An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture

JAPAN 101

An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture

Posted by  × August 6, 2011 at 09:23

http://www.axiommagazine.jp/2011/08/06/an-editorial-the-bomb-in-popular-culture/

This article is a great summary on texts influenced directly by the bombing. However I am yet to find an article which actually says how Japanese stroytelling through various methods changed after the bombs, in a way that’s good it means my idea is original, but it also makes my research 10X harder.

However this article is useful for references and quotes.

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were events which became the focal point for popular and high-brow culture alike in Japan. Artist and author, Takashi Murakami stated:
“The two atomic bombs have left a permanent scar on Japanese history; they have touched the national nerve beyond the effects of the catastrophic physical destruction.”

I have looked at Murakami’s work, it’s impossible not to when looking at Japanese culture and art. The article then goes on to explain Godzilla’s roots which I explored in my post on John Rocco Roberto’s essay but it also offers a different reading of the text.

But some also argue that Godzilla is the true victim in the story, Prof. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) even says so in the movie. The monster was laying peacefully dormant on Japan’s seabed and was rudely awakened by a nuclear blast. When it came to land, its skin was hard and covered in boils, an observation that author William Tsutsui believes links Godzilla with the 被爆者 (Atomic Bomb Victims). Godzilla is also extremely isolated, although poisoned with radioactivity, people run in fear and ultimately want to eradicate the “monster.”

Yatta Man
Yatta man is a childrens TV series which takes direct influence from the bombing.

In the show, the protagonists, Tanpei and Junko are relentlessly pursued by Doronjo, Boyakki and Tonzura, who have a nuclear bomb dropped on them at the end of every episode, from which rises a skull embossed mushroom cloud. Despite this, the dastardly trio reappear next week, back to full health and full of mischief.

Barefoot Gen
This is a short film I have seen before. It approaches the effects of the bombs head on, which is strange for a Japanese anime, usually the influences are subtle. This just adds to the effect it has on emotions even more.

What makes the film even more harrowing is that it is based on the autobiographical manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Having witnessed the effects of the bombing first hand, Nakazawa exposed the full extent of the damage unflinchingly. It is extremely difficult to watch, even though it is an animated movie, and it could well be a representation of any war, or any country, as the message that seems to seep through is that of humanity and how delicate it is.

Daicon 4

the annual Covention held in Osaka, Daicon, celebrated its fourth year in 1983. At the opening of the convention, a small team of artists put together a short film depicting a bunny girl fighting with the best known “otaku” characters of the past decade, (that small team went on to produce a little TV show called Evangelion). After cruising through the pop-culture world, the woman witnesses a huge atomic explosion, from which plumes of cherry blossom fly, tearing down buildings, leaving a barren wasteland. Afterwards, the Daicon spaceship shots a powerful ray that restores life on the planet and popular characters eat rice-balls together.

The most interesting piece about this animation and Adam Millar’s interpretation of the text is this…

Although the spectacle of the artwork may well be its biggest draw, many believe the Daicon spaceship restoring life is a thin-vieled metaphor that otaku-culture is one way of coming to terms with the subject.

This is something I have been trying to explore for a while, in my head I know that Japanese Otaku culture is about escapism and the amount of references made to the atomic bomb in the Manga I read and Anime I watch is outstanding. However with months of research this is the first example I’ve seen of someone else acknowledging this fact.

A finishing point from Millar, which resounds within me and speaks truth about how a certain group of people cope with the idea and effect of nuclear warfare.

Although these cartoons and comics may seem unimportant, they are a window into the fears felt by Japan, and the deep scar that has yet to be healed.

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