- Disrupting Centers of Transcultural MaterialitiesThe Transnationalization of Japan Cool through Philippine Fan Works
In an increasingly networked world, fans of anime and manga converge in online spaces that are often privileged by algorithms of search engines or trending social media platforms. More often than not, these fan spaces simulate a "homogenous" world where fans' geopolitical affiliations disappear in Anglophone discussions of anime and manga. If anything, Japan emerges as a dominant national figure in discussions primarily conducted in English. This is the shape of global Anglophone fandom surrounding anime and manga, where fans from all over the globe converge in online spaces to learn more about the literacies and practices surrounding Japanese popular culture.
Since the popularization of Japanese popular culture in the Philippines in the late 1990s, Filipino fans have actively engaged in these online trans-cultural spaces. With English as the second official language of the country, Filipino fans who have command of English have easily navigated these online anime and manga communities. Fan practices such as writing fan fiction became opportunities to engage with transcultural online communities and even strengthen their English language skills.1 Looking at fan spaces such as Fanfiction.net and Archiveofourown.org, expressions of nationality have been limited to a few hundreds of fans and in specific fandoms. The rest of Filipino anime and manga fans are quite content with assimilating into fandom's transcultural space-until recently.
Since 2010, Filipino fans have actively produced fan works that challenge the "homogeneity" of online anime and manga fandom. While the study of localized transcultural materials is not new, my focus in this essay is on the process whereby transcultural fandom becomes a critical space for Filipino fans to learn and develop the literacies that gave them the creative agency to express their nationality in this supposedly "homogenous" space through their fan works.2 I examine different fan practices and their products, such as [End Page 96] the increased Filipino interest in the anthropomorphosis (gijinka) of Filipino institutions and local fan attempts to situate the Philippines in the imagination of transcultural fans through Yuri!!! on Ice fan works. I argue that fans' local iterations of these transcultural practices challenge the perceived homogeneity of Anglophone fandom while encouraging this transcultural space to embrace and acknowledge diverse multicultural expressions. In the process, I argue that these actions disrupt notions of transcultural homogeneity in these English-language fan spaces, as these transnational materials challenge and dislocate centers of anime and manga fandom.
"Homogeneity" in Transcultural Media and its Fandom
Studies surrounding the globalization of Japanese popular culture have focused on its transnational flows between Japan and other nations in the Americas, Europe, and East Asia.3 More often than not, transnational analysis of Japanese popular culture focuses on bilateral engagements that highlight the political, cultural, and social intricacies surrounding Japan's attempt at "soft power." Koichi Iwabuchi has argued that Japan's increased efforts to disseminate its brand of nationalism highlight the country's postwar Orientalist strategy.4 Japan's notion of pop-culture diplomacy has been highly unilateral, as some of its partner countries leave little or no impact on Japanese culture.5 If anything, the countries that have a kind of impact on Japanese popular culture are those that trigger the Japanese Occidentalist imagination-from England's Victorian aesthetic to Germany's bildungsroman.6 Rather than building cross-cultural exchanges, Iwabuchi notes that Japan's transcultural engagement seeks to control the consumption of Japanese culture by essentializing its national brand. This engagement diverts consumers' attention from the diversity within Japanese culture that challenges the state's framework.7 Iwabuchi warns us of how Japan uses its cultural media to create a "homogenous" notion of Japan in a transcultural or trans/national space.8
While Iwabuchi highlights the power of the state in shaping a "homogenous" notion of a national culture, Lori Morimoto and Bertha Chin highlight how "affinities of affect" facilitate "homogeneity" as global fans may share affective ties when they consume transcultural media.9 Affect, as Brian Massumi describes, is an intensity that leads to a visceral response that does not follow logic or consciousness.10 One can think...