asiascape vistas

Techno-Culture, New Politics, and Philosophy in East Asia

Asiascape Vistas is a forum for discussion about the many and various dimensions of cyberculture found in or originating from East Asia. Its focus is on the interplay between these media and questions of politics & philosophy. Contributions are from the academic collective responsible for the core project, but other contributions will also be considered by that collective.
If you wish to contribute to Asiacape Vistas, please send an email using the form on the contact page.

One-day Manga exhibition & seminar

Please join us on Saturday 6 December in The Hague for a few hours of manga, art, virtual ninjas, drinks and snacks!

Admission is free and all are welcome.
For catering purposes we kindly ask that your register.

More information and registration is here:


New edition 'Manga in/as Essay' available now

All winning entries to Asiascape's 2014 manga competition 'Interpreting Kurama Tengu' can now be enjoyed in our 3rd Manga in/as Essay publication.
The publication is available on the Asiascape Issuu page:

Manga in_as Essay vol.3_Kurama Tengu_Issuu 1

25 September - opening 'Artist in Residence' manga exhibition East Asian Library

In the summer of 2014, Asiascape and PAI Artist-in-Residence Dr. Lien Fan Shen taught a series of masterclasses exploring Taiwanese female masculinity through gender & queer theory and manga creation.
The artistic results of these masterclasses of the Political Artist Residency 2014 are on display in the East Asian Library of Leiden University from 1 September until the end of 2014.


Please join us for a festive opening and reception at the East Asian Library on Thursday 25 September from 17:00 - 19:00, with a short introduction to the exhibition at 17:30.

Location: Leiden University East Asian Library, Arsenaalstraat 1, Leiden

For catering purposes, please register your attendance here:

'Kurama Tengu' manga competition winners announced

Asiascape is happy to announce the winners of its 3rd manga competition 'Interpreting Kurama Tengu'.
Each of the winners offered a unique and compelling graphic interpretation of the classic Japanese Noh play Kurama Tengu.

The first prize (Euro 500) goes to Elena Vitagliano from Italy for her impressive 'Tariki: Divine Intervention'.
A joint second prize (Euro 200 each) is awarded to Brittany Partin and Carl Li, both from the USA.
Deanna Taylor Nardy from the USA wins third prize (Euro 100).

All winning manga and bio's of the artists will be available in our online publication 'Manga in/as Essay' soon.

Excerpt from Elena Vitagliano's winning entry

We thank all those who participated for their hard work and creativity, resulting in wonderful manga!

Screening 'Otaku no Video' in The Hague

On Wednesday 4 June, The Nutshuis in The Hague will screen 'Otaku no Video', a 1991 comedy anime spoofing the life and culture of otaku (individuals with obsessive interests in media, particularly anime and manga) as well as the history of Gainax, its creators. The anime is noted for its mix of conventional documentary film styles, with a more traditional anime storytelling fashion.

The screening will be followed by a discussion led by manga artist and scholar Lien Fan Shen.

(please scroll down for a more detailed description of the event)

Tickets, time & location


Plot summary
Ken Kubo is a Japanese male, living quite happily with his girlfriend Yoshiko and being a member of his college's tennis team, until he meets one of his former friends from high school, Tanaka. After Tanaka brings him into his circle of friends (all of them being otaku, too: a female illustrator, an information geek, a martial artist, a weapons collector...), Kubo soon makes the wish to become the Otaking, the King of all the otaku.

He manages to create his own model kits, open shops, and even build a factory in China. Later, he loses it all when one of his rivals (who's also married to Yoshiko, who never forgave Kubo for abandoning her) takes control of his enterprise, but after Kubo and Tanaka make peace, teaming up with hard-working artist Misuzu, Kubo successfully take over the anime industry with a magical girl show, "Misty May". Ken and Tanaka create Otakuland, the equivalent of Disneyland for otaku. The story suggests Otakuland to be located in the same city of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, as the original Tokyo Disneyland[2]. Ken and Tanaka return to Otakuland in a post-apocalyptic submerged Japan and find a robot piloted by their old otaku friends. Then they fly off to space in search of the planet of Otaku.

After the screening, Lien Fan Shen, a graphic novelist and Assistant Professor in the Division of Film Studies at the University of Utah, will discuss this docu-anime and fan culture.

Lien Fan Shen earned a Ph. D. in Art Education at The Ohio State University and an MFA in Computer Art from the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Her creative work includes graphic novels, animation, and digital arts, and her research interest focuses on Japanese animation and Critical theory. Shen published five graphic novels, and her graphic novels were selected in the Golden Caldron Awards by the Government Information Office and awarded The Best Romantic Comic in Taiwan. Her animation and digital arts have been screened and exhibited in Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and United States. Shen recently collaborated with choreographer and computer scientist to create real-time interactive digital art that combines dance performance and animated images. Their collaboration has received Center for Interdisciplinary arts and technology Research Fellowship Award.
Lien Fan Shen is currently Artist-in-Residence at Leiden University.

Date Wednesday 4 June
Time 20.00 hrs
Tickets Euro 5 (available online or at the door)
Location Nutshuis, Riviervismarkt 5, Den Haag

Manga in/as Essay:First Contact online

The results of Asiascape's 2012 Manga Competition 'First Contact' are now finally brought together in the Manga in/as Essay Magazine.
This issue can be viewed and downloaded via our webpage or Issuu

manga2_firstcontact 1_thumb

Thoughts on the 3rd Mechademia Conference in Seoul

At the end of November last year, my colleagues and I attended the the 3rd Mechademia Conference in Seoul, South Korea. Focusing on Japanese popular culture, especially anime and manga, but also the long-standing relationship that Japan's animation industry has with Korea, the conference brought to my attention many specific areas with which I was unfamiliar. It also happened to be my very first time visiting Korea, so it was a new experience in that regard as well.

