“From the Ashes of Little Boy and Fat Man”


 

Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami via guriguriblog

The drops of Little Boy and Fat Man became the turning point in Japan’s progression into the future, ironically setting the fate of social juvenilization of a whole country, as the artist Takashi Murakami later describes in his work “Superflat.” Oe Kenzaburo recalls the official radio broadcast from the Emperor of Japan:

The adults sat around and cried. The children gathered outside in the dusty road and whispered their bewilderment. We were most confused and disappointed by the fact that the Emperor had spoken in a human voice, no different from any adult’s. None of us understood what he was saying, but we had all heard his voice. One of my friends could even imitate it cleverly. Laughing, we surrounded him–a twelve-year-old in grimy shorts who spoke with the Emperor’s voice. A minute later we felt afraid. We looked at one another; no one spoke. How could we believe that an august presence of such awful power had become an ordinary human voice on a designated summer day? (Schirokauer, Lurie, Gay)

After such traumatic events as Little Boy (one of the atom bombs deployed) falling on Hiroshima and killing some 200,000 people on August 6th, 1945 and Fat Man falling onto Nagasaki two days later. Japan’s national identity becomes threatened after the official surrender announcement on the radio from the Emperor Hirohito (post-humously named “Showa”) at the time (Schirokauer, Lurie, Gay).

It was at this time after World War II ended when American and Japanese visual culture exploded, marking the beginning to a trans-national relationship cultivated by capitalism. We attempt to explore the economic impact and cultural magnetism behind the post-war Japanese aesthetic influence that fueled the creation of uniquely diverse range of marketable Japanese products, creating consumers or “fans” yearning for respite from the realities of the war. Traditional sentiments and national history of Japan has influenced these consumers to popularize post-war Japanese products, giving birth to the rise of the otaku subculture. These Japanese post-war products have enjoyed prosperity, and now have split into a diverse range of industries. All of these industries exhibit the use of the induction of early anime aesthetics being developed at this time and now considered unique to Japan’s cultural identity: anime, manga, video games, cosplay, Japanese popular music, and AMV (animated music video).[1] We will mostly observe two of the industries dominated by anime aesthetics: anime and manga. Otaku products lay a robust foundation for the needs of the otaku for personal fulfillment, making the business very lucrative and attracting more international demands. This has brought international acclaim and economic triumph to Japan and the United States. The aesthetics of otaku products, a predominant force in otaku visual culture, has become homogenized with American visual culture upon its financial success, proving it to be worthy of globalization. The charms, allure, the hidden historical subtexts and fantasy of the otaku visual culture offered Americans the same opportunity as it did for the Japanese fanatics of otaku products. This provided a chance for individuals to fantasize an escape to consumer imagination into their fictional utopia. Following the events of World War II, American cartoons and comics have aesthetically influenced the production of Japanese animation due to their economic success, while American cartoons and comics have been aesthetically influenced by the allure of the unique Japanese anime aesthetic. In addition, innovation in technology has stimulates the ever-evolving trans-national visual culture shared between Japan and America while both nations retained cultural rights to their respective aesthetic that gave them more exclusive national identity and fostered unique economic strengths.

The voice revealed through a radio broadcast of the emperor was the signal of a new modern way of life. The economy of Japan rebounded rapidly after the war with the help of the American occupation (described by Murakami as the paternal models to Japan) (Schirokauer, Lurie, Gay). Post-war recovery ushered in contributions to the Japanese animation’s unique aesthetics, indicated the origin of a successful cultural phenomenon of the otaku and the growing capitalistic interest from the West for globalization and localization.[2]

The otaku subculture exploded much like the two catastrophic atom bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, did. Azuma explains that “otaku” is a “general term referring to those who indulge in forms of subculture strongly linked to anime, video games, computers, science fiction, special-effects films, anime figurines, and so on” Recalling from personal experiences and observations, the fourth generation (born in the 1990s) having the luxuries of modern technology and certain immediacy with the media. Globalization has brought otaku products to other parts of the world with improving technology, which made localization an international effort with its lucrative rewards.

