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The influx of Japanese art and fashion into the American cultural mainstream gets an entertaining treatment from Kelts, an essayist and lecturer at the University of Tokyo, who interviewed many of Japan's leading culture gurus over the past three years.
Kelts is clearly most interested in the world of anime and manga (from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke), as his readers will most likely be. A primary theme is that of the Japanese paradox: how has such a strictly defined and rigid society produced pop art that is, compared to its American counterparts at least, wildly imaginative and boundary bursting? Kelts's belief is that one directly created the other, that anime and manga's wild and kinetic structures, hyperaddictive apocalyptic story lines and surprisingly emotional content (not to mention sex and violence unheard of in American pop culture) could never flourish in an openly permissive and individualistic society that had not experienced nuclear devastation. Although the book grasps too eagerly at its subject's grander implications, it still effectively conveys the cross-Pacific cultural dissonance.
Kelts has a sharp grasp of his
subject and is on sure ground when discussing the history of the form,
especially the impact of Disney on postwar Japanese animators or the reverential
awe in which American animators hold such filmmakers as Hayao Miyazaki
|Japanimerica [Book] (Hardcover)|