The conference had a number of rare opportunities. One was a showing of the first Korean animated film, The Story of Hong Gil-dong, recently restored, and another was talks with people working within the industries. Probably the biggest name was Ohtsuka Eiji, but it also featured interviews with animators Ahn Jae-ho and Watanabe Hideo. Watanabe was especially intriguing because of his long history in the animation industry, particularly with shows meant to sell toys, and I was able to ask him how this affected the ways in which they produced animation. Watanabe went on to explain about his time working on the anime Toushi Gordian, and how an unfortunate situation where the series director had fallen ill left him as de-facto director, and the resulting product amidst the chaos was predictably subpar. However, Watanabe mentioned, the toys sold well enough that they could keep going, and in the end the show finished at over 70 episodes.

For those who don't know about Gordian, think of it as an anime from the "giant robot" genre, where the hero gets into increasingly larger robots stacked on top, much like a matryoshka doll.

Watanabe and Ahn both talked about the Korean involvement in Japanese animation, and probably anyone who's bothered to look at the ending credits of an anime is aware of the fact that Japan has been outsourcing its animation work to Korea for many years. At the conference, one of the topics that a number of presentations either spoke about, whether as its main focus or as a brief point, is the reputation of Korean animation in the world.

The "dilemma" that faces Korean animation is that, despite its notoriety within the overall industry, with work not just in anime but also popular cartoons such as The Simpsons, "Korean animation" as a concept lacks the clout of other cultures' animated works. One presenter argued that animation made in Korea is too culturally odorless, while another attributed the problem to an unfair characterization of the Korean animation industry as one which lacks the talent to generate interesting ideas, a headless body of sorts. Overall, addressing this topic seems borne from the idea that Korea's animators deserve recognition, and I can respect that motivation.

My colleagues and I from Leiden also had presentations of our own. Mari Nakamura presented on the anime Appleseed and its ideas about the post-human, Martin Roth presented on the video game Shadow of Memories and how it played with notions of "time," and I presented on the manga Zettai Karen Children and how it expressed a political science fiction world through a focus on character. The Q&A made for a lively discussion, and I took a lot away from it.

On the comics side of things, one of the panels I attended focused on a topic close to mine, which is the ways in which manga are used in a political sense. In particular, I enjoyed seeing Takeuchi Miho and Olga Antononoka from Kyoto Seika University present on how the conventions of manga could be used to subtly convey strong political ideas, either by having the artwork itself belie a seemingly more banal aesthetic, or using existing tropes as metaphors for heavier arguments.

Attending the conference, I became aware of a recurring mistake made in academic discussions about the concept of kyara moe, or the visual features of a character which generate strong emotion in those who look at it, to put it somewhat succinctly. I want to actually elaborate on this in a future post, so I'll save my thoughts for now.

The last thing conference-related I'd like to mention is Yun Seongcheol's paper on an old Korean comic titled Rayphie (rhymes with "sci-fi"), which I found quite interesting. Unlike modern "manhwa" which can be roughly described as manga-esque, the older Rayphie (unfortunately I can't remember the exact dates, but it was somewhere between 1950 and 1970, I believe) is more of a hybridization between American superhero comics aesthetic and elements of Korean traditional art. According to Yun, the series enjoyed its own fair share of success, but a period of censorship killed it prematurely. While I don't think that current manhwa is simply trying to mimic the popularity of manga, I do wonder what the Korean comics landscape would have been like if comics like Rayphie had been allowed to persist.

As for the rest of my brief stay in Korea, my experience can probably be summed up as "food and comics." Whenever I travel I look forward to eating a variety of things, and this was certainly no exception, especially given the strong reputation Korean food has, and of that experience my favorite part must have been going to a night market and trying a variety of things. While I generally enjoy tteokbokki, chewy rice cakes in a spicy sauce, I was especially impressed by the liver I had there. Tasting more like actual meat than internal organ, it was probably the best liver I've ever had. I also took the opportunity to compare bulgogi burgers from McDonald's, Burger King, and Lotteria. My verdict is that Lotteria has the best-tasting meat, while McDonald's has the best sauce.

As for comics, I was sadly unable to visit the Manhwa museum in Seoul, but was able to make my way to a nice comic store in Hongdae called Booksaetong. There, I found it interesting that, unlike the US or countries in Europe, that the manhwa and the manga were all mixed together instead of given their own separate spaces.

So overall, visiting Korea and attending the Mechademia Conference was a learning experience, in more ways than one.

Asiascape announces new Manga Competition 'First Contact'

Following on the success of Asiascape’s first manga competition, which led to the creation of the ‘Manga in/as Essay-’magazine, is proud to announce its second competition in collaboration with the Political Arts Initiative.

As before, we seek contributions from manga artists, cartoonists, students, and scholars for an anthology and also for an exhibition (in real and virtual space). Contributions should take the form of a graphic essay; they should interrogate the theme of ‘First Contact,’ be this between humans and aliens, self and other, man and god, lovers, material and spirit. Contributors may interpret this task as creatively, expansively, or parsimoniously as they like: style, genre, and length may all be freely chosen.


Preference will be given to contributions that seek to explore the impact of First Contact on the politics of knowledge. But any treatment of First Contact will be considered.

Text may be used if desired (in any language, as appropriate – but please provide English translations), but text is not required. The purpose is to explore the expressive potential of manga. Entries can be accompanied by a textual narration/interpretation, but need not be. Winning contributors will be asked to provide such a transcript ahead of publication.

Euro 1000 in prizes will be awarded for the best entries.

Deadline: 31 March 2013

More information is on the Asiascape website