Japan crisis evokes comparisons to its pop culture disaster narratives, historic events
Like Hollywood in the 1970s, with its queasy procession of upside-down ships, crippled airplanes and towering infernos, postwar Japanese popular culture has had a taste for disaster.
The sublimely cheesy, enormously popular “Godzilla” films launched in the 1950s depicted a dinosaur-like monster, spawned by underwater nuclear detonations, crashing through the streets of Tokyo.
The popular 1973 novel “Japan Sinks” envisions the island nation being physically split in two by a combined earthquake-tsunami. And in the landmark 1988 animated sci-fi film “Akira,” adapted from a manga epic, a nuclear explosion levels Tokyo and precipitates World War III.
The three-headed calamity of earthquake, tsunami and near nuclear meltdown that has ravaged Japan this month has awakened some of the country’s most familiar disaster narratives. From short stories inspired by previous natural calamities to comic book series based on survivors’ accounts of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some of these apocalyptic narratives are being evoked by commentators in and outside Japan to draw meaning from the latest catastrophes that have rocked Japan.