Science Fiction Film & Television

Remaking Yamato, remaking Japan

Space Battleship Yamato and SF anime

Science Fiction Film & Television (2014), 7, (3), 315–342.

Abstract

Recent years have seen the development and production of several Hollywood remakes of Japanese cultural commodities, among which are some based on sf Japanese animations. Some of these remakes have provoked criticism from fan communities for their ‘whitewashing’ of casts, settings and storylines. Given the hegemonic position that Hollywood occupies within the world-media system, these criticisms are undoubtedly warranted. Yet insofar as they operate on the basis of a politics of representation, they at once run the risk of fetishising a notion of Japanese authenticity that re-inscribes mutually reinforcing techno-orientalist and cultural nationalist undercurrents in the discourse surrounding Japanese animation. My essay argues that rather than an approach that privileges notions of originality and authenticity, the transnational cultural politics of remakes and reboots can be more effectively apprehended when the intertextuality built into the very structural logic of the sf genre is properly recognised. Taking up the recent live-action remake of Space Battleship Yamato (2010) as an illustrative example, I suggest that the nostalgic desire and staging of retroactive continuities that drive both its story and its critical reception call attention to its repetitions of tropes from not only the preceding titles from within the Yamato franchise, but also a longer legacy of nautical adventure stories from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Informed by this textual genealogy, I highlight the text's engagement with the linkages between the history of imperialism and the formation of sf as a genre in Japan and beyond.

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Mizuno, Hiromi. ‘When Pacifist Japan Fights: Historicizing Desires in Anime’. Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire. Ed. Frenchy Lunning. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2007. 104-23. Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire 104 23 Google Scholar

Morley, David, and Kevin Robbins. Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes, and Cultural Boundaries. New York: Routledge, 1995. Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes, and Cultural Boundaries Google Scholar

Murakami, Takashi. Little boy: the arts of Japan's exploding subculture. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. Little boy: the arts of Japan's exploding subculture Google Scholar

Nakatani, Hajime. ‘Combating the Japanological Neurosis. Review of Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime’. Science Fiction Studies 3.3 (2011): 525-8. ‘Combating the Japanological Neurosis. Review of Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime’ Science Fiction Studies 3 525 8 Google Scholar

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Nishizaki, Yoshinobu, and Kazuo Kuroi. ‘"Uchū Senkan Yamato" Wa Ai to Roman Wo Motometobitatta [Space Battleship Yamato: A Voyage in Search of Love and Adventure Takes Flight]’. Kinema Junpô (Sep 1977): 129-35. ‘Uchū Senkan Yamato Wa Ai to Roman Wo Motometobitatta [Space Battleship Yamato: A Voyage in Search of Love and Adventure Takes Flight]’ Kinema Junpô 129 35 Google Scholar

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Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge, 1992. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation Google Scholar

Rieder, John. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2008. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction Google Scholar

Sakai, Naoki. Nihon/eizō/Beikoku: Kyōkan No Kyōdōtai to Teikokuteki Kokumin Shugi [Japan/image/America: The Community of Sympathy and Imperial Nationalism]. Tokyo: Seidosha, 2007. Nihon/eizō/Beikoku: Kyōkan No Kyōdōtai to Teikokuteki Kokumin Shugi [Japan/image/America: The Community of Sympathy and Imperial Nationalism] Google Scholar

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Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre Google Scholar

Ueno, Toshiya. ‘Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism’. The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture. Ed. Bruce Grenville. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp P, 2002. 228-31. The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture 228 31 Google Scholar

Żiżek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology Google Scholar

Anno, Hideaki and Yoshinobu Nishizaki. ‘Yamato Ga Nakattara Anime Fan Mo Otaku Mo Umarenakatta [Had There Been No Yamato, Then Neither Otakus nor Anime Fans Would Have Come into Being]’. Weekly Playboy (25 Feb 2008): 52-5. ‘Yamato Ga Nakattara Anime Fan Mo Otaku Mo Umarenakatta [Had There Been No Yamato, Then Neither Otakus nor Anime Fans Would Have Come into Being]’ Weekly Playboy 52 5 Google Scholar

Ashbaugh, William. ‘Contesting Traumatic War Narratives: Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam’. Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and Responding to Trauma in Postwar Literature and Film. Ed. David C. Stahl and Mark Williams. Leiden: BRILL, 2010. Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and Responding to Trauma in Postwar Literature and Film Google Scholar

Broderick, Damien. Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1995. Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction Google Scholar

Choo, Kukhee. ‘Playing the Global Game: Japan Brand and Globalization’. Asian Popular Culture: The Global (Dis)continuity. Ed. Anthony Y.H. Fung. New York: Routledge, 2013. 213-27. Asian Popular Culture: The Global (Dis)continuity 213 27 Google Scholar

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics Google Scholar

Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan. ‘Dis-Imagined Communities: Science Fiction and the Future of Nations’. Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation. Ed. Veronica. Hollinger and Joan Gordon. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002. 217-37. Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation 217 37 Google Scholar

Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan. ‘Science Fiction and Empire’. Science Fiction Studies 30.2 (2003): 231-45. ‘Science Fiction and Empire’ Science Fiction Studies 30 231 45 Google Scholar

Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2008. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction Google Scholar

Freedman, Carl Howard. Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 2000. Critical Theory and Science Fiction Google Scholar

Hall, Stuart. ‘Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities’. Culture, Globalization and the World System. Ed. Anthony King. New York: Macmillan, 1991. 41-68. Culture, Globalization and the World System 41 68 Google Scholar

