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Mia Lewis: The Representation of Female Characters in Japanese Comic Magazines

Date and Time: 
Thursday, April 1, 2021. 05:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Working Group in Literary & Visual Culture 2020
Meeting Description: 

Mia Lewis, PhD candidate, Department of Eastern Languages and Cultures, with respondent Dr. Deborah Shamoon, associate professor of Japanese studies, National University of Singapore.

Manga [Japanese comics] are central to Japan’s media environment, with a readership that in 2012 included eighty percent of men and women in their twenties. Manga are serialized in dedicated magazines that are nearly omnipresent in the Japanese cityscape. Throughout Japan people see manga magazine covers daily when passing by the many train station kiosks and bookstore racks set up along thoroughfares or when grabbing a snack in a convenience store. Yet, it is not the comics themselves that are seen, but rather the magazines’ covers. Covers of magazines for boys and men often intermix photographs of female models with drawn characters from the comics within. This talk analyzes these covers and the broader physical, media, and social context they inhabit, I refute the dominant academic narrative that this intermixing inevitably draws the living models into the realm of the fictional. This narrative argues that, in their fictionality, neither models nor manga characters are tied to readers' perception of living girls. In contrast, I argue that regularly seeing these magazine covers both encourages reading living girls as objects created for male consumption and imagining fictionalized girls as flesh and blood. I furthermore argue that the daily experience of seeing these magazine covers solidifies the link between gravure idols, manga, and the eroticization of female bodies for male consumption not just for manga readers, but also for the large swaths of the population who see these magazines throughout their daily lives.

Mia Lewis is a PhD candidate in Japanese Literature at Stanford University. She is currently working on her dissertation, entitled “Visions of Possible Girls: Intersectional Feminist Narratives in Contemporary Japanese Boys’ Comics.” Her research focuses on questions of gender, genre, language, and medium in contemporary Japanese manga.

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