How do the past, present and future interact in post-3.11 Japan: Examining the ‘future past’ in the SF manga Coppelion
[Recorded 1st March 2017] This paper seeks to examine several manifestations of futurity in contemporary Japan through readings of a science fiction manga. It is interested in the relationship between historical time and subjectivity or, in other words, how people make sense of their contemporary experiences within discourses of the past, present and future. The paper offers no uniform vision of a future for or by Japan, but reveals that ‘futurity’ is a site of much contestation in the present as Japanese people continue to grapple with the triple challenges of economic, social and ecological change. This paper will examine how politics have been constituted in Japan after 3.11 by re-reading a pre-3.11 SF comic that foreshadowed an irradiated future. Coppelion (2008), a futuristic story about a 2016 nuclear catastrophe in Tokyo’s Odaiba district triggered by an earthquake, surprisingly speaks to the post-3.11 condition in multiple ways. The paper will address the following questions: What are the role of traditional time/space concepts (expressed in a present-ism and a national body strictly distinguishing inner and outer spaces) in understanding and criticizing the past and imagining possible futures? And how, in a given present that is often characterised in Japanese critical circles as a massive historical amnesia, are the temporal dimensions of past and future, experience and expectation, related? Most importantly, is there a vital and energizing political agency for the post 3.11 Japanese society? This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 1 March 2017.