in performances and CD releases, and advanced speaking skills acquired by most K-pop musicians. By catering to Japanese tastes and expectations in sound, movement, looks, and public behavior, K-pop musicians have built on the very formula that underlies Japan’s own well-established idol pop industry, producing basically the same style. As Korea has used this formula to become an important cultural powerhouse in the transnational marketplace, the longstanding “close-but-distant” relationship between Japan and Korea is now being played out in the pop-culture realm.

Chapter Seventeen Discussion Questions

Eun-Young Jung, “Korean Pop Music in Japan: Understanding the Complex Relationship Between Japan and Korea in the Popular Culture Realm”

  1. Discuss the rise of K-pop in Japan as it intersects with the postcolonial political relationships between Korea and Japan.
  2. Discuss the specifics of Korean entertainment companies’ marketing and promotion strategies in Japan.
  3. Discuss similarities and differences between the musical and visual characteristics of Korean idol bands and Japanese idol bands.
  4. Discuss important changes in practice between the first-round Korean Wave singers and the second-round Korean Wave idol bands and how they have triggered different responses among Japanese audiences.
  5. In your opinion, do K-pop and J-pop idol bands have any chance of making a breakthrough in the United States? What are the potentials and limitations?

Chapter Seventeen Suggested Readings

Eun-Young Jung, “Korean Pop Music in Japan: Understanding the Complex Relationship Between Japan and Korea in the Popular Culture Realm”

Iwabuchi, Koichi. 2002. Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism. Durham: Duke University Press.

Aoyagi, Hiroshi. 2005. Islands of Eight Million Smiles: Idol Performance and Symbolic Production in Contemporary Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center.

Huat, Chua Beng and Koichi Iwabuchi, eds. 2008. East Asian Pop Culture: Analysing the Korean Wave. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Kim, Youna, ed. 2013. The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global. London: Routledge.

Chapter 18

Chapter Eighteen Summary

William M. Tsutsui, “The Prehistory of Soft Power: Godzilla, Cheese, and the American Consumption of Japan”

The possibility of Japan wielding “soft power” from the global circulation of media exports is a relatively recent phenomenon. For most of the period since the 1950s, when Japanese monster movies and cartoons first began to find wide markets abroad, Japan’s mass entertainment products were commonly perceived by the world’s consumers as inherently inferior in their production values and creative sophistication. This was especially the case with Japanese science-fiction films, with their less-than-state-of-the-art special effects, formulaic plots, and exaggerated dialogue and acting, which quickly gained the reputation in the United States as the ultimate “B movies,” unintentionally humorous works so bad that they were good, frequently dismissed as “campy” and “cheesy.”

This chapter explores the aesthetics, mechanics, and political implications of America’s parodic “cheesy” sensibility, examining how Japan came to be perceived in postwar America as the home of the world's finest cinematic cheese (rivaled only perhaps by Italy’s “spaghetti Westerns” and Hong Kong’s martial arts films) and what it was about monster movies (especially the long-running Godzilla franchise) that made them so appealingly deplorable to Western audiences. Specifically, this chapter considers how extensive editing and voice dubbing by Hollywood distributors, eager to “improve” Godzilla films for American release, accentuated (and even fabricated) their cheesiness, creating politically sanitized self-parodies that affirmed America's global superiority and underlined Japanese cultural and racial difference.

Chapter Eighteen Discussion Questions

William M. Tsutsui, “The Prehistory of Soft Power: Godzilla, Cheese, and the American Consumption of Japan”

  1. Why do you think American audiences have enjoyed watching films they considered “cheesy”?  How would you explain why American media consumers seem particularly drawn to cheesy entertainment from East Asia, such as Japanese monster movies and Chinese martial arts films?
  2. “Glocalization” is a name sometimes given to the process of adapting imported products for local audience tastes and preferences in an age of globalization.  Is “glocalization” (like the editing of Japanese monster movies for distribution in the United States) inherently a political act?  Or should we view it simply as an economic reality?  Is “glocalization” something new (as some scholars have asserted) or does it have a history of decades, even generations or centuries?
  3. Consider the relative merits of dubbing versus subtitling foreign-language films. Do you agree with the director Jacques Becker’s assertion that dubbing “is an act against nature, an assault on decency, … a monster”?
  4. What is “soft power” and how does it differ from “hard power”?  How can a nation develop “soft power,” and how (if at all) can a nation use it to gain an advantage in international relations?  Do you think the cheesy appeal of some forms of Japanese popular culture undermines Japan’s ability to build “soft power” in the United States?

Chapter Eighteen Suggested Readings

William M. Tsutsui, “The Prehistory of Soft Power: Godzilla, Cheese, and the American Consumption of Japan”

Tsutsui, William M. 2004. Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tsutsui, William M. 2010. Japanese Popular Culture and Globalization. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies.

Tsutsui, William M., and Michiko Itō. 2006. In Godzilla's Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Godzilla Filmography

Toho Films:

  • Godzilla (Gojira), 1954
  • Godzilla Raids Again (Gojira no gyakushū), 1955
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla (Kingu Kongu tai Gojira), 1962
  • Mothra vs. Godzilla (Gojira tai Mosura), 1964
  • Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (San daikaijū: Chikyū saidai no kessen), 1964
  • Invasion of Astro-Monster (Kaijū daisensō), 1965
  • Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Gojira, Ebira, Mosura nankai no daikettō), 1966
  • Son of Godzilla (Kaijū-tō no kessen ~ Gojira no musuko), 1967
  • Destroy All Monsters (Kaijū sōshingeki), 1969
  • All Monsters Attack (Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Ōru kaijū daishingeki), 1969
  • Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (Gojira tai Hedora), 1971
  • Godzilla vs. Gigan (Chikyū Kōgeki Meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan), 1972
  • Godzilla vs. Megalon (Gojira tai Megaro), 1973
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla Gojira tai Mekagojira),1974
  • Terror of Mechagodzilla (Mekagojira no Gyakushū), 1975
  • The Return of Godzilla (Gojira), 1984
  • Godzilla vs. Biollante (Gojira tai Biorante), 1989
  • Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (Gojira tai Kingu Gidora), 1991
  • Godzilla vs. Mothra (Gojira tai Mosura), 1992
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 (Gojira tai Mekagojira), 1993
  • Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (Gojira tai SupēsuGojira), 1994
  • Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (Gojira tai Desutoroia), 1995
  • Godzilla 2000 (Gojira Nisen: Mireniamu), 1999
  • Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (Gojira tai Megagirasu: Jī shōmetsu sakusen), 2000
  • Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaijū sōkōgeki),2001
  • Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Gojira tai Mekagojira), 2002
  • Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (Gojira Mosura Mekagojira Tōkyō SOS), 2003
  • Godzilla: Final Wars (Gojira: Fainaru wōzu), 2004
  • Godzilla: Resurgence (Shin Gojira), 2016

American Godzilla Films:

  • Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, 1956
  • Godzilla, 1998
  • Godzilla, 2014
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 2019

Chapter 19

Chapter Nineteen Summary

Kyoko Hirano, “The Rise of Japanese Horror Films: Yotsuya Ghost Story (Yotsuya Kaidan), Demonic Men, and Victimized Women”

Yotsuya Ghost Story (Yotsuya kaidan) has been one of the most popular plays in the repertoire of kabuki theater since its first performance in 1825. The plot is simple: a jobless man kills his sick wife in order to marry a young and rich woman. The murdered wife’s ghost haunts him to destroy his ambition and new family. This tale of haunting and revenge has been adapted to film since the 1910s, along with television dramas, rakugo comedic storytelling, manga, anime, and commercial theater, thus entertaining generations of Japanese audiences and showing the enduring appeal of ghost stories.

This chapter discusses how director Nakagawa Nobuo (1905–1984) turned this classic ghost story into a sympathetic tale of a woman’s suffering in patriarchal Edo period (1603–1868) society in his 1959 Tōkaidō Yotsuya Ghost Story (Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan). Nakagawa satisfied his cult followers by pursuing his own audacious artistic schemes in color, composition, camera movement, editing, music, and sound design, while perpetuating historical customs for adapting Yotsuya Ghost Story. He used tropes of kabuki, showing the continued influence of Edo-period mass culture in the twentieth century, and, at the same time, pioneered conventions for the developing genre of Japanese horror films (J-horror). My close reading of Tōkaidō Yotsuya Ghost Story is also intended to serve as a model of how to analyze Japanese film and to understand its artistic and historical significance.

Chapter Nineteen Discussion Questions

Kyoko Hirano, “The Rise of Japanese Horror Films: Yotsuya Ghost Story (Yotsuya Kaidan), Demonic Men, and Victimized Women”

  1. Compare Yotsuya Ghost Story with other ghost story films you have seen.
  2. Why do you think Yotsuya Ghost Story has been so popular, generating numerous adaptations in film, theater, and beyond over the centuries?
  3. What is it about this story that fascinates people?
  4. How do different versions of Yotsuya Ghost Story deal with the victimization of women? Which version do you think most reflects the changing status of women?
  5. Discuss Nakagawa Nobuo’s cinematic strategies in Yotsuya Ghost Story. How do 1960s horror films compare with twenty-first-century films?

Chapter Nineteen Suggested Readings

Kyoko Hirano, “The Rise of Japanese Horror Films: Yotsuya Ghost Story (Yotsuya Kaidan), Demonic Men, and Victimized Women”

McDonald, Keiko I. 1994. Japanese Classical Theater in Films. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Namboku IV, Tsuruya. 1999. “Yotsuya Ghost Stories, Act Three.” Translated by Mark Oshima. Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology of Plays, edited by Karen Brazell, 456-483. New York: Columbia University Press.

Balmain, Colette. 2016. Introduction to Japanese Horror Film. Second Edition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Selected Filmography of Yotsuya Ghost Story:

New Interpretation of Yotsuya Ghost Story (Shinshaku Yotsuya kaidan), Kinoshita Keisuke, 1947.

Yotsuya Ghost Story (Yotsuya kaidan), Misumi Kenji, 1959.

Tōkaidō Yotsuya Ghost Story (Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan), Nakagawa Nobuo, 1959.

Ghost Story Oiwa’s Ghost (Kaidan Oiwa no bōrei), Katō Tai, 1961.

Yotsuya Ghost Story (Yotsuya kaidan), Toyoda Shirō, 1965.

Yotsuya Ghost Story: Oiwa’s Ghost (Yotsuya Kaidan ~ Oiwa no bōrei), Mori Kazuo, 1969.

Summer of Devils: From Yotsuya Ghost Story (Mashō no natsu: Yotsuya kaidan yori), Ninagawa Yukio, 1981.

Crest of Betrayal (Chūshingura gaiden: Yotsuya kaidan), Fukusatsu Kinji, 1994.

Laughing Lemon (Warau Iemon), Ninagawa Yukio, 2004.

