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'Creating My Own Cultural Bubble': Cultural Consumption of Japanese Spirituality in Anime
Unformatted Document Text:  X events made for a near-perfect weekend for aficionados of anime, Japanese animation, and all the giant-eyed, large-breasted and gun-slinging cartoon creations that medium included (New York Times, September 3, 2002, p. B1). As this newspaper article illustrates, anime, a Japanese abbreviation of the English word “animation,” has over the last few years been achieving a status of a mainline popular culture in the U.S. In fact, anime’s cross-cultural popularity is not limited to North America but it has been globally diffused in East Asian countries like Korea, Taiwan, in Southeast Asia like Thailand, and even in Europe. The phenomenally increased cultural significance of anime in the U.S. is easily perceived from the large number of otaku (a Japanese word for anime fans) groups or anime clubs in colleges, junior and high schools, periodically assembled regional and national anime conferences and conventions, and a long list of anime-related web sites on the Internet. As in Japan, where anime is not only a mainstream pop cultural phenomenon but also considered as an intellectually challenging art form (Napier, 2001), in the U.S. academic attentions have recently begun to focus on this cultural phenomenon. This paper attempts to account for the cross-cultural phenomenon of the popularity of anime in the U.S. in terms of religious aspects of the phenomenon. Anime, in general, is filled with images and symbols concerning religion, spirituality, the supernatural, and mythology. How its visual and textual contents are closely connected to the realm of religion is well demonstrated from an anecdote in the Japanese media, which “indulging in an orgy of blame-finding for the disastrous sarin gas attack in 1995 by the cult group Aum Shinrikyo, claimed that many of Aum’s ‘best and brightest’ followers were also avid fans of apocalyptic science fiction anime” (Napier, 2001, p. 8). Two steps seem to be required in order to explain the popularity in terms of its

Authors: Park, Jin Kyu.
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X
events made for a near-perfect weekend for aficionados of anime, Japanese animation,
and all the giant-eyed, large-breasted and gun-slinging cartoon creations that medium
included (New York Times, September 3, 2002, p. B1).
As this newspaper article illustrates, anime, a Japanese abbreviation of the English
word “animation,” has over the last few years been achieving a status of a mainline popular
culture in the U.S. In fact, anime’s cross-cultural popularity is not limited to North America
but it has been globally diffused in East Asian countries like Korea, Taiwan, in Southeast
Asia like Thailand, and even in Europe. The phenomenally increased cultural significance
of anime in the U.S. is easily perceived from the large number of otaku (a Japanese word
for anime fans) groups or anime clubs in colleges, junior and high schools, periodically
assembled regional and national anime conferences and conventions, and a long list of
anime-related web sites on the Internet. As in Japan, where anime is not only a mainstream
pop cultural phenomenon but also considered as an intellectually challenging art form
(Napier, 2001), in the U.S. academic attentions have recently begun to focus on this cultural
phenomenon.
This paper attempts to account for the cross-cultural phenomenon of the popularity
of anime in the U.S. in terms of religious aspects of the phenomenon. Anime, in general, is
filled with images and symbols concerning religion, spirituality, the supernatural, and
mythology. How its visual and textual contents are closely connected to the realm of
religion is well demonstrated from an anecdote in the Japanese media, which “indulging in
an orgy of blame-finding for the disastrous sarin gas attack in 1995 by the cult group Aum
Shinrikyo, claimed that many of Aum’s ‘best and brightest’ followers were also avid fans of
apocalyptic science fiction anime” (Napier, 2001, p. 8).
Two steps seem to be required in order to explain the popularity in terms of its


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