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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds This week, we have seen why Japanese subculture has depicted children fiercely involved in battles and how such works devise situations where the young protagonists can naturally deal with stronger, adult opponents. Monthly and weekly magazines targeting boys inevitably feature exciting battles by boys in the early days of Japanese manga. As a logical consequence, auxiliary, or supporting devices have been invented to enable them to vie with adults, including ninja skills, super powers, and super robots. On the other hand, Japanese people in general had nurtured a culture which earnestly enjoys young people’s struggles, sound and harmless ones, of course. The attention paid to the High School Baseball Championship (koko yakyu in Japanese) still eloquently shows such a mentality.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds This background, coupled with Japanese school-club activity culture, contributed to develop the genre of students’ sports competitions, and, by extension, that of competitions in board games and even in card games. What I’d like to emphasize here is, these external devices and structural conditions allow the young protagonists, eventually, to remain immature. They can cope with powerful enemies while they are still young. And when they get over their obstacles, they can remain so, even if they have learnt something through the struggle and ‘grow up’ to some degree. The historical, commercial conditions of post-WWII Japan necessitated ‘fighting young protagonists’ and Japanese subculture has cultivated a grammar, or a poetics, to realize such singular situations without being unattractively atrocious.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds The physically and socially weak, in this way, have been provided with means to struggle with the hostile world. But the relationship between the protagonists and the supporting devices, and between those gadgets and us the consumers, can be problematic. Next week, you will see another dimension of Japanese subculture closely connected to this week’s topic, that is, the artificial body. Thank you for your participation.

Week 2 summary

How have you found the brief history of Japanese popular battle narrative, and its modern development? Let’s summarize, with Prof. Takahashi, the topics of this week, brief and unexhaustive though it is.

In the next week, Professor Susumu Niijima, an expert on science fiction and French literature, will show you another dimension of Japanese subculture closely connected to this week’s topic, that is, the artificial body.

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This video is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Japanese Subcultures

Keio University