Ghost Story (Kaidan), Nakata Hideo, 2007.

Over Your Dead Body (Kuime), Miike Takashi, 2014.

Chapter 20

Chapter Twenty Summary

Tom Mes, “V-Cinema: How Home Video Revitalized Japanese Film and Mystified Film Historians”

In Japan, the explosive growth of home video in the 1980s gave an ailing film industry, suffering under competition from television since the early 1960s, a new outlet for its products. The runaway success of video as a business scheme attracted outside investors, and new production outfits sprang up to channel this money stream into the production of feature films expressly for the video market. Bypassing theaters entirely, this created a parallel film industry known as “V-Cinema.” By the early 1990s, over a hundred new films were released directly onto video each year. This upsurge in production offered opportunities for film directors, technicians, and creative talent, and opened the doors for newcomers.

A domestic business strategy of modest artistic ambition, V-Cinema's proponents have paradoxically gone on to redefine Japanese cinema for global audiences, from top-tier festivals to the multiplex, giving rise to such directors as Miike Takashi and Kurosawa Kiyoshi and creating new genres like J-horror. V-Cinema defied film historians to broaden the canon of names and titles formed more than half a century ago and to account for new contexts, methods, and styles. By describing the historic rise of Japanese direct-to-video filmmaking, I argue that V-Cinema challenges accepted notions of national cinema and canonization and of cultural value as assigned to movies.

Chapter Twenty Discussion Questions

Tom Mes, “V-Cinema: How Home Video Revitalized Japanese Film and Mystified Film Historians”

  1. How could further investigation of video benefit the study of film and popular culture?
  2. Japanese V-Cinema has produced filmmakers whose works are now seen across the world. Can the same be said for American straight-to-video films? Is there another period or movement in American cinema that served as a breeding ground for young filmmakers, comparable to V-Cinema?
  3. What is your initial prejudice when you think of straight-to-video films?
  4. What does the example of V-Cinema reveal about the gatekeeping processes involved in the diffusion of Japanese cinema in the rest of the world?
  5. How has the success of V-Cinema upended concepts of high and low cultural production? Is this representative of other trends in popular culture?

Chapter Twenty Suggested Readings

Tom Mes, “V-Cinema: How Home Video Revitalized Japanese Film and Mystified Film Historians”

Mes, Tom. 2003. Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike. Godalming: FAB Press.

Mes, Tom and Jasper Sharp. 2004. The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press.

Greenberg, Joshua. 2008. From Betamax to Blockbuster: Video Stores and the Invention of Movies on Video. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lobato, Ramon. 2012. Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution. London: BFI / Palgrave Macmillan.

V-Cinema Wish list

Tom Mes, “V-Cinema: How Home Video Revitalized Japanese Film and Mystified Film Historians”

Although not acknowledged in the accepted discourse of continuous decline, the 1990s were one of Japanese cinema’s most vibrant and prolific decades. This was thanks in no small part to V-Cinema, the straight-to-video industry, initiated by former major studio Toei in 1989. Below are my picks for films whose inclusion would do much to spice up our accounts of recent Japanese film history. It must be noted that Japan has not been much kinder to its own heritage: many of these titles were never rereleased after their original VHS incarnation and have been withering in the archives of reluctant distribution companies since the early 1990s.

Neo Chinpira (Neo chinpira teppōdama pyū, 1990) dir: Takahashi Banmei

A comedy about the day-to-day travails of a low-level gangster, this was an unlikely hit for Toei that made a star out of its lead actor Aikawa Shō. He and director Takahashi—a veteran of Nikkatsu Roman Porno and early 1980s art cinema—would go on to repeat the formula not only in a sequel but in so many other productions that the “Aikawa Sho gangster comedy” became almost a genre in itself. The six-part Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself! series by Kurosawa Kiyoshi (a former protégé of Takahashi’s) is also modeled closely on it.

Tuff (Tafu, 1990) dir: Harada Masato

An aimless young man who makes a living delivering pizzas finds himself an apt pupil to a professional hitman after finding himself in the middle of one of his murder scenes. The most Hollywood oriented of contemporary Japanese film directors found a natural home in the genre-oriented environment of V-Cinema and delivered a thoroughly entertaining action film full of visual flair that belies the medium’s meager means. This was the first part in a six-film series whose final installment, Painted Desert (1993), brought Harada full circle by being shot in the U.S. and featuring such Hollywood thesps as James Gammon and Vincent Schiavelli.

Stranger (Yoru no sutorenjā kyōfu, 1991) dir: Nagasaki Shunichi

A woman who works as a taxi driver finds herself stalked by an unknown assailant in a 4WD. Director Nagasaki, one of the major names to emerge from the late-1970s indie film scene, ramps up the paranoia factor in this urban riff on Spielberg’s Duel. Lead actress Natori Yūko was a major star and household name, but here she appears thoroughly deglamorized in oversized men’s clothing and without makeup.


Carlos (Karurosu, 1991) dir: Kiuchi Kazuhiro

Director Kiuchi Kazuhiro is better known as the creator of the oft-adapted manga Be-Bop High School and as a novelist (Miike Takashi’s Shield of Straw [Wara no tate, 2013] is based one of his bestsellers). Throughout the 1990s he also directed a handful of gritty crime films, starting with this straight-to-video tale of a Japanese-Brazilian criminal’s ascent through the underworld. With its reflections on minorities and petty crime in post-Bubble era Japan, Carlos set the template for countless later works by Miike Takashi, Mochizuki Rokurō, Aoyama Shinji, and other leading proponents of V-Cinema. Takenaka Naoto, of Shall We Dance? fame, plays the very Tony Montana-esque title role.


Female Convict Scorpion: Death Notice (Joshū sasori satsujin yokoku, 1991) dir: Ikeda Toshiharu

As Toei’s V-Cinema line began taking off proper, it was only a matter of time before the company began mining its rich back catalogue for inspiration. One of the first of these was a remake of Itō Shunya’s fondly remembered women-in-prison flick Female Convict 701: Scorpion (Joshū 701 sasori, 1972). Director Ikeda Toshiharu, who would go on to helm the lion’s share of Toei Video’s long-running “female action” series XX (Daburu ekkusu), shot the film in obvious tribute to Itō’s memorably stylish original, although purists at the time heaped scorn on the results, as well as on actress Okamoto Natsuki, who was given the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of the original’s iconic star Kaji Meiko.


Dance til Tomorrow (Asatte Dance, 1991) dir: Isomura Itsumichi

This adaptation of Yamamoto Naoki’s manga was Daiei’s first foray into V-Cinema, although the former major studio played to its strengths by giving it a limited theatrical release first—thereby initiating a strategy that would ensure V-Cinema’s legacy as a revitalizing force in Japanese cinema. The film was also a trailblazer by bringing the romantic comedy genre into an until then strictly male-oriented market.


Downfall (Daraku, 1992) dir: Jissōji Akio

Jissōji Akio (1937-2006) was one of Japanese cinema’s most unclassifiable filmmakers. Starting his directing career in television in the 1960s on the various incarnations of the Ultraman series, for the big screen he made everything from challenging art films for ATG (such as This Transient Life / Mujō and Mandala) in the early 1970s to large-scale effects-heavy blockbusters like Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (Taitei monogatari, 1988), as well as numerous adaptations of tales by ero-guro mystery author Edogawa Rampo. Many of Jissōji’s films contain taboo-breaking sexual themes, which is likely why he used the medium of V-Cinema to explore the narrative possibilities of explicit, unsimulated sex, sidestepping the restrictions imposed on theatrical releases.

The Wicked Reporter series (Gokudō kisha, 1993-’96) + The Outer Way (Gedō, 1998) dir: Mochizuki Rokurō

Blessed with a retrospective at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 1998, Mochizuki Rokurō should be seen as one of the standard bearers in bringing V-Cinema to world’s attention. The backbone to his oeuvre of 1990s crime thrillers is The Wicked Reporter series, set among the downtrodden in post-Bubble Japan: those forced to scrape by as gamblers, low-level gangsters, grifters, prostitutes, and petty thieves. The almost surreal The Outer Way plays like a Clint Eastwood vigilante movie as directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky and is the director’s masterpiece. In all these films, Mochizuki’s background in pink films and adult video shines through in his depiction of sex: devoid of glamour but full of unapologetically carnal lust.

More information can be found on Midnight Eye: Visions of Japanese Cinema -

Non-profit, non-commercial database of film reviews, interviews, books, and other features. Edited by Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp.

Chapter 21

Chapter Twenty-One Summary

Alan Cholodenko, “Apocalyptic Animation: In the Wake of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Godzilla, and Baudrillard”

This chapter offers an examination after Jean Baudrillard of the post-World War II animation of Japan in terms of the nature, history, and destiny of animation, film, war, and nation. In this speculation on “apocalyptic anime,” that is, anime in the wake of the atomic bomb, and on the animatic thinking of Baudrillard, Akira, as the breakthrough anime into the West in 1988, is treated as exemplary, not only in its narrative but as its narrative. Indeed, it not only becomes exemplary of a major genre of anime, it performs that genre of apocalypse, of explosion and implosion, a form of animation film and film animation as warrior in a war between not only anime and American animation but Japan and America, even as film animation and nation animation are inextricably commingled, making it impossible to distinguish one from the other. In other words, extending von Clausewitz’s “War is merely the continuation of policy [politics] by other means,” the chapter argues that film animation is a form of war. Or better, in this case, hyperfilm hyperanimation, of which anime, or better hyperanime, is a key performative mode, as exemplified by Akira. But more is at stake yet in this hyperreal agonistics, as the chapter develops after Baudrillard: the universal, the global, and the singular. For Akira puts at stake the possibility of Japan winning this war with the United States by seducing it and its globalizing ambitions through hypersimulation, returning/maintaining Japan’s singularity, its “snobbishness,” as Alexandre Kojève characterized it, its radical foreignness, “Radical Exoticism,” as Baudrillard conceptualizes such exoticism after Victor Segalen.

Chapter Twenty-One Discussion Questions

Alan Cholodenko, “Apocalyptic Animation: In the Wake of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Godzilla, and Baudrillard”

  1. Do you think war can exist in domains other than politics?
  2. Do you think a war continued between Japan and the United States after World War II?
  3. Do you think national cinemas can be at war with each other?
  4. Do you think that all film, including live action by definition, is a form of animation?
  5. Do you think that digital animation has morphed animation into a new, extreme form, hyperanimation, one exemplified in its own way in anime by Akira?
  6. Do you think film and media, on the one hand, and reality, on the other, are completely separate realms or that they are inextricably commingled?

Chapter Twenty-One Suggested Readings

Alan Cholodenko, “Apocalyptic Animation: In the Wake of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Godzilla, and Baudrillard”

Baudrillard, Jean. 1987. The Evil Demon of Images. Sydney: Power Institute Publications.

