Anime’s ancestry: Kawabata’s The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa and Oe’s Help Us to Outgrow Our Madness as a prelude to Japanese animation
Much research exists on the considerable influence of American and European culture on the newly opened borders of Japan in the 1920’s, yet there is very little recognition of French influences beyond the acknowledgement of Surrealism in literary and artistic circles. Evidence exists, however, that French thought made a deep and lasting impression on Japanese culture; an effect that permeated the formation of Japanese philosophy to the modern expression of Japanese animated film, or anime. Currently, evidence does not bear out a premise of direct influence, but unmistakable parallels in philosophical development point to French writer and thinker Georges Bataille, who extended Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of grotesque realism as a literary tool formulated to demand a response from the audience. Japanese writers Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzaburo Oe used imagery in a similar way as Georges Bataille; they used images derived from their own culture as well as shared surrealist symbols and grotesque imagery. Just as Bataille did, Kawabata and Oe worked out their own personal, societal, and psychological concerns in a sensory-heavy method in order to shock the audience into mental and emotional participation. Specific grotesque or erotic symbolism employed by Bataille, Kawabata, Oe, and anime is not evidence of the connection; instead, it is how each used the shock value of grotesque imagery to create a sensory overload in order to demand audience involvement in a personal and nationwide discussion. The intent of this exploration is not to prove that Japanese anime is founded on French ideology, but instead to clearly and plausibly demonstrate a link between the two, in Kawabata’s parallel constructions and Oe’s assimilation regarding Bataille, and to show the development and extension of Georges Bataille’s philosophy in early and modern Japanese anime.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English