Animated Subjects: On the Circulation of Japanese Animation as Global Cultural Products Jiwon Ahn

Division of Critical Studies School of Cinema-Television University of Southern California OCR by [CiN]

I. Introduction

In an interview performed at the end of the 1980s, Fredric Jameson elaborates on his notion of the disappearance of nature in the postmodern, the disappearance of the unconscious, in this case: Today I think one of the characteristics of the postmodern is very precisely this penetration and colonization of the unconscious. Art is commodified, the unconscious is itself commodified by the forces of the media and advertising and so on, and therefore it is also in that sense that one can claim a certain kind of nature is gone… And I think it’s proper to insist on that… there is a certain freedom involved in being no longer constrained by traditional forms of human nature. What Jameson means by this suggestion is highly ambiguous: especially, the way in which commodification of the unconscious results in the release of human nature from its traditional limits is not clearly explained. Jameson himself admits that he remains ambivalent on the concept of human nature itself, yet he goes on further arguing: … instead of replacing those [the disappeared form of older, inner -directed personality, the acquisitive individual, the centered subject, etc.] with the rhetoric of psychic fragmentations, schizophrenia, and so on, one should return again to notions of collective relations, but collectivities of new types, not of traditional kinds. That would, it seems to me, be a way of looking at human nature as a social thing that would be in my opinion the most productive socially and culturally, and politically as well. (Jameson, 354) Although deeply vague, it seems to me that Jameson’s conceptualization of a new subjectivity that is both mediatized and emancipated in the postmodern environments can be revealing about the cultures of globalization. That is, to the extent that postmodernism is considered as the cultural logic of late capitalism, which Jameson later relates more specifically with the term globalization,[1] his proposal on the disappearance of nature in the postmodern could be also used productively in thinking about our altered subjectivity in the process of globalization. Besides, I find Jameson’s basic theoretical premise in his major projects - that the interrelationship of culture and the economic is “a continuous reciprocal interaction and feedback loop”— not only provides a still sensible starting point in examining the current cultures of more intensified globalization. By being attentive to the intimate interrelation between the cultural and the economic, we can also recognize the fact that in the current phase of globalization, the relationship between the two realms becomes so extremely intertwined that now it is both ineffectual and impossible to consider the two separately. Thus, in this essay, I will examine the way in which global media products, produced through the complicated network of the cultural and the economic on an unprecedentedly transnational scale, circulate and interact with individuals and collectives at certain local junctures of global cultures. The case I tend to focus on in the present essay is the varied manners in which Japanese animation is circulated in different regional cultures, especially in the local cultural practices in South Korea. As a media product, I would argue, of a distinctively global nature, Japanese animation seems to bring about interesting interactions between production and consumption, infra and supra structures, public history and private memories, the real and the fantastic and most importantly, conscious and unconscious appropriations of the cultural texts. Indeed, there seems to me to exist not only consciously organized numerous fan groups of Japanese animation in different local cultures worldwide. There also appear to be imaginary communities that latently exist among broader, younger audiences across national boundaries, who share the collective memories of consuming the same media texts and the common nostalgia for their childhood viewing experiences. It is in this juncture where I find a new subjectivity, thoroughly penetrated by commercial media, yet at the same time released from the restrictive forms of traditional (modern) human subjectivity, can be imagined in a very real sense. Further, the fan reception of certain animation texts, such as Hayao Miyazaki’s works, can be said to provide an illuminating example of the global media phenomenon that calls into question the existing theoretical frame works. In this essay, therefore, I will mainly discuss the way in which South Korean fan appropriations of Japanese animation challenge various critical paradigms and call for a new approach to the cultures of globalization. In order to properly explore the profoundly multiple dimensions of the question, I would first contemplate on the reasons why Japanese animation needs to be considered as a cultural product of the global conditions.