Baudrillard, Jean. 1993. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Translated by James Benedict. London: Verso.

Brophy, Philip. 1991. “The Animation of Sound.” The Illusion of Life: Essays on Animation, edited by Alan Cholodenko. Sydney: Power Publications in association with the Australian Film Commission.

Cholodenko, Alan, ed. 1991. The Illusion of Life: Essays on Animation. Sydney: Power Publications in association with the Australian Film Commission.

Cholodenko, Alan. 2000. “The Illusion of The Beginning: A Theory of Drawing and Animation.” Afterimage 28:1: 9–12.

Cholodenko, Alan, ed. 2007. The Illusion of Life 2: More Essays on Animation. Sydney: Power Publications.

Chapter 22

Chapter Twenty-Two Summary

Renato Rivera Rusca, “Toy Stories: Robots and Magical Girls in Anime Marketing”

The history of televised Japanese animation from the 1960s onwards has been one of an explosive popularity of characters and stories on varied themes, a strong current channeled by an industry framework comprised of cost-cutting restrictions. As sponsors shifted, tropes within shows evolved in a variety of ways but always adapting the practices established in the previous generation to fit new paradigms. Arising from this process were the “magical girl” genre (mahō shōjo anime), depicting the adventures of a prepubescent girls with magical powers, and the “robot” genre (robotto anime), featuring giant humanoid fighting machines usually controlled by young male pilots. Both genres relied on the sale of toys. However, by the mid-1980s, these accouterments were no longer necessary requisites, although their legacy is seen in series today.

This chapter shows that the continued existence of the magical girls and robot genres is a testament to the strong reliance on the frameworks that were established through the evolving relationship among anime creators, commercial sponsors, and television networks. I argue that this often tumultuous relationship and the “opportunistic restrictions” it imposed on creators shaped the development of the magical girl and robot genres during the “golden age” of television anime from the 1970s through early 1980s. I analyze how this relationship continued until the advent of Original Video Animation (OVA) and the paradigm shifts in production that it initiated in the mid-1980s.

Chapter Twenty-Two Discussion Questions

Renato Rivera Rusca, “Toy Stories: Robots and Magical Girls in Anime Marketing”

  1. Why do so many anime series feature robots and/or magical girls?
  2. How do the “media-mix” marketing strategies (e.g., tie-in manga, soundtracks, toys, and interactive events) in the Japanese anime industry target consumers? How does this affect the consumption and appreciation of anime?
  3. Do you think robots are just for boys and magical girls are just for girls? How have toy companies essentialized gender and the products associated with it? Can you imagine an alternative? Can toys be gender neutral?
  4. Do you think the merchandising around anime (and films) creates a larger experience or takes away from the experience?

Chapter Twenty-Two Suggested Readings

Renato Rivera Rusca, “Toy Stories: Robots and Magical Girls in Anime Marketing”

Allison, Anne. 2006. Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Condry, Ian. 2013. The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story. Durham: Duke University Press.

Steinberg, Marc. 2012. Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Chapter Twenty-Two Watch List

Renato Rivera Rusca, “Toy Stories: Robots and Magical Girls in Anime Marketing”

The following anime are discussed in Chapter Twenty-Two.

Robot Anime (Robotto Anime):

  • Gigantor (Tetsujin 28-gō), 1963-1966
  • Mazinger Z (Majingā zetto), 1972-1974
  • Combattler V (Chōdenji robo Konbatorā V), 1976-1977
  • Voltes V (Chōdenji mashin borutesu faibu), 1977-1978
  • Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidō senshi Gandamu), 1979-1980
  • Space Warrior Baldios (Uchū senshi Barudiosu), 1980-1981
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross (Chōjikū yōsai Makurosu), 1982-1983
  • Macross 7 (Makurosu Sebun), 1994-1995
  • Macross Plus (Makurosu Purasu), 1995 (OVA)
  • Dancougar (Chōjū kishin Dankūga), 1985
  • Megazone 23 (Megazōn 23), 1985
  • Hades Project Zeorymer (Meiō keikaku Zeoraimā), 1988
  • Brave Series (Yūsha shiriizu), 1990-2005

Magical Girl Anime (Mahō Shōjo Anime):

  • Sally the Witch (Mahō-tsukai Sally), 1966-1968
  • The Secret of Akko-chan (Himitsu no Akko-chan), 1969-1970
  • Fairy Princess Minky Momo (Mahō no purinsesu Minkī Momo), 1982-1983
  • Magical Angel Creamy Mami (Mahō no tenshi Kuriimii Mami), 1983-1984
  • Sailor Moon (Bishōjo Senshi Seeraa Mūn), 1992-1997
  • Pretty Cure (Futari wa Puriti Kyua), 2004-present
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Mahō shōjo Madoka Magika), 2011

Other Anime Series:

  • Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu), 1963-1966
  • Ken the Wolf Boy (Ōkami Shōnen Ken), 1963
  • 8 Man (Eitoman), 1963-1964
  • Heidi, Girl of the Alps (Arupusu no shōjo Haiji), 1974
  • A Dog of Flanders (Furandaazu no inu), 1975

Chapter 23

Chapter Twenty-Three Summary

Marc Steinberg, “Condensing the Media Mix: The Tatami Galaxy’s Multiple Possible Worlds”

This chapter isolates some of general distinctions in transmedia storytelling practice between what in North America has been called “convergence culture” and what in Japan is known as the “media mix.” Developed through a reading of the anime series directed by Yuasa Masaaki, The Tatami Galaxy (Yojōhan shinwa taikei, 2010), this chapter fleshes out the different approaches to the consistency of worlds within each media-industrial formation. I draw on Leibniz’s concepts of compossibility and incompossibility to provide a theoretical framework for understanding differences in the creation of media worlds. Reading The Tatami Galaxy as a meta-commentary on the media mix, this chapter also aims to develop a vocabulary for analyzing transmedia works more generally.

Chapter Twenty-Three Discussion Questions

Marc Steinberg, “Condensing the Media Mix: The Tatami Galaxy’s Multiple Possible Worlds”

  1. What are the main differences between Jenkins and Otsuka’s models of worlds?
  2. What distinctions does the author make between the Hollywood model of transmedia storytelling and Japan's media mix?  
  3. Are these distinctions convincing? Discuss how these distinctions between transmedia and the media mix may be useful, as well as what their limitations are.
  4. Review the discussion of Leibniz and worlds. What are the differences between “compossible” and “incompossible”? How do these concepts relate to the problem of world or worlds? And what are some of the elements within The Tatami Galaxy that hold the multiple worlds together?
  5. Think about how this essay argues its points. What methodology does it use, and what bodies of knowledge does it draw on? What other methodologies would be useful in thinking about the distinction between transmedia storytelling and the media mix?

Chapter Twenty-Three Suggested Readings

Marc Steinberg, “Condensing the Media Mix: The Tatami Galaxy’s Multiple Possible Worlds”

Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

Ōtsuka, Eiji. 2010. “World and Variation: The Reproduction and Consumption of Narrative.” Translated by Marc Steinberg. Mechademia 5: Fanthropologies. edited by Frenchy Lunning, 99-116. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Steinberg, Marc. 2012. Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

The Tatami Galaxy Still from Episode 1

The Tatami Galaxy protagonist imagines the rose-colored campus life he believes awaits him. Still from Episode 1. Author’s screenshot.

The Tatami Galaxy Still Episode 10

The Tatami Galaxy’s protagonist happens upon another incarnation of himself during his trek through his multiple worlds. Still from Episode 10. Author’s screenshot.

Chapter 24

Chapter Twenty-Four Summary

Shige (CJ) Suzuki, “Gekiga, or Japanese Alternative Comics: The Mediascape of Japanese Counterculture”

This chapter discusses the sociohistorical context of the development of gekiga, examining the shifting media ecology, its formal innovations and readership, and its impact on other artistic and cultural practices. Once it appeared, gekiga quickly gained a prominent position in the postwar manga industry and achieved prominence in the 1960s. I focus on two key players in the evolution of gekiga: Tatsumi Yoshihiro and Shirato Sanpei. Both mangaka (comics artists) contributed to the growth of gekiga as a distinct media form, expanding the horizon of Japanese comics expression. Gekiga grew in tandem with Japanese counterculture in the 1960s, when Japan witnessed the rise of student revolts, civic and intellectual participation in politics, and artistic radical experimentalism, all of which mostly responded to the domestic and international political conjunctures and their implications of the time. It was one of the thrilling moments in Japanese cultural history when the popular closely intersected with the political, synchronically corresponding to other radical cultural praxes and movements in other parts of the globe. Focusing on the two important mangaka’s achievements in Japanese comics history, I argue that gekiga,as Japanese alternative comics, played a significant role in shaping counterculture.

Chapter Twenty-Four Discussion Questions

Shige (CJ) Suzuki, “Gekiga, or Japanese Alternative Comics: The Mediascape of Japanese Counterculture”

  1. Based on your knowledge of manga, identify several similarities and differences between gekiga and manga in terms of drawing style, narrative structure, visual elements, themes and audience.
  2. What do you think about the embedded social critique or political commentary in comics (or other popular narrative forms)? Does it hamper the pleasure of reading? Do you know of any other examples for providing critique or commentary of society through popular narrative forms? What are the benefits of such forms?
  3. The medium of comics is inherently “graphic”—meaning both pictorial and sexual/violent—which sometimes prompts strong reactions from readers. Do you think this nature of comics is related to a series of censorship over comics? If yes, should we censor or place restrictions on expression in comics—or for that matter, in other popular visual forms such as film, videogames, and music? What are possible benefits and dangers for censorship on popular forms of art for society? How do we decide the appropriateness of comics for audiences of different ages?
  4. According to one definition, subculture refers to a group within a larger culture or society, which holds beliefs or interests at variance with, or sometimes against, those of the larger, mainstream culture or society. Provide an example of a subculture and consider how your chosen example expresses itself? What kind of meanings does it have for participants? How is it perceived by the general public or an outsider? Do you think subculture promotes social change? What are some of the possibilities and limitations of a subculture?
  5. What is your assessment of the status of comics in today’s society? Given the recent re-invention of comics as a medium for expression, often labeled as “graphic novels” in English-language countries, what kind of other ideas or possibilities have been (or will be) explored through the medium of comics? Do you think comics has achieved or can achieve a status similar to literature or art?

Bonus material:

  1. As pointed out in the chapter, gekiga artists in the 1950s often use visual symbols and cues to convey the protagonist’s psychology. Closely analyze several pages from some of Tatsumi Yoshiro’s short gekiga works, if available. Identify the ways in which the author conveys the internal state of the protagonists visually. Consider how and what kinds of psychological states are communicated though visual signs and juxtaposed images of different images.
  2. As discussed in the essay, gekiga artists tend to use the “aspect-to-aspect” panel transition more than others. Given this, analyze the page layout and each juxtaposed panel to identify or measure how much time passes (or not) in each different panel. What narrative effects are produced or intended by the author with the different “speeds” of each panel transition?

