Inter-Asia Cultural Studies
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The unredeemed nations: the Taiwanese film KANO and its trans-border reception Shih-che Tang & Mitsuhiro Fujimaki To cite this article: Shih-che Tang & Mitsuhiro Fujimaki (2018) The unredeemed nations: the Taiwanese film KANO and its trans-border reception, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 19:1, 21-39, DOI: 10.1080/14649373.2018.1422350 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/14649373.2018.1422350
Published online: 01 Mar 2018.
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INTER-ASIA CULTURAL STUDIES, 2018 VOL. 19, NO. 1, 21–39 https://doi.org/10.1080/14649373.2018.1422350
The unredeemed nations: the Taiwanese film KANO and its trans-border reception Shih-che TANGa and Mitsuhiro FUJIMAKIb a
Department of Communication, National Chung Cheng University, Min-Hsiung, Taiwan; bDepartment of Communication Studies, Ferris University, Yokohama, Japan ABSTRACT
Taiwanese film KANO recounts the passage of a mixed-race baseball team to Japan’s Koshien Tournament during the colonial era of the 1930s. Its release evoked in both Taiwan and Japan critical responses in view of its rosy depiction of colonial modernity. Through analysing the film’s text and reviews in both Taiwan and Japan, we identify KANO as a “post-national” cinematic event. Its inviting nostalgic invocation of Japanese colonialism at the civilian level has launched divergent discourses on colonial legacies in the contemporary re/making of national identities, reflecting on the postcolonial socio-cultural conditions facing both Taiwan and Japan. We found that KANO in Taiwan instigated a re-examination of the state’s role in crafting the foundational myth of baseball as a “national” sport. Furthermore, the film brought on schemes of othering in which two national others were distinguished to manifest Taiwan subjectivity: Japanese colonialism versus Chinese nationalism. On the other hand, KANO in Japan was stripped of its colonial connotation. Its honouring of juvenile devotion to baseball was employed as a psychic introjection of Japanese-ness, which many considered losing in the globalizing social milieu.
Baseball; Japanese colonialism; Kano; postnational cinema; Taiwanese film; the Taiwan/Japan ties
In the globalizing economy of pop-cultural production and diffusion, “the national” as an assemblage of cultural experiences has seemed vulnerable in face of transnational cultural flows. East Asia, for instance, has witnessed multiple trans-border flows of pop-cultural products such as Japanese trendy dramas, K-pop and Korean TV dramas, and Chinese TV talent shows that remediate Mandarin pop or Canto-pop from Taiwan and Hong Kong over the last two decades. Despite their national origins, the trans-border popularity they enjoy, to various extents, hinges on blurring distinguishable cultural traits or tweaking representations of local civilian lives so that they appear both posh and metropolitan. They were made culturally “odorless” (Iwabuchi 2002). The recipe of their success entails that elements of regional historical specificities be reduced to the minimum. The deterritorialization of cultural flows might have come at the cost of local idiosyncrasies, of which the signifying “national” seems at peril. It does not amount to ringing the death knell of the latter. On some occasions, conscious territorial identity can still be mobilized as a motif of creation, a subject of enunciation upon which a niche of popularity is carved out. Such trials can be seen in the case of East Asian cinema, whose neo-localism bent can be witnessed in reviving tradition and indigenous culture which, when attuned to the mainstream Hollywood genres or marketing finesse, CONTACT Shih-che Tang [email protected]
Road, Min-Hsiung, Chiayi, Taiwan
Department of Communication, National Chung Cheng University, 168 University
© 2018 Shih-che Tang and Mitsuhiro Fujimaki. All Rights Reserved.
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have opportunities for trans-border circulation than being consigned to art-house cinema (see Davis and Yeh 2008). In 2014, the release of Taiwanese film KANO to its mostly Taiwanese and Japanese audiences stood out as a unique case in point. The film depicts the championship tour of a mix-raced Taiwanese middle-school baseball team in Japan in the early 1930s, when Taiwan was still Japan’s colony. Produced and shot in Taiwan, with finances secured locally, this “national” production nevertheless has a mixed-bred outlook. The film casted top-billed Japanese stars such as Masatoshi Nagase, Takao Osawa, and an ensemble of lay actors from Taiwan and Japan. The dialogue is predominantly in Japanese in keeping with the colonial Taiwan under dóka (assimilation) policy. The film’s calculating transnational concoction at the level of iconography was designated to manifest its dealing with the colonial legacies in Taiwan which, seven decades after the termination of colonial rule, still has remnants as “the good old memories” in the civilian life. KANO’s release provoked multiple discourses on the colonial linkage of national identity in both Taiwan and Japan, for which we intend to make a case. Japanese colonialism is a shared historical experience of various localities in East Asia. While most of these localities are nation states following the wave of de-colonization movement after WWII, Taiwan has always remained “undetermined” as a polity with legitimate political power but without a seat in the global community of nation states. The Cold War as a politico-cultural order of domination between the 1950s and the late 1970s had made Taiwan the outpost of the free world against the Communist bloc. Yet now, in the post-Cold War era, the Cold War as a confrontational mental structure still left Taiwan in a quandary in between two leviathan powers, the United States on the one side, People’s Republic of China on the other. National identity is therefore a highly contested terrain. While quandary is for Taiwan a geo-political uncertainty in regards to its political realities of existence, it means for post-War Japan a spiritual soul-searching coming to term with the liability of its colonization past. In this regard, KANO’s rosy depiction of the colonial civilian life is a peculiar nostalgic invocation. It provides a wellspring of signification of which “national” memories are invoked, justified, and constructed, albeit in quite contradictory manners. In the following discussion, we identify KANO as a cinematic instance of national-cultural discourses. Focusing on the film’s narrative, its circulation and reception in both Taiwan and Japan, we wish to cast the film in the light of its post-colonial signification. Societies in the postcolonial condition often remain a certain affective linkage with the colonization past. Either histories of resistance are paid tribute to as a measure of generating collective solidarity, or colonization experiences are deployed as legacies to engage in the internal struggle against the hegemonic cultural nationalism (Bonnett 2010; Young 2001; also see Fanon 1988). Globalization has made the effect of such a linkage particularly acute, since identities arising from ethnic, religious or cultural differences, within the national borders or without, find acting point in such a linkage to either reinstate or complicate the issue of nationhood. The disjuncture of the nation with the state is often reflected as imageries in the fragmented mediascape of the globalizing cultural economy (Appadurai 1996). To us, KANO exemplified such a disjuncture. In the first part, we provide a narrative analysis of the film to demonstrate how its thematization of multiple passages is a mimicry that allegorizes liminal moments when identity is never a finished product. In the second part, we provide a comparative discourse analysis on how the film is received in both Taiwan and Japan. Through analysing film reviews in mainstream newspapers, magazines and websites, we wish to show that colonial memories still hover upon civil debate or diatribe concerning what signifies “the national” in both Taiwan and Japan. The article concludes with a speculation on the uniqueness of KANO as a post-national cinematic experience in the current East Asian landscape of cultural imagination.
