Proponents of the National Center for Media Arts argue that it will help foreign researchers examining Japan’s popular culture. The Japan Times asked prominent scholars from overseas their thoughts on the proposed facility.
“I think the new center could function in such a way as to facilitate communication between people in the various existing popular culture museums and libraries around Japan — to arrange for copyright permissions, facilitate research projects and promote preservation efforts. It could also coordinate conferences, research projects, conservation studies, lists of holdings, digitization projects and so on.”
Maureen Donovan — associate professor at Ohio State University, where she is responsible for manga acquisitions at the Ohio State University Cartoon Library and Museum.
“Japan is the one country beside the United States that has had a really gigantic animation industry — because of the interrelationship between manga and anime. There have also been a lot of other kinds of animation — experimental filmmakers and art animators. But Japan is not represented well in (studies of animation) history, at least in English-language studies.”
Maureen Furniss — professor, California Institute of the Arts; founding editor of Animation Journal; president of the Society for Animation Studies.
“Nearly all my students become interested in Japan because of manga and anime. The center would also be popular with tourists. Tourism to Japan has always emphasized traditional and historical aspects, but many young people are more interested in popular culture.”
Deborah Shamoon — assistant professor, University of Notre Dame, Indiana; specialist in modern Japanese literature and popular culture.
“Given their mass audience, their spread globally, and their influence on Japanese culture today, the question is why shouldn’t there be a center dedicated to their study, conservation and exhibition?”
“Critics often dismiss manga and anime as being kitsch, but their success lies in their accessibility. This prejudice against (popular culture) as being somehow unworthy of academic attention is sadly mistaken. My hope is that the new center would change these negative stereotypes.”
Mark MacWilliams — professor, St. Lawrence University, New York State; editor of “Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime” (2008).
“The long-term effects of such a center would be useful. Japanese contemporary media arts are renowned for their dynamism and creativity. Having a kind of national clearinghouse, where people could learn about the latest cultural products in that area, would benefit artists and audiences. The center would not only inform audiences and be a useful avenue to promote contemporary Japanese culture, but it would also inspire new creativity in manga and anime artists for generations to come.”
Susan Napier — professor, Tufts University, Massachusetts; publications include “Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation” (2001).
“The big difference with Japanese manga and anime, compared with Western culture, and Modernist culture in particular, is that manga and anime are not necessarily focussed on depicting single identities — they tend to depict fluid or patchwork identities. If Japan’s politicians were more perceptive, they would say: ‘Hey we have something that is fundamentally different from the Euro-American model. We can contribute to 21st-century culture in an intelligent way.’ “
“I think the kind of research on manga and anime that the center could facilitate will have a great scholarly and critical impact.”
Jaqueline Berndt — professor, Kyoto Seika University; deputy director, International Manga Research Center, International Manga Museum Kyoto.
Quotations compiled by Edan Corkill