A key feature of scholarly writing as a “genre” is that a new contribution to scholarship on a topic does not just stand by itself, but builds on previous contributions, and in a way, engages in a conversation with them. This feature can be seen in the literature review sections of new scholarly articles, as well as in formal reviews of newly-published books. But while book reviews are common in scholarly writing in many different fields, in-depth commentary on previously published articles and book chapters is not common at all. And I think that anime and manga studies as a field that is relatively new and very much evolving would benefit from these kinds of conversations in the form of response pieces to specific recent articles/book chapters.
In the future, I hope to be able to publish response pieces of this kind that are submitted by other readers/scholars. But, right now, I would like to share my own thoughts on a recently published journal article.
[note: I do not know how common the practice of writing commentary/reflection essays on published articles is in other academic programs, but I had to complete assignments of this type in both undergraduate and graduate classes]
Martin, Paul. The contradictions of pop nationalism in the manga Gate: Thus the JSDF fought there! Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 11(2), 167-181.
“Though Japan’s post-war constitution forbids maintaining the means of waging war, the Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF) is one of the most powerful militaries in the world. This contradiction has become increasingly important in recent years as the JSDF has expanded its role and public profile, and as the state has moved closer to re-writing the constitution to allow for a more robust military policy. Alongside this military contradiction is a nationalistic one. The hyper-nationalism of the Pacific War left a general suspicion of overt nationalism amongst Japan’s population, but in recent years casual forms of nationalism have emerged that decouple pride in national identity from political commitment. This article focuses on the manga Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There! to unpack the relationship between nationalism and the JSDF’s ambiguous position. In this manga, Japan is invaded through a mysterious portal from a fantasy world, allowing the manga to depict the JSDF in combat. While the manga hews close to official JSDF self-representations, in attempting to show the JSDF at war, the manga’s images, characters and narrative foreground contradictions inherent in the JSDF and in Japanese forms of nationalism.”
One common criticism of Japanese popular culture products is that too often, they rely on the same few basic story set-ups that are then explored with only slight modifications and little in the way of innovation. This is why those comics and shows that do significantly buck the expected structures attract so much attention and praise. But every once in a while, a title comes along that doesn’t just “buck” or subvert the expected, but goes in an entirely new direction. An is Gate: Where the JSDF Fought, first a novel series, and then adapted into a manga and a 26-episode anime. (more…)