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Hanga and Manga: The aesthetic revolution in the postwar Japanese popular culture


In this paper, I will discuss the Popular Woodcut Movement that emerged in Japan following its defeat in 1945 and continued during and after the Occupation period by General Headquarters. Popular woodblock printing was developed during the Chinese Revolution in 1949 and raised issues such as the relationship between the Enlightenment and socialists’ fine arts movement (puroretaria bijutsu undo, literally “proletarian fine arts movement”) or the Communist Party and popular club activities movements around then. The second part will turn to Nakazawa Keiji’s Hadashi no Gen, also known as Barefoot Gen: Life After a Bomb, A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima published in 1972. Nakawaza Keiji and Hadashi no Gen have some connections to the Popular Woodblock Printing Movement. He is a successor of the proletarian cultural/fine arts movement before and during wartime, accepting the legacy of the generation of his father, who also was a painter and artist. Barefoot Gen united the bodily practice of atomic bomb victims who suffered horrible disfigurations, with the personal/public struggles, and the idea of personal vengeance and socio-ethical justice. In addition, its visual-narrative structure subverts the Kant-Heideggerian epistemological hierarchy that presupposes a developmental progress from a lower to a higher level. This epistemological hierarchy is a power structure that has been problematized by feminist discourse because of re-producing an unequal distribution of knowledge. Thus, Barefoot Gen is an epistemological and aesthetic achievement essential for subaltern hegemony. The postwar popular woodcut movement had a common aim with Barefoot Gen to resolve the unequal distribution of knowledge, sharing a legacy of modern visual movements as an incomplete visual-aesthetic revolution. This paper claims that the postwar woodcut movement and Nakazawa Keiji’s manga were successors of the socialist/communist cultural movement during the prewar time and they wrestle with the debates within the fine arts circles of the times.



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