Chapter Twenty-Four Suggested Readings

Shige (CJ) Suzuki, “Gekiga, or Japanese Alternative Comics: The Mediascape of Japanese Counterculture”

Holmberg, Ryan. 2010. Garo Manga: The First Decade 1964-1973. New York: Center for Book Arts.

Khoo, Eric, director. 2011. Tatsumi. Brooklyn, NY: Kimstim.

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. 2006. Abandon the Old in Tokyo. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly Publications.

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. 2009. A Drifting Life. Translated by Taro Nettleton. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly.

Tsuge, Yoshiharu. 2003. “Screw Style” (“Neji-siki”). The Comics Journal #250: 136-157.

Chapter 25

Chapter Twenty-Five Summary

Jennifer Prough, “Sampling Girls’ Culture: An Analysis of Shōjo Manga Magazines”

Almost all shōjo manga first appear in the pages of a shōjo manga magazine such as Nakayoshi, Margaret, or Cookie. First created in the late 1960s, these magazines are comprised primarily of serialized manga, and this format shapes the content of shōjo manga narratives, both directly and indirectly. But shōjo manga magazines also contain supplementary materials that link shōjo manga stories to the wider world of girls’ consumer culture. This chapter focuses on the everyday uses of shōjo manga magazines, tracing their origin, their influence on the genre of shōjo manga, and the ways they link shōjo manga to the wider culture of girls’ fashion and lifestyles. Framed by the concept of “sampling,” I argue that shōjo manga magazines provide readers with small samples of serialized manga to try out and see if they like them; solicit readers’ feedback and use a small group to represent the whole when making decisions about what manga to continue; and include consumer goods as prizes or presents for readers, enabling them to mix the world of manga into their daily lives. Thus, by walking through the pages Cookie, I examine how shōjo manga magazines have shaped the genre of shōjo manga, while participating in the construction of girls’ culture more broadly in the late twentieth century. 

Chapter Twenty-Five Discussion Questions

Jennifer Prough, “Sampling Girls’ Culture: An Analysis of Shōjo Manga Magazines”

  1. What difference does it make that manga are created to be serialized in a magazine? 
  2. How does manga “sample” girls’ culture?
  3. How was the genre of manga shaped by its social context and developments in different media formats?
  4. If you have read a shōjo manga before, what are some of the ways that you can see girls’ culture in it?
  5. How does this chapter about the production of shōjo manga work in dialogue with the other manga chapters in this book?

Chapter Twenty-Five Discussion Questions

Jennifer Prough, “Sampling Girls’ Culture: An Analysis of Shōjo Manga Magazines”

Prough, Jennifer. 2011. Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shōjo Manga. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.

Shamoon, Deborah. 2011. Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girls' Culture in Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press.

Takahashi, Mizuki. 2008. “Opening the Closed World of Shōjo Manga.” In Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, edited by Mark W. MacWilliams, 114- 136. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Jennifer Prough, “Sampling Girls’ Culture: An Analysis of Shōjo Manga Magazines”

The current table of contents for Shueisha’s Cookie:

The current table of contents for Shueisha’s Ribbon:

Chapter 26

Chapter Twenty-Six Summary

Deborah Shamoon, The Beautiful Men of the Inner Chamber: Gender-Bending and Other Shōjo Manga Tropes in Ōoku

In the manga series Ōoku: The Inner Chambers (begun in 2005), Yoshinaga Fumi presents an imagined history of Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868) in which women rule the country. A plague reduces the male population to one quarter of the female, forcing a reassignment of gender roles. Women take over the government and all levels of public and private life, with the few surviving men valued primarily as breeding stock. The story follows the succession of female shoguns and the men of the Inner Chambers, kept as a male harem.

The gender-swapped premise of Ōoku allows Yoshinaga to explore not only Japanese history but also the conventions of the shōjo manga genre. Yoshinaga, who got her start as a manga artist creating Rose of Versailles fan fiction (dōjinshi), alternately celebrates and critiques the bishōnen (pretty boy) aesthetics of shōjo manga and the reliance on homosexual and homosocial themes. This chapter discusses how Ōoku plays with shōjo manga genre conventions and ultimately transcends those conventions to give a more nuanced critique of received gender roles.

Chapter Twenty-Six Discussion Questions

Deborah Shamoon, “The Beautiful Men of the Inner Chamber: Gender-Bending, Boys’ Love and Other Shōjo Manga Tropes in Ōoku

  1. What is boys’ love, and why might it appeal to girl readers?
  2. How does Ōoku subvert the tropes of boys’ love?
  3. The female-led world of Ōoku is just as imperfect as the real history of the Edo period. Why do you think Yoshinaga Fumi chooses to portray her gender-switched leaders as replicating the same mistakes as in real life? 
  4. Many shōjo manga feature gender switching, cross-dressing, or other forms of gender fluidity. Do you know of any other examples from shōjo manga or any other genre? How do they compare to Ōoku?
  5. Gender flipping is a popular strategy in fanfiction or fan art of text from many different genres, not only in Japan. Have you encountered any gender-flipped stories or characters? How did it change the way you thought of the narrative or characters and why?

Chapter Twenty-Six Suggested Readings

Deborah Shamoon, “The Beautiful Men of the Inner Chamber: Gender-Bending, Boys’ Love and Other Shōjo Manga Tropes in Ōoku

Shamoon, Deborah. 2012. Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girls’ Culture in Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Matsui, Midori. 1993. “Little Girls Were Little Boys: Displaced Femininity in the Representation of Homosexuality in Japanese Girls’ Comics.” Feminism and the Politics of Difference, edited by Sneja Gunew and Anna Yeatman, 177-196. New South Wales, Australia: Allen and Utwin.

Takahashi, Mizuki. 2008. “Opening the Closed World of Shōjo Manga.” Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, edited by Mark W. MacWilliams, 114- 136. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Levi, Antonia, Mark McHarry, and Dru Pagliassotti, eds. 2008. Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Chapter 27

Chapter Twenty-Seven Summary

Thomas Lamarre, “Cyborg Empiricism: The Ghost is Not in the Shell”

Shirow Masamune’s cyborg manga, Kōkaku kidōtai: The Ghost in the Shell, which began serialization in 1989, explicitly proposes the cyborg as a techno-philosophical challenge to Cartesian dualism, and has frequently been celebrated as such. But there are very different ways of challenging Cartesian dualism, with different implications. Indeed, Shirow’s manga oscillates between two different kinds of response, sometimes emphasizing the pragmatic dimension of making cyborgs and of regulating the generation of new kinds of intelligence and existence; sometimes stressing the speculative dimension through the surprise of the emergence of new life forms. The dominant paradigm emerges, however: that of securing the ghost within the shell and subordinating the speculative to the pragmatic, which culminates in a politics of suppressing or overcoming threats to personal and national sovereignty. Yet another tendency persists, with a different relation between the pragmatic and the speculative. This minor tendency does not simply stress the speculative power of the ghost over and above the shell. It strives for a fusion of different dimensions without loss of difference. If we are to contest and move beyond the dominant tendency toward personal and national sovereignty in The Ghost in the Shell, we must stick to these moments when the ghost (and the speculative) is not in the shell but in its world. These moments open into cyborg empiricism.

Chapter Twenty-Seven Discussion Questions

Thomas Lamarre, “Cyborg Empiricism: The Ghost Is Not in the Shell”

  1. To what extent do you think that the cyborg remains an important figure in contemporary popular culture? Why do you think the cyborg has proved so persistent in popular culture?
  2. How does the figure of the cyborg in The Ghost in the Shell manga challenge a binary opposition between the human and the nonhuman?
  3. How does the cyborg’s “ghost” challenge a binary opposition between body and mind?
  4. Although the figure of cyborg in The Ghost in the Shell manga explicitly strives for a non-dualistic approach to mind and body, how does the idea “the ghost is in the shell” thwart this attempt? How do the aspirations of the cyborg and of the sovereign nation become conjoined?
  5. When the ghost is not in the shell, where is it, and what does it do?
  6. How (and why) do actual manga techniques such as layout allow for a non-dualist experience?
  7. What does it mean that cyborgs tend to be conservative in their choice of bodies?
  8. Are there examples of cyborgs you feel move more successfully beyond dualism than those in The Ghost in the Shell manga?
  9. How do the cyborgs in The Ghost in the Shell manga compare to those in the anime films and television anime series?

Chapter Twenty-Seven Suggested Readings

Thomas Lamarre, “Cyborg Empiricism: The Ghost Is Not in the Shell”

Holmberg, Ryan. 2010. Garo Manga: The First Decade 1964-1973. New York: Center for Book Arts.

Khoo, Eric, director. 2011. Tatsumi. Brooklyn, NY: Kimstim.

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. 2006. Abandon the Old in Tokyo. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly Publications.

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. 2009. A Drifting Life. Translated by Taro Nettleton. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly.

Tsuge, Yoshiharu. 2003. “Screw Style” (“Neji-siki”). The Comics Journal #250: 136-157.

Prough, Jennifer S. 2011. Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shōjo Manga. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2011.

Chapter Twenty-Seven Thomas Lamarre, Thomas Lamarre, “Cyborg Empiricism: The Ghost Is Not in the Shell”

Thomas Lamarre website -

Chapter 28

Chapter Twenty-Eight Summary

Rebecca Suter, “Murakami Haruki’s Transnational Avant-Pop Literature”

Murakami Haruki is probably the best-known Japanese author of his generation. In Japan, Murakami has become a true pop icon: his readers call themselves “Harukistas” (Harukisuto) and buy anything that he publishes, whether fiction or nonfiction, his original work or his translations of foreign authors. Murakami’s popularity in Japan would be best described as a form of fandom, an adoration that borders on obsession. In the United States, although he is not as much of a star as he is in his own country, Murakami has gained an enthusiastic audience outside of the limited circle of readers of Japanese literature, arguably a rare feat for a Japanese author. But what are the causes of the “Murakami phenomenon”?

In this chapter, through analysis of Murakami’s narratives and their critical reception, as well as the development of a “Murakami franchise” that incorporates not only his fiction and nonfiction, but also his translations and secondary literature about him, I show how this author subverts the conventional understanding of Japanese high and popular culture, and challenges the binary distinction between Japanese and Western culture, ultimately throwing into question the very idea of national culture and identity. I argue that it is this complexity that appeals to Murakami’s audience, making him a popular writer; I also show how this complexity can be of interest to academics, making his work a fascinating object of scholarly inquiry.

