The explosion of Anime has brought major interest in Japanese culture to western shores, and there is no person more uniquely equipped with addressing that interest than Roland Kelts. Roland Kelts is a journalist and author based out of Tokyo, who, through his book JAPANAMERICA, has become the authority on Japanese Pop Culture and how it has influenced America. We took some time to get some insight on the influences each culture has on the other.
Geekset: Through both the book Japanamerica and the continuing blog of the same name, you continue to have your finger on the pulse of Japanese culture and how it continues to influence American culture and vice versa. What would you say is the most surprising way each side has influenced the other?
Roland: In JAPANAMERICA, I was constantly surprised by the influence of American pop and commercial culture on Japan in the first two decades of the postwar era — the 1950s and 60s. The degree to which original artists like Osamu Tezuka and Haruki Murakami embraced American influences and creativity.
But today I feel like the influence has completely changed direction over the Pacific Ocean. Americans are much more increasingly and deeply drawn to Japanese culture, not only manga, anime and food, but well-marketed Japanese behaviors like forest-bathing (shinrin-yoku) and personalities like KonMari.
On the other hand, I don’t see many Japanese being drawn to or influenced by American lifestyles or culture today. From here in Japan, the current state of the US looks pretty grim — violent, angry and unhealthy. Coke and American hamburgers are not cool. Starbucks still does okay, though.
Geekset: What is your favorite amalgamation of Japanese & American culture? That is, something that seems uniquely able to blend the two together.
Roland: I would say some of Haruki Murakami’s novels, particularly “A Wild Sheep Chase,” and maybe the anime feature film, “Akira.” I view Akira as a Japanese classic, but its peculiar blend of blunt energy and idiomatic violence and bold color and Blade Runner-like urban anomie also feels densely American to me.
I also love Yoko Kanno’s anime soundtracks, and all of her music, really, as it incorporates American stylings from jazz and blues and other sources but sounds completely original and Japanese.
And a big shout-out to the Country Music-Anime music video mashup, “Sound & Fury,” which is on Netflix.
You can find Roland Kelts at the on Friday at the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo and on social media at @rolandkelts on both Twitter. For more information and ways to register for your free pass head over to https://expo.crunchyroll.com/CrunchyrollExpo/
- Session: Anime and Race
- Friday, September 4 from 5:15 – 6:15 PM PT
- Stage: Hime Stage