Master of Arts
This project explores three distinct sets of Japanese and American postwar popular culture texts to demonstrate that there is a continuum of Japanese cultural interest in pacifism through resistance narratives in speculative fiction. Through close readings of Godzilla, Mobile Suit Gundam and Akira, and Metal Gear Solid, which I compare with similar American texts, my project positions its objects of study as points of cultural resistance to hegemonic pro-American cultural products. Each text produces commentary on Japanese-American relations with specific respect to nuclear policy and military expansionism. Significant Japanese cultural producers have grown increasingly critical of Japanese-American cooperation since the end of the Second World War. These producers have conveyed a series of dire warnings to Japanese and American power-holders alike. This project broadly defines the postwar relationship between America and its sociopolitical vassal Japan as dually cooperative and oppressive by examining key points of nuclear, political, cultural, and technological convergence.
Summary for Lay Audience
After the American nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the relationship between Japan and the relatively newly arrived Western superpower was changed forever. My project studies how several key Japanese popular culture franchises have historically expressed tension and anxiety over the post WWII vassal-ruler relationship between Japan and America, specifically concerning the questions of nuclear weapons, militarism, and imperialism. By studying globally significant Japanese popular culture texts against their American counterparts, my project demonstrates a disparity in how the two nations’ postwar cultures have depicted and critiqued nuclear trauma, war devastation, and militarism in popular forms of storytelling. This disparity ultimately demonstrates a continued form of cultural resistance in Japanese popular culture that continually questions the unbalanced relationship between Japan and America and argues for increased national sovereignty for Japan that is equally removed from American power and Imperial Japanese tradition.
Warlow, Aidan J., "Radiant Dreams and Nuclear Nightmares: Japanese Resistance Narratives and American Intervention in Postwar Speculative Popular Culture" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8373.