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The baseball glory and beyond The story of KANO unfolds with a Japanese soldier, Joshiya Hiromi’s brief passage through colonial Taiwan towards the end of the Pacific War. In 1944, shortly before the defeat of the Japanese Empire, Joshiya’s troop stopped by Taiwan before embarking on a military mission in the Philippines that ultimately took his life. Shifting from the rainy Keelung en route to the south, the train briefly called at the city of Kagi (Chiayi) in a morning for logistics. There, Joshiya took the time to pay a visit to a decrepit training field, where a baseball team used to be based. Joshiya’s purpose was to resolve a lingering issue: 13 years previously, he was the pitcher of a middle-school baseball team in Hokaido. His team had been considered a championship hopeful in Japan’s high-school baseball tournament, Koshien, until a team called “Kano” from this city shattered its dream. Despite losing the game, Joshiya learned a lesson from the team that there is something more to sportsmanship than winning. In the film, the time winds back to 1929. A high-school bookkeeper, Kondo Hyotaro, took the position of manager to coach the team that, two years later, beat Joshiya’s team in Koshien. Formerly a promising baseball player and coach in Japan, Hyotaro started a new life in Taiwan, following Japan’s large-scale migration policy, seeking to neutralize the colony’s anti-colonial rebellion. “Kano” was shorthand for the baseball team that belonged to a vocational middle-school specializing in agriculture and forestry in Kagi (Japanese pronunciation, also known as “Chia-yi” in Mandarin). Never winning a game, Kano’s mixed-race component of Taiwanese Hans and ethnic Japanese was nevertheless one of a kind, since baseball teams in the colonial Taiwan were mostly all-Japanese squads. Still, Kondo was convinced that nationality or ethnicity was irrelevant to the game of baseball. He went further, by recruiting Takasagos (a generalized term for the Taiwanese aborigines) to the team’s roster. In Kondo’s scheme, the team’s tri-ethnic component has all the ingredients needed to achieve victory. Aborigines are the runners, Hans the batters, and Japanese the defenders – each race of players was complementary to the other, and therefore made a perfect line-up. Despite suspicion and jeering in the segregated colonial society, Coach Kondo applied Spartan-style training to his boys. Under the motto of “do not think about winning, think only about not losing,” Kano finally turned the tide. After a series of winning games, Kano won the championship in the colony’s island-wide Highschool Baseball Tournament. Yet its ambition did not stop there. It qualified for Koshien – Japan’s empire-wide baseball tournament. Playing against district championship teams from Japan proper and overseas colonies, such as Manchuria and Korea, Kano stormed Koshien as it defeated one after the other teams with flying colours – Joshiya’s team being among them. It was not until the playoff game did Kano succumb. Its performance took a nosedive due to the ace pitcher Wu Ming-jie’s wounded finger. At the risk of becoming the culprit, Wu insisted staying on the pitcher’s mound to complete the game. Kondo consented. With the teammate’s impeccable defence as backup, Wu persisted until the final innings. Kano still lost by a great margin, but it conquered the hearts of the Japanese audience. At the dramatic moment when the team was about to leave the stadium, the audience burst out “Kano for the world,” as salutation to the team’s indefatigable spirit. While KANO’s “underdog’s rebound” narrative follows the melodramatic tradition of Hollywood feature films, recalling such precedents as Field of Dreams or A League of Their Own, it is distinctive for juxtaposing the sports theme with a subplot on Taiwan’s agricultural modernization. Kagi, where the Kano legend was based, was also the hub of the Chianan Plain. The plain’s bountiful agricultural yield earned it the “sugar bowl” or “rice barn” of imperial Japan. In the empire’s southbound scheme
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of military expansion, modernizing Taiwan’s agricultural sector served logistic purposes. Japan’s infrastructural construction laid the foundation for Taiwan’s agricultural modernization.1 To portray this achievement, the film featured the other heroic figure, Hata Yoichi, a civil engineer who masterminded Taiwan’s water conservancy project. After a long-term absence from official historical documentation due to his Japanese nationality, Hata has finally been commemorated in recent years as the father of Taiwan’s farmland irrigation because of constructing Wushantou Reservoir and Chanan Canal between the years 1918 and 1930. Both constructions relieved problems of draught and the salinization of the earth, and therefore significantly expanded the scope of arable land of the southern Taiwan (Chen 2011). Depicted as an amiable “sensei” figure, Hata befriended the peasants as well as the Kano boys. He was spotted shuttling between rice paddies, supervising the canal’s construction. In a scene when the teammates were attending their home-coming parade after winning the championship of the island’s highschool baseball tournament, they were told that the laborious construction of the canal was finally completed. These aspiring farmers skipped the parade and came to the canal in order to witness the magic moment when irrigational water ran on its own course into the rice paddies. There they met Hata sensei who, on a sampan with his entourage, was inspecting the piece of work on which he spent over a decade of labour. In excitement, the Kano boys waved their championship flag and shared with Hata sensei their joy of representing Taiwan to go to Koshien. Hata nodded approvingly and encouraged them to “bring back championship trophy to make Taiwan’s farmers proud.” The canal is only one of the props demonstrating Taiwan’s nascent modernization under the colonial rule. In KANO, objects and mechanical devices play no smaller parts than people in constructing a progressive and civilized image of the colonial Taiwan. When the team was playing in Koshien in 1931, radio delivered a live broadcast to the Kagi citizens, who were amassed by the loudspeakers provided by local merchants. A fountain in the city’s centre, which the boys routinely ran by, testified to the existence of the well-laid aqueduct system. Through meticulous studio rebuilds and CGs, the film made a spectacular representation of the idyllic civilian life of rural Taiwan in the 1930s – with the comfort of modernized facilities. KANO premiered in Taiwan’s theatres in February 2014 and soon garnered huge commercial success. The film topped the box-office chart of Taiwan in the same year (Feng 2014). It was also nominated in six categories in Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards. In Japan, the film’s premiere kicked off Osaka Film Festival. Its screening was received with a standing ovation. The film also won the audience award (“KANO premiere” 2014). A year later, in January 2015, KANO reached Japanese cinemas. More than 100 screens nationwide ran the film. Some of the theatres added additional weeks for the film’s showings, more than originally planned due to its popularity. Pia, a popular film magazine, ranked KANO top in terms of audience satisfaction (“Applaud after screening” 2015). Two national newspapers, Yomiuri and Sankei, reviewed Kano and gave very favourable comments (“KANO 1931,” 2015; “Go Forward” 2015). Perhaps in response to the film’s popularity, the city of Matsuyama, where Coach Kondo was from, erected a monument dedicated to him near the city’s Ball Park (“Monument Dedicated” 2014). While faring well with both the market and critics, the film raised some eyebrows. As the film’s production budget was subsidized by Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, some questioned if a film with Japanese movie stars as the main actors and more than 90% of the dialogue in Japanese could still qualify as a Taiwanese production. Even before the film’s scheduled release, a few pro-unification (with China) advocates staged a protest in front of a theatre in Taipei’s youth-studded Ximending, accusing the film of whitewashing the brutal nature of the colonial government and demanding that the film be banned (Tsai 2014).
