Problems with Heisei Criticism 2001-2016

Table of Contents

The final installment of the “Contemporary Japanese Criticism” series, which began with the inaugural volume of Genron, discusses criticism from 2001 to 2016. Critics Makoto Ichikawa, Satoshi Osawa, Atsushi Sasaki, Sayawaka, and Hiroki Azuma debate the important topics of this 16-year period in a chronological order and across various publications and the Internet.

The first half of the 2000s was a time when, in tandem with the development of the Internet, criticism sought its independence from existing media forms such as newspapers, journals, and television. For example, Azuma published an e-mail magazine that would later become the journal Genron. However, these attempts failed in the second half of the 2000s. As a result, criticism grew more conservative and its dependence on existing forms of media continued to deepen.

Sasaki points out that in Japan in the 2000s, criticism moved away from speaking about universal theory and turned towards activism discussing individual issues. What has this important shift produced? Ichikawa notes that as critical debates were declined in number, criticism turned into merely book reviews. In addition, Osawa argues that the faint awareness of history that remained up until the first half of the 2000s was now erased, and old forms of romantic and existentialist criticism returned.

Moreover, following the Great East Japan earthquake in 2011, new criticisms that might act as an axis of resistance to these old forms of criticism have failed to emerge. Critical journals have abandoned the task of cultivating a new readership. Sayawaka, referring to the timeline, discusses how Internet media has also ceased to be a medium for criticism. The conservatism of criticism has continued to progress, and as can be seen in the works of young critics like Noritoshi Furuichi, critics who depend on existing media have conquered the industry.At the end of this discussion, the discussants consider the necessity of creating “audiences” in order for criticism to overcome these crises. According to Azuma, audiences include both readers of criticism and guarantors of the continuity and consistency of criticism. Criticism after 2016 can only be rebooted by returning to the awareness that it is not writers but readers who support criticism.