pink eiga and Japan as subculture

Aaron Gerow gerow
Mon Nov 13 00:26:14 EST 2000

Thanks to Jasper for bringing these issues up.  In my response, I 
certainly did not want to say that Jasper was being "superficial" in his 
observations.  In fact, I did in part want to applaud him for trying to 
conceptualize his observations while also opening them up to discussion 
in a public form like this list.  To few people do that.

Jasper did bring something which I think is very important:

>Pinku may make up a disproportionately
>large amount of Japanese cinematic output compared with other countries, yet
>it takes up an even larger proportion of the number of Japanese titles being
>released in the West at the moment. Within cult cinema circles, people
>assume that Japanese cinema is typified by the output for example, of Japan
>Shock Video, or the films listed in books such as 'Eros In Hell' or Thomas
>Weisser's 'Essential Guide to Japanese Cinema', where "essential" seems to
>overlook, for example, the TORA-SAN movies in favour of films with titles
>such as ROPE AND BREASTS. This is almost an inversion of Academic Film
>Critique, which as far as Japanese Cinema goes, still seems unable to look
>past the Golden Age of Ozu and Kurosawa. The middle ground is still firmly
>ignored by distributors, and hence Westerners are more likely to form their
>opinions on the Japanese from disparate sources such as Chambara or Roman
>Porno, with contemporary films such as those mentioned on this list seldom
>making it outside of the festival circuit.

I would like to ask other members what they think of this phenomenon.  We 
all are aware that the appeal of Japanese cinema, as well its importation 
and study, was for many years strongly influenced by certain Western 
visions of Japan we could call orientalist, focusing on the traditional, 
exotic, different--somehow "better"--Japan.  (This was a vision, by the 
way, some Japanese cultural institutions were not remiss in bolstering.)

But clearly with the popularity among many afficianados of Japanese film 
of not only anime, but also certain pink or cyberpunk films, it is no 
longer the quiet Japan that is the focus, but the noisy (as in noise 
music), pop, technological, "dangerously" sexy Japan.  Japan itself as 
subculture, one could say.  Maybe this is a good step away from the 
conception of Japan as "still traditional," bringing the nation well into 
the 21st century, but as Jasper notes, it is clearly not the only picture 
of Japan and probably not even accurate (whatever "accuracy" is).  Jasper 
reminds us of the institutional conditions that support this new 
conception (film distribution, publishing, academica), but I wonder what 
are the modes of reception that encourage this vision.  Clearly this is 
not like the old Orientalism, but is this just the Techno-Orientalism 
David Morely wrote about (Japan as the desired/feared technological 
Other)?  In some ways, it seems congruent with the vision of Japan of 
"subculture studies," but less in the politicized work of British 
subculture studies, for instance, than in the otaku-gaku of Okada Toshio 
and others.  If an orientalist vision of Japan tells us more about the 
observer than the observed, what is this new conception telling us about 
its proponents, about the West, and about Japan place in the world in the 
21st century?

Aaron Gerow
Yokohama National University
KineJapan list owner
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