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date: 17 April 2024

The Reception of American Science Fiction in Japanfree

The Reception of American Science Fiction in Japanfree

  • Tadashi NagasawaTadashi NagasawaSugiyama University


American science fiction has been a significant source of ideas and imagination for Japanese creators: they have been producing extensive works of not only written texts but also numerous films, television shows, Japanese comics and cartoons (Manga and Animé), music, and other forms of art and entertainment under its influence. Tracing the history of the import of American science fiction works shows how Japan accepted, consumed, and altered them to create their own mode of science fiction, which now constitutes the core of so-called “Cool-Japan” content. Popular American science fiction emerged from pulp magazines and paperbacks in the early 20th century. In the 1940s, John W. Campbell Jr. and his magazine Astounding Science Fiction had great impact on the genre, propelling its “Golden Age.” In the 1960s, however, American science fiction seemed dated, but the “New Wave” arose in the United Kingdom, which soon affected American writers. With the cyberpunk movement in the 1980s, science fiction became part of postmodernist culture. Japanese science fiction has developed under the influence of American science fiction, especially after WWII. Paperbacks and magazines discarded by American soldiers were handed down to Japanese readers. Many would later become science fiction writers, translators, or editors. Japanese science fiction has mainly followed the line of Golden Age science fiction, which speculates on how science and technology affect the social and human conditions, whereas the New Wave and cyberpunk movements contributed to Japanese postmodernism. Japanese Manga, Animé, and special effects (SFX) television shows and films (Tokusatsu) are also closely related to science fiction and have developed under its influence. Even as works of the Japanese popular culture owe much to American science fiction, they have become popular worldwide.


  • Asian Literatures
  • Fiction
  • Film, TV, and Media
  • 20th and 21st Century (1900-present)

Japanese Science Fiction under the Influence of American Culture

Accounts of Japanese science fiction are not easy to read in English; few works of Japanese science fiction have been translated or introduced to the United States or other Western countries. Japanese Manga, Animé, and special effects (SFX) television shows and films (Tokusatsu) comprise genres that are closely related to science fiction and have developed under its influence, but these connections have not been fully examined. For instance, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the most authoritative and comprehensive account of science fiction so far, has an entry for “Japan,” yet it includes almost entirely written texts and their authors, mentioning only few films and television shows such as Godzilla (1954), Astroboy (1963–1965), and Space Cruiser Yamato (1976).1 Adam Roberts’s study on science fiction history includes a section on Japanese science fiction, unlike preceding studies. Roberts’ narrative, however, is very short (less than a page) and consists solely of brief accounts of a few representative writers of Japanese science fiction: Shin’ichi Hoshi, Kōbō Abe, and Sakyo Komatsu.2

As Roberts points out, because the “influence of American culture on post-war Japan has been extensive and much Japanese science fiction reflects this,” it is necessary to pursue the course of development of Japanese science fiction as it relates to American science fiction using methods of comparative literature.

A Brief History of American Science Fiction

Roger Luckhurst argues that science fiction in the United States emerged and developed along with the rise of popular media in the early 20th century: pulp magazines and paperbacks.3 At the same time, the popularity of inventors and engineers such as Thomas Alva Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Henry Ford boosted the demand for and consumption of stories about marvelous inventions and technology. Hugo Gernsback developed his popular wireless magazine Modern Electrics into one with a wide variety of articles and started to issue Amazing Stories in 1926. In the editorial of the magazine he first coined the term “scientifiction,” and the odd name would change into the more reasonable “science fiction” in the magazine Science Wonder Stories in 1929: the term gave him the title of “the father of science fiction.”

The first boom of science fiction supported numerous writers and publishers to publish millions of copies of magazines and books called “pulps”: Weird Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, and other pulp magazines provided writers the opportunity to publish their space adventure stories in sequels, and “shudder titles” sold more than 1.5 million copies every month in the late 1930s.4 The adventure stories in these pulps emphasized “eventful narrative, strong characters, a binary ethical code of good and evil, and … exotic and wonderful locales.”5 Writers representative of this period include Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) and Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith (1890–1965). Burroughs is world famous for his creation of the noble-savage hero Tarzan, who first appeared in Tarzan of the Apes (1912). Almost at the same time, he started to serialize John Carter adventure stories (“Barsoom”) and later a similar series of “Pellusidar” stories. E. E. Smith was called “Doc” because he had a Ph.D. in food science; he was dubbed the creator of “space-opera” due to his famous “Skylark” and “Lensman” novels.

In the 1940s and the 1950s, so-called “hard science fiction” prevailed within the science fiction genre. Science fiction became more realistic, more persuasive, more sophisticated. At the center of the reformation of the genre was Astounding Science Fiction and its editor, John W. Campbell Jr. (1910–1971), who believed that the most important function of science fiction was “extrapolations of possible technologies and their social and human impacts,” that evaluated “idea fictions rooted in recognizable science.” As Brian Stableford notes, “science fiction was, for him [Campbell], a kind of ‘analytical laboratory,’ … touch[ing] on deep philosophical questions regarding man’s place in nature and his role in cosmic history.”6

Hard science fiction, with its speculation on human nature and social condition, influenced Japanese science fiction after WWII.

The 1960s counterculture movements also affected American science fiction, with the sudden appearance of “New Wave SF as part of a broader international interest in experimental and avant-garde literary techniques” first in the United Kingdom and then in the United States.7 Brooks Landon suggests that the New Wave followed the line of existing science fiction in that it is an “oppositional literature”:

At its most basic level, in relying on alternative or hypothetical propositions about reality, science fiction challenges the hegemony of realist literature, although it relies on realist techniques to glove its fantastic elements with the rhetoric of rationality. On a slightly more ideological level, science fiction consistently opposes limitations on knowledge and the prevailing limitations of science … Challenging prevailing wisdom and receiving ideas is the modus operandi of most SF stories, and the genre has long prided itself on the radical parallax that seems an indispensable aspect of science fiction thinking.8

New Wave writers brought the techniques and standards of the mainstream literature to science fiction because they believed that science fiction should be part of the wider social and cultural revolution. According Landon’s view, the New Wave engaged itself with cultural issues and “its attitude towards science and technology, its treatment of sex, and its growing concern with the ‘soft’ sciences of psychology, sociology, and anthropology” were of great import.9 The American science fiction writers from the period, such as Philip K. Dick (1928–1982), Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929), and Samuel R. Delany (b. 1942) are widely read within and outside of the Japanese science fiction community, and these writers became the one of the strongest influences on Japanese postmodern fiction after the 1980s.