As the otaku subculture began to spread since the 1960s; pop art, special-effect movies, rock music, LSD, and computers began taking America visual culture by storm. It is this dual progression by innovations in technology that formed a business partnership between Japan and America for the otaku subculture to capture imaginations in new markets. Despite that perceived notion, international commerce has opened doors for Japanese animation and paved way for opportunities for American animation studios to borrow characteristics of Japanese aesthetic influences exhibited with otaku products. Otaku products and the anime aesthetic grew with the boom generation–and as did scenes of excessive violence, racism, rape, and poverty in children’s television shows which alludes to post-war social impacts (Izawa). The violent events[3] that has occurred in Japan quickly found the otaku to be the scapegoat, claimed by the Japanese media to have been influenced by the harsh contents of some otaku products. Due to the media, the otaku subculture suffered slight “othering” from some Americans.

The otaku embraced the childlike indulgence with the anime aesthetic–dissonant post-war voices of chaste innocence–and often these themes are intertwined with a very adult innuendo, gore, dark humor, and truth. It’s an almost truthful sentiment towards the duality of humanity, the good and the evil. Most adults themselves didn’t mind that their kids watching these relatively uncensored[4] Japanese animation shows (Izawa). The animators also enjoyed fan-made, copyright infringing, artwork based off their characters (Azuma). Most of the time, they’re depictions are highly exaggerated and eroticized. In contrast to the United States, copyright infringement of Mickey Mouse would land anyone in a hefty lawsuit. Hayao Miyazaki however admired the early animation of Superman, despite the numerous anti-Japanese propaganda depicted in some early comics. Superman was the Western paradigm of animation, and greatly influenced the modern anime aesthetic. Alternatively, American investors were attracted toward the idea of incorporating the alluring anime aesthetic qualities into American animation (Izawa).

The term “anime” refers to animations of mangas (Eng). Manga is comics and cartoons printed in novels or comic books (in that particular Japanese “anime” aesthetic). Stories, characters, and themes portrayed in a particular anime film may later be distributed through manga, or vice versa. Japanese video games are another aesthetic medium of anime. Today we can find distinctions between American role-playing games and Japanese role-playing games (often abbreviated as “J-RPG”). If one original creation already has a robust fan-base then the preceding adaption is sure to be a financial success; demonstrated by America when anime aesthetics are borrowed from to produce animation due to the economic phenomena allured by exotic characteristics and Japan has adopted influences from American animation techniques, culture and realism to adapt to a broader appeal. Japan and America has enjoyed this financial relationship due to the success of selling the anime aesthetic (Izawa).

When Tezuka Osamu created Astroboy, cost-efficiency became crucial in being profitable in the animation business. A solution to this is referred to “limited animation,” in contrast to “full animation.” This method was inspired from the reaction to realism in Disney animation in the United States. Japanese animators began employing three frames per drawing method alongside recycling cells (where for example the mouth shows movement for speech while the rest of the cell is frozen) to cut production costs. This in turn made these works unappealing and compromised the quality of the work itself, which Tezuka himself was dissatisfied with (Azuma).

From the time of Astroboy, a unique aesthetic was developed by Japanese anime despite their poverty. Ironically, the anime aesthetics were developed from artistic influences of early Western drawing and pioneering animation. Animators from the 1970s have been naturally separated into two different types: expressionist and narrativist. Expressionists such as Yasuo Otsuka, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata preferred full animation techniques and appreciated the aesthetics of movement and realism. Narrativists such as Rintaro, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Yoshiyuki Tomino and Yoshinori Kaneda sought to embrace artistic appeal by working within the restrictions of limited animation and cell recycling. This specific visual appeal became a magnetic commodity to the otaku subculture through anime shows in the 1980s and created an aesthetic completely unique from the Western aesthetics in animated films created in the United States (Azuma).

We are all quite familiar with the American animation and Western drawing aesthetics. Western aesthetics appreciates realism and representation, opposed to the anime aesthetic appreciates idealism and simplification. The anime aesthetics common design of anime characters includes their large eyes, wild hairstyles, colorful clothing, and overall “non-Japanese” appearance. To explain the origins of the large eyes unique to anime aesthetics, Tezuka Osamu was greatly influenced by Walt Disney’s use of large, round eyes from the 1960s through the 1970s. The big eyes signify an “eye-opening” escape and the openness towards other cultures (Yumeka).

