The popularity of the name ‘Sasuke’ in Ninja manga


I just found this snippet from The Naruto Saga: the Unofficial Guide interesting:

“Sasuke is naruto’s friend and rival. Actually, this name is very commonly given to Ninja in Japanese fiction, and many Japanese probably mentally connect the name Sasuke with Ninjutsu. The roots of this go back to a series of novels titled ‘Sarutobi Sasuke’ that were written in the Taisho era (1912-1926). Sasuke is a fictional Ninja, but in the novels he appears as one of the ten heroes of Sanada Yukimura, an actual warlord during the Warring States period. The novels were a huge hit, and the name Sasuke became associated with Ninja characters. This association was further cemented in the 60s when Sanpei Shirato created a manga about a young Ninja named Sasuke. This manga also enjoyed great popularity, and was turned into a television anime series. In modern times, the manga Sasuke probably had more to do with popularizing this name as a conventional Ninja name.
Going back to the novel, Sasuke’s family name Sarutobi has also become associated with Ninja. This connection can be seen in the character Sarutobi (the third Lord Hokage) and in Asuma Sarutobi’s name.” 4

Ref: p.42 Kazuhisa Fujie, Matthew Lane, & Walt Wyman (2008) The Naruto Saga: the Unofficial Guide. Mysteries and Secrets Revealed series 8. DH Publishing, Inc. Tokyo

smashing image against image


Just going through a recent – and very interesting – issue of Children’s Literature Association Quarterly (37(4)Winter 2012), which looks at comics and picture books. There is a great deal of interesting stuff about genre in these articles – as well, of course, as thought about comics and picture books. In their editorial, Charles Hatfield and Craig Svonkin write:

“Sergei …Eisenstein argued that meaning was created in montage not as Pudovkin thought, by linking image to image in a coherent, deliberate chain, but rather by violently smashing image against image, so that images juxtaposed in opposition to each other create a new dialectical meaning each image separately could never evoke. Eisenstein’s model fits our project, given that comics and picture books likewise perform dialectically. Of course, the dialectic of images in cinema is not the same as that of image and written text in static form; nonetheless, Eisenstein’s dialectical theory resonates with our work here, which focuses on the intermedial space between two types of literature—and on the ways the literature itself uses dialectics to evoke meaning in the intermedial spaces between text and picture, or between picture and picture, or among text, picture, text, and picture.”[1]

“Pursuing questions of ideology…, Michael Joseph focuses his attention on the power of genres to construct their audience. Specifically, he posits the graphic novel as a liminal object that has a special relationship with its readers—“liminal” in Victor Turner’s sense of something “in between” marked by the disturbance of established social structures. Comics, Joseph asserts, particularly alternative comics, have this power to disturb, because they resist the norms of book culture and thus subvert the very category of children’s literature. The graphic novel, in his view, is neither a book nor an art object in the usual sense, but rather deconstructs the form, utility, and cultural authority of the book itself. The genre invites an embodied and material reading practice, one that refuses the transparency which convention dictates is essential to reading, and thus encourages a critical and subversive reading attitude. The effect is to cede interpretive agency to the reader (an empowerment perhaps especially important to readers in the liminal state of adolescence). Analyzing a key page from Kim Deitch’s graphic novel Alias the Cat, Joseph shows how comics refuse transparency, call attention to their own framing, and playfully exploit “bookness.”” p.433 Hatfield and Svonkin

“Thomas, Jr. [shows…] how expectations of genre determine and limit the kinds of meaning we can make of a text—that is, how genre concepts work to shape and foreclose interpretive possibilities.” p.434 Hatfield and Svonkin

“Genres are essentially literary institutions, or social contracts between a writer and a specific public, whose function is to specify the proper use of a particular cultural artifact” (Political Unconscious 92).” ~ Frederic Jameson cited p.435 Hatfield and Svonkin

[1] 432 Charles Hatfield and Craig Svonkin (2012) Why Comics Are and Are Not Picture Books: Introduction Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 37(4)Winter: 429-435

Essay manga


Another essay on manga, which I’m not really working on just now, but don’t want to ignore…. In  it, author Akiko Sugawa-Shimada describes the way in which ‘Essay Manga’ can be used to explore the gender politics of Japan and (she posits, p.181) elsewhere.