The most important innovation of the genre in the 1980s was “cyberpunk.” The hybrid mode of representation combining the computer-generated virtual reality, or “cyberspace,” with the plot and style of hardboiled novels, became widely recognized with the phenomenal success of William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984). Cyberpunk would come to be regarded as a phenomenon connecting the science fiction genre to postmodernism. Larry McCaffery parallels cyberpunk with “mainstream” literary innovation by Thomas Pynchon, William S. Burroughs, Don Dellilo, and many others, asserting that both groups sought to represent “the evolution of a new network of political and economic systems, a global movement away from local, nationalistic sources of economic and political control (and other forms of power wielding) towards multinational ones.”10 Brooks Landon evaluates cyberpunk as “SF’s specific embodiment of the general tendency of postmodern culture to ‘resist metanarratives”11 and Brian McHale, another scholar of postmodernism, offers a detailed and comprehensive study on cyberpunk as postmodernism in his Constructing Postmodernism (1992).12 His discussion contrasts dominant modes of the epistemological and ontological, arguing that the former is attributed mainly to mystery, whereas the latter is adopted from science fiction, and he makes a persuasive case for the relationship between mainstream literature and popular fiction. Since cyberpunk shook the science fiction world, no other movements of this magnitude have occurred in prose science fiction. Individual talents such as Margaret Atwood (b. 1939), Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006), and Haruki Murakami (b. 1949) have attracted attention as “non-genre” writers.13 But as Adam Roberts sardonically comments, “very few people read SF, whereas very many people watch it.”14 Science fiction also has a long and enormously popular history in cinema and television.15

In the Golden Age of science fiction from the 1940s to the 1950s, a large number of science fiction films were produced, often in response to Cold War fears of atomic war with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, such as On the Beach (Stanley Kramer, 1959, based on the novel by Nevil Shute in 1957), a story about WWIII survivors facing a slow death by radioactive contamination, or Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Donald Siegel, 1956), which reflected the obsession of the time: the infiltration of communists into the American suburbs.

Science fiction also provided the contents of popular television shows: Science Fiction Theatre (1955–1957), The Twilight Zone (1959–1964), The Time Tunnel (1966–1967), and others were created before Star Trek first aired in 1966. Other phenomenal science fiction movies include 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968), Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968) and its sequels, Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977), Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), and The Matrix (Wachowski brothers, 1999), to name a few.

Given this history, American science fiction has long been an important source of imagination for both written texts and visual arts around the globe. Among them, Japanese artists and writers have developed their unique versions of science fiction. In particular, speculative aspects of Robert A. Heinlein and other science fiction novelists of the Golden Era had tremendous impacts on Japanese readers who took science fiction seriously as an art form. The New Wave and cyberpunk movements revealed other possibilities of the genre for artists’ representations of postmodern concerns and conditions.

Importing American Science Fiction to Japan

The Beginnings: Before WWII

American science fiction did not reach Japanese readers until the end of WWII, when the American culture began influencing Japanese society. However, many Japanese readers had cultivated interest in and sensibility for science fiction during the previous 80 years through European scientific romance and domestic future stories.

Western science fiction was first introduced to Japan in the late 19th century during the so-called “Meiji Restoration” (1868) and the following social, industrial, and cultural reforms that awakened and stimulated the Japanese public’s interest in Western civilization. Newspapers and magazines started to introduce the achievements of cutting-edge science and technology as a means of “Fukoku Kyouhei,” the national slogan meaning “building a country of wealth and military strength.” Along with these articles, translations of scientific romance were printed and became popular: Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days was published in 1878 and caused a sensation among a wide range of Japanese readers. More than thirty titles of Verne novels were translated in the following ten years.16

After Verne, British novelist and social critic H. G. Wells was popular with this readership. The Time Machine was translated by Ruikou Kuroiwa, a newspaper editor, translator, and prominent literary figure, and was published under the title Hatiju Mannengo no Sekai (The Society of Eight Hundred Thousand Years After). The Japanese title indicated that public interest had shifted from the introduction of Western civilization and scientific achievement to anticipation of the future of humanity and society.17

For the Japanese over several decades after the Meiji restoration, science and technology were less areas for academic or intellectual focus than practical means for the nation’s development. This tendency supported pre-war Japan’s expansionistic policy and the invasion of East Asia. Novels about future war and tales of incredible new weapons accompanied by adventures in exotic settings prevailed during this period of military expansionism in the 1920s to 1930s, especially in juvenile magazines and books. Shunro Oshikawa (1877–1914) was the first representative of the genre. Influenced by Verne, he wrote his most popular book, Kaitei Gunkan (Undersea Battleship, 1900), which “effectively predicted the actual war of 1904–05.”18

Juza Unno (1897–1949) became the most prolific popular writer of the period between the two World Wars. He was among the few who were fond of reading pre-war American science fiction, and he began writing his own stories with their so-called “space opera” manners. His Ukabu Hikoutou (The Flying Island, 1939), Kasei Heidan (Mars Corps, 1941), and other military adventure stories were welcomed enthusiastically by the public, especially young readers; among them was Kenzaburo Ōe, the future Nobel-Laureate novelist. Unno kept writing juvenile books about exotic adventures even after 1945, but his fictional focus shifted to parallel American-influenced science fiction: “Jūhachiji no Ongakuyoku” (“The Music Bath at 1800 Hours” [1946]) has been acclaimed as one of the best Japanese straight science fiction works of its time.

Japanese modernist writers in the Taisho and early Showa eras also had some sympathy with the British scientific romance or gothic fiction appearing in the American and British pulp magazines of the time. As Roberts notes:

“SF in this period become a—perhaps the—key way in which writers and readers tried to come to terms with” social, technological and cultural changes and “what those changes meant.” Though this view on science fiction was not prevalent at the time, the two aspects of science fiction Fredric Jameson points out, “High Culture”, or “elite” Modernism on the one hand, and mass culture on the other exist throughout its history of about 200 years and either of the two has been more dominant than others alternately.19

Taro Hirai, also known as Ranpo Edogawa (1894–1965), who was strongly influenced by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, wrote a wide variety of fiction, from detective and thriller stories to gothic horrors. Kyusaku Yumeno (1889–1936) and Mushitaro Oguri (1901–1946), two of the most notable modernist writers within the Japanese mystery genre, even wrote short stories based on scientific ideas or gimmicks.

Another important figure of the pre-war mystery community was writer, translator, and critic Fuboku Kosakai (1890–1929). He personally subscribed to Amazing Stories as early as 1926 when the magazine started,20 and he even had a plan to obtain the rights to the Japanese version of the pulp magazine. Although the plan was frustrated by his sudden death in 1929, this anecdote demonstrates the interest of writers in science fiction as a new fiction genre that could revitalize the Japanese literary community.

Kosakai also wrote his own stories with scientific ideas: both “Ren-ai Kyokusen” (“A Curved Line of Love”) and “Jinkou Shinzo” (“The Artificial Heart”) appeared in literary magazines in January 1926, depicting the transplantation of artificial organs affecting the human mind. He was a trained physician himself, and these stories reflected his own scholarly interest as well as his literary ambitions.

During this period, few readers or writers distinguished between science fiction and mystery; to be more precise, science and technology were regarded as gadgetry or novelty that might bring innovations to mystery novels. This tendency lasted beyond WWII until around the 1960s, when science fiction publications stood on their own as a genre.