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At the height of media hype in both Taiwan and Japan, KANO received a cold reaction in China. The film’s cheerful depiction of colonial Taiwan proved to be a taboo subject for Chinese society, then still steeped in an anti-Japan tumult over the territorial dispute of Diaoyu Islands. Yet, rather than waging a campaign-like attack, most mainstream media remained reticent about the film. In November 2014, shortly before the award ceremony of Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, a rumour spread on social media in both China and Taiwan concerning an unidentified leaked document issued by the provincial government of Hainan, China. The document ordered that all the news concerning the award be sealed off because KANO was included in the nomination list.
The ambivalent residue of colonization Beyond a sports saga, KANO is distinctive in its dealing with the affective ties between the colonizer and the colonized. In a gesture to showcase what the film’s director, Umin Boya, says is “the breadth of mind of the colonized,” the film transgressed the typical bashing tone in most pop-cultural representation of Japanese colonialism, as typified by the indictment of the war crimes committed by the Imperial Army. In China, for instance, “anti-Japan drama” proliferated on TV. These dramas indulged the scriptwriters’ vivid, sometimes preposterous, depiction of the horrendous brutality committed by the “Jap ghosts” following the outbreak of Sino-Japanese War in 1937. In 2016, South Korean director Cho Jung-rae’s Spirits’ Homecoming tells the tragic story of two teenaged girls, used as comfort women to perform sexual services for Japanese servicemen in the war front of North-eastern China in 1943. These works resort to a tone of accusation, leaving no room to reconsider the condition of colonial life other than the war-time predicament. While serving as reminders of what Japan had done during the War, they are also protesting about what Japan has failed to do in the post-War era; namely, Japan has been dodging its responsibility to War victims, such as the civilians that died from China’s Nanking Slaughter, the Korean and Taiwanese comfort women, and the Taiwanese aboriginal conscripts who died on the SouthEast Asian front. In contrast, KANO is heteronymous in its deferring of blame. Underneath its feel-good cliché of sports glory is the nuanced exaltation of life under colonial conditions. The film is resonant with what Homi Bhabha coins a “double articulation” of mimicry: its signification is effective only when it continues to produce its slippage, excess, and difference (Bhabha 1994, 86). For a film that opts to highlight the affective ties between Coach Kondo and his students, Hata and the farmers, and the Kano teammates and their spiritual admirer Joshiya, KANO absolves the colonizer/colonized relationship of asymmetrical antagonism and enters a new form based upon reciprocal recognition of affective responsibility in the Hegelian sense. While the film unfolds with its austere war-time atmosphere, the motif of the story concerns “passages” taking place in multiple parameters between the colony and the empire, the margin and the centre, the idyllic and the urban, the self and the other. Following Bhabha, the film allegorizes liminal moments of passage when identity is never a finished product, but “the problematic process of access to an image of totality” (Bhabha 1994, 51, emphasis added). For the most part, the team’s Koshien passage takes the form of a spiritual pilgrimage, in which a group of bumpkin middle-school youths from the colony are given the privilege to visit the spiritual “homeland” – separated by the sea, barely approachable under the segregation policy of the colonial regime. This passage is therefore marked by the bypass of the imposed racial-cultural hierarchies of colonial Taiwan. On the one hand, ethno-biological differences among immigrant Japanese, ethnic Hans, and Takasagos were rendered indistinguishable due
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to the teammates’ darkened skin, acquired from the harsh training routine. Through this passage, the team’s Japanese players looked the same as their subjected “other” – the Takasagos and the ethnic Hans. It is as if their darkened skin has earned them a ticket of entry into the realm of non-discrimination – an exceptional utopia found only in the world of sports. Yet this symbolic passage has its own hiccups. During their Koshien expedition, Kano’s aboriginal teammates were confronted by a lofty Japanese reporter who loathed the presence of “Takasago savages.” Nevertheless, the reporter came to regret his racial bigotry; he was so touched by the team’s indefatigable spirit toward the end of the game that he confessed that the game had changed him into a Kano fan. Yet the mimesis is reciprocal, since the teammates’ physical and symbolic border-crossing is premised upon the colonizer’s cultural transformational project. Baseball and agricultural reform, two of the colonizer’s bestowments, symbolized Taiwan’s initiation with modernization and modern ways of life. In this regard, the boys’ double identity, baseball players and students of agricultural engineering, made them a corps of cultural translators – Taiwanese in appearance, Japanese in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect (to paraphrase Bhabha 1994, 87). They were Hyotaro’s and Yoichi’s proud-worthy cultural intermediaries: educated, well-disciplined and bilingual. They assumed the task of elevating the society above poverty and backwardness – a legitimized excuse representing the colonizer’s moral burden. Nevertheless, they were also the acting agents of Taiwan’s nascent national identity for the subjugated classes. In the film’s playoff scene, when the frustrated Wu keeps serving wild pitches, one of his teammates cries out, “We are the Kano from Taiwan” to boost Wu’s morale in front of the packed Japanese audience in the stadium. All in a sudden, the idea of nation and national identity imposed by the colonizer (Japan) is spun off into its subspecies of localism (Taiwan). While the colonizers teach and regulate, it is the colonized who mimic the colonizer’s language and “talk back.” The fallacy of assimilation has been turned against itself. Mimicry, in the words of Bhabha, is a double vision, and therefore a menace, since it discloses the ambivalence of colonial discourse and disrupts its authority. When being questioned on making a film that embellishes colonialism, the producer Wei Tesheng defended that Japanese colonization, good or bad, is an indispensable part of Taiwanese culture, “what I seek to depict is the person-to-person relationship back then, not the regime” (Wang 2014). Including KANO, Wei has directed or produced three films dealing with what he calls “the Japanese-ness in Taiwan’s history.” In Cape No. 7 (2008), Wei’s debut film, he uses a clichéd romantic fling between a Taiwanese rocker-turned-postman and a Japanese model agent to bring out a tragic love affair, six decades ago, between an aboriginal schoolgirl and her Japanese teacher. Japan’s defeat in 1945 tore them apart, as the teacher faced forced deportation along with more than 400,000 soldiers and migrant civilians who had settled at Taiwan during colonization. In the twopart epic Seediq Balle (2011), Wei depicts the Wushe Incident that took place in 1930. The Seediq aboriginal warrior Mona Rudao led the tribesmen to revolt against the Japanese colonial regime. The revolt was brutally repressed and ended with the deracination of the Seediq people. In Wei’s portrayal of colonial Taiwan, the colonization produced multiple displacements of the colonized subjects as well as the colonizers. It deprived native Taiwanese of their customs, languages, ethnic identities, and lives, yet it deprived – with no less mercy – the Japanese migrant civilians who, by forced extradition, were doomed to live a conflicted identification between home and home country long after the War ended in 1945. While Seediq Balle gazed into the brutal deprivation nature of colonialism, both Cape No. 7 and KANO delivered rather ambivalent messages concerning its “legacies.” The ambivalence is particularly the case with KANO, which painstakingly used one plotline to depict Taiwan’s agricultural
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modernization. The contrast is blatant, as if Wei is making incongruous statements, so much so that Wei was criticized for his amnesia of the Seediq history (Huang 2014). Yet it is arguable that when Wei’s trilogy on Japanese colonialism is treated as a holistic auteur “statement,” these works more than invoke colonial memory. They open themselves to a complex field of discursive operations. In many ways, KANO is a political allegory in the fashion of what Frederic Jameson calls nostalgia film, whereby “the past is allegorized in the form of glossy images so that new and more complex ‘postnostalgia’ statements and forms become possible” (Jameson 1992, 287). As the film’s release was targeted predominantly at audiences in Taiwan and Japan, a more appropriate way to treat KANO in the context of a “post-national” cinematic experience entails an exploration into how it was received in both societies. To do this, we examined movie reviews and criticism collected from both Taiwan and Japan during and after the film’s screenings to demonstrate the complicated discourse-making in the public forum.