After the war and the preservation of traditional Japanese values in formality and manners attracted consumers to temporarily imagined themselves in a world completely different from their own with an adventurous vitality to explore the many sub-genres otaku products has to offer. Following the examples of success, Japanese animators such as Tezuka Osamu studied Western drawing and American cartoons and comics. In such a formal and polite Japanese society, characters that exhibit Japanese physical traits wouldn’t accommodate fantasy worlds of otaku products. Naturally with anime as a medium for escapists, the characters looked more “Western” to resolve the inherently restrictive Japanese traditions. These characters however still have Japanese names, intriguingly connecting with Japanese audiences who yearn for such escape into a fantasy world. Despite the characters not retaining much Japanese physical attributes the audience see themselves in that character, but as someone with more freedom and worldliness (Yumeka).

Note that many otaku products grab influences from American cartoons such as realistic parts of the body such as the eyes. Ironically, anime aesthetics utilize normal proportions relative to human scale (to help with the initial encouragement to escape by relating closer to a character with a more “human” shape). On the other hand American cartoons use simplified characters with exaggerated sizes and proportions of their body, often comical in nature. One of the observed Western influences is that the characters are made to look more real people instead of cartoons and comic book characters. In Japanese animation techniques, the more realistic storylines allow more adult situations with an occasional anime gesture of emotion (often indicated by manga iconography[5]). In regards to American audiences, they too have the luxury of benefiting through escaping into a fantasy world (Yumeka).

Western and Japanese art has interchangeably influenced one another well before the time of anime which resulted in a boom in sales of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, a cheap luxury at the time. Ukiyo-e prints became increasingly demanded once the West discovered the Japanese aesthetic only touched by tradition and spirituality derived from Buddhist philosophy. Picasso felt fascinated by Japonism.[6] One of his other studies portray the same subject matter but more loosely drawn, which can be compared to the modern term fan art.[7] This study on paper exhibits strong influences of Hokusai’s work The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. This marked the beginning of the initial birth of trans-national sharing of Japanese and American aesthetics (Koyama-Richard).

The otaku subculture responds to finding national identity through traditional Japanese sensibilities and looking to new attitudes that stray from tradition. From its deep historical origins, Okada (who wrote Introduction to Otaku Studies) believes that otaku sensibilities are “directly linked to “icy” or the “urbanity” of Edo culture” (Azuma). We can see many mature themes commonly used in modern otaku products that found inspiration from prominent ukiyo-e prints from the Edo period. One famous print titled The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hokusai depicted a tentacle-clad creature sexually assaulting a woman in the most explicit manner. In Hokusai’s work, it is evident that the female can be seen as mutual act of sexual intercourse, unlike the rape scenes depicted in a sub-genres of today’s otaku products (Ashcroft). This explicit example is one of many sub-genres of anime, while still retaining the anime aesthetic. The otaku perceives the anime aesthetics fixated as “Japanese things,” just as much as how the West viewed the otaku products (Azuma).

Many experts such as Azuma and Okada have identified the deep connection between the otaku subculture and traditional Japanese culture. One of the most well known claims have been made by Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, articulated in an essay titled “Superflat.” Azuma explains that Murakami details the unique compositions of animator Yoshinori Kaneda reflect to the “eccentric” artists of the Edo period painters like Kano Sansetsu and Soga Shohaku. He continues to explain that the rise of animation figurine making in the 1990s to the innovation of figurine makers Bomé and Tani Akira mirrors the history of Buddhist sculptures in Japan (Azuma).

A photo deemed iconic in modern Japanese society is the room of Tsutomu Miyazaki, a twenty-six year old man who was arrested in 1989 for violent murder and sexual assault of four girls ranging from ages four to seven. This is when the otaku subculture was catapulted into the general Japanese public and began to form a negative social stigma. Commentators described that Miyazaki was alienated from society, dependent on technology and media, a sociopath and a sexual deviant. These traits associated with the otaku, giving birth to a large-scale misconception of this uniquely unusual subculture (Galbraith).

