The Invisible Borders of the Image

Table of Contents

In our experience of viewing an image, there are two aspects that affect one another: the media that projects the image and our senses that perceive it. The 2011 Great East Japan earthquake caused a tsunami which completely altered the landscape of the Tohoku coastline and shook our perception of reality.
At the same time, the earthquake was a disaster that was recorded through a multitude of means, thanks to the ubiquity of cameras that have become increasingly compact and sophisticated. We can notice these changes in both media and our senses through two visual works that attempted to restage the Tohoku earthquake, Shin Godzilla (2016, dir. Hideaki Anno) and Your Name (2016, dir. Makoto Shinkai). The transcendental image of a computer-simulated Godzilla shares the screen with an empirical image of the greater Tokyo landscape in Shin Godzilla, while Your Name utilizes landscape photographs taken by a camera that are then reworked into an animation that is in accord with the two-dimensional characters.
Yamashita calls the former an “interfacial image,” which reveals the boundaries between images that possess different rules, and the latter a “semi-transparent image,” which possesses an intermediate character that does not conform to the rules of either image. We can find such images in the Meiji era, when Japan modernized and both the media environment and sense perceptions changed. Both are visible in the paintings of the late Edo period when geometrical perspective was introduced, as well as the early Meiji period when photography and optical lanterns were introduced. The difference between the Meiji era and today lies in the fact that our image of landscapes is being re-transcendentalized, and this is deeply related to the changes in landscapes brought about by the earthquake.