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East Asian Studies
The devastation of Japan at the end of the Pacific war— through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the firebombing of Tokyo and other major cities, and the immense loss of life both on the warfront and at home— defines what can be considered an apocalyptic era. During the decades immediately after the end of the war, in such films as Black Rain and Gojira, many Japanese authors and filmmakers sought to comprehend this apocalypse and its impact on Japanese society and culture. Later works, such as Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies and Kurosawa’s Rhapsody in August, explore themes of guilt and the victimization of innocence in the context of a prosperous society that included many people who had not experienced the war. Other works, such as Otomo’s Akira and Anno’s Evangelion, transpose this apocalyptic discourse into a futuristic context. Even though the war ended 70 years ago, it can be argued that Japan is still in a post-apocalyptic era in which the legacy of the war and its immediate aftermath continue to exert a significant influence on the Japanese cultural imagination.
Ellis, Melvin L., "Apocalyptic Japan" (2015). East Asian Studies Summer Fellows. Paper 2.