Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dōjin community


  • Alex Leavitt University of Southern California, Annenberg
  • Andrea Horbinski University of California, Berkeley




Censorship, Citizenship, Dōjinshi, Japan, Manga, Nonexistent youth, Popular culture, Recursive public, Tokyo


We examine the creation of dōjinshi works critiquing the passage of the metropolitan Tokyo ordinance Bill 156 in December 2010 as a case of fan-driven political activism. Bill 156 aims to limit artistic freedom and is specifically targeted at anime, manga, and other works of visual pop culture. Fans who participate in dōjin production perform both a love for this media and an active form of citizenship that is historically fannish but transformative beyond the mere appropriation and remix of media texts. We argue that dōjin fans and works constitute a recursive public, wherein participants actively create discourse around artistic and ideological issues while engaging in added layers of discourse regarding the maintenance of their existence as a public. We examine fan discourse and dōjin works engaging Bill 156 as an object for political activism, as anime and manga otaku perform their citizenship in the wider society of Japan for their local public and for a global audience of like-minded fans.

Author Biographies

Alex Leavitt, University of Southern California, Annenberg

Alex Leavitt will be a first year PhD student in Communication at USC Annenberg in Fall 2011. Currently he is a research assistant at Microsoft Research New England.

Andrea Horbinski, University of California, Berkeley

Andrea Horbinski is a Ph.D. student in Japanese history at the University of California, Berkeley. She was previously a Fulbright Fellow in Kyoto, Japan, researching hypernationalist manga, and is the editorial assistant for the journal Mechademia.


Additional Files