Today, the unquestioned status of Hokkaido as “one of Japan’s four main islands” attests to the power of prevailing narratives to mask the fact and nature of Hokkaido’s colonial past and the devastating consequences for the indigenous Ainu. Revered manga artist Tezuka Osamu attempted to disrupt the typical “development” mythologies when crafting his three-volume work Shumari (1973), at once a riveting adventure, intriguing mystery, sentimental romance, and sweeping historical drama set in the northern “frontier.” Yet, a tension suffuses Shumari, with its eponymous ethnic cross-dressing Japanese protagonist, as it both subverts and reinforces timeworn images of Ainu.
About the Speaker:
Michele M. Mason is an Assistant Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of Maryland. Her research and teaching interests include modern Japanese literature and history, colonial and postcolonial studies, feminist theory, and masculinity studies. She is the co-editor of Reading Colonial Japan: Text, Context, and Critique and author of Dominant Narratives of Colonial Hokkaido and Imperial Japan: Envisioning the Periphery and Nation-State (forthcoming). She also co-produced the short, award-winning documentary film, Witness to Hiroshima.