The Nomura Research Institute reported that the otaku spends $2.5 billion toward otaku products in 2004. Many believe that the otaku has influenced innovations in technology and media, ranging from manga, video games and anime. These innovations provide a new financial arena of new mediums to further popularize and express the anime aesthetics. It was this market that also received international interests for revenue in other countries such as the United States (Galbraith). The otaku subculture is immediately associated with the anime aesthetic due to their primary appreciation for otaku products. Otaku products gained more international interest and gained popularity. Conventions, documentaries, television shows, and magazines on the otaku were being produced in the United States. Many more “otaku spaces” will be captured internationally, including the United States. American consumers look forward to the localization of otaku products such as Japanese video games or television shows (Galbraith). Many of these American consumers may become a Western version of the Japanese otaku, creating their own shrine[8] and becoming something they fantasize about by means of intrinsic role-playing within their “utopian” world[9] inspired by otaku products with anime aesthetics.

The otaku subculture continuously fueled the anime aesthetic in otaku products–uniquely appealing to American consumers. It rivaled with Hollywood cinema and animation with the following attributes: edginess, varied storytelling, and complex characterizations in which all are unified by the anime aesthetic. When Speed Racer hit the United States’ mass market and became classics, it paved way for today’s evolving American visual culture. One anime film from Hayao Miyazaki titled Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) was the highest-earning movie at the time in Japan and earned an Academy Award for best-animated film in the United States in 2002. This attracted further stimulation of business interests in anything with the anime aesthetics (Allison).

Themes that reflect post-war sentiment such as lost cultural values due to taking things for granted are clearly expressed throughout the movie. The story involves displacement of Sen, a little girl who got separated from her parents at a stop at an old amusement park. Sen’s friends in the movie that has helped her along the way all share a common trait in materialism and selfishness, which has been described as an allusion to the capitalism that spawned globalization of the anime aesthetic (Allison). This raises the question whether to accept any reasonable compromises towards the original visual work in acquiring prospects of capitalistic gain by offering domestic consumers something originally not available with English dubbing or captions. Note that many of Miyazaki’s works include a large number of American visual influences, especially in his animated feature Kiki’s Delivery Service. Miyazaki still retained anime aesthetics in all of his otaku products nonetheless. The inclusion of Western influences however doesn’t always mean that depictions of American elements in anime always have been simply inspired by Western aesthetics, but the intended setting and nature of the story may require that American presence (Japanese-American Cultural Exchange).

Pokémon, a monster collecting Nintendo video game and capitalistic phenomenon not only in Japan but the United States, provided access to imaginary worlds with a map to find meaning, connection, and intimacy in everyday life onto “commoditized apparatuses” (Allison). Pokémon required its players to practice strategy, skill, perseverance, training, knowledge while encouraged to collect, compete, raise, master, quest and role-play. The extraordinary success of Pokémon has brought Japan amazing profits and critical acclaim in the anime production of series and films. Pokémon, like any other product of the otaku subculture, brings players into a fantasy, role-playing world that is as Azuma puts it “hyper flat.” In correlation with Murakami’s Superflat theory, the player navigates through the Pokémon world through the screen on the Nintendo Gameboy/DS and switch between different menu screens that itemizes certain things such as the Pokémon themselves in your Pokédex. With the raging success in the United States, Pokémon transforms into an allegory as a “global character” representing Japan as a “cultural power.” The franchises added “cuteness” to the existing anime aesthetics, and an universal language we can all understand on a global scale (described as part of a “kawaii” culture according to Murakami) Pokémon also acted as a viral seed for further penetration of otaku influences in American visual culture and domestic bonanza in earnings, as fans became obsessed with buying and collecting the trading cards or mastering a particular Pokémon in the video game. The influence is so strong; we describe it as the “Pokémonization” of America and the rest of the world (Allison).

Western society observed these otaku attractions and financial success of otaku products. In turn they pursued to capitalize the economic potential that these imports possessed, leading up to the historically ironic evidence of the creation of American animation shows like The Boondocks or Avatar: The Last Airbender that clearly exhibits influences from Japanese anime aesthetics. Currently much of American visual culture is ruled by the media and commercial interest in financial gain through consumers (seen in advertisements, entertainment, the Pop Art movement, and political campaigns).

