In your book, you write that “Battle of the Planets” was many Americans’ “first taste of Japanese pop.” How did this American version of a Japanese series even come about?
I open Japanamerica with that story because it embodies so much of what my book is about—an unlikely convergence of cultures across thousands of miles and vast cultural differences. In 1977, NBC uber-producer Sandy Frank (“Name That Tune,” “Lassie”) brought an obscure Japanese animated series, originally called Gatchaman, to American TV because he loved it, and because the success of Star Warssuddenly made it acceptable. But none of his fellow NBC staffers spoke Japanese, and no one knew what to do to localize the maturity, sexuality, and violence of the original Japanese product.
What about Japanese pop culture attracts Americans?
James Joyce once wrote that art is “perfect imperfection,” or something like that. I think Americans, and other audiences, love the quirks and flaws in art when they feel it’s authentic—real expressions of human emotion. Japanese pop culture, however ‘cool’ it seems now, is defined by its sincerity, especially compared to the wisecracking sarcasm in most American pop products.