Published in the Journal of Japanese Studies Summer 1998
approx 10 - 15 pages
In 1989, however, amateur manga subculture and amateur manga artists and fans were suddenly discovered, as if through infra-red binoculars, and dragged from their teaming obscurity to face television cameras and journalists, police interrogation and public horror. Amateur manga artists became powerfully characterised as anti-social manga otaku or 'manga nerds' in a sudden panic about the dangers of amateur manga, which spread through the mass media. Amateur manga artists, referred to as manga otaku, were rapidly made into symbols of Japanese youth in general, and became centre stage in a domestic social debate about the possible state of Japanese society which continued through the early 1990s.
The debate about youth in Japan
During the 1960s large sections of Japanese youth, both university students and lower-class migrant workers in urban areas, began to rebel against existing political, social and cultural arrangements. Youth expressed their aspirations through radical political movements and a broad range of new popular cultural activities, in particular the manga medium which expanded hugely in the latter half of this decade. The political and cultural activities of this generation contributed to the enterprise of large culture industries in the 1970s, which made a market of the new intellectual interests and aesthetic tastes of postwar Japanese youth. Although the political point of youth radicalism became completely obscure by the early 1970s, younger generations, youth culture, and young women, became the focus of nervous discourse about the apparent decay of a traditional Japanese society.
Youth have come to constitute a controversial and often entirely symbolic category in postwar Japan. (White) youth cultures in the UK and the USA have, increasingly, been humorously indulged and wishfully interpreted as contemporary expressions of the irrepressible creative genius and spirit of individualism which made Britain a great industrial nation, and America a great democracy. But individualism (kojinshugi) has, as we know, been rejected as a formal political ideal in Japan. Institutional democracy not withstanding, individualism has continued to be widely perceived as a kind of a social problem or modern disease throughout the postwar period. Youth culture (wakamono bunka) which has flourished in Japan since the 1960s, has been identified as the magic cooking pot of postwar Japanese individualism and viewed in a particularly sour light by many leading intellectuals. Youth culture, symbolising the threat of individualism, has provoked approximately the same degree of condescension and loathing amongst sections of the Japanese intelligentsia, as far-left political parties and factions, symbolising the threat of communism, have provoked in the USA and the UK.
Individualism generally and youth culture in particular, have been interpreted, first and foremost, as a form of wilful immaturity or childishness. In 1971 Doi Takeo made his influential critique of contemporary Japanese society in the work The Anatomy of Dependence. Doi, an eminent psychoanalyst, argued, amongst other things, that postwar generations of Japanese youth expressed a desire to be indulged like children. In both the university campus riots of 1968 to 1970 and individualistic hippie culture, Doi Takeo saw the childish petulance of a dysfunctional generation, spoilt by the absence of a strong political father figure in Japan's new postwar democracy. Postwar youth were, at the same time, suffering from the over-indulgence of their own modern parents. Doi finally concluded that a whole range of democratic advances, including the political challenge to racial, gender and national inequality, were a form of childishness:
"In practise, the tendency to shelve all distinctions - of adult and child, male and female, cultured and uncultured, East and West, in favour of a universal form of childish amae (dependent behaviour) can only be called a regression for mankind."
In 1977, Okonogi Keigo, also a psychoanalyst by profession, published another influential Japanese critique of modern society titled The Age of the Moratorium People. Okonogi linked the childishness of Doi's youth to the widespread rejection of civil society and of social obligations to fulfil certain designated adult roles in society. Okonogi observed that:
"Present day society embraces an increasing number of people who have no sense of belonging to any party or organisation but instead are oriented towards non-affiliation, escape from controlled society, and youth culture. I have called them the moratorium people."
Criticisms of the immaturity and escapism of contemporary youth have been closely bound with criticisms of the contemporary manga medium. The principal reason for the enormous expansion of manga from a minor children's medium to a major mass medium during the 1960s was precisely because university students began to read children's manga instead of the classics. By spending hours with their noses buried in children's manga books obtuse students demonstrated their hatred of the university system, of adults, and of society as a whole. Reading children's manga came to be considered somewhat risqué and underground. From this period the qualities of introspection, immaturity, escapism and resistance to entering Japanese society, have been strongly equated with youth, youth culture, and manga. During the following decade the mass media and culture industries were criticised for encouraging the expansion of youth culture and its individualistic values across society. In 1980 youth were briefly referred to as the 'crystal people'; passionless cultural connoisseurs somewhat akin to the characters of Brett Easton Ellis' classic novel, American Psycho. The crystal people were named after the title of the 1981 best-seller novel, Somehow Crystal by Tanaka Yasuo, which zoomed in on the sophisticated but empty and neurotic lives of fashionable students.
In 1985 a new term was coined in the media to describe, once again, a generation of youth born into relative affluence, with no experience of the poverty and hardships of the early postwar period. Young people became known as the shinjinrui, - a term which implied that young peoples' behaviour was so entirely different to that of previous generations that they could in effect be described as a 'New Breed' of human. Despite the widespread use of the concept in media and academic analysis over the following decade, the New Breed remains a semi-mythological generation. While in 1987 they were estimated to be in their "20s and early 30s" , five years later, in 1992, they were believed to be the "under 30s" , while six years later, in 1993, they were believed to be in their late teens and early 20s. Nevertheless, social scientist, Sashida Akio was able to estimate that by 1996 that the New Breed would consist of precisely 52 per cent of the population and 49 per cent of the workforce. While the shinjinrui were favoured by the media itself and a minority of social commentators like Hayashi Chikio, who felt that they would "be far less constricted in their thoughts and feelings than earlier generations" , they were more frequently described by social scientists, as the irresponsible, passive consumers of leisure and cultural goods. Nakano Osamu, a leading expert in the field of youth, described the New Breed in the following terms, which appear to directly credit them with causing the major characteristics - and problems - of a late industrial economy:
"Because of the New Breed's preoccupation with pleasure and comfort, it choses pleasure over pain, recreation over work, consumption over production, appreciation over creation..."
