Anime Expo Lite (Anime Expo 2020) – The History of Japanese Visual Pop Culture: Exclusive Preview of Repro Japan

2:20 PM – 2:50 PM (PDT) | Channel 1 | Friday 3 July 2020

Panel Description: Learn about the origins and antecedents of anime, manga, and cosplay from three specialists in the history of Japanese visual popular culture. Christopher Bolton (professor of comparative and Japanese literature at Williams College), Eron Rauch (artist, critic, and instructor at Cal Arts), and Maggie Wei Wu (Ph.D. student in art history at UC San Diego) will give you a sneak peak at their current collaboration, Repro Japan–a museum exhibition of Japanese popular culture that spans two centuries and a dozen different media. These range from 18th-century woodblock prints and kimono fashion through 19th-century tourist photography, down to contemporary anime and manga, cosplay and cosplay photography, and Lolita fashion. The panel will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibition (scheduled for summer and fall 2021 at the Williams College Museum of Art), and deepen your understanding of these media by making some surprising comparisons between them.

My Review (@madamekrow): If the title and the description didn’t pique your interest, then there wasn’t anything to note. However, if it did catch your attention… You also didn’t miss much. The panel felt like 30 minutes of vague connections and surface-level descriptions. The panel felt crammed and like there were at least two hours of context missing that should have come before it. Definitely keep an eye out for the museum exhibition, “Repro Japan,” though as that looked interesting.


  • Popular Japanese media truly began 100 to 300 years ago, long before anime became the grossing media it is today.
  • Woodblock prints are the first form of mass-produced visual art in Japan. Even simple Woodblock prints take 16 to 18 layers to complete.
  • Some anime are also similarly layered. A case example is Oh My Goddess! in which the animators had to layer the cells to create the style of animation. 
  • Intricate patterns in kimonos were originally woven into the fabric, making them very intricate and expensive. Now with fast fashion and modern presses, patterns can be quickly printed allowing fans to purchase mass-produced items for cosplay. Beautifully patterned kimonos were more accessible after they were able to print the patterns onto the fabric directly.

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