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  • Anti-Japan: The Politics of Sentiment in Postcolonial East Asia by Leo T. S. Ching
  • Takashi Yoshida (bio)
Anti-Japan: The Politics of Sentiment in Postcolonial East Asia. By Leo T. S. Ching. Duke University Press, Durham NC, 2019. xii, 163 pages. $89.95, cloth; $23.95, paper; $23.95, e-book.

This book primarily examines the anti-Japanism in mainland China and South Korea, anti-Americanism in Japan, and pro-Japanism in Taiwan that surfaced in literature, film, personal testimonies, and popular culture after World War II. In chapter 1, "When Bruce Lee Meets Gojira: Transimperial Characters, Anti-Japanism, Anti-Americanism, and the Failure of Decolonization," Ching argues that "the 'symbolic anti-Americanism' of Gojira [1954] and the 'anti-Japanism' of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury (1974) constitute two axes of desire and fantasy that characterize the 'failure of decolonization' in postwar East Asia" (p. 17). In East Asia, Ching stresses, the cold war and domestic political and economic motives rendered decolonization incomplete (p. 24). Chapter 2, "'Japanese Devils': The Conditions and Limits of Anti-Japanism in China," traces the use of one of the most casually and frequently utilized phrases, "Japanese devils" (riben guizi), in Chinese popular discourse and evaluates the documentary film Riben guizi (Japanese devils, 2001), directed by Matsui Minoru. The film features testimonies of 14 former Japanese soldiers, most of whom are members of the China Returnees' Association, recalling their war crimes. In the 1960s, films such as Landmine Warfare (1962) and Tunnel Warfare (1965) (Ching mentions the titles of most works only in English translation) typically depicted the Japanese devils as a few commanders of the Imperial Army, separating ordinary rank-and-file soldiers from the devils. By the 2000s, however, as represented in "Whack-a-Devil," a popular Internet video game, and "Resist Japan and Whack the Devils," an animated hip-hop music video by He Yao, [End Page 172] the devils often became the synonym of the Japanese nation and the entire Japanese people (p. 48).

Chapter 3, "Shameful Bodies, Bodily Shame: 'Comfort Women' and Anti-Japanism in South Korea," focuses on analysis of the documentary trilogy The Murmuring (1995), Habitual Sadness (1997), and My Own Breathing (1999), directed by Byun Young-Joo, which details the lives of women forced into sexual servitude. Instead of the cultural sentiment of han (an unresolved resentment against injustice) in the nationalist discourse, Ching suggests that the notion of "shame," a socially imposed and gendered sentiment shared among the Korean survivors of sexual violence, better illuminates the limit and failure of patriarchal nationalism and the Japanese and the South Korean governments as well as the dilemma and courage of these survivors. In chapter 4, "Colonial Nostalgia or Postcolonial Anxiety: The Dōsan Generation In-Between 'Retrocession' and 'Defeat,'" Ching analyzes four literary works printed by a small Japanese publisher that attempt to disseminate a nationalistic agenda to discuss the sentiments of nostalgia and intimacy toward Japanese colonialism shared by the Taiwanese who experienced both Japanese colonialism and postcolonial colonialism by the Nationalist government. Chapter 5, "'In the Name of Love': Critical Regionalism and Co-Viviality in Post-East Asia," explores Gojira, Death by Hanging (1968, directed by Oshima Nagisa), Mohist Attack (a comic by Mori Hideki serialized from 1992 to 1996), and My Own Breathing. These works underscore a force of love as a political concept that may help us overcome nationalism and ethnocentrism. Through the exploration of these works, Ching urges East Asian countries to "create aspirations that are antiwar and antimilitaristic and that respect the suffering all their peoples have endured" (p. 114). Chapter 6, titled "Reconciliation Otherwise: Intimacy, Indigeneity, and the Taiwan Difference," analyzes Exceedingly Barbaric (2008), a novel by Tsushima Yūko, and Finding Sayun (2010), a documentary by Leha Mebow, in order to highlight an intergenerational reconciliation that leaves colonialism and nationalism behind.

This thought-provoking book will help readers reevaluate and contextualize various literary works, films, testimonies, music videos, video games, and other aspects of popular culture. This reviewer, born in 1963, was frequently exposed to various Bruce Lee and Gojira films on television and at theaters when he was in elementary and junior high school. Many...