Chapter Twenty-Eight Discussion Questions

Rebecca Suter, “Murakami Haruki’s Transnational Avant-Pop Literature”

  1. Have you read any Murakami novel? Did you find it more foreign or more familiar? Do you think Murakami’s fiction would sound different to a Japanese reader and to a foreign one?
  2. How do you interpret the fact that Murakami likes his English translators to be creative, and his own translations from English to be faithful? What does this say about his role within the Japanese and international literary context?
  3. Do you think it is appropriate to talk about serious political issues in an entertaining, fantastical format? Is Murakami successful in doing this? Why or why not?
  4. Do you see Murakami’s appropriation of American literature as mostly a commercial operation, as a form of cultural critique, or as something else entirely? Is it more of a reactionary or more of a subversive gesture?
  5. What do you think are the reasons for the popularity of Murakami’s fiction? Do you think it is comparable to the popularity of other media such as manga and anime? Why or why not?

Chapter Twenty-Eight Suggested Readings

Rebecca Suter, “Murakami Haruki’s Transnational Avant-Pop Literature”

Rubin, Jay. 2005. Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. London: Vintage.

Seats, Michael. 2006. Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture. Lanham: Lexington Books.

Strecher, Matthew. 2002. Dances with Sheep: The Quest for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies.

Strecher, Matthew. 2014. The Forbidden Worlds of Murakami Haruki. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

Suter, Rebecca. 2008.The Japanization of Modernity: Murakami Haruki between Japan and the United States. Cambridge: Harvard East Asia Center.

Murakami Haruki’s most disliked stories—and why you might want to read them anyway

Rebecca Suter, “Murakami Haruki’s Transnational Avant-Pop Literature”

1) Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973

Who dislikes them:

Murakami himself. These were the very first novels that Murakami published, when he was still working part-time as the owner and manager of the jazz bar Peter Cat in the Kokubunji neighborhood of Tokyo, writing at night when the bar closed. They were translated into English by Alfred Birnbaum in a bilingual edition published by Kodansha and only distributed in Japan; the unconfirmed rumor is that Murakami himself did not want the English versions to be reprinted because he wasn’t happy with the novels.

What they are about:

The novels don’t have a very strong plot; they are mostly made up by fragments describing the daily life of the two protagonists, the unnamed narrator “boku” and his friend Nezumi (Rat), a large proportion of which seems to be spent chatting and drinking at “J’s bar.” In the second novel, a pair of identical twin girls named “208” and “209” also begin to live in boku’s apartment, and the narrator goes on a quest for the perfect pinball machine.

Why read them:

They contain many elements that will recur in Murakami’s later novels, including the character of Rat, that will be central in A Wild Sheep’s Chase, and that of Naoko, the protagonist’s troubled girlfriend that returns in Norwegian Wood. A new translation of Hear the Wind Sing by Ted Goossen was published in 2015 in the magazine Monkey Business.

2) Norwegian Wood

Who dislikes it:

Most Japanese intellectuals. The novel was Murakami’s first great success, selling two million copies in the hardback edition. It incensed critics who resented the excessive popularity of the story and criticized it as superficial and disengaged from politics and society.

What it is about:

It talks about the student days of Murakami’s first protagonist to have a name, Toru Watanabe, during the years 1968-69, told retrospectively by Toru himself when he is in his late thirties. It focuses on Toru’s life at university and his relationship with two girls, the troubled Naoko and the more bubbly, if equally complex, Midori.

Why read it:

While critics dismiss its treatment of the student movement and of the social and political climate of late 1960s Japan as superficial, the story in fact offers an alternative insight into that time period from the perspective of ordinary young people of the time. Also, Midori’s description of perfect love: “…say I tell you I want to eat strawberry shortcake. And you stop everything you’re doing and run out and buy it for me. And you come back out of breath and get down on your knees and hold this strawberry shortcake out to me. And I say I don’t want it anymore and throw it out the window. That’s what I’m looking for.”

3) Kafka on the Shore

Who dislikes it:

Jay Rubin. Murakami’s most prolific translator famously decided that he didn’t like the book, and preferred not to translate it, so the publisher had to ask Philip Gabriel instead. Jay and Philip later collaborated on the translation of 1Q84.

What it is about:

The story is told as two parallel narratives, one following Tamura Kafka, a fifteen-year-old boy who runs away from his father’s home and travels to the island of Shikoku, and one following Nakata-san, a sixty-year-old man with a mental disability who can talk to cats. The two never meet, but their stories intersect at many points, and in the process they uncover several subplots centering on human relations and supernatural events.

Why read it:

It’s Murakami’s first novel to have a narrator different from the signature late twenties to early thirties boku; the characters of Kafka and Nakata have greater psychological complexity than other Murakami heroes while still retaining the same half-blasé, half-sensitive attitude. Plus Nakata’s conversations with the cats, and the scene where fish rain on the city, are priceless.

Chapter 29

Chapter Twenty-Nine Summary

Alisa Freedman, “Thumb-Generation Literature: The Rise and Fall of Japanese Cellphone Novels”

One of the most hotly debated popular literary forms of the twenty-first century has been “keitai shōsetsu,” novels written, predominantly with thumbs, on cellphones and circulated on specialized websites; some keitai shōsetsu have been published as best-selling print books and adapted into television dramas and feature films, among other media. The best-known keitai shōsetsu were written by amateur authors younger than thirty-five. The nickname “thumb tribe” (oyayubizoku), or “thumb generation” (oyayubi sedai), once signifying pachinko players, was applied as early as 2001 to youths’ adept at texting with their thumbs on their cellphones’ ten-key pads. I argue that cellphone novels should be viewed as a generational phenomenon that changed popular literature—generational in terms of technological developments and age of authors—generally lasting from the increased use of Japan’s “3G” (third generation) phones in 2001 to the dominance of touchscreen “smartphones.”

While overviewing the historical and social significance of keitai shōsetsu and the discourses about them, I analyze how keitai shōsetsu have reaffirmed, rather than undermined, the cultural significance of the print book and the dominance of the written word. Keitai shōsetsu were especially popular in Japan between 2005 and 2007, crucial years in the spread of the Internet and the globalization of Japanese popular culture. Although the trend waned in popularity after around 2008, keitai shōsetsu have had a lasting influence on how books and authors are defined.

Chapter Twenty-Nine Discussion Questions

Alisa Freedman, “Thumb-Generation Literature: The Rise and Fall of Japanese Cellphone Novels”

  1. What developments made cellphone novels possible? What caused the trend to end?
  2. Do you consider cellphone novels to be “literature”? Why or why not?
  3. How have cellphone novels changed notions of authors, readers, and books?
  4. Is it possible to write a novel entirely in emoticons? What would be lost and gained in forgoing written words for visual symbols? 
  5. What trends in Japanese popular culture do cellphone novels encapsulate?
  6. If you were to write a cellphone novel, what would be the storyline? Who would the characters be? What sort of visual qualities of the page, when read on a cellphone, would you need to consider? What penname would you take as a cellphone novelist? How would your story differ from the bestselling cellphone novels described in this chapter?

Chapter Twenty-Nine Suggested Readings

Alisa Freedman, “Thumb-Generation Literature: The Rise and Fall of Japanese Cellphone Novels”

Freedman, Alisa. 2009. “Train Man and the Gender Politics of Japanese ‘Otaku’ Culture: The Rise of New Media, Nerd Heroes and Consumer Communities.” Intersections 20. Online at

Goodyear, Dana. 2008. “I ♥ NOVELS: Young Women Develop a Genre for the Cellular Age.” The New Yorker, December 2. Online at♥-novels.

Dooley, Ben. 2008. “Big in Japan: A Cellphone Novel for You, the Reader.” The Millions, January 31. Online at English language cellphone novel circulation website.

Chapter 30

Chapter Thirty Summary

Damien Liu-Brennan, “Hanabi: The Cultural Significance of Fireworks in Japan”

In the Edo period (1603–1868), fireworks (hanabi) evolved from a simple amusement into a technologically advanced art form. This chapter argues that many of hanabi’s cultural nuances, communal uses, spatial associations, and symbolic meanings originating in the Edo period still influence Japanese daily life and popular culture today. Fireworks festivals (hanabi taikai) are held all over Japan especially in the summer, forming a “hanabi season,” and provide a reprieve from the formalities of everyday life, a communial celebratory space, and a chance for friendly competition. Hanabi’s other symbolic associations include the transience of life, a sense of nostalgia for lost times and youth, ephemeral beauty, and optimism for the future. One of the outstanding aspects of hanabi is that their culture developed among the general populace and generally remained free for public view, unlike in Europe where viewing fireworks was more under the control of the aristocracy and associated elites. As I will show, this makes hanabi a quintessential form of, and motif in, popular culture, arising from the common people and symbolizing their hopes and values.

Chapter Thirty Discussion Questions

Damien Liu-Brennan, “Hanabi: The Cultural Significance of Fireworks in Japan”

  1. How have hanabi influenced Japanese society and culture in both the present and in the past?
  2. Aside from fireworks other Edo period popular cultural forms still remain today such as seasonal festivals, kabuki, sushi, izakaya drinking, sumo, and some kimono. Discuss how a cultural form might transition from its origins into the modern era. Why do some cultural forms last and some disappear?
  3. Compare the culture surrounding fireworks that is discussed in this chapter to the way fireworks are used and appreciated in other countries?
  4. As hanabi culture continues to increase in popularity in Japan, their use is extending to all seasons of the year. Discuss whether you think this will affect traditional notions of hanabi as a summer seasonal event in Japan. How do things which previously were only enjoyed during festivals change in meaning when they become more available?
  5. Discuss how other seasonal images have been used in film, music, or advertising, what they convey, and how they enhance the cultural sense of their respective forms of media, in Japan and elsewhere.

Chapter Thirty Suggested Readings

Damien Liu-Brennan, “Hanabi: The Cultural Significance of Fireworks in Japan”

McClain, James L., John M. Merriman, and Kaoru Ugawa, eds. 1997. Edo and Paris: Urban Life and the State in the Early Modern Era. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Markus, Andrew L. 1985. “The Carnival of Edo: Misemono Spectacles from Contemporary Accounts.” Harvard Journal of Asian Studies 45(2) :499-541.

Nishiyama, Matsunosuke. 1997. Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 1600-1868. Translated by Gerald Groemer. Honolulu: Hawaii University Press.

Okuyama, Yoshiko. 2015. Japanese Mythology in Film: A Semiotic Approach to Reading Japanese Film and Anime. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Phillips, Alistair and Julian Stringer, eds. 2007. Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts. New York: Routledge.