II. How Global Is Anime?

As is well known, animation (called anime) and comic books (manga) are two of the mainstream forms of popular culture in Japan. To take only a few examples: about 23% percent of the entire printed materials in Japan are reportedly comics[2] more than 250 animation programs per week are aired on television; average 1700 (short or feature length) animation films are produced per year and about 2200 animated television programs produced per year—in other words, average 6 new works produced everyday--, which makes Japan a number one producer of animated video and television programs that comprise about 65% of the world production.[3] The popularity of Japanese animation (anime, hereafter) has been accordingly phenomenal in Japan since the inception of the medium as a practically postwar popular cultural trend[4] and has ever increased with the sophistication of its technical and literary languages. It is thus no wonder that tickets sold for anime films are estimated to reach about half the entire annual box office sales in Japan[5] and that Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 record-breaking hit anime Princess Mononoke remains as the highest-grossing Japanese film to date.[6] Yet, what is more interesting about anime for the current discussion is its border-crossing appeal that has attracted numerous fans in many different regions of the world. While it is an intriguing question worth a separate critical investigation how such a local cultural development could translate to broad international audiences, it can still be said that anime texts travel abroad across the national-culutral boundaries as important media commodities. Certainly, anime has induced lively fan cultures all over the world, most noticeably in South Korea and Taiwan, the former colonies of the Japanese Empire, yet also as widely as in other Asian regions like Hong Kong, Thailand, other South Asian countries, in both Eastern and Western European countires and equally in North and South Americas including the United States. To take just one example, in Italy, the popularity of Yumiko Igarashi’s comic and animated series Candy Candy was so enormous in the 1980s that, after the end of the original Japanese series, Italian producers had to hire local artists to continue the series.[7] However, the global quality of anime does not simply lie in the scope of international fan cultures. More significantly, the process of anime production reveals its status as a global media product, through its close connection to the transnational capital and the Third World labor. Firstly, we need to think about the magnitude of the capital and industry involved in the production of anime. As a lucrative commodity produced in a highly developed media industry, anime can be more fully understood within the web of influences organized according to the successful “media mix” strategy. That is, there has formed a full circle of related industries around anime in Japan: in many cases, it starts, although not necessarily in a chronological sense, from the original manga (comic book) series; then the manga is adapted to animation series in television or film or both formats; also video production of the animated series follows, while video series (called OAV, original animated video or OVA, original video animation), are often directly created from the original manga, too; then almost simultaneously, various goods related to the manga and anime, including original soundtrack CDs, paperback books, fanzines, and numerous character merchandises like action figures, toys, stationery goods, confectionary products, etc., are distributed in the market[8] also, the release of computer games based on the manga and anime follows, which in turn increases the sales of the original manga series, magazines, books and videos and encourages the creation of extended editions of the original manga and anime. These close relations among several different cultural and commercial industries have been apparently very functional on a business level, contributing to inaugurating such Japanese TNCs as Sony and Nintendo as notable players in global economy. Yet, at the same time, the media mix policy has been very significant in terms of the dialogic influences on all the forms and contents of the media products under the synergistic effect of the circle. For a more specific example, we can briefly digress to look at the case of the recent popular craze, the Pokemon series.

III. Pokemon, the Pick-pocketing Monster Idol of the Global Culture

Pokemon, an abbreviation for “poket monsters,” originally started in Japan in 1996 as a computer game for Nintendo’s Game Boy and has been quickly morphed into a global multimedia phenomenon of comic books, animated television shows, movies and videos, trading card games, collectibles and toys. The whole series revolves around the adventures of a twelve year old boy who aspires to be a great “Pokemon master,” who trains various kinds of Pokemon (biological creatures with supernatural powers of an unknown origin) to defeat other Pokemon trainers and become a higher “master.” Logically, the overarching theme of the series and games is to collect all the Pokemon, as is revealed in the consistently repeated catch phrase of the series, “Gotta Catch ’em All.” This phrase can be meaningful in a viewer’s real life too, since a viewer/player can also participate in the imaginary competition by consuming Pokemon products and become a “trainer” as in the diegesis, who captures each different Pokemon and uses it to advance to higher levels of mastery. Significantly enough, the most accessible, if not the only, way for a viewer to collect them all and become a great master is to spend more money. In this sense, it is no wonder and quite fitting that the detailed information on the several hundred kinds of Pokemon—concerning their names, fighting abilities, special features, various evolutionary stages, etc.-- requires such a remarkable amount of expertise from the collectors. For, to collect more and gain more knowledge, one needs to consume more of various products including books, cards, videos, and computer softwares. Therefore, the Pokemon series clearly exmplifies the way in which the whole circle of media products function in close relations with each other, utilizing smartly designed themes and narratives that motivate and reward more consumption. Further, we can find the influence of related commercial media on the Pokemon anime, not merely in its narrative or thematic concerns, but in its formal techniques as well. As is seen in the example of Pokemon the First Movie, which was commercially successful in both domestic and international markets, yet heavily criticized (mainly by adult viewers) for its lack of narrative, the Pokemon anime often has a highly fragmented narrative line, with each fragment only loosely connected to each other without any strong causality. This rhetoric, although it may bore uninitiated viewers, can directly appeal to regular audiences, as home shopping TV shows do, presenting each product more powerfully with the sensory stimulation of excessively repeated visuals and utilizing narrative devises only secondarily. At the same time, we can find a remarkable parallel between the formal strategies of the Pokemon anime and those of its original computer games. To name just a few, the battle sequences in the anime seems to derive directly from the computer game format, with devided frames, stylized action choreography, and conventional musical accompaniments. Similarly, the often implosive, schizophrenic sensory appeals of the Pokemon series, which constantly distract viewers from the experience of any coherent narrativity, could be explained in terms of the influences of its original computer games. Also, the fluid identities of characters in Pokemon can be said to originate from the computer game genre, in which we can pick any pair of fighters for battles: therefore, there cannot exist an absolute enemy or villan, as is exemplified by the ambiguously evil characters, Team Rockets in Pokemon. As is discussed so far with the example of Pokemon, the circulation of anime is closely interconnected with varied kinds of media and other consumer industries that function uniformly according to the logic of the transnational capital. Thus, an anime text could be best understood only when we take into consideration its status as a media product of global economy which determines not just production and distribution of anime, but affects its communicative dimensions as well. Another aspect of global quality of anime is caused by its connection to the Third World labor, which I will examine with a more specific example of South Korea.

