Post 3-11 Japanese Political Cartooning with a Satirical Bite: Non-Newspaper Cartoons and Their Potential
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.