Having begun with a brief overview of the situation for women (in terms of gender imbalance) in Japan, Akiko Sugawa-Shimada writes: “In order to consider such socio-cultural situations of women, female ‘Essay Manga’ comprises some of the most important cultural texts. As discussed later, female Essay Manga is important in terms of its crossover appeal not only to regular manga readers but also to non-manga readers. This type of manga also serves as a means with which female readers cope with their hardships concerning marital relationships, domestic chores, and gender discrimination. Essay Manga is defined as a type of auto-biographical graphic novel developed in Japan, whose major authors and readers are adult women. According to Kazuma Yoshimura (2008), Essay Manga differs from so-called ‘story manga’ (comics with an ongoing plot) in terms of the form, themes and the artistic style: (1) Essay Manga usually consists of a small number of pages, (2) it is usually not published in manga magazines, but in women’s magazines, or information magazines targeting general readers, and (3) whereas story manga printed in manga magazines are usually compiled into a 112 mm × 174 mm size book (comic tankobon), Essay Manga is often published as an A5 or a B5 hardcover book. Typical themes of Essay Manga are daily lives and the personal experiences of the artists. Their artistic styles are typified by overtly simplified drawings, simply-formed panels and layouts, and characters with large round dot eyes (Yoshimura 2008, pp. 196–198; author’s translation).” (p.170)

ABSTRACT: “This paper explores how representations of women in the Japanese female ‘Essay Manga’ of  Rieko Saibara and Tenten Hosokawa serve as a significant site through which issues on current Japanese marital life and family can be traced, and how Japanese female readers understand them. In Everyday Mum, based on her rebellious life with her alcoholic and dying husband, however, Saibara deftly crystallizes how Japanese housewives/mothers who are shackled with domesticity negotiate with gender norms. In My Partner Became Depressed, Hosokawa illustrates her life with her husband who quit his job due to depression. Numerous Japanese housewives/mothers with depressed partners used her manga to openly discuss this issue. Both detailed daily lives of women with their families are vividly portrayed in simple drawing styles in a uniquely funny way.When reading their Essay Manga, Japanese female readers keep themselves detached from their reality and take pleasure in unruliness of women.” (p.)

Ref: Akiko Sugawa-Shimada (2011): Rebel with causes and laughter for relief: ‘essay manga’ of Tenten Hosokawa and Rieko Saibara, and Japanese female readership, Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 2:2, 169-185

Philip Nel: Comics and Picture Books


An interesting discussion about the two from Philip Nel… he begins:

“If in comics the gutters between panels enlist the reader’s imagination to create closure, in picture books it is the turning of the page that prompts the act of closure. If comics rely on juxtapositions between “pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence” (to quote Scott McCloud [9]), picture books more commonly rely on juxtapositions between text and image. If comics ordinarily depict movement in time within a single page, in picture books time tends to unfold over many pages.
These three “generic differences” apply broadly to comics and picture books, yet so many exceptions permeate the two genres that any boundary between them has to be highly porous. Picture books and comics are kin: adjacent branches of the same literary-artistic family tree, cousins with slightly different expectations of their readers. They are not fundamentally different genres. To put this in terms of the biological taxonomy we learned back in grade school (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species), the distinctions between the two rank down at the end of smallest differentiation—the “species” end. Comics and picture books differ in degree, rather than in kind. As this essay will show, the accepted “truths” about differences between picture books and comics mark little more than different emphases, or tendencies, not absolute divisions. The kinship between them calls into question the fitness of the term “genre.” At the least, it requires that we consciously reflect on what we mean by this term—the full significance of which may go beyond form to embrace context, readership, and even material modes of production.” (p.445)

Ref: Philip Nel ‘Same Genus, Different Species?: Comics and Picture Books’ Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 37.4 (Winter 2012): 445-453.

looks interesting…



Shamoon, Deborah
Title: Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girls’ Culture in Japan
Publication Details: Honolulu, HI: U of Hawaii P, 2012. ix, 181 pp.. .
Series Information:
Series ISSN:
Publication Year: 2012
Publication Type: book
Language of Publication: English
ISBN: 0824835425 (hbk.); 9780824835422 (hbk.)0824836383 (pbk.); 9780824836382 (pbk.)



National Literature: Japanese literature
Period: 1900-1999
Genre: fiction
Genre: manga
Genre: (and) magazines
Group: (foraudience) girls
Literary Theme: (treatment of) friendship
Literary Theme: (relationship to) aesthetics
Literary Theme: social ideologies
  • The Emergence of the Shojo and the Discourse of Spiritual Love in Meiji Literature
  • Prewar Girls’ Culture (Shojo bunka), 1910-1937
  • Narrative and Visual Aesthetics of Prewar Girls’ Magazines
  • The Formation of Postwar Shojo manga, 1950-1969
  • The Revolution in 1970s Shojo manga

vampires as political metaphor in Mamoru’s Blood


This was also a really interesting article… Christopher Bolton presents a very interesting analysis of Oshii Mamoru’s Blood: The Last Vampire, which includes discussion about the  semantics of anime that I really enjoyed. Bolton writes:

