This article discusses the notion of soft power and how Japan’s government has recently made use of imaginary characters from “manga” and “anime” to promote the country’s appeal. I focus on the official video clip for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, first released in 2016. This montage features not only Japan’s Prime Minister as well as Japanese athletes and show-business celebrities, but also fictional characters. On the one hand, this cast assists in creating a display of “official Japaneseness” as a presentation strategy for the 2020 Olympics host country, deploying Shinzō Abe as a testimonial. On the other hand, while fiction and reality are playfully displayed as a blurred continuum both through and on the figure of Abe, an association can be found between the transnational circulation of those franchises and related commodities, the presence of fictional characters meant to advertise the Olympics and its host country, and the current exploitation of Japanese animation. In fact, today Japanese animation is at a threshold between the status of an independent entrepreneurial domain and that of an industrial sector increasingly used by the Japanese government in the deployment of soft power-related initiatives.


anime/manga/video games, genius loci, Grand Fictions, Japan, soft power, Tokyo Olympics

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

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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
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University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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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
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
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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
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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)