After WWII: The Beginning of the Import of Contemporary Writings

WWII ended in August 1945 and “sf [sic] became truly popular, due in large part to the flood of sf paperbacks discarded by the American forces in occupation, which filled the shelves of secondhand bookshops in the large cities.”21 The American occupation forces stationed in Japan brought with them not only science fiction but also extensive collections of reading materials such as Armed Services editions, pre-war popular paperbacks, and pulp magazines of other genres. These books and magazines would become the bases for the cultural and academic reconstruction of post-war Japan.

Among the English-language books and magazines displayed in the front of secondhand bookshops in Tokyo, gaudy covers of science fiction paperbacks and pulps featuring space ships, aliens, or half-naked women attacked by weird creatures attracted the eyes of people fatigued by the war and seeking a hopeful, encouraging future. Not only those who had been acquainted with the pre-war scientific romance of Wells or Verne but also post-war adolescents discovered the newest science fiction through these popular readings. The celebrated Manga artist and animator Osamu Tezuka (1928–1989) was one of those young hopefuls: he had enjoyed watching films of American animation and Charlie Chaplin, through which he developed his original styles of cartooning. Science fiction became another source for Tezuka’s imagination: his Tstsuwan Atomu (Astroboy, 1951) became an instant hit, and soon after he started Hi no Tori (The Phoenix, 1954).

Tetsu Yano (1923–2004) and Takumi Shibano (1926–2010) also encountered science fiction through those discarded pulps at secondhand bookshops and fell in love with them; they would later become some of the earliest science fiction translators and guides in the Japanese science fiction community. Yano edited the first commercial Japanese science fiction magazine Seiun (The Nebula) and then became a professional writer and translator. Shibano continued working at it part time (his regular job was as a high school teacher), and he became the leading figure in Japanese science fiction fandom until his death in 2010.

The careers of Yano and Shibano held many contrasts, but both were widely represented in the most important aspect of science fiction as a business (not only in Japan but also in other parts of the world, including the United States): fandom. The Japanese science fiction publishing market was rather small compared with other popular genres such as mystery or young-adult literature, and it had to depend on a limited yet faithful, devoted audience that was slowly established through the publication of American science fiction translations. For example, translators of overseas science fiction have been highly acclaimed among Japanese science fiction fans, and many of them were largely trained in coterie activities. In the 1980s, during the science fiction boom when science fiction translators were in great demand, many amateurs who had published their works in fan books became professionals, primarily because their works had already been read and acknowledged by science fiction writers and the editors.

The science fiction fandom has had close relationships with science fiction publishers and professional writers, exerting strong influences over their businesses. Annual science fiction conventions provide the occasions for social and business exchanges, which YANO first introduced to Japan. He had strong connections with science fiction fandom in the United States. In 1953, he was invited to science fiction conventions by Forrest J. Ackerman, a leading founder of American science fiction fandom, to stay with him for six months, and through this association he became acquainted with notable writers such as Ray Bradbury and A. E. van Vogt. Throughout his career, he acted as an important liaison between the two countries’ science fiction fans.

In an essay, Shibano recalled his astonishment when he learned about the atomic bomb and discovered how advanced science and technology had been in the United States and other Allied nations; he wrote that the shock made him turn to science fiction. He not only became fascinated with the pulps but enjoyed the company of persons with the same interests.22 Then in 1957, Shibano started a private magazine Uchujin (Cosmic Dust), and kept publishing it for more than fifty years, spanning 200 volumes. Many post-war science fiction writers, translators, and critics started their careers by contributing their works to the small yet highly influential magazine: Sakyo Komatsu, Shinichi Hoshi, and Yasutaka Tsutsui, to name just a few.

The Beginning of Science Fiction Publication

Seeing the popularity of secondhand paperbacks, several ambitious publishers began thinking of publishing science fiction translation series. Seibundo-Shinkosha started the Japanese edition of Amazing Stories in 1950. Unfortunately, the series was suspended after only seven volumes. Within a few years, other publishers followed with juvenile series of science fiction and fantasy, most of which were discontinued after a few titles were published. Even Kodansha, one of the largest publishing firms in Japan, withdrew from the market in the late 1950s.

In 1956, the newly established publisher Gengensha launched an ambitious series of American and British science fiction translations. All of the titles were post-war science fiction, including the latest novels by Robert A. Heinlein, Fredric Brown, Arthur C. Clark and others: most of the works had appeared within the preceding ten years. However, after issuing less than twenty titles of this adult-oriented series, the company went bankrupt within a year because of a slump in sales. The failure of Gengensha shocked the publishing houses, and it was widely said that “science fiction never fails to put the publisher out of business.”23

Gengensha’s series, however, had a huge impact on the science fiction audience. Regrettably, science fiction had been widely regarded as tasteless and vulgar, not for intellectuals or sophisticated readers. This was the first time that contemporary American science fiction was introduced into the Japanese market. From the sociological and political speculation on humanity and its society by Heinlein to the nostalgia and lyricism of Ray Bradbury, fans were astonished to see its various themes, methods, and styles. Gengensha’s attempt to reach adult readers led to subsequent projects situating science fiction within the contemporary avant-garde context.

Shobo Hayakawa (Hayakawa Books) launched a science fiction and fantasy series in 1957 and S-F Magajin (SF Magazine) in 1959, which made Hayakawa Books the leading science fiction publisher in Japan. S-F Magajin started in association with Astounding Science Fiction, the American science fiction periodical, and it included short stories and serial novels by domestic writers, translations from the Astounding, book reviews, essays and criticisms, and columns on overseas trends. It played a leading role in the dissemination of science fiction in Japan for more than 50 years.

American science fiction had been enjoying its heyday since the 1940s, and the works of the Golden Age of American science fiction provided Japanese science fiction publishers with inexhaustible resources for monthly magazines and regular paperback series. Tokyo Sougensha, another publisher specializing in popular fiction, started a science fiction section within Suiri Bunko Sougen (Sougen Mystery Paperbacks) in 1963. Hayakawa was behind Sougensha with paperback publication, but when its science fiction paperbacks appeared in 1970, readers responded like fanatics. The two paperback series have been competing for readers ever since. Both science fiction publishers were remarkably successful with their new science fiction series, especially among teenagers and adolescents. Many later science fiction novelists and artists learned what science fiction was and could be through S-F Magajin.

Another significant contribution of S-F Magajin and Hayakawa Books was that they were able to elevate the status of science fiction as a genre seriously for the first time. Masami Fukushima (1929–1976), the founder and first editor in chief of S-F Magajin, recollected how they had developed their own idea of what science fiction should be: intelligent, mature, revolutionary reading materials based on scientific facts and speculation.24 For that purpose, Fukushima and the Hayakawa editors chose Astounding among several American science fiction magazines as a business partner because they sympathized with the belief of John W. Campbell Jr that science fiction should develop as a higher-level art form. Fukushima followed Campbell’s principles: science fiction could and should consist of accounts of the world and humanity beyond mere adventure stories set in outer space or a distant future. He believed in the possibility of science fiction as a new form of art and tried to organize the movement under the motto of “spreading and infiltration.” This ambition of Fukushima affected Japanese science fiction in both content and reception of the genre.