“In the films of Oshii Mamoru, political struggle is not only palpable—it is positively sensual. Oshii’s films chart the efforts of people to make a difference or leave a trace in a politicized, mediated world where the importance of the individual is increasingly uncertain.” (p.125)

Blood[: The Last Vampire, directed by Kitakubo Hiroyuki and a team of young artists working under Oshii’s tutelage] is a vampire story set on an American air force base in Japan during the Vietnam War. Released in 2000, it was one of the first anime to make heavy use of photorealistic digital effects, though at many points it preserves the stylized quality of conventional animation. While the vampires and human characters are largely two-dimensional, the planes taking off and landing in the background are rendered as more photorealistic three-dimensional forms. At one level, the planes disrupt the film’s fantasy by evoking the realities of Vietnam, realities that are in many ways more frightening than any ghost story. But at the same time, the planes have a ghostly quality of their own that makes them much more complex signifiers. They represent not only the reality of politics but its unrealities as well. [/] These unrealities include the cracks and contradictions in the national identity that was forged for Japan after World War II.” (p.126)

In Blood, the planes visually represent the weight and solidity of present realities, as well as the illusory quality of Japanese politics and the country’s suppressed but still-haunting memories of its own wartime aggression. At the same time, the film’s two-dimensional vampire heroine Saya seems at first to be a cartoonish fantasy—a camp parody of anime vixens. But Saya’s sexiness and violence have a reassuring physicality that promises an escape from the intangibility and uncertainty of politics. In this sense, Blood is a film that could only have been made as an anime: it is the work’s strange [-p.127] admixture of fantasy and photorealism that comments most provocatively on Japan’s present historical moment. This essay begins by examining political dynamics in Blood’s plot and then links this to the film’s physical dynamics—the way mass and motion are portrayed by the film’s unique combination of two- and three-dimensional animation.” (pp.126-127)

“In Western literature, the vampire is a privileged figure for otherness and a powerful metaphor for racial or cultural mixing. The vampire is familiar but also foreign; it crosses gender lines as an effeminately alluring male or a castrating female; and it breaches blood and body boundaries in a way that suggests sexual communion but also perversion and pollution.” (p.128)

“Kotani Mari argues that the vampire represents a similar kind of otherness in Japanese manga and prose fiction, but an otherness that is doubled because the vampire enters Japanese literature as a foreign genre. Kotani writes that vampires have represented the threat and appeal of a Western other since the first Japanese vampire fiction in the thirties.” (p.129)  “Blood […] shows the confusions and reversals that Kotani predicts. It is a film about familiarity and unfamiliarity: the way that one culture can regard another as monstrous, but also the blurring of boundaries between the monsters and us.” (p.129)

The chiropterans can probably best be associated with violence, militarism, and war itself—not only U.S. cold war imperialism and interventionism but also the Japanese militarism of World War II. Like the hibernating monsters, that militarism has lain dormant or disguised since the occupation, but now it threatens to reemerge. Clothed in a military-style school uniform and armed with a samurai sword, Saya seems to represent a truer, nobler, and more disciplined warrior spirit that will actually rein in the violence. In the logic of this and other films connected to Oshii, Japan is threatened by a crisis of that true spirit, symbolized by the sword that turns out to be fake. If it does not regain its martial and cultural identity, Japan will fall into the kind of violence represented by the chiropterans—supporting U.S. imperialism by proxy or resorting to military adventurism itself. Japanese and not-Japanese, Saya represents a new Japan that rediscovers its samurai values, a strong Japan that now fights against war itself. [/] The contradiction of a warrior who fights war stems in part from the collision of Oshii’s leftist politics with the violent military/action genre he favors. But it is also a tension that reflects the contradictions and conflicting desires of postwar Japanese national identity.” (p.132)

Blood seems to yearn for a Japan that is militarily strong and independent but also peace loving and noninterventionist.” (p.133)

“In the ironic, self-referential style that characterizes so many anime, the film is shot through with a stirring but always slightly sardonic optimism.” (p.133)

