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Apocalypticism in postwar Japanese fiction Tanaka, Motoko


This dissertation discusses modern Japanese apocalyptic fiction in novels, manga narratives, and animated films. It begins with an overview of the apocalyptic tradition from ancient times to the modern day, and reveals the ways in which apocalyptic narratives have changed due to major socio-cultural transitions. It focuses on two themes of apocalyptic narratives: the relationship between self and Other; and the opposition of conflicting values such as life/death and natural/artificial. Through a close study of these themes in apocalyptic fictions in postwar Japan, it becomes clear that such narratives primarily target a male audience and function as a tool to stabilize the damaged identities of the nation and the modern individual after the defeat in World War II. The study focuses on the period of transition after the end of World War II: Until the 1970s, Japanese apocalyptic narratives, targeting adult men, attempted to bring ideals into reality in order to reestablish the damaged national identity. The failures of social movements in the 1960s meant that it was no longer possible for Japanese to participate in real movements that aimed to counter the United States as threatening Other. This is reflected in the shift in apocalyptic narratives from the 1980s onward toward quests for ideals in fictional settings, targeted at younger males. After 1995, the Japanese apocalypse becomes totally postmodernized and explicitly targeted at young boys. Apocalypse after 1995 features characters who lack serious interpersonal relationships and those who inhabit an endless and changeless simulacrum world. It becomes difficult for the youth to establish their identities as mature members of society, for they are increasingly losing their connections with the wider community. In the contemporary Japanese apocalypse, there is no one left but a hypertrophic self-consciousness. This raises the question of whether it is possible for contemporary Japan to become fully mature. Japanese postmodern apocalyptic narratives suggest two different responses: one is to affirm that Japan is an eternally impotent adolescent state that tries to criticize power by subversively manipulating its relationships with the powerful. The other is to wait for an infinitesimal change of maturity in mundane daily life.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 2.1 Japan