The Development and Independence of Japanese Science Fiction

Japanese science fiction writers of the first generation started writing their own version of science fiction under the strong influence of Western science fiction stories, especially American science fiction, which appeared in S-F Magajin or as published by Hayakawa or Sougen. However, they would later develop their own styles and themes apart from those imported novels and stories. One of the first proper science fiction writers was Shin’ichi Hoshi (1926–1997): he continued writing only flash fictions, publishing more than 1,000 stories throughout his career. He turned to science fiction after reading Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950) and became interested in UFOs at the same time. He joined the Japan Flying Saucer Research Association, which had formed in 1955 and had attracted young writers and fans (Yukio Mishima among them). Hoshi met other science fiction fans to form another group solely focused on the genre. His style is very unique in its settings and characters: he avoids Japanese names for either persons or places, instead calling them only by the alphabet, such as “Mr. M” or “S city,” to render his fiction universal.

One of the greatest Japanese science fiction writers, Sakyo Komatsu, who produced the phenomenal bestseller Nippon Chinbotsu (Japan Sinks, 1973), remembered clearly how shocked he was when he first read a short story by Robert Sheckley in S-F Magajin.25 Komatsu had studied Medieval Italian literature at the University of Kyoto, wishing to be a novelist. He instantly changed his life course and eventually became the foremost science fiction novelist in Japan. Komatsu asserts science fiction is a genre appropriate for representing “humanity, the globe, or the universe as a whole.”26 He wrote numerous novels and stories tremendously broad in scope: his acclaimed novel Hateshi Naki Nagare no Hate Ni (At the End of an Endless Stream, 1966) depicts a man’s odyssey over space and time in a quest for the raison d’etre of human. He recurrently pursued the grand theme of humanity and its destiny in Sayonara Jupitah (Goodbye Jupiter, 1982) and the unfinished Kyomu Kairo (The Corridor of Nothingness, 1987). Komatsu’s speculation on humanity and its future was original in its wide range of topics and interest, yet he should be regarded as the representative Japanese successor of Campbell’s ideal: science fiction as social criticism.

Another representative Japanese science fiction writer of the generation was Ryu Mitsuse (1928–1999). He was strongly influenced by Heinlein’s future epic stories to create his own Space Chronicle series. His visions, however, were darker and more pessimistic than those of American writers, depicting outer space as the site less of heroic activities than of loneliness and desperation. His masterpiece, Hyakuoku no Hiru to Sen’oku no Yoru (1967, translated as Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights, 2011) tells stories of eternal battles between rebels, who are gods from Buddhism or Plato, the Greek philosopher, and the unknown Absolute, an agent of whom is the Nazarene. At the end of the novel, the Absolute is revealed to exist outside of our universe, and the rebels realize they will never win the battle. Mitsuse’s fiction represents a typical Japanese science fiction mode, “the elegiac mode, with its implications of loss, grief, and absence.”27 Japanese writers, who had started writing science fiction following their American predecessors, would inevitably seek their own forms, styles, and themes.

The Late 70s: Science Fiction Boom and Dissemination

In the late 1970s, science fiction suddenly caught the attention of the media and the public in Japan, with the release of innovative science fiction movies by Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977) and George Lucas (Star Wars, 1977). Articles or featured programs on science fiction appeared in newspapers and magazines and on television.

This science fiction boom boosted the sales of books with science fiction content, and new magazines and paperback series were also added to the market. The most important and notable of these was Sanrio science fiction paperbacks (1978–1987). Under the supervision of Koichi Yamano, avant-garde writer and critic, the series boasted a wide selection of novels and stories from every corner of the world and various fields. Especially works by female and experimental writers, which had been avoided by established publishers because of their male-dominated, conservative readership, were published and recognized through the Sanrio paperbacks. Not only science fiction but also works of contemporary writers were listed in the series: John Barth (b. 1930), Donald Barthelme (1931–1989), William S. Burroughs (1914–1997), Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937), Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), Colin Wilson (1931–2013), and even Latin American writers such as Alejo Carpentier y Valmont (1904–1980). Regrettably, the Sanrio paperback series was discontinued in 1987, but it remained so highly valued that a guidebook was published almost three decades later.28

The science fiction boom came to an end in the late 1980s, when several magazines and paperbacks discontinued publishing. The boom, however, had attracted a large number of youths, many of whom were creative and talented, and they began to produce science fiction of their own: young adult novels, comics, animation, visual arts, and other forms and media. The works of this generation would become the core of so-called “cool Japan” content from the 1990s into the 21st century. For this new generation, American science fiction served as more of an indirect source of terms, gimmicks, or background settings than a direct influence. This shift indicates that science-fictional ideas and knowledge had infiltrated a wider audience who ultimately acknowledged the genre as fashionable and sophisticated.

Science Fiction Translators

Japanese science fiction publishers long depended on translators to introduce overseas writers, books, or recent movements because few publishing agents existed in the country. In the 1960s, when no Internet or other information technology existed, translators and critics who could have access to the sources of information such as magazines or newspaper reviews had greater influence on the Japanese culture, not only in science fiction but also in every other cultural field. In those days, when no academic researchers of science fiction could be found in Japan, translators were infinitely important.

Founders of the science fiction community such as Yano or Shibano published translations of American and British science fiction, and they also wrote book reviews and magazine columns on current issues overseas. Hitoshi Yasuda (b. 1950) wrote columns titled “SF Scanner” on S-F Magajin through the 1970s into the 1980s to introduce current topics or prominent new names and books. Many of his followers became brilliant translators themselves: Nozomi Omori (b. 1961), Makoto Yamagishi (b. 1962), and Yoshimichi Furusawa (b. 1958), to name a few.

Another important role of science fiction translators in Japan has been to edit collections of short stories or anthologies, which are popular among readers for their portable convenience and wide variety of stories in one volume. Nozomi Omori and Toru Nakamura (b. 1960) are the most active anthologists in the Japanese science fiction publication: both have edited more than a dozen anthologies that vary in topics, themes, and styles. Aside from the editing, they are established translators as well, of course.

The significance of translators in the Japanese publishing business reflects cultural situations in the country, especially in the 150 years after the Meiji Restoration. The Japanese people have kept abreast of Western models to develop their society, industry, and education through translations of advanced knowledge. Science fiction and other areas of popular culture are no exception, which is one reason that Japanese people may appear to be obsessed with learning foreign languages, especially English. Mamoru Masuda (b. 1949) and Takashi Ogawa (b. 1951), for example, translate not only science fiction but also a wide selection of books in the genres of popular culture or science.

The most important contributions by these translators to the genre was that they helped spread the scientific ideas or innovative knowledge as well as avant-garde imagination through stylishly coined words and phrases, with which the younger generation would be familiar through watching television cartoons or reading comics: “den-no ku-kan” for cyberspace, for example.


