Japanese pop culture has influenced Italy over the last thirty years. In the ‘70s anime started to fill the airtime of emerging private TV channels, marking the childhood of those Italians who grew up in those years and until the early ‘90s, when manga finally appeared in the Italian market. Globalization and the Internet have made other aspects of Japanese pop culture available to Italians and the rest of the world alike. It has resulted in a very active Italian fandom spanning different generations, and in a strong fascination with Japan.
This paper aims to provide insights into the way Italian fans perceive Japanese pop culture and Japan; on the kind of bonds with Japan they develop, and how they socialize. It does so by considering the biggest Italian web-community, AnimeClick.it, as a microcosm of the Italian fandom’s interactions and emotions. Privileging a qualitative method, it focuses on the people who give life to the website. Their images of Japanese pop culture reveal the recognition of a specific cultural odour perceived as pleasant, which translates into an interest in Japan. Those fans associate Japan with images of fantasy and charming mystery that nevertheless co-exist with perceptions of extreme difference, echoing the notion of Japanese uniqueness, so that Orientalist processes are re-enacted. There are intergenerational differences in the way fans have developed an emotional bond, and look at Japanese pop culture. However, these are mediated and transcended through their socialization and collaboration in the web-community, opening up new perspectives for the future evolution of Japanese pop culture’s influence in Italy.
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