The organizers of the 桜SGMS: Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Cultures, which will run at Aoyama Gakuin University (Tokyo, Japan) over this weekend (March 18-20) have now announced the full program for this event. The theme for this international conference “Conflicts of Interest in Anime, Manga, and Gaming”, and the program will consist of a total of twelve themed panel sessions, with over 40 individual presentations. It will also feature plenary addresses by Takayuki Tatsumi, who teaches at the Department of English, Keio University, and has been described as “one of Japan’s leading cultural critics”, author and science fiction critic Mari Kotani, and Vince Shortino, Executive Vice President of Japan Channels at Crunchyroll, Inc., the leading global platform for internet streaming of anime and other Asian video content, a “Cosplay: In Costume and Performance” workshop, and a “micro-museum” curated by the photographer, writer, and installation artist Eron Rauch.
Mechademia’s keynote address will be presented by Prof. Hiroshi Deguchi (Department of Computational Intelligence and Systems Science, Tokyo Institute of Technology), one of the founders of Comiket and a co-editor of the forthcoming essay collection The Rise of Japanese Visual Narratives: Cultural, Institutional, and Industrial Aspects of Reproducible Contents (Springer). Other speakers who will be participating in Mechademia include both a number of established who have written and lectured on anime/manga extensively, among them Deborah Shamoon, Marco Pellitteri, Akiko Sugawa-Shimada, Renato Rivera Rusca, Stevie Suan, Wendy Goldberg, Heike Hoffer and Andrea Horbinski, and scholars who are just entering the field. Just some of the specific talks on the program include:
- Mobile Suit Gundam War Narratives
- Romantic Love and the ‘Housewife Trap’: A Gendered Reading of The Cat Returns
- The Heretical Lineage: Images of Rural Blasphemy in Lovecraft and Lovecraftian Manga
- The Postmodern Magical Girl: The Evolution and Contemporary Representation of the Mahô Shôjo Genre
- Musical World-Making in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
- Performing Differently: Convention, Medium, and Globality from Manga (Studies) to Anime (Studies)
桜SGMS: Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Cultures – full program
Friday, March 18:
Session I: 12:45 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Edmund W. Hoff, Frenchy Lunning
Panel 1 – Impact of the Global Expansion of Cosplay
Convener: Edmund W. Hoff
In the post war period, anime and manga of Japan has seen popular expansion around the world. Initially enjoyed through bookstores and on television, they have come to be consumed in various forms. This panel will explore the extent to which cosplay has had an impact in coordination with this global spread. Edmund Hoff will look at the soft power and hard power relations of two nations with long histories of costuming, the United States and Japan. In a world where cosplay has come to be enjoyed in many countries, Lillian Ruan will examine the global popularity of cosplay in relation to the relatively robust marketing machines of other contents from Japan. Tiffany Lim will discuss the implications of online social media on cosplay communities and with the Filipino cosplay community as a focal point she will consider presentation, esteem, and image of the self. With locations in India as a case study for the popular expansion of Japanese pop culture, Sharmishtha Rawat will explore the forms in which this culture has taken root and the various forms of interaction with greater society. Discussion will span a wide geographic range and share a common association in cosplay and its varied implications.
- All the Internet’s a Stage: Online Identity and Impression Management Practices of the Filipino Cosplay Community
Through participant observation, interviews, surveys, and informal discussions, this ethnography of the Filipino cosplay community examines the implications of cosplayers’ sharing of photos on online social media. Using Erving Goffman’s concept of self-presentation as a performance as a launching point, the study examines whether cosplaying empowers or damages cosplayers’ self-esteem. It asserts that the Internet is a stage for cosplayers to perform not only their fan identity but also to elevate their self-esteem through photo-sharing. Consequently, they boost their self-esteem, gain subcultural capital, and possibly even recognition or popularity. However, privacy and self-image are not completely in one’s hands, so photos can end up anywhere and possibly receive negative attention. Nevertheless, the study suggests that cosplay itself is beneficial to one’s self-esteem. But whether the totality of the cosplay experience is empowering or damaging to self-esteem depends on several factors: cosplay itself, one’s disposition, and the behavior of other members of the cosplay community.
- Cosplayers in the Military – Intersections of Soft and Hard Power
Edmund W. Hoff (Aoyama Gakuin University)
The US Military has had a presence in Japan since World War II and continues to host soldiers throughout the peninsula. Forces stationed in the region act as a deterrent and are a physical representation of hard power and coercive diplomacy in the Asia Pacific. The postwar era has proven to be an extended period of peace in Japan and it is during this time that manga and anime have developed into a popular forms of media. Military stationed outside of US recognize Japan is a placement that is less prone to active engagement — and growing up with a certain amount of Japanese pop culture in the US — they are open to (if not seek out) otaku-related contents. This presentation will deal with cosplayers who are or have been active in the US military and their experiences navigating this notable convergence of soft and hard power.
- Cosplay in Globalization: The Case of China’s Grand Cosplay Awards and Japan’s World Cosplay Summit
Lillian Ruan (Graduate University of Advanced Studies)
Cosplay, started as a role-playing activity among fans of Japan’s anime, manga and games since 1990s, is now crossing the borders and winning its popularity among the world. Today, there is even a cosplay annual championship, the World Cosplay Summit, held in Nagoya Japan and attended by representatives from 26 countries and regions. How did cosplay go global and stand for Japan without intense marketing as that of Pokémon and Hello Kitty? How to situate the global flow of cosplay in the theories of globalization? This paper tries to shed lights on these questions by referring to China’s Grand Cosplay Awards and Japan’s World Cosplay Summit.
- The Indian Otaku: A Study on the Emerging Japanese Pop Culture Fandom in India
Sharmishtha Singh Rawat (Nagoya University)
This study presents a preliminary field research- based on semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and participant observation conducted primarily in three metropolitan cities: Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru – about the growing manga and anime fan communities in India. For the last decade or so, India has been witnessing an increasing fascination and engagement by many there with Japanese pop culture goods. The nation was swept by a remarkable craze for Pokémon leading to the dubbing of the anime into numerous Indian languages for the viewership of a very vast and linguistically diverse people. Shinchan themed Rakhis (traditional bracelets) are decorating the wrists of Indian kids. Anime and manga fan communities are popping up in numerous cities spanning the width of the country. This paper follows the patterns of anime and manga consumption by the Indian fan community, their interaction with the non-anime watching community, and the various means used by these fans to express their fascination with these cultural goods such as through fan art, publishing indigenous manga, and cosplaying of well-loved anime or manga characters.
Panel 2 – Evolution and Evaluation in Anime, Manga, and Gaming
Convener: Wendy Goldberg
This panel on the one hand, looks at some of the early conditions and events that have since evolved into global cultures and practices; and on the other, evaluates the deeper implications, omissions, and contraventions in some of those specific works and practices. Looking backwards in time, this panel examines some of the more complex but overlooked aspects that are in some ways embedded in the canon, and brings them forward to understand the underlying complexity of this hidden history, and the ways in which those elements and aspects may have been deliberately overlooked.
