Doing Occidentalism in contemporary Japan: Nation anthropomorphism and sexualized parody in "Axis Powers Hetalia"

  • Toshio Miyake Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Keywords: BL, Boys' love, Critical Occidentalism, Dojinshi, Hegemony, Manga, Nation anthropomorphism, Parody, Yaoi, Youth subculture

Abstract

Axis Powers Hetalia (2006–present), a Japanese gag comic and animation series, depicts relations between nations personified as cute boys against a background of World War I and World War II. The stereotypical rendering of national characteristics as well as the reduction of historically charged issues into amusing quarrels between nice-looking but incompetent boys was immensely popular, especially among female audiences in Japan and Asia, and among Euro-American manga, anime, and cosplay fans, but it also met with vehement criticism. Netizens from South Korea, for example, considered the Korean character insulting and in early 2009 mounted a protest campaign that was discussed in the Korean national assembly. Hetalia's controversial success relies to a great extent on the inventive conflation of male-oriented otaku fantasies about nations, weapons, and concepts represented as cute little girls, and of female-oriented yaoi parodies of male-male intimacy between powerful "white" characters and more passive Japanese ones. This investigation of the original Hetalia by male author Hidekaz Himaruya (b. 1985) and its many adaptations in female-oriented dōjinshi (fanzine) texts and conventions (between 2009 and 2011, Hetalia was by far the most adapted work) refers to notions of interrelationality, intersectionality, and positionality in order to address hegemonic representations of "the West," the orientalized "Rest" of the world, and "Japan" in the cross-gendered and sexually parodied mediascape of Japanese transnational subcultures.

Author Biography

Toshio Miyake, Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Researcher (Marie Curie IIF) Department of Asian and North African Studies
Published
2013-03-15
Section
Theory