All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Cathleen Cummings

Advisory Committee Members

Heather McPherson

Catherine Pagani

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


In Japanese high art, popular art (such as comic books and animation), theater, and music, representation of gender is a blurred line that is commonly crossed, more so than in the West. I argue that this fluidity is the result of disparate artistic sources that have filtered through Japanese culture since the Edo Period (1603-1867) with the flourishing of Kabuki Theater (in which men played women on stage) and the emergence of ukiyo-e (particularly shunga/erotica prints). This artistic lineage impacted arts of the Showa Period (1926-1989) notably Takarazuka Theater (which feature an exclusively female cast that portrays men) and the rise of comic book culture (manga) following World War II. Heavily influenced by the shunga prints of the past, ecchi manga and anime (erotic comics and animation) emerged in the 1980s. Inevitably, contemporary manga culture and its spin offs (such as cosplay, the act of dressing or cross dressing as popular fictional characters) have contributed significantly to contemporary Japanese art. The work of Superflat artists (Takashi Murakami, Henmaru Machino, Yoshitomo Nara, Mr., etc.) that emerged in the 1990s, profoundly influenced by the style and content of manga and anime, can be read as commentaries on the over-sexualization of anime and the increasing Westernization of Japan. Their portrayals of gender identity are influenced by what is seen in typical manga and anime and are often the antithesis of the iv reality of Japan. Their figures are exaggerated with large breasts and multi-colored hair which contrasts with the very homogeneous culture of Japan. This thesis analyzes gender ambiguity and the pervasiveness of cross-gendered performance in contemporary Japan, focusing on Takarazuka theater, anime, manga culture and the Superflat movement as case studies illustrating the cross fertilization of high art and popular art and the complex engagement with and transformation of Western culture in postwar Japanese art culture. Superflat art, which comments on the vacuousness of Japanese society and its continuing obsession with youth, sexuality, and sexual identity parallels the Japanese search for identity, as a whole, following World War II and America’s occupation.



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