The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity

The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity

The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity

The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity

Synopsis

Modern Japan's repressed anxieties, fears and hopes come to the surface in the fantastic. A close analysis of fantasy fiction, film and comics reveals the ambivalence felt by many Japanese towards the success story of the nation in the twentieth century.
The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literatureexplores the dark side to Japanese literature and Japanese society. It takes in the nightmarish future depicted in the animated film masterpiece, Akira, and the pastoral dream worlds created by Japan's Nobel Prize winning author Oe Kenzaburo. A wide range of fantasists, many discussed here in English for the first time, form the basis for a ground-breaking analysis of utopias, dystopias, the disturbing relationship between women, sexuality and modernity, and the role of the alien in the fantastic.

Excerpt

It remains unfortunately true, halfway through the 1990s, that Japan is an underreported country. Despite significant increases in the amount of information available, it is still the case that few aspects of Japan and its people are discussed in comparable depth, or with similar assumptions about familiarity, to discussion of the United States, Britain or other major countries. Differences of language and culture of course constitute a barrier, though less so than in the past. As the patterns of our post-cold-war world gradually consolidate, it is clearer than ever that the regional and global importance of Japan is increasing, often in ways more subtle than blatant. To borrow a phrase from Ronald Dore, we really should start “taking Japan seriously.”

The Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series seeks to foster an informed and balanced, but not uncritical, understanding of Japan. One aim of the series is to show the depth and variety of Japanese institutions, practices and ideas. Another is, by using comparison, to see what lessons, positive and negative, can be drawn for other countries. The tendency in commentary on Japan to resort to outdated, ill-informed or sensational stereotypes still remains, and needs to be combated.

The year 1995 began with a devastating earthquake in and around the city of Kōbe, in western Japan, killing over 5,000 people. A little later in the year, the underground railway system of Tokyo was disrupted by the deliberate spilling of toxic chemicals. Several people died and thousands became seriously ill. In the aftermath of this incident, police and media attention focused on a strange new religious sect which dealt in occult beliefs and engaged in bizarre practices. In a sense these events symbolized the unpredictable and turbulent under-currents beneath the normal day-to-day existence of supermodern Japan. Unsurprisingly, the constant tensions of Japanese life have created a fantasy literature of great richness and diversity. If a people's

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