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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Global Popular Culture: Japanese Studies

A guide to popular culture materials and scholarship from around the world.

Search Terms

To find materials on Japanese popular culture, use the following geographic terms to add to your subject searches (e.g., popular culture -- Japan)

  • Japan
  • Japanese influences

General Resources

poster for RashomonFrom samurais to monsters to anime, Japan has a rich history of cinema. The Illinois Library has over 500 Japanese films in its collection. If you're browsing, try filtering by genre with the links along the right. Stream more feature films and documentaries via Kanopy, including Rashomon.

In addition to English search terms, try the following film terms specific to Japanese cinema:

  • Tokusatsu – Live action films with lots of special effects. This term encompasses horror/monster films, science fiction, and fantasy.
  • Kaiju – horror films (a subset of Tokusatsu)
  • Jidaigeki – period films
  • Samurai films - a subset of Jidaigeki
  • Mecha – anime featuring robots

Learn more about Japanese cinema:

screenshot of 8-bit Legend of ZeldaThe home of Sega, Sony, Atari, and Nintendo, Japan is a powerhouse in the video game world. Check out the books and articles highlighted below to explore the history and influence of Japanese video games, or geemu, around the world.

For more information on researching video gaming, visit the UGL Guide to Video Games and Gaming Research. The Library also has consoles and games available to play in the library or to check out.

Image: A screenshot from the original 8-bit Nintendo Legend of Zelda. Source: Gamepedia

Books and Articles:

Preview: Tokyo Idols

"With her provocative look into the Japanese pop music industry and its focus on traditional beauty ideals, filmmaker Kyoko Miyake confronts the nature of gender power dynamics at work. As the female idols become younger and younger, Miyake offers a critique on the veil of internet fame and the new terms of engagement that are now playing out IRL around the globe." --Kanopy

Watch the whole film on Kanopy.

Learn more about idols and popular music in Japan:

Image of anime character Sailor MoonThe Library has over 600 manga titles and about 150 anime films and TV shows. Start your research with the books and journals listed here, and visit the LibGuides listed below for additional suggested resources and search tips. The box to the right explores gender and manga.

Search the Catalog:

  • Animated films
  • Animated television shows
  • Comic books, strips, etc.
  • Graphic novels

Read and watch online:

  • Viz Media, a major publisher and distributor of English-language manga and anime, offers a mix of free and paid content on their site, with subscription options for ongoing series and mobile apps. 
  • Anime Planet provides recommendations based on your interests, and links to access content online.
  • Crunchy Roll also offers a mixture of free and paid content, news on upcoming titles, and apps available for most streaming platforms (Roku, etc.)

Image: Sailor Moon (Source:




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Gender and Sexuality in Manga and Anime

Many manga and anime are notable for their exploration and disruption of gender norms. Shojo manga, or girls' manga, crosses a range of genres, unified by their target audience of adolescent girls and focus on female heroines. Yaoi, or boys' love, features gay male characters and romances, and is also marketed to and primarily written by women. Yaoi originated in fanfiction and dojinshu (zines) but now has international reach and appeal. It is distinguished from bara (men's love), manga and anime featuring gay relationships for a gay male audience. Manga and anime focusing on romantic and sexual relationships between women is called yuri (girls' love).

Learn more: