Japanese political cartooning is widely considered to be weak: lacking in number and scope, and importantly, lacking in the aggression necessary to produce biting satire. A major reason for this low assessment is that the most publicly visible forum for political cartoons, the national daily newspapers, have, particularly since the 1980s, reduced the number and prominence of the cartoons they carry, and settled into using primarily mild, non-offensive cartoons. Yet there are political cartoons to be found elsewhere in Japan, in smaller circulation magazines and on the Internet. The aim of this paper is to examine these less viewed political cartoons as an alternative source of critical cartoon commentary. To do this a comparison is made of how these “alternative cartoons” and political cartoons in the major dailies responded to a single news event of national significance—Japan’s triple disaster of March 11, 2011 and problems arising in its wake—over a four-month period. The paper begins with a brief sketch of the state of Japanese newspaper political cartooning, and then a discussion of the function of political cartoons in general. This background serves to contextualize and theoretically ground the comparison between newspaper and alternative cartoons that follows. The paper finds that political cartoons outside of newspapers are much more aggressive in their satirical comments, employ a more diverse range of styles, and offer criticism on a broader range of problems. The paper concludes that for these reasons, they are potentially more effective than newspaper cartoons at contributing to public debate, framing, and drawing attention to important issues.


3.11, alternative media, disaster, earthquake, Internet, Japan, magazines, mainstream media, newspaper, nuclear accident, political cartoons, satire, tsunami

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)