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Interview: Genron

When acclaimed critic Hiroki Azuma isn’t writing or teaching at Waseda University, he’s bridging the gap between academia and the general public through the Contectures publishing company as its President and Editor-in-Chief. With Genron, Contectures English language portal, he and his staff have their eyes set abroad by translating articles for Western readers not adversed in Japanese. We had the opportunity to sit down with Naoki Matsuyama who is in charge of translations and global outreach and Ko Ransom, a translator for the company, to discuss Genron, criticism in Japan, Azuma’s work, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the country’s future. BF: How did you get involved with this project? NM: I was born and grew up in Italy and...

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Book Review: Database Animals

Say the word “Postmodern” and a tide of ideas flood the imagination. Structuralism, metanarratives, semiotics, and other obscure studies come to mind. At best they sound intelligently incomprehensible. At worst they reek of fashionable nonsense. Hiroki Azuma’s book, Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, reads like neither. Unlike the milieu of thinkers who dwell in the pages of academic journals, Azuma’s prose is accessibly lucid despite the citation of high-minded thinkers and philosophers like Jean Baudrillard, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and G.W.F. Hegel. He eschews a pedantic writing style in favor of a lucid journalistic one to analyze and explain the phenomena of Japan’s most notorious caste of social pariahs: the Otaku. Japan’s homegrown niche of anime geeks may seem like a pretentiously unrelated...

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