Japanese Artists’ Responses to COVID-19: A Mass Revival of the yōkai Amabie

Asian Studies

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Title Japanese Artists’ Responses to COVID-19: A Mass Revival of the yōkai Amabie
Odziv japonskih umetnikov na COVID-19: Masovna oživitev yōkaija Amabie
 
Creator Hrvatin, Klara
 
Subject yōkai
Amabie
COVID-19
art
folklore
popularization
yōkai
Amabie
covid-19
umetnost
folklora
popularizacija
 
Description Artists are responding very differently to the COVID-19 around the world. In Japan, this has been manifested in artistic production of the mythical creature called Amabie, one of the yōkai. Most often, it appears as a mermaid, with both animal and human features recognizable by its three limbs, long hair, beak-like mouth and body covered by scales. This is a mythical character which, according to legend, allegedly predicted the plague and advised people to share drawings of its image with each other, thus protecting them from diseases. The character was documented for the first time in 1846 in one of the early kawaraban newspapers.
This paper presents a new wave of Amabie that overran social media when COVID-19 seriously affected Japan. The author focuses on the world of art, where the character distinctly stepped to the fore, and examines the characteristics of Amabie’s interpretation by selected artists. One of the first to attract special attention in this respect is the artist Shigeru Mizuki (1922–2015), a master of the yōkai genre, whose comic book featuring Amabie was revived in the midst of the pandemic. He was followed by other illustrators, designers and artists or groups of artists. Utilization of the character of Amabie as a talisman, however, is specific not only of the artists’ domain. The mass popularization of the character, including drawings, puppets, paper sculptures, costumes, sweets, tattoos and the like can be followed through all kinds of social media. The paper attempts to lay stress on the phenomenon of the struggle of Japanese society with COVID-19 through the prism of popularizing Amabie folklore, which has become in the last few months an internet meme and mascot of pop culture that has spread around the entire world.
Umetniki so se po svetu na COVID-19 različno odzvali. Na Japonskem je do izraza prišla umetniška produkcija lika, enega od yōkaijev ali bajeslovnega bitja po imenu Amabie. Navadno se pojavlja kot morska deklica tako z živalskimi kot človeškimi potezami, prepoznavna je po treh okončinah, dolgih laseh, kljunčkastih ustih in luskastem telesu. Gre za lik morske deklice, ki naj bi po legendi napovedal pojav kuge in ljudem naročil, naj delijo risbe z njegovo podobo, ki jih bo obranila bolezni. Lik je bil prvič dokumentiran v enem izmed zgodnjih časopisov kawaraban iz leta 1846.
Prispevek bo predstavil fenomen novega vala pojavljanja lika Amabie, ki je preplavil družbene medije, ko je COVID-19 resneje prizadel Japonsko. Avtorica se bo osredotočila na svet umetnosti, kjer je lik prišel najbolj do izraza, in preučila značilne interpretacije lika pri izbranih umetnikih. Eden prvih, ki je prišel do izraza, je umetnik Shigeru Mizuki (1922–2015), mojster žanra yōkai, čigar lik Amabie v obliki stripa je oživel sredi pandemije. Sledila so dela drugih ilustratorjev, oblikovalcev in umetnikov ali skupin umetnikov. Uporaba lika Amabie kot talismana pa ni značilna samo za umetnike. Na družbenih medijih lahko spremljamo njegovo množično popularizacijo v različnih upodobitvah, vključno z risbami, lutkami, papirnatimi skulpturami, kostumi, slaščicami, tetovažami in podobno. Članek želi izpostaviti fenomen soočanja japonske družbe s COVID-19 skozi prizmo popularizacije folklore Amabie, ki je v zadnjih mesecih postala spletna meme in maskota pop kulture.
 
Publisher Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakulte / Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts
 
Date 2022-01-19
 
Type info:eu-repo/semantics/article
info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersion
 
Format application/pdf
 
Identifier https://revije.ff.uni-lj.si/as/article/view/10096
10.4312/as.2022.10.1.183-209
 
Source Asian Studies; Vol. 10 No. 1 (2022): Special Issue: Crisis as Danger and Hope—Covid-19 in Asia; 183-209
Azijske študije; Letn. 10 Št. 1 (2022): Special Issue: Crisis as Danger and Hope—Covid-19 in Asia; 183-209
2350-4226
2232-5131
10.4312/as.2022.10.1
 
Language eng
 
Relation https://revije.ff.uni-lj.si/as/article/view/10096/10039
 
Rights Copyright (c) 2022 Klara HRVATIN
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0
 

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