Different sections of the media and in particular the visual media were suspected of exerting a pernicious influence over youth causing them to get lost in a realm of aesthetic, intuitive, irrational, and ultimately immature thought. Magazines devoted to help-wanted listings were accused of more directly encouraging young people to evade full time company careers. Social scientists suggested that the spread of youth culture and individualism through the media had produced a generation characterised by increasingly particularistic and narrow interests. Not only were youth resistant to entering society as mature adults, to becoming shakaijin (social citizens), but, it was observed, they had begun to loose all consciousness of affairs beyond their private hobbies. At the same time youth were criticised for their disturbing passivity and unwillingness to venture from their soft and comfortable private lives - variably referred to as "cabins", "capsuals", and "cocoons". Japanese mass society it seemed was being transformed into "micromasses" by hordes of passive and introverted youth:
"What will become of Japan if society continues to fragment into these self-satisfied, complacent micromasses? The[y] live in tiny cabins on a huge ship. They do not care if the sea is rough or calm, nor do they care what direction the ship is taking. Their only desire is for life to remain pleasant in their cabins."
In the characterisation of amateur manga artists as otaku and the ensuing social debate about the behaviour and psychology of Japanese youth involved with manga, key themes of previous debates about youth re-surfaced in new forms. Otaku were portrayed as a section of youth embodying the logical extremes of individualistic, particularistic and infantile social behaviour. In their often macabre descriptions of otaku lifestyle and subculture, social scientists conveyed, perhaps, their deeper anxieties about the general characteristics of Japanese society in the 1990s.
Mini communications and Amateur Manga Printing
At the beginning of the 1970s cheap and portable offset printing and photocopying facilities rapidly became available to the public. Amateur manga and literature of any kind could now be reproduced and distributed cheaply and easily, creating the possibility of mass participation in unregistered and unpublished forms of cultural production. During the early 1970s the new possibilities opened up by this technology also meant that it was relatively easy for individuals to set up small publishing and printing companies. Many ex-radical students who had ruined their chances of joining a good company through their political activities, or who were turning their energies to youth culture for other reasons, set up one-man publishing companies producing small, erotic or specialist culture magazines, many of which also contained sections of more unusual manga. Others established small offset printing companies which gradually began to specialise in printing short-runs of amateur manga to professional standards for individual customers.
Using the services of the new mini printing companies, individuals in all walks of life could now print and reproduce their own work without approaching publishing companies. This twilight sphere of cultural production, existing beneath the superstructure of mass communications, (mass commi) became known as the mini communications (mini commi). The structure of Japanese mini commi corresponds closely to the type of Anglo-American fanzine networks described by John Fiske as "shadow cultural economies". With regard to its amateur, uncentralised and open structure the printed mini commi medium can be usefully compared to the computer internet during the 1990s. One of the most extensive forms of mini communications in Japan was to become printed amateur manga.
Contemporary printed amateur manga are known as dojinshi - a term previously used to refer to pamphlets or magazines distributed within specific associations or societies. Alongside the growth of the commercial manga industry, and following the development of cheap offset printing and photocopying facilities, the number of manga artists and fans printing and distributing editions of their own amateur manga dojinshi began to increase, first slowly in the 1970s, and then rapidly during the 1980s.
In 1975 a group of young manga critics, Aniwa Jun, Harada Teruo and Yonezawa Yoshihiro, founded a new institution to encourage the development of unpublished amateur manga. The institution was Comic Market (also known by the abbreviations Comiket and Comike); a free space in the form of a convention held several times a year where amateur manga could be sought and sold. Yonezawa Yoshihiro, the current president of Comiket explained how it was established as a response to the official, commercial manga industry:
"All the independent comics and meeting places of the 1960s were disappearing by 1973 to 1974, and then COM magazine folded. It was a regression, from being able to publish all kinds of stuff in mainstream magazines to only being able to publish unusual stuff in dojinshi underground magazines. But what else can you do, but start again from the underground?"
Large publishing companies ceased to systematically produce radical and stylistically innovatory manga series around 1972, because they no longer matched sufficiently closely the changed interests of their mass audiences. New manga artists and fans interested in developing new forms of expression in manga, were forced to turn to amateur production as an alternative outlet for unpublishable matter. After this point of technological and commercial transition the amateur manga medium rapidly developed an internal momentum, partially independent of developments in commercial manga publishing.
Between 1975 and 1984, Comic Market was held on three days a year, after which point attendance grew so large that it was rescheduled to two weekend conventions held in the Tokyo Harumi Trade Centre, in August and December. At the first Comic Market held in December 1975, 32 amateur manga circles, and 600 individuals, attended. These figures grew slowly between 1975 and 1986, and then rapidly between 1986 and 1992. Comic Market became the central organisation of the amateur manga medium, the existence of which encouraged the formation of new amateur manga circles, in high schools, in colleges and amongst amateur manga artists with similar interests across the country. Attendance figures of Comic Market provide a useful illustration of the proportions and growth of the amateur manga medium, which is otherwise a remarkably invisible subculture in Japanese society. Since 1993, 16 000 separate manga circles, distributing one or more amateur works produced by their members, have participated in each Comic Market convention. In fact there have been approximately 30 000 applications from manga circles wishing to attend each convention throughout the 1990s but no more than 16 000 stalls can be accommodated in the Harumi Trade Centre. A proportion of this excess demand to attend conventions is absorbed by the organised staggering of conventions over two days and also by a recently established rival convention, known as Super Comic City, which is now held in the Harumi Trade Centre each April. These figures give an accurate indication of the number of amateur manga circles across the country, which was estimated at anywhere between 30 000 and 50 000 during the early 1990s. The amount of amateur manga being produced and distributed has increased greatly since around 1988, and may now total anything from about 25 000 separate works a year upwards.
Amateur manga business
Comic Market is ostensibly a voluntary, non-profit making organisation, but a range of other commercial enterprises have begun to grow on the margins of the amateur manga pool. In 1986 specialist amateur manga printer Akabubu Tsushin launched Wings amateur manga conventions, and in 1991 Tokyo Ryuko Centre (TRC) set up Super Comic City conventions. Both of these companies hold small to medium sized conventions in towns across the country every few weeks. It is possible for amateur manga artists and fans to visit a convention to find contacts and friends or to search out new amateur manga every other weekend, though in fact many smaller conventions are limited to specific genres of amateur manga of interest to just one particular group of amateur manga artists.