- Adventures from a Distant Land: Analyzing JRPG as a Western Discourse
Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon (University of Alberta)
Over the years, the field of games studies has adopted the term JRPG as a viable genre category to identify a certain corpus of video games originating in Japan and that has penetrated the Western video game cultural landscape since the 1990s. However, a closer examination indicates that the spread of this term is deeply dependent on the global network, proving the distribution and reception of these games. The term is broadly used in North American and Europe, but is virtually nonexistent in Japan. This paper is meant to provide an outline of the evolution of the discourse surrounding Japanese role-playing games in the Anglophone online gaming press. This approach relies on the distant reading (Moretti) of a corpus of 2054 JRPG reviews published by ten different websites between 1992 and 2014. The presentation of these results will focus on three specific years that are key in understanding the evolution of this discourse: 1997, 2004 and 2007.
- 1985 – The End of the Anime Boom
Renato Rivera Rusca (Meiji University)
The 1977-1985 period is often labeled the “anime boom,” occurring a decade and a half after Tetsuwan Atom made its debut on the airwaves, and it is analogous with the bulk of 1960s anime viewership reaching their adolescence. It is not a coincidence that this is the point in time when the concept and word “otaku” comes to be defined as it is today. We can plot the start of this “boom” period against the release of the Uchuu Senkan Yamato movie, the rise of anime magazines on the mainstream shelves, and the attendance of Comiket entering the thousands; and pinpoint it all to the year 1977. This presentation will attempt to illustrate the major turning point within anime fandom, production and consumption that took place around the year 1985, marking the end of this “boom.” We will explore the various factors for this shift in terms of the business strategies employed by anime producers and sponsors, the creators’ approach to the work, the users’ developing derivative culture, and other social aspects.
[Prof. Rusca’s publications include The otaku in transition (Journal of Kyoto Seika University, 35, 193-205) and Phoenix 2772: A 1980 turning point for Tezuka and anime (Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and Fan Arts, 8, 109-125). He also presented a New Directions in the Japanese Animation Industry special guest lecture at last year’s AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium.]
- Mobile Suit Gundam War Narratives
Wendy Goldberg (University of Mississippi)
In discussing postwar narratives, Japanese critic, Igarashi Yoshikuni, argues that these narratives’ “coping” techniques created an inability to address issues about the war directly. Rather, the war was almost always addressed obliquely or, in the case of I-novels, personally, without consideration of the roles played by larger institutions (or the role of the individual in that institution). This is what makes looking at anime and manga especially revealing: they are narratives aimed at the child and what he or she thinks (or should think) of their place in the world. Cloaked in simple narratives, that have been dismissed by some anime critics as mere “power-fantasies” (Susan Napier), the boy and his robot story can tell us a great deal more by how it forms that child’s identity, especially as related to his robot double. Perhaps no other Japanese anime series has been as long lasting as the Mobile Suit Gundam anime. Created by Yoshiyuki Tomino in 1979, the series has gone through many incarnations although all versions circle around questions about war, fought by young soldiers in their mecha. In this paper, I will be looking at the debates about a righteous war in the original Gundam series, specifically looking at the protagonist, Amuro Ray and through Igarashi’s theoretical perspective.
[Author of, among others, Japanese magic: The girl-friendly films of Hayao Miyazaki, Femspec, 5(2), 140-142, “Lone Wolf and Cub” (in The Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels, pp. 367-368), “The manga phenomenon in America” (in Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, pp. 281-296), and Transcending the victim’s history: Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies (Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and Fan Arts, 4, 39-52).]
Session II: 2:45-4:15PM
Panel 3 – Shôjo Issues I: Struggling with Gender: Girls and Women in Japanese Popular Culture
Conveners: Andrea Germer and Shiro Yoshioka
Women and girls are frequent heroines across various genres in Japanese popular culture. Their struggles in manga, anime and literature are often portrayed as encounters with ghosts and other creatures, or in some cases as struggles against themselves. This panel relates these cultural (re)presentations of women and girls to discourses of gender role expectations in contemporary Japan. The two papers discuss women’s and girls’ gendered struggle with (dis)order from different perspectives: questioning the gender norms of romance and marriage in the anime The Cat Returns (Germer and Yoshioka), and self harm and eating disorder across a range of cultural genres including literature, manga and anime (Hansen).
- Romantic Love and the ‘Housewife Trap’: A Gendered Reading of The Cat Returns
Andrea Germer (University of Kyushu) and Shiro Yoshioka (Newcastle University
The gendered figure of the shôjo plays a crucial role in the creation of heroes and the development of plots in Japanese popular texts. This paper focuses on The Cat Returns (Neko no ongaeshi) (2002, Dir. Morita Hiroyuki), one of the less known films produced by Studio Ghibli. A socio-political reading reveals that, more than any other of the Ghibli anime, this film offers a deep and critical commentary on the gender order in contemporary Japan. With its teenaged girl protagonist Haru, it presents an exceptional case of a shôjo-centred anime that does not fit the conventional genres. This paper reads Haru’s coming of age story through major theories on gender, and interprets the plot as a critique of what Ueno Chizuko and Nobuta Sayoko called the ‘Marriage Empire’ (2015) in Japan.
[Prof. Yoshioka contributed the essay “Heart of Japaneseness: History and nostalgia in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away” to the edited collection Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, and participated as a speaker in the 2012 AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium.]
- Femininity, Eating Disorders and Self-harm in Japanese Culture
Gitte Marianne Hansen (Newcastle University)
From the 1980s onwards, the incidence of eating disorders and self-harm has been on the rise among Japanese women. These behaviours have since been thematised in diverse Japanese cultures, including various literary expressions, manga, anime, films, and pop music. While Kanehara Hitomi’s award winning novels may be some of the most explicit (and academically most discussed) works in this regard, her literary characters’ deliberate acts of self-induced regurgitation and self-cutting participate in a cross-cultural storyline about eating disorders and self-harm alongside female characters found in for example Anno Moyoco’s manga and even in the well-known Miyazaki Hayao animation, Spirited Away (2001). This paper discusses the thematisation of eating disorders and self-harm behaviour across different genres of popular culture and suggests that women’s private struggles with their own bodies have become public discourse available for consumption as information, entertainment, and lifestyle products.
Panel 4 – Characters: Design and Performance
Convener: Brett Hack
The continuing spread of anime, manga, and gaming cultures into new
fields of globalized life entails constant evolution of both the nature and the use of characters and the type of storytelling they make possible. The papers in this panel will present different examples of these developments through a variety of critical lenses. Discussions will pursue a fuller understanding of the effects of character-based fiction in the lives of participants. Attention will be given to shifts in character design as responses to advanced globalization, to conceptions of “playable lives” as depicted in game-like realism, and to the use of characters as methods of engagement in response to social conflict.
