Tuesday, December 15, 2009

new review of Japanamerica from Fan to Pro

Here's a smart, thoughtful and genuinely balanced review of Japanamerica, penned by Steven Savage of FAN TO PRO:

"Japanamerica is a journey - in some cases literally - through the world of Japanese Pop Culture in Japan and America, the fused world of "Japanamerica". Mixing visiting historical places and persons, talking to individuals, and speculation, author Roland Kelts asks just why and how Japanese Culture is big in America, and what it may mean.

This is a phenomenally difficult task quite frankly, and he does a good job of it.

Kelts approaches his subject in several ways, mixing them together throughout the book:
  • The development of and traits of Japanese media companies.
  • The history of the U.S. interests and how those intersected with Japanese products.
  • The changing relations and technologies that made this possible.

The author handles these by using a mix of history, interviews, statistics, and speculation. Much as it's hard to break out one factor from another, Kelts doesn't really try - the entire "Japanamerica" phenomena is studied from its facets as opposed to broken down.

Thus the book looks at everything from the way Japanese media companies have developed the ability to produce effective niche media, to the effect of Star Wars and 9/11 on American media interests, to contrasts of artistic styles between Japanese and American aesthetics. The structure of the book itself is personal, almost like a story, and thus there are no "hard answers", so much as look at the players and their interactions.

I found the book to be very informative, mostly because of this approach - without overarching theories or simplistic answers, the book invites you to discover what's going on through the eyes of Kelts and the people he talks to. You don't go to this book for a list of answers - you go to it to get a feel for what's going on."

[read more Here]

1 comment:

Scott said...

Hello Roland, I teach a class at university on popular cultures of East Asia, and a student recently turned me on to your book. I have been reading your blog and like the nuance and insight you bring to questions of globalization, the cultures (yes plural) of Japan, the latest rise of Japan as cultural metropole, American consumer interest, etc. One question though regarding the subtitle of your book, "How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S." Isn't the word "invade" a pretty loaded term here? Why would you choose that word, given your obvious desire to move beyond rank stereotypes and to bring a new level of intelligent understanding to the world in which we live, one in which Japanamerica is but one example of on-going trends in global culture visible in many quarters? You write in your blog about the schadenfreude imbedded in recent reports of Toyota's woes, a sort of secret American satisfaction with Japanese failure that I completely agree has lurked beneath the surface of US-Japan relations for decades. So why so obviously invoke U.S. fears of Japan (most recently, those of the go-go 1980s, for example, when Japanese corporate giants and financial power was spoken of as "invading" the US) with this silly subtitle? Did you editors make you do this? It undercuts your whole approach to these things. Disappointing given the otherwise productive nature of what you have to write.