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Hiroki Azuma "...Let me give an example. This incident took place at the Tokyo International Film Festival in Japan, and it relates to Mr. Sato, me and in some ways, even with Douglas McGray. In Japan, there’s a famous critic named Eiji Otsuka. Interestingly, he is not only a critic, but a comic writer and a creator. His comic books sell several million copies. So he’s successful as a creator, too. Some of his works are also available in English, so some of you may be familiar. On top of it all, he’s also a leftist. So, we have someone like that in Japan. His manga are translated, but I believe his books are not. You could say that this symbolizes everything…
So, I did hear about Mr. Otsuka’s incident from Mr. Sato. Doug is criticized, though indirectly, by Otsuka. Mr. Sato was a guest panelist of the incident, of course. In a way, all three of us here are related to that single incident.
Initially, the Tokyo International Film Festival was going to invite Eiji Otsuka, Mr. Sato and one more person for their panel discussion. Prior to the event, there was a request not directly from the government but by some personnel (since this was a government-related event after all), not to criticize Japanese government policies too strongly. Because of this request, all the panelists except for Mr. Sato, declined the offer.
So, somebody else suddenly had to fill the empty spots beside Sato-san, to enable the talk to go on. Even though he was no longer the panelist, Mr. Otsuka was still there as an audience member, and he started to get angry at the panelists for not clearly criticizing the policies. He stood up from the audience, asked questions, eventually got up on the stage, grabbed the microphone, talked incessantly and was literally pulled away. As you can imagine, this was a huge incident among otaku.
DM: What was he saying? Before they dragged him away?
HA: Oh. Mr. Otsuka has recently wrote a book titled Why “Japanimation” Will Be Defeated. His basic standpoint is an extreme one that I’ve explained earlier, that manga and anime have always had an anti-establishment color. Mr. Ostuka also researches postwar manga. According to him, the reason why graphic expression of Japanese manga is not “real” and, in other words favors a more symbol-driven expression over any form of realism, is its integral resistance to actual representations of the war. That’s his theory. For those reasons, manga has always had an anti-war and anti-establishment quality. He therefore opposes seriously any government involvement with manga expression.
He followed this thinking in the book Why “Japanimation” Will Be Defeated, and he spoke along the same lines when he was kicked out of the hall.
So this incident took place, and as it implies, there are pronounced points of view in Japan not regarding how Japanese pop culture is accepted abroad, but how to accept the way we are accepted in Japan. Depending on which perspective gains the most adherence to the directions, and the ways in which Japanese anime and games are sent overseas will change dramatically.
An additional reason why I mentioned that Douglas McGray is involved with this, is because he is also mentioned in Mr. Otsuka’s Why “Japanimation” Will Be Defeated for the research paper he’d written entitled, “Japan’s Gross National Cool,” which is very famous in Japan. Was that two years ago, three years ago?
DM: Four, I believe. I think it ran in 2002 and was translated in 2003.
HA: In any case, the paper has an enormous influence over the government’s policy-making as to pop culture. In my view, policy makers in Japan understand neither who Douglas is, nor what was really written in the paper, and they made use of a very limited part of it. Mr. Otsuka thinks Douglas’s paper became an important factor in steering Japanese pop culture policies. And to be fair, Mr. Otsuka criticizes not Douglas himself, but current situation created/foreseen by him.
Actually, Mr. Otsuka and I have worked closely together many times. We even started a magazine together. But we have a different understanding of “otaku.” He writes it in hiragana, and I in katakana. This caused a falling-out, and we aren’t currently in much of a condition to work together… But all aside, we do work from comparable places.