Spotlight on New Publications: Cultural Representations of Masculinity in Saint Seiya

One of the goals of this blog is to promote and highlight new and noteworthy publications on anime and manga. And so, today marks the launch of the blog’s first regular feature – a Spotlight on a New Publication in anime/manga studies.

Piatt-Farnell, Lorna (2013). Blood, biceps, and beautiful eyes: Cultural representations of masculinity in Masami Kurumada’s Saint Seiya. The Journal of Popular Culture, 46(6), 1133-1155

Source: The Journal of Popular Culture, an official publication of the Popular Culture Association, is the oldest and most prominent scholarly scholarly, peer-reviewed publication covering this very broad field, which includes film, television, comics, videogames, and other related topics. In 1991, it published one of the first English-language scholarly articles on manga – ‘Protest and rebellion: Fantasy themes in Japanese comics’, by Kenneth Alan Adams, and since then, papers on Japanese visual popular culture have appeared in it regularly. Recent ones have included ‘A history of manga in the context of Japanese culture and society’ (Kinko Ito), ‘Remembering the future: Cartooning alternative life courses in Up and Future Lovers‘ (Casey Brienza), and ‘Transnational transformations: A gender analysis of Japanese manga featuring unexpected bodily transformations’ (June Madeley)

Author: Dr. Lorna Piatt-Farnell is a senior lecturer in communications studies at the Aukland University of Technology, New Zealand. Her teaching and research areas include food studies and food in popular culture, gothic studies, and twentieth/twenty-first century literature.

Thoughts and impressions: To the best of my understanding, this is the first English-language paper on Saint Seiya. That in itself makes it worth noticing. But the more interesting word in its title is ‘masculinity’. As the author notes, gender is a common topic in anime/manga studies, but most of the focus is on representations of girls and women and the idea of femininity. And to the degree that scholarship on representations of men and masculinity exists, it focuses primarily on representations that are subversive and transgressive – men in boys’ love manga aimed at female readers, and men in ero manga aimed at male homosexuals.

I agree. Looking at “orthodox” masculinity – mainstream and heteronormative – is easy to dismiss as boring. And indeed, there are relatively few papers out there that do look at how boys and men are depicted in manga that is aimed at boys and men. One piece that does come to mind is “Men under pressure: Representations of the ‘salaryman’ and his organization in Japanese manga” (in Organization: The Critical Journal of Organization, Theory and Society), but even that deals with a fairly narrow sub-set of both manga and its audience. In 2007, Megan Harrell did examine “Shonen epics, doujinshi and Japanese concepts of masculinity” in a paper in the Virginia Review of Asian Studies, and more recently, Angela Drummond contributed “a study of shonen manga” to the Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives essay collection. Does the author follow any of the models proposed in these papers? Or is she charting a new direction in how we think about males in manga – and males reading manga?

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