MUTUAL IMAGES 3rd International Workshop
Japanese Pop Cultures in Europe Today:
Economic Challenges, Mediated Notions, Future Opportunities
12-13 June 2015
Kobe University, Kobe (2015)
For the third Mutual Images workshop, we seek to explore the dynamic relations between Japan and Europe through contemporary popular cultures. Over these past decades, Japanese pop cultures (manga, anime on television and at theatres, video games, toys, gadgets, cosplay, fan-fiction, light novels, dramas and other forms of current entertainment) have been an important vector of Japanese culture on Europe. In the three sessions of this workshop, we shall interrogate the commercial, media-related and cultural aspects of the development of Japanese popular cultures in Europe today. We shall particularly consider the influence of Japanese popular cultures on European societies and mentalities, within a wide range of cultural, social or economic aspects; e.g. from artistic media, such as literary productions, to eating habits.
Session 1- Europe: just a market place or a true commercial partner for Japanese pop cultures?
Japanese pop cultures have reached many foreign markets and have been welcomed by European consumers as well. In this first section of the workshop we aim to interrogate the interactions that may have arisen and still arise from this continuing and ever-changing encounter. What are the contexts in which Japanese pop cultures were and are successfully (or unsuccessfully) imported? What social, economical, sociological, cultural aspects have contributed to its expansion? We encourage papers based on frameworks coming from all disciplines of Humanities and Social sciences.
Session 2- Japan in European media and public opinion before and after the boom of ‘J-cultures’
Media in European nations show different conceptions and adopt several different rhetorical narratives on Japan. These varying notions are certainly due to the history of the diplomatic relations with Japan, the national cultural tradition, the critic literature along the centuries. However, in the last thirty years a further shift might have been at play, due to the success of ‘J-cultures’ (especially manga, animation, toys), a phenomenon at work since the late 1970s. An example (but not the only possible) of this process is the effect of anime series on the ways of television consumption and the relevance of manga series in the local publishing markets, which may have had an impact in the definitions of Japan in the mainstream media and in the ways Japan has been told to the public. Therefore in this section we aim to interrogate the ways J-cultures have played and are currently playing a role in reshaping the attitudes adopted in the media discourse on Japan.
Session 3- Japan, outpost of the 21st century’s culture?
In the third part of this workshop we seek to explore the role of Japanese pop cultures in the making of the 21st century’s culture. Over the past decades, globalization and the intensification of transcultural exchanges have spread the seeds of future opportunities. Those seeds are now blooming, challenging our own very conceptions, as we can see with so many ‘mutual images’ between cultures. There is a wide range of elements at stake, be it the literary creation and reception, the education of our new generations, or common politics. By considering the Japanese pop cultures phenomenon in Europe today, we aim to reflect, through a wide range of topics, upon to which extent it holds future opportunities. Can it participate in the making of new mutual images between Japan and Europe? Would it be able to influence the education of our future generations, their politics and their social lives? Can it be seen as an outpost of the 21st century’s culture, or just as an ephemeral transition?
Université François-Rabelais (France)
In the past decades, Japanese scientific achievements have often reached our European shores. However, the 21st century culture is not limited to scientific progress. Due to unprecedented opportunities of global exchanges, new challenges and threats, it gives rise to the reorganization of ancient cultural elements – foreign, founding or even forgotten ones. At the edge of our future, the revitalization of the fragments of our past goes beyond borders, nationalities and cultural differences. Contemporary popular culture is an important vector to convey them, even on the other side of the Earth, where European’s past can become the future inspiration for foreign writers and artists. And Japan is no exception. It has started to be filled with European images from the past, whether it is in the medieval-fantasy backgrounds of video games or in highly praised literary works. Japanese popular literature participates in this movement, assimilating and reorganizing European cultural elements, before sending back to us those fragments, deformed and/or revitalized.
Amidst the various motifs extracted from our History and used by Japanese authors, one has caught our attention: the Vikings and their expedition to Vinland, in Yukimura Makoto’s manga Vinland Saga. Far from presenting stereotyped images of simple-minded and brutal Norse warriors, this historical work offers a new and foreign approach of Thorfinn Karselfni’ story and the two Sagas of the Icelanders mentioning him, the Grœnlendinga saga and Eiríks saga rauða. In this article, I study how Yukimura Makoto reconstructs the Icelandic’s Sagas and develops its historical context, in order to create his own rewriting of this famous Norse cultural element. By doing so, I argue that he provides the Japanese readers – and by ricochet European ones – with a revitalized Norse Literature and History in the 21st century.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität,
Institut für Jugendbuchforschung (Germany)
Images of Japan by readers and non-readers of manga in Germany
In the context of the surveys of the European Research Network (see Bouissou/Pellitteri/Dolle-Weinkauff: “Manga in Europe”. In: T. Johnson-Woods, ed., Manga. An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. New York: Continuum 2011, 253-266) it was, among other things, tried to determine if a connection between the reading of manga and the development of certain ideas about Japan, the Japanese and the Japanese society and culture can be observed. Several hundreds of manga readers between 18 and 35 responded to two online surveys in the years 2006/07 and 2011, almost the same number of non-readers responded to the second survey.
