An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture


An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture

Posted by  × August 6, 2011 at 09:23

This article is a great summary on texts influenced directly by the bombing. However I am yet to find an article which actually says how Japanese stroytelling through various methods changed after the bombs, in a way that’s good it means my idea is original, but it also makes my research 10X harder.

However this article is useful for references and quotes.

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were events which became the focal point for popular and high-brow culture alike in Japan. Artist and author, Takashi Murakami stated:
“The two atomic bombs have left a permanent scar on Japanese history; they have touched the national nerve beyond the effects of the catastrophic physical destruction.”

I have looked at Murakami’s work, it’s impossible not to when looking at Japanese culture and art. The article then goes on to explain Godzilla’s roots which I explored in my post on John Rocco Roberto’s essay but it also offers a different reading of the text.

But some also argue that Godzilla is the true victim in the story, Prof. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) even says so in the movie. The monster was laying peacefully dormant on Japan’s seabed and was rudely awakened by a nuclear blast. When it came to land, its skin was hard and covered in boils, an observation that author William Tsutsui believes links Godzilla with the 被爆者 (Atomic Bomb Victims). Godzilla is also extremely isolated, although poisoned with radioactivity, people run in fear and ultimately want to eradicate the “monster.”

Yatta Man
Yatta man is a childrens TV series which takes direct influence from the bombing.

In the show, the protagonists, Tanpei and Junko are relentlessly pursued by Doronjo, Boyakki and Tonzura, who have a nuclear bomb dropped on them at the end of every episode, from which rises a skull embossed mushroom cloud. Despite this, the dastardly trio reappear next week, back to full health and full of mischief.

Barefoot Gen
This is a short film I have seen before. It approaches the effects of the bombs head on, which is strange for a Japanese anime, usually the influences are subtle. This just adds to the effect it has on emotions even more.

What makes the film even more harrowing is that it is based on the autobiographical manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Having witnessed the effects of the bombing first hand, Nakazawa exposed the full extent of the damage unflinchingly. It is extremely difficult to watch, even though it is an animated movie, and it could well be a representation of any war, or any country, as the message that seems to seep through is that of humanity and how delicate it is.

Daicon 4

the annual Covention held in Osaka, Daicon, celebrated its fourth year in 1983. At the opening of the convention, a small team of artists put together a short film depicting a bunny girl fighting with the best known “otaku” characters of the past decade, (that small team went on to produce a little TV show called Evangelion). After cruising through the pop-culture world, the woman witnesses a huge atomic explosion, from which plumes of cherry blossom fly, tearing down buildings, leaving a barren wasteland. Afterwards, the Daicon spaceship shots a powerful ray that restores life on the planet and popular characters eat rice-balls together.

The most interesting piece about this animation and Adam Millar’s interpretation of the text is this…

Although the spectacle of the artwork may well be its biggest draw, many believe the Daicon spaceship restoring life is a thin-vieled metaphor that otaku-culture is one way of coming to terms with the subject.

This is something I have been trying to explore for a while, in my head I know that Japanese Otaku culture is about escapism and the amount of references made to the atomic bomb in the Manga I read and Anime I watch is outstanding. However with months of research this is the first example I’ve seen of someone else acknowledging this fact.

A finishing point from Millar, which resounds within me and speaks truth about how a certain group of people cope with the idea and effect of nuclear warfare.

Although these cartoons and comics may seem unimportant, they are a window into the fears felt by Japan, and the deep scar that has yet to be healed.

Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb by John Rocco Roberto

Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb

A Study into the Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Japanese Pop Culture

by John Rocco Roberto

Before I delve into this essay I want to provide a bit of context. I am starting to finally realise the importance of when and where essays were written, we are told to challenge everything we read for the symposium, but it’s silly to challenge a piece of writing you haven’t done any research into.

John Rocco Roberto

While John was not well known with some of the newer members of the fandom, his influence was far reaching. He was the true mover and shaker of the old days when fans didn’t have the internet to connect with one another. His articles, as well as the articles of his contemporaries in the old issues of G-Fan and later in Kaiju-Fan set the standard for serious analysis of the films (“Godzilla in America” anyone?)

– ‘Special Tribute’ By John “Dutch” DeSentis

He [was] one of the founding fathers of modern Godzilla fandom, helping establish G-FAN and G-CON.

– ‘Remembering John Rocco Roberto’ by BRETT

It’s safe to say from these account that John Rocco was a key player in the fandom world of Godzilla and was active in his passion. Therefore I can accept that this isn’t a half researched essay. Founding conventions and fan bases for one film takes a lot of work and dedication, and the success for G-Con reflects on his knowledge of not only the film but it’s surrounding debates.