IV. South Korea, the Surrogate Motherland of Anime

The labor intensiveness in the production of animated materials is hardly unique to the Japanese case: whether it is actually hand-painted or mechanically generated, (cell) animation in general entails the painstaking procedure of production in which thousands of animation cells are processed through some kinds of human labor practice. What is rather specific to Japanese animation is, though, that it is produced within a highly developed studio system with a rigorously rationalized division of labor.[9] Hence, it is not surprising that because of the high labor costs in Japan, since the 1980s only preproduction (script, storyboard, character design, etc.) and post-production (film editing, color timing, sound, etc.) of anime have been done in Japan and other jobs of the production such as coloring, inking, painting, background, and inbetween animation have been done in other “less developed” regions-- mainly in Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, but recently in Thailand and other South Asian countries as well[10]-- by “delicate touch” of largely young, female, low-waged labor forces. The South Korean case appears to be particularly interesting to think about in examining anime’s relation to the Third World labor. According to a report written in 2000, South Korea is the third largest producer of animation worldwide, following Japan and the United States: yet, 95% of its output is manufactured by foreign order and none of the 400 animation studios in Korea is fully committed to making domestic shows. Around 1995, the Korean government, recognizing the commercial potential of animation, began to support the animation industry in order to increase the domestic production, by granting a number of incentives, such as a lower tax base, low interest loans, and a viable infrastructure. As a result, many studios, formerly produced foreign works, turned domestic, bringing out about six features and numerous shorts that deal with Korean folklore and traditional cultures. However, by the late 1990s, the boom quietened down as the international markets for Korean domestic productions were hard to find and as the interests of local audiences turned out to be too limited to continue the domestic production.[11] It is still early, in my view, to make any conclusion about the situation, which nevertheless, provides us with a series of questions worth scrutinizing. First of all, it would be necessary to ask about how to understand the seemingly exploitative relations of anime production in which there appears to be no way out. Does this simply reflect a new world order in the age of globalization, when the division between core and periphery grows even more severe and permanent? Or is there any possibility of change or intervention in the relentless operation of transnational media conglomerates? Moreover, considering the intricate past history between Korea and Japan (especially, the 36 years’ colonial rule of Korea by Japan in the early 20th century), which caused the former to ban most cultural imports from the latter for almost half the century, we need to contemplate the validity in reading the current situation simply as manifestation of an economic and cultural imperialism. In other words, it would be necessary to question whether it is appropriate and useful to map the current involvement of Korea in the production of anime in terms of new colonial relations of domination and subjugation. More importantly, there is at stake the implication of anime fan cultures in Korea: what it means to be a fan of a text which is mass produced by the former colonizer’s culture industry through the compatriots’ labor practice. Indeed, it seems to me a significant question to ask what kind of meanings Korean (and other non-Japanese) anime fans are negotiating through the reception and consumption of the Japanese animated texts.