The inclusion of the anime aesthetic became a necessity to American broadcast networks. At the same time their localization process of otaku products often minutely alters the original Japanese storyline, names, art and texts to ease assimilation into American visual culture market. With American censorship laws in mind, domestic firms must “Americanize” the prospected anime or manga for the intended target markets while retaining most of the original anime aesthetic that makes it visually identifiable as “Japanese.”

Some may argue that anime aesthetic influences censorship on original otaku products, compromising with the integrity and uniqueness of the anime aesthetics through the process of localizing otaku products. They imagine otaku products never fully integrating into the entertainment sector of the American market due to its media-induced stigma of otaku products and their tendency to gravitate towards traditionally representational art. In an argument proposed by Howard Cheung’s article submission to the Anime News Network, he believes that Americans will never fully accept otaku products’ visual appeal due to questionable content subject to censorship as part of the localization process leaving consequences for the resulting “Americanized” otaku product–despite its global success (Sevakis).

The process of localization of otaku products can be seen as altering original art works to be able to import into another prospective market. Also, localization often costs the initial anime or manga work an inaccurate portrayal of translated dialogues based on Japanese cultural norms, alterations in the original storyline, original Japanese names, edits in animation such as removing scenes and even changes from the original cast of characters to ensure maximum sales (Allison). The importing process of localizing otaku products to the United States entails costly English translations, dubbing, editing to better fit the American cultural norms, and targeted marketing towards consumers. Licensing alone fetches a hefty price to domestic animation firms. In careful business practices, art has to be created within artist’s financial means. We wouldn’t be able to enjoy the luxuries of imported products without finding a way to make the localization more profitable and even possible. It is during localization that censorship intervenes to regulate mature content from being viewed by the masses to eliminate risks of lawsuits, protection of domestic marketability and consideration for American family values (Sevakis).

Regardless, original otaku products are made available thanks to innovations in technology via the internet or specialty shops. This process of “Americanizing” anime promotes hype among Western fans, exhibiting a cultural homogenizing effect of trans-national fandom and shared culturally aesthetic elements due to the technological improvements of globalization. Akin to the otaku subculture in Japan, Western audiences merge with the otaku products materials while interestingly chasing the fandom traditions from Japan combined with their own (Levi).

One must consider both perspectives to better understand the influences that spawned the cultural taboos and social norms. Naturally between Japanese and American cultures, what is perceived to necessitate censorship and sexuality in art is handled differently. A common American perception of censorship of art is that it involves efforts to halt and prevent progressive or minority ideas (such as attitudes against homosexuality or gun violence) for the sake of the wellbeing of the Americans. In the other side of the trans-national political spectrum, Japanese censorship often involves trying to end existing popular ideas from otaku products (Santos).

Stated by Santos that Kanemitsu mentioned how “Edo- and Meiji-period Japan was very sexually open (both genders bathing together, for example), but after Japan opened them up to the West, the country became more self-conscious about sexual values.” The change in attitude toward sexuality is exhibited in ukiyo-e prints and otaku products. During the American occupation, government forces aimed to censor obscene imagery from films to take more control of Japanese society and prevent potential criticism. Surprisingly from the post-war to the 1980s, pubic hair is heavily censored in Japan despite other existing obscene scenes that exist in modern otaku products. Today you can see explicit imagery in different sub-genres of otaku products in hentai.[10] It found inspiration in Edo-period ukiyo-e prints, such as Hokusai’s influential work of art titled The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (Ashcroft).

Conducting business differs between the two countries, understanding the fact that eastern societies are more collectivistic and western societies tends to be more individualistic. Having knowledge of cultural and social norms in respective countries helps us better comprehend the justifications of the unique types of content in American animation and Japanese anime (Santos). Recall Murakami’s historical “Superflat” theory on post-war psychological infantilism of Japanese society to better understand the “flattened” perspective of Japanese aesthetics and art (which includes anime), often dissected by American censorship (Azuma).