Let’s get started on the essay…

The section I am particularly interested in is titled ‘From Desperation to Insperation’

However, one could argue that the true date of Godzilla’s birth was not November 3rd, 1954, but August 6th, 1945, the day the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

I had my suspicions before that Godzilla was a representation of the Atomic bombing, purely because of it’s release which was just after the bombings. However John Rocco Roberto explains this with more substance.

“On the plane ride back to Tokyo, I was desperate,” Tanaka recalled.“  I was sweating the whole time.”  The year was 1954, and the film he intended to make was to have beenIn the Shadow of Glory, co-produced in cooperation with the Indonesian government.  The plans for the film, however, fell through when Tanaka could not get work permits for the film’s stars.  Having a budget for a war film, but having no film to shoot, Tanaka agonized at the prospect of losing face in the eyes of his company.  But it was during that plane ride that, as Guy Tucker argues, “desperation became his friend … and would lend him an idea that would develop into something far larger and more enduring than the project he left behind.”

At the end of the Second World War Japan was devastated; physically, politically and financially.  The people of the nation were starving and homeless, and their spirits had been broken.  There was an atmosphere of hopelessness, known only too well to Haruo Nakajima, who served in the Imperial Army during the war, and who would go on to play Godzilla in eleven films.  “There was a feeling of great despair [all around].  It was very difficult for people to find work at this time,” Nakajima recalled. The intensity of the Japanese reaction to their defeat, and the devastation brought on by it, is evident in their present anti-nuclear policies. Their inner feelings towards this defeat, however, have never been fully examined.  But one place to start that examination could be through analyzing two important Japanese films in the context of their times.

Quotes by the man inside the Godzilla costume and Tomoyuki Tanaka himself define the idea of the bombs not only having an effect on Japan physically and financially but also culturally, inspiring the iconic character that is Godzilla.

Under SCAP guidelines Japanese directors were to stress how all Japanese “were endeavoring to construct a peaceful nation [and] how soldiers and repatriates were being rehabilitated into civilian life.”  The result was a series of poor films half-hearted in their execution.

We can clearly see that there was a massive reaction to the bombing in the film industry. John Rocco Roberto goes on to explain this in the section section…“Gorja”

In Gojira, the monster Godzilla is the United States’ atomic bomb, devastating Tokyo and reducing it to a radioactive cinder all in one night.  Originally conceived by Tsuburaya as a giant mutated octopus, producers Tanaka and Mori felt that a giant dinosaur-type creature (mutated through the effects of atomic testing), would have more appeal and be more threatening to land-based civilizations… In Honda’s conception, the monster Godzilla would not merely be awakened by the bomb; instead “He would be twisted and mutated by it, into a rampaging uncontainable force; the A-bomb made flesh.”

“Japan and the bomb in the 21st century”

Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War has remained a heated and controversial debate in the United States to the present day.  Whether the Japanese were about to surrender; whether the Soviet Union was about to enter the war; all remain good, but academic points in the 21st century.  The bombs were dropped, and Japanese culture changed forever.  On the surface, there is very little sign of pre-war Japan.  American influence has completely embedded itself into every part of Japanese society.  In fact when one travels to Japan, one is immediately taken with the lack of any sign that Japan suffered from nuclear attack. In fact there are very little signs that Japan ever lost the war.  The average Japanese citizen drinks Coca-Cola, eats breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, eats lunch at MacDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, enjoys American sports such as Baseball and Bowling, and flocks to their local theaters to watch big-budgeted Hollywood films.  There is no sufficient way to describe the experience of traveling in Japan unless you have actually experienced it.  The best description would be to imagine Times Square in New York City multiplied by 100.

“Japanese Pop Culture and the Bomb”

Beginning with the lifting of SCAP restrictions in the 1950s, several films began to address the issue of the atomic bombings

Read the full essay here

Whilst this essay has been interesting and informative, and have allowed to me form a strong group of quotes, it reminds me again of the importance of titles, The sub header suggests this essay explores how the bomb effected Japanese popular culture, when instead it only explores Godzilla. It is still, however an insight into post Bomb Japan, and worth referring to in the future.

How smoking affects the body – the exterior body

skin is very delicate and important and we spend hundreds and thousands over our life trying to stay looking young, in a culture obsessed with body modifications and staying youthful forever, it’s surprising smoking is still on the rise. Long term smoking can cause so much damage to the skin, here are some examples…

images taken from here.

* The constant contraction of muscles around the mouth creates these fine wrinckles aorund the mouth and eyes.

In 1985 the term smokers face was coined by Dr. Douglas Model. It’s a term which combines all the affects of cigarettes on the skin. These include, greying of the skin, boney contours and wrinkles.