Memory Politics and Popular Culture – The Example of the United Red Army in the Manga Red (2006–2018)

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Author: Fabien Carpentras, Yokohama National University, Japan
Email: carpentras-fabien-vf@ynu.ac.jp
Published: August 01, 2019
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.6.1.05

Citation: Carpentras, F. (2019). Memory Politics and Popular Culture – The Example of the United Red Army in the Manga Red (2006–2018). IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.6.1.05


Abstract

Serialized in a period of booming popular interest for the United Red Army (URA), Red (2006–2018) by manga artist Yamamoto Naoki (1960–) is to this day the most thoroughly detailed and researched work of fiction drawing on the famous Japanese terrorist group. In the present article, we would like to address how Yamamoto is fully engaged in a memory struggle regarding the “truth” of the historical event – he has been active in the “Association to transmit the overall picture of the United Red Army incident,” a group involved in the gathering and publishing of testimonies surrounding the incident, bringing to the fore until then unknown and neglected details of the URA. And yet, serialized in the seinen manga magazine Evening, Red constitutes at the same time a genuine piece of popular culture, fostering narrative and visual devices aimed at a large audience (for instance, all the characters appear with false and dramatized names – Nagata Hiroko becoming Akagi or “Red Castle” Hiroko – and the ideological motivations are all downplayed in favor of more sanitized and universal ones). By so doing, Yamamoto succeeds in reshaping the popular memory of the URA, but we argue that this reworking is made at the expense of the political and social background of the organization, with the result of hindering our social and historical understanding of this foundational event of contemporary Japan politics.

Keywords

memory, politics, manga, United Red Army, 1968