Hayao Miyazaki: The Transnational Fantasy of Post-WWII Japan

Of all of Japan’s modern international cultural product, perhaps the most prominent is Japanese animation, or animé, and for more than a decade, Hayao Miyazaki has been the preeminent Japananese anime filmmaker.  Wildly popular within Japan, Miyazaki’s influence has gone global, and his art is appreciated by both young and old worldwide. [Read more…]

Closer to “Real Japan”? Symbolism in Japanese Dramas


For the typical American, seeking Japanese television dramas for one’s viewing pleasures may require more  effort than watching dubbed Japanese anime. Dubbed animes are regularly played during Saturday morning time slots, during late night runs on cartoon channels, and may be found on the Internet in both their dubbed and original Japanese form with subtitles.  In the case of Japanese dramas, access is generally more limited—unless one has access to satellite TV (though these channels generally only carry Japanese subtitles).  However, with the rise of drama-centric websites (mysoju, dramacrazy), streaming websites (Youtube, dailymotion), and the growing number of online fansub [Read more…]

Distinctly Japanese: Satoshi Kon’s Millenium Actress and the Nature of Modern Japanese Culture

Japanese popular culture is often noted for its distinct lack of “Japaneseness,” or the scarcity of features that can expressly define its cultural products as unequivocally “Japanese.” A perfect example of this is Sanrio’s Hello Kitty character, which is one of the most instantly recognizable Japanese pop culture icons on the globe, yet essentially is a cat intended to be of British background.  In particular, Japanese animation, or anime, is well-known for its ambiguous representation of purportedly ethnic-Japanese characters. The use of large eyes and multi-colored hair for character designs and the science fiction and fantasy settings often employed in anime allow many viewers to forget that they are watching entertainment created in Japan.  Thus these features lend a certain mukokuseki or “stateless” aura to any animated work. Mukokuseki has been cited as being a factor in anime’s popularity outside of Japan, by allowing non-Japanese viewers to enjoy entertainment originally created for a Japanese audience. [Read more…]