As the analysis showed, there is, overall, a clear tendency to a stable image of Japan, to positive judgements of Japan and the characteristics attributed to this country. However, those seem to feed from very different ideals, socio-cultural contexts and expectations. While the attitudes of the readers do not show significant changes between 2006/07 and 2011, non-readers in 2011 partly evaluated their judgements differently from those of the readers. What is obviously expressed by the non-readers is a significantly more distinct syndrome of foreignness towards the Japanese culture and the evident influence of the catastrophe in Fukushima. The talk tries to explain these different findings, define the scope of them and formulate questions and desiderata for future research. In the course of that, detailed findings, as for example the perception of Japanese mentality, will be discussed on the one hand, on the other hand, the detailed findings will experimentally be summarised into different types of images of Japan.
Cardiff University (UK)
The spread of Japanese manga from its country of origin to the rest of the world in the past three decades has gathered considerable academic attention. Considerably less attention however has been paid to the more recent phenomenon of scanlation, which sees a transcultural network of fans operating online dedicated to translating, adapting and distributing manga into other languages.
This presentation deals with the phenomenon of manga scanlation, mainly into English but with references to other languages as well. Scanlation will be framed within the context of global translation flows and the spread of otaku culture outside Japan. This presentation straddles between two related fields of translation research: on the one hand, the translation of visual narratives, what in English is commonly known as ‘Comics in Translation’; and on the other hand, the study of emergent communities of non-professional, non-academically trained translators.
The argument that will be put forward is that while the most obvious outcome of the network of scanlation are translated manga texts, these are by no means the only product, as scanlation as an informal learning environment is also engaged in the establishment of a body of behaviours, knowledge, norms and views that are desirable to fans. Taken together, these may be said to constitute a model of reality which takes as a source Japan or, more precisely, manga culture. Therefore, scanlation may be said to represent the translation not just of texts, but of three related aspects of Japanese manga culture: first, a repertoires of drawing styles and narratives targeting specific age and gender demographics; second, a culture of participation; and third, a representation of Japanese fandom as relevant to the sensibilities of scanlators.
Nagasaki University (Japan)
Founded in 1913 by Kobayashi Ichizô, one of the most significant entrepreneurs in prewar Japan, Takarazuka Revue proved itself along its centennial existence both a faithful mirror of and an influential model for the Japanese society. Simultaneously conservative in its gender representation and progressive in its performance practice, a contradictory symbol of the Japanese modernity and Japan’s leading figure in entertainment industry, emerged from the syncretic, cross-gender tradition of the centuries-old classical Japanese stage arts and challenging that very tradition through the creative employment of Western music and dramatic plots, Takarazuka Revue reconstructs in a specific way asymmetric interactions between identity and alterity, model and copy, history and geography, obtrusively displayed in sparkling tunes, fairy-tale-like sceneries and gorgeous costumes. Drawing on archive research of the German and Japanese press-review and on interviews with the Japanese and German organizers/promoters of the event as well as with Japanese and Western fans (who have partially attended the performances at Sportpalast in Berlin, 2000), this presentation’s goal is to analyse Takarazuka Revue’s position as a cultural institution within the process of representing Japanese late modernity, possibly carrying deep-going and wide-reaching messages of a new identity paradigm based of ‘love’, in its body as a local mass medium. Thus, the transition from ethics to aesthetics and from imagination to ideology in Takarazuka Revue’s marketing of historic-geographical spaces on the European stage reflects its metamorphose from an insignificant socio-cultural medium to a powerful political-economic message in postwar Japan as well as Japan’s emerging awareness from being an “outsider” to the Western world to gradually becoming an “insider” of the Asian community.
& Kevin CORSTORPHINE
University of Hull (UK)
(Japanese?) Cartoons and Manga movies:
The hard rise of Anime in UK market and society
This paper has as main objective to explore, adopting a historical and critical perspective, the release of film and anime TV in UK. This would be a first step towards the studio of the peculiar implementation of manganime Culture in Britain.