Timetables of convention dates and locations are advertised in several monthly magazines devoted to the amateur manga world. In the mid-1970s low-circulation magazines such as June (San Shuppan), Peke (Minori Shobo) Again, Tanbi and Manga Kissatengai were established. The first of these magazines, entitled Manpa (Manga Wave) was launched in 1976 and its scions continue to occupy the organisational centre of the amateur manga medium. In 1982 Manpa magazine split into: Puff which specialises in amateur girls' manga, and Comic Box, which covers all amateur manga from a distinctive leftist political position. These magazines also carry adverts for small dojinshi publishers, dojinshi books and anthologies, meeting places for amateur artists, and small specialist manga book shops which may also sell some dojinshi. Comic Box magazine also publishes manga criticism, interviews with manga artists, and otherwise unrecorded indexes of all published manga matter.
An increasing number of small companies have also begun to publish amateur manga itself. Fusion Productions, which makes Comic Box magazine, also publishes Comic Box Jr., a three hundred page monthly magazine in which collections of already printed and distributed amateur manga organised by specific genre or sub-genre are published, and collected anthologies of dojinshi, which so far include a now infamous, erotic, three-volume series entitled The Lolita Syndrome (Bishojo Shokogun) published in 1985. In addition to small publishers, the growth of the amateur manga medium has provided custom for a large number of small printing shops such as P-Mate Insatsu, and Hikari Insatsu, many of which specialise solely in the production of dojinshi.
Other commercial enterprises directly linked to the amateur manga medium are large manga shops which cater to the specialist requirements of amateur manga artists and fans. In 1984 a chain of manga shops entitled Manga no Mori (Manga Forest), sprang up in the Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Kichijoji, Higashi Ikebukuro, sub-centres of Tokyo. In 1992, Mandarake, a multi-storey manga superstore, opened in another centre of Tokyo, Shibuya, in which staff wear costumes fashioned after those of better-known manga characters.
Amateur manga artists
In the second half of the 1970s when Comic Market was still a relatively small cultural gathering, a high proportion of dojinshi artists graduated from amateur to professional status. Ishii Hisaichi, Saimon Fumi, Sabe Anoma, Kono Moji, Takahashi Hakkai, and Takahashi Rumiko, all printed dojinshi and distributed them at Comic Market, subsequent to becoming famous, professional artists. As the size of the amateur medium grew in the 1980s this flow of artists into commercial production decreased sharply.
The amateur manga movement reached its peak size in 1990 to 1992, when a staggering quarter of a million amateur artists and fans attended Comic Market. Amateur manga conventions are the largest mass public gatherings in contemporary Japan. Though it is not only in this regard that manga conventions bear a sociological significance similar in some senses to that of football in Europe. Most of these contemporary artists and fans are aged between their mid-teens and late-twenties. Although no statistics have been recorded, Yonezawa Yoshihiro has also observed that young Japanese from low-income backgrounds, typically raised in large suburban housing complexes, and attending lower ranking colleges, or without higher education, are in the majority at Comic Market. The significance of this observation is not straightforward. Despite the academic and media attention given to higher education and the emergence of a universal middle-class in contemporary Japan, the majority of young Japanese do not go on to higher education, and of those that do, a large proportion attend low-ranking colleges. At the same time the majority of Japanese people now live in suburban housing complexes and apartment blocks. While this could be taken to suggest that the sociological composition of Comic Market is therefore 'standard' and 'representative', the significance of this observation is, perhaps, that this is one of the very few cultural and social forums in Japan, (or any other industrialized country), which is not dominated by privileged and highly-educated sections of society.
This observation is particularly interesting in light of the high-levels of interest in self-education and the accumulation of cultural information which can be observed within the amateur manga world. By applying Bourdieus' theory of the 'cultural economy' to Anglo-American fanzine subcultures, John Fiske has developed the theory that these subcultures can operate as 'shadow cultural economies' providing individuals who feel lacking in official cultural capital, - namely education, - and the social status with which it is rewarded, with an alternative social world in which they can get access to a different kind of cultural capital and social prestige. It is possible that the intense emphasis placed, firstly, on educational achievement, and secondly, on acquiring a sophisticated cultural taste, in Japan since the 1960s, has also stimulated the involvement of young people excluded from these officially recognised modes of achievement, with amateur manga subculture.
Nevertheless a fraction of the rapid growth of the amateur manga medium at the end of the 1980s is accounted for by the arrival of teenage artists from privileged backgrounds at amateur manga conventions. These new participants, some of them the students of elite universities, are attributed to parents who were active in the counter-culture and political movements of the late 1960s, and have passed on both their class and some of their positive attitude towards manga to their children.
The huge proliferation of dojinshi production in the wake of the mini communications boom which allowed many ordinary Japanese youth to begin producing amateur manga, meant that by the 1980s virtually all amateur manga was being made, not by highly-skilled professional artists seeking alternative outlets for their personal work, but by young artists who had no relationship with the manga publishing industry at all. Of the tens of thousands of dojinshi writers active in the medium during the 1980s, only a handful went on to become professional artists. The originally tight relationship between amateur and professional manga production became looser. In an attempt to direct some of these amateur artists towards commercial production, the Comic Market Preparation Committee began publishing an annual journal designed to promote amateur manga artists. In this journal, Comiket Origin, published every summer, 15 to 20 amateur artists of the best selling dojinshi of the previous year are reviewed and introduced to the public.
Early in the development of Comic Market it became evident that printed amateur manga was providing an unexpected new gateway into the manga medium for Japanese women. Though Disney animation and the cute children's manga characters created by Tezuka Osamu had long been popular with young women, very few of them became manga artists before 1970. Commercial manga was dominated by boys' and adults' magazines, and these publishing categories continue to represent the mainstream of the medium and the publishing industry today. In 1993, adult manga for men represented 38.5 per cent; boys' manga represented 39 per cent; while girls' manga represented only 8.8 per cent, of all published manga. The number of women making dojinshi increased quickly after the establishment of Comic Market, so that the first result of the sudden increase in the general accessibility of the manga medium was a new amateur manga movement engendered by women. In the mid-1970s a group of female artists producing "small quantities of extremely high-quality manga" emerged, and became known as the '1949 Group' (nijuyon-nen gumi), after the year in which a number of them were born. These artists, including Hagio Moto, Oshima Yumiko, Yamagisha Ryoko and Takemiya Keiko, joined other earlier dojinshi artists who had become professional manga artists, when they filtered into commercial girls' manga magazines.
