At FRI, we are doing research on “the entertainment trends of 2011 – 2015,” the contents of which are based on interviews we are conducting with experts. As the first part, we visited Mr. Iida Ichishi, an editor of books such as Literary Commentaries After the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since 2011 (i.e., the year of the earthquake), what are the phenomena and entertainment trends that we ought to be paying attention to, and, in the end, what works of art symbolized the era? We will report on this over the course of the two parts of this compilation.
* This interview was held in February 2017.
■ What sort of time period was 2011 – 2015?
I have the impression that, from 2011 to 2015, entertainment trends changed significantly. I think that the Great East Japan Earthquake was significant as a societal event, but how does one capture these five years?
Looking back on the post-earthquake turmoil, what I think is that we had entered a “post-truth” state of affairs ahead of Europe and the United States. Occurring in 2016 were the formation of the Trump administration, the rampancy of fake news in the context of Brexit, the rise in people’s feelings of anxiety over immigrants, refugees, and terrorism, and the emergence of nationalism. Because of a public face that said “just do something about the discomfort I am dealing with now,” liberals went into a decline, and, in places where people got hurt and became distrustful of each other, conspiracy theories and false rumors entered, so the emotionalization of politics progressed. Japan seemed to have been in a similar state a few years prior because of the earthquake disaster and, in particular, the nuclear power plant accidents.
How about entertainment in general?
There were good pieces of work, and, personally, among what I saw live in 2011, there were things that will be unforgettable for the rest of my life; however, I do not think there have been many national hits that were so big that future generations will look back and remember them / be made to memorize them, or any work of art that could be said to be worthy of praise to a historical extent. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, both creators and consumers probably had their hands full with the confusion and shock. The psychological damage was great; I could not even watch Amachan honestly. Now that I remember it, it hurts… Although this is a retrospective on 2011 – 2015, entering 2016, a masterpiece symbolizing the aftermath of the earthquake emerged, and people had the room to accept it, right?
■ What people asked for was a “familiar,” “reachable,” “strong leader.”
What sort of influence does this seemingly post-truth confusion have on the actions of the general public?
First of all, because we are in a situation where anxiety is rising, people are looking for something to rely on. Then, rather than rational and intelligent people, they end up believing in people who have the appearance of being strong or of offering a sense of stability, or people who seem reachable or familiar.
For example, Gen Hoshino, back number (a three-piece rock band), YouTubers, etc., are supported by young people, but might that be because they make them feel familiarity and closeness? As for the lyrics of Bakunan (i.e., back number), it seems like there is a worldview that is the modern version of yojouhan folk (i.e., 1970s Japanese folk music, literally “four-and-a-half tatami folk”). It definitely is not an atmosphere of “I’m in a band to be popular, I’m in a band to be cool.” There is no feeling of overreaching or trying to look good.
In concrete terms, what kind of person might a strong leader be?
They would be a psychopath, right? A little while ago, I had the privilege of helping out with the composition of the book Psychopath (a book by Nobuko Nakano, from Bunshun Shinsho), and, according to Ms. Nakano, “Trump is a psychopath.” Of course, it is not as though someone has made the diagnosis, but, as for Ms. Nakano, I think that, rather than asking for public input on whether or not Trump is a psychopath, she is probably saying it for the purpose of calling for attention to the matter.
Because it is known that psychopaths are not just the culprits of bizarre homicides; they are also common among CEOs in business and politicians. The feature of a psychopath is that, either the part of the brain that controls emotions like fear and anxiety, the amgydala, or the part of the brain that controls one’s ability to learn, the prefrontal cortex, is weak or weakly connected. To put it simply, it is difficult for them to feel fear or anxiety, and there are deficits in learning ability, which is based on feelings of self-reflection when one is hit or when one fails. However, those who are able to suppress those impulses and, through their reasoning abilities, are able to learn that “If I do this, I gain / lose” can become active in society as politicians, lawyers, doctors, and entrepreneurs. They do not balk at taking risks if they cannot feel pain or anxiety, and people who do not feel nervous in front of others are more likely to rise than to be weak, right?
Source：Psychopath (a book by Nobuko Nakano, from Bunshun Shinsho)
How does this relate to the story so far?
If earthquakes, terrorism, or war occur, ordinary people will get shocked and become anxious. However, psychopaths do not become anxious. In a book by Kevin Dutton, a researcher of psychopaths, one of the episodes presented is one in which Neil Armstrong, the first person to successfully land on the moon, carried out his duty unflinchingly, even at the moment when the landing could have gone well or not-so-well and one mistake could have crashed and killed his crew in a crater on the moon’s surface. Of course, it is not concluded that he is a psychopath, but one can rely on people who, like psychopaths, are not perturbed by crises or emergencies, right?
I read this book as well. Indeed, it was in a situation where a psychopath’s decisiveness and ability to take action was needed.
At times when group anxiety is rising because it seems as though the whole ship may sink when there is no leader with an ability to get things done, someone who can, no matter what, be relied upon to always respond with fortitude and keep standing no matter how many times they are are hit, must be someone who lacks the emotions of anxiety and fear, like a psychopath.
The problem of psychopaths is that they do not feel guilty. In other words, because of their deficits in self-reflection and learning ability, they lie remorselessly, and if you point that out and criticize them, they are completely unperturbed by that.
And, to this point, aren’t there faces of politicians other than Trump, in Japan and overseas, that come to mind? I think that Ms. Nakano seems to be saying that she thinks it would be better to acknowledge that such people exist when she calls out to society to draw attention to her argument that “Trump is a psychopath.”
In the rising anxieties and dissatisfactions over earthquakes, terrorism, and refugees, this means that, in each country, it is inevitable that the most mentally strong psychopath will reign as a “strong leader.”
How about the influence on net communication?
Until the 2000s, although we say “topics on the net,” most other media did not lead to actual sales. For example, there were as many books as “topics on the net,” but many never sold at all.
However, with the spread of smartphones, the cost of production has gone down, the mass media, which has been losing its ability to find its own original material, is proactively searching for information showing up on the Internet, and, since mass media and social media have become interdependent, the course of events has changed completely. If a topic catches fire on the Internet, things like television, etc., come chasing after it, and the topic becomes big.
The success of the movie In This Corner of the World (a movie made with crowdfunding and continuing long runs on the net by word of mouth) and the success of Kinpuri (the anime KING OF PRISM) are trends that follow this typical sort of pattern. Fans have long propagated things thinking, “This becomes a hit because of our influence,” but the upside of raising one’s voice has greatly increased compared to the past.
The important thing is that there are many works that rise on social networking services and become viral, and coming with that is a distrust of movie companies and producers. The creators are the ones who make worthwhile art but have been suffering, so people give them money and a proper evaluation.
This is structurally the same as the distrust of existing media that occurred after the disaster. This legacy of feeling that conventional things, public faces, whitewashing, and shallow things are the symbols of lies and targets of distrust that must be spoken out against is not entirely different from my experiences after the earthquake, I believe.
In the second part, we will ask about works that symbolized 2011 – 2015.
≫Continuing onto the second part
Born in Aomori Prefecture in 1982. Graduated from Chuuou Law School, Globis University Graduate School of Management (MBA). A writer / editor who covers literature such as light novels, science fiction, mystery and science fiction, and writes / writes mainly on the subcultures of things such as comics, animation, vocaloids, etc. Among the books he has written are Post-Humanities: Sci-Fi After Project Itoh and various others.
Research and Development Office
(Fields Research Institute),
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.