Shirane, Haruo. 2012. Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hanabi References in Film and Song

Damien Liu-Brennan, “Hanabi: The Cultural Significance of Fireworks in Japan”


  1. Aiko. 1999. Hanabi (Fireworks). Pony Canyon.
    1. Release date 1999.08.04
    2. (Link to Single with link to PV)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  2. AKB48. 2007. Boku no uchiage hanabi (My Launched Fireworks). DefSTAR Records
    1. Release date 2007.03.07
    2. (Link to Album: “Team K 2nd Stage (Seishun Girls)”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  3. Arashi. 2012. Hanabi (Fireworks). J Storm.
    1. Release date 2012.06.06
    2. (Link to Single: “Your Eyes”. ‘Hanabi’ is B-side)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Single: “Your Eyes” Wiki)
    5. (Artist Wiki)
  4. BEGIN. 2004. Natsu no hanabi (Summer Fireworks). Imperial Records.
    1. Release date 2004.07.14
    2. (Link to Album: “Ocean Line”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  5. ClariS. 2013. Hanabi (Fireworks). SME Records.
    1. Release date 2013.06.26
    2. (Link to Album: “Second Story”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  6. Dreams Come True. 1992. Ano natsu no hanabi (That Summer’s Fireworks). Epic/Sony Records.
    1. Release date 1992.11.14
    2. (Link to Album: “The Swinging Star”)
    3. (Album Wiki)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Artist Wiki)
  7. Fukuhara Miho. 2009. Hanabi Sky (Fireworks Sky). Sony Music Japan.
    1. Release date 2009.06.17
    2. (Link to Single with preview)
    3. (Song lyrics)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Artist Wiki)
  8. Hamasaki Ayumi. 2002. Hanabi (Fireworks). Avex Trax.
    1. Release date 2002.12.18
    2. (Link to Album: “Rainbow”. Click on the album link for song preview)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  9. Hirakawa Ayaka. 2003. Jupiter. Dream Music.
    1. Release date 2003.12.17
    2. (Link to Single)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  10. Inoue Yōsui. 1990. Shōnen jidai (Boyhood). For Life Entertainment.
    1. Release date 1990.10.12
    2. (Link to Album: “Handsome Boy”)
    3. (Album Wiki)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Artist Wiki)
  11. KAT-TUN. 2009.  Shunkashūtō (Four Seasons). J-One Records.
    1. Release date 2009.04.29
    2. (Link to Album: “Break the Records – by you & for you -”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  12. Ketsumeishi. 2001. Yoru kaze (Evening Breeze). Toy’s Factory.
    1. Release date 2001.06.27
    2. (Link to Single. Scroll to release date 2001.06.27 for song preview)
    3. (Link to preview of PV)
    4. (Link to lyrics)
    5. (Official artist website)
    6. (Artist Wiki)
  13. Ketsumeishi. 2014. Shōnen to hanabi (Youth and Fireworks). Avex Group.
    1. Release date 2014.07.23
    2. (Link to Album: “Ketsunopolis 9”)
    3. (Link to lyrics)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Artist Wiki)
  14. Kusumi Koharu. 2007. Koi hanabi (Love Fireworks). Zetima.
    1. Released 2007.02.28
    2. (Link to Album Wiki: “Mitsuboshi”)
    3. (Official Blog)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  15. Mr. Children. 1992. Kimi ga ita natsu (The Summer That You Were Here). Toy’s Factory.
    1. Release date 1992.08.21
    2. (Link to Single. Scroll to release date 1992.08.21)
    3. (Link to single - at record label website)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Artist website at record label)
    6. (Artist Wiki)
  16. Mr Children. 2008. Hanabi (Fireworks). Toy’s Factory.
    1. Release date 2008.09.03
    2. (Link to Single. Scroll to release date 2008.09.03)
    3. (Link to single - at record label website)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Artist website at record label)
    6. (Artist Wiki)
  17. MONKEY MAJIK. 2007. Kōchō (Morning Light). Binyl Records.
    1. Release date 2007.7.25
    2. (Link to Album “Sora wa marude”. Scroll to release date 2007.7.25)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  18. Nanase Aikawa. 2000. Hanabi ga owarukoro (By the End of the Fireworks). MotoRod.
    1. Release date 2000.02.16
    2. (Link to Album “Foxtrot”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  19. NEWS. 2013. Koi matsuri (Love Festival). Johnny’s Entertainment.
    1. Release date 2013.07.17
    2. (Link to Album “Foxtrot”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  20. Ōtsuka Ai. 2004. Kingyō hanabi (Goldfish Fireworks). Avex Trax.
    1. Release date 2004.11.17
    2. (Link to Album: “Love Jam”)
    3. (Song Wiki)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Artist Wiki)
  21. Remioromen. 2005. Shunkashūtō (Four Seasons). Speedstar Records.
    1. Release date: 2005.3.9
    2. (Link to Album: “Ether”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  22. Scandal. 2013. Uchiage hanabi (Skyrocket). Epic Records Japan.
    1. Release date 2013.10.02
    2. (Link to Album: “Standard”. Click on song for preview)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  23. SMAP. 1993. Hanashi wo shite itatuke (I Want to Keep Talking). Victor Entertainment.
    1. Release date 1993.11.11
    2. (B-side of Single: “$10”)
    3. (B-side of Single: “$10”; Official agent website)
    4. (Official artist website)
    5. (Official agent website)
    6. (Artist Wiki)
  24. Southern All Stars. 2004. Kimi koso star da (You Are a Star). Victor Entertainment.
    1. Release date 2004.07.21
    2. (Official artist website)
    3. (Artist Wiki)
  25. Supercell. 2010. Utakata hanabi / Hoshi ga matataku konna yoru ni (Transient Fireworks / Twinkling Stars in the Night). Sony Music Japan.
    1.  Release date 2010.08.25
    2. (Link to Single with link to audio and PV preview)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  26. Utada Hikaru. 2002. Play Ball. EMI Music Japan.
    1. Release date 2002.06.19 
    2. (Link to Album: “Deep River”)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)
  27. Yanawaraba. 2008. Shōnen jidai (Boyhood). Papaya Records Japan.
    1. Release date 2002.06.19
    2. (Link to Album: “Nagiuta” with song preview)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki (Japanese))
  28. Zone. 2003. H.A.N.A.N.A.B.I  - Kimi ga ita natsu (H.A.N.A.N.A.B.I - The Summer That You Were Here). Sony Music.
    1. Release date 2003.07.30
    2. (Link to Single with links to audio and video preview)
    3. (Official artist website)
    4. (Artist Wiki)

Films and Documentaries:

  1. Katō Mitsuyoshi, director. 2007. Bi no tsubo – kanshō maniyuaru: file 58 – hanabi (The Mark of Beauty – Viewing Manual: File 58 – Fireworks). NHK.
  2. Kitano Takeshi, director. 1997. HANA-BI (Fireworks). Japan: Channel Neko.
  3. Kunimoto Masahiro, director. 2010. Oniichan no hanabi (Fireworks From the Heart). Japan: Go! Cinema.
    1. (no longer active)
  4. Mizushima Seiji, director. 2007. Ōedo roketto (Oh! Edo Rocket). Japan: Madhouse.
  5. Obayashi Nobuhiko, director. 2012. Kono sora no hana: Nagaoka hanabi monogatari (Casting Blossoms into the Sky: The Story of Nagaoka Fireworks). Japan: PSC and TM Entertainment.
  6. Shinoda Masahiro, director. 1995. Sharaku. Japan: Shochiku-Fuji.
  7. Sueda Takeshi, director. 2004. Kingyō hanabi (Goldfish Fireworks). Avex.
  8. Suo Masayuji, director. 2014. Maiko wa Lady (Lady Maiko). Tōhō Company.

Other Websites:

Light Up Nippon. 2011-2015.

Chapter 31

Chapter Thirty-One Summary

Sharalyn Orbaugh, “Kamishibai: The Fantasy Space of the Urban Street Corner”

Kamishibai (literally, “paper theater”) is a commingled medium that combines picture, script, and performance popular in the urban centers of Japan from the late 1920s to the early 1970s. A form of street theater, kamishibai appealed particularly to children of the urban laboring classes. When kamishibai disappeared from the urban street corner (machikado), the street corner itself changed. Kamishibai’s significance did not disappear when it left the streets, however. It was a direct ancestor of manga and anime, influenced postwar playwrights and filmmakers, and is used today in a variety of venues to communicate affectively rich and often politically charged messages to audiences of all ages.

This chapter addresses how kamishibai produced a significant social space, specifically the space of the street corner in the 1930s, and the connections between this production of space and the social imaginary. I elucidate the ways that the fantasy space produced by kamishibai was used during the war years to construct and maintain an imperial social imaginary capable of encompassing a range of classes, in both urban and rural areas, in Japan, on the battlefield, and in the colonies. I argue that, despite its humble origins as an entertainment medium for children, kamishibai contributed significantly to the construction of the social and national/imperial imaginaries in modernizing Japan in the 1930s and 1940s.

Chapter Thirty-One Discussion Questions

Sharalyn Orbaugh, “Kamishibai: The Fantasy Space of the Urban Street Corner”

  1. How is kamishibai similar to other Japanese popular cultural forms, such as manga, anime, or live-action cinema? Thinking of kamishibai as a communications medium, how is it unique in the ways it delivers its messages?
  2. What aspects of kamishibai’s production and distribution system made it possible for the stories and pictures to appeal directly to children’s taste, bypassing the usual regulatory structures?
  3. Kamishibai is associated in many people’s minds with the laboring classes. How did this class affiliation increase its usefulness as a medium for propaganda during the war?
  4. How can the evanescent “spaces” of street corner kamishibai be considered “tactical” (in de Certeau’s terms), rather than as the “proper places” mandated by city planners?
  5. Because kamishibai and cinema were developing at the same time, they share many mutual influences. Kamishibai illustrations borrowed “camera angles” and particular kinds of “shots” from cinema. What kinds of techniques do you think cinema borrowed from kamishibai?

Chapter Thirty-One Suggested Readings

Sharalyn Orbaugh, “Kamishibai: The Fantasy Space of the Urban Street Corner”

Orbaugh, Sharalyn. 2015. Propaganda Performed: Kamishibai in Japan's Fifteen-Year War. Leiden: Brill.

Nash, Eric P. 2009. Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 

Orbaugh, Sharalyn. 2012. “Kamishibai and the Art of the Interval.” Mechademia 7: Lines of Sight, edited by Frenchy Lunning, 78-100. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Kang Jun. 2007. Kamishibai to “bukiminamono” tachi no kindai (Kamishibai and the Modernity of "Uncanny" Things). Tokyo: Seikyūsha. 