The marketing of “cool Japan” dressed by the aesthetics of anime has in recent years resulted in many legal issues today. Obscenity and child pornography seemed to be a major concern in the censorship discrepancies between localization of otaku products between Japan and America. Kanemitsu stated during 2011 Comic-Con’s Comics Arts Conference that “it is a myth that Japan is a child-porn haven.” He also adds “Asia as a whole only holds 7% of all child sexual-abuse content on the Internet.” In contrary to popular belief, the United States and Europe carry a significant majority of child pornography, in which just 1.5% of all convicted child-porn downloaders originated from Japan (Santos). The integrity of the anime aesthetic cannot be regulated through its visual attributes but it’s the content portrayed to consumers. Localization becomes a necessary solution to moderate otaku products to drive marketability and ensure availability of its unique aesthetic with American consumers.

Japanese networks have learned to anticipate American censorship laws by making use of legal grey areas. Recent negative attention on the obscene content associated with the anime aesthetic made localization more costly and unproductive, realized by American consumers. Anime will often portray mild nudity within the context of everyday life such as taking a bath. Some of the ways Japanese networks avoid censorship in this bathtub scene example is to draw in objects to cover up inappropriate areas, adding commonly used materials such as a bath towel or robe, and utilizing the “digital bra/bikini” technique[11] (Dougherty). America perceives otaku products to be viewed for children’s entertainment, hence the necessity of censorship by the Federal Communications Commission. The pressure from the FCC and censorship of otaku products has ironically spawned new attributes to the anime aesthetic, such as the visual result of the “digital bra/bikini” technique.

Localization is triggered in response to large-scale financial success of an anime or manga product, seeded by foreign intrigue of the anime aesthetic in popularized works. Cartoon Network, an American broadcasting network, have made efforts to air mature-rated anime after 10:00 PM due to FCC regulations and most of the child viewers watch television before it gets late. Anime that has been localized and aired on this network specifically targets the younger audience with animated shows better suited for children such as Pokemon, and Inuyasha and the profitable market as a whole (Sevakis). One must consider the shortcomings of localization due to financial expenses and cultural norm conflictions, but appreciate the efforts made by domestic firms to provide imported works with the anime aesthetic to the American consumer market. Investing firms and animation studio companies must assess profitability, edit the product according to regulations enforced by the FCC, ensure quality assurance of localizing the product with efforts in translating, and altering Japanese gestures and cultural norms to be easily accepted by the American consumer. These efforts are made to accommodate the needs of the domestic anime firm and consideration of the American consumers’ wellbeing (hence the censorship enforcements) (Sevakis).

From an economic standpoint, Cheung also believes that Japanese networks will start creating cartoons instead of anime and American domestic firms will capitalize on the widespread appeal of the “foreign aesthetic.” The nature of the anime aesthetics has a strong place in the otaku subculture and national identity ensured through their established, rich visual culture. It is highly unlikely that Japanese networks will start producing cartoons instead of anime, despite the evident prosperity and vigorous fan-base. As already described, anime also has proven to be very profitable. Like what Japonism did for Western artists, interest in the Japanese anime aesthetic is unique enough to capture the intrigue of American consumers. Sub-genres are plentiful in otaku products, giving more thematic options to allow more exploration and indulgence in role-playing fantasy.

These facts lead up to the original stance that a trans-national visual culture exchanges aesthetic influences between Japanese and American animation through localization efforts driven by capitalism. Japan and America has sought to capitalize off of their neighbor’s foreign aesthetic appeal and differences, but it takes a careful consideration of financial risk and logistics for any kind of artwork to be commercially localized. The financial success of otaku products in Japan and America has far proven its economic potential as an appealing form of modern aesthetic. Japanese animation studios such as Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli has caught the attention of Disney, localizing animated films such as Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo and Howl’s Moving Castle (Sevakis).

Despite the late Japanese post-war opinion on Japanese products being inferior to American products, anime aesthetics possessed the visual allure, foreign intrigue, and historical sentiments through the financial potential that lies in localization. American and Japanese visual culture has long evolved through trans-national aesthetic influences since the time when Japanese animators were studying Western drawing styles which later gave birth to the anime aesthetic that has been associated with the national identity of Japan. Innovation in technology perpetually improves localization efforts, ushers in new animation techniques while helping evolve unique aesthetics and allowed an infinite re-imagination of adhering to anime aesthetics through experimental artistic mediums. It seems as if the early pioneering Japanese animators projected the financial prospect from the America consumer market by intentionally including animation techniques influenced by Western animation firms such as Disney.

