Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US
Japanamerica is the first book that directly addresses the American experience with the Japanese pop culture craze—including anime from Hayao Miyazaki’s epics to the burgeoning world of hentai, or violent pornographic anime to Haruki Murakami’s fiction. Including interviews with the inventor of Pac-man and executives from TokyoPop, GDH, and other major Japanese and American production companies, this book highlights the shared conflicts both countries face as anime and manga become a global form of entertainment and change both the United States and Japan in the process. (Amazon)
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Broad Japanamerica is a solid introduction to Japanese pop culture
In “Japanamerica,” Roland Kelts brings insight to the ever-increasing pop culture cross-pollination between America and Japan. The major focus of his work is on anime and manga. He begins with the legendary Tezuka Osamu and moves through anime’s history to the Oscar-winning heights of Miyazaki Hayou’s “Spirited Away.” He naviagates the murky (and surprisingly fascinating) business side of anime, with all the toys, accessories and intellectual property mismanagement included. Kelts gives a surprisingly amount of time to the taboo reaches of the imagination, as he sheds light on the infamous adult hentai manga. He wraps us his survey with a brief history of cosplay and analysis of the reflexive influence that US and Japanese pop culture share.
Overall, Kelts has some very interesting insights into anime and manga. The crux of his analysis lies in the idea that anime/manga are a medium used to deal with trauma. Whether that’s the bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki (or the Twin Towers attack on 9/11), Kelts views anime and its hyper-realistic styling as a sort of psychiatrists couch for both the creator and reader to share communal anxiety. That can be the threat of nuclear annihilation, loss of humanity through advancing technology or insecurities and fear of sexuality. This is a fascinating analysis; Kelts would do himself justice to revisit these theories in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
However, the focus on anime and its related forms leaves out an influential aspect of Japanese popular culture: J-Horror. At the time of this book’s initial publishing in 2006, “The Ring” and “The Grudge” had arrived in the US as both imports and remakes, yet the influence of neither is addressed. Kelts leaves this rather obvious hole in an otherwise exhaustive account of Japan-US pop culture cross-overs.
This omission aside, Kelts provides an excellent background on anime, manga, cosplay and the many other topics he details. His book is a fast and exciting read and chapters of this would fit nicely into in a high school media studies class or in an advanced Japan-focused social /cultural studies lesson. For a Japanese language teacher, there is little here other than a few bits of pop culture vocab. Quite honestly, this text would be most at home in a college level course on modern Japanese culture/media studies course. It would also serve a high school educator to help better understand the topic before teaching.