Chapter 32

Chapter Thirty-Two Summary

Izumi Kuroishi, “Shibuya: Reflective Identity in Transforming Urban Space”

This chapter examines how the relationship between urban development, consumer culture, and lifestyles around Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s trendy neighborhoods, changed from the years following World War II through the twenty-first century and discusses how these factors combined to create a sense of reflective identity of the people of this area. I argue that much can be learned about the historical and social background of Tokyo’s spatial formation by examining the transformation of Shibuya as a part of a larger process of the modernization of urban space and popular culture and by considering the marketing of Shibuya’s retail space. Such analysis also reveals contradictions inherent in planning the diverse function of cities and how people use them. I draw from the business policies of both major department store companies and small local shops sustained in the backstreets and key theories of urban studies, especially those premised on fieldwork, to argue that understanding Shibuya’s space is crucial to knowing the development of Tokyo’s popular culture.

Chapter Thirty-Two Discussion Questions

Izumi Kuroishi, “Shibuya: Reflective Identity in Transforming Urban Space”

  1. As this chapter has argued, popular culture has influenced the urban design and the construction of buildings and spaces within Shibuya, and, at the same time, these buildings and spaces have influenced popular culture. Please explain what the author means by this statement. Has this interaction of popular culture and urban growth been found in other Tokyo neighborhoods or world cities?
  2. The developer, Tsutsumi Seiji, and planner, Matsuda Tsuji, both stressed the need to create a “theatrical experience” and a “sense of spectacle” when people came to Shibuya. What are some factors that make urban space “theatrical” or a “spectacle”? To what degree are we conscious of them?
  3. Natural geography is usually a defining feature of an urban design and dictates how the intimate spaces, like cafes and shops, connect to public spaces like squares and streets. But the design of Shibuya has developed around a network of trains, metros, and highways. How do you think this has changed the way Shibuya has developed?
  4. Shibuya is undoubtedly one of the centers of Japanese popular culture. What about its physical space, and the history and politics of that space’s ongoing development, might have made it such a place?
  5. How has the rivalry between Tokyu and Seibu Corporations shaped Shibuya? How would the space have been different had only one corporation controlled all the real estate and there had been no competition to for the attention of young consumers?

Chapter Thirty-Two Suggested Readings

Izumi Kuroishi, “Shibuya: Reflective Identity in Transforming Urban Space”

Clammer, John. 1997. Contemporary Urban Japan: A Sociology of Consumption. First edition. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell.

Havens, Thomas. 1996. Architects of Affluence: The Tsutsumi Family and the Seibu Enterprises in Twentieth-Century Japan. Cambridge: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1996.

Koolhaas, Rem. 2002. The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping: Project on the City (Taschen specials), Cologne.

Chapter 33

Chapter Thirty-Three Summary

Patrick W. Galbraith, “Akihabara: Promoting and Policing ‘Otaku’ in ‘Cool Japan’”

On September 16, 2007, Asō Tarō, who was campaigning to become Prime Minister of Japan, held a rally in Akihabara. The location was symbolic, as stores in the Tokyo neighborhood had long been the place to buy electronics made in Japan, a source of national pride, and were now the place to buy Japanese anime, which was gaining popularity in North America, another source of national pride. Asō said, in part, “Thanks to otaku, Japanese culture, what has been called a subculture, has undoubtedly been transmitted to the world.” In this claim, not only does Asō conflate Japanese culture with subculture, but also claims that otaku, or manga/anime fans, are its ambassadors. In fact, the opposite was true: in Akihabara in 2007, otaku were coming to be seen as disruptive and deviant. Based on participant observation in Akihabara in the mid to late 2000s, this chapter shows how otaku were problematically incorporated into “Cool Japan” and how the meeting of national and subcultural politics generated friction that was resolved by increased surveillance and disciplining of bodily performance.

Chapter Thirty-Three Discussion Questions

Patrick W. Galbraith, “Akihabara: Promoting and Policing ‘Otaku’ in ‘Cool Japan’”

  1. How did Akihabara, a neighborhood in Tokyo, become the “Holy Land of Otaku”?
  2. What is the idea of “Cool Japan” and how does Akihabara fit into it? 
  3. Why were “otaku” marching in the Akihabara Liberation Demonstration?
  4. Why were some “otaku” labeled as weird? What was weird about them?
  5. The main street of Akihabara is more monitored by cameras, police and citizen patrols than many other parts of Tokyo. Why might that be?

Chapter Thirty-Three Suggested Readings

Patrick W. Galbraith, “Akihabara: Promoting and Policing ‘Otaku’ in ‘Cool Japan’”

Galbraith, Patrick W. 2012. Otaku Spaces. Seattle: Chin Music Press.

Leheny, David. 2006. “A Narrow Place to Cross Swords: ‘Soft Power’ and the Politics of Japanese Popular Culture in East Asia.” Beyond Japan: The Dynamics of East Asian Regionalism, edited by Peter J. Katzenstein and Takashi Shiraishi, 211-233. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Morikawa, Ka’ichirō. 2012. “Otaku and the City: The Rebirth of Akihabara.” Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World, edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe and Izumi Tsuji, 133-157. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Chapter 34

Chapter Thirty-Four Summary

Tong Lam, “Japan Lost and Found: Modern Ruins as Debris of the Economic Miracle”

Haikyo, literally “ruins,” is an activity that mostly involves young people seeking adventure in abandoned places scattered across Japan. The haikyo movement, which is gaining participants and fans, involves visiting sites, photographing them, and sharing the photographs online and through books and other media. The transformation of Japan into a postindustrial society left behind numerous industrial sites for these modern ruins enthusiasts. But the “economic tsunami” that hit Japan in the so-called “Lost Decades” of the 1990s and 2000s created an added inventory of abandoned places that once represented the splendor of Japanese consumerism.

In this chapter, I draw on my experience as a photographer of two types of modern ruins—industrial and postindustrial—to reflect on the haikyo phenomena. I examine the social, technological, and historical conditions that have made the mass production and consumption haikyo imagery possible. I also suggest that although modern Japanese ruins, especially when they appear in the form of dystopic fantasies, provide endless opportunities for entertainment, the physical ruins themselves are more than playgrounds. As the debris of history, these sites reveal the past dreams and ambitions that have long been buried by the new social and economic conditions. The exploration of ruins, in this respect, has the potential to create critical awareness of Japan’s recent neoliberal trends, where job security and economic confidence have been washed away by privatization, globalization, and financialization. More than being just a popular pastime, haikyo may therefore provide redemptive and liberating alternatives.

Chapter Thirty-Four Discussion Questions

Tong Lam, “Japan Lost and Found: Modern Ruins as Debris of the Economic Miracle”

  1. How are modern ruins different from ancient ruins?
  2. Are modern industrial and postindustrial ruins uniquely Japanese or are they part of a global phenomenon?
  3. How is the boom of Japanese ruins culture related to other forms of popular culture?
  4. What is the relationship between ruin culture and online media?
  5. How do Japanese ruin enthusiasts and artists use ruins to critique and reflect on the history of modern Japan’s political-economic transformations?

Chapter Thirty-Four Suggested Readings

Tong Lam, “Japan Lost and Found: Modern Ruins as Debris of the Economic Miracle”

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham: Duke University Press.

Boym, Svetlana. 2001. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books.

Garrett, Bradley. 2013. Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City. London: Verso.

Lam, Tong. 2013. Abandoned Futures: A Journey to the Posthuman World. Darlington: Carpet Bombing Culture.

Tong Lam, “Japan Lost and Found: Modern Ruins as Debris of the Economic Miracle”

Tong Lam, “Unreal Estate” (Photo Portfolio):

Chapter 35

Chapter Thirty-Five Summary

Toby Slade, “Cute Fashion: The Social Strategies and Aesthetics of Kawaii

What is kawaii, the Japanese version of cute or adorable? How did it become so ubiquitous in Japan? To many, kawaii would appear to be an aesthetic preference that has always existed in Japanese popular culture; yet this chapter traces the beginnings of the modern manifestation of the aesthetic of kawaii to the early 1970s, a period immediately following significant political and social unrest. While some aspects can be traced earlier, especially kawaii’s prevalence in manga and anime, this is when it fully entered fashion and self-styling.

As I will demonstrate, while kawaii originally became popular in fashion and self-styling as a political statement of rebellion, it has developed its own self-sustaining logic. It has shed much of its rebellious role, increasingly becoming an aesthetic disconnected from its original purpose. Fashion often stands somewhere between the worlds of high art and popular culture, claiming occasionally a central role in both. One thing that kawaii fashion still does, however, is destabilize the distinctions of high and low by holding up a mirror to social and cultural structures that claim the space of maturity and seriousness by being deliberately neither. Kawaii is a central element of Japanese popular culture providing not just a contemporary look but also a set of behavioral norms and expectations.

Chapter Thirty-Five Discussion Questions

Toby Slade, “Cute Fashion: The Social Strategies and Aesthetics of Kawaii

  1. What is cute? How does it function as a phenomenon with a purpose and a something without utility that is purely aesthetic?
  2. Do you think there is anything different about the aesthetic of cute in Japan and the aesthetic of cute elsewhere?
  3. Do you agree with the author that cute has a political element to it? And if so what do you think the agenda is?
  4. When is the use of cute ironic and when is it not ironic? Can you think of examples?
  5. What are the issues involved when the aesthetic of cute goes beyond characters, manga, and anime and enters our own self-styling and fashion?
  6. Do you think cute self-styling is a positive thing for women or a negative thing? How about men?

Chapter Thirty-Five Suggested Readings

Toby Slade, “Cute Fashion: The Social Strategies and Aesthetics of Kawaii

Kinsella, Sharon. 1995. “Cuties in Japan.” Women Media and Consumption in Japan. Edited by Lise Skov and Brian Moeran. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Lorenz, Konrad. 1969. King Solomon’s Ring. Translated by Marjorie Kerr Wilson. London: Methuen.

Sontag, Susan. 1978. “Notes on ‘Camp’.” Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Octagon Books.

Kawaguchi, Morinosuke. 2007. Geeky-Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturalist’s Guide to Technology and Design. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press.

Vending machine filled with cute toys in Shinjuku

Vending machine filed with cute toys in Shinjuku, 2016. Courtesy of Toby Slade.

Chapter 36

Chapter Thirty-Six Summary

Narumi Hiroshi, “Made in Japan: A New Generation Fashion Designers”

In the 2000s, a new generation of fashion designers emerged in Japan. Dissatisfied with the globalizing fashion system, they have developed their own unique designs by rediscovering Japanese traditions and craftmanship rather than by following the latest fashion trends. This chapter examines six influential brands to understand how Japanese designers have redefined notions of “Japaneseness” in the age of globalization and thereby influenced popular culture with their clothing. By overviewing the history of “hybrid clothing” in Japan, I examine how practitioners and designers have struggled to bridge the gap between different traditions and cultures and the goals they tried to attain. Through these considerations, I address issues of cultural identity in Japanese fashion.

