9/11 in Japanese Pop Culture


A decade has passed since Al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center. Multiple news sources have commemorated the event as a moment of self-reflection in which America and the world have evolved–for better or worse–in the Post-9/11 world.

Salon ran a story  by Matt Zoller Seitz describing some of the ways in which popular culture changed and reacted to the event. We know about America. How did the rest of Asia fare?

Mark Austin recalled what it was like in the newsroom at the Daily Yomiuri when both planes struck America’s shoulders. Nothing too interesting to tell and as far as I know, no one has openly recalled on this anniversary of anniversaries how the War on Terror influenced Japanese pop culture. Let’s start with cinema.

Battle Royale II: Requiem contained several less than subtle references to the landscape of the time. The most unsettling part about the sequel is that the survivors of the first film formed their own terrorist cell called the “Wild Seven.” The movie veered dangerously close to glorifying terrorism and resistance as a mode of existential relevancy.

For video games, Konami released Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, shortly after the attacks. The moral ambiguity of the terrorist antagonists of the game didn’t cause any substantial changes or delays. However, developer Hideo Kojima had to make some last minute changes to the script and cut scenes where downtown “Arsenal Gear” devastated Ellis Island and downtown Manhattan. He further more removed a scene where the American flag fell on the Solidus’s corpse.

Additionally, Japan’s Hip Hop scene had a few words of their own to say on the matter. The controversial rap group, King Giddra, released their single, “911,” on the first anniversary of the attack. They criticized the hypocrisy of America’s War on Terror and the Japanese government’s complicity in America’s grand agenda.

With the exception of Hideo Kojima, these twoexamples represent a moment in which America’s position in the world came into question. To a certain extent, I wonder whether it marked a moment where Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution on the country’s pacifism came into question.

As we all remember, 9/11 eventually led to the Iraq War and then Prime Minister Koizumi supported the invasion with a provision of troops from the Japanese Self Defense Force. America’s inability to secure an immediate victory further called the article’s legitimacy into doubt. If America couldn’t protect itself or prevail as a super power, then how are they going to safeguard Japan? No sooner than this, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a review of the constitution in 2007 to endow Japan with a stronger role in the world and bolster the country’s national pride.

What I’m getting at is that 9/11 may have temporarily thrown the ball further into the Japanese Right’s court. K Dub Shine of King Giddra possessed some right wing views of his own. He produced the soundtrack to the Sakura of Madness film where a Neo-Tojo gang targets foreigners in Shibuya, Tokyo, to “clean up the trash.” In an interview with Remix Magazine in 2009, he opined that Japanese soldiers who fought during World War II should be honored for fighting for the betterment of their country. In addition to that, he defended his remarks by comparing the American occupation of Japan to the enslavement of Blacks and (inaccurately) labeled Black Power groups such as the Black Panthers as right-wing. An interview with Zeebra of King Giddra by David Z. Morris suggests that he harbored similar views.

This is only in Japan. The South Korean film, The Host, had its own anti-American undertones and the “Fucking USA” protest song released in 2002 carried a long history of malcontent of its own. At the very least, Asia may remember 9/11 as the moment when the world  vocally doubted America.


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