- NAJAKS – Nordic Association of Japanese and Korean Studies - http://www.najaks.org -

Bad Father and Good Mother: Changing Masculinity in Post-Traumatic Japan

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 2:49 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Yau Shuk-ting,Associate Professor

Department of Japanese Studies

The Chinese University of Hong Kong


The burst of the bubble economy happened in the early 1990s can certainly be considered as a serious trauma to the majority in contemporary Japan. It had not only triggered numerous social problems such as unemployment, bankruptcy, divorces and committed suicides in the country, but also caused severe damage to the confidence of most Japanese male. In Japanese movies nowadays, it is hard for us to see the respectable and reliable image of nippon danji (Japanese man) as we once saw. Instead, the male leads are usually pathetic figures. Many of the Japanese movies nowadays focus on the mutual distrust between the so-called Generation Y (aka Millennial Generation) and the authorities, including their government, fathers, bosses or teachers. This is because people who belong to this generation, those were born from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, have vague memories or even no experience of the prime time of the country. In fact, the present Japan is still struggling to recover from a recession that has lasted over two decades. In response to the absence of father figure, terms such as sodai gomi (oversized garbage) and dame oyaji (incompetent father) are used to describe men who lost their jobs in corporate restructuring. On the other hand, those are looking for job security during shūshoku hyōgaki (employment ice age) end up working as temporary or casual staff. The younger generations are also known by negative expressions due to their inability to live independently or connect to the real world, examples include otaku (people with obsessive interests in anime, comics and games), hikikomori (people seek extreme degrees of isolation and confinement), parasaito (parasite), furītā (freeter), and nīto (NEET). Movies such as The Black Swindler (2008, Ishii Yasuharu), based on a manga series written by Natsuhara Takeshi since 2003, and Kanikōsen (Crab Canning Ship) (2009, SABU), based on a novel written by Kobayashi Takiji in 1929, depict the post-1980s generation’s resistance against exploitation from the above. Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (2008, Takimoto Tomoyuki), a film adaptation of manga series by Mase Motorō (2005-2012), sets in a country that bears close resemblance to Japan, where citizens between the ages of 18-24 being randomly selected to die for the good of the nation under the so-called “national prosperity law.” Moreover, the Gantz series (2001, Satō Shinsuke) adaptations of an ongoing manga series by Oku Hiroya (2000-), tells the story of a bunch of young guys being forced by a mysterious power to play a game of killing people whom they do not know. Compared to the outlaw heroes in earlier Japanese cinema such as Takakura Ken and Kitano Takeshi, idol Fujiwara Tatsuya is unique and unconventional with his trademarked baby face and skinny body. Contradicts with the traditionally masculine heroes found in hanzai eiga (literally means crime film), Fujiwara’s image as an elite student (yūtōsei) who has potential to commit crime intelligently with a dangerous mind, is very much a reflection of the youngsters in nowadays Japan. In sequels of Death Note (2006, Kaneko Shūsuke) and Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler (2009-2011, Satō Tōya), he plays intelligent outlaw heroes who have no faith in the authority and dare to break the norm in order to actualize their belief of justice.

In my presentation, I will explore how Japanese movies in recent years have shown the great changes of masculinity. Furthermore, it investigates how these movies help men to rebuild their dignity by giving them a sacred and self-sacrificing mother figure.


Article printed from NAJAKS – Nordic Association of Japanese and Korean Studies: http://www.najaks.org

URL to article: http://www.najaks.org/?p=1029