Since the past few decades, the European Middle Ages have started to become a recurrent motif in Japan. Either depicted in historical works, appearing in a roundabout way, or even implied through archetypal backgrounds and characters in Medieval Fantasy, it has become a source of inspiration for Japanese authors and screenwriters, even taking a firm root in the video game industry — Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series acting as relevant touchstones. Regarding the field of Literature at large, countless manga are based upon its settings (Berserk, Akagami no Shirayukihime), as well as several light novels (Slayers, The Record of Lodoss War) and “pure” literary works—among them, the Akutagawa Prize’s winner in 1998, L'Éclipse by Hirano Keiichirō. Besides offering the elation of exotic stories and re-enchanting our world, this foreign exploration of The Middle Ages creates a new approach of its realities and myths, sometimes reorganizing them to the point of syncretism with Japanese values. Thus, from folktales to civilizations features, those transcultural medieval elements affect the perception of Europe in contemporary Japan. In this article, in order to highlight the interaction between this part of the European culture and Japanese literature, I study three examples of literary works representing The European Middle Ages: the historical manga Vinland Saga (Yukimura Makoto), set during the Vikings Era and using the literary features of the Icelandic sagas; the light novel Spice & Wolf (Hasekura Isuna), a unique tale depicting the medieval merchant world; and the novel L'Éclipse (Hirano Keiichirō), portraying a young Dominican in the fifteenth century thrown into the world of alchemy and metaphysics. I argue that they are not only transcultural works, but that they also offer new perspectives on understanding how European realities and myths are being adapted in Japan.
Mutual Images Journal by Mutual Images Research Association is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
All images must have signed permission by the copyright owner on file with us in order to be included. This includes images to which you hold the copyright. Images that contain identifiable persons must have a statement of release signed by the person whose image will appear in your article. Authors are responsible for providing such authorisations if requested.