- Golden Hair and Starry Eyes: Revisiting “Mukokuseki” Character Design in Contemporary Japanese Cartoon
Beata Pusztai (Eötvös Loránd University)
The term “mukokuseki” (“non-Japaneseness” or “statelessness”) denotes “the erasure of racial or ethnic characteristics and contexts from a cultural product,” which has been the predominant principle of character design in modern manga and anime since the early 1960s, coincident with Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy hitting the small screen. The “quasi-Caucasian” (read “Western”) facial construction and physique of presumably Japanese characters has become one of the trademarks of the Japanese cartoon. Mukokuseki as a quality has been analysed—by film theorists and anthropologists alike—as a global marketing strategy, as a means of negotiating (post)modern Japanese national identity, and as one of the most apparent features of an essentialized, yet “non-culturally specific anime style.” This presentation attempts to complement contemporary academic discourse about the nature of mukokuseki by delineating certain trends in such as the term “furusato” = “native place”, meaning the countryside as a theme; and also, a new approach towards anime since the Millennium through the correlation of anime characters with their flesh-and-blood counterparts in live-action adaptations. Consequently, by shedding light on the truly heterogenous nature of mukokuseki, this paper aims to counterbalance theories of mukokuseki as an ideological device for “de-Japanization” with a perspective of mukokuseki serving as a primarily aesthetic framework for the “re-Japanization” of contemporary anime.
- Nô Gêmu Nô Raifu: Playable Lives in the Internet Age and Conflicts in Critical Standpoints
Selen Calik (Kyoto Seika University)
In “On the Ontology of Fictional Characters,” Umberto Eco draws attention to the finality of characters’ fates as the main source of emotional attachment for the audience. Contrastingly, throughout Gêmuteki Riarizumu no Tanjô, Hiroki Azuma explores the relatively recent profusion of repetitive elements in fiction that put the concept of “finality” in danger. This new kind of “game-like realism” seems to be drifting away from social realities, negatively labeled by many as escapism. But what if we consider that we are playing our lives? Through the examples of No Game No Life and other anime/manga/light novel series, this paper will discuss the concept of “playable lives” in the digital age, and in connection to the ubiquity of the Internet. In contrast to the widely addressed topics of youth unemployment or social alienation, through the easily recognizable imagery of gaming culture, a sense of “belonging” will be emphasized.
- Character Wars: Observing the Diffusion of the Otaku Imagination
Brett Hack (Aichi Prefectural University)
This paper investigates incidents in which the imaginative tropes of anime, manga, and gaming have been utilized as resources for symbolic social action. In particular, it examines how characters and character-ization are deployed in different social fields. Examples include the failed bishôjo mascot for the 42nd G7 Summit at Ise-Shima, the use of characters by both the netto uyoku [net far right] subculture and their online detractors, and ISIS-chan, the bishôjo parody of Islamic extremism. These uses share a propensity for conflict, a reflection of the subculture’s controversial status within Japanese society. This paper argues that it is this very sense of controversy that enables otaku culture to offer discursive and dramaturgical strategies for other conflicts. Observing these moments will lend an insight into the long-term development of the otaku imagination as it diffuses into the larger social imaginary of Japan.
Session III: 4:30 p.m. -6:00 p.m.
Panel 5 – Struggles with the Alien
Convener: Brian White
This panel investigates the “conflicts of interest” converging on science fiction, horror, and fantasy media. These media, in both content and institutional formations, frequently present liminal cases for how we think about conceptual territories such as “narrative,” “Japan,” or “the human.” What has been the role of “genre pieces” in shaping the flow of the mainstream? As Japanese content industries have grown explosively over the past few decades, what sorts of alien monsters lurked at the edge of the unknown, waiting to destabilize what we thought we knew about anime, manga, and gaming? What happens when the subcultural formations of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror become an indispensable part of the “main culture” of content industries? In interrogating science fiction, this panel seeks to understand the fearful forces of the unknown that have defined the frontier of the Japanese content industries.
- Hypothetical Art: Science Fiction as High/Sub-culture
Brian White (University of Chicago)
From its inception, science fiction has been a contested genre in Japan, mobilized to support agendas ranging from bourgeois intellectualism to surreal experimentalism. This paper examines the multifarious phenomenon of “science fiction;” specifically two of the major streams of thinking regarding its definition as it emerged as a genre in the 1960s. Rather than attempt to offer a stable, unitary definition of SF, I instead use two anime – The Tatami Galaxy and Ghost in the Shell – as case studies to highlight the ways in which the label of science fiction can be mobilized rhetorically toward radically different ends. The contrast between these two modes of thought surrounding science fiction forces us in a broader sense to reconsider the relationship between “high art” and “genre art,” attending rather to the constantly contested line between the two and the concerns constructing and motivating that distinction.
- The Heretical Lineage: Images of Rural Blasphemy in Lovecraft and Lovecraftian Manga
Camila Dodik (University of Minnesota)
The transnational influence of American science-fiction horror author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) can be seen in diverse media, including literature, film, music, games, comics, and manga. Lovecraft’s original work is cited for its “cosmic horror,” but recent criticism has addressed this work’s depiction of eugenically inferiorized ‘Others’ and coding of racial and cultural hybridity as monstrous. I examine depictions of the rural as a site of horror and blasphemy in Lovecraft’s short story “The Dunwich Horror” (1928) and Morohoshi Daijiro’s short manga “Seimei no ki” (1976) from the Yôkai Hantaa series for what they suggest about the potential to transform depictions of racial, ethnic, national, and cultural ‘Others’ when the Mythos or Lovecraftian elements are adapted or rewritten from a different focal point, such as that of the Japanese countryside and its related folklore in Morohoshi Daijiro’s Yôkai Hantaa series.
- Media Representations of Conflict in Convergent and Divergent Realities
Marcus Testman (University of Chicago)
With the emergence of augmented reality in the consumer sector rising in concurrence with the expansion of virtual reality, society is standing on the precipice of witnessing a convergence of both virtual and augmented reality with reality itself. At this point of convergence is a site of conflict, where virtual reality and augmented reality clash to assert influence upon reality by seeking to enhance the experience of existence. This essay explores the representations of this conflict in Japanese media, with an emphasis on the science fiction literature and animation of 2010, focusing primarily on the media franchise Sword Art Online, which directly addresses the conflict between reality and virtual reality. Emphasis is placed on the interaction between human characters and their environment, how virtual reality and augmented reality seek to transform and manipulate the human experience, and the ramifications of these transformations in mediating the conflict that exists between emerging delineated realities.