V. The Cultural Logic of Global Anime Kids

As is briefly mentioned above, the importation of almost all the popular cultural materials produced in Japan has been prohibited by the Korean government for the past fifty years for apparently historical reasons. The ban was partially lifted only in 1998 and certain Japanese popular cultural products-- such as entertainment television programs and movies rated for viewers over 19 only—are still not allowed for public exhibition in Korea. Yet, in spite of the strong nationalist policy of the government and educational authorities (or in a sense, because of them), there have been formed rather broad underground cultural circles in which most renowned Japanese comics and animated materials were available for eager audiences.[12] Then, what it meant to watch anime prior to its legalization in Korea must have been very different from the implication of viewing anime in the current legalized environment. Indeed, its banned status must have added a unique appeal to anime as a subcultural text, which was passionately embraced by the general public whose antigovernmental sensibility was visibly mounting against the dictatorial regime of the 1980s. Looking back, it seems now quite bizarre and almost perverse to have utilized the light-hearted icons of Japanese commercial media, like Totoro (the adorable roundfigured imaginary animal in My Neighbor Totoro), in making serious political statements. However, it is certainly not accidental that anime was one of the most popular and regular components, together with political films from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, in programs of college film festivals, which functioned as important venues for antigovernmental demonstrations in the People’s Movement of South Korea in the 80s. Nor it was a solely Korean phenomenon since the use of anime images as a symbol of subversion was witnessed in some other cases of socio-political turmoil as well.[13] Anime, in this context, can be said to have been appropriated to disseminate drastically alternative meanings of the culture, regardless of the mainstream, commercial origin of the text. It is no wonder that by and since the time of the lifting of the ban in Korea (in 1998) the fan cultures of anime have become much more widespread, active and selfasserting. In fact, there exist thousands of anime fan clubs in South Korea currently operating through internet, grouped around specific shows, characters, genres, themes, creators, and so on. It is also understandable the fan activities of these younger generations do not necessarily have the same kind of political agenda as their predecessors’ projects did. Yet, I think it is still true to say that anime provides these young Korean fans valuable means to build communities with and share cultural vocabularies to express themselves with. For major fan activities of these groups are not simply confined to chatting about their favorite shows and sharing information about where to locate hard-to-find videos, but genuinely extensive, ranging from lively discussions on various current events to sharing and distributing their own creative works including drawings, anime works, diaries, novels, and so forth. To take just one example, we can think about the practice of “cosplay” in Korea, the fan activity that has become especially popular since the opening of the media market to Japanese popular cultural imports. Cosplay, which is a fan term originated in Japan as a shortened version of “costume play,” indicates the cultural practice of imitating anime or manga characters by creating the same costumes as in the shows and masquerading in the costumes for public display or picture-taking.[14] For the past decades, cosplay has been practiced mostly in Japan, where extremely sophisticated costumes and photo works have been produced: yet, with the increasing popularity of anime, manga, and comic conventions worldwide, cosplay has quickly gained more visibility in various local cultural scenes throughout the globe. Then, what seems to me particularly remarkable in the Korean example of cosplay is that, in spite of the still remaining anti-Japanese sensibility (especially among older generations) and the consequent criticism against anime fans for mindlessly accepting the Japanese “trashy” media products, the participants of cosplay in Korea readily utilize the cultural vocabularies most available in their everyday lives—the vocabularies of comics and anime-- in order to negotiate and construct their own identities. In other words, this Korean case makes it clear that however low or illegitimate the status of anime in the existing cultural hierarchies may be, fans are willing to use it as a precious channel of cultural discourses as far as it plays a significant part in their daily existence as cultural beings. (In addition, it is fascinating to note that the Korean versions of cosplay are said to be more community-based and more geared toward group performances on stages and in competitions than their Japanese counterparts, which are supposed to be largely dependent upon individual works created by rather isolated fans/artists, often called otaku.[15]) I have so far discussed the fan activities in Korea that consciously appropriate anime to create cultural and political meanings that differ from the dominant readings of the texts. There exists, I would argue, yet another significant layer of anime fan culture we need to look at in Korea: for those now adult audience groups (mostly in their late 20s and 30s), while not necessarily participating in any fan activities like collecting video tapes, chatting on internet, joining in fan clubs, etc., could still be said to comprise latent fan communities on a broader scale, by remembering the anime texts they watched in their childhood with strong emotional attachments and passionate nostalgia. Of course, it may not be new that people can develop a collective nostalgia toward certain popular cultural materials of certain historical times. However, in the case of the invisible fan communities formed around anime in Korea, there seem to be several noteworthy aspects that can help us better understand the issue of subjectivity in the cultures of globalization. First, it seems to be appropriate to consider the specificity of the cultural context in which the aforementioned, less conscious fandom of anime has been formulated in Korea. That is, contradictory to the South Korean government’s strong nationalist policy of banning theatrical release of any Japanese films, a large number of Japanese animation series have been aired on the Korean television throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Surprisingly enough, there have been very few cases in which the broadcasting of Japanese animation programs became problematic: the networks, always in need of both cheap and entertaining programs such as anime, have convincingly pleaded that children’s materials retained universal values that had nothing to do with the Japanese national identity. As a result, younger viewers in Korea came to build rather an ambivalent relationship with anime, to the extent that they were enjoying their earliest