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PEIR Seminar Politics: Political Content of Japanese Popular Culture



Japan’s citizenry has often been described as either politically apathetic or dominated by a bureaucratic system of highly structured vested interests over which individuals can exert little influence to attain their goals. Yet there has been no shortage of political commentary in post-war Japanese movies, anime and manga. This course examines the content of such cultural commodities, paying special attention to popular works that add perspective to the history, institutions, and actors of Japanese politics. The course will also examine government efforts to either generate or co-opt popular culture to further official policy goals in both the domestic and international political spheres, as well as efforts to use popular culture to critique government policy. While other forms of popular culture may be introduced, the focus of the course is on anime and manga. Students will receive an introduction to the development of these media in Japan, and a theoretical grounding that will enable them to analyse such works. They will be introduced to popular works which touch on such themes as political corruption, the individual’s relationship to bureaucracy, Japan’s foreign relations, the status of the nation’s Self Defense Forces, war memory and responsibility, radical politics, and the relationship between the family and the state.

Course objectives

  1. To develop an understanding of the political content of popular culture in Japan
    1. To challenge preconceived notions about political apathy in popular Japanese politics
    2. To enhance critical writing and presentation skills through written assignments and class discussion


See timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Consult the syllabus before the course for details.
Participation element (in-class tests): 20%
Analytical element (two essays of 2,000 words): 80%


Yes, see for more info Blackboard

Reading list

Most secondary literature will be available on academic databases. However, students will also need to critically evaluate primary sources, e.g. anime and manga, available from the library


Registration through uSis. Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registrationprocedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

A la carte


Dr.B. A. Wakefield.