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Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded The U.S. – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Ronald Kelts is a fiction and nonfiction writer, an editor of the literary journal A Public Space, and a lecturer at the University of Tokyo. His 2007 book Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. explores the conceptual history regarding the use of Japanese pop culture and its influence within the Western world.

Serving as of both an insightful and personal take on the infatuation of Japanese pop culture within the realm of Western consumers, author Roland Kelts’s book Japanamerica gives a broad overview of the what, how, and why of the American experience regarding the Japanese pop culture phenomenon. While not attempting to answer every question concerning the matter, Kelts selectively chooses various key areas in which to address and fundamentally builds upon factual truth amidst personal stories. From cosplaying to the Japanese domestic animation market, Japanamerica gives the reader a plethora of topics in which to delve into and think about.

While focusing on such an enormous subject as America’s relationship with Japanese pop culture, Kelts writes in a degree that allows a sense of accessibility for a reader who might not be familiar with the notion of Japanese entertainment outside the typical mainstream series and films that have been released within America. This is not to say the book is made solely for a beginner new to the world of Japanese entertainment and pop culture, but more so provides an easily understood timeline that chronicles the rise of these ideals and practices within Japan and the eventual spread throughout the Western world. The topics branch out from there, and book addresses many specific but interwoven topics that render the picture of Japanese entertainment as a phenomenon that contains a multitude of facets that derive from culturally diverse environments both domestically and abroad.

Another great aspect of the book is the intimate perspective in which Kelts handles the material. We are not left with a dry and uninspiring read based solely upon historical analysis; Kelts delivers various topics through first hand experiences, encounters, and interviews. Due to his substantial background and career, the man has connections, and he most definitely makes use of them throughout the course of the book. There is a wealth of interesting tidbits that he could only convey through the use of those experiences and encounters, and it’s all utilized to reinforce topics that are explored throughout the various chapters. And the topics are varied, covering much needed ground in many areas that one even Kelt himself openly admits he know only little about before constructing the book.

Overall, Japanamerica is a great read for those uninitiated into the world of Japanese entertainment and is a fantastic companion piece for those who are already mature regarding the subject. The all encompassing realm of Japanese pop culture is a huge one, and Kelts presents a book that is not only accessible to the common reader, but clearly establishes a channel in which many cultural issues are explored as well within the context of Japan, its history, and even its potential future. I would recommend this book towards readers who are not quite familiar with the origins of Japanese entertainment and culture as well as the influence it has had throughout the world, and even suggest informed readers take a leap into give it a read due to the incredible insight Kelts offers stemming from his conducted interviews and personal experiences. A book that successfully presents a fair read on the general scope in which Japanese entertainment has invaded the Western world, and more specifically, America.

Table of Contents

1. May the G-Force Be with You

2. Atom Boys

3. The Business of Anime

4. Toy Story

5. Japan’s IP Problem

6. Strange Transformations

7. Cosplay and Otakudom:The Draw of DIY

8. Future Shocks

9. Anime Appeals

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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