cultural experiences through the Japanese animated programs at home, while learning about the evilness of the (national) origin of the texts at school. In other words, these younger generations must have developed inevitably split and radically fragmented subjectivity in the situation where public cultural identities were hardly compatible with private aesthetic pleasures. Further, it is not difficult to imagine that there formed a sort of rupture between the cultural sensibility of these younger generation viewers and that of older generations who do not have the early memory of watching Japanese animation on TV. Unlike their seniors who had been educated in a more traditional way, taught more of long-standing values and trained to experience culture in a more coherent and orderly manner, the young anime kids had to learn instead, how to negotiate between contradictory domains-- between official cultures and subcultures, between high art and cheap entertainment, between public history and personal memories, between reality and fantasy and so on. Also, it would be barely fortuitous that so many texts of anime, which itself started as a communicative medium for Japanese youth in the devastating postwar situation, reflect the break (and almost disavowal) between generations, usually featuring parentless protagonists. Yet, even more importantly, it is said that this unintended reception of anime and its influences by younger viewers happened quite similarly in Taiwan too, where Japanese animated programs were widely shown, owing to the loosening of the ban on Japanese media imports since the 1980s. Consequently, there have been formed an unprecedented scope of anime fan cultures among young audiences, both on conscious and unconscious levels, almost equally in Korea, Taiwan and Japan (as well as in other regions). For example, the majority of young audiences who had spent their childhood in the aforementioned East Asian countries can be considered to hold the common early memory of watching some anime TV shows by Hayao Miyazaki, who can be, judging from the extent and intensity of emotional impacts of his works, plausibly regarded as a spiritual father figure of these anime kids. While renowned in the West for his animation films that are considered to be “classics,” such as Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), and Princess Mononoke (1997), Hayao Miyazaki has also contributed for numerous TV anime series since 1963, mostly with the collaboration with Isao Takahata. To name just a few, Miyazaki has participated in the production of Gulliver’s Space Travels (1964), Little Witch Sally (1968), Animal Treasure Island (1971), Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (1971), and World Masterpiece Theater since 1974, which included literary animation series like Alpine Girl Heidi (1974), The Dog of Flanders (1975), Three Thousand Miles in Search of Mother (1976), Anne of Green Gables (1979), and so on. Also, Miyazaki has made his directorial debut with the television series Future Boy Conan in 1978, which has become immensely popular in many Asian regions in the 1980s.[16] Although these programs were, generally speaking, more realistic, less predictable, and had more complicated plots and themes than regular children’s materials—particularly so when compared with most of the Disney animation--, to the extent that they still conveyed strong messages of hope and belief in humanity to which the anime kids nostalgically hold on, I would argue, Hayao Miyazaki’s television works and other anime programs have stimulated a kind of imagined communities of collective media consumption, or “communities of sentiment” in Arjun Appdurai’s terms. The latent fans of anime can certainly be called “imagined communities” in the sense that, as communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (which thus needs to be imagined), they retain certain comradeship based on same sensibility-- same imagination, frustration, longing, memories, etc.- which is mobilized by anime texts. And, if Benedict Anderson’s schematization of imagined community effectively showed the way in which print capitalism roused the sense of community in replacing the antiquated cognitive framework of religion with the then fresh concept of nation-state, I would maintain these communities of anime sensibility clearly illuminate how the notion of nation state is now significantly challenged by the fluid cultural identities of fans across national boundaries. If communities are, as Anderson justly remarked, “to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined,” the communities of East Asian anime fans certainly need to be taken seriously since they are, in spite of their illegitimate and scandalous origins, imagined in a possibly subversive style. (Anderson, 6) One example that shows the magnitude of these dormant fan communities could be witnessed in South Korea in 1992 when a popular singer/song-writer (Lee Seunghwan) made a reproduction of the theme song of The Dog of Flanders (one of the television anime series aired in Korea in the early 1980s), which became extremely popular because, in my view, it smartly appealed to the unnoticed community of fans who share the yearning memory of watching the show in their childhood. Yet, the potential of the transnational anime fan communities can be speculated not just in terms of their commercially mobilized buying power but also in their evident influences in a broader discursive context. For example, we can think about the current trend in international art scene, broadly called Japanese Punk Art or “poku” (pop+otaku) art.[17] Although it might be too recent a phenomenon to be fully acknowledged and grasped, the “poku” art seems to have been developed by a group of young Japanese artists who are, heavily influenced by anime, manga, and comupter games, committed to incorporating those popular cultural inspirations in their art works. This art movement, embodied both in the production of commercial merchandises like T-shirts and toys and in the creation of fine art paintings enthusiastically sought after in New York galleries, seems to me to reveal the profoundly mobile and versitile nature of the imagined communities of anime sensibility. In other words, the Japanese punk art proves both geographically and discursively, the imagined communities can be expanded to a truly global dimension, crossing boundaries of national identities and blurring hierarchies between fine art and popular cultures. For example, we can easily find the shared sensibility of anime communities in the following remarks of the two leading Japaense punk artists, Kenji Yanobe and Yoshimoto Nara, whose works are well received in various cultural sites outside Japan: When I was a child, I saw TV animation, and got impression from them. I wanted to find the center of beauty from this [Japanese popular] culture.[18] … people say, “You have a big influence from Japanese animation.” No. I have a big influence from my childhood. The animations gave me influence, but they are not animations you can now watch on TV. The animations I saw before when I was a child. Sometimes, people have kind of nostalgic from my paintings.[19]