Compared with other European countries, UK has shown to be slower and even reluctant in importing Japanese television products. Thus, while major markets of anime such as France, Italy or Spain expanded considerably during 1975-1995 period, in a recurrent synergy of television markets, and technological publishing, the implantation of the principal channel (televised anime) in UK has been irregular and unstable. Even today, the catalogue of broadcasting anime is limited to some high success movies, late night television on thematic channels and quite recently, video-on-demand services (Netflix). The offer cannot be compare in importance and diversity to other European countries. This fact, far from being anecdotal, has had an impact on the subsequent implantation of media Japanese cultures such as manga, anime, video games and cosplay.
What can be the reason of this irregular development of Japanese visual culture in United Kingdom? Characteristic having the television market and / or the UK audience? Main hypothesis in relation to these issues can be considered to be of sociological character, but are reflected in the idiosyncrasies of British television culture and production system.
Thus, compared to other Western markets (including the US) which saw the opportunity to purchase economic products for children’s television audiences in the late 70s and early 80s, the British ‘telly’ already offered a broad catalog (Roobarb, Super Ted, Danger Mouse, etc. ..). The only exception to this children’s ‘made in Britain’ programming was the co-production model. This caused a leak of few products that were not even considered as “Japanese” (Seven Cities of Gold, Godzilla) but mere ‘cartoons’. This competition with the British children production as well as the wide catalogue of other forms of British Popular Culture would explain why the film, domestic video and later adults programming would be the marginal routes of entry for manganime.
Kyoto Seika University (Japan)
Understanding the specificities of fan subcultural markets through the frameworks of ethnic migrant markets and creative cultural industries approaches. The case of the anime-manga fan culture and market in Hungary
Broadcast television and anime have been at the forefront of reaching the wider mainstream audience with anime-manga culture in European countries for several decades now. Manga publishing has been slower to follow, but since the two-thousands has also established itself across Europe. A vibrant and visible fan culture has also grown up around anime and manga, both a result of the influx of these cultural products and at the same time acting as a catalyst for sustained interest in these forms. In Hungary, similar to a number of other countries, manga publishing and the anime-manga fan culture and market have been driven by subcultural producers, actors coming from within the culture or related fandoms and subcultures. Such fan subcultural markets have a number of peculiarities regarding their mode of operation, which I would like to argue can be better understood by looking at the characteristics of ethnic migrant markets on the one hand, and creative cultural industries on the other hand. The specialist tastes and demands of subcultures and fan cultures and the emphasis on giving back to the community resembles immigrant ethnic markets and communities. The defining constraints and motivations for participating in fan subcultural markets, however, are very different from those which characterize immigrant ethnic markets, and are rather in line with the motivation structure underlying decisions to work in the creative cultural industries. Understanding the logic and working mechanisms of fan subcultural markets, and the motivation of subcultural producers involved in them helps us better grasp the complex ways in which the mediation, localization and domestication of foreign cultural products such as anime and manga takes place and is negotiated within the transnational fandoms and national markets they engender.
Kyoto University (Japan)
Brokers of “Japaneseness”:
Japanese-language table-top role-playing games (TRPG) stayed mostly under the radar of (Western) gamers and scholars until 2008, when Maid RPG (Kamiya, Cluney) was released as the first English translation of such a game. TRPGs made by Japanese game designers had been overshadowed by their digital cousins, computer RPGs such as Final Fantasy, and Japan imagined as a digital game heaven. Instead of engaging a computer interface, players come together and narrate a shared adventure or story via character avatars and with the help of dice and often complex rules. The game world and the plot of their play exist mostly in their imagination, supported in some cases by elaborate character sheets, drawings, maps, and figurines.
Maid RPG had been an amateur-made game and remained a PDF-only in release in its English version. The first major translation was Tenra Bansho Zero (Inoue, Kitkowski) in 2014, chosen for its “Japaneseness,” that is, a plethora of elements, such as samurai, Shinto priests, and creatures from Japanese folklore set in a sengoku (Warring States) inspired world. However, it was not faithfully translated: “unfaithful” is not meant in any morally negative sense but refers to the many adjustments necessary to “sell” Tenra to an audience that was perceived as different from the “original” Japanese one and that (in part) perceives itself as different from it. Such adjustments included not only notes and explanations of “Japan” but also self-censorship vis-a-vis “Western” values. This paper traces how “cultural brokerage” does not simply translate between cultures but necessarily also produces them as a reality. It makes “the West” — by stripping away elements, adding information — and similarly also “Japan.” The paper shows that the “Japaneseness” of Tenra was its selling point but had to be made first through telling the audience what “authentic” Japan looks like.
