Friday, July 13, 2007

Yet More Otaku Autoethnography: New Worlds

Last night I focused on cutting a page or two from my JASF talk to leave time for more Q&A for once...and most of the following ended up on the cutting room floor. So I'm giving it a "Second Life" here. Well, actually I turned it into a handout and expanded it, so it's not like it's really gone from the talk. But I will make a special one-time Mostly Harmless offer. I'll send the handout--FREE, using the magic of attachments--to anyone who figures out how to email me and uses the magic word.

Along with changes in my personal life that I alluded to at the beginning of this talk, these interests led me to begin getting more systematic in my engagements with Japanese popular culture around 2003. I began looking through a wider range of American writing for images of Japan. Not just Gibson and Stephenson, but other science fiction writers like Orson Scott Card, Philip K. Dick, Marge Piercy, and Kim Stanley Robinson wrote futuristic and alternative history novels in which Japanese people and culture played important, if often problematic roles, as well. In addition, I devoured travel narratives and memoirs like Elena Tajima Creef’s “Notes from a Fragmented Daughter” (1984), David Mura’s Turning Japanese (1991), Bruce Feiler’s Learning to Bow (1991), Cathy Davidson’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji (1993), and Kyoko Mori’s Polite Lies (1997). Even here, though, I was selective; having read criticisms of similar works by writers ranging from Roland Barthes to Dave Barry, from Pico Iyer to Lydia Minatoya, and from Karl Taro Greenfield to John David Morley, I simply avoided their writings on Japan. What I couldn’t avoid, I analyzed, criticized, and discussed, such as major Hollywood productions like Pearl Harbor (2001), The Last Samurai (2003), Lost in Translation (2003), and Kill Bill (2003-2004). But above all I devoured all the anime I could find in English on television or with English subtitles on DVD, from old favorites like InuYasha to new ones like Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex and 2nd Gig, Full Metal Alchemist, Trigun, FLCL, Paranoia Agent, and Samurai Champloo, not to mention just about every Studio Ghibli movie I could find, along with films like Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress and Metropolis.

As I was doing all this, I noted that I wasn’t alone--and the phenomenon wasn’t limited to animation. Disney and Studio Ghibli performed some kind of merger that ended up putting America’s biggest Miyazaki fan in charge of Disney’s entire animation arm; manga in translation was appearing in major national book store chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble; the video game industry was regularly reporting sales figures larger than the American film industry’s; Japanese superstar athletes competing in the U.S. like Ichiro, Matsui, Dice-K, Shigeki Maruyama, and Ai Miyazato were getting lots of attention from the U.S. sports media; and web sites, newspapers and magazines, and even scholarly journals were publishing copious commentary and analysis of all these developments. With the rise of “Web 2.0” technology like blogs, YouTube, and Google Video, even more networks for distributing representations of and images from Japan were spreading fast. Clearly, Japan had arrived in twenty first-century U.S. popular culture.

Now let's see if I that typhoon coming allows me to actually give the talk today. So far it's just blustery and drizzly (and is definitely low-keying this thing in its forecasts)....

1 comment:

E. Creef said...

Hi. I stumbled across your wonderful blog and wanted to leave you this fan note. You have a nice site. If you email me at, I will send you my blog address! What's the JASF conference? e.t.c.