The twenty-first century global market has been inundated with Japanese cultural products that have redefined Japanese identity in the postbubble era. This cultural dominance takes the place of an economic dominance that evaporated with the crash of the “bubble economy” of the early 1990s. This “soft power” has been criticized as a new form of imperialism, an aggressive cultural marketing that is especially troubling given the prominence of war imagery in these new media arts and the concurrent rising tide of neonationalist sentiment in Japan.
Works such as Nakahashi Katsushige’s “Zero” (1999) comment on the troubled relationship between postbubble Japan and its wartime past. Yet the surface-oriented nature of this “Superflat” art can also distance the viewer from the deeper, more painful memories of national and individual bodies. These postbubble cultural products are invading the global market, but there is a danger in their appropriation of Japan’s past through a postmodern obsession that lacks historical depth.