P38. Japanese Popular Culture and Society

Session: Session 5, 10:15 – 11:45 am, Saturday 9/30

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Technology

Chair: Yating Li (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenter: Paul Droubie (Manhattan College), Rami Ghandour (University of Oregon), Mie Takikawa (University of Kansas)

Forgetful Cinematic Memories of War

Speaker: Paul Droubie
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Manhattan College
Abstract: Two important anime movies, both based on earlier manga, were created in the 1980s that quickly became domestic classics: Hadashi no gen (1983) and Hotaru no haka (1988). Foreign and domestic scholars, critics, and audiences have praised the movies for their strong anti-war messages. When Susan Napier (2001) titled a chapter examining the movies as “Victim’s History,” it sparked a number of replies that largely rejected the claim, using mostly content analysis of the movies themselves. However, there has been little examination of the movies in their context of production or their reception as works of historical memory. While the intent of the creator and the content can tell us much about the movie itself and how it might be understood, analysis of the reception is necessary to give us a clearer understanding of how it was and is understood.  In this case, while the movies can clearly be understood as anti-war, especially by international audiences, inside Japan, the domestic context and reception provides a more complex and problematic reception. There, it was both anti-war and constituted an erasure of Japan’s own actions overseas during the war. While those supporting the war were shown as foolish or wrong, Japanese audiences identified with the suffering and loss of the inherently innocent child protagonists. The effect precludes collective responsibility for Japan’s own wartime acts; instead, Japanese were simply blameless victims of a near faceless and impersonal war, just as the protagonists were.

Welcome Home, Tora-san: Cinematic Nostalgia and Cultural Memories in Contemporary Japan

Speaker: Rami Ghandour
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Oregon
Abstract: In the late 1960s, Japan faced a changing society entering the “high growth era,” marked by images of a good life promoted by popular culture yet, concurrently, this was a time of inequities and protests, like the Zengakuren protest in 1969. Coincidentally in the same year, Its Tough Being a Man arrives onto Japanese screens when the nation seemed to recover from the effects of the war and its aftermath. Continuing for 50 installments, this film series, better known as the Tora-san series, directed by Yoji Yamada, placated people’s anxieties during the high growth and bubble era of Japan through its depiction of family bonds, domestic travel, and alternative masculinity. Despite its longevity and influence, only a small number of English language academic or critical studies have been conducted on the series, leaving a valuable portrayal of Japanese society and culture of the time lost outside of the country. In 1996, Tora-san’s actor Atsumi Kyoshi passed away, causing grief among many long-time fans. In memory of Atsumi, Yamada created a new installment in 2019, which allowed for reflection on the series’ depiction of Japanese society. In my paper, I analyzed this film’s use of cinematic and narrative techniques to remediate the memory of the cultural icon into contemporary Japan. Through inserting scenes of Atsumi’s past performances I conclude that the film creates nostalgia for Tora-san as a cultural memory embedded within cinema. Through assessing the product of nostalgia, I demonstrate how cinematic analysis can be performed upon cultural study.

Boys Love Power: ​ Boys Love’s Impact on Women’s Mental Well-being

Speaker: Mie Takikawa
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Kansas
Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan’s suicide rates rose by 80% for women (November 2020). To counteract such, this research explores alternative ways to enhance women’s mental well-being by demonstrating how some women use Boys Love; an animation, manga (Japanese comics), novel, or game genre depicting men’s homosexual relationships; to manage their mental well-being. By engaging in fanfiction or fanart creations, women convert their identities as mainstream cultural consumers into active producers through constructing personal networks to collaborate and corporate for their cultural production, which preliminary theoretical research has indicated may enhance their social and mental well-being. However, Despite Boys Love fans also engage in fanfiction or fanart creations, there has been little to no research in Boys Love studies regarding the connection between Boys Love and mental well-being. This research into Boys Love can address the current literature gap within the scholarships in Japan’s mental health and cultural activities about how engaging with these cultural media can improve women’s mental health and well-being. Using ethnographic methods, I will translate the theoretical claims about the connection between cultural activities and mental well-being into real observations, and reveal Boys Love’s positive effect to Japanese women’s mental health.