14th May 2016

Fictionality in representations of Japan and Europe from a cross-cultural perspective


For the fourth Mutual Images workshop, we seek to explore the dynamic relations between Japan and Europe through the notion of fictionality. These past decades, the growth of cultural exchanges has created new opportunities of fictionalization between European and Japanese. Far from being restrained to its definition as a genre, Fictionality has become a key element in our contemporary society. Whether it is in entertainment media (novel, manga, video games, movies and other forms of current entertainment), Art (photography, painting), or even our perception of the other, the self, and reality, fictionality is present in our everyday life. The 20th century challenged our ability to imagine, evoke our/others’ imagination and receive it, and the 21st century is not slowing down this process. Fictionality in the form of the intentional use of invented stories and scenarios is ubiquitous in these cultures. It is employed in politics, business, medicine, sports, and throughout the disciplines of the academy. The power of fictionality, as a communicational strategy, has considerably grown with the postmodern age and globalisation.

In the different sessions of this workshop, we will interrogate the different aspects of contemporary fictionality, focusing on the mutual images of and between Europe and Japan. We invite papers on the fictionality in representations of Europe in Japan or by Japanese artists, media, etc., as well as vice versa. We are especially interested in the ways in which invented stories and scenarios shape our beliefs about the actual world to a surprising degree. Fictionality is powerful and contributes to negotiating values, mediating the past and many other things. We particularly invite papers that consider the influence of such processes in our societies and mentalities, within a wide range of cultural, social or economic aspects; e.g. from artistic media, such as literary productions, to mutual images in video games. Even though the focus of this workshop is on contemporary culture, we accept papers with a diachronic perspective and also papers based on one or more theoretical frameworks.


Henrik SKOV NIELSENAarhus University, Denmark


Luca Paolo BRUNO – University of Venice ca’ Foscari (Italy)

Righting the occupation: pop-nationalism in Sōkōakki Muramasa

The mutual representations of both Japanese and Western essences through Japanese video games, and in particular, science-fiction visual novel adventure games, see a very interesting interplay of both self-exotism that evokes a contrast between cultures, with continued appeals to Japanese tradition while also depicting western characters in an occidentalist light. This led to mutual images interacting in a way that is both reminiscent of Iwabuchi Koichi’s complicit exoticism (See Iwabuchi 1996) and of revanchist tendencies proper to millenial net-nationalism expressed by the so called net- uyoku of Japan (see Galbraith, Thiam Huat Kam,Björn-Ole Kamm 2015). This presentation will aim to examine the interplay of mutual images within the Japanese PC adventure game Sōkōakki Muramasa. How does this mutual interplay relate to otaku (geek) fandom within Japan? How is the interplay of exoticized depiction employed? The presentation will attempt to examine this question by approaching a visual novel PC Game which uses a science-fictional re-envisioning of the Japanese postwar occupation by the Allied Powers. What is of extreme interest is the depiction of the relationship between fictionalized Imperial Japan and the United States, as both countries are exoticized; Japan is positively represented through an auto-orientalist lens while the Allied Powers (mainly represented through anglo-american stereotypes) are negatively represented through an occidentalist lens which sub/super views the West and monster-ifies it (see Miyake 2015). The interplay of -isms and the science-fictionalization of Imperial Japan through a self- orientalist lens while also employing an occidentalizing view of the Allied Powers shows the development of a pop-nationalist power fantasy by a part of the otaku audience. I argue that such a study would further advance Japanese studies by examining the mostly unexplored media of the visual novel and how it is shaping male Japanese otaku culture.

Maxime DANESINUniversité François-Rabelais (France)

Reshaping historical and legendary European figures in the Fate‘s universe

In the 21st century, the impressive growth of cultural exchanges implies a strong stimulation to local imaginaries and personal imaginations. More than ever, fragments of One’s culture are transferred and assimilated, deformed, restructured by an Other’s. Among those, some serve as new raw materials for writers and are used in various ways, whether it is as an historical background, a parodic one, fantasized and exotic characters, or even as moe-elements in the otaku database (Azuma Hiroki, 2001). This creates a great opportunity to witness an exponential development of transcultural and transtextual productions. This way, the circulation of cultural elements amplifies as well the chance of revitalizing – understood as giving a second life – and hybridising ancient ones in unexpected areas. In the meantime, the reorganisation of cultural elements through fictional works challenges and modifies their perception by the readers. The more foreign the fragments are to the readership, the more fictionnalisation might influence them – even more when they possess a limited knowledge of their original values. For researchers in literature, the consequences of such a situation in our century ought to arouse their curiosity since it confronts numerous concepts (i.e. nationality, identity, the impact of fictionnalisation …). And amidst the areas of contemporary cultural exchanges, the “crossroad” where Europe encounters Japan is worthy of interest. In this paper, I intend to observe how some historical and legendary figures of European cultures are reshaped through the prism of a successful Japanese popular work: Fate/Stay night – and its universe. Created by Type-Moon, in 2004, as a visual novel composed of three different scenarios, it has been adapted in manga and animation following the principles of the media-mix strategy – as well as its prequel, Fate/Zero, first published as a light novel (2006-2007). In a transcultural and transtextual approach, I study how this fiction offers a peculiar approach of European characters (King Arthur, Cú Chulainn, Alexander the Great…), challenges the readers’ perception, as well as reactivates ancient elements in the 21 st century.

