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Japanese Film  
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For example, the gay kiss between two criminals in Ishii Takashi's Gonin (1995) is not really as shocking as it is meant to be, and Miike Takashi's Fudoh (1996) presents a nihilistic, manga-inspired world where queer characters exist mainly to add another sensationalistic "color" to the film's spectrum of wild sex and violence.

The Uniqueness of Japanese Queer Cinema

Queer themes in Japanese films, then, cannot be framed solely in terms of Western gay liberation politics, which is still a new phenomenon in Japan. Yet it is precisely because of these differences that queer Japanese cinema is unique, offering visions of sexual transgression divorced from Western political correctness and assimilationist civil rights ideals.

While the idea of the female consumer of gay male images may seem grounded in a cultural misogyny--the female spectator perhaps imagines herself to be a man loving another man because loving as a woman is insufficient--it also fundamentally challenges the usual construction of same-sex desire.

Perhaps most significantly, Japan's is the only world cinema that mass-produces sexually transgressive films, in the form of gender-bending anime, for children and adolescents. So while we should first appreciate such cultural differences on their own terms, we should also realize that Japanese cinema can offer queer alternatives more imaginative, more playful, and possibly more transgressive than those that conventional Western identity politics frequently allows.

Andrew Grossman

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arts >> Overview:  Asian Film

The recent popularity of Asian films with English-language audiences has allowed Western audiences a glimpse of Asian gay and lesbian identities and gender ambiguities in high-profile queer films.

arts >> Overview:  Hong Kong Film

Filmmaking in Hong Kong eventually came to terms with, exploited, and often blurred the lines between Chinese traditions of gender ambiguity and Westernized "out" politics.

social sciences >> Overview:  Japan

Blending elements from indigenous traditions and recently imported Western discourses of sexual identity, Japan is home to one of the most diverse and dynamic queer cultures in Asia.

arts >> Overview:  Japanese Art

Japanese art, from the prehistoric period onward, features images that can be given queer readings as well as a wide range of representations that contemporary viewers would understand to be homosexual.

literature >> Overview:  Japanese Literature

The trajectory of the treatment of same-sex love in Japanese literature differs radically from that in Western literatures, but offers many interesting texts that include male-male or female-female love.

social sciences >> Overview:  Tokyo

Tokyo is home to a vast entertainment world that supports hundreds of venues for individuals with diverse sexual and gender identities and interests.

arts >> Manga

In Japan, manga--or comic books--are an important medium of cultural expression and frequently feature male and female homosexuality.

literature >> Mishima, Yukio

In his quest for masculinity, Yukio Mishima mythologized himself both in his life and his writings, culminating in his ritual suicide.

literature >> Saikaku, Ihara

Saikaku's The Great Mirror of Male Love is a collection of short stories that depict male homosexual love as it was practiced in seventeenth-century Japan.


Desser, David. Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Grossman, Andrew, ed. Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade. Binghamton, N. Y.: Harrington Park Press, 2000.

Miller, Stephen, ed. Partings at Dawn: An Anthology of Japanese Gay Literature. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1996.

McCarthy, Helen. The Anime Movie Guide. Woodstock, N. Y.: Overlook Press, 1996.

_____, and Jonathan Clements. The Erotic Anime Movie Guide. Woodstock, N. Y.: Overlook Press 1999.

Weisser, Thomas, and Yuko Mihara Weisser. Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: The Sex Films. Miami: Vital Books, 1998.


    Citation Information
    Author: Grossman, Andrew  
    Entry Title: Japanese Film  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated December 28, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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