Panel 6: Anime in Europe Yesterday and Today
Convener: Marco Pellitteri
Japanese animation since the 1970s has had an outstanding importance for youths around the world – in this study: Italy, Spain, France, Pakistan, and Finland – and on the local media systems. Some characters and series have become national icons and have been domesticated as transnational heroes. Dragon Ball in Spain and Ufo Robo Grendizer in Italy and France, in particular, are useful case studies to describe the popularity of anime in these three countries and how adaptation strategies shaped their reception and success. However, the recent trend of progressive disappearance of Japanese animation from European television channels as well as the decreasing sales of manga publications, are signs of a crisis precisely in a period in which the Japanese government stresses the notions of “Cool Japan.” This panel aims to discussing this matter through historical reconstruction, media studies theories, fan studies.
- Evolving Sense of Visualizing the Divine in Popular Islam in Pakistan: An Ethnographic Case Study
Ghulam Abbas (GIFT University)
The contemporary visual culture of the Islamic societies of Pakistan in general, and the Milad festival (birthday celebrations of the Prophet Muhammad) in particular, reflects another genre of visuality in which the images that represents the name “Muhammad,” as per Arab-Persian/Urdu script, through textures, on a variety of surfaces, resulted out of certain biological, ecological, botanical and other natural phenomena, often popularly deemed miracles. This paper is an ethnographic case study of such an event that establishes the emergent new “modern sense of visualizing the divine” with special reference to the evolving cult images of the relics or symbolic representation of the Prophet, in conformity with the Islamic stricture on the figurative representation of human being. It elaborates on the transformation and visual dynamics of the altering taste and aesthetics of modern popular cultures. It also analyzes media approaches towards such unusual events, their significance in the sectarian environment of Pakistan, and their impact on everyday social, economic and cultural life.
An Example of Manga Fandom in Finland: how Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin is watched and read
Mikako Hata 秦美香子 (Hanazono University)
The manga and anime scene in Finland is not so different from that in other European countries, for instance manga and anime fans are likely to do cosplay, and organise and/or visit fan conventions. But manga and anime fandom in Finland seems to be divided into two separate genres: manga and anime fandom and Ginga fandom. Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin and Weed, which is the sequel of Ginga, created by Yoshihiro Takahashi (hereinafter referred to as Ginga series) is the most successful manga in Finland. Firstly it came to Finland as VHS anime in 1990s and later on manga has been translated into Finnish. In this paper, how Ginga series has been watched and read is analysed qualitatively. The presenter examines the interview with the organiser of a fan club of Ginga series and the questionnaire to the fans.
- Rethinking Anime Broadcasting: How Dragon Ball spread from a regional-based complex system to a nationwide social phenomenon in Spain
José Andrés Santiago Iglesias (University of Vigo)
When Dragon Ball first aired in Spain in 1990 it was not an immediate nationwide phenomenon. The specifics of its “domestication” are different from other widely popular Japanese series in Spain or different European markets. Dragon Ball played an instrumental role in the birth of the anime/manga scene in Spain, but ultimately the market has shifted into a different landscape with diversified needs. When compared to current broadcasting dynamics, we can immediately highlight differences both in terms of ‘viewership’ and ‘format.’ The thorough domestication of Dragon Ball, by adapting language and world-setting references, enabled its success among mainstream viewers and anime fans alike. In contrast, most contemporary hardcore consumers are familiar with the formal language and conventions typical of anime/manga, and prefer a “foreignization” of both mediums, as viewers increasingly demand products true to the original language, including references that might be incomprehensible to an uninitiated audience.
- Is the success of Japanese animation in Europe fading away? On the current weakness of anime in the European media systems
Marco Pellitteri (Kōbe University)
A massive presence of Japanese animation on television in several European countries lasted from 1978 to the late 1990s. However, since the early 2000s we can observe a triple change: (1) a shift in the negotiations with European buyers; (2) a more critical attitude towards European markets, and (3) a new management model among animation companies. This has had a negative outcome in the presence of anime (and manga) in Europe. In the last fifteen years Japanese studios and publishers have increased the prices and changed the contract conditions. Consequently, the presence of anime on television has dropped. This trend is damaging the capital of popularity that had formed around Japanese media culture between 1975 and 2000, thanks to different negotiation policies. This paper discusses the ongoing loss of the vantage point of anime and manga in key European countries and argues with the current entrepreneurial vision among Japanese companies.
[Pellitteri is a leading authority on the history of Japanese animation in Europe, most notably, as the author of The Dragon and the Dazzle: Models, Strategies, and Identities of Japanese Imagination: A European Perspective (John Libbey, 2011).]
7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Plenary Session I
Introduction: Edmund Hoff
Plenary Lecture: Crunchyroll and the Anime Industry Today
Vince Shortino (Executive Vice President of Japan Channels, Crunchyroll, Inc.)
Saturday, March 19
Session IV: 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Panel 7 – Shôjo Issues II: Origins and Outcomes
Convener: Andrea Horbinski
As one of four panels on the issues surrounding shôjo manga, anime and gaming, this panel examines key moments in the history of shôjo manga: two that cover some of the seminal events – and even dispute the actual origins of shôjo manga, and the third that in observing a decline in shôjo manga, cites the possible reasons and mourns its passing. In examining the synchronic events at the opposite ends of shôjo history through a diachronic process, perhaps we will be able to perceive the compelling aspects of this most particular art form.
- Women and Comics: Reconsidering the ‘Origins’ of Shôjo Manga in the Postwar.
Andrea Horbinski (University of California, Berkley)
The conventional narrative of shôjo manga is that it “emerged” in the 1950s at the hands of male creators like Osamu Tezuka and Ishinomori Shôtarô, who dominated the field until the rise of female creators such as Ikeda Ryôko and the members of the Shôwa 24 group in the 1970s. This narrative of girl power, in which shôjo manga comes into its own once it is drawn by creators who are themselves former shôjo, is however, highly misleading. Starting the story of shôjo in the 1950s implies that girls didn’t read comics until the postwar period, that female mangaka were virtually unknown until the late 1960s, and that only girls read shôjo manga. This presentation attempts to cut through the cruft of gendered assumptions about shôjo manga by setting its origins not in prewar girls’ magazines but instead with the popularity of kodomo manga (children’s comics), the precursor to both shôjo and shônen comics, among readers of all genders in the same era. Considering the emergence of shôjo and shônen comics from kodomo manga as a middle point rather than a beginning, I highlight the ways in which postwar manga reshaped itself to the emerging social consensus around the highly gendered postwar economic order: rather than gendered manga categories being natural, they were constructed so as to maximize publishers’ profits and to uphold social ideologies of gender. From this perspective, the celebrated dominance of shôjo manga by female creators from the 1970s onwards represents the triumph of those same ideologies.
