Solitary Warriors of Class Warfare: Kajiwara Ikki's Manga Heroes and Their Violent Quest for Historical Agency
Colloquium with Yoshikuni Igarashi, History, Vanderbilt University
Monday, May 05, 2008
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Of the numerous manga for which the writer Kajiwara Ikki (1936-1987) provided the script, three from the second half of 1960s and the first half of the 1970s—Kyojin no hoshi (Star of the Giants: serialized in Shnen magajin, 1966-1971), Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow's Joe: Shnen magajin, 1968-1973), and Ai to Makoto (Ai and Makoto: Shnen magajin, 1973-1976)—stand as classics of Japanese manga. Endowed with exceptional physical abilities, Kajiwara's young heroes strive to control their own destiny against the prejudice of their humble social origins. Through their extraordinary bodily performance, the protagonists confirm their working class identity, while contesting the bourgeois values of postwar society. Over the decade in which he worked on the three works, Kajiwara's view on class conflict evolved from a relatively uncomplicated binary to a complex nexus of various forces in which his protagonists are tangled. The escalation of violence in his work (and his real life) is perhaps best to be understood as a forceful attempt to resolve the complex political dynamics to which he was awaken. By interjecting the perspective of class and class warfare in Kajiwara's work, I will read the protagonists' violent acts in these works as a form of political discourse, foregrounding the resonance between Kajiwara's artistic world and the politically charged decade of the Shwa 40s (1965-1974).