Category: Guest Posts

Guest Response Essay: Kawaii Aesthetics from Japan to Europe

Earlier this year, I announced a Call for Contributors inviting “essay submissions responding to any other article-length scholarship on anime/manga or related topics published in English in the last five years”. These kinds of short essays would, I believe, add an important new dimension to the developing field of anime and manga studies by encouraging and facilitating conversation within and about it.

Now, I am pleased to present the first response to the Call:

Dora Vrhoci – on Kawaii Aesthetics from Japan to Europe: Theory of the Japanese “Cute” and Transcultural Adoption of Its Styles in Italian and French Comics Production and Commodified Culture Goods, Arts 7(3), article 24

Ms. Vrhoci is a student of European politics and culture at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Her main areas of interest include the politics of social movements, popular culture, and Euro-Japanese interactions. She recently co-authored a forthcoming chapter on town twinning between Eastern and Western European cities in E. Braat, & P. Corduwener (Eds.), 1989 and the West: Western Europe since the End of the Cold War, London: Routledge.

Marco Pellitteri’s article explores how Japanese kawaii culture and aesthetics are appropriated in Europe. The article centers on the question of how and whether ‘kawaii’ has found its place in contemporary Europe, with a particular focus on Italy and France. Pellitteri acquires a transcultural perspective and observes ‘the kawaii phenomenon’ as a “culture of cuteness” which (1), although originating in Japan, has become fused with European aesthetics in certain areas of youth subcultures and pop-culture products. As an example of such fusion between Japanese and European cultures, Pellitteri uses the so-called “Euromanga”—comics made by European creators, but influenced by aesthetic and/or narrative elements of  Japanese manga.

Pellitteri begins his article with a theoretical account of the ‘kawaii phenomenon’. Taking up the bulk of the text, the theoretical discussion includes an overview of the semantic and/or linguistic origins of ‘kawaii’ and highlights ‘kawaii’s’ association with an “emotional attachment to creatures”, a “girl/girlish culture” (vs. a more ‘manlier’ aesthetics), and, among other things, a nostalgic sentiment about one’s childhood. Аs another important aspect of ‘kawaii culture’, Pellitteri mentions its pattern-crossing ability, that is, the ability to move across media, industries and “juvenile tendencies” (5). The theoretical discussion closes with a note that ‘kawaii aesthetics’ are interpreted and appropriated differently in Japanese and Western contexts (i.e., West-Europe and America); while ‘kawaii’ is an integral part of contemporary Japanese culture and aesthetic, in Europe, it does not, according to Pellitteri, appear to be a dominant aesthetic trend among Japanese-inspired youth subcultures. (more…)

Guest Post – The ‘So Far’ of Anime and Manga

From the editor: One of the major activities that Anime and Manga Studies Projects undertakes is promoting the emerging field of anime and manga studies by highlighting new academic writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics. The ongoing Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies is one aspect of this activity, and pieces I post highlighting new books, book chapters, and journal articles are another. Throughout my work, though, I have always wanted to ask the question of how do authors of new scholarship on anime/manga actually view their own research. How did it come about? What are its connections to other scholarship? Where do the authors draw their inspirations from? What do they hope to accomplish?

And, I am now excited to present a new and unique type of article on anime/manga studies – an emerging anime/manga scholar reflecting on their work.

The ‘So Far’ of Anime and Manga: A Visual Theoretical Depiction of Possibilities

Kathy Nguyen is the author of Wired:: Ghosts in the s[hell] (Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies) and Body upload 2.0: Downloadable cosmetic [re]birth (Ekphrasis: Images, Cinema, Theory, Media). She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in multicultural women’s and gender studies at Texas Woman’s University.

Living in an increasingly rapid digital era, where scrolling, tapping, being wired and plugged in may be the few solitary sources for connectivity – that is, if connectivity will eventually become technologized – problematizes several issues once the world becomes updated. I am especially interested in studying about the philosophies of technology; I continuously go back to Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s book, Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. Chun writes: “New [technology] live and die by the update: the end of the update, the end of the object” (2). These updates are interesting because if human bodies, animals, objects, and such are constantly being updated and/or upgraded, what does death look like in the digital age, especially when there are apparatuses such as the E-Tomb, where information of the deceased continues to live on? Perhaps eternally – or at least, if the network maintains its connectivity signals. (more…)