KANO in Taiwan: the disjunctured nation-making and de-making Eric Hobsbawm argues that history or continuity of the modern concept of nation must include a constructed or “invented” component. Monuments, tales, persons are material evidences through which national origins are given forms. Insofar as he uses the oxymoron “invented tradition” to describe the constructed origin of every collective identity, what we call national traditions are “responses to novel situations which takes the form of reference to old situations, or which takes their own past by quasi-obligatory repetition” (Hobsbawm  1992, 2). The crafting of baseball as the “national” sport in Taiwan has for long been validated by a heroic saga. Its making into the mandarin version was driven by the desire of the ruling regime to validate the nationhood status that seemed at stake since the 1970s. KANO’s showing came as a counteracting event, since it provoked commentaries seeking to re-rectify not only a national tradition in baseball, but also what counts as “the national,” through baseball, in view of its lingering ties with colonialism. KANO’s promotional material says, “a return to the glorious founding moment of Taiwanese baseball.” It manifests the film’s attempt to challenge the “national game” status of baseball as a result of the state’s patronage. For a long time, baseball had been deemed one of the few achievements that elevated Taiwan as a “country” in terms of international visibility. The founding moment was often dated to the landmark rise of the U12 (under 12 year-old) baseball teams in the late 1960s. The much lauded “Red Leaves” legend, in which an elementary-school baseball team, “Red Leaves” from Taitung, beat an allstar team from Japan’s Kansei area, by a score of 7–0 in 1968, has often been acclaimed as starting a series of subsequent championships won by the “three-grade baseball” teams in the World Series (the Big League, the Senior League, the Little League) in the following two decades. The Red Leaves legend turned out to be fraudulent, since its players were either over-aged or transfers from the other school teams (Guan 2008). Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, Taiwanese juvenile teams won the world championship 50 times. In the long era, when the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, hereby referred as KMT) held power, the government made propaganda on each world championship about the much-polished image of Taiwan as the “baseball kingdom” and itself as the patron of the sport. KANO’s release has obviously laid bare the veracity of the Red Leaves legend. It helped re-channel the Red-Leaves skepticism from sporadic academic fact-checking to the realm of open public debate (Morris 2007; Xie 2012; Ninjia Text 2014; Yen 2014; Zou 2015). Speaking about KANO’s honouring “the real” glory of Taiwan, Ninja Text, a well-known blogger and frequent newspaper op-ed contributor, disclaims the “three-grade baseball” saga as a sham achieved through toying with the rules of the baseball leagues. The government’s boasting of world championships proved to be small solace to the
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tender minds of Taiwanese people before the 1980s, which fed on it to inflate the misplaced delusion the country was one of the world’s superpowers (Ninja Text 2014). Huang Kuo-zhou, a sports critic, goes further by ascribing the vaunted Red Leaves legend to a ploy manipulated by the KMT government. The goal was to divert public attention away from a series of diplomatic setbacks that exposed the KMT’s ruling crisis. The most notable instances being Taiwan’s losing membership of the United Nations in 1971 and the normalization of the relationship between China and the United States in 1978. Huang challenges the government’s patronage scenario by noting that between Japan’s defeat in 1945 and baseball sport’s so-called take-off years, initiated by the Red Leaves, there had been two decades when this sport was ignored. Although the government realized its value at last, all it wanted was to cultivate winning teams. Becoming the world’s champion was nothing to be proud of, since each win was a deliberate abuse of the “fair play” rationale of the LLB (Little League Baseball) (Huang 2014) While KANO was employed to distinguish a “real” baseball founding moment from the KMT’s touting of the Red Leaves legend, the “racial/ethnic unity” of Coach Kondo’s vision for the team, depicted in the film, also furnishes some critiques seeking to demonstrate the disparity between a genuine identity of Taiwan and the ones imposed by different regimes of political ruling. Huang’s comment emphasizes baseball’s lasting popularity among the civilian class since the colonial time. Although early in the post-War era the KMT government paid scant attention to the sport, the solid foundation built up by the Japanese still left rich legacies in the post-colonial society. The evidence being the prevalent team organization by schools of different levels and various walks of life. In Huang’s opinion, this shows that baseball was popular because it was a genuine leisure pursuit of the civilians. Yet as soon as the KMT ruling regime started to intervene, the development of the sport went awry. Elements of leisure and fun were displaced by a new mission imposed by the state to compete for fame and ranking (Huang 2014). Huang particularly directed his comment at Xu Zong-mao, senior columnist of The China Times, who defends the Red Leaves. Xu underlines the Red Leaves as the glory of the general “ethno-Chinese,” because, starting with Red Leaves, baseball became a fully “nationalized” sport, characterized by the conscious collaboration of state policy, education, and civil consciousness. Xu puts KANO’s depiction in doubt, insisting that its so-called achievement was at best a fleeting spark. It fell short of covering the fact that these talented Taiwanese and aboriginal players had no future career beyond the point of their Koshien expedition. “This tragedy of suppression was only emancipated after Taiwan’s recovery [from the Japanese rule] after the War” (Xu 2014). Xu’s remark was slated as a serious twisting of historical facts, a symptom of the typical big-China chauvinism. To both Huang and Ninjia Text, who took the film’s side, the “national” baseball tradition, if there is one, is obviously beyond the linkage with any specific regime. Baseball in Taiwan is without doubt a colonial offering. Yet its “Japanese connection” was deliberately covered up by the KMT regime (Huang 2014; Ninjia Text 2014). The dispute over who should take credit for the take-off of Taiwan’s baseball development is a snapshot that pigeonholes Taiwan’s conflicting identity-making process. It is itself full of spontaneous appropriation of snippets of memories and anecdotes from the colonization and from war histories in order to weave a nationalistic imagination (Hsiao 2000; Ching 2001; Wakabayashi 2015). Masahiro Wakabayashi notes that post-War Taiwanese society is torn between two competing attitudes towards Japan in regards to its ruling of Taiwan. On the one hand, Taiwan is “a society with colonization experience,” where six million islanders (bendaoren, or “Hong-do Nin” in Japanese) and aboriginals (or Takasagos) had experienced five decades of living as the colonized subjects. On the other hand, Taiwan is also the banished province of “a nation with the experience of invasion,” where one million Mainlanders (waishengren) who had experienced an anti-imperial war