Thomas LaMarre has argued compellingly that the most interesting approach to anime connects its meaning with its specific visual qualities, particularly those qualities that set it apart from live-action cinema. LaMarre’s essay “From Animation to Anime” takes up the case of “limited animation,” anime’s practice of reducing the number of illustrations that make up an animated sequence. Originally a cost-cutting expedient, limited animation has given rise to a number of specific effects that have now come to be regarded as positive parts of anime’s aesthetic. Among these are long close-ups in which nothing moves except the characters’ mouths or eyes, a jerky energy when characters do move (caused by drawing fewer intermediate stages of a given motion), and an image-compositing technique that replaces an articulated moving figure with a single static drawing of the figure, which is then photographed as it slides in front of a static background. This last practice of “moving the drawing” instead of “drawing the movement” produces rigid [-p.135] figures that appear to float across the background in a layer of their own, rather than articulated figures that move in and out of the background in three dimensions.
For LaMarre, this last effect generates a kind of weightless, floating quality that creates a sense of freedom for the character and spectator alike. LaMarre supports this with a clever reading of the flying scenes in Miyazaki Hayao’s Castle in the Sky (1986, Tenkū no shiro Rapyuta), where these static figures in horizontal movement produce a sense of gliding weightlessly on the wind. In this way, the formal visual quality of the movement mirrors the story’s theme (and that of several other Miyazaki stories), in which characters gain freedom by harnessing the wind and their own inner potential rather than by relying on a mechanical technology fueled by scarce resources. “Minimum technology” becomes both the environmentalist mandate of Miyazaki’s films and the philosophy of their production.” (pp.134-135)

While many of the characters in Blood are two-dimensional caricatures, the planes in the background are rendered in three dimensions, in historically accurate detail (Figures 3–5). Harnessing a persistent bias that cinematic or photographic realism is somehow closer to unmediated experience than two-dimensional drawing, the filmmakers use this photorealism to associate the planes with a more profound reality. As they take off or return from [-p.136] a destination we can imagine as Vietnam, these aircraft are the film’s most prominent signifier for the world of war and geopolitics outside the vampire story.” (pp.135-136)

“At the most intuitive level, Blood lulls us into a fantasy world not only with its occult plot but with its flat visuals; yet, whenever a plane appears, it has a cinematic realism that calls us back to the reality of Vietnam.” (p.136) … “The planes also gain a ghostly quality by combining detailed three-dimensionality with a drawn quality that they never lose. They become uncanny by approaching cinematic realism and stopping short.” (p.136)

Blood leverages the uncanny limitations of CGI to good effect, using them to acknowledge and foreground issues of lost agency and lost or repressed memory. For a Japanese audience, this includes the perceived loss of Japan’s [-p.139] historical or political agency after World War II, as well as the fear of reclaiming that agency and risking a return to prewar aggression. For many in and out of Japan, what has been repressed is thoughtful debate about Japan’s wartime responsibilities and history. U.S. viewers may also be reminded of America’s own repressed complicity in all of the above, as well as the willfully forgotten lessons of Vietnam. This is why the F-4 Phantoms and other planes are the film’s true ghosts, spookier and scarier than the chiropterans: they haunt us with the return of an uncomfortable reality—not just an everyday reality we set aside when we entered the theater but political truths we have suppressed in our everyday lives.” (pp.138-`39)

Ref: Christopher Bolton  ‘The Quick and the Undead: Visual and Political Dynamics in Blood: The Last Vampire’ Mechademia, Volume 2, 2007, pp. 125-142

Reference is to: Kotani Mari, “Techno-Gothic Japan: From Seishi Yokomizo’s The Death’s-Head Stranger to Mariko Ohara’s Ephemera the Vampire,” in Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture, ed. Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 194.

Thomas LaMarre, “From Animation to Anime: Drawing Movements and Moving Drawings,” Japan Forum 14, no. 2 (2002): 329–67.

Hokusai, perspective and his One Hundred Views


I came across this book on Hokusai’s One hundred views of Mount Fuji once and really liked the way its Introduction made sense of the cultural differences relevant to these perspectives of Mt Fuji. I always knew I liked Hokusai’s work, but I’m no art major and I didn’t know anything much about it. I think these notes are from Henry Smith’s introduction, but I confess I need to check (I forgot to reference properly). Anyway, the Introduction is subtitled ‘Hokusai and the Mountain of Immortality’ (pp.7-22) and Smith(?) wrote:

One hundred views of Mt. Fuji is a work of such unending visual delight that it is easy to overlook its underlying spiritual intent. Hokusai was, as he prefaced his signature, ‘Seventy-five Years of Age’ when the first volume of the work appeared in 1834, and his effort to capture the great mountain from every angle, in every context, was in the deepest sense a prayer for the gift of immortality that lay hidden within the heart of the volcano. By showing life itself in all its shifting forms against the unchanging form of Fuji, with the vitality and wit that inform every page of the book, he sought not only to prolong his own life but in the end to gain admission to the realm of the Immortals.

