Influence of Nuclear Destruction on the Evolution of Japan
“The strangest thing was the silence. It was one of the most unforgettable impressions I have. You’d think that people would be panic-stricken, running, yelling. Not at Hiroshima. They moved in slow motion, like figures in a silent movie, shuffling through the dust and smoke. I heard thousands of people breathing the words, ‘water, give me water.’ Many simply dropped to the ground and died.”
In a flash, 120,000 corporeal humans are destroyed. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remind us of the terrible power humans can unleash, and the horrors of nuclear destruction. So if we as Americans are distressed about this event, imagine what the Japanese think. The bombings are still very present in the minds of Japanese, and one does not have to look very far to see evidence of this. Everyday Japanese remind themselves of the past through popular culture. Japanese animation (usually referred to as anime), manga comics and feature films all heavily rely on nuclear war or apocalyptic weaponry as either the main story or a huge plot device. Such a cataclysmic, culturally altering event is difficult to forget. The memory of the nuclear destruction at the end of WWII is ingrained in Japan’s collective unconscious, as reflected in everyday pieces of Japanese popular culture, especially anime films and manga.
Japanese are “still suffering from the sociological and physiological after-effects” of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Kawasaki 20). The direct victims and survivors of the bombings, called hibakusha, are not the only casualties of this event. Beyond these people, their friends and relatives all share a collective sorrow that accumulates into a great national sigh. Not a single person, young or old, male or female, is unaffected by the events of 1945. This cultural phenomenon will naturally manifest itself through media as witnessed through countless anime movies such as Akira, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Grave of the Fireflies, all of which deal directly with surviving after a nuclear blast. Also, it is important to note that the famous movie series Godzilla (still produced to this day) deals with a monster that is created due to nuclear radiation who then proceeds to wreak havoc on Japan.
Akira could easily be viewed by Americans as just another popular anime, but instead it is a look at an alternate universe where post-apocalyptic Japan fails to recover from its wounds, and lies bleeding and in ruin while the rest of the world turns. The movie shows the lives of several teenage punks as they are tossed into a world of genetic experimentation, military abuse, and the misuse of weapons of mass destruction. It is important to note the popularity of this film and the sheer number of similar movies, all dealing with nuclear destruction or other terrible weapons of apocalypse. The movie portrays one very...