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against Japan had to migrate following the loss of the Chiang Kai-shek-led KMT administration in the civil war against the Communist Party in 1949 (Wakabayashi 2015). Although the latter had gotten the upper hand culturally and politically, its domination of a historiography based upon the eight years of Sino-Japanese War failed to integrate the former, which is still firmly led by aging Taiwanese civilians who do not abhor the Japanese rule. Some even turned nostalgic. To these broadly-defined “Taiwanese,” they share little common ground in terms of the structure of feelings with their Mainlander compatriots (see Chen 2006). Furthermore, they found that the post-War “return” did not salvage them from colonization miseries. The incumbent KMT regime treated the Taiwanese with no less contempt than the last colonizer. The horrendous 228 Incident, which led to the imprisonment and execution of Taiwanese political and cultural elites, and the subsequent White Terror, an even larger-scale extermination of political dissidents, have made some Taiwanese disillusioned with their blood-tied “fatherland,” which is China. Thus, forsaking the prospect of ultimate unification with the CCP-ruled Mainland China and striving for Taiwan’s autonomy as a “nation state” stood out as a viable future path. Following the rise of the DPP (the Democratic Progressive Party) to power and the senile KMT’s weakening political strength, “pro-independence” emerged as the confronting ideology against the “pro-unification” bent. With them also came the rifts of national identification, divided along social and cultural fronts. Amidst the changing political atmosphere, the “invasion” scenario long held by the KMT power bloc continues to lose ground, since colonial history as a subtext gives the new Taiwanese nationalism much leverage in justifying itself through confrontation with its archenemy – Chinese nationalism. Putting KANO in this context, the issue of “othering” typical in the social engineering of the decolonization process comes to the fore (Bonnett 2010). Inasmuch as colonialism entails establishing hierarchies through which the colonized are relegated to the biological/cultural inferiors – the “other” who are different from us – these hierarchies are appropriated in the post-colonial Taiwan society as traumatic foils to stimulate collective solidarity. In this regard, in the divided Taiwan between “pro-independence” and “pro-unification,” how to define the “nature” of Japanese colonialism and to what extent its memories can be utilized to substantiate a new nationalistic subject has itself becomes a highly debatable subject matter. An op-ed article by Lin Jin-yuan on The China Times (2014) criticizes KANO’s belle epoque tone a highly discretionary presentation of historical reality. Lin, a professor of economics, argues that before Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, China had the most advanced agriculture, industry, arts and culture. It was also the most peace-loving, least disturbance-prone country. Were a belle epoque ever taking place in Taiwan’s modern history, Lin insists, it came to a halt with Japanese colonialism. Lin is particularly mindful that despite Taiwan’s being the friendliest country in the world to Japan, Japan turned its cold shoulder to Taiwan. It has never officially apologized to the Chinese across the Taiwan Strait for what it did during the Second World War. To think that Japan claimed the Diaoyu Islands (“Senkaku Shotō” in Japanese) as its own territory and utilized Taiwan as its strategic ally to condition China, KANO is a corrosion of Taiwanese subjectivity. Lin questioned, “If the mere ten-or-so baseball players’ success story can make a hot-blooded paradigm, what do we do with the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese who were brutally killed by the Japanese army since 1895?” (Lin 2014). Obviously, Lin chronicles the starting point of Taiwan’s modernization experiences earlier than that of Japanese colonialism. To him, colonialism should be perceived against the backdrop of the calamity of the “greater China” – imperilled by the European and Japanese imperial powers in the late nineteenth century. Lin reminds us that Japan had justified its so-called “entry” into China with an excuse to set free “the savage, low-rung, and unsanitary Chi-na race.” Colonialism
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in Taiwan should not be isolated from the overall picture of imperialism in which social or economic improvements, if there once were, only existed for the sole benefit of the colonizer. As Lin resists the harmonious depiction of colonialism on the premise of a deprived nationalistic entity, he was criticized by a handful of comments seeking to dodge the stereotypical nationalistic imagination. Echoing Wei Te Sheng’s statement that his main concern with colonialism was the relationship of people, rather than the regime, these comments sought alternatives of conceiving collective identity without the obvious signification of Chinese nationalism. Zeng Bo-wen, writing for The United Daily News, challenges Lin’s “corrosion” argument by pointing out that Lin has put the term “subjectivity” in the wrong shoes. Lin’s attachment to a totalizing Chinese nationality has made him misappropriate Taiwanese subjectivity to a context of signification to which the term’s creator had not meant. Zeng documents that for the nativist, who first coined the term,2 Taiwanese subjectivity meant “standing opposed to the Chinese historical viewpoint, retrieving Taiwan in the perspectives of self-memory.” Accordingly, under Japanese colonialism, there were memories of bloody suppression under Japan’s policies of governing minorities (lifan zhengce), clashes between Taiwanese and Japanese due to discrimination for sure. But there were also memories of social modernization achievements and deep-rooted affection for the Japanese in civilian lives. These memories, good or bad, are lived memories. Their paradox invites further examination. They are different from those that the “invasion” scenario would have, which applies the Chinese historical viewpoint that assumes Taiwan as a part of China without further ado (Zeng 2014). While insisting that Taiwanese subjectivities should be built upon a multitude of civilian memories, colonialism being one of them, Zeng not only dissociates identity from its Chinese linkage, but he also goes a step further, emphasizing the impending need of the Taiwanese to overcome nationalism in its singular form in the collective imagination. Zeng proposes a return to what he calls the “human-centered” perspective of history, a perspective reconstructing “public subjectivities” bottom-up, out of social processes of conflict, negotiation, dialogue, and understanding in keeping with Taiwan’s political democracy (Zeng 2014). Zeng resists nationalism so as to stay clear of Chinese nationalism. Ethnic solidarity commonly foregrounded in the discourse of ethno-nationalism becomes something to be overcome. Chen Jia-ming, who admires KANO for breaking free the iron-clad nationalistic discourse, also foresees a point of departure from the solidarity narrative, itself a product of nationalism dating from the nineteenth century (Chen 2014). Chen argues that solidarity under the banner of nationalism is a narrative construct typical of the nineteenth century. It has become a dogma in that whatever evils were committed in its name, they were easily forgiven. Both China and Japan were the output of solidarity narrative. Yet Chen cautions that when solidarity becomes fixated in the form of a modern nation state, it leaves no room for envisioning its extinction. The nation remains “the Undead,” as Chen argues, however decayed it has become on the inside. Although Wei’s film honours solidarity, it is a far cry from such a solidarity narrative. Solidarity depicted by Wei always takes the side of the dominated and marginal social groups. Be that as it may, the characters in his films were made painfully aware that the sweet fruit of solidarity is destined to disappear, as seen in the unfinished game that the Kano players fought owing to unexpected rain. Wei’s films captured the transient nature of solidarity in a highly self-conscious manner. That is why solidarity in his work has displayed mercy, kindness and breadth of mind unseen in the typical nineteenth century narrative of nationalism (Chen 2014). We can infer from both Zeng’s and Chen’s remarks that they seek to de-circumscribe collective subjectivity from the customary linkage with a pre-destined, “biological” nationalism. Their crossfire with Lin, who binds colonialism with the overall war trauma experienced by the ethno-Chinese,