Signaling this quest, Hokusai announced in the signature a change of name, the fifth and last such change that he would make in the course of his long career. He was no longer ‘Iitsu, Formerly hokusai,’ but now ‘Manji, Old Man Mad about Painting.’ Manji is ‘the figure of ten thousand,’ the ancient religious symbol of the swastika, giver of life and fortune. The signature was followed by this famous declaration: ‘From the age of six I had a penchant for copying the form of things, and from about fifty, my pictures were frequently published; but until the age of seventy, nothing that I drew was worthy of notice. At seventy-three years, I was somewhat able to fathom the growth of plants and trees, and the structure of birds, animals, insects, and fish. Thus when I reach eighty years, I hope to have made increasing progress, and at ninety to see further into the underlying principles of things, so that at one hundred years I will have achieved a divine state in my art, and at one hundred and ten, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive. Those of you who live long enough, bear witness that these words of mine prove not false.’ Told by Gakyō Rōjin Manji” (p.7 Introduction)

One Hundred Views, Smith(?) continues “is in fact less well known than the Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji which immediately preceded it, the famous set of forty-six prints (ten more than promised) that marked the beginning of Hokusai’s courtship of the mountain. The reason is simple: the Thirty-Six Views are large single-sheet color prints, while the One Hundred Views is a book, in three small volumes, printed in monochrome black and gray. It is also a work that achieves masterpiece status only in the original edition, …but which has been largely known through later states with clumsy printing from worn.

The Organization of the One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji in book form is particularly important, for it provides a totality and an order of presentation that is absent in the [-p8] single-sheet series. For Western viewers, it takes practice to accustom the eye to Japanese style: reading from right to left. It will soon become apparent, however, that the compositions were intended to be seen in this way: note for example that the position of Mt. Fuji itself tends on the average to be right of center; and in those compositions in which the mountain assumes an assertive role in the overall design, it will almost always be on the right. The actual order of the views seems to have a secret inner logic, offering sequences that both please and perplex, enhancing the experience of viewing the work as a whole. / To reach the inner meanings of the One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji, however, it is necessary to know something of the mountain and its place in Hokusai’s culture.” (pp.7-8)

Understanding the place of the mountain

Smith(?) goes on to discuss the place of Mt. Fuji in Hokusai’s culture in some detail, pointing out that “Fuji today is so tame (although still technically classified as active) that we tend to see it as a passive symbol. Not so for Hokusai, however, for whom the last great eruption in 1707, which left the Hōeizan crater on the southeast slope (see Nos. 7-8), would have been within living memory at the time of his birth in 1760. / In modern times, Fuji has become so much the tool of chauvinists and commercial image-makers that it has degenerated into a hackneyed and passive symbol for Japan itself.” (p8)

Hokusai’s own deeper concerns, however, had little to do with Fuji as symbol of Japan: his was rather an essentially religious preoccupation, a concern with life and death. Religious faith in Fuji stemmed from the primitive Japanese veneration of all mountains as sacred and is reflected in Hokusai’s opening depiction of the mountain as a Shintō goddess. As an organized religion, however, the worship of Fuji evolved primarily within the context of Buddhism, among the wandering mountain ascetics who came to be known as yamabushi. Their semilegendary patron saing, En no Gyōja, is depicted by Hokusai in No.3 of the One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji, fearlessly practicing nighttime austerities on the summit of Fuji during his exile in Oshima in the late seventh century.” (p9)

He continues: “Hokusai’s spiritual preoccupation with Fuji is …not to be found in the organized worship of the mountain but rather in a different tradition, one which is Taoist rather than Buddhist in origin: the belief in Fuji as the source of the secret of immortality. Although he wrote ‘Fuji’ with the characters meaning ‘not-two,’ his real intentions are to be found in still another folk etymology of Fuji as ‘not-death’ (fu-shi), hence immortal. / The classic source for this etymology is the conclusion to ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’ (Taketori monogatari), a story of about the ninth century. There, a heavenly maiden returns to the sky after a sojourn on earth during which she won the heart of the emperor, to whom she left a letter and a jar containing the elixir of immortality. The distraught emperor ordered these to be taken to the summit of a great volcano in Suruga Province and there committed to the flames. From that time, the story concludes, smoke continued to rise from the peak, which was given the name ‘Fuji,’ or ‘not-death.'” (p10) “…from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai’s own obsession with the mountain. Although none of Hokusai’s views specifically depict this tradition, it is in effect his hidden agenda.” (p11)

“Why one hundred views of Fuji?”

Smith(?) asks, then continues: “The simple answer is that, by the 1830s, enough artists and poets had already sone some sort of ‘one hundred Fujis’ that it had become a genre in its own right. The oldest precedents were poetic, dating back to at least the early seventeenth century, when Minase Ujinari composed one hundred waka on Fuji. …a search of the bibliography on Fuji reveals four other poetry works in the one-hundred Fuji genre that had appeared within three decades before Hokusai’s work: one of haiku, one of kyōka, and two of waka. All of these were available in printed editions.

