FYS-149 Atomic Lizards, Robots, Pocket Monsters and Cute Kitties: Japanese Pop Culture Goes Global

Instructor: Associate Professor Eleanor J. Hogan
Department: Asian Studies

Course Description:
Godzilla, Astro Boy, and Hello Kitty are all Japanese nationals who have become global citizens. Beginning with Godzilla, this course examines Japanese popular culture from the immediate post-war period to the present. People of all ages enjoy Japanese characters, stories, and culture through varied media such as film, animated films (anime), comics (manga), video games, game shows, fanzines and fan sites, and novels. Scholars write of Japan’s “Gross National Cool” and “soft power” as they joke about the cultural invasion of Japan. Using a variety of interdisciplinary methods, the course examines the sustained presence of these popular icons and cultural works in Japan and beyond. Identifying these cultural products/art forms as reflections of Japanese identity, culture, history, art, and literature, we then examine the portability of these icons/media into other cultures. We seek to answer such questions as: How and why do some characters survive and thrive outside of Japan, while others such as Sweetbread-man (Anpanman), Bacteria-man (Baikinman) have not made the trip across the ocean? What, if anything, has been changed to make a character/story/game more appealing to another culture? What is an otaku and how has the definition changed over time and place? What do these products say about post-war Japanese culture? Informed discussion, writing, research and presentations provide a thorough examination and analysis of the appeal of Japanese popular culture and its relation to Japanese identity and globalization.