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substantiates KANO’s allegorical significance. It enacts the current split of national identities between seeking reunification with China and becoming an independent nation state. In the dispute over what Taiwanese subjectivity stands for, the process of “othering” commonly seen in the anticolonial discourse has been employed to emphasize two “national others” as opposed to the flimsy construct of Taiwanese identity. On the one side is the Japanese other, whose historic presence as the “invader” is easily validated to justify the ethno ascription of Taiwanese as a part of the greater China. Nevertheless, the desire for this greater China is contradictorily characterized by a volition of its fulfilment and the permanent deferral of its realization. With cultural atavism becoming more incompatible with the social status quo, which shows less and less empathy with China as a generic imagined community after decades of political split, Japanese colonialism history continues to render relevancy to the legitimation claim of Chinese nationalism. On the other side is the Chinese other, whose domination of national culture becomes an impediment in the way toward political autonomy. In this regard, Japanese colonialism history remains a “useful” subtext. It figures as a cultural myth of “modernity presence.” A lived affective reality in today’s society, this presence is placed with Chinese nationalism on an equal footing. Both have validated that Taiwanese subjectivity had been, and is still, a rebellion against any form of patriarchal national culture, of which this Chinese other currently represents. The discrepant articulations of self-identity as opposed to these two national others demonstrates Taiwan’s identity anxiety over its “renegade” status. This status is not only out of its wavering attitude concerning its Chinese ties. The exclusion from recognition in the current international system of nation states is also what propels Taiwan to redeem its vicarious nationalistic desire out of the unredeemable national realities.
KANO in Japan: narcissistic nostalgia through the alien eyes If KANO in Taiwan provoked debate concerning the legacy of colonialism in the making or dislodging of national identity, the film was received in Japan predominantly for its boosting nationalistic pride which remains an undercurrent in the post-War Japanese society. As shown previously, KANO won favourable reviews from most of the Japanese press. A virtue commonly referred to in most reviews is the film’s meticulous handling of historical veracity. Bits and pieces of facts, heightened by the film’s props, the reconstruction of the Kagi city landscapes, and the black dirt of the Koshien stadium, amazed Japanese critics in regards to a foreign film’s vivid capturing of the bygone time and space of Japanese colonialism. Yamane (2015), editor in chief for Japan Press Club, says that the film is “almost faithful to historical facts.” Nakajima (2015), a journalist, characterizes KANO as a “sport film,” “an impressive story of baseball and about what actually took place in the colonial Taiwan under the Japanese rule.” Along with praises mainly focusing on the film’s material aspects, which spell out the film’s historical veracity, KANO’s honouring of a colour-free, discrimination-exempted world of sport is also underlined by the Japanese reviewers. For instance, a blog post by a local film festival organizer comments that “it is considered noble that [teammates] attempt to achieve the goal collectively as if they are unified as indivisible oneness.” Udagawa (2015), a film critic, acclaims the film in that “their joy to play baseball brims over [from the screen].” If “indivisible oneness” refers to solidarity, the film’s thematic, it finds its physical embodiment in some reviews’ attention to the film’s gazing at the players’ bodies – a dimension barely addressed by reviews in Taiwan. For instance, a conservative newspaper, Yomiuri, appreciates KANO’s “overwhelmingly vivid depiction of players’ bodies” (Onda 2015, 13). Movie Walker (2015) indicates in the
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film’s promotion that “those baseball boys whose racial background is not an issue among them are wonderful.” The film beautifully captured the body movements of pitching, waving, swinging, and running in slow motion. The aestheticization of the sportsmen’s bodies effectively echoes the film’s theme of breaking free the racial segregation; Yamane (2015) underlies the point that the importance is to learn from those pasts regardless of which racial tribes they belong to. While solidarity as a token is interpreted in reviews of Taiwan against the backdrop of fractured national identification, in Japan it has been taken literally, being framed in the context of reciprocal appreciation between the previously colonized and its colonizer. The film’s positive tone of colonial modernity has in general appealed to its Japanese critics, for it allows the Japanese to introject themselves as an object of affective identification. One of the sequences, to which quite a few reviews refer, is Hatta Yoichi’s building of the irrigation system in the Southern Taiwan. Japan Business Press emphasizes that “you can find [in the film] something that Japanese had forgotten already, and we have to be thankful to Taiwanese people who still embrace it [instead of us]” (“Invite a baseball” 2015). Yamane (2015) reiterates, “We [Japanese] need to learn from the past for our empowerment.” From critical responses to this much-recited anecdote, we can infer a rhetoric of self-assurance that Japanese colonialism, after all, did marvellous things to Taiwan. Japan should stop indulging in selfhatred and criticism – just watch how they remember the colonial era. The most palpable evidence of this self-assurance can be witnessed in the utilization of this anecdote as a part of political campaigns by Zaitokukai (Association Never to Allow Korean Japanese’s Privilege) for Tokyo Metropolitan Mayor’s election (Zaitokukai 2014a, 2014b). Zaitokukai is an ultra-nationalist group propagating against granting suffrage to foreigners, particularly the Korean generation born in Japan. Zaitokukai has a YouTube channel called “Taiwan Channel,” which is a part of their regular channel “Sakura.” In “Taiwan Channel,” it attempts to appropriate Taiwan as a historical witness through which Japanese colonial achievements are proclaimed and praised. For example, one of its programmes demonstrates how the “heyday of Taiwan” has/had been prepared by the colonial regime, and that KANO successfully covers it (Zaitokukai 2104a). In this YouTube programme, a Taiwanese guest is featured as an informant to testify the veracity of KANO from a native’s perspective. In the other programme, also on KANO, the host proudly reported, by mentioning the colonial regime, that KANO had tightened the Taiwanese-Japanese relation and that the tie actually frightened China (Zaitokukai 2014b). Zaitokukai’s broaching of KANO might have been motivated by its rabid racist extremism, but it is far from anomalous when compared with the other “sober” comments and reviews by film critics, experts, and anonymous blog commentators. Japan’s xenophobia has, by tradition, made it keen on dispelling foreign influences unless they are deemed desirable. South Korea and China, as rising transnational economies in recent years, in this regard, have been felt as threats to Japan’s integrity as a national society, particularly by people from the conservative factions. Zaitokukai’s rise in 2006 was driven by a strong sense of repellence against the naturalized Korean Japanese (the Zainichi Koreans). They were accused by Zaitokukai as abusing Japan’s welfare system because they strove for the national pension without paying premium. It is joined by the prevailing disgruntled feelings of Japanese society against the influences of the East-Asian countries in terms of tourism, high-end technological devices, and inroads of corporate buyout. These categories had been the definitive elements of Japan’s prideworthy economic performance in the world landscape, dating back to the early 1980s. Yet Japan suffered a reverse in fortune due to its faltering economy since the 1990s. South Korea and China both emerged as latecomers, threatening to dethrone Japan’s economic advantage.