[Andrea Horbinski’s publications on anime/manga and related topics have appeared in Mechademia (War for entertainment: The Sky Crawlers and “Record of dying days: The alternate history of Ôoku”) and Transformative Works and Cultures (Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community). She has also participated as a speaker in the AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium and 2014’s Manga Futures: Institutional and Fan Approaches in Japan and Beyond conference]
- “Young Love’s Labors Lost: The Demise of Romance Comics in the US/UK and Rise of Shôjo Manga in Japan, 1950s-1970s”
Deborah Shamoon (National University of Singapore)
Shôjo manga is a robust genre and active site of cultural production in Japan that has few parallels in other countries. Comic books particularly in English speaking countries have far fewer female than male readers. Yet this was not always the case. In the 1950s and 1960s, romance comics were very popular in the United States and Great Britain, with anthology titles such as Young Romance, Young Love, Jackie, and Marilyn targeting an older teen demographic. Shôjo manga in Japan in the same decades was a small, neglected genre for elementary and middle school girls. By the 1970s, however, the situation was reversed: shôjo manga exploded in creativity and popularity, with sophisticated narratives reaching an older teen readership, while US romance titles folded, followed by UK titles a decade later. Why did US and UK romance comics die off while the same genre flourished in Japan? The demise of romance comics was due to censorship and the inability to connect authentically with girls’ sensibilities. This presentation will compare romance comics such as Young Love and Jackie with shôjo manga by Mizuno Hideko and Nishitani Yoshiko, to see how those artists were able to tap into older traditions of shôjo shumi (girls’ tastes) while updating the themes and aesthetics to appeal to a contemporary female audience.
[Prof. Shamoon’s extensive list of published scholarship on anime/manga ranges from “Office sluts and rebel flowers: The pleasures of Japanese pornographic comics for
women” (in Porn Studies) to “The superflat space of Japanese anime” (in Asian Cinema and the Use of Space: Interdisciplinary Perspectives) and “The beautiful men of the Inner Chamber: Gender-bending, Boys’ Love and other shōjo manga tropes in Ooku, in the textbook Introducing Japanese Popular Culture, which is set to be published later this year.]
- The Decline of Shôjo Manga
Matt Thorn (Kyoto Seika University)
Shôjo manga first appeared at the dawn of the 20th century, offering comical entertainment for girls not yet old enough to read novels. Then, in the 1950s and early 1960s, they served up family-centered melodramas for tweens. In the late 1960s, young women artists took over what had long been a male-dominated field and transformed it from simple entertainment for little girls into a sophisticated genre garnering unprecedented critical acclaim. A golden age ensued, and it seemed, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, that the position of shôjo manga was unshakeable. Yet for the past twenty years, Japanese girls have been turning their backs on the genre. Today, shôjo manga is a shadow of its former self. This presentation explores the causes—structural, sociological, economic, and ultimately personal—behind the decline of the most successful market of comics for and by women the world has ever known.
[Prof. Thorn has been commenting on and translating manga since the early 1990’s. Many people, myself included, first encountered formal scholarly writing on Japanese comics through his work.]
Panel 8: – Fandom: Conflicts, Identities, and Interactions
Convener: Rose Rowson
Online and offline, celebratory and morally ambiguous, this panel addresses issues of identity and practice within fandom. While they are often defined through their relationships to objects, it is important to also consider how fans develop relationships with each other. Whether coming together at conventions or interacting via the Internet, communities form around specific events, interests, and agendas. Through their individual presentations, Cavcic, Rowson, and Barragan address how fans identify themselves through collective practices, and furthermore how those practices are linked to their source materials. With each interrogating a specific moment – dôjinshi, Death Note Online, transnational identity – these presentations will together help to illuminate points of tension and cohesion across the spectrum of Asian popular culture fandom.
- Interacting in the Text: Examining Extra-diegetic Elements in Dôjinshi as a Means of Fan Interaction
Antonia Cavcic (Murdoch University)
What is it that draws thousands of sweaty or shivering fans to Tokyo Big Sight each year? What attracts so many amateur artists and the otaku industry to invest an incredible amount of time and money on an event that claims to be non-profit in nature? Is it the celebration of a creative community and the circulation of texts, or is it the oft-cited “participatory” nature of the event? In an event that packs 500,000 avid fans into one venue just how is interaction facilitated? How is a sense of community created? In this presentation I argue that the texts, rather than the event itself, facilitate interaction between creators and consumers. By examining taken-for-granted conventions in dôjinshi narrative presentation, I will demonstrate how these extra-diegetic elements have served as effective means for artists to address, interact with, and reinforce bonds with pre-existing and potential fans.
- Death Note Online: Material Conﬂict in Digital Fan Cultures
Rose Rowson (University of Amsterdam)
Death Note Online was a short-lived, unofﬁcial website based on the popular anime and manga series Death Note, which encouraged users to write names and causes of death into a non-lethal, digital analogue of the eponymous mystical notebook. Although created in homage to the series, the digital materiality of DNO highlighted conﬂicts of interest within Death Note fandom, where tropes are reenacted in disregard of the moral ambiguity of their source: writing names on DNO was viewed by some as tantamount to actual death threats. A core theme of Death Note is media engagement, and the series’ emphasis on power through anonymity and the written rather than spoken word can be read as post-digital. This presentation addresses the problem of such mimicry as praise within an online context, and following N. Katherine Hayles, proposes an introduction of greater media-speciﬁc analysis into the discipline of fan studies.
- Fandom Convergence: The Transnational Influence of Japanese Media on Identity
Sonia M. Barragan (California State University, Los Angeles)
With the rise of accessibility on the Internet, Japanese media, such as anime, gained a wider global audience. The burst of mass communication between fans around the world led to blended transnational identities. With the rapid pace, societies had trouble adjusting, bringing forth old and new stigmas. This paper is a study of how anime and Vocaloid fans perceive their ties to identity in relation to a global community. Approached with an anthropological lens, four case studies were conducted through in-person surveys, interviews, and participant observation. Though each case study had a different focus, two patterns kept emerging on how fans construct and display their identities. One pattern was a high awareness of the unacceptability of participation in the fan base, causing caution in disclosure of involvement in fandom activities. The second pattern counteracts this notion by fans finding inspiration in the medium and wishing to spread this insight.
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Plenary II – Keynote Session
Introduction: Edmund Hoff
Keynote Lecture: Hiroshi Deguchi (Tokyo Institute of Technology)
Professor Deguch’s research focuses on complex social systems, evolutionary economics, and cultural diversity. He is also the president of the Japan Association of Simulation and Gaming, and a member of the board of directors of the Japan Association for Social and Economic Systems Studies and the advisory board for the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture (Intellect Ltd.)
“Following his passionate love for anime and manga, Deguchi has become one of the foremost authorities on the evolving social and economic structure of manga and video games. Currently he is a professor in the Department of Computational Intelligence and Systems Science at Tokyo Institute of Technology. His research deals with social complex systems, agent based modeling, evolutionary economics, gaming simulation, Japanese manga and cultural diversity. He is a member of the board of directors for The Japan Association for Social and Economic Systems Studies and East Asian Journal of Popular Culture among others. Deguchi sensei is also the president of the Japan Association of Simulation And Gaming. Speaking at engagements around Tokyo and Japan he is passionate about the spread of Japanese otaku culture within and outside of the country of its origins.
