Seventh Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday, June 21-Sunday 22, 2003
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University



ASCJ Executive Committee
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2003 conference

Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 23
Manga/ Film: Japanese Culture and History through Mass Media
Organizer: Lee Makela, Cleveland State University

Manga and Japanese film are perhaps the most obvious example of the potential of mass media to offer, as Arjun Appadurai (1996) has described it, new resources and new disciplines for the construction of imagined selves and imagined worlds. This panel builds upon some of the key studies that have been done on Japanese and Asian popular culture in recent years, including John Treat, Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture (1996), Timothy Craig, Japan Pop! Inside the World of Japanese Pop Culture (2000) and Global Goes Local: Popular Culture in Asia (2002), and Susan Napier, Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke (2001). These studies use historical and cultural studies approaches that, in Treat's words, analyze the myriad ways in which modern people experience what makes them modern or even people. Yulia Mikhailov examines political cartoons and popular literature that appeared during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and drew upon traditional comic forms from the Edo period to serve a new modern literary/political purpose. Karen Nakamura examines issues of sex,gender desire and identity in shônen and shôjo manga at the end of the twentieth century. Lee Makela explores the role of the robot in Japanese and Western films.

1) Yulia Mikhailova, Hiroshima City University. "Intellectuals, Cartoons and Traditions in Meiji Japan"

In his book Studies in the Comic Spirit in Modern Japanese Fiction, Joel R. Cohn argues that the comic literary forms of the Edo period did not well suit the lofty national mission held by Japan in the Meiji period. However, this paper will demonstrate that many traditional comic forms were actively used in political cartoons and popular literature that appeared during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), when Japan made its most serious attempt to demonstrate to the international community the results of its modernization programs. Materials for the paper are taken from the magazine Nipponchi which was published as a supplement to Fuzoku gahô. Its editor-in-chief, Yamashita Shigetami, belonged to the second generation of Meiji intellectual elite and was a highly educated person. Most of the comic stories and cartoons published in Nipponchi contained allusions to famous pieces of literature, drama, rakugo, chaban or simply jokes of the Edo period, which means that Edo and even earlier traditions were alive in Meiji period. This paper will examine who and how constructed jokes as well as what and why was perceived to be comic at that time. It is obvious that cartoons may be used as valuable sources of information for the study of customs, manners and morals. However, the problem of the interconnection between the creative activities of the intellectual elite and popular culture at the beginning of the 20th century needs to be investigated more thoroughly.

2) Karen Nakamura, Macalester College. "Asexuality and Polygenderism: Shôjo Shônen Manga at the fin de siècle"

The end of the twentieth century was also the end of the first decade of Japan's protracted economic and emotional recession. Teenagers today have only faint memories of Japan's former economic greatness and little sense of their own future direction. Exploring shônen and shôjo manga at this fin de siecle reveals the complexities of the post-modern era: bleak vistas of psychological angst as well as frenzied consumption of gender, sexuality, and other identity markers. The emerging genre of cross-over manga and anime further complicate analyses of sex, gender, and desire at the turn of the twenty-first century. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, we have a character who is being given every boy's dream: the power, ability, and opportunity to control the world's most powerful robot. But he is tormented by psychosexual and familial nightmares only a Freudian could envision. On the shôjo side, Hagio Moto's works defy easy explanation of their polygenderism, asexuality, bisexuality, and re-renderings of sex and gender. We can read into these genres new attempts within Japanese youth to critique and re-envision sex and gender and thus their own roles in the future of the nation.

3) Lee Makela, Cleveland State University. "From Metropolis to Metropolis: Initiating a Search for the Soul in the Machine in Japanese and Western Film"

The role of the robot in modern life ­ Western and Japanese ­ has often been examined in film, particularly in science fiction epics dealing with the future. Bladerunner, Ghost in the Shell, Steven Speilberg's A.I. and the Star Wars series spring immediately to mind. My presentation seeks to initiate an inquiry into how the question of the soul is dealt with in these films ­ that is, how directors and other filmakers deal with the assumed uniqueness of sentient being and the consequences that ensue from the possibility that robots could one day move beyond the merely mechanical into the realm of emotion and "immortality." The focus of my inquiry is the Fritz Lang version of Metropolis (from 1927 but recently restored by Kino International and soon available on DVD) compared to the recent Japanese anime verson based on Otomo Tezuka's 1949 manga.

4) Deborah Shamoon, University of California, Berkeley. "Situating the Shojo in Shôjo Manga"

Shôjo manga as it exists today first appeared in the early 1970s when a group of young women known as the 24-nen gumi took over the girls' comics industry from male writers, and began to publish stories that spoke intimately to the desires and emotions of teenage girls in a radically new way. Hagio Moto, Ikeda Riyoko and Oshima Yumiko, among others, innovated the drawing style, content and tone of shojo manga that continues to be popular and influential today. However, in order to understand what makes shojo manga not just popular among girls and women but also radical, one must place it in context with previous representations of the shojo character in fictional texts. Although images of the shôjo or teenage girl began to
appear in popular culture early in the 20th century, for the most part, the shôjo was always an ambivalent figure: sexually appealing, but threatening to the patriarchal order. At various times she was celebrated for her innocence and purity, and at others seen as in need of control. Shôjo manga has become the first and only medium through which girls and women represent themselves in a private discourse. The image of the shôjo that appears in these comics has come to challenge and may eventually supplant older ideals of female identity. In this paper, I will outline the history of shôjo manga beginning with the 24-nen gumi, as innovators not only of an aesthetic visual revolution but a revolution in the depiction of teenage girl characters in Japanese culture.


list of panels