Fabio Domenico PALUMBO & Domenica Gisella CALABRÒ
University of Messina (Italy),
University of Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Imaginary identifications: European pop culture through the Japanese looking-glass
Searching for a pop identity, Europe has mirrored itself in the Japanese imaginary. The reflection has provided Europe with a pop self-presentation, whose characteristics include both recognition and alienation. The element of familiarity rests on Japanese pop culture being itself influenced by Western culture, whereas alienation is to be ascribed to the estrangement towards contexts and narratives, which are distant from the experiences of ordinary Europeans.
This paper then aims to trace historically the exchange between Japanese culture and European culture in the period between modernity and postmodernity, highlighting the specificity of the Japanese route against the historical-cultural Western scenario. Our argument, corroborated by a relevant philosophical tradition, is that Japan has skipped modernity. This is quintessential to understand the affinity between the postmodern condition and the Japanese pop culture. Such affinity becomes evident in the contemporary invasion of Japanese pop icons, particularly the visual ones, into the European/Western cultural market.
The exportation of Nipponese products to Europe has its own dynamics, which we will attempt to illustrate, analyzing its phases in a chronological path. We contend that the most recent trajectory suggests the saturation of the European imaginary by the Japanese one and the risk of an ephemeral assimilation of Japanese pop. At the broad level, this phenomenon is observed within the frame of the history of ideas, considering the circulation of the aesthetics and of the imaginaries between Europe and Japan. More specifically, this conceptual frame is contextualized in the Italian scenario, delineating the practices of cultural consumption of more than two generations of Italians strongly influenced by the Japanese pop imaginary (specifically, we emphasize the case of the largest web-based Italian community dedicated to Japanese pop culture). Together with France, we argue that Italy has played a central role in the dynamics of European cultural assimilation of Japanese pop elements.
JOSÉ ANDRÉS sAntiago IGLESIAS
Vigo University (Spain)
Manganime’s market development in Spain in the late seventies and eighties –and its boom in the early nineties– mimics other major European markets such as Italy and France, since most of the mainstream anime series broadcasted in Spain were originally imported from Italian’s Fininvest/Mediaset and French licensing companies.
On February 1990 Dragon Ball aired in Spain (25th anniversary). However, it was not a nationwide immediate phenomenon. The “when”, “where” and “how” are different from any other broadly popular anime/manga series in Spain, as well as any other major European market, due to the specificity of the Spanish “Autonomous Communities” cultural, political and administrative division. Dragon Ball first showed up in regional television –TVG, TV3 and ETB (Galicia, Catalonia and Basque Country)– with just a few days in-between, dubbed not in Spanish but in the respective co-official languages (Galician, Catalonian, Basque), and grew as an independent social phenomenon within this regions before it spread nationwide years later.
With Dragon Ball, anime as a cultural platform in Spain influenced a lot of people by pushing the fandom boundaries into a broader social spectrum, turned anime and manga into mainstream mediums and – while initially both publishers and merchandising companies failed to anticipate such a significant social reaction– settled the foundations of the Spanish manga/anime industry. If compared with the current market consumption and broadcast mechanics, it’s a worthy case-study regarding how consumers engage with manganime and the obvious differences within both models. While back then generalist channels aimed to a broader viewer’s scope, nowadays specific otaku-oriented multichannels focus on proactive manganime hardcore fans. The phenomenon of Dragon Ball in Spain responds hereby to an interesting sociological model –dendritic and with interconnected elements– since it is neither reductionist nor holistic, but rather a complex system.
Independent researcher and journalist (France)
The VHS market of anime in France is marked by two periods. In the early 1980s, the film producer Jacques Canestrier has acquired the distribution rights of several series that were broadcasted on television. His other licenses are sold in the form of cassettes. These anime are treated as by-products intended for a child audience, which is perceived as uncritical. Other publishers are also getting on the market and since the legal deposit of VHS is not compulsory before 1985, the disclaimer is not always present on the tapes. The series are never fully distributed and the illustrations on cover are redrawn. Japanese rights holders didn’t really know how well their licenses have been marketed overseas.
In the early 1990s, these publishers disappeared and anime are very present on French television, but their bad reputation led broadcasters to remove them progressively, which pushes fans to professionalize and market themselves the series with a greater respect for the original works. In 1994 the publisher Kazé Animation is founded by former fans with their personal funds and the Japanese company Ucore. Subtitling of most VHS of the time is made by Odaje, fans association known through conventions. While major publishers remain chilly, other entrepreneurs seize the opportunity and engage in the market of anime VHS. While about fifty cassettes came out in indifference during the previous decade, in 1995 everything is accelerating and multiple publishers are established to meet the demands of a public who grew up with anime on TV. Even the big publishers are getting involved and Japanese rights holders are more aware of the French audience. But it leads to a rapid saturation of the market. Again, publishers disappear and those that remain are getting into the DVD market.