Until 1989, approximately 80 per cent of dojinshi artists attending Comic Market were female, and only 20 per cent male. Since 1990, however, male participation in Comic Market has increased to 35 per cent. The girls' manga genre continues to dominate amateur production but, and this is a point of great interest, it has now been adopted by male dojinshi artists. The increase in male attendance of Comic Market after 1988 was another factor contributing to the rapid proliferation of the amateur medium at this time. New genres of girl's manga written by and for boys sprouted from the fertile bed of the amateur manga medium. Some universities began to boast not only manga clubs, but also, girls' manga clubs for men. This manga and those men became the unlucky focus of the otaku panic.
Genre evolution within amateur manga
The realistic, adult-oriented gekiga style, which arose out of anti-establishment manga subculture in the late 1950s, and had a strong influence on the genres utilised within commerical boys' and adult manga, has not been a big influence on contemporary amateur manga. Amateur manga production, has been far more influenced by girls' manga, which in turn has far greater stylistic continuity with the less politically controversial tradition of child-oriented, cute, sometimes fantastical, manga style pioneered by Tezuka Osamu. Not only do amateur and commercial manga diverge in their stylistic origins but the social networks of amateur and professional artists have become so separate that they represent two virtually separate cultural media. From amateur manga subculture have emerged new genres which are distinctly recognisable as amateur in origin.
In the early 1980s, dojinshi artists began to produce not only new, original works, but a new genre of parody manga. Parody is based on revised versions of published commercial manga stories and characters. While often radically altering the content of original stories and implicitly criticising the morality of the original themes, parody does not always imply a visible re-rendering of texts. The first commercial manga series to attract a whole wave of amateur parodies in the first half of the 1980s was Spaceship Yamato (Uchusenkan Yamato). As the amateur manga medium expanded, the proportion of dojinshi artists producing parody instead of original works increased too. By 1989, 45.9 per cent of material sold at Comic Market was parody, whilst only 12.1 per cent was original manga.
Most parody manga have been based on leading boys' manga stories serialised in commercial magazines. Stories in the top-selling magazine, Jump, such as Dragon Ball, Yuyuhakusho, Slam Dunk, and Captain Tsubasa, have been particularly frequent sources of parody. Parody based on animation rather than manga series, and referred to as aniparo (an abbreviation of animation-parody), became more popular from the mid-1980s onwards. In the same period cosplay (an abbreviation of costume-play), where manga fans dress up in the costumes of well-known manga characters and perform a form of live parody at amateur manga conventions, also became widespread.
Dojinshi artists categorised their style of manga, which is dominant in both parody and original work, as yaoi. This word is a three syllable anagram, ya-o-i, composed of the first syllable of each of the following three phrases; "yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi". These phrases mean "no build-up, no foreclosure, and no meaning", and they are frequently cited to describe the almost total absence of narrative structure which has been typical of amateur manga from the mid-1980s onwards. In yaoi manga the symbolic appearance of characters, and emotions attached to characters situations, have become far more important than the traditional plot. The narrative or story-line, which in many ways is the only remaining link between manga and works generally understood as high-literature, has been very much abandoned to commercial manga publishers, for whom it continues to be of varied but generally substantial importance. Yaoi is also characterised by its main subject matter, that is homoerotica and homosexual romance between lead male characters of the work. Typical homosexual characters are pubescent European public school-boys, or muscular young men with long hair and feminine faces who's partners are essentially beautiful women with male genitals. Girls' manga featuring gay love is sometimes identified as june mono (after the girls' manga magazine June), while love stories about beautiful young men are also known as bishonen-ai. Although the characters of these stories are biologically male, in essence they are ideal types, combining favoured masculine qualities with favoured feminine qualities. Readers are likely to directly identify with 'gay male' lead characters, - and often the slightly more effeminate male of a couple. In the context of the obvious range of restrictions on behaviour and development that women experience in contemporary society, young female fans feel more able to imagine and depict idealised strong and free characters, if they are male.
Interpreting the themes of amateur manga
Comic Market president, Yonezawa Yoshihiro, sees the expansion of parody in manga as an attempt to struggle with and subvert dominant culture, on the part of a generation of youth for whom mass culture, which has surrounded them from early childhood, has become their dominant reality. In this context Yonezawa interprets parody as a highly critical genre which attempts to remodel and take control of "cultural reality". Manga critic Kure Tomofusa, on the other hand, believes that the highly personal (jiheiteki) themes of parody manga represent, not a critical sensibility, so much as a return to the previous safe themes of Japanese literature:
"In 1980 people once again began to forget about dramatic social themes and manga began to move towards petty, repetitive, personal affairs, rather like the I-novels (shishosetsu) of the pre-1960 period. In the 1980s new kinds of love-comedies, often within parody, began in and dominated the amateur printed manga world."
Yonezawa, representing the more open-minded approach of many independent media-based specialists, attempts to perceive a progressive political spirit, which is equivalent with that born by his own generation of the late 1960s, in the cultural activities of amateur manga subculture. Kure, however, insists in a critical appraisal of the themes of amateur manga, and finds them seriously wanting in tangible social and political content. This view is one shared by many editors and artists involved with the commercial manga medium. The implication of this criticism of parody manga is that the defintion of 'originality' applied to manga, is something linked to the degree to which it embraces current social and political events. 'News', it appears, has a more than merely linguistic association with 'originality'. Amateur manga, whether parody or original work, is widely judged to be low quality culture, because it lacks direct references to social and political life.
