History Out of History : An Exploration of Japanese Media and Ahistorical Representation of Historical Figures
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This paper exists in a liminal space between traditional historiography, media studies, and discourse on history and how it is told, and it seeks to remedy that gap in scholarship by examining the usage of historical personages in ahistorical contexts within Japanese media and to demonstrate how decontextualizing historical figures from history gives us the ability to reconsider them in ways that purely historically minded retellings are unable to. This allows for the potential to redefine these figures in ways that can close historical distance between those interacting with the media, reframe how certain figures are viewed, and even challenge the image of the figure as it exists in the collective memory. Before the examination of any media, several things must be defined for the purposes of analysis. Firstly, what a historical personage or figure is for the purposes of this paper must be addressed. A historical personage/figure will henceforth be taken to mean not a physical, once living person, but rather everything that person has come to be known for and associated with in addition to the person’s lived experience. In essence, a historical figure is not a person, but rather the idea of the person held within collective consciousness. Secondly, what is meant by the word ‘historical’ must be explained. While such a thing may seem unnecessary, there are numerous figures that straddle the line between history and myth, as well as those who firmly exist within both. For this paper’s purposes, a historical figure will be defined as any person for whom some amount of contemporary account that verifies their existence is available. For example, much of what we consider constitutive of the figure known as the Buddha are derived from sources that are not wholly historical in nature, but there is enough evidence to verify the existence of a person named Siddhartha Gautama. The author analyzes characters in a variety of Japanese literature and popular culture, including the Fate series, Nobunaga the Fool, Sengoku Night Blood, Kamikaze Kaitou Jannu, Pokemon Conquest, Drifters, Barbarossa, and Persona.
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