New Media’s Impact on Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema

J-HORROR: New Media’s Impact on Contemporary Japanese Horror Cinema

Wada-Marciano, Mitsuyo

Résumé: Les récents films d’épouvante japonais, connus collectivement sous le terme de « J-Horror », exemplifient le phénomène de la dispersion transnationale d’un cinéma digital multi-médiatique qui est paradoxalement, déterminé par des contingences culturelles, industrielles et économiques régionales. Le potentiel véritable du cinéma digital ne se retrouve pas dans les effets spéciaux générés par ordinateur qui apparaissent dans la série Star Wars, mais plutît dans les mouvements régionaux, comme le « J-Horror », qui renversent le courant traditionel des capitaux et de la culture, c’est-à-dire, le monopole hollywoodien. Ce phénomène n’est pas nouveau dans l’histoire du cinéma. Ce qui le rend unique est le déploiement vernaculaire de sa spécificité médiatique, temporelle et régionale.

The main objective of this essay is to scrutinize new media’s effect on contemporary Japanese cinema, especially the horror film genre “J-Horror.” In particular, I want to examine the ongoing contestation and negotiation between cinema and new media in contemporary Japan by analyzing the impact of new media on the transnational horror boom from Japan to East Asia, and finally to Hollywood. As the case of contemporary J-Horror films exemplifies, the new, digitalized, multimedia form of cinema is now a dispersed phenomenon, both ubiquitous and transnational as technology, yet regional in the economic, industrial, and cultural contingencies of its acceptance. While academic discourses on the connection between cinema and new media have been increasing, many of them are following the historical constellation of hegemony and capital in cinema, namely Hollywood’s place as production and distribution center. From my perspective the emerging possibilities of new media in cinema have less to do with the progress of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) effects in such Hollywood franchises as the Star Wars series (USA, 1977-2005, George Lucas) than in the ways regional movements or genres such as Dogme 95, Chinese Sixth Generation Films (typically low-budget films made outside the state-run studios), and J-Horror have challenged the long-standing flow of capital and culture, i.e. the centrality of Hollywood. I argue that such a phenomenon is not entirely new in the history of the cinema, but what makes it most interesting is its vernacular staging within a specific time and locale and particular media. How did a low-budget B genre intrinsically linked to regional popular culture become a transnational film franchise? The answer lies in the contingencies of new media’s influence at all levels of production, text, distribution, and reception. Simply put, I frame J-Horror’s emergence since the 1990s as a form of trans-media commodity, one that is based less on theatrical modes of exhibition than on new digital media.


The first part of my essay focuses on the contemporary Japanese film industry and J-Horror’s production processes, and examines how the J-Horror boom is connected to digital or computer technologies. Beginning in 1989, the decline of Japan’s once-vaunted economy has ushered in widespread cultural change. What has emerged in this period of the Japanese film industry is a reconfiguration at all levels of production, distribution, and reception. The role of film studios has shifted from actual filmmaking to the distribution of films in multimedia formats, such as DVD and cable television. Within the industry’s risk-adverse environment, most directors have become paradoxically independent as filmmakers, and increasingly dependent on multimedia financing and distribution by the major film companies. The Japanese film industry has been mainly categorized into two types of filmmaking groups, “major” and “independent,” and the former now stands for three film companies: Toho, Shochiku, and Toei, with the rest of the filmmaking productions more or less independent.1 As Geoff King observes on American cinema, “The term ‘independent’ has had rather different connotations at different periods.”2 In the case of the contemporary Japanese cinema, the distinction of cinema being independent from the studios is rather meaningless given the current ubiquity of independent filmmakers. This is different from the case of the American cinema from the mid-1980s, which King describes as “the more arty/quirky, sometimes politically inflected, brand of independent cinema [that] began to gain a higher profile and a more sustained and institutionalized base in the broadly off-Hollywood arena.”3 Writing on recent Japanese cinema, Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp offer this description of the independent filmmakers: “These were filmmakers whose attitudes and philosophies of cinema were entirely different from those of the old studio period. They were independent in spirit: artists with nothing to lose, but with everything to gain.”4

However, given the current economics of filmmaking in Japan, “independent” no longer means independent production. During the studios’ heyday of production, the gap between the major companies’ films and those of independents was considerable in terms of budgets, production modes, and aesthetic