Barbara Greene: “High School of the Dead and the Profitable Use of Japanese Nationalistic Imagery”

The abstract of Barbara Greene’s latest article in the latest issue of the electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies:

The horror manga series High School of the Dead, which ran from 2006 to 2013, is notable for its manipulation and allusions to a variety of militarist or ultranationalist imagery. The ultimate goal of this decision remains obscure. The two artists involved, particularly the late Satō Daisuke, are known to have a personal interest in Japanese military history or war-focused media and allegedly held views that aligned with those of the Japanese ultra-Right. However, an interest in military history and contemporary weaponry does not predicate that one is sympathetic towards the further loosening of restrictions on the Japanese Self Defense Force or to arguments in favour of Imperial Japanese military actions.

Within the series itself, however, numerous narrative and character choices appear to support the ideologies of the Japanese ultra-Right. The defense alliance between the United States and Japan repeatedly fails in the wake of global catastrophe, leaving Japan open to attacks from mainland Asia. Members of the Japanese Self Defense Force and special police, unlike their overseas counterparts, are the only effective parts of the Japanese state to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Ultra-nationalists, rather than the government, create effectively defended refugee camps.

However, while the series initially appears to support ultra-nationalist ideologies, this may be a strategy utilised by the authors to distinguish their work in an oversaturated market. By artificially sparking controversy around their work, the authors ensured that they reached several target audiences, such as buki-otaku, netto-uyoku, as well as a more general audience.