Manga are comics and print cartoons, in Japanese and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 20th century. Otaku
Known as a mass media product presenting Japanese Culture, anime, has gained an increasing exposure and acceptance overseas during the 1990s. The term otaku, which was coined in 1982 and came into popular usage by 1989, is usually translated as ‘geek’ or ‘aficionado,’ and refers to a group of people who ‘take refuge in a world of fantasy, drinking in the images supplied by the modern media – usually from television, magazines and comic books, but also computer images or video games’ (Baral 1999: 22). The etymology of "otaku" was drawn upon the work of Volker Grassmuck in his seminal otaku-studies article:
"I'm alone, but not lonely": Japanese Otaku-Kids colonize the Realm of Information and Media, A Tale of Sex and Crime from a faraway Place.
“The world of the future might be like Japan is today – Superflat. Society, customs, art, culture: all are extremely two-dimensional. It is particularly apparent in the arts that this sensibility has been flowing steadily beneath the surface of Japanese history … [Superflat] is an original concept that links the past with the present and the future.” (Murakami, 2000: 9)
Superflat is a concept and theory of art created by the contemporary Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami. The Superflat (2000) exhibition in Tokyo marked the launch of this new aesthetic which took contemporary Japanese art and identity into a globalised milieu of critical thought. The exhibition, which was curated by Murakami and subsequently travelled to the United States, featured the work of a range of established and emerging artists drawn from art and commercial genres in Japan. As an essential part of Murakami’s political strategy, Superflat was always designed to travel globally. An elaborate, bilingual catalogue Super Flat (Murakami, 2000), which included Murakami’s manifesto, A Theory of Super Flat Japanese Art, accompanied the exhibition. In this manifesto Murakami affirmed that the Superflat exhibitions were created to provide a cultural-historical context for the new form of art that he was proposing, and which was specifically exported for Western audiences. Superflat art, as a cultural text, is intricately enmeshed in the tensions between the location and representation of local/global cultural identities. These identities, while proffering resistance through the assertion of difference, are also formed as part of the processes of globalization rather than in strict opposition to it (Robertson, 1995). In producing Superflat for Western art markets and Japanese art worlds, Murakami addresses existing discursive knowledge of Japanese art, history and popular culture, while simultaneously presenting a new variant of those identities. In this way, Superflat is part of the politics of commodification and expression of cultural difference generated in global consumption. Murakami’s Superflat concept identifies a new aesthetic emerging from the creative expressions produced in Japanese contemporary art, anime (Japanese animation), manga (graphic novels), video games, fashion and graphic design. Superflat is presented as a challenge to the institutions and practices of bijutsu (fine art), which Murakami argues are an incomplete import of Western concepts. Murakami is specifically referring to the modern institutions of kindai bijutsu (modern art) that were adopted during the Meiji period (1868–1912) as part of Japan’s process of modernization and Westernization. To Murakami, the innovation and originality of post-1945 forms of commercial culture represent a continuation of the innovations of the Edo (1600–1867) visual culture. Murakami problematically argues that Edo culture represents a more ‘original’ cultural tradition, because it was a time of restricted foreign contact. At the same...
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