Today we welcome a guest blog post from Andrew C. McKevitt, author of Consuming Japan: Popular Culture and the Globalizing of 1980s, on the popularity and impact of anime and manga in America today.
Consuming Japan explores the intense and ultimately fleeting moment in 1980s America when the future looked Japanese. Would Japan’s remarkable post–World War II economic success enable the East Asian nation to overtake the United States? Or could Japan’s globe-trotting corporations serve as a model for battered U.S. industries, pointing the way to a future of globalized commerce and culture? From autoworkers to anime fans, this insightful book introduces new unorthodox actors into foreign-relations history, demonstrating how the flow of all things Japanese contributed to the globalizing of America in the late twentieth century.
Consuming Japan is available now in both print and e-book editions.
Globalization’s Heroes in the Age of Trumpism
As I wrapped up my first book, Consuming Japan: Popular Culture and the Globalizing of 1980s America, the last thing I expected to come across in the deluge of daily news on the 2016 presidential election was the intersection of the Donald Trump campaign and Japanese animation, or anime, one of the Japanese products I examine that came to U.S. shores beginning in the 1960s. In the heat of the contentious Republican primary season from which the reality-TV star would emerge victorious, one party operative criticized his voters as “single men who masturbate to anime.” As someone who’s studied and written about anime fans for more than a dozen years now, this claim seemed one more ugly stereotype to emerge from a moment of nastiness, less a denigration of Trump voters than of the diverse millions of people across the United States who consume anime.
I had this absurd political context in mind when, during the first week of July 2017, I attended Anime Expo, the largest convention (or “con”) in the United States dedicated to the celebration of the many facets of Japanese popular culture. I had been invited to deliver the keynote address at the Anime and Manga Studies Symposium, a four-day academic conference built into Anime Expo’s programming, alongside the hundreds of panels dedicated to favorite anime series, manga, video games, and the “cosplay” that celebrates it all. To me, the diversity on display among the 100,000 attendees at Anime Expo demonstrated the emptiness of claims of anime’s perverse marginality. Fans represented a cross section of a nation in the midst of a decades-long demographic transformation. No doubt, somewhere in a country of 320 million souls, a solitary white male Trump voter sat in his parents’ basement enjoying his favorite hentai (which refers, at least in the United States, to sexually-explicit anime and manga). Actual anime fandom, though, reflects not that stereotype but the reality of a world of increasing global interconnectedness and the challenges a diverse nation faces adapting to it. That diversity has served as a canvass for U.S. fans to confront ideas about race and gender. In one way, then, anime fans are globalization’s champions, especially in a political moment of resurgent economic and ethnic nationalisms.