Chapter Thirty-Six Discussion Questions

Narumi Hiroshi, “Made in Japan: A New Generation Fashion Designers”

  1. How has globalization affected the Japanese fashion industry?
  2. How did Japanese fashion designers of the early 2000s define “creativity”?
  3. Which designer discussed in this chapter interested you most? Why?
  4. What are some differences between young fashion designers in Japan and in other countries?
  5. How much influence does a designer have in the creation of a fashion culture, as opposed to consumers?

Chapter Thirty-Six Suggested Readings

Narumi Hiroshi, “Made in Japan: A New Generation Fashion Designers”

Keet, Philomena. 2007. The Tokyo Look Book. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

Steele, Valerie, Patricia Mears, Yuniya Kawamura, and Hiroshi Narumi. 2010. Japan Fashion Now. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Takagi, Yoko, Hiroshi Narumi, Mariko Nishitani, and Motoaki Hori, eds. 2012. Feel and Think: A New Era of Tokyo Fashion. Munich: Prestel.

Chapter 37

Chapter Thirty-Seven Summary

Masafumi Monden, “Clean-Cut: Men’s Fashion Magazines, Male Aesthetic Ideals, and Social Affinity in Japan”

Despite a recent decline in overall magazine sales, the Japanese market for men’s fashion magazines continues to be strong. Japanese men’s fashion magazines are diverse in their stylistic categories, which closely correspond to specific target readerships; magazine contents focus more on fashion than lifestyle topics. Another characteristic is the use of “dokusha” models (amateur models, literally, “reader models”) who are often discovered on the street or are selected through periodic auditions. This chapter argues these and other aspects of Japanese men’s fashion magazines are part of their attempt to maintain an extreme sensitivity to social changes and trends, as well to promote an affinity between readers and contents (and by extension images of masculinity) that the magazines endorse. A study of subjectivity and aesthetics unearthed in these publications provides a deeper understanding of men’s relationship with fashion, appearance, and conceptions of (changing) gender identity.

Chapter Thirty-Seven Discussion Questions

Masafumi Monden, “Clean-Cut: Men’s Fashion Magazines, Male Aesthetic Ideals, and Social Affinity in Japan”

  1. How might Japanese male fashion magazines construct notions of masculinity? Describe the process.
  2. What are the various male aesthetic ideals presented in Japanese magazines? How are they different from those in other countries?
  3. How do you think the inclusion of amateur fashion models changes Japanese magazine culture?
  4. How did you choose the outfit you are wearing today? Were you influenced by magazines and other media?
  5. If you were to be an amateur model, what would you want to wear? Why? What kind of photo shoot would you like to appear in?
  6. To what extent do you think sexuality is socially constructed and biologically determined? What is the role of magazines in this?

Chapter Thirty-Seven Suggested Readings

Masafumi Monden, “Clean-Cut: Men’s Fashion Magazines, Male Aesthetic Ideals, and Social Affinity in Japan”

Bartlett, Djurdja, Shaun Cole, and Agnès Rocamora, eds. 2013. Fashion Media: Past and Present. London: Bloomsbury.

Moeran, Brian. 2006. “Elegance and Substance Travel East: Vogue Nippon.” Fashion Theory 10 (1/2): 225–258.

Ushikubo, Megumi. 2008. Sōshoku-kei danshi [ojō -man] ga nihon wo kaeru (Herbivorous Men [Ladylike Men] Change Japan. Tokyo: Kōdansha +a shinsho.

Monden, Masafumi. 2015. Japanese Fashion Cultures: Dress and Gender in Contemporary Japan. London: Bloomsbury.

Chapter 38

Chapter Thirty-Eight Summary

Tom Looser, “Superflat Life”

This chapter provides a summary overview of Superflat art. Focusing especially on the principal series of exhibits curated by Murakami Takashi, the chapter covers both a spectrum of Superflat artists and a sense of the movement’s trajectory. This includes a sense of the implications of the defining material conditions (associated with but not defined by digital technologies); the relation between these conditions and the idea of culture, history, and nation that are produced by them; and the role that Superflat played in positioning itself between art, commerce, and the mass/subculture of the otaku in particular.

Chapter Thirty-Eight Discussion Questions

Tom Looser, ‘Superflat Life”

  1. What is the tie between flatness in artistic media and modernity? And how then does flatness differ from Superflatness?
  2. What are some of the fundamental differences between Azuma Hiroki’s definition of Superflat and Murakami Takashi’s idea of the Superflat?
  3. If Superflat describes a historical shift in subjectivity, could one say that this is the expression of a specific technology (e.g., digital technologies), or medium (e.g., anime), or economic value system?
  4. Is it accurate to think of Superflat art as a “global” form? What are the dynamics of global and local in the world of Superflat?
  5. If Superflat gives us an image of our world—a kind of subject self-image—in ways that at least hint at real changes from a more classically modernist subject, does this appear to be a positive thing, socially or politically speaking? A bad thing? In what ways is it an open image of life, and in what ways is it instead perhaps totalizing and closed?

Chapter Thirty-Eight Suggested Readings

Tom Looser, “Superflat Life”

Azuma Hiroki. 2000. “Superflat Japanese Postmodernity.” Available online at

Murakami Takashi. 2000. Supa furatto = super flat. Tokyo: Madora Shuppan.

Murakami Takashi. 2003. Summon Monsters? Open the Door? Heal? Or Die? Tokyo: Kaikai Kiki.

Murakami Takashi. 2005. Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Chapter 39

Chapter Thirty-Nine Summary

Adrian Favell, “Aida Makoto: Notes from an Apathetic Continent”

Aida Makoto’s art repeatedly touches a raw nerve in uncomfortable aspects of Japanese national culture: anti-American and anti-Asia resentment, failed masculinity, homelessness, misogyny, the trashiness of consumer culture, and countless other aspects of modern urban life not visible in the sleek, high-tech “Cool Japan” with which Japan prefers to brand itself. His oeuvre is a vast and spectacular multi-genre production, spanning painting, installations, video and performance, with extraordinary technical skill, and a huge influence on younger artists. Together, his works can be seen as raucously funny and sometimes perverse reflection on the dilemmas of the prodigal homegrown artist with little potential for translation outside of the ambivalent historical, political and social reference points that animate his work. A key contrast can be made with the career of Aida's main rival, Murakami Takashi, better known internationally with his more accessible “Superflat” art that promotes a more superficial understanding of Japanese popular culture abroad.

Chapter Thirty-Nine Discussion Questions

Adrian Favell, “Aida Makoto: Notes from an Apathetic Continent”

  1. Are Aida Makoto's works simply misogynist or can they be understood as a critique of dominant attitudes on gender and sexuality in Japan?
  2. Why are images of young girls apparently so prevalent in Japanese contemporary art?
  3. How does Aida's War Picture Returns series of works reflect problematic historical and political relations between Japan and (both) the United States and Asian neighbors?
  4. How might Aida be compared and evaluated in relation to Murakami Takashi?
  5. Can Aida's work be properly appreciated outside of an Asian context, i.e., in the “West”? Will it be better recognized and appreciated in the future?

Chapter Thirty-Nine Suggested Readings

Adrian Favell, “Aida Makoto: Notes from an Apathetic Continent”

Aida Makoto. 2012. Tensai de gome nasai (Sorry for Being a Genius). Monument for Nothing. Exhibition catalogue. Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, November 17, 2012 – March 31, 2013.

Favell, Adrian. 2012. Before and After Superflat: A Short History of Japanese Contemporary Art 1990-2011. Hong Kong: Blue Kingfisher/DAP.

Larking, Matthew. 2013. “Nihonga Beside Itself: Contemporary Japanese Art’s Engagement with the Position and Meaning of a Modern Painting Tradition.” Literature and Aesthetics 23, (2): 24-37.

Chapter 40

Chapter Forty Summary

James Jack, “Art from What is Already There on Naoshima and Other Islands in the Seto Inland Sea”

Art is encountered in unusual ways in the islands of the Seto Inland Sea: a colorful public bathhouse made with parts from a fishing boat, a sex museum, and a black-and-white film or a community house infused with paper wishes, a tranquil interior, and a contemplative stone garden. People discontented with the speed of Tokyo are coming to the islands in increasing numbers. Commencing in the 1990s and continuing today, art activities presented in the Setouchi Triennale (2010, 2013, and 2016) are re-envisioning the “unpopular” to create gathering places that are bringing increasing fame to the region.

This chapter examines alternative visions of popular culture through two permanent art works and the cooperative networks associated with them; Naoshima Bath (I YU, 2009) by artist Ohtake Shinro and Sunset House: The House as Language of Being (2010) by James Jack. Working with recycled materials available on the islands and including the hopes and dreams of the community in the structures open alternatives to the commercial aims of popular culture, which engage communities in the sustained life of the artworks over time. Through cooperative artworks such as these, culture is produced collectively by multiple participants in rural areas. Herein, the potential for art to change society with creative arrangements of “what is already there” (Ohtake 2005) is transforming the islands into a place where pursuing dreams is possible.

Chapter Forty Discussion Questions

James Jack, “Art from What is Already There on Naoshima and Other Islands in the Seto Inland Sea”

  1. What are some differences between rural and urban lifestyles in Japan?
  2. In what ways are cooperative artworks transforming this island region?
  3. What are “orderly aspects” of culture production? How about “disorderly aspects”?
  4. Is it possible to apply methods from what is occurring in the Setouchi Triennale to other regions in Japan? Or in the world?
  5. Can art change society?

Chapter Forty Suggested Readings

James Jack, “Art from What is Already There on Naoshima and Other Islands in the Seto Inland Sea”

Akimoto Yūji. 2002. THE STANDARD. Okayama: Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum.

Jack, James. 2013. “Unearthing the Seto Inland Sea’s Social Landscapes.” Japan Times, March 28. Online at seas-social-landscapes/.

Kitagawa Fram. 2015. Art Place Japan: The Echigo-Tsumari Triennale and the Vision to Reconnect Art and Nature. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Naoshima Meeting V: Art, Region, Locality: Between Macro and Micro Perspectives. 2000. Tokyo: Benesse Corporation.

James Jack, “Art from What is Already There on Naoshima and Other Islands in the Seto Inland Sea”

James Jack Artist Website --

“Sunset House.” Courtesy of James Jack – These images, taken in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2016, give a sense of the long span of time for collaborative aspects of the artwork.

James Jack Contemporary Art Sunset House 2008

“Sunset House.” Images courtesy of James Jack

James Jack Contemporary Art Sunset House 2010

“Sunset House.” Images courtesy of James Jack

JJCon Art SunsetHouseSatsuki_performance 2011

“Sunset House.” Images courtesy of James Jack

James Jack Contemporary Art Sunset House 2016

“Sunset House.” Images courtesy of James Jack