Non-academic science fiction critics, reviewers, and journalists have established considerable reputations. Takashi Ishikawa (b. 1970), Koichi Yamano, and Hitoshi Yasuda are noted for their devotion and enterprising spirits, whiles Tadashi Nagase (b. 1952) is noted for his encyclopedic knowledge, especially of the history and philosophy of science and technology, and Hiroo Yamagata (b. 1964) is noted for his humanistic and social science approaches to science fiction. Shinji Maki (b. 1959) is an active reviewer and archivist who covers a broad range of the fields. Recently, among critics of the younger generation, Akira Okawada (b. 1981) is distinguishing himself with his wide range of topics and interest from speculative contemporary postmodern fiction to postcolonial concerns on minority activities such as those of the Ainu and of feminism.

By contrast, academic studies on science fiction in Japan have only begun to thrive. Science fiction studies have a forty-year-long history in the United States. The SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association) was founded in 1970 and has held annual conferences, has published periodicals, and has presented several awards. In Japan, however, academic researchers were hard to find because of the widespread ivory-tower dismissal of the genre as “childish” or “escapist.” When Takashi Ishikawataught a class on science fiction called “Literature and Time” at the University of Tokyo in 1978, it was the first time science fiction was officially taught at a Japanese academic institution.

The next phase introduced studies and criticisms of science fiction in the 1970s and 1980s. Kingsley Amis’s New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (1960, Japanese translation 1979) and Brian W. Aldiss’s Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction (1973, Japanese translation 1980) emerged from Hayakawa and Tokyo Sougensha, respectively. Robert Scholes’s structuralist study Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision (1978) or Patrick Parrinder’s Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching (1980, Japanese translation 1985) were achievements by postmodern critical theorists. As Nagasawa pointed out, among some researchers and critics, science fiction presented a good model for postmodernist analysis.29 Tzvetan Todorov’s The Fantastic (1975), Christine Brooke-Rose’s A Rhetoric of the Unreal (1981), and Rosemary Jackson’s Fantasy: the Literature of Subversion (1981) are examples of theoretical studies, to say nothing of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation (1981) and Fredric Jameson’s postmodern pursuits.

The third impact of science fiction in Japan occurred from both inside and outside of the country, almost at the same time. Takayuki Tatsumi (b. 1955) started with his career as a science fiction critic and continued publishing criticism, essays, or reviews on S-F Magajin and other media. In 1988, he issued his first book-length study of science fiction and contemporary America, Cyberpunk America. This work was an unconventional study of the cyberpunk movement in the 1980s, and with his unique cutting-edge style and rhetoric, this academic approach to popular materials was unprecedented. His work was hailed in Japanese science fiction circles, and Tatsumi’s following grew thereafter. His Full Metal Apache: Transactions between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America (2006) is a comprehensive study of Japanese science fiction and postmodern literature that developed under the influence of and the interaction with its American counterparts.

Another shockwave hit the genre with the publication of Columbia Literary History of the United States (1988), a voluminous, ambitious work on the historical studies of American literature. At the end of the volume appeared “The Fictions of the Present” by Larry McCaffery (b. 1943) of San Diego State University. In this essay, McCaffery situated the New Wave, cyberpunk, and other recent science fiction in the postmodern context and persuasively asserted that they should be read as state-of-the-art literary achievements.30 He would later suggest the idea of “Avant-Pop,” the combination of popular images or discourses and resistance to the force of commercialization by the capitalistic system. Avant-Pop as a strategy obscures the difference between high culture and popular culture, and science fiction is the best example of this form of cultural resistance to dominant social forces.

Influence of American Science Fiction on Japanese Post-war Literature

American science fiction has provided important sources of ideas for Japanese writers and fans; at the same time, it has continued to stimulate the imaginations of Japanese writers outside of the genre. The genre has been the indirect source of ideas providing background settings for much post-war Japanese fiction rather than direct references. It shows that the “infiltration and dissemination of science fiction,” to which Masami Fukushima aspired, has been accomplished in post-war Japan.

The Review of Contemporary Fiction’s special issue on “New Japanese Fiction” (2002) included stories of established writers “who are widely read in Japan and published by leading mainstream publishers” such as Haruki Murakami, Yoriko Shono, Masahiko Shimada, and Gen’ichiro Takahashi, while other writers who “have established their careers (and readership) within the relatively insular world of Japanese science fiction” were also listed: Yoshio Aramaki, Yomi Matsuo, and Mariko Ohara. The list also included Yasutaka Tsutsui, who was between the two groups, writing both science fiction and postmodern literary fiction.31

This selection of writers was eclectic, as McCaffery and Gregory write, consisting of the writers of Japanese postmodernism who were “the first generation of Japanese writers to have grown up listening to the Beatles and Bob Dylan, watching reruns of American sit coms, and reading the works of early American postmodernists like Brautigan, Vonnegut, Barthelme, Burroughs, and Coover.”32 The writers included here tried to “write books that can successfully compete with the rise of a mass media whose proliferations increasingly seem to be offering audiences an illusion of choices that ultimately only tightens its grip on people’s lives and imaginations.”33

The writers of the new generation have found new styles, techniques, and ideas rendered within contemporary science fiction to create their own fiction, regardless of the genre.

Post-war Literature to 1960s: Yukio Mishima and Kōbō Abe

Japanese writers of the post-war generations had been seeking unconventional forms and expression appropriate for representing their experiences after WWII. The newly born, Americanized democratic society liberated the Japanese people from the conventional, feudalistic pre-war Japan, but it also caused anxiety about the possibility of WWIII and further nuclear wars. Among the writers who reflected an ambivalent attitude toward post-war Japan was Yukio Mishima (1925–1970). Mishima sought to break the deadlock between this optimism and pessimism: he was fascinated by UFOs and the idea that visitors from the outer space might stand on Earth someday. In an essay, he points out the possibility that “science fiction might overcome the conventions of modern literature and its humanism.”34 In 1962, Mishima published the novel Beautiful Star, in which he expressed his own views on humanity and its future through the words of an alien.

With the rise of post-war science fiction publication, many other established writers of so-called “Jun-Bungaku” (roughly meaning “literary fiction” or “serious literature” in Japanese) also expressed their interest in science fiction: Yumiko Kurahashi, Morio Kita, and Jiro Nitta, to name just a few. Mystery writers had stronger sympathy with science fiction than those who from other genres, Fukushima wrote.35

The most important and significant figure who contributed the most to the genre’s development and acknowledgement was Kōbō Abe (1924–1993). This avant-garde, experimental writer was born in Manchuria and returned to the mainland after the war. He studied medicine at the University of Tokyo, but after graduation he decided to become a fiction writer. He received the Akutagawa Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Japan, with “The Wall―The Crime of S. Karma” in 1951. This short story relates an absurd experience of a man who had his name stolen by his name card (business card) and in the end, metamorphosed into a wall. Christopher Bolton discusses the ambiguity of the story, saying “the novel’s [sic] final image seems to be an optimistic one, but it is also the kind of reversal … The tension between freedom and belonging is captured by the lonely peace of the wild plain inside Karma”—a place referred to as “the ends of the earth.”36 The unconventional, unprecedented imagery and its expression were crucial to Mishima.