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Within this context, the fragile ego has often driven some Japanese to distinguish two images of the Chinese. In line with the conscious sensitization of the so-called “Chinese factor” in domestic politics and economy, is an image of “malicious Chinese” represented by China under the CCP rule. To this malicious Chinese, the Japanese people have grievances over rude tourists and greedy Chinese merchandizers who supplied Japanese McDonalds with expired foodstuffs. Opposing this is the imagery of “benevolent Chinese,” represented by the Taiwanese, who are submissively friendly and grateful. In political reality, the Japan/Taiwan ties are a repressed affect since they breach Japan’s “one-China” policy. Nevertheless, this “bad versus good” dichotomy is at work and often drives some Japanese people to be sympathetic with Taiwan since, from time to time, it confronts China’s bullies over international affairs. A similar affect can also be witnessed in KANO’s Japanese reception. An anecdote concerning KANO’s failure to garner any awards at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Film Festival was covered by the mainstream Japanese press with speculations of possible Chinese intervention. Sankei News, in an article entitled “Has China Interrupted?: KANO Failing to Receive Any Prize at Taiwan’s Film Festival,” particularly framed China as the string-puller (Ito 2015). It also discloses that one of the referees from Mainland China dominated the voting process and vetoed KANO from receiving any award. A rumour or not, the report’s interrogative topic itself suffices a hint, implicating a malicious Chinese image. The appreciation for the “benevolent Chinese” is in effect a residue of Japan’s unrelinquished colonial-patriarchal mindset. Renato Rosaldo had spoken of a unique kind of “imperialist nostalgia,” whereby colonizers cast mournful eyes upon what they have destroyed to consciously transform themselves into an innocent bystander (Rosaldo 1989). The spontaneous affective attachment on the part of Taiwan redeems Japan as an aloof, but mindful, bystander, yet Japan’s appreciation of Taiwan is rather on what it bestowed than what it destroyed. Japan hardly sees eye to eye with Taiwan on its colonization plight and its post-War struggle for international recognition of political autonomy. What concerns Japan is, rather, the reciprocal “good will” and the affirmative message it picked up from this good will, which can be employed to revive the nationalist fervour. This mindset can be seen as a spinoff of the seemingly boundless myth-making of “Japanese spirit” or “Japanese-ness,” of which the right-wing nationalist became its proprietor. Nevertheless, in the intellectual soul-searching of nationalism, what justifies Japan as a nation had remained an unsettled problematic. In regard to Japan’s waging of the Greater East Asian War and the Pacific War, the consequent diversion of the pre-War humanitarian ideal of pan-Asianism into aggressive fascist nationalism particularly provoked a reflection within the critical circle following Japan’s surrender. In view of clarifying such issues as the civilian experience during the war, Japan’s status under the America-dominated Cold-War international order, and the role of the emperor in the system of government, how to reclaim Japan’s national autonomy by dealing with these historic handicaps had been a seminal concern by intellectuals such as Takeuchi Yoshimi and Masao Maruyama (see Sun 2001). The large-scale social unrest against the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan had shown signs of realizing national independence in public resistance. Yet the ferment was laid to rest following Japan’s signing of the treaty in 1960 and Japan’s further integration into the capitalist world market in the next decades (Sun 2001; also see Matsunaga 2005). With elements of dialectics and self-critique dying down, the discourse of nationalism has since been dominated by the right-wing nationalists, whose advocacy seeks dilution of war responsibility by justifying Japan’s waging of wars as honourable acts of uniting Asia against the inroad of Western imperialism.
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It came as no surprise that KANO’s presence in Japan was received with a warm welcome. Rightwing nationalists have relished using Taiwan as an instance to show that colonialism has a righteous cause. This often entailed field trips to contemporary Taiwan to provide “testimonies.” Ryotaro Shiba, a popular history novelist, once pointed out in his travel memoir, “People fuss about the colonial rule over Taiwan in many ways. But overall, I conclude through talking with older Taiwanese and visiting many places that we Japanese did good things to those people. There is no reason to be ashamed of” (Shiba 1997). Shiba might have spoken as a person who had experienced the rise and fall of Japanese colonialism (he was born in 1923), yet his view was not uniquely that of the War generation. It was also shared by some of the post-War generation. Yoshinori Kobayashi, a cartoonist born in 1953, whose work on Taiwan (Kobayashi 2000) echoes Shiba, as he praises Taiwanese for inheriting the genuine Japanese spirit even after colonialism. While these remarks might have sounded oddly out of tune, they are not entirely wishful thinking. As KANO is appreciated for embracing what Japanese have forgotten, it might have unexpectedly provided the other palm that claps along. In his critique of the schema of configuring Japanese thought in the regime of cross-cultural translation, Naoki Sakai argues that in order for a desire for Japan as a nation to be realized, one cannot evade the problems concerning political (or subjective) techē, such as to how to manufacture “the nation” effectively. Japan’s self-identity as a nation is often the consequence of active construction through manifesting its relationship with the other which, according to Sakai, is the West (Sakai 1997, 69–70). KANO’s presence in Japan has seemingly been put within the parameter of Occidentalism, only that, through the alien gaze, Japan has transformed itself from the emulator to the emulated. Although the film re-enacts a dialectics of identity seeking under colonialism, putting a baseball team’s championship passage between the marginal homeland and the spiritual imperial centre upfront, to expose the flimsy and constructed nature of national identity, the fact that the film still caters to a nationalistic fallacy desired by a nostalgic Japanese for a bygone age of national solidarity and prosperity has demonstrated the film’s failed attempt. Through the Kano player’s bodily movements, captured by the close-up shots, the Koshien game stood out as a spiritual pilgrimage, through which discrimination and trauma brought about by war and colonialism are cast aside by a unified will power of self-sacrifice for the benefit of collectivity. The bodies are, therefore, “Japanized” bodies.
