Mukokuseki: Teaching Anime in a Borderless World
David Desser is Emeritus Professor of Cinema Studies, University of Illinois. He received his PhD in cinema from USC and has also taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, USC, Chapman University, Hong Kong Baptist University and Kansai University in Japan. He has authored and edited eleven books, most recently Small Cinemas in Global Markets. His best known works include The Samurai Films of Akira Kurosawa, Eros plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave Cinema, Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History and Ozu’s Tokyo Story. He provided commentary on Criterion DVD editions of Tokyo Story and Seven Samurai.
Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood
Northrop Davis (University of South Carolina)
It seems that every week, we hear about another project to adapt an anime series or manga into a big-budget American movie. In his new book, based on in-depth research and dozens of interviews he conducted with anime producers, manga artists, and Hollywood executives, Northrop Davis looks at the complicated relationship between manga/anime and Hollywood. From its inception manga was influenced by Hollywood and manga and anime have made more of an impact on Hollywood than many people realize. How has this relationship changed over the years? What is going on with it right now? And most importantly, where will it go in the future?
Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood will be published in December, and is currently available for pre-order.
Special Guest Lectures
Many of the ways in which anime and the Japanese animation industry have evolved from over the years can be explained by changes in Japan’s population pyramid. Using this approach, we can clearly map the rise of manga as a then-new mainstream phenomenon, the entrance of shojo manga as a counter-culture and anime as a grassroots movement, and the effect of the generational gaps between the first and second baby booms. The transformation of Space Battleship Yamato from an unsuccessful television series to a prominent theatrical feature film illustrates the grassroots aspect that set a precedent for otaku-oriented works. The generational gap, the growing disparity in the needs of show sponsors versus the desires of the animation production staff can be seen in the examples of Minky Momo and Macross, both shows facing cancellation/truncation and then extended, requiring major re-writes. The introduction of the Production Committee system brought about another paradigm shift, with effects on the anime industry, anime fan networks, and the anime press, that continues to influence how Japanese animation is produced and distributed to the present day.
There are several different ways to explain the rich diversity of anime as a form of visual popular culture and its growth around the world. One of these ways is to examine the unique structure of the Japanese animation industry, the strategies that Japanese anime companies have used to promote anime worldwide, and new trends such as anime cafes and anime tourism that will affect the direction of anime in Japan and globally for years to come.
Special Roundtable Discussion
Anime and Manga in the Classroom: Teaching Students, and Teaching Teachers
Scholars such as Kelly Chandler-Olcott, Ian Condry, Antonia Levy, William Tsutsui and others have contributed valuable research on how anime and manga can be used in formal classroom settings. This panel discusses the practical applications of anime and manga in high school and higher education settings. It will also question some of the limits of the previous ideas about the place and role of anime in the classroom, such as their focus on a small number of anime directors, and disconnections between the perspectives of educators and fans of anime and manga.
Chair: Brent Allison (University of North Georgia)
N. Trace Cabot (University of Southern California)
Kathryn Hemmann (George Mason University)
Amanda Kennell (University of Southern California)
Andrew John Smith (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)
Critical Approaches to Japanese Animation and Comics
- The Beautiful End of the World: Eschatologies of the Bishojo
Many of the most iconic characters in anime/manga are young women directly associated with apocalyptic and posthuman themes. Cultural critics have highlighted the parallels between these bishojo and motifs related to freedom, flight, hope, and healing, so it is interesting that often, they are also closely connected to themes of human extinction. I argue that, through the regenerative capacity of such characters, whose emerging sexuality is not yet tainted by masculine bodies and masculinist ideologies such as nationalism, militarism, and scientific rationalism, anime/manga present the “end of the world” as positive event that promises ecological balance and emotional serenity.
Kathryn Hemmann (George Mason University)
- Stories in Shades of Black and White: Use of Color in CLAMP’s Manga
Many Western comics depend on color, shading, and delicate variations in inking techniques to tell their stories, Japanese manga must create a visually compelling narrative with only black and white. Yet, many manga use significantly fewer inking techniques than standard Western comics. I compare techniques described by famed inker Klaus Janson for Western comics with those in three works by CLAMP in markedly different styles and targeted at different audiences By creating their aesthetic based on the tone and message of a specific work, CLAMP creates synergy between the narrative and visuals, integrating the disparate elements of the page, and transmitting a sense of depth in a manner entirely distinct from Western comics.
Mia Lewis (Stanford University)
Remixes and Responses in Japanese Popular Culture
- Straight Outta Compton, and Into Tokyo: Hip-Hop, Street Culture, and Japanese Manga
I examine several recent manga to highlight the complex, beautiful, and sometimes problematic relationship between Japanese culture and Hip-Hop culture. This kind of cultural mixing, appropriation, adaptation and “hybridification” is a sometimes-controversial theme, both in manga and in Western comics. Analyzing these themes, however, can be used in a unique way for insight into how different cultural products, can be used to bridge gaps in understanding culture, comics, and cultural mixtures.