Abe further published works under the influence of science fiction such as Dai Yon Kanpyouki (Inter Ice Age 4, 1959) and Ningen Sokkuri (The Double of Human Being, 1966), both of which are among the prominent achievements of post-war Japanese literature. Bolton compares the revolutionary quality of Inter Ice Age 4 to that of the cyberpunk revolution during the 1980s and 1990s in that Abe “features a similarly dark view of the future characterized by corporate conspiracy, the same reluctant celebration of human bodies transformed by invasive technology, and the unsettling possibility of a disembodied human consciousness that floats in computer memory, suspended between life and death.”37 Abe wrote novels combining scientific ideas with the modernist style before the science fiction genre was established in Japan.

Abe was the vanguard of the science fiction movement in the Japanese literary scene, and his active support for the genre gradually achieved a measure of success in drawing public attention. This recognition of the genre was reflected in the growing number of reviews and critical essays in literary magazines and newspapers. Takashi Ishikawa, a leading critic of popular fiction for about half a century, especially of detective and science fiction, contributed to the yearbooks of the literary world for decades. His commentaries in these yearbooks show the history of how science fiction established its presence in Japan: he began commenting on science fiction in 1962, but the account first appeared as a portion of mystery reviews. Year by year, however, the number of words published on science fiction grew larger, and finally the genre was allotted several pages as an independent category in the late 1960s.

1970s to 1980s

The so-called “second generation” of science fiction writers, who had been raised reading American and British science fiction as well as watching Hollywood movies and Japanese SFX television shows, started writing their own stories in the 1970s. Their main sources of influence were Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, Philip Jose Farmer, J. G. Ballard, Brian W. Aldiss, and other New Wave and experimental writers of the 1960s. They, too, preferred writing on the uncertainty of identity, unreliable reality, and speculation on the nature of human society and its future.

Two Murakamis, Ryu and Haruki, began as postmodernists focused on the media-dominated uncertain reality and changing, unstable human identity. Haruki Murakami professed his affinity with Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) and proclaimed that he developed his own unique colloquial style under the influence of Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan (1935–1984). Almost all translations of Vonnegut books have been published by Hayakawa Books: this publisher has been playing a significant role not only in science fiction but in the introduction of English and European literature for about 70 years. The affinity between science fiction and contemporary experimental fiction was enhanced through Hayakawa’s catalogues, in which Saul Bellow, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, and Edward Albee were arrayed alongside Dick, Delany, and Bradbury. This unique classification contributed to Japanese postmodernism and the Avant-Pop revolution in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ryu Muraakami has written several novels closely related to science fiction in themes and techniques: Coin Locker Babies (1980) set in the near-future Tokyo, tells stories of twin brothers who tried to change the world, each in his own way. Superconduction Nightclub (1991) was apparently written under the influence of the cyberpunk movement; The World in Five Minutes from Now (1994) is a novel about Japan in a parallel world; and Singing Whale (2010) presents a dystopian future. These works illustrate how the author was fascinated with imagined worlds developed under the influence of American science fiction as well as the elegiac mode of the Japanese science fiction.

However, even in 1990s, the Japanese literary community, especially critics, still treated science fiction with contempt, as was demonstrated by Kenzaburō Ōe’s futuristic novel Chiryou Tou (The Tower of Treatment 1990) and its sequel Chiryou Tou Wakusei (The Tower of Treatment and the Planet 1991). This two-part work tells a story of exiles escaping from the devastated Earth in spaceships. Conservative literary critics were puzzled by them, even wondering whether Ōe was serious. Kobo Abe commented that the novels “don’t fit in the category of science fiction,”38 and Abe was not alone in his thinking. In the end, these novels did not succeed either critically or financially, and Ōe returned to his earlier avant-garde, metaphysical style.

The writings of Yasutaka Tsutsui (b. 1934) are responses from the science fiction genre to contemporary Japanese literature, “whose formal and thematic concerns are comparable to the works of the first wave of American postmodernists back in the 1960s.”39 In the 1960s, Tsutsui focused on “the society of the spectacle,” producing stories of a nightmarish society controlled by mass media such as 48 Billion Delusions (1965), “The Tokaido War” (1965), and “Vietnam Tourist Bureau” (1967). Tsutsui was also one of the earliest Japanese writers who used a metafictional approach: Kyojin Tachi (Virtual men, 1981), Kyokou Sendan (Fleet of Fantasy, 1984) and Bungakubu Tadano Kyōju (Prof. Tadano of the Literature Department, 1990) were his most controversial yet successful examples. It is fairly ironic that Tsutsui was critically acclaimed, and with these works, he became a representative literary figure of experimental approach. Energetic and prolific in his eighties, he continued to publish novels and stories almost every year.

The New Age Female Writers: Yoriko Shono and Hiromi Kawakami

The next generation of Japanese novelists, emerging in the 1990s, shared conspicuous characteristics in their styles and techniques. They were willing to adopt chimerical settings or characters that had rarely appeared in the realistic novels of earlier generations. Their works, filled with popular icons or items, have much in common with popular fiction, movies, comics, and other subcultural materials. The writers of this new generation refused to be categorized as either “serious” or “popular,” denying the binary opposition in literature. Among them, the most notable are Yoriko Shono (b. 1956) and Hiromi Kawakami (b. 1958); these two writers repeatedly acknowledged that science fiction had a great influence on their works. Both are famous for their innovative illusory styles as well as consistent investigations into gender and sexuality, and they have been highly acclaimed as radical writers.

Shono made a debut with the Gunzo Literary Award in 1981 and started to attract attention with her magic-realist style in Resutoresu Dori-mu (Restless Dream, 1994) and Nihyakkaiki (The 200th Anniversary of the Dead, 1994); the latter received the seventh Yukio Mishima prize of the year. She also received the Akutagawa Prize, the most prestigious literary award in Japan, with Taimu Surippu Kombinato (Time Warp Complex, 1995). Her main sources of literary influence, according to her essays and interviews, were Japanese science fiction writers such as Yasutaka Tsutsui and Taku Mayumura (b. 1934) as well as the experimental, illusory writings of Shizuo Fujieda (1907–1993). In Shono’s fiction, the inner worlds of characters are never distinguishable from objective realities; they encroach on each other, presenting bizarre, fascinating images of the modern world filled with popular icons and indigenous images.

She stresses that she tried to “create a fictional space which contains a critique of Japanese language already deformed and of the thoughtlessness of mass media through the force of [her] extremely private composition.”40 Her unique literary style shares with the New Wave and cyberpunk movements the awareness of the fictional reality composed of information spread by media, and in her writings, the two realities, social and private, compete for hegemony. Her work has evolved to criticize the neoliberal economic system and its consequences of cultural commercialism as the newest form of restriction and oppression.41

Hiromi Kawakami is another representative writer who was directly influenced by American science fiction. She had been an active science fiction fan in her youth, reading translations of American and British science fiction. She later joined a few fan circles such as the Science Fiction Society of Ochanomizu University (she was a biology major) and began writing her own stories. More important was the NW-SF, an ambitious quarterly magazine edited and published by the avant-garde writer and critic Koichi Yamano, to which she contributed her first short story titled “Ruirui” (“Heaps on Heaps,” 1980) under a pseudonym and another story under her maiden name Hiromi Yamada. After graduation, she worked for the NW-SF briefly, then taught science at a private high school. In 1994, her “Kamisama” (“God”) won a small literary prize, and she started her professional career as a fiction writer. She was also an Akutagawa Award winner with “Hebi wo Fumu” (“Treading on a Snake,” 1996), which tells a strange story of a young woman who lives with a snake-incarnate middle-aged woman.