Though the debate behind whether anime is strictly “Japanese” or if anime can be conceived in other cultures like America is based on subjective opinions, anime should be held culturally exclusive in respect toward the Japanese national identity. Just like the purpose behind Champagne appellation law[12], appreciation for its unique visual characteristics holds value to Japan’s national identity after it being shaken up by the war (O’Brien).

As long as the unique aesthetics used in animation continues to be successful in Japan and America, both countries will perpetually exchange aesthetic influences from each other through a now robustly capitalistic business relationship. Money will always follow a deeply rooted form of aesthetic that possesses specific and distinctive attributes. Localization becomes easier with improvements in technology, despite its tendency to slightly alter the original work or in other people’s eyes “destroy.” Fortunately you can rely on online sources and search engines to acquire the original copy of the work in its initial state and completely forego the seemingly ambiguous effects of censorship on otaku products. This financial success and national identity with respective animation aesthetics ensures the existence of the trans-national visual culture market between Japan and America. Japan’s rich animation history, post-war attitudes and sentiments, localization, advancements in technology and the capitalistic potentials supported the trans-national business relationship between Japanese and American visual culture.
Works Cited

Allison, Anne. Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination. 1st ed. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2006. 1-270. Print.

“American Influences in Anime.” Japanese-American Cultural Exchange. University of Michigan, 1999. Web. Web. 03 Jan. 2013. <http://www.umich.edu/~wewantas/index2.html&gt;.

Ashcroft, Brian. “What’s Up With The Tentacles?.” Kotaku. Kotaku, 05 2010. Web. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://kotaku.com/5655761/whats-up-with-the-tentacles&gt;.

Azuma, Hiroki. Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals. 1st ed. Minneapolis, London: University of Minneapolis Press, 2009. 3-109. Print.

Azuma, Hiroki. “Superflat Japanese Post modernity.” MOCA. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.  5 April 2001. Lecture.

Dougherty, Caroline. “Anime Censorship in America .” Outsider Japan. PW Works, 11 Feb 2011. Web. Web. 03 Jan. 2013. <http://outsiderjapan.pbworks.com/w/page/9758338/Anime Censorship in America>.

Eng, Lawrence. “Otaku Engagements: Subcultural Appropriation of Science and Technology.” Diss. Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2006. Proquest Dissertations & Theses. Web. 25 Nov 2012.

Galbraith, Patrick. Otaku Spaces. 1st ed. Seattle: Chin Music Press, 2012. 17-237. Print.

Hokusai. The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. 1814. Woodblock Print. WikipediaWeb. 04 Jan 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dream_of_the_Fisherman’s_Wife&gt;.

Izawa, Eri. “Toshio Okada on the Otaku, Anime History, and Japanese Culture.” Mit.edu. MIT, 1 Oct. 2003. Web. 25 Nov 2012.

Kime, Chad. “American Anime: Blend or Bastardization?.” EX: The Online World of Anime and Manga. SPJA, EX: The Online World of Anime and Manga, n. d. Web. Web. 03 Jan. 2013. <http://www.ex.org/3.3/14-column_riap.html&gt;.

Koyama-Richard, Brigitte. One Thousand Years of Manga. 1st ed. Paris: Flammarion, 2007. Print.

O’Brien, Chris. “Can Americans Make Anime?.” The Escapist. Alloy Digital, LLC, 30 Jul 2012. Web. Web. 12 Jan. 2013. <http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9829-Can-Americans-Make-Anime&gt;.

Picasso, Pablo. Femme nue couchée (Reclining Nude). 1969. Art in America, New York. Web. 03 Jan 2013. <http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/features/picasso-tentacle-erotica/&gt;.

Santos, Carlos. “San Diego Comic-Con 2011: Manga Censorship.” Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 24 Jul 2011. Web. Web. 03 Jan. 2013. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/convention/2011/san-diego-comic-con/21&gt;.

