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  • IntroductionCounterfactual Histories, Parallel Universes, and Possible Worlds
  • Frenchy Lunning

When we began discussing “passing the torch”—with Tom Lamarre on a shinkansen bound for Tokyo in 2008—we thought looking at the propensity for alternative worlds in anime and manga might be a good and fruitful theme. But after the devastation of 3/11—the earthquake, the tsunami, Fukushima, and other related disasters—we began to perceive compelling implications for this topic on an intensified and immediate landscape. The linkage of this propensity for world renewal in anime and manga juxtaposed with the real-life traumas of the political, economic, ecological, and cultural fallout of 3/11, brought into sharp focus the complex constellation of time and space contradictions, paradoxes, and peculiarities in which contemporary Japanese popular culture exists.

This book, as usual, has been divided into four parts. The first, “Passages of As Not,” maps desire, disaster, and longing in four essays that, while taking different approaches, all center around the paradoxical movements and nonmovements of the experience of contemporary Japanese people in the midst of radical changes, movements that are at the same time a recognition of tradition. Akira Mizuta Lippit notes the peculiarities of time that are entangled in the event and the experience of disaster—the position of being shot through with the past yet already anticipating a future disappearance: “Disaster destroys the condition of its own possibility and so takes place without taking place, its impossibility and thus its postponement—its deferral—is the event.” Christophe Thouny charts both time and space through the fiction-alization of disaster in an examination of Sono Shion’s film The Land of Hope (2012) and begins to “map out this singular topology of Fukushima, Japan [End Page xiii] characterized by both the everyday insistence … ‘There is no escape!’—and a radical temporality of fictionalization asking us to live as if the patriarchal state and the national motherland had already died away.” Sabu Kohso also engages in mapping; he charts the structure of desire as understood from the view of producers and consumers in contemporary Tokyo, in both its material and immaterial aspects, a structure that “produces their desires and congeals them into its apparatus.” And Hoshino Tomoyuki ends this section with a poetic and personal reflection on the ritual of tōrō nagashi, the traditional lighting of the floating paper lanterns to commemorate souls lost in great public disasters, such as war. Recalling the recent disasters of 3/11, Hoshino suggests that the souls floating alight are in fact not of the dead, but of the survivors, recognizing the place of all souls—living and dead—in the larger flow of time and space.

In the second part, “Positions of What If,” counterfactual histories are proposed and parallel worlds explored in this compelling sequence of essays. Andrea Horbinski begins by positing the question: “How did things end up like this?” As she admits, it is the historian’s kernel impulse, and the fiction writer’s first question. Horbinski examines Yoshinaga Fumi’s feminist science fiction manga Ōoku (2005-present) to imagine an alternative history of “women-kind” in which a woman occupies the supreme position of shogun in early modern Japan. Ōoku presents a perhaps utopian scenario that highlights the gender inequalities, injustices, abuses of power, and the “essentially arbitrary nature of putting anyone in … positions based on constructed categories such as gender.”

Susan W. Furukawa parses the various counterfactual histories written about the historical figure of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who began life as a peasant farmer and became, through the exercise of his social, political, and military skills, a military dictator of feudal Japan. Furukawa submits that these works “placed him in parallel universes to grapple with issues of Japan’s not-so-distant past,” in order to “force readers to confront the social implications of reading the ‘samurai salaryman’ as a modern-day hero.”

Matthew Penney collects various neo-nationalist utopian narratives to create from these actual texts a “history” of a counterfactual future. He illustrates a potential common utopian vision that is shared by right-wing authors and creators and projected into an alternative reality and “built around the fantastic conceit that the right’s...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2152-6648
Print ISSN
1934-2489
Pages
pp. xiii-xvii
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-13
Open Access
No
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