Violence in Amime & Manga

©大友克洋, 1988マッシュルーム/アキラ制作委員会

Akira (アキラ, romanized as AKIRA) is a Japanese manga series, written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo. Set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, the work uses conventions of the cyberpunk genre to detail a saga of turmoil. on click for larger screen

“Violence,” Murakami Haruki has said, is “the key to Japan.” In his novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, he probes “deeply into the violence years for the root causes of Japan’s modern malaise,” says Jay Rubin, an American academic and translator. In reply to a reader’s review of Kafka on the shore ― “I wonder why the world had to be so full of meaningless sex and violence,” Murakami to the objection regarding meaningless violence, had this to say, “It seems to me that one of the first things we have to recognize is that meaningless violence is a fact; it’s all around us.”

Violence is another prominent feature of Japanese Manga and Anime. Besides the works such as AKIRA (アキラ) or Gantz (ガンツ) whose main theme is violence itself, Manga and Amime for younger target including One Piece (ワンピース, Wan Pīsu) ―it’s cumulative sales surpassed 2.5 hundred million copies in 2011―, Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール, Doragon Bōru), or NARUTO (ナルト) depict violence with no restraint as well.

Gatchaman (Battle of the planets), besides sexual innuendos, featured violence, blood, and morally questionable and sometimes visibly mortal heroes. When the American television producer Sandy Frank put Battle of the Planets on television in 1977, “A lot more than editing would necessary,“ he said in an interview with Kelts. “I totally revised the whole thing,” he says now. “We had the cartoons themselves and the Japanese scripts and we totally redid the whole series. We did new music, new scenes ― we even invented a new character that looked like R2-D2. We had 7-Zark-7 there to smooth over all the rough spots in the plot. There was as antiviolence campaign in the U.S. at that time, so we had to take out most of the violence, and there was a lot of it in the original. There was death and blood, and it had o go. We look it out-much to my regret, of course. Twenty years later, violence was back in and we could have cleaned up with the same series.” “Frank’s team attempted a western whitewashing of the darker undercurrents in Japanese animation: No one died, plot points were softened by the R2-D2 clone, anomie was replaced by logic, or at least some signs of cause and effect, and the entire series were moved to a distant planet to avoid earthly unpleasantness.”

“I watched Battle of the planets regularly, and I knew even at a young age that something was really weird,” recalls Lawrence Eng, who holds a doctorate in American otaku studies from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in a interview with Kelts. “I think most of us knew that the American version was different, but we didn’t even know for sure where the original came from. We just knew it looked cool.” The University of Tokyo professor and literary translator Shibata Motoyuki analyzed the differences between the two cultures as we discussed manifestations of violence in America and Japanese literary works: "I think it was Nathanael West who said that in America, violence is idiomatic - which means to me that violence is everywhere ... an almost necessary by-product of American individualism, which can always turn into the every-man-for-himself kind of chaos. If you push individualism far enough, maybe it explodes.” The repressive nature of Japanese Culture may keep such explosions limited to the imagination, he said,” If you look at Otomo Katsuhiro's anime like Akira, the violence is more movie like, and it seems to come mostly from the author's imagination."

—ODAKANE Fuji

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