According to Smith(?): “A decaying maple leaf is caught in a spider’s web against the gray silhouette of Fuji. It is another example of a pictorial haiku, to which one of Bashō’s verses seems almost perfectly matched: Kumo nani to / ne o nan to naku / aki no kaze; Hey spider! How do you sing, / in what key? / Wind of autumn.” (p215)

It is particularly revealing that four of these seven literary precedents were not in the traditional waka form, but in the short form of haiku and the comic form of kyōka. …Hokusai’s views offer a number of compositions that bear close structural parallels to haiku and to its comic counterpart, the senryū, of which Hokusai was himself a practitioner [particularly evident in Nos. 60, 72, Fuji Through a Web, and 77] .” (pp.13-14)

“No one can fail to be impressed by the ingenious variety of guises in which Hokusai manages to represent the sacred peak. This is more than a game for the artist, despite a certain playful wit. Rather, it is at heart an extended demonstration that Mt. Fuji by way of its form maintains the power to remain unchanged in spite of the constant change that surrounds it. It is like the focus of Hokusai’s Myōken faith and the source of his very name: the North Star, which remains fixed and immovable as the heavens rotate about it. By thus standing apart from the world of phenomenal change, Fuji transcends all change: it becomes, in short, Immortal.” (p18)

“What sets the latter work [One Hundred Views] apart [from the former, Thirty-Six Views] is an expansion of Hokusai’s methods of presenting Fuji beyond the standard landscape form. One such extension is into the realm of history, as seen in the opening views of Volume I, where the creation of the mountain, its ascent by En no Gyōja, and the Hōei eruption are all depicted. Thus we are given to understand that Mt. Fuji does indeed have a particular past, just as it is always seen from a particular place. But in the end, of course, it is beyond all time and place.” (p19)

Hokusai, mastery and old age

I loved the attitude towards old age depicted here – or communicated by Hokusai, at least. In his concluding comments, Smith(?) explains that: “In the end, Hokusai’s countdown to one hundred fell just ten years short of the mark. On his deathbed in the Fourth Month of 1849, Iijima Kyoshin reported, “he gave a great sigh and said, ‘If only I could have just another ten years.’ Some time passed, and he spoke again ‘just another five years – then I could become a real artist.'” Whether true or not, the anecdote is perfectly in character. / As it turned out, Hokusai did of course achieve the immortality he sought, in the continuing life of his art.” (p21)

Ref: now this is bad, but I didn’t record the reference properly… oops. I think these comments are from the introduction (by Henry Smith) to Katsushika, Hokusai, 1760-1849. One hundred views of Mount Fuji / Hokusai ; introduction and commentaries on the plates by Henry Smith… but until I get back into the Fine Arts Library to check my page against theirs, I can’t be certain. Let’s just say I’m mostly sure it was him.

NOTE ALSO: I’m including this under the categories ‘Manga’ because of Hokusai’s relevance to that genre – and also under ‘city as text’ because I’m really interested in this discussion of how Fuji became a text – and how the text around Fuji was used by Hokusai to create his hundred views… and how his hundred views then became a textual reference to Japan in ‘the West’ and so on and so on in a Hall of Mirrors kind of way

Info on Hokusai etc. available at:

A History of the World in 100 Objects (available as audio files done in chapters at the BBC:

Graphic Novels, Manga, and Anime – a brief description


“Graphic Novels are books where the story is told through visual art and pictures, covering such diverse subjects as superheroes, comics and literary stories.

Manga are Japanese comic books and most are read from right to left, often with quirky characters and subjects.

Anime are Japanese cartoons and many are adapted from Manga such as Astro Boy and Dragon Ball Z, but there are also feature length movies like Spirited Away.”

Ref: the Borders Graphic Novels, Manga and Anime Guide, 2008

Manga and multimodal analysis


In his analysis of Tagame Gengoroh’s Ero SM Manga, William Armour has quite a lot of interesting points to make… seems to me manga, as a form, has a lot to offer in the classroom, especially in terms of multimodal analysis (possibly more tame manga than Gengoroh Tagame’s for a school setting!, but the analyses on offer can still be kept in mind).

He writes: “Given that manga have the important characteristic of employing words and images that construct texts organised into sequential units (Saraceni, 2003, p. 5), I have also drawn on multimodal analysis to understand the way in which Tagame constructs sexual identities. In the afterword to Kimi yo shiru ya minami no goku (Do You Remember the South Island’s POW Camp? [hereafter SIPOW]), Tagame identifies byōga (the drawing of each panel), hyōgen (language), and kōzō (layout) as the three crucial elements of this work (Tagame, 2007, p. 400). Each of these elements, termed ‘‘modes’’, does a specific kind of semiotic work (Kress, 2010). Furthermore, since the interaction between modes is ‘‘inextricably shaped and construed by social, cultural and historical factors’’ (Jewitt, 2009, p. 22), it is appropriate to use multimodal analysis to engage in an interdisciplinary reading of Tagame’s manga.” (446) [and other manga, too???!!!]