Andrew John Smith (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)
- “On the Impossibility of Revolution”: Responses to Modern Japanese Literature and the Student Movement in Neon Genesis Evangelion
This presentation investigates the relationship between Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ryu Murakiami’s controversial 1987 novel Fascism of Love and Illusion, which depicts the rise of the charismatic fascist Toji Suzuhara as he comes to rule Japan and humble America. Drawing on statements made by Evangelion director Hideaki Anno, it examines the director’s conflicted relationship to Murakami’s text, and the role of the violent collapse of the Japanese student movement at the start of the 1970s, and the atmosphere of hopelessness and illusion which followed in its wake in guiding the orientation of many creators in the modern Japanese anime industry.
Japanese Popular Culture’s Reflections of Japan’s Urban Landscape
- Mapping and Mimesis in the Electric City: Steins;Gate and Spatial Practices
Otaku culture places a great deal of emphasis on Tokyo’s Akihabara district as a geographic center of fan activity. But, this was not always the case – Akihabara did not only became prominent in this way after the early-1990’s collapse of the bubble economy. Before Akihabara, the center of fan activity was located in Ikebukoro, and eventually, the two districts became marked by a prominent gender split. This presentation explores the implications of this divide as it plays out in several anime and games, primarily Steins;Gate. These, I argue, encourage audiences to adopt an otaku identity, and reminds them just how exceptional – and historically contingent – the urban transformation of Akihabara has truly been.
Forrest Greenwood (Indiana University Bloomington)
- Flaneurs and Urbanization: Japan’s Cities and their Residents in Manga
The city as a symbol of modernity is an expression of concerns about the urban landscape’s effects on society and the individual. Walter Benjamin explored these concerns in his concept of the flaneur, the “allegorist” or “alienated man”, who uses this gaze to investigate rising modern cities and the “coming desolation of the big-city dweller”. This presentation looks at how manga artists have adapted this concept and used it to draw attention to the unique features of Japan’s urban environment and its residents.
Maxime Boyer-Degoul (Universite Libre de Bruxelles)
- Katsuhiro Otomo’s Exploding Cities: The Intersection of Class and City in Domu, Akira, and Metropolis
Are there any connections between the representation of urban landscapes (especially apocalyptic ones) and the notion of class in Japan? If so, how do they change during times of prosperity and recession? I examine how the image of urban landscape and its destruction in important anime and manga are interconnected with the discourse of class in Japan during the 1980s and 1990s. These works present the image of the (exploding) city and its possible change over time, but also, suggest a shift in discussions of class in the once called “classless society“.
Sebastian Klausner (University of Vienna)
Anime’s Approaches to Religion and Spirituality
- The Power of Religion in Anime: Hayao Miyazaki’s Methods of Persuasion in My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro was one of the most important films in the history of animation, and essential to establishing Hayao Miyazaki’s fame and reputation. How did Miyazaki use religious symbols to tell a story that brought about an environmental revolution? This study examines Miyazaki’s concept of a three-layer relationship between nature and humans, and the tools and methods he used to promote it.
Yuxin Jiang (University of Pittsburgh)
- Super Saiyan Savior: Dragon Ball Z and the Bible
One of the major characteristics of the current digital age is a flow and trade of information that, whether intentionally or not, has influenced and molded works around the world. This presentation examines Dragon Ball Z as a tale of redemption and spirituality, a spiritual adventure for the Christian reader, and investigates the many motifs and symbols present in the Dragon Ball Z world and art. It also looks into the influences of Christianity on Japanese culture this influence may have impacted the creation of Dragon Ball Z.
Christopher Foster (Sam Houston State University)
- Humanity and Nature: The Parable of Pokemon
Anime draws viewers to the fantasy of a high-tech world, where present-day inconveniences and nature itself have all but vanished. This mirrors the relationship between humankind and nature. Initially dependent on nature as a means of survival, humanity now looks to nature for insight on the world it inhabits. Humanity has grown more distant from nature, and nature suffered. However, the Pokemon franchise shows an ideal balance between nature and humanity. By analyzing relations between nature and humanity in the world of Pokemon, we can see a better way of co-existing with the natural world.
The Creative Process in Japanese Popular Culture
- Characters as Music Makers in Neon Genesis Evangelion
This presentation looks at the musical attributes of the characters Ikari Shinji and Nagisa Kaworu from the seminal series Neon Genesis Evangelion, positing conclusions about their personalities and their narrative agency based on their roles as music makers. Shinji’s rendition of Bach and Kaworu’s humming of Beethoven are informed by Japanese cultural values and can be understood intertextually as works from the canon of Western classical music. This analysis allows us to explore the characters on a number of interpretive levels, adding depth to a series already famous for its complexity.
Heike Hoffer (The Ohio State University)
- Producing Hatsune Miku: Concerts, Commercialization, and the Politics of Peer Production
This presentation explores the expanded participation of ordinary consumers in media creation within the Japanese contents industry. It examines the Vocaloid franchise, using the official concerts of Hatsune Miku as one lens to view the politics of contemporary media convergence. These live concerts show us how the hybrid dynamics of top-down (producer-to-audience) and bottom-up (audience-to-producer) creative peer production play out between large companies and creative individuals. To explain this creative ecosystem, we situate Hatsune Miku in the context of creative peer production and explore how she exists as a distributed media artifact.
Alexander Leavitt (University of Southern California)