Special Talk

Genetic Features of Kabuki in Manga, Anime, and Tokusatsu Film

This year marks the passage of exactly one hundred years since the first appearance of domestically produced animation in Japan. It appears that animation of this early time period was a repeated process of trial and error that depended upon works of animation from overseas for reference; yet in time, as Japanese animators apprehended the the techniques of animation, a uniquely Japanese method of expresson emerged that eventually led to the ubiquity of 3D computer graphics observable today. This presentation will focus upon the "DNA" of traditional Japanese entertainment, which remains unchanged to the present day and has been inherited by other expressions of Japanese culture such as manga, anime, and tokusatsu film; the three following topics will also be introduced: (1) Kabuki performance methods inherited by manga, anime, and tokusatsu film; (2) Comparisons with performance methods overseas; and (3) Japanese anime's troubling lack of fresh talent.

Kabuki Performance Methods Inherited by Manga, Anime, and Tokusatsu Film

A representative element of kabuki performance is a unique type of dramatic posing that is referred to by the expression "mie wo kiru" ("to strike a pose"). These poses combine slow motion with complete stillness, and are used to draw the audience's eyes to a single point; an easy to understand example of their equivalent in anime exists in the scenes during which the protagonists of the anime Sailor Moon deliver their signature phrases. Modern developments in the style of "kumadori" kabuki makeup will also be discussed.

Comparisons with Performance Methods Overseas

Sergei Eisenstein, best known for his work concerning montage theory, took an interest in certain elements of kabuki stage direction that are referred to by the terms "kamite" ("stage left") and "shimote" ("stage right"). These elements of performance have also been employed in manga, anime, and tokusatsu film, and will primarily be explored by way of a comparison with performance methods from overseas. Reasons for the absence of Japanese video games in this comparison will also be explained.

Japanese Anime's Troubling Lack of Fresh Talent

Anime enjoys popularity even overseas, yet recently its creators have serious difficulty finding fresh talent to succeed them due to issues over wage rates. A common misconception is that anime production has become easier since the introduction of 3D computer graphics, but the reality of the current situation is that this technology is costly, and therefore adds additional pressure to project budgets. A number of creators from overseas who face these adverse conditions in collaboration with Japanese creators will be introduced.

Yasunori Oya

Yasunori Oya is a researcher at the Kyoto International Manga Museum. He researches Japan's otaku culture, specifically the relationship between manga and anime, while also working as a video artist and professional animator. His research focuses on "the mechanisms that cause people to have emotional responses," and is based on his study and analyses of the relationships between audiences' attraction to characters, narrative structure, and the construction of fictional worlds. He currently teaches university courses that seek to understand otaku culture by examining the various connections between media such as jidaigeki and tokusatsu films, video games, cosplay, and figurines.

Screentone, Shade, Color, Race: Shonen Manga and Symbolic Annihilation

This research project investigates the representation of racial diversity in Japanese manga magazines marketed primarily to the young and adolescent male (shōnen, 少年) demographic. This project examines the illustration techniques and technologies used to mark casts of fictional characters in shōnen manga and its various media adaptations as racially diverse. Focusing specifically on best-selling manga in the fantasy and supernatural genres, this study questions the concept of race in the context of fictional and imaginary settings.

Race is defined here as a problematic and ambiguous social construct that is often associated with visible physical characteristics in the popular imagination, the most pervasive of which is skin complexion. The visual representation of a variety of skin colors in shōnen manga suggests an analogue to real-world racial diversity, whereas the absence of a variety in depictions of skin color results in a form of symbolic annihilation by which people with underrepresented or unrepresented skin complexions are marginalized. Japanese manga and its characters are often referred to as "culturally odorless" and "nationless" (mukokuseki, 無国籍) products of a Japanese society unaccustomed to considering race. This study critically engages with this popular conception of shōnen manga, considering both the the techniques used in its representations of skin complexion and the medium's references to real-world history.

The majority of shōnen manga illustration is monochrome, and a variety of techniques have been developed to represent differences of color using variations in shade and tone. This project analyzes the ways that different shōnen manga illustrators depict varieties of skin and hair pigmentation in monochrome, and questions the different variables that could either encourage or discourage an illustrator's use of certain techniques. Within the basic framework of shōnen manga's established range of visual language, each illustrator's choices amount to a unique, title-specific dialect that is used to convey both visual and narrative information. This presentation examines both the techniques that individual illustrators use to represent or imply color, as well as the different ways in which readers might infer color from manga illustrations. Furthermore, it considers the ways that elements of a manga's narrative or format can intentionally or inadvertantly prompt readers to interpret depictions of color in manga as analogues for characteristics attributed to racial classifications in the real world.

With this in mind, this project considers the effects that new materials and the development of computer technologies might have on the depiction and perception of color, and by extension on race representation in manga. The constantly advancing capability of digital software to emulate or expand upon traditional by-hand illustration techniques has significant implications for the use of shade, tone, and color in manga, as well as the expenditure of labor involved. Powerful software facilitates faster translation and editing of manga, allowing for the near simultaneous release of popular Japanese titles around the world. At the same time, digital distribution platforms and media streaming services provide online access to consumers around the globe, presenting Japanese manga and its adaptations to an increasingly culturally and ethnically diverse audience. This study argues that these technologies can and should be used to combat the percieved symbolic annihilation of marginalized races in popular culture in Japan and abroad.

Omar Yusef Baker

Omar Yusef Baker is a lecturer at Kyoto University of Art and Design Graduate School, Dōshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts, Dōshisha University, and Kwansei Gakuin University. He researches Japanese art history, specifically forms of narrative art including picture scrolls, folding screen paintings, and illustrated books, as well as popular media including woodblock prints, manga, anime, and film. Primary research interests include media representation, crosscultural adapatation, and Afro-Asian cultural production. Columbia University, East Asian Languages and Cultures (Japanese Art History), B.A., '06; Kyoto University of Art and Design, Synthesized Arts, M.F.A., '09.