Japanese popular culture is attractive in part because it feels freer, less fettered by focus groups and financial reports. Taboos about violence, sexuality or racial imagery can be directly confronted in forms that have for decades flown under the proverbial radar. Japanese pop culture is cheap to make and distribute, and is marginal in character and by nature – more like anarchic punk music than corporate products such as Disney films. Hence the inevitable paradox: What happens when Japanese popular culture becomes truly popular beyond the borders of a tiny archipelago in the North Pacific? Can the rest of the world embrace a creative product defined in part by its provincial nature, and usually intended for local audiences only?
By Roland Kelts.