Armour’s analysis of Gengoroh:

Abstract: Tagame Gengoroh (1964–) is a Japanese manga writer who specialises in erotic gay male SM themed comics. Though prolific and having a substantial cult following in his native Japan, parts of the US and Europe, his work has not received the academic attention it deserves. This essay explores how Tagame constructs masculinity in three stories set in the context of wartime Japan. By drawing on several interdisciplinary areas to inform my reading of these narratives, I argue that, while on one level Tagame presents stories as graphic cartoon porn, on another level he weaves into the images and wording a much deeper sense of how homosociality can easily transform into homosexuality, despite his male characters being positioned as examples of hegemonic masculinity. The essay comments on how Tagame deterritorialises characters associated with wartime Japan such as the soldier, the POW and the kenpeitai by requiring them to engage in acts not typical of any definition of hegemonic masculinity, and then reterritorialises them into creating equally complex and horror-filled homosexual utopias.” (443)

“By transgressing a range of socially constructed taboos, Tagame depicts in microcosm how some human beings live their lives to understand and reflect on what makes them tick. Like Marilyn Wesley (Adams, 2008, p. 1), I am interested in how Tagame uses manga to comment on socio-cultural assumptions about these taboos.” (444)

Tagame … invests in an emotional vulnerability, traditionally invisible in the representation of men.” (445) 

“It has been argued that ‘‘it was through rigid social construction of the masculine that men were linked to the state. The power of the state flowed through a network of disciplinary codes and institutions intent on conformity, discipline and submission’’ (Low, 2003, p. 83). Tagame therefore positions the kenpeitai, described as ‘‘ruthless’’ and often involved in ‘‘bestial torture’’ (Lamont-Brown, 1994, p. 163, p. 165), as the signifier of one form of hegemonic masculinity imbued with powers enacted by statebased hegemonic institutions run by men to engage in acts that don’t conform to hegemonic masculinity – namely, homosex.” (453)

Armour explains that he explores “Tagame’s transgression of a range of social taboos in terms of the construction of masculinities drawing upon the trope of the carnival” (461) and concludes: “In commenting on the socio-cultural assumptions about these taboos, I conclude by applying Stephens’ (1999) view about Genet’s work to Tagame’s manga – that is, ‘‘all macho spectacularises masculinity, extravagantly enacting something that traditionally represents itself as natural and authentic’’ (Stephens, 1999, p. 60).” (461)

Tagame’s use of montage forces the reader to engage in scopophilia or love of looking. The sex scenes in which white, black and Japanese men are not just touching but penetrating a Japanese man’s body also encourage a type of ‘‘homosexualised hysteria’’. The medium of manga also allows Tagame to create something that cinematic pornography can never achieve – that is, making explicit what is happening inside the victim’s body – and this adds to the carnal savagery Apel so aptly describes.” (458)

“Part of Tagame’s project is to take hetero-normative storylines and homo-eroticise them through processes of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation.” (461)

Methodologies used:

Susan Napier picked up the motif of matsuri, applying Bakhtin’s term ‘‘carnival’’, to explore narrative structure and themes in several anime (Napier, 2001). ‘‘Carnival’’ is ‘‘a liminal period of topsy-turvy . . . [that] for a brief moment norms are transgressed or actually inverted. The weak hold power, sexual and gender rules are broken or reversed, and a state of manic intensity replaces conventional restraint’’ (Napier, 2001, p. 13). Since ‘‘carnival is a playful approach or a comic art form of social, political and cultural protest and resistance to the serious, dogmatic and authoritarian world’’, it subverts by transgressing experience and this ‘‘transforms power through degradation, disarrangement and deconstruction’’ (Tam, 2010, p. 177, p. 178). Napier suggests that, like the carnival in the West, ‘‘the liminal space of the festival [that is matsuri] allows for a kind of controlled chaos’’ (Napier, 2001, p. 30; my insertion).” (444)

Deleuze’s rhizomic notions of deterritorialisation/reterritorialisation are also useful, especially when related to the transformative trope of the matsuri/carnival. Deterritorialisation is ‘‘the breaking up of order, boundaries and form to produce movement and growth’’ and reterritorialisation is ‘‘the reestablishment of order, boundaries and forms to produce stable embodiments or static identities’’ (Sutton and Martin-Jones, 2008, pp. 142–43).” (445)

Ref: William S. Armour (2010): Representations of the Masculine in Tagame Gengoroh’s Ero SM Manga , Asian Studies Review, 34:4, 443-465

Of the references he cites, a number look interesting (his summary of a couple I include here, with the pagination indicating where in Armour’s article he writes this…):

Adams, Jon Robert (2008) Male armor: The soldier-hero in contemporary American culture (Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press).  [p.462 “Adams points out that society demands a link between rationality and men (Adams, 2008, p. 5).”]