In a survey that I distributed at random to 40 amateur manga artists at Comic Market in August 1994, the respondents were divided in their opinions about parody manga. A total of 29 respondents returned the survey, and of these, 19 respondents said they preferred parody to original manga. Of these people, 10 respondents cited that it was "more interesting", as their reason for either producing or buying parody manga. Another 9 of the 19 respondents who claimed to prefer parody to original manga, cited that it was either "easier to understand" or that they were "not capable of making original manga". The remaining 10 respondents claimed not to like parody manga at all, because it was "not interesting". Thus, approximately one third of respondents, who were all Comic Market participants, did not like parody manga at all, another third said they liked parody manga because it was more interesting, and a final third said they liked parody manga because it was easier to write and to understand than original manga. These judgements, made by convention participants, confirm that producing and appreciating parody manga is, amongst other things, an easier task for many amateur artists than producing original characters and stories. Creating new manga scenarios and characters that work, is a far more challenging intellectual task than making new versions of already developed manga stories borrowed from popular boys' manga magazines. The presence of the amateur manga medium, which has allowed a great number of ordinary, proportionately less-talented individuals access to producing manga, may have had the effect of lowering the standards of amateur manga and encouraging the expansion of the parody genre. Despite this dependence of amateur manga on commercial manga for it's scenes and characters, it is clear that parody manga has nevertheless developed as a qualitatively separate master-genre in its own right, in which the traditional and commercial understanding of originality has come to have less meaning.
Parody manga often contains an element of satirical humour which makes light fun of the seriousness of the masculine heroes in commercial boys and adult manga series'. While, on the one hand, parody positively celebrates these favourite manga characters, on the other hand, it also pierces their authority and aloofness, by inserting scatological humour or embarrassing jokes about their sexual desires. The overall effect of this type of naughtiness in parody manga is to make the parodied characters more falliable, allowing readers to feel more intimate towards them. This aspect of the amateur manga sense of parody is similar to aspects of the Anglo-American sensibility of Camp. Both of these cultural modes, are based on the subversion of meanings carried in original, and frequently iconic, cultural items. Morevover in the case of both parody and Camp, this playful subversion, is focused particularly on cultural items which contain strongly identified gendertypes. Through parody manga, a large vanguard of young women, have developed a cultural form which expresses an ambiguous preoccupation with, and a deep uncertainty about, masculine gender stereotypes, such as those typical of the characters in weekly boys' and adults' manga magazines.
Many of the men involved in the amateur manga medium perceive girls' manga, and the female mileu surrounding it to be a progressive cultural scene, within contemporary society. In 1992, an article appeared in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun about a salary man who wrote girls' manga, which was strategically titled 'Active Citizenship through Girls' Manga'. In the article the man explained how, in his opinion, writing amateur girls' manga was not an escapist activity, but something that actively engaged him with society in a way in which working for a publishing company (producing original manga dramas) could not. Implicit in this man's comments was a criticism of the purpose of Japanese corporations and the masculine culture through which men working for them communicate. This is an attitude shared by many other male fans of girls' manga including the editorial staff of the magazine Comic Box.
Towards the end of the 1980s, however, the number of men attending amateur manga conventions increased and new genres of boys' amateur manga began to rise in prominence at Comic Market. A type of ultra-cute girls' manga written by, and for, men was grafted from the styles of manga pioneered by female artists and used in small girls' manga story magazines, such as Ribbon and Margaret. The genre into which the majority of this male girls' manga falls is aptly referred to as Lolicom - this term being derived from the Lolita complex concept. Complex, in this case, being the operative word. Lolicom manga usually features a voluptuous girl heroine with large eyes and a pre-pubescent body, scantily clad in an outfit which approximates a cross between a 1970s bikini and a space-age suit of armour. She is liable to be cute, tough and clever. The attitude towards gender expressed in amateur Lolicom manga, is clearly different to that expressed by the male fans of girls' manga, including gay love stores and parody.
Despite the differences of these particular male attitudes, the themes by which amateur manga genres have become defined have in common a similar preoccuption with gender and sexuality. Amateur manga genres express a range of problematic feelings young people are harbouring towards established gender stereotypes, and by association, established forms of sexuality. While young people engaged with amateur manga do not fit the social definition of homosexuality, they share some of the uncertainties and modes of cultural expression, more commonly associated with contemporary gay culture. Yaoi, june mono, parody and Lolicom express the frustration experienced by young people, who have found themselves unable to relate to the opposite sex, as they have constituted and located themselves, within the contemporary cultural and political environment. There is, in short, a profound disjuncture between the expectations of men and the expectations of women in contemporary Japan. Young women have became increasingly unwilling to accept relationships with men who can not treat them as anything other than 'women' and subordinates. Men who persist in macho sexist behaviour, - like that often depicted in boys and adults manga magazines, - are gently ridiculed and rejected by the teenage girls involved in writing parody manga, or reading gay love stories. Young men who also find this type of masculine behaviour and networking, which is concentrated within corporate culture, restricting and uncomfortable, have also been attracted to amateur girls' manga.
The themes of Lolita complex manga written by and for men, on the other hand, express the both the fixation with, and resentment felt towards, young women, by another group of young men. Despite the inappropriateness of their old-fashioned attitudes, many young men have not accepted the possibility of a new role for women in Japanese society. These men who are confounded by their inability to relate to assertive and insubordinate contemporary young women, fantasise about these unattainable girls in their own boys' girls' manga. The little girl heroines of Lolicom manga reflect simultaneously an awareness of the increasing power and centrality of young women in society, and also a reactive desire to see these young women dissarmed, infantilised, and subordinate.
From a broad perspective, both the obsession with girls relieved through Lolicom manga, and the increasing interest amongst young men in (girls' own) girls' manga, reflect the growing tendency amongst young Japanese men to be fixated with the figure of the girl and to orientate themselves around girls' culture. The increasingly intense gaze with which young men examine girls and girls manga, is, in the words of Anne Allison, "both passive and aggressive". It is a gaze of both fear and desire, stimulated not least, by a sense of lost priviliges over women, which accumulated during the 1980s.