Both Shono and Kawakami adopt unrealistic settings or unconventional modes of characterization and storytelling, which they learned from reading science fiction in their teens. Their success demonstrates how American science fiction became an important resource for contemporary postmodern fiction writers in Japan.

21st-Century Boys: Toh Enjo and Yusuke Miyauchi

In the 21st century, science fiction has wielded a stronger presence in the Japanese literary world among the writers of the youngest generation, who continue to produce ambitious, innovative works. Unlike writers of the previous decade, such as Shono or Kawakami, they began their careers as science fiction writers, publishing their works with Hayakawa or Tokyo Sougensha. Their books were gradually recognized by a wider audience and were acknowledged as new forms of 21st-century fiction. These New Age science fiction writers have frequently been nominated for literary awards.

The most notable among them is Toh Enjoh (b. 1972); the ex-software programmer started his literary career in 2007 when his novella Self-Reference ENGINE emerged from Hayakawa (it was later translated and published in the United States).42 He then published some novellas and stories in the S-F Magajin: among them was “Boy’s Surface” (2007), an imaginary mathematical essay blended with a biography of a mathematician into an allegorical love story. In 2008, he submitted “Obu za Bēsbōru” (“Of the Baseball”) to a literary competition at Bungakukai, a prestigious literary magazine in Japan, and won first prize. Since then, his books have been repeatedly nominated for literary awards and he has won some: the Noma Prize for New Writers for Uyūshitan in 2010; the Akutagawa Prize for “Dōkeshi no Chō (Harlequin’s Butterfly)” in 2012; and in the United States, the Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation for Self-Reference ENGINE in 2014.

Yusuke Miyauchi (b. 1979) is another writer who emerged from the science fiction genre and has been welcomed into mainstream literature. He also worked as a software programmer before writing fiction professionally. His story “Banjo no Yoru” (“A Night on the Chessboard,” 2010) won a Sogen Science Fiction Award, and an omnibus novel based on the story was nominated for the Naoki Award, the famous literary prize for popular fiction, in 2012. His second book, Yohanesuburugu no Tenshitachi (Angels in Johannesburg, 2013), was also nominated for the Naoki Award. His latest novel, Amerika Saigo no Jikkenn (The Last Experiment by the U.S.A., 2016), is less science fiction and more hardboiled, experimental fiction, and it has been highly acclaimed.

Clearly, these examples show that science fiction is now a popular mode in contemporary Japanese literature, with both writers and readers of the younger generation embracing the genre. Clearly, the popularity of the imaginary mode will be sustained in the future. The non-realistic mode of fiction now prevailing in the Japanese media, either visual or printed, has developed under the influence of American science fiction, directly or indirectly, throughout the course of reconstruction and economic prosperity after the WWII. It now thrives as so-called “cool Japan” cultural expression. We cannot overstate the importance of American science fiction in the expressions of Japanese popular culture embraced all over the world.

Films, Anime, Manga, and Visual Media

Post-war Japan’s popular culture has been exported everywhere. Animé and Manga, in particular, are the most influential forms of popular arts the country has produced. They are now regarded as “intellectually challenging arts.”43

These popular Japanese forms of expression, particularly Animé, are recognized objects of academic research and should be taken seriously. As Thomas Lamarre emphasizes, “the technical sophistication of Japanese animation—especially apparent in their manner of thinking technology—does not rely on or shore up a familiar series of dubious oppositions or ruptures between low and high, between old and new, or between modern and postmodern.”44

The uniqueness of Japanese Animé resulted from its complex origins. As Susan Napier points out, it is a hybrid of “Japanese traditional arts such as Kabuki and the woodblock print” and “worldwide artistic traditions of 20th-century cinema and photography.”45 From the earliest stage, Osamu Tezuka and his contemporaries created works of their own under the influence of American science fiction novels, films, and illustrations. Hitoshi Nagasawa’s comprehensive study of the history of modern designs and fashion reveals the strong influence of those visual images of 20th-century America: the futuristic streamlined vehicles, buildings, or other artificial objects impressed the Japanese artists of the time with the embodiment of the idealized future.46

From the late 1960s, Animé and Manga were divided into two gendered categories, boy- and girl-oriented. The girl-oriented stories developed under the influence of American and European juvenile stories, such as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868), Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908) and Disney’s feature films; in contrast, Animé content for boys was filled with robots, rockets, and other scientific gimmicks. These so-called “Mecha Animé and Manga,” of course, began referring to American space-opera novels, films, and TV shows, and they would gradually develop into idiosyncratic genres. Mamoru Oshii (b. 1951), an animation director greatly influenced by American and British science fiction, is famous for works with philosophical stories, complex plots, and revolutionary techniques: Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984), Patlabor (1988), and Ghost in the Shell (1995), to name just a few. Specifically, Ghost in the Shell is indebted to William Gibson and cyberpunk, while his Animé inspired the Matrix movies.

Japanese science fiction has provided the culture industry with creative talent: writers, cartoonists, comic artists, movie directors, musicians, and so forth. A number of Animé directors and creators started their creative careers as members of certain science fiction fan groups or clubs making amateur films. One of the most notable is Hideaki Anno (b. 1960), director of Neon Genesis EVANGELION (1995): he attracted public attention with short films made for Japanese science fiction conventions in the early 1980s, and he joined the production crew of Nausicä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), the famous animation film directed by Hayao Miyazaki (b. 1941). Another important figure in the Animé business is producer and director Iriya Azuma (b. 1960). After he gained experience making movies during his undergraduate years, he joined TOEI Animation and produced The Sailor Moon series (1992–1997), which became a phenomenal success, airing worldwide and attracting hundreds of millions of fans.

Japanese Animé is globally popular among youths. One of the key reasons for its popularity lies in its sophisticated styles and adult-oriented storytelling.47 Animé has inherited the strengths of the Japanese science fiction tradition. In turn, its speculative quality hearkens back to American science fiction. American Superhero films and comics are gaining public interest in Japan. Thus, American science fiction will continue to be a crucial source for Japanese creators and their works.

Review of the Literature

Regrettably, only a few scholarly books exist on the relation between American and Japanese science fiction or on Japanese science fiction itself. Animé and Manga have garnered the most attention in literary discourse. Susan J. Napier’s Anime: from Akira to Princess Mononoke (2001, later updated and the title changed to Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle in 2005) is a groundbreaking work that focuses on Japanese visuality and evaluates these works as forms of serious art in a mode different from the Western tradition.

Takayuki Tatsumi’s 2006 book, Full Metal Apache: Transactions between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America is the most comprehensive study on this genre: it features a wide range of topics from the future war novels of 19th-century Japan, studies on folklore, and Japanese Kaiju movies to the state-of-the-art cyberpunk.