2:45 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Panel 9 – Shôjo Issues III: Girls and Boys’ Love: States of Desire
Convener: Simon Gough
This panel weaves together four examinations of desire, and how it influences both the production and consumption of popular culture in Japan. Asako P. Saito’s paper centres on how notions of ideal masculinity and homoeroticism are shared within Japan and China’s boys’ love subculture. Emma Hanashiro’s paper concentrates on expanding Azuma Hiroki’s database consumption theory to incorporate boys’ love fiction and the contemporary practices of female fans. Carolina Reyes’ paper examines how the mobu dôjinshi subgenre is representative of new developments in yaoi fiction that challenge established codes and constraints. Simon Gough’s paper explores the evolution of the mahô shôjo genre and how its consumption by a wide variety of audiences has generated its contemporary diversity. Through this panel, we hope to highlight the complexity and potential of the desires that permeate contemporary Japanese popular culture.
- Boys Love in China: Re-exporting Three Kingdoms
Asako P. Saito (University of Melbourne)
This paper examines and compares modern Chinese and Japanese Boys Love adaptations of the classic Chinese novel Three Kingdoms. I argue that despite tensions and hostilities between China and Japan, these adaptations demonstrate how the complex, historical, and multi-directional flows between these two countries may lead to common attitudes and understandings. Chinese and Japanese creators of these adaptations have taken what they perceive to be homoerotic elements of Three Kingdoms and appropriated them in the form of online amateur Boys Love stories. Through interviews with its producers and textual analysis of the content of these stories, I hope to reveal how a shared notion of ideal masculinity is constructed within the Boys Love subculture in China and Japan. The visibility of ethnicity within these stories will also be considered, as well as the reasons behind the selection of Three Kingdoms as the source of inspiration.
- Databased Desires
Emma Hanashiro (Pitzer College)
This presentation explores a theoretical model of how the contemporary Boys Love manga industry and fan communities construct “fujoshi subjectivities.” “Fujoshi,” a term used among female identifying fans of Boys Love media, can be translated directly into English as “rotten women,” and is one of the most recognizable representations of female otaku. The model’s objective is to expand Azuma Hiroki’s theory of database consumption as discussed in Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals by including issues concerning gender and female fans. An examination of current online discourse regarding Boys Love manga in Japanese fan communities, the Boys Love publishing industry, and a visual analysis of representative works informs this model. As Azuma’s database consumption theory neglects female otaku, this presentation both challenges and elaborates on his argument while examining the “postmodern positionalities” of contemporary fans.
- The Postmodern Magical Girl: The Evolution and Contemporary Representation of the Mahô Shôjo Genre
Simon Gough (Monash University)
The mahô shôjo genre has been a continual presence in anime and manga since the 1960s, becoming an active site of discussion and negotiation in terms of the representation of powerful girls in Japanese popular culture. The genealogy of the genre has been influenced not only by individual works and their narratives and images, but by the consumption and reinterpretation of its conventions by (perhaps unintended) audiences. Drawing on the rich history of the mahô shôjo genre and the work of prominent shôjo, otaku, and narrative theorists, this paper explores how the contemporary state of the genre has been informed by, and reflects, the consumption and reinterpretation of the genre by a wide range of audiences. Further, this presentation argues that these varying influences and audiences are enabling the genre to expand into previously unexplored narrative territory, opening the mahô shôjo to new, and diverse, representations in the 21st century.
- The Implications of Mobu-dôjinshi for the Evolution of the Gaze of Female Yaoi Readers
Carolina Reyes (Autonomous University of Barcelona)
In a recent trend, a subgenre of fanworks (dôjinshi) for the female audience has irrupted strongly into the yaoi scene. Mobu dôjinshi depict the already established seme/uke yaoi pattern, but the active counterpart (seme) is replaced with a mass (mob) of anonymous people having sexual intercourse with a single uke (or passive partner). One of the categories that takes part in the traditional relationship has been superseded by an impersonal crowd implies a review of the interpretation of ‘love codes’ and the issues concerning the identification with characters from the readers’ gaze. After carrying out archival research, and conducting interviews with artists and readers, this paper highlights mobu as the third stage of yaoi evolution, by which female readers’ gaze is able to transcend cultural constraints concerning to love, sex and communication.
Panel 10 – Different Strategies in Representation
Convenor: Marie Thorsten
Narrative and its many possible representations, adaptations, and reception styles are examined in this panel. The expansion of technologies, the intertexual appropriations of different arts and artists, and an examination and analysis of different receptive filters in consuming these contemporary works of anime and its extensions into vocaloids and kichiku videos online, will be addressed. Thus, we begin to understand the possible futures of these popular cultural arts, and the ways in which they can expand our enjoyment and an understanding of our cultures.
- Musical World-Making in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Heike Hoffer (The Ohio State University)
The anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya made groundbreaking advances in narrative construction and characterization, igniting a massive global fan movement. The experimental nature of this series allowed for unique musical innovations in the background score. One of the most interesting innovations is the use of Western classical music in Episodes 11 and 14, where famous symphonies by Shostakovich, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky have been masterfully manipulated to serve a key role in differentiating Haruhi’s perception of reality from the fantasies she constructs. In some cases, the images have been timed to match emotional high points of the music, a rare occurrence in anime that endows the music with a god-like level of control over the dramatic pacing similar to Haruhi’s absolute control over her reality. This presentation examines the virtuoso treatment of these symphonies in the service of world-making and narrative construction.
- Driving Your Characters MAD Zoku: Fragments of Reproduction in the Age of Digital Era
Jason Qian Chen (City University of Hong Kong)
My presentation for Mechademia Conference 2016 is set on the extended line of my presentation for Mechademia 2014, which investigated a current style and technique-driven form of MAD remixing in East Asia. It first reviews my research so far concerning the phenomenon, which is symbolic for adapting rapid-fire repetitions of samples, and my theoretical models for it, which unraveled its latent function as keys to “semi-transparent realist” para-narratives given its unique perceptive circumstances. Then, I’d like to introduce my recent findings on such phenomenon. Fact-wise, recent “kichiku videos” (the works in such style) exhibit a strong tendency to establish the independence of kichiku-style semi-transparency from the technique itself. On the theory side, a preliminary comparison is made among the kichiku style and other “narrative-altering” forms of media material repetition. The result points to a possibility that the power of synchronicity may override the value of exhibition in the new age of media repetition.
