The Popular Culture Association‘s (formerly the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association) 2022 National Conference offered a four day program brimming over with topics and presentations from Disney Studies to Grateful Dead and Stephen King research to Vampire Studies, from Gender Studies to Ecology & Culture to Disability Studies to research on fans, fashion, film, games, music and much more. We participated in the Asian Popular Culture area of the conference, which had five sessions in total.
The first session Asian Popular Culture I: Japanese Anime offered a view of just how exciting and progressive anime can be in its social critique and engagement with trauma and other psychological issues. Christina M. Spiker‘s Consuming Difference: Understanding Food as Ideology in Japanese Anime highlighted food as a domain where meeting the other can take place and focused on how food is employed in anime to navigate ethnic distance both in real world settings and isekai works. In Psycho-Pass and the Collapse of the Self Barbara R. Greene pointed out the consequences of approaching people as datasets depicted in the anime Psycho-Pass, and offered a Lacanian reading of the series among other vantage points. The presentations continued with a similarly bleak picture painted by Brent Allison‘s From Satirical Distance to Satirical Collapse: A Response to C.B. Davis’s Postmodern Critique through Animal Farm and Odd Taxi. Allison’s presentation was unique in the way it approached its subject matter in part from the viewpoint of education, positing that Odd Taxi is perhaps easier to understand for a contemporary audience than Animal Farm; and suggesting that the former can be understood as a new form of post-postmodern satire. Finally, I Would like to be Reborn: Death of the Self in Land of the Lustrous presented by Rae Hargrave explored how Land of the Lustrous engages with the age old philosophical question posed by the Ship of Theseus parable, namely how much can you lose of yourself before you are no longer yourself?
The second session Asian Popular Culture II: Chinese Animation, Brand Idol, Poetry; Indian Mythology started with ‘Why Not Enjoy a Stroll and Sing Your Heart Out?’: Su Tung-po’s Poetry of Joy written by the late Bryce Christensen whose son delivered his father’s masterful and uplifting treatment of the distinguished Song dynasty poet’s work. Next, Amanda Sikarskie offered an exciting look at the career path of the South Korean trained Chinese superstar idol Wang Yibo and his role in the Chinese world of marketing in Male Idol as Brand Ambassador: Case Study: Wang Yibo. This was followed by our presentation Applying the Census Approach to Japanese Visual Media: Identifying Changes in Popular Culture with Metadata Analytics by Martin Roth and Zoltan Kacsuk, for which the slides can be found at the bottom of this blog post. Closing the session John A. Lent, the Area Chair for Asian Popular Culture, presented on the topic of A Comeback for China’s Animation providing a number of reasons for this resurgence, among them improved merchandising practices, an increased quality of the shows, and a striving to balance domestic appeal with a potential global reach.
The session Asian Popular Culture IV: Japanese Manga began with Kay Krystal Clopton‘s Hearing and Memory: Giongo and Gitaigo as Manga’s Memory-Creating Soundtrack in Dear Noman highlighting the rythmic and synesthetic qualities of onomatopoeia and phenomimes in the sound effects in manga and the way these build into a soundtrack that is both diegetic but also experienced somewhat differently by the reader. Next, Ramie Tateishi introduced the thoughts and work of one of story manga’s greats in Shotaro Ishinomori: The Koma (panel) and Serifu (dialogue) in Manga. This was followed by Siheng Zhu‘s explanation of the various intricacies of the world of Virtual YouTubers, especially the problem of the relationship between the character and the person (naka no hito) responsible for the motion capture acting and voice of the character in What if a Vtuber Takes a Selfie? Finally, Wendy Goldberg‘s thought-provoking presentation Zombies, Cannibals, Giants, and Demons: Society Eats its Own (The Promised Neverland) examined how and why cannibalism is now moving more and more into the mainstream imaginary.
Beyond the slew of interesting presentations the Asian Popular Culture sessions also offered a number of important announcements for researchers in the field: 1) the upcoming Mechademia conference call is still open; 2) the International Journal of Comic Art and 3) the relatively new open source Journal of Anime and Manga Studies are both always looking for new exciting submissions; and finally, the Anime and Manga Research Circle invites interested researchers to join their ranks and participate in the conversation.
The Popular Culture Association’s National Conference offered a truly dazzling and dizzying array of topics and presentations in almost all areas of popular culture research, with the Asian Popular Culture area being no exception. In closing we would like to thank all our fellow presenters and the members of the audience as well as our Area Chair, John A. Lent for making this such an interesting event.PCAACA_2022_Roth_and_Kacsuk