Conclusion In the above discussion, we have used KANO’s text and its trans-national reception to demonstrate how the colonial history still has its bearing on the current social imagination of national identity. KANO’s dealing with the civilian life under Japanese colonialism has provoked multiple discourses concerning the colonial legacies in the post-colonial social milieu. It addresses the conflicted process of making and debating on national identity in both Taiwan and Japanese societies. In the case of Taiwan, KANO provoked a new round of the foundational dispute concerning baseball’s historic origin. The dispute also provides a snapshot into examining how the colonial memories foster a discursive matrix for the post-colonial subjects to contemplate nations with(out) a state. Across the ocean, KANO in Japan introjects the desire of a nationalist’s nostalgia for the innocent past, whereby colonialism is purged of its racial and cultural discrimination, and solidarity for the same spiritual cause can still mark out a nation’s raison d’être. The divergent public responses that the film induced, within which the spectrum of nuanced differentiation concerning the state’s hegemonic project, the national spirit, and options of the civil society in and out of the cubicle of
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nation state, come to the fore, has demonstrated the leniency of KANO as a film about “the national” to accommodate conscious interpretations in the same category, while in two discrete national contexts. To conclude, it merits elaboration on this leniency in the parameter of the politics of national cinema to demonstrate a rather complicated picture of the East Asian popular cultural mediascape. Speaking of the British cinema in the late 1980s, Andrew Higson once suggested that the term “national” in discourse about cinema (including the film industry and film culture) should be redrawn to include the site of consumption as much as the site of production of films (Higson 1989). Higson suggested a more inward-looking means to national cinema, which is characterized not in terms of its difference from other national cinemas, but in terms of its relationship to an already existing national, political, economic and cultural identity and set of traditions (Higson 1989, 42). Higson’s definition seems incompatible with more and more national cinematic experiences since, under globalization, a given national film tends to have cross-national exhibition and, therefore, its relevancy with the nation is often mixed with the complicated distribution and exhibition concerns of the importing state (see Crofts 2000). Yet it has not completely lost its grip. While globalization often pushes the national film industry to look outward, seeking trans-border circulation and popularity as an economic incentive of production, films that address “the national” do not always amount to what Jameson coins “the national-propagandistic version of the national history” (Jameson 2004, 247). In fact, the past or set of traditions in the form of trauma or collective memory can still be reflected upon in a highly reflexive manner. Thomas Elsaesser speaks of a post-national cinema in Europe, where films in a number of post-colonial societies have developed formulas that can accommodate various, even contradictory signifiers of nationhood. In these films, Elsaesser argues, regional or national stereotypes can be relaunched, or images that one assumes that the other has of oneself are reflected. Such “self-othering,” according to Elsaesser, is different from reiterating that nation is “constructed.” Films produced in the manner often demonstrate nationhood as a second order reference, whereby assertions of a common identity often toy with nostalgic, parodic or pastiche versions of such an identity (Elsaesser 2013). What Elsaesser calls “retroactive cinematic nationalism” can seemingly find its parallel in the kind of cinematic experience that KANO delivered. Against droves of pop-cultural textual representation riveted on glitzy, ahistorically cosmopolitan experiences, regional colonization histories donning a nostalgic outlook stood out as alternative iconography. In Taiwan, whether Japanese colonialism left legacies or liabilities is still, but more than, a historic issue under debate. It insinuates itself into the current identity struggle which is played out in a multitude of civilian lives. Following the exhibition of KANO, and in the same trope of manifesting the post-colonial Taiwan/Japanese social ties, two documentaries dealing with passages of colonial migration also hit the big screen: Yin-yu Huang’s After Spring, the Tamaki Family (2016) chronicles the migrant journey of the Taiwanese Wang family which became naturalized as “Tamaki” in Japan’s Ishigaki Island shortly after the War ended. Ming-cheng Huang’s Wansei Back Home (2015) focuses on the “home-return” journey of a few Wanseis (the Taiwan-born Japanese during the colonial era) who were deported from Taiwan at around the same time the Huang family chose to become its expatriates. To various extents, these works fed on the colonial diaspora as historic fodder to bring out Taiwan’s specificities of national “situations” in the present tense. In this regard, KANO resorts to a retroactive tone which, on the discursive level, merges in the social and cultural milieu and has provoked reflections on the collective self-identity in both Taiwan and Japan. Despite the fact that the border-crossing popular in the East Asian mediascape often seems border-blurring, history, particularly colonial history, still
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works as a counter reminder that rifts and discrepancies created by colonialism and their emotional after-effects are not completely lost on the daily lives of the populace.
Notes 1. According to Ching (2001), Japan’s annexation of Taiwan was initially motivated by its perception as a nation capable of undertaking the task of colonialism, rather than out of economic necessity. Nevertheless, despite creating a great financial burden for the domestic government at the start, Japanese colonialism in Taiwan by the 1920s showed signs of success and could justify the cause, since Japanese capitalism was in its monopolistic stage. 2. Striving for national sovereignty of Taiwan originated from the Taiwanese elite’s petition asking for the establishment of a parliament during the colonial era. Between 1921 and 1934, the Movement for the Establishment of a Taiwanese Parliament petitioned the Japanese government 15 times. It argued that under the principles of the Japanese constitution, the colonial governor-general should not exercise exclusive executive and legislative powers. Elective representatives from Taiwan’s populace were necessary. The movement gained widespread support from the natives and liberal-minded Japanese politicians and intellectuals. It is also considered the emblematic rise of the Taiwanese nativist movement. See, Chen (2013) and Ching (2001).
Notes on contributors Shih-che Tang teaches at the Department of Communication, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan. His research focuses on issues related with globalization as a cultural process and media theories. Mitsuhiro Fujimaki teaches at Department of Communication Studies, Ferris University, Japan. His research concerns an intersection between museums and civil society.
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Special terms Koshien 甲子園 Kano 嘉農 Takasagos 高砂族 Anti-Japan drama 抗日劇 Cape No. 7 海角七號 Seediq Balle 賽德克.巴萊 Wushe Incident 霧社事件 national sport 國球 Red Leaves 紅葉少棒 Bendaoren 本島人 Waishengren 外省人 Chi-na race 支那族 Movement for the Establishmentof a Taiwanese Parliament 台灣議會請願運動 Lifan zhengce 理蕃政策 After Spring, the Tamaki Family 海的彼端 Wansei Back Home 灣生回家