- Comics “First Encounter”: Rediscovery as a Reading Strategy for Graphic Non-fiction
Marie Thorsten (Dôshisha University)
This paper argues for a reading strategy of serious comics not as a Columbus-like “first encounter” with the unknown, but as a chance to encounter one’s own already-held worldviews. Non-fiction comics often take forms of hero-making—teaching about others but seldom causing discomfort to selves. As is well-known, however, non-fiction comics such as Barefoot Gen refuse an unproblematic “us” and pitiful “them.” Taking up a highly serious topic, caste, I will argue against the notion that caste is impossible, contentious topic, and also the converse of the idea that the practice can somehow be learned through properly “authentic” reading. I will look at two prominent comics that offer readers a chance to accept a more purposefully limited view not just of “others,” and embrace a rediscovery of one’s own mediated assumptions in a reading encounter. The two works are Bhimayana by Natarajan/Anand, and Sacco’s graphic story India.
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Plenary Session III
Tatsumi Takayuki and Kotani Mari
Convenor: Frenchy Lunning
- A Study of Moto HAGIO: Decoding The Heart of Thomas, A Visitor, and By the Lake
Mari Kotani (Meiji University)
Moto HAGIO made her debut in 1969 and published in 1974 one of her major works The Heart of Thomas in the Weekly Shôjo Comic. Being the archetype of BL, that is, ‘Boys Love’ narratives, The Heart of Thomas has been performed for two decades by the theatrical group Studio Life consisting exclusively of male members. What is more, this work was made into a novel in 2009 by a popular detective fictionist Hiroshi MORI. The year of 2013 saw the English edition of the work. The Heart of Thomas has kept attracting not only female but also male fans in the past four decades. However, no attention has been paid to the Catholic aspects of Hagio’s narratology. Thus, this paper will reread The Heart of Thomas and its spin-off A Visitor as reflecting the Bible, especially the Gospel according to St. Thomas, which is closely intertwined with the gender-bending problematics peculiar to Japanese culture. I would also like to show you how this work transgresses the generic boundary between Gothic Romance, Science Fiction and Detective Fiction.
[Kotani contributed the chapter “Techno-gothic Japan: From Seishi Yokomizo’s The Death’s-Head Stranger to Mariko Ohara’s Ephemera the Vampire” to 1997’s essay collection Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture, Space, body, and aliens in Japanese women’s science fiction to the “Japanese Science Fiction” special issue of Science Fiction Studies, and Metamorphosis of the Japanese girl: The girl, the hyper-girl, and the Battling Beauty to the inaugural 2006 volume of Mechademia.]
- Rock’n’Roll Manga : Hideko MIZUNO and Her Sisters
Takayuki Tatsumi (Keio University)
This April Kawade Shobo publishers plans to publish the expanded edition of my 2002 book Progressive Rock: Its Canons and Contexts originally published by Heibonsha Publishers. Although before the publication of the book I had never worked with any music magazine, I have since contributed many essays to: Strange Days, Music Life Plus, Record Collectors and others. Therefore, this expanded edition will include quite a few essays not only on ‘prog’ rockers but also on various rock’n’rollers: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Queen and even Michael Jackson. What is more, I devoted a chapter to the genre of rock’n’roll manga created in the 1970s, with special emphasis upon Hideko MIZUNO, Yasuko AOIKE, Moto HAGIO and others. Therefore, I’m very honored to illustrate the generic framework of rock’n’roll manga in Japan with the impacts of Walker Brothers, Led Zeppelin, EL&P and Queen.
[Tatsumi’s A soft time machine: From translation to transfiguration also appeared in Science Fiction Studies, and he contributed several essays to various volumes of Mechademia.]
Sunday, March 20
10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Panel 11 – Shôjo Issues IV: Structures and Theories
Convenor: Frenchy Lunning
As the otaku fandom and the texts of that fandom have matured and become increasingly sophisticated, scholars have begun to examine these works for their underlying structures and the theories that extrude from those structures in an attempt to discern their potential meanings and possibilities for agency. Particularly in the confrontation with the complex set of conditions and activities of the shôjo, the supposed young girl of manga and anime, whose signs seems to include beautiful gay boys, lesbians in love and lust, cross-dressers, cross-players, and fighting girls; these analyses and theories can seem to contradict and confuse her definition as a subject. Each of these presentations offer a view to the reading of these signs as a manifestation of the girl at the center of this discourse – no matter what gender she is!
- The Study of Shôjo Manga: Structure and Fascination
Sheena Woods (University of Arkansas)
In Japan, cross-dressing and gender performativity were practiced in traditional theatre and have since transferred to other media, such as manga and anime. This paper derives from the historicity and transfer of the concept and practice of cross-dressing in the shôjo genre of manga, specifically as manifest in Hatori Bisco’s Ouran High School Host Club. Zeami Motokiyo’s (1363-1443) idea of ‘structure’ as a way to create ‘interest’ or ‘fascination’ within his Noh audience might be carried over into other media. Based on an extension of Neil Cohn’s cognitive-psychological theories of visual narrative structure in manga, the paper argues on a detailed case study from Ouran how structuring in the layout on the page and the structure and usage of onomatopoeia contribute to generating and maintaining interest in cross-dressing and gender performativity that leads to fascination within the reader/viewer – similar to Zeami’s “ideal attraction felt by all kinds of people”?
- Embracing Soft-Yuri World: Representations of Shôjo and their Conflicts in Fighting Magical Girl Anime
Akiko Sugawa-Shimada (Yokohama National University)
The all-female environment is often utilized in anime since the 1990s to depict a pure and innocent imaginary space of girls for men to consume. Representations of girls’ bond and sisterhood, implying girls’ homoeroticism, in all-female environments in anime targeting young men are often called soft yuri. Those works have been typified as the “Nichijo-kei” (daily life type) and the “Kuuki-kei” (air type) narratives such as Lucky Star (2007) and K-ON (2009-10; 2011). Although they tend to be seen as the objects for male otaku consumption, they are considerably appealing to female audiences as well, especially when it comes to ‘fighting magical girl’ tropes. On one hand, the drastic increase of yuri anime in number articulates a growing demand of conservative male desire for an idealized female virginity and innocent relationships. However, on the other hand, representations of soft-yuri relationships in some ‘fighting magical girl’ anime have been embraced by heterosexual female audiences, providing a critical site through which girls’ struggle with despair and suffocation can be traced. This presentation will explore how soft-yuri relationships in anime are constructed, focusing on Sailor Stars (1997), Mikoto, Kuroko, and Mikoto’s sisters in A Certain Scientific Rail Gun (2009-10), A Certain Scientific Rail Gun S (2013), and Homura and Madoka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion will Begin (2013). I will then argue that fighting girls with supernatural power in these anime series represent conflicts and self-assuring processes in female adolescence that considerably appeal to young female audiences.
[Prof. Sugawa-Shimada has explored topics related to how anime presents girl characters in “Grotesque cuteness of shojo: Representations of goth loli in contemporary Japanese TV anime” (in Japanese Animation: East Asian Perspectives) and her talk “Shifting Images of Witch Girls in Japanese TV Anime Since 1966: From Sally to Alice and Chocolat” at the 2013 AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium.]
