Beginning in the 1980s, there has been a great supply of and demand for manga and anime based on historical events. By explicitly referring to the guidelines for history education laid down by the Ministry of Education, supplying a list of references, and/or collaborating with renowned academics, the scholarly and educational value of these publications is stressed. But do manga and anime really contribute to increasing knowledge or do they mostly perpetuate popular understandings of Japan’s history? Based on a number of specific examples, this paper explores how fact and fiction intertwine in the portrayal of pre-Heian Japan. Attention is focused on the era surrounding three of Japan’s political and cultural icons: Prince Umayado (Shotoku Taishi) (573?-622?), Shomu Tenno (r.724-749), and Kanmu tenno (r.781-806). Furthermore, through a comparison of works issued by different publishers and at different times the paper investigates which episodes from ancient Japanese history receive attention and which are suppressed. This allows for tentative conclusions on whether efforts are being made to expand general knowledge or whether the same information is repeated time and again.
7 7 2009
18th Biennial New Zealand Asian Studies Society International Conference 2009