Allison, Anne (2000) Permitted and prohibited desires: Mothers, comics, and censorship in Japan (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).

Carr, Michael (1994) Yamato-Damashii ‘Japanese spirit’ definitions. International Journal of Lexicography 7(4), pp. 279–306.

Igarashi, Yoshikuni (2000) Bodies of memory: Narratives of war in postwar Japanese culture, 1945–1970 (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press).  [P445 “Igarashi is interested in how memories were discursively constructed through bodily tropes.”  P454 “the fact that Japan remembers the war through the discursive construction of bodily tropes and kokutai (literally ‘‘body of the country’’) or ‘‘a healthy national body’’ is a case in point (Igarashi, 2000, p. 5). Tagame deterritorialises kokutai making it nikutai (flesh). Igarashi (2000, p. 13) argues that ‘. . . the discursively constructed body becomes the central site for the reconfiguration of Japan’s national image. Japanese bodies had already been at the heart of nationalist discourse before 1945 . . . The wartime regime subjected Japanese bodies to rigid regulations: it attempted to create obedient, nationalist bodies by forging ties between nationalist ideology and bodily functions…’”]

Jewitt, Carey (2009) An introduction to multimodality, in Carey Jewitt (ed.), The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis, pp. 14–27 (London and New York: Routledge).

Kaplan, Danny and Niza Yanay (2006) Fraternal friendship and commemorative desire. Social Analysis 50(1), pp. 127–46.   [P457 “Kaplan and Yanay (2006) research a variety of cultural sites associated with male bonding, such as combat….”]

Kress, Gunther (2010) Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication (London and New York: Routledge).

Low, Morris (2003) The emperor’s sons go to war: Competing masculinities in modern Japan, in Kam Louie and Morris Low (eds), Asian masculinities: The meaning and practice of manhood in China and Japan, pp. 81–99 (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon).

McClintock, Anne (2009) Paranoid empire: Specters from Guanta´namo and Abu Ghraib. small axe 28, pp. 50–74.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas (2006) Invisible empire: Visual culture, embodied spectacle, and Abu Ghraib. Radical History Review 95, pp. 21–44.

Morton, John (2008) Poofters taking the piss out of Anzacs: The (un-)Australian wit of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Anthropological Forum 18(3), pp. 219–34.

Nakar, Eldad (2003) Memories of pilots and planes: World War II in Japanese manga, 1957–1967. Social Science Japan Journal 6(1), pp. 57–76.

Napier, Susan J. (2001) Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing contemporary Japanese animation (New York: Palgrave).

Napier, Susan J. (2007) From impressionism to anime: Japan as fantasy and fan cult in the mind of the West (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

Penney, Matthew (2007) ‘‘War fantasy’’ and reality – ‘‘War as entertainment’’ and counter-narratives in Japanese popular culture. Japanese Studies 27(1), pp. 35–52.

Saraceni, Mario (2003) The language of comics (London and New York: Routledge).

Shibusawa, Naoko (2006) America’s geisha ally: Reimagining the Japanese enemy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Silverberg, Miriam (2006) Erotic grotesque nonsense: The mass culture of Japanese modern times (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Slaymaker, Douglas N. (2004) The body in postwar Japanese fiction (London: RoutledgeCurzon).

Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark (eds), Screening the male: Exploring masculinities in Hollywood cinema, (London and New York: Routledge).

Tam, Po-chi (2010) The implications of Carnival theory for interpreting drama pedagogy. RIDE: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 15(2), pp. 175–92.

Wilson, Sandra (2006) Family or state? Nation, war, and gender in Japan, 1937–45. Critical Asian Studies 38(2), pp. 209–38.

Wilson, Sandra (2008) War, soldier and nation in 1950s Japan. International Journal of Asian Studies 5(2), pp. 187–218.

Yoshioka, Hiroshi (2002) The invisible male body. Filozofski vestnik XXIII(2), pp. 111–17.

Two articles on websites also looked interesting:

Don’t call pop culture art – it’s rubbish for a critique of popular culture, available at–its-rubbish-20100209-npjc.html

Dino Felluga, ‘Modules on Butler: On performativity. Introductory guide to critical theory’.28 November 2003, Purdue University. Available at