Amateur manga in Britain and the United States
Often, points of striking and unexpected similarity between cultural trends in contemporary Japan and those of other late industrial societies provide social insights which are at least as profound as those discovered at points of cultural difference, which are almost habitually focused upon in the academy. Points of similarity in the cultural developments of different societies illustrate the pervasiveness of international social and cultural processes. Amateur manga is a good example of this point. Genres which have arisen out of Japanese amateur manga subculture in the 1980s bear striking similarities to a genre which has been present in the cultural output of television and comic fans in the United States and the United Kingdom since the early 1970s. Fine art drawings and paintings and literary parodies of popular television series, such as Starsky and Hutch, M*A*S*H, Star Trek, and most recently, Alien Nation, from the USA, and Red Dwarf in the UK, are a central constituent of Anglo-American fanzine subculture. Moreover, the addition of homoerotica and homosexual romance to these fanzines is also prevalent. Anglo-American homoerotic amateur fanzines are referred to as 'K/S', or more simply still 'slash' (/), in reference to the frequently portrayed relationship between Kirk and Spock, in fanzine versions of the program Star Trek. The yaoi style emerging from Japanese dojinshi is clearly the Japanese equivalent of Anglo-American slash. Other similarities between yaoi and slash are the absence of a strong narrative structure and the particular fascination with space exploration adventures: for Anglo-American fanzines about Star Trek and Dr. Who substitute Japanese manga parodies of Spaceship Yamato and Captain Tsubasa.
In fact there are actual links between amateur manga and fanzine production in these different countries. The most rapidly growing sector of British fan culture in the 1990s has been concerned with Japanese manga or animation, while so called 'Japanimation' has been a popular category of American fan culture since the mid-1970s. Japanese animation companies have stimulated the interest of foreign fan audiences since the late 1970s as a market-opening devise to introduce Japanese animation products to wider American audiences. Most fan interest in Japanese animation in the UK was stimulated by the release of Otomo Katsuhiro's animated film AKIRA and the establishment of the magazine Anime UK, in 1990. Other British magazines for new fans of Japanese animation are Manga Mania, launched in 1993, and Anime FX, launched in 1996. The popularity of Japanese animation in Britain occurred at the same time as the explosion in growth of the amateur manga medium in Japan from the end of the 1980s into the early 1990s. The genres of animation which have become popular within the new fan cultures in Britain and the United States, and which dominate animation video imports, are derived from Lolicom manga which arose out of the amateur manga medium in the late 1980s. Girls' manga written exclusively by and for men, and featuring cute little girls, typically wielding heavy weaponry and fighting for survival in science fiction worlds, has been the principal influence on Japanese animation favoured in Britain in the 1990s. The preoccupation with converting serialised dramas into homoerotic parodies which emerged spontaneously amongst women in both the UK and America, and in Japan, suggests that all of these women have undergone essentially similar social and cultural experiences. It is not so much the often cited differences between the role of women in USA and Japan, so much as the implied similarity of their experiences, which is the source of fascination here. At the same time, the popularity of Japanese animation and manga influenced by the Lolicom style, in the UK and USA during the 1990s, suggests that many young men in the UK, USA and Japan are also experiencing quite similar circumstances, leading to closely allied tastes and interests. This type of international manga and fanzine subculture, emerging spontaneously from within amateur media outside of the official organisation of the media and culture industries, suggests, moreover, that the degree to which the media and culture industries in each of these countries actively produces a specifically national culture, is extensive.
The amateur manga panic
In 1989 amateur manga artists and amateur manga subculture became the subject of what might be loosely categorised as a 'moral panic' of the sort first defined at the end of the 1950s by British sociologist, Stanley Cohen. A sudden genesis of interest in amateur manga artists and Comic Market, amongst the media, began with the arrest of a serial infant-girl killer. Between August 1988 and July 1989, 26-year old printers' assistant, Miyazaki Tsutomu abducted, murdered and mutilated four small girls, before being caught, arrested, tried and imprisoned. Camera crews and reporters arriving at Miyazaki's home discovered that his bedroom was crammed with a large collection of girls' manga, Lolicom manga, animation videos, a variety of soft pornographic manga, and a smaller collection of academic analyses of contemporary youth and girls culture. Miyazaki was a fan of girls' manga and in particular Lolicom manga and animation, and it was revealed that he had written some animation reviews in dojinshi and had been to Comic Market.
A heavily symbolic debate ensued Miyazaki's arrest, in which his alienation and lack of substantial social relationships featured as the ultimate cause of his anti- social behaviour. The apparent lack of close parenting given to him by his mother and father; his subsequent immersion into a fantasy world of manga; and the recent death of Miyazaki's grandfather - with whom he had apparently had his only deep human relationship; were posited as the serial causes of his serial murders. Emphasis on the death of Miyazaki's grandfather implied that the decline of Japanese-style social relations represented by older generations of Japanese fulfilling traditional social roles had contributed to Miyazaki's dysfunctional behaviour. Emphasis on Miyazaki's apparently careless upbringing suggested, at the same time, that freer contemporary relationships were no substitute for fixed traditional social relationships, and that there was no real communication between modern, liberal parents of the 1960s generation and their children. Several journals described how Miyazaki's mother had neglected her son so that, "By the time he was two years old he would sit alone on a cushion and read manga books."
Where his family had failed to properly socialise Miyazaki, the media, it was suggested, had filled this gap, providing a source of virtual company and grossly inappropriate role models. While one headline exclaimed that in the case of Miyazaki "The little girls he killed were no more than characters from his comic book life" , psychoanalyst, Okonogi Keigo, worried that: "The danger of a whole generation of youth who do not even experience the most primary two or three way relationship between themselves and their mother and father, and who cannot make the transition from a fantasy world of videos and manga to reality, is now extreme".
Following the Miyazaki case, reporters and television documentary crews visited amateur manga conventions, and specialist manga shops. Amateur manga culture was repeatedly linked to Miyazaki, creating what became a new public perception, that young people involved with amateur manga are dangerous, psychologically-disturbed perverts.
The birth of the otaku generation
Otaku, which translates to the English term 'nerd', was a slang term used by amateur manga artists and fans themselves in the 1980s to describe 'weirdoes' (henjin). The original meaning of otaku is 'your home' and by association, 'you', 'yours' and 'home'. The slang term otaku is witty reference both to someone who is not accustomed to close friendships and therefore tries to communicate with this peers using this distant and over-formal form of address, and to someone who spends most of their time on their own at home. The term was ostensibly invented by dojinshi artist, Nakamori Akio, in 1983. He used the word otaku in a series entitled 'Otaku no Kenkyu' (Your home investigations) which was published in a low-circulation Lolicom manga magazine, Manga Burikko (Manga Cutie- Pie).