- Kyara and the Shôjo’s Strange Surplus
Frenchy Lunning (Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
Itô Gô’s project has lead to various explorations of the kyara phenomenon, but it was the compelling number of sub-textual suggestions or implications in multiple iterations of a curious duality which provided the topic for this paper. In it, a curious doubling, or a binary structure in which ambiguities and the suggestion of a hidden potential seemed to lurk, informed this essay. It becomes evident in the family of shôjo forms, as a specific set of structures in which one encounters her paradoxical lack of specificity, and yet, there is a strange doubling surplus, revealed through her manifestations to be a constellation of characteristics. Yet she defies all specificity, with one key exception: her entire index of traits are specific to the young female, and that as it will turn out, is also where the potency and potential lie. This paper will trace this trail of ambiguous signs scattered about the discourse — elements found piled around the shôjo, under layers of petticoats, in Modernism’s closet of grand narratives.
[Prof. Lunning is the founder of the annual Mechademia: Conference on Asian Popular Cultures (originally, Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits), and has served as the editor-in-chief of all 10 volumes of Mechademia.]
Panel 12: Engaging Shifts in Anime: Wars, Critiques, Aesthetics
Convener: Stevie Suan
Anime, as a globally prominent media, engages with the shifting world in its many forms. Seemingly distant events, in both time and space, echo through anime works, changing the course of long established franchises, affecting important texts. From traumatic events political landscapes change, and once active spaces empty and are filled with new potentials, shifts become visible in these anime, and the surrounding otaku culture. But are these changes repeating the mistakes of the past? Which are such mistakes, and in what way are they expressed? To further explore these questions, we must probe into the aesthetics of otaku media, utilizing the theoretical tools that have been developed to examine anime, manga, and their consumers. Traversing these topics, this panel will analyze landmark anime franchises and texts, working through the developments in anime studies to better explore the problems anime raises, the trauma of war and political abyss, and the medium-specific aesthetics which frame these issues.
- The Influence of 9/11 and America’s Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the Mobile Suit Gundam Franchise
William Ashbaugh (SUNY Oneonta) and Shintaro Mizushima (Doshisha University)
Japan’s most popular science fiction animated franchise Mobile Suit Gundam – on television, film screens, and even the Internet since 1979 – has been strongly influenced by the events of 9/11 and America’s subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This occurs through both specific content, and in its corporate ownership’s choices on what themes to broadcast — both in Japan and the United States. In terms of content, more recent Gundam stories deal with amputee veterans, snipers, and powerful pseudo-nations declaring war on any other state that dared to use violence against other peoples or nations. The Bandai Corporation has also worked to create Gundam television programs that down-play the usual war-story message by focusing, for example, on children under the age of ten living in an idealized future and competitions between model-kit builders in the near future that use advanced computer technology to pit these weapons against each other in a video game.
[Prof. Ashbaugh has previously written on Gundam in Contesting traumatic war narratives: Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam, in Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and Responding to Trauma in Postwar Literature and Film and “Peace through understanding”: How science-fiction anime Mobile Suit Gundam 00 criticizes US aggression and Japanese passivity, Asia Journal of Global Studies, 5(2), 108-118.]
- Anime Destroys Itself At Its Peak: Evangelion and Hideaki Anno’s Critique of Otaku Escapism
For twenty years now, Evangelion has remained an unsurpassed milestone in anime history that is also the site of an unforgettable trauma; the sociologst Masachi Osawa once noted with amusement that Otaku treat Evangelion’s conclusion the way one might treat the end of the Second World War. That trauma was the spectacle of otaku culture’s greatest triumph culminating in its most devastating critique, a turn of events which utterly transformed the trajectory of that subculture’s development. Anno returned to Evangelion ten years later aiming to revive the anime industry, but history has repeated itself and anime’s most important project has stalled, seemingly drawn again into the prior abyss. This paper examines Anno’s critique – both in Evangelion and his post-Evangelion works – as a treatment of the fundamental character of anime as a social phenomenon and the problems it presents. Otaku culture develops to fill a void left in Japanese society after the end of the student movement; but is this development itself only a deepening of the void, an exacerbation of the critical danger?
- Performing Differently: Convention, Medium, and Globality from Manga (Studies) to Anime (Studies)
Stevie Suan (Kyoto Seika University)
Because anime and manga are intimately intertwined media, one might ask what models anime studies could borrow to expand the field. Yet, as there are significant differences between the two media, there will be points where the theoretical models overlap or deviate, specifically in regards to their inter-related yet media-specific aesthetics. This presentation will examine anime’s deviations from the frameworks manga studies provides, preventing their simple application onto anime: shared conventionalized elements that create a sense of unity between anime and manga, the variances of their performance due to the material distinctions of the mediums, and the employment (in fan and professional production) and reception of these conventions on a global scale. However, these differences can open up new points of departure for us to move through, as anime studies may share research models with manga, but have to perform them in accordance to the paths the media take.
[Suan is the author of 2013’s The Anime paradox: Patterns and Practices through the Lens of Traditional Japanese Theater]
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Plenary Session IV
Introduction: Frenchy Lunning
Workshop: Cosplay: In Costume and Performance
Naoya Kirihara and Martha Asahi
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Plenary Session V
The Bad Fan Museum
The Bad Fan Museum is a collection of objects from the ever-shifting borderlands where Japanese and American fan cultures have intertwined over the past decades. In this portable hands-on exhibit, visitors are free to handle, rearrange, and even contribute items to a multifaceted array of objects and artworks that hint at a few of the many personal histories of fandom. Contained in a Japanese classroom serving as the hospitality suite for the Mechademia Tokyo academic conference, this micro-museum is comprised of a heterogeneous mix of intimate ephemera from the history of fans of anime, manga, video games, street fashion, and cosplay. Intermingled with these objects is an collection of previously private tests, proofs, sketches, and works-in-progress from Rauch’s extensive series of art projects that have explored the many, often hidden, facets of modern fandom.
Inspired by his lifelong fandom but also the innumerable times he has been called “not a real fan,” “fake fan,” and “bad fan,” The Bad Fan Museum presents the specifics of Rauch’s often-conflicted personal history as a means to contextualize claims of authenticity, history, legitimacy, and identity that both fandom and the fine arts use to differentiate themselves. In the face of the overwhelmingly massive scale of current global fandom, this museum is an invitation to linger with highly specific, often unique, objects of intimate scale for a moment of reflection. The Bad Fan Museum leverages the trio of travel, conversation, and personal history to create a third space from which to contemplate an interconnected view of both the past and future of fandom and art through a menagerie of textures, texts, artworks, and other ambiguous nodes from these shadowy histories.
2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Plenary Session VI
All Conference Q+A
Deguchi Hiroshi, Vince Shortino, Matthew Alt (Vice President, AltJapan Co., Ltd.)
Edmund Hoff, Frenchy Lunning