An Insight into the Mechanism of the Roles of Antiheros in Manga and Anime under the Context of Japanese Society

One of the positive things that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic for the academic community has been the way in which seminars have evolved. The webinars provide an opportunity to bring together an audience that is much broader than may normally be the case, which can lead to great discussions. It also saves the speaker from doing a lot of travelling to repeat the same or similar seminar many times (as I have done before). However, after COVID-19 we should not rely on this format – there is still so much more that standard seminars can achieve – but bringing in an element of both the physical seminar and maintaining a live online dynamic is something that should be explored.

I did a post recently about the webinars that I attended in relation to the Great East Japan Earthquake. This post is about another webinar, and one which we hosted as part of the Cardiff-Japanese Online Lecture Series. The seminar was titled ‘An Insight into the Mechanism of the Roles of Antiheros in Manga and Anime under the Context of Japanese Society’ and was given by Fumio Obata. I was looking forward to the seminar having previously met Obata and heard him speak at another seminar given in Cardiff, back in 2019, where he spoke about his manga (graphic novel) Just So Happens, which is a story of exile and belonging, where Yumiko, living in London, returns home for her father’s funeral, where Japanese traditions are delicately evoked. Just So Happens a great book, which I recommend that you read.

In this webinar, Obata pointed out that traditionally many stories involve rebellious characters who act outside convention but not immorally motivated, for example they never hurt someone for no reason. They are ‘antiheros’ who follow their own principals and rarely reconcile with orders from authorities. Obata points out that in the West, there are popular outlaw-type characters from classics to recent Hollywood blockbusters. Characters like Hamlet, Robin Hood, Scarlett O’Hara of Gone with the Wind, Batman, Han Solo, Homer Simpson, recently Jack Sparrow and Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are memorable and often more popular than the classic heroes and heroines. Obata questions why we are attracted to them. Is it because their choice of action often leads to a better result? Obata thinks there are social reasons to why we cherish them. In the webinar, Obata looked into the cases in manga and anime under the context of Japanese society and culture.

It was an excellent webinar is available to see on YouTube.

Having been working on Japanese disaster movies, I found much of what Obata interesting and particularly – as you will hear from one of the questions in the video – the degree to which it seems that Japanese stories don’t need to necessarily have a happy ending.

You can find out more about Fumio Obata via his Facebook page. I also really recommend that you check out his books as his style of drawing is great – perhaps if he’s ever looking for a new project, a graphic version of my novels could be done!

In relation to webinars, I gave one on 24 April 2021 on ‘Japanese Disaster Narratives: Conservatism and Revisionism‘.

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