Alternative narratives of Japan in contemporary media: Kobayashi Yoshinori’s Sensōron

Tomoko Oda


In the best-selling comic book Sensōron (1998), Kobayashi Yoshinori (b. 1953) develops his own “discourse on war” through the medium of manga, using a provocative discourse that has since been widely criticised for its potential to incite attitudes of exclusionary nationalism. Kobayashi’s discourse on the Nanjing Massacre in Sensōron criticises the illiberal tendency of Japanese media, newspaper-publishing companies in particular, to select information they prefer and distort the past by using suspicious photos and captions. It is thus of value to reconsider this war-related debate from the perspective of Ien Ang’s concept of “emotional realism,” which refers to the tendency of viewers to be moved emotionally and empathise with the human events presented by TV dramas, regardless of whether or not they are accurately grounded in historical facts. Through close readings of Sensōron and related critiques of the volume, I will examine how Kobayashi Yoshinori challenges the dominant World War II narratives in Japan, which tend to overlook the actual wartime period and instead focus on the prewar and postwar periods. Then I will argue that, although Sensōron might lack meticulous research when compared to general academic scholarship, it functions to a certain extent as an alternative voice that critically points out contemporary Japan’s neglect to reflect on World War II and apply the lessons of the past to the present.


Kobayashi Yoshinori; Sensōron; Manga; Emotional Realism; World War II; Postwar Democracy; Japanese Media

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Mutual Images Journal by Mutual Images Research Association is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.