Harootunian, Harry D. ‘Japan's Long Postwar: The Trick of Memory and the Ruse of History’. Japan After Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present. Ed. Tomiko Yoda and Harry Harootunian. Durham: Duke UP, 2006. 98-121. Japan After Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present 98 121 Google Scholar

Harpold, Terry. ‘Verne's Cartographies’. Science Fiction Studies 32.1 (2005): 18-42. ‘Verne's Cartographies’ Science Fiction Studies 32 18 42 Google Scholar

Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1989. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change Google Scholar

Inoue, Shizuka. Uchū Senkan Yamato No Jidai to Shiso [The History and Philosophy of Space Battleship Yamato]. Tokyo: Seron Jihōsha, 1997. Uchū Senkan Yamato No Jidai to Shiso [The History and Philosophy of Space Battleship Yamato] Google Scholar

Ishiguro, Noboru. Terebi Anime Saizensen: Shisetsu-Anime 17-Nenshi [The Frontlines of TV Anime: A Personal Account of My 17 Years in Animation]. Tokyo: Daiwa shobō, 1980. Terebi Anime Saizensen: Shisetsu-Anime 17-Nenshi [The Frontlines of TV Anime: A Personal Account of My 17 Years in Animation] Google Scholar

Iwabuchi, Kōichi. Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism. Durham: Duke UP, 2002. Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric. ‘Modernism and Imperialism’. Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990. 43-68. Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature 43 68 Google Scholar

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: NYUP, 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Google Scholar

LaMarre, Thomas. ‘Otaku Movement’. Japan After Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present. Ed. Tomiko Yoda and Harry Harootunian. Durham: Duke UP, 2006. 358-94. Japan After Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present 358 94 Google Scholar

LaMarre, Thomas. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2009. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation Google Scholar

Lukas, Scott A., and John Marmysz. ‘Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Films Remade’. Fear, Cultural Anxiety, and Transformation: Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Films Remade. Ed. Scott A. Lukas and John Marmysz. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2010. 1-20. Fear, Cultural Anxiety, and Transformation: Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Films Remade 1 20 Google Scholar

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001. The Language of New Media Google Scholar

Matthew, Robert. Japanese Science Fiction: A View of a Changing Society. New York: Routledge, 1989. Japanese Science Fiction: A View of a Changing Society Google Scholar

McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge, 1995. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest Google Scholar

Mizuno, Hiromi. Science for the Empire: Scientific Nationalism in Modern Japan. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2009. Science for the Empire: Scientific Nationalism in Modern Japan Google Scholar

Mizuno, Hiromi. ‘When Pacifist Japan Fights: Historicizing Desires in Anime’. Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire. Ed. Frenchy Lunning. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2007. 104-23. Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire 104 23 Google Scholar

Morley, David, and Kevin Robbins. Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes, and Cultural Boundaries. New York: Routledge, 1995. Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes, and Cultural Boundaries Google Scholar

Murakami, Takashi. Little boy: the arts of Japan's exploding subculture. New Haven: Yale UP, 2005. Little boy: the arts of Japan's exploding subculture Google Scholar

Nakatani, Hajime. ‘Combating the Japanological Neurosis. Review of Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime’. Science Fiction Studies 3.3 (2011): 525-8. ‘Combating the Japanological Neurosis. Review of Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime’ Science Fiction Studies 3 525 8 Google Scholar

Napier, Susan J. ‘World War II as Trauma, Memory and Fantasy in Japanese Animation’. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Web. Accessed 28 Aug 2013. ‘World War II as Trauma, Memory and Fantasy in Japanese Animation’ The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Google Scholar

Nishizaki, Yoshinobu. ‘A Personal Yamato Theory’. Cosmo DNA 1978 2013. Web. Accessed 29 Aug 2013. ‘A Personal Yamato Theory’ Cosmo DNA Google Scholar

Nishizaki, Yoshinobu, and Kazuo Kuroi. ‘"Uchū Senkan Yamato" Wa Ai to Roman Wo Motometobitatta [Space Battleship Yamato: A Voyage in Search of Love and Adventure Takes Flight]’. Kinema Junpô (Sep 1977): 129-35. ‘Uchū Senkan Yamato Wa Ai to Roman Wo Motometobitatta [Space Battleship Yamato: A Voyage in Search of Love and Adventure Takes Flight]’ Kinema Junpô 129 35 Google Scholar

Ōtsuka, Eiji. ‘World and Variation: The Reproduction and Consumption of Narrative’. Trans. Marc Steinberg. Mechademia 5 (2010): 99-116. ‘World and Variation: The Reproduction and Consumption of Narrative’ Mechademia 5 99 116 Google Scholar

Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge, 1992. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation Google Scholar

Rieder, John. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2008. Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction Google Scholar

Sakai, Naoki. Nihon/eizō/Beikoku: Kyōkan No Kyōdōtai to Teikokuteki Kokumin Shugi [Japan/image/America: The Community of Sympathy and Imperial Nationalism]. Tokyo: Seidosha, 2007. Nihon/eizō/Beikoku: Kyōkan No Kyōdōtai to Teikokuteki Kokumin Shugi [Japan/image/America: The Community of Sympathy and Imperial Nationalism] Google Scholar

Sohn, Stephen Hong. ‘Introduction: Alien/Asian: Imagining the Racialized Future’. MELUS 33.4 (2008): 5-22. ‘Introduction: Alien/Asian: Imagining the Racialized Future’ MELUS 33 5 22 Google Scholar

Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre Google Scholar

Ueno, Toshiya. ‘Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism’. The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture. Ed. Bruce Grenville. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp P, 2002. 228-31. The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture 228 31 Google Scholar

Żiżek, Slavoj. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology Google Scholar

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Posadas, Baryon