Tatsumi’s book discusses such a wide variety of materials and movements that his analysis of each topic and works is rather limited; however, Christopher Bolton’s study of Kōbō Abe, Sublime Voices: the Fictional Science and Scientific Fiction of Abe Kōbō (2009) probes into the relationships between the Japanese post-war avant-garde writer and science fiction to situate the genre in the context of the literary mainstream in Japan. Tastumi and Bolton co-edited Robot Ghost and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime in 2007, which contains a few essays on science fiction prose (they are limited to a topic or a specific writer) and offers a glimpse of the possibilities and fertility of studies on Japanese science fiction.

Further Reading

  • Aldiss, Brian W. Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction. New York: Doubleday, 1973.
  • Amis, Kingsley. New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960.
  • Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation (1981). Translated by Sheila Fania Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.
  • Bolton, Christopher. Sublime Voices: The Fictional Science and Scientific Fiction of Abe Kōbō. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.
  • Bolton, Christopher, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr, and Takayuki Tatsumi, eds. Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • Brooke-Rose, Christine. A Rhetoric of the Unreal: Studies in Narrative & Structure, Especially of the Fantastic. London: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
  • Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. London: Routledge, 1981.
  • Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. London: Routledge, 1981.
  • Lamarre, Thomas. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.
  • Landon, Brooks. Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam man to the Stars. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Luckhurst, Roger. Science Fiction. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2005.
  • McCaffery, Larry. “The Fictions of the Present.” In Columbia Literary History of the United States, 1161–1177. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.
  • Napier, Susan J. Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Parrinder, Patrick. Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching. London: Methuen, 1980.
  • McCaffery, Larry, and Sinda Gregory. “Introduction.” In The Review of Contemporary Fiction: New Japanese Fiction Special Issue. Summer 2002, vol. XXII.2, 19–28.
  • Roberts, Adam. The History of Science Fiction. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Scholes, Robert. Science Fiction: History, Science, Vision. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  • Stableford, Brian. Creators of Science Fiction. London: Borgo Press, 2010.
  • Suter, Rebecca. The Japanization of Modernity: Murakami Haruki between Japan and the United States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.
  • Tatsumi, Takayuki. Full Metal Apache: Transactions between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.
  • Todorov, Tzvetan. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre. Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 1975.


  • 1. Peter Nichols, ed., The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: An Illustrated A to Z (London: Granada, 1981), 318–319.

  • 2. Adam Roberts, The History of Science Fiction (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 261–262.

  • 3. Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2005), 50–75.

  • 4. Luckhurst, 63.

  • 5. Roberts, 195.

  • 6. Brian Stableford, Creators of Science Fiction (London: Borgo Press, 2010), 80.

  • 7. Roberts, 231.

  • 8. Brooks Landon, Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars (New York: Routledge, 2002), 109.

  • 9. Landon, 150.

  • 10. Roberts, 302; and Larry McCaffery, ed., Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Fiction (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992), 3.

  • 11. Landon, 159.

  • 12. Brian McHale, Constructing Postmodernism (London: Routledge, 1992), 225–267.

  • 13. Roberts, 314.

  • 14. Roberts, 279.

  • 15. According to “Box Office Comparison for All-Time Top-Grossing Films” in The Numbers Home Page, ( Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens shows the performance exceeding Avatar, the present all-time No. 1 movie. The list of “All-Time Top Fifteen Movies by Global Box Office” shows that almost all films of the greatest popularity are science fiction and fantasy such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977), Spiderman (2002), with only one exception, Titanic (1997). Also Roberts, 293.

  • 16. Yasuo Nagayama, Nihon SF Seishinsi (The Spirits of Japanese Science Fiction: from the Meiji Restoration to the Post WWII Era) (Tokyo: Kawade Books, 2009), 23–32.

  • 17. Nagayama, 132–137.

  • 18. Nichols, 319. The “1904–1905” war refers to The Russo-Japanese War, which occurred between Russia and Japan over the control of the Northern China district.

  • 19. Roberts, 156.

  • 20. Nagayama, 155.

  • 21. Nichols, 319.

  • 22. Shinji Maki, ed. Shibano Takumi SF Hyouronshu (Collected Writings of Takumi Shibano) (Tokyo: Tokyo Sogensha, 2014), 9–28.

  • 23. Masami Fukushima, Mitou no Jidai (The Untrodden Age) (Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobo, 2009), 11–15.

  • 24. Fukushima, 22–28.

  • 25. Sakyo Komatsu, Komatsu Sakyo Jiden (The Autobiography of KOMATSU Sakyo) (Tokyo: Nihon Keizaisinbunn Press, 2008), 59–60.

  • 26. Komatsu, 98.

  • 27. Susan J. Napier, Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle (New York: Palgrave, 2005), 13.

  • 28. See Shinji Maki, and Nozomi Omori, eds., Sanrio SF Bunko Soukaisetu (Comprehensive Guide to the Sanrio SF Paperbacks) (Tokyo: Honnozasshisha, 2014).

  • 29. Tadashi Nagasawa, “Postmodernists Dream of SF,” Bungaku 8.4 (2007): 132–135.

  • 30. Larry McCaffery, “The Fictions of the Present,” in Columbia Literary History of the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 1166–1168.

  • 31. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory, “Introduction,” The Review of Contemporary Fiction 22.2 (2002): 22.

  • 32. McCaffery and Gregory, 28.

  • 33. McCaffery and Gregory, 21.

  • 34. Yukio Mishima, “Ichi SF fan no Wagamama na Kibou” (“Self-Indulgent Ambition of an SF Fan,” 1963), in The Complete Works of Yukio MISHIMA, vol. 31 (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2003), 582–583.

  • 35. Fukushima, 30–32.

  • 36. Christopher Bolton, Sublime Voices: The Fictional Science and Scientific Fiction of Abe Kōbō (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 37.

  • 37. Bolton, 104.

  • 38. Kenzaburō Ōe, Ōe Kenzaburō Saihakken (Ōe Kenzaburō Rediscovered) (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2001), 212.

  • 39. McCaffery and Gregory, 22.

  • 40. Larry McCaffery et al., “This Conflict Between Illusion and Brutal Reality: An Interview with Yoriko Shono,” The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Summer (2002), 176.

  • 41. Tadashi Nagasawa, “Thus We Discovered SHONO Yoriko: Synchronizing with Avant-Pop at the End of the Modern Age,” Ronza June (2008), 202–203.

  • 42. Toh Enjoh, Self-Reference ENGINE, trans. Terry Gallagher (Haikasoru/VIZ Media, 2013).

  • 43. Susan J. Napier, Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 4.

  • 44. Thomas Lamarre, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), xv.

  • 45. Napier, 4.

  • 46. Hitoshi Nagasawa Pasuto Fyuchurama (Past Futurama) (Tokyo: Film-art-sha, 2000), 178–201.

  • 47. Tadashi Nagasawa, “Research on the International Reception of Japanese Pop Culture."