VI. Concluding Thoughts on the Cultures of Globalization

As I have discussed so far, the complexities and dialectic dimensions of anime fan cultures in Korea appear to me to disrupt all the binary frames of understanding such as the colonizer and the colonized, core and periphery, the First world and the Third world, and so forth. Especially, it is worth paying critical attentions to questions concerning the imbalance between the fans’ cultural attachment to the texts and the underlying implication of economic exploitativeness of the whole phenomenon; also, the broad scope of imagined communities latently formed and possibly mobilized around the collective memory of watching the same anime texts; and finally, the ambivalent subjectivities of the young (Korean) audiences who are deeply split between guilt and pleasure, between public imbuing of official history and private consumption of forbidden media texts. What is engendered in this juncture is apprently not onedimensional reflections of the logic of the transnational capital, but dialogic discursive contexts that can stimulate alternative cultural practices while reinforcing hegemonic power relations as well. In other words, an apprent point here is that the global communities of anime fans cannot adequently examined in simple terms of cultural or economic dominance and imperialism. Exploring the similar questions on reception of Japanese mass culture in Taiwan, Leo Ching maintained, although there used to be certain historical contexts in which the discourse of cultural imperialism could be used functionally—like the 70s’ Chilean revolutionary situation which required anti-(American) imperialist manifesto such as Dorfman and Mattelart’s How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic (1975)--, now in a world of transnational corporations, telecommunication, information network, and international division of labor, the existing model of centerperiphery relations is “no longer viable.”[20] Pointing out the limits of both of the antiimperialist diagnosis and the deploticized, almost celebratory analysis of the prevalence of Japanese mass culture in Asia, Ching argued, “Not only can the institution of cultural production no longer be isolated to a single ‘center,’ but the passive reception of the ‘periphery’ should also be questioned.” Above all, the heterogeneous ways in which people use the dominant cultural texts in the “periphery” can never be formulated effectively through any generalizing schematization: If global mass culture represents the new configuration of a changing capitalist relations in which a nation-centered response or resistance is no longer adequate, we need, on the one hand, to recognize that this cultural process is spatially and temporally uneven and discontinuous, and on the other hand, to be attentive to the different, at times, contradictory and unintended, ways social agencies are articulated and empowered at every point of cultural practices. (Ching, 192) Therefore, we can conclude, in examining such global media texts as Japanese animation, the necessity, and urgency indeed, to be attentive to specificities of each case has become unprecedentedly high. Only very local examples could shed lights on the blind spots of meta-narratives that have been so far mostly constricted to the topography of conflicting nation-states. As David Morley indicates, in globalization “locality is not simply subsumed in a national or global sphere… [but] increasingly bypassed in both directions: experience is both unified beyond localities and fragmented within them.” (Morley, 9) More importantly, the study of the individual and private patterns of media appropriation is now, more than ever, closely related to political questions. For, a new subjectivity in the age of the global/postmodern, which is thoroughly penetrated by commercial media, yet at the same time, released from the restrictive forms of traditional human subjectivity, can be possibly imagined as political agency. It might be too soon to share Arjun Appadurai’s hopeful vision of the political future of the imagined communities of global media reception, which he believes to be capable “of moving from shared imagination to collective action” and of “creating the possibility of convergences in translocal social action that would otherwise be hard to imagine.” There still remain a series of critical questions to be answered, on how the border-crossing imaginary communities can be mobilized as political agency and how the individual subjectivity formed within the global media environments can be returned to collective relations, and the like. Nevertheless, the implications of being actively engaged with global media texts and participating in discursive communities by becoming the remembering/imagining subjects in a certain style could be political. For, being animated by global media texts like anime is, I would argue, the most personal yet social activity, and the most schizophrenic yet liberating experience in the context of globalization.[21] [1] Repeatedly, Fredric Jameson insists on calling the current material conditions “late capitalism” instead of “post-industrialism” or “multinational consumer capitalism” to emphasize the continuity rather than the break between different historical phases of capitalist system, borrowed from Ernst Mandel’s tripartite formula. Whichever terms Jameson prefers to use, though, what he means by “late capitalism” seems to parallel to the series of new phenomena, which is now generally called globalization: “Besides the forms of transnational business…, its[the new system’s] features include the new international division of labor, a vertiginous new dynamic in international banking and the stock exchanges…, new forms of media interrelationship…, computers and automaton, the flight of production to advanced Third World areas, along with all the more familiar social consequences, including the crisis of traditional labor, the emergence of yuppies, and gentrification on a now-global scale” (Quotes from Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. p. xix) [2] Frederik Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. p. 4. [3] Kwang-woo Noh, “A Study on the International Manufacturing of Korean Animation..” p. 48. [4] Of course, animation has appeared in Japanese film history as early as in 1917 as a form of avant-garde experiments and the first cell animation feature film (A Life of White Snake) was, although arguably, released for the public in 1958 (Rak-Hyun Song, “50 Years of Japanese Animation History” Pink. September 1995). However, it seems to me reasonable to consider anime as a distinctly postwar cultural phenomenon since, let alone manga’s development as a cheap and easily accessible popular entertainment form in the postwar situation, from which anime originated, the real break-through in anime came with Tezuka Osamu’s famous Astroboy Boy (Tetsuwan Atom) series in 1963. [5] Richard Corliss, “Amazing Anime” Time 154 (22 November 1999), p. 94. [6] Susan Napier, Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke. p.7. [7] Frederik Schodt, Ibid. p, 148. [8] For instance, In 1984/85, anime TV shows like Voltron, Defender of the Universe, Robotech, Transformers, and Gobots generated an astounding boom in toys, coloring books, and even locally scripted and drawn comics. “Hasbro Bradley’s robot toys, Transformers (designed and manufactured by Takara) reaped $100 million in their first year to become the most successful toy introduction ever.” Quotes from Frederik L. Schodt’s Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo, New York and London: Kodansha International, 1997. p.156. [9] Understandably, the rationalization of production and recruitment of the inexpensive Asian labor in animation production was first started by Hollywood studios since the 1960s, which have established their production facilities as many regions as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Indonesia, China, and maintained them to the extent that about 90% of the “American” television animation is still produced in Asia (John A. Lent, “Animation in Asia: Appropriation, Reinterpretation, and Adoption or Adaptation,” p. 6.). Nevertheless, the relationship between the Asian labor force and the Japanese animation production, in my view, needs to be considered in a more elaborate way than that between the Third world labor and Hollywood studios. For, let alone the geographical proximity, we need to think about the complicated historical past (Japan’s colonizing project in the first half of the 20th century) and the intricate cultural present (the laborers’ attached relations to anime texts). [10] Kwang-woo Noh, “A Study on the International Manufacturing of Korean Animation.” p. 48 [11] John A. Lent, “Animation in Asia: Appropriation, Reinterpretation, and Adoption or Adaptation” from Screening the Past, Issue 11 (Nov. 2000) ( [12] “Editorial,” Korea Times (28 June, 2000), p. 2. [13] The Japanese critic Ueno Toshiya is said to have been shocked to find an image of Kaneda, a juvenile delinquent character in Otomo Katsuhiro’s anime Akira, among the political posters in war-stricken Sarajevo, Serbia in 1993: other posters are reported to have featured the images of Mao Zedong and the Chiappas liberation group (A story from Susan Napier’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, p. 4-5.). [14] Widya Santoso, “What is Cosplay” on [15] Kim Ki-sun, Korean critic and host of a website on cosplay, has remarked that, after five years of practices, the cosplay in Korea have become to be characterized by group performances, differently from the Japanese version that still remains as a form of “costume party” in which individual players get together and display their separate works (From “The Future and Possibility of the Korean Cos-Culture” on [16] “Filmography with Selected Manga” in Helen McCarthy’s Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, Themes, Artistry. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 1999. [17] Otaku is defined simply as “an obsessive fan or collector of anime” in the West, although the term has broader and often more degrading connotations in Japan. Takashi Murakami, one of the leading artists in the punk art trend, prefers to call his art “poku” (pop+otaku) because Murakami identifies himself with those isolated, discriminated, and “hopeless” subscribers of subcultures. (“Takashi Murakami,” an interview by Mako Wakasa in Journal of Contemporary Art, 2001. ). [18] Eric Nakamura, “Protective Art: Kenji Yanobe Invades the US with His Art,” Giant Robot. No. 8 (Summer 1997). [19] “Yoshimoto Nara: Kids, Dogs, and Knives on Canvas,” an interview by Eric Nakamura, Giant Robot. No. 20, p. 26-27. [20] Leo Ching, “Imaginings in the Empires of the Sun: Japanese Mass Culture in Asia” in Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture, John Whittier Treat, ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. [21] Arjun Appadurai’s formulation of the “imagination as social activity” can also be used productively here: “The image, the imagined, the imaginary—these are all terms that direct us to something critical and new in global cultural processes: the imagination as a social practice. No longer mere fantasy (opium for the masses whose real work is elsewhere), no longer simple escape (from a world defined principally by more concrete purposes and structures), no longer elite pastime (thus not relevant to the lives of ordinary people), and no longer mere contemplation (irrelevant for new forms of desire and subjectivity), the imagination has become an organized field of social practices, a form of work (in the sense of both labor and culturally organized practice), and a form of negotiation between sites of agency (individuals) and globally defined fields of possibility… The imagination is now central to all forms of agency, is itself a social fact, and is the key component of the new global order. From Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Public Worlds, V. 1). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, p. 31.