Manuel HERNÁNDEZ-PÉREZ – University of Hull (UK)

Memories of the grateful visitor: A look at recent Spanish spaces, ethnography and material artifacts through Japanese Entertainment Industries

Audiences from all over the world may differ in the way they perceive a particular country or cultural tradition. Even when it is possible to argue that fictionality can’t be really isolated from any kind of representational form, communicational genres might contribute significantly to this variability. This phenomenon is made clearer when media and genre are linked to the existence of certain narrative components (or narrativity). As individual narrators, we constantly experiment with the difference vantage points. It might be said that we even “enjoy” the way cultural depictions are deformed, through the influence of spatial, temporal and, eventually, psychological individualities. This process, necessarily, has to work together with the denotative and referential nature of communicational genres.

In this paper, I propose some core elements for the description and understanding of Spain and the Spanish through the Visual Culture and Entertainment made in Japan. This image, while from an inner point of view might result rough and debatable, makes more sense in terms of foreigner reception. My main hypothesis will be that the understanding and enjoyment of contemporary Spanish Culture has been dissolved in a kind of representation similar to that from vivid and performative representation (memories). While it can be argued that any country will elicit similar ways of mediatized interaction, it is clear that countries and national identities have acquired different connotations, a difference that has been studied through constructs such as ‘National Branding’ or ‘Soft Power’. That is to say, from cognitive and marketing perspectives, they create products that evoke different meanings among international audiences. Spain is for Japanese audiences and markets primarily a desirable tourist destination where fictionality plays an essential role in the construction of spaces and cultural artifacts (tangible and intangible). Several examples of these processes will be analyzed with the aim of test my hypothesis while examining some fictional representations from the main Japanese entertainment industries.

Fabio Domenico PALUMBO – University of Messina (Italy)

Telling stories about Japan: contemporary Italian literature re-inventing Japan

Eco’s Theory of Semiotics (1976) points out that cultural units are organized networks of meanings, so that semantic fields pertain to a specific culture’s world view. Narrative processes, specifically, takes part participating in sensemaking and the generation of meanings. Narrative processes take place within a cultural context, and can be studied via a diatextual approach to the discursive structures. Contextualization in narrative enunciations means not only using elements of actorialization, spatialization and temporalization, but also ‘dramatizing’ of the relationship between Self and Other through «cultural metaphors» (Gannon 2011). This paper explores three texts from post-WWII Italian literature, showing three different representations or ‘narrative uses’ of Japan: Il re dei giapponesi (1949), an unfinished novel by Pier Paolo Pasolini; L’aiola di sabbia from Italo Calvino’s Palomar (1983); Seta (1996), a short novel form Alessandro Baricco. An essential framework is provided about the relationship of the three authors with Japanese culture, including biographic and literary aspects. In these texts, I examine the distinct meaning of Japan’s metaphors, highlighting the different levels of exoticism in Japan’s description, and to the degree of the subjects’ involvement in terms of their relationship with otherness (embrayage or débrayage). Japan can be used in literary fiction as a ‘pretext’ (Pasolini), as a setting (Baricco), or as a context (Calvino). I; in any case, it, and still serves as a cultural metaphor: a rhetorical apparatus conveying portrayals of Japan to Italian contemporary culture with different degrees of verisimilitude, ranging from an almost fable-like scenery to a vague historical background and or a peculiar biographical frame.


14th May

9:00 – Introduction – Henrik Skov Nielsen, Aarhus University

9:30-10:30 – Session 1: “Fictionalisation of the Other in literary productions”

“Telling stories about Japan: contemporary Italian literature re-inventing Japan” – Fabio Domenico Palumbo, Università degli Studi di Messina, Italy

“Reshaping historical and legendary European figures in the Fate’s universe” – Maxime Danesin, François-Rabelais University (Tours), France.

10:30-10h45 – Break

10:45-11h45 – Session 2: “National Identities and Fictionality”

“Memories of the grateful visitor. A look at recent Spanish spaces, ethnography and material artifacts through Japanese Entertainment Industries” – Manuel Hernández-Pérez, University of Hull, UK.

“Righting the occupation: pop-nationalism in Sōkōakki Muramasa” – Luca Paolo Bruno, University of Venice ca’ Foscari, Italy.

11h45 – Discussion