Schirokauer, Conrad, David Lurie, and Suzanne Gay. A Brief History of Japanese Civilization. 2nd ed. Thomson Wadsworth, 2006. 240-257. Print.

Sevakis, Justin. “Anime in the Mainstream.” Anime News Network. Anime News Network, 01 Jul 1999. Web. Web. 03 Jan. 2013. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/editorial/1999-07-01&gt;.

Yumeka. “What is Anime?.” Anime Yumi. Anime Yumi, n. d. Web. Web. 10 Jan. 2013. <http://www.animeyume.com/site_general/justwhatisanime.html&gt;.


[1] For the sake of redundancy of the terms used to describe the different industries utilizing the unique anime aesthetic, which includes anime, manga, video games, cosplay, Japanese popular music, and AMV, will be referred to as “otaku products” for the rest of the research paper.

[2] The term “localization” refers to a process of importing otaku products in different marketplaces such as America, taking heed to the local market’s censorship laws, social norms, financial feasibility, language, customs, and acceptance of the anime aesthetic. “Glocalization” refers to global brands that undergo adjustments in local markets. “Globalization” refers to the process of international assimilation ensued from the transaction of global views, products, ideas, and other facet of culture.

[3] These events include cases like Tsutomu Miyazaki the serial killer.

[4] Many television shows in Japan remain less censored than American television shows, especially anime. Adult themes include dark humor, sex, gore, caricaturized emotions and truthful crudeness has roots from ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) from the Edo period.

[5] Japanese manga has developed its own visual language or iconography for expressing emotion and other internal character states. This drawing style has also migrated into anime, as many stories are adapted into television shows and films.

[6] The term “Japonism” refers to when Japanese art influences Western art.

[7] The term “fan art” refers to amateur artwork created by people that glorify something they are obsessed with or fans of a particular television show, video game, film, and other mediums. With the use of the anime aesthetics, the otaku often create “fan art” of their favorite anime or manga series.

[8] The term “shrine” refers specifically to the spaces occupied by the otaku, serving as sanctuaries for otaku. It may be any room, such as their parent’s closet, usually within the otaku’s place of residence (Galbraith).

[9] The visual aesthetics of otaku products has left a broad arena of storylines, character styles, and even unique styles from individual anime artists while still using the anime aesthetics. They utilized accepted characteristics and rules in their works that define anime aesthetics on a consistent basis. The imagination sourced to anime artists through generations fueled pioneering exploration of new settings, new character archetypes and new sub-genres of anime aesthetics. Modern otaku products create ideal worlds (utopia) from the imagination of the anime artist just as much as forcing characters into an undesirable lifestyle of a flawed world (dystopia) as settings in a storyline told in otaku products. This conception of such notions nurtured by anime aesthetics summoned new financial avenues, which helps evolve otaku products to the next generation of consumers.

[10] Hentai in Japanese translate to “perverted.” This is one of the sub-genres of anime, which is basically animated pornography presented with the anime aesthetics.

[11] The “digital bra/bikini” technique is used in Japanese animation to consider more ease in successful localization of otaku product. Using the same bathtub scene, this technique is used to create the suggestive shape of female breasts under the bath water as a solid color to create a silhouette. The intent of anticipating censorship laws does not prevent the intended inclusion of sexual innuendos and mature suggestions.

[12] The Champagne appellation law ensures the authenticity of a particular kind of sparkling wine made under this law in Champagne, France.

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About Julian Peña

I'm a visual artist and student currently in progress to attaining a Bachelors of Fine Arts. I've been creating fantastical works of art since I was at the age of 13 years old. My work is transcendent beyond the material world and life itself. The paintings are polychromatic and visually exciting, while still maintaining a level of harmony. The subjects in many of these works of art may not exist at all despite what we perceive. It is a play on perception, an attempt to engage the viewers. I has earned numerous scholarships, participated in several group exhibitions, and already organized my own solo exhibition (CMYK, 2011). My meticulous and unique style is visually arresting. New ideas are constantly being examined and then visually communicated. Come check out my works at www.julianpena.com! I am is also currently part of the 253 Collective (a co-op) in downtown Tacoma. I currently live and work out of my loft in downtown Tacoma, WA.

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