After the Miyazaki murder case, the concept of an otaku changed its meaning at the hands of the media. Otaku came to mean, in the first instance Miyazaki, in the second instance, all amateur manga artists and fans, and in the third instance all Japanese youth in their entirety. Youth were referred to as otaku youth (otaku seishonen), otaku-tribes (otaku-zoku), and the otaku-generation (otaku-sedai). The sense that this unsociable otaku generation were multiplying and threatening to take over the whole of society was strong. While the Shűkan Post put about the fear that: "Today's Elementary and Middle Schools Students: The Otaku Tribe Are Eclipsing Society", Social Anthropologist, Otsuka Eiji, confirmed that "It might sound terrible, but there are over 100 000 people with the same pastimes as Mr. M. - we have a whole standing army of murderers."
Police action against amateur manga
The practical results of the new and hostile attention directed at amateur manga were the partial attempts of Tokyo metropolitan police to censor sexual images in unpublished amateur manga and prevent their wider distribution at conventions and in specialist book shops. In 1993 guidance about the appropriate contents of dojinshi were distributed at Comic Market for the first time. The Comic Market preparation committee determined to attempt the enforcement of public bylaws prohibiting the sale of sexually explicit published materials to minors of 18 years and under, despite the fact that a large proportion of amateur manga is produced and sold by minors. In the Comic Market participant application brochure of August 1994, organisers warned amateur artists that, "Comic Market is not an alternative society, it is a vehicle orchestrated by you which thinks about its useful role in society. It has become necessary for us to seek social acceptance."
Eventually manga fan culture and amateur unpublished manga also became the target of extensive harassment by the police. During 1991 police arrested the managers of five specialist manga book shops where unpublished or amateur manga was available for sale. This activity began when six officers broke into Manga no Mori manga book shop in Shinjuku, central Tokyo, and confiscated copies of unpublished manga. Police collected the addresses of 15 amateur manga circles and subsequently took their members into police stations for questioning about the legal status of the printing shops where their manga booklets had been printed. Amateur manga artists were subjected to repeated investigations and harassment throughout the rest of the year. In total police took in 74 young people for questioning over their activities making amateur manga and removed 1880 volumes of manga by 207 authors from Koyama Manga no Mori book shop; and 2160 volumes of manga by 303 different authors from Shinjuku Manga no Mori manga book shop. This scale of direct police activity represents a significant curtailment of the distribution of unpublished manga. Other than in specialist manga book shops in large cities, amateur manga is rarely on sale and is not usually available outside the social circles of young manga fans and artists. The direct arrestment of amateur manga by local police forces suggests that it was not only the perceived problem of the harmful effects of manga on young minds which concerned the police, but also the independent and unregulated movements of amateur manga artists and amateur manga.
The otaku panic and the reform of the manga medium
The divergence of the publishing industry from what became the contemporary amateur manga movement during the 1980s left the latter disorganised. The central organisation of manga carried out by publishing companies and manga editors disappeared from the amateur medium and no alternative system of valuation, artistic discipline, or quality control, replaced it. Artists who could not get their work published in manga magazines took advantage of this unregulated sphere to produce and distribute their work in amateur form. New genres of manga, driven by the strength of their popular appeal alone, emerged from the amateur manga medium. The same popular engagement with the manga medium which fuelled the commercial expansion of weekly magazines during the 1960s encouraged the medium to divide into two separate media by the 1980s. The tremendous expansion of the amateur manga medium demonstrates again that the most salient characteristic of manga in postwar society has been its popularity and accessibility, confirmed in the extent of active engagement with the medium by young people.
Moreover it is precisely the widespread access youth have had to the manga medium which has stimulated concern amongst political and educational authorities. Anxieties which were raised about the commercial propagation of manga and gekiga social dramas between 1965 and 1975, resurfaced between 1990 and 1992, and were redirected towards amateur manga - currently the most uncontrolled and free area of the manga medium. Within the escalating debate about manga otaku which spread across society was expressed a sense of insecurity about uncontrolled and unregulated new cultural activities. Thus concluding upon the otaku panic, Yonezawa Yoshihiro remarked that:
The city, the lost zone of Japanese society, exists here at Comic Market. Without any interference or hindrance from outside, this abandoned and forgotten section of society has started to produce its own culture. The sense of being one body, of excitement, of freedom, and of disorder exists inside this single unified space. If anything frightful has come into being it is no doubt the existence of this space itself.
The underlying argument explicit in both the otaku panic, and the 1990 to 1992 anti-manga censorship movement by which it was accompanied, was that manga have a negative influence on Japanese youth, and in particular, their sexuality. While these types of views held by conservative citizens' organisations and government agencies, involved in attempting to censor published manga magazines, were not interesting, reasonable, or acceptable to a wide section of the contemporary Japanese public, specific criticism of amateur manga subculture and otaku manga genres was more novel and engaging. Young people themselves, were persuaded that amateur manga subculture was a serious social problem, rather than a 'cool' youth activity they might like to enter into.
Otaku as a symbol of contemporary Japanese society
The otaku panic also reflects many of the contemporary concerns of social scientists about Japanese society. These are powerful concerns about social fragmentation and the contribution of the mass media and communications infrastructures to this change. Since the 1970s, intellectuals have linked their concerns about the decay of a close-knit civil society to the growth of individualism amongst younger generations of Japanese. Individualistic youth culture has been accurately associated with either the failure or the stubborn refusal of contemporary Japanese to adequately contribute to society, by carrying out their full obligations and duties to family, company and nation. The absorption of youth in amateur manga subculture in the late 1980s and 1990s was perceived by many intellectuals as a new extreme in the alienation of Japanese youth from the collective goals of society. Otaku became another rejuvanated and modernised version of the aging concept of 'youth'.
