Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Dragon and the Dazzle

The Dragon and the Dazzle: Models, Strategies, and Identities of Japanese Imagination a European Perspective, by Marco Pellitteri, Tunué International, 2010.

This English edition of an Italian book, The Dragon and the Dazzle, by cultural sociologist Marco Pellitteri, is a deep and involving look at the transcultural diffusion and impact of Japanese manga, anime, and video games in the European countries of Italy and France. While the author’s aim was to write a book accessible to an academic and popular audience, the book is a little challenging in parts, from the point of view of the common reader. Even so I doubt if a more erudite and penetrating book has ever been written about the global diffusion of Japanese popular culture, during two periods (the Dragon and Dazzle of the title) which had a profound influence on western producers of comics, graphic novels, and animation. The Scott Pilgrim series, produced and printed in Canada is a perfect example; little books that have the look and feel of manga as filtered through the eyes of a Caucasian cartoonist.

Pellitteri follows Japanese culture’s arrival in Europe in two historical periods he calls the Dragon phase (1975-1995) and the Dazzle phase (1996-present day). Pellitteri was born at just the right time to experience the cultural changes wrought in Italy during both phases of arrival and his analysis is both scholarly and enthusiastically personal. He illuminates the roots of Japanese popular culture using examples from anthropology, folklore, robotics, and language, then focuses on a close study of the penetration of anime and manga into Italy and France. Goldrake, Sonic, and Pokemon were initially regarded by many parents and religious authorities as an alien or satanic conspiracy to “Japanize” the children of the west through television and comic books.

The Dragon and the Dazzle is a compelling cultural history and an excellent textbook for students, researchers, and teachers. It should stimulate further explorations of the influence of anime and manga in other countries like Britain, Canada, and the United States. Marco Pellitteri has recently started what promises to be a fascinating column on Italian fumetti and fumetto for The Comics Journal blog HERE. His thoughts on comics and criticism can be found in the comments section HERE. Finally some amusing comments by Pokemon and anime fans who stumbled onto a cover scan of The Dragon and the Dazzle HERE.