Various Comics: Rose of Versaille, Astro Boy, Barefoot Gen, Saylor Moon, Inwards Towards Our Noble Deaths

HIST 459 - Manga and Japanese History

“Manga and Japanese History” maps a cultural history of modern Japan through representative works of manga (Japanese comics) and selected anime adaptations. Students will analyze manga as primary sources that reflect the array of historical developments, cultural transformations, and socio-political discourses that have played into the construction of “Japan” from the early modern period through the new millennium. Assigned manga represent prominent Japanese historical and artistic themes including the advent of mass print culture; early modern urbanization; shifting moral paradigms; modernizing cultures and counter-cultures in interwar Japan; Japanese imperial violence, national trauma, and rehabilitation of WWII; evolving nuclear discourses from the Allied occupation to the present; shifting gender and sexual paradigms in the postwar decades; the move from the 1980s “miracle economy” to the recessionary 1990s; the rise of public violence in the 1990s; contemporary youth subcultures; and the enduring theme of identity and technology. In exploring these themes, students will consider also how the evolution and expansion of manga across and into an ever-multiplying number of genres reflects evolving paradigms of Japanese subjectivity and social participation, the diverse experiences of individuals and communities inhabiting various axes of identity (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class), and the desire among pop cultural consumers to engage with the repressed of history and culture. 

Course Materials



About the Course Designer


Raechel Dumas (Ph.D. in Japanese, University of Colorado at Boulder) is a specialist in modern Japan, with emphasis in the histories of literature and visual culture. She is especially interested in the gender and sexual politics of “dark” popular genres including horror, crime fiction, and science fiction. Her first book, The Monstrous-Feminine in Contemporary Japanese Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), explores constructions of female monstrosity in Japanese fiction, manga, film, and video games produced from the 1980s through the new millennium. Articles by Dr. Dumas have appeared in multiple academic journals. She is working on her second book, Serial Affects, which examines gendered experiences and expressions of trauma in English-language streaming television series.

Read Raechel's blog post about the course.