Part 1 of the Japanese Cinema Book focuses on the theories and approaches of Japanese film studies in both Japan and Anglo-Saxon academia. Rendering an archeology of discourses against a linear, teleological historiography, all the authors have made in-depth surveys of historical and contemporary scholarships in regards to each topic (early cinema, authorship, spectatorship, criticism, narrative, and feminist film studies), except for Kosuke Kinoshita who invests more effort into the case study.
With a diversified group of contributors, the book pays careful attention to the politics of language, from the Japanese word order of name to the translation of terms. As mentioned in the book, the Japanese word eiga doesn’t really differentiate between movie, film, and cinema (which is the same case in Chinese). The originally imported film culture immediately finds its local vitality with its conceptual traces back to the long tradition of gento and stage performances. In its development, different actors in the network (see Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory, or ANT) are at once inextricably linked, such as the dynamic relationship between the author and the spectator mediated by benshi in the silent film era, the common case wherein a member of a film crew carries out multiple tasks or an outstanding performer also directs or writes scripts, as well as foreign theories constantly interacting with local thinkings and agendas.
Japan’s film industry, as with other countries, enjoys a unique development trajectory, and perception of it (along with its essential differences) in this volume provides indispensable connections to Anglo-Saxon trajectories. A wide range of historical materials and perspectives have been brought into the book precisely to encourage local readings of Japanese film industry and transboundary understandings of the context, as alternatives to the Orientalist, nationalist and gendered viewpoints that prevailed in the last century. Such a common ground contributes to the strong sense of a transnational academic community embodied in the book, where many contributors share the same references from different standpoints or cross referring to each other’s work.