Works Cited

Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Public Worlds, V. 1). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, Ching, Leo. “Imaginings in the Empires of the Sun: Japanese Mass Culture in Asia,” Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture, John Whittier Treat, ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. p.169-194. Corliss, Richard. “Amazing Anime” Time 154 (22 November 1999), p. 94. Jameson, Fredric. “South Korea as Social Space: Fredric Jameson Interviewed by Paik Nak-chung, Seoul, 28 October 1989,” Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary. Eds. Rob Wilson and Wimal Dissanayake. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996. p. 348-371. Lent, John A. “Animation in Asia: Appropriation, Reinterpretation, and Adoption or Adaptation,” Screening the Past, No. 11 (Nov. 2000). ( McCarthy, Helen. “Filmography with Selected Manga” Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, Themes, Artistry. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 1999. Morley, David. “Where the Global Meets the Local: Notes from the Sitting Room,” Screen 21, no. 1 (1991). Nakamura, Eric. “Protective Art: Kenji Yanobe Invades the US with His Art,” Giant Robot. No. 8 (Summer 1997). Nakamura, Eric. “Yoshimoto Nara: Kids, Dogs, and Knives on Canvas,” Giant Robot. No. 20. p. 24-28. Napier, Susan. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. New York: Palgrave, 2000. Noh, Kwang-woo. “A Study on the International Manufacturing of Korean Animation.” (A Master’s Thesis: Korea University, 2000). Schodt, Frederik L. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo, New York and London: Kodansha International, 1997. Wakasa, Mako. “Takashi Murakami: an Interview” Journal of Contemporary Art, 2001.