Otaku came to represent a younger generation who were so intensely individualistic they had become dysfunctional. A generation of "isolated people who no longer have any sense of isolation." The dysfunctionality of otaku proved the unhealthy nature of individualistic lifestyles. Otaku represented new Japanese who lacked any remaining vestiges of social consciousness and were instead entirely preoccupied by their particularistic and specialist personal pastimes. Like generations of youth before them otaku were also diagnosed as suffering from Peter-pan syndrome, or the refusal to grow-up and take on adult social relations. Ueno Chizuko, the leading feminist theorist, pressed this theory that amateur manga genres reflect the infantilism of young people, asking "Do the yaoi girls and Lolicom boys really have a future?" Without social roles, otaku had no fixed identities, no fixed gender roles, and no fixed sexuality. Ultimately, otaku represented a youth who had become so literally anti-social they were unable to communicate or have social relationships with other people at all. The independence of amateur manga subculture from the rest of society, and its growth on the back of new media technologies available to the public, made it an appropriate focus for this sense of chaos and declining control over the organisation and communication of younger generations.
The universalisation of girls' culture
At the same time, it seems that it was the domination of amateur manga subculture by young women rather than young men which provoked particular unease. In the mid-1970s early girls' manga was perceived by some leftist critics as a reactionary cultural retreat from politics and social issues to petty personal themes. Girls manga and soft (yasashii) culture were associated with the decline of political and cultural resistance in the early 1970s, sometimes referred to in Japanese as the 'doldrums' (shirake). But by the 1990s, individualistic personal themes in girls' manga were being perceived as stubbornly self-interested, decadent and anti-social.
Over the last two decades, it is women far more than men, which have been involved with making, enjoying and becoming the idols of youth culture in Japan. By virtue of their exclusion from most of the labour market young women have occupied a relatively marginal position in society. Instead of devoting themselves to work most young women have focused on spending their incomes earnt from part-time and temporary employment on culture and leisure. During the 1980s in particular young women became the main consumers of culture. Ojosamas' (young madams') engagement with culture and leisure has been criticised as a form of selfish resistance to society. For many young men, young women have increasingly come to represent an illicit free zone outside of the company, where their individual interests and desires can be pursued. Girls' manga too carries themes associated with escapism, self- indulgence and willful feminine individualism.
Genres derived from girls' manga represent, for better or worse, the most dynamic section of the manga medium as a whole in the recent period. However, they have been humiliated by the otaku panic and marginalised by the recent anti-manga censorship movement. Amateur manga derived genres are excluded from virtually all of the magazines of leading publishers of manga. The snobbery indirectly expressed towards girls' manga genres is reminiscent of a broader distaste in polite Japanese society for contemporary culture produced for, and sometimes by, young women. As Scov and Moeran have highlighted, there is:
"..an almost apocalyptic anxiety that the supposed 'pure' and 'masculine' culture of Japan has been vulgarised, feminized, and infanticized to the point where it has become 'baby talk' beyond the comprehension of well-educated critics."
Drawing notice to this vain of critisism which perceives girl's culture as an unwelcome alien influence within Japan, manga critic, Kure Tomofusa, described how: "When academics looked at girls' manga they were amazed. They felt like English missionaries discovering that there were different societies in Africa."
The cross-over of young men into girls' culture has provoked particularly fierce opposition. The universal popularity of manga genres pioneered by women implies that rather than being a discreet feminine section of manga culture, girls' manga is in fact central to the contemporary medium, as indeed young women are to contemporary Japanese culture in general. It also implies that the individualistic and self-interested themes of girls' manga are themes with universal appeal. It is striking that although the majority of amateur manga artists and fans are young women, the media panic about otaku was focused almost entirely on the young men who have adopted young womens' culture as their own. The anxieties released by the sight of young men flocking to a female-dominated manga movement is reminiscent of the criticism targeted at 'wiggers' - or white American boys emulating black ghetto culture or making black music, - in the United States.
Crowds of teenage girls screaming at the sight of their favourite pop-stars taking their shirts off on stage, or spending hours staring morbidly at posters of James Dean, has been humoured, and accommodated in Japan as much as it has in the UK. In Japan, the migration of women into male culture, into bars, trousers, and golf courses, is gradually becoming more acceptable. But, the emergence during the late- 1980s, of hordes of teenage Japanese boys who scream and faint at the sight of their favourite female pop-idols, who adore girls' manga, or who fetishise images of young girls from afar in their own boys'- girls' manga, have been reacted to with shock and incomprehension.
(For graphs, illustrations, and text references please refer to the published article in the Journal of Japanese Studies)
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See Brian Moeran, "Keywords and the Japanese 'spirit'," in Brian Moeran, ed., Language and Popular Culture, (Manchester University Press, 1989)
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Okonogi Keigo, "Moratorium Ningen no Jidai," Chuo Koron (October 1977); Moratorium Ningen no Jidai, (Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha, 1981)
_______________ "The Age of the Moratorium People," Japan Echo, Vol.5, No.1 (1978).
Tanaka Yasuo, Nan to Naku Crystal, (Tokyo: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 1981).
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Ijiri Kazuo, "The Breakdown of the Japanese Work Ethic," Japan Echo, Vol.17, No.4 (1990).
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Kurihara Akira, Yasashisa no Yukue: Gendai Shonen Ron, (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo, 1981)
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"Notes on Camp"  re-published in A Susan Sontag Reader, (London: Penguin Books, 1983).
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Anne Allison, Nightwork: Sexuality, Pleasure, and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club, (University of Chicago Press, 1994).
Anne Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics and Censorship in Japan, (Colorado: Westview Press, 1996).
See Phil Hammond (ed.), Cultural Difference, Media Memories: Anglo- American Images of Japan, (London: Cassell, 1997)
Camille Bacon-Smith, Enterprising Women: Television Fandon and the Creation of Popular Myth, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992).
Stanley Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics, (London: Granada, 1972).
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John Treat, "Yoshimoto Banana Writes Home: Shojo Culture and the Nostalgic Subject", in the Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol.XIX. No.2. (1993)
"Comic Market 46 Sanka Moshikomusho Set," (Tokyo: Comiket Junbikai, December 1993).
Yugai Comic Mondai o Kangaeru, (Tokyo: Tsukuru Shuppan, 1991)
Ueno Chizuko, "Kyuju nendai no Sexual Revolution, " in Otaku no Hon, (1989).