Pub Date2017
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Promiscuous Media: Film and Visual Culture in Imperial Japan, 1926‐45

Hakari Hori
Cornell University Press

The early Showa Era (1926-45), which roughly coincides with the Nazi years (1920-45) and Mussolini’s ‘venti anni’ (1921-43), is generally assumed to be a dogmatically and fanatically nationalist period, and due this putative monomania is often seen as a straightforward subject to study. To the contrary, this book reveals a very different picture of the Japanese popular media of this time period. The book examines the ways in which Japanese film and visual culture responded to the issues of the day, producing adaptations of Hollywood genre films; admiring pioneering film theories from Russia and Britain; and examining the techniques of German animation and Disney films. Importantly, the veneration of the emperor’s portrait photograph is a key to understand and contextualize the era’s media-scape. It is crucial to note that domestic film manifested the inherent promiscuity and transnationality of its medium. Japanese films did play a familiar role as propaganda, but because of their heterotopic aspects, the medium also negated, opposed, and undermined the ideologically and nationalistically defined demands of the wartime state. For other visual cultural media, too, careful examination reveals they were a site of contradictions of the dominant totalitarian discourse.