Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Obama, Hiroshima and the view from Japan, for The Christian Science Monitor

For Japanese, Obama's Hiroshima visit is historic – but complicated


Obama toured Hiroshima's Peace Museum Friday, a move strongly supported by survivors of the first atomic bomb. But his trip stirred up tough questions about how Japan treats its own history.

By ROLAND KELTS, Contributor

TOKYO — As Japanese parsed the meaning of President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima on Friday, virtually all agreed it was historic. But that is where the consensus ​ends.

The controversy in the United States over whether he would apologize for the bombs dropped in August 1945 over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was answered unequivocally: He did not. But here in Japan, ​the event was being received with considerable skepticism, even as the city of 1.2 million prepared for Mr. Obama's tour of its Peace Memorial Museum – called "gut-wrenching" by Secretary of State John Kerry last month – and his speech near its cenotaph.

​Japan is acutely sensitive to its history as the only nation to have experienced the devastation of nuclear weapons. Memorial ceremonies take place every August and are broadcast solemnly on network television. Yet Obama's visit shines a spotlight on uncomfortable and potentially unanswerable questions about a deeper national identity crisis stemming from World War II: Was Japan primarily an aggressor or a victim?​ And if the president’s purpose was not to apologize, then what was it?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Manga pioneer Viz Media's 30th anniversary, for The Japan Times


photo courtesy of Bjoern Eichstaedt

By ROLAND KELTS

This summer, Viz Media, LLC, North America’s first-ever distributor of Japanese popular culture, turns 30. Founded in 1986 by Seiji Horibuchi, who has since moved on to other projects, the company is now housed in the so-called Twitter building in downtown San Francisco, and boasts the largest library of Japanese media content outside of Japan.

But don’t expect buses festooned with Viz banners circling through town. Viz plans to celebrate through events with and for fans, says Chief Marketing Officer Brad Woods. That means special offers at North American anime cons, starting with July’s Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Comic Con in San Diego, and rolling out through autumn 2016.

“We’re not going to throw a ridiculous party,” Woods says. “We just want to thank the fan base. That’s what it comes down to. A high-five for the people involved who made us.”

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Live in NYC at Parsons New School on May 10: The Roots of Manga

Roland Kelts, May 10, 2016 at 7pm

The 156th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  May 10, 2016 at 7pm at Parsons The New School for Design, 2 West 13th Street, in the Bark Room (off the lobby). Free and open to the public.


Roland Kelts on The Hybrid Roots of Manga:
How the influx of American and other Western cultural artifacts after World War II evolved into a form of expression whose visual and narrative characteristics are today considered distinctively Japanese.


Roland Kelts is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Japanamerica. His articles, essays and fiction are published in The New Yorker, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Zoetrope: All Story, The New York Times, Newsweek Japan, Guernica, The Guardian and The Japan Times, among others. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, the BBC, NPR and NHK. He is a visiting scholar at Keio University and contributing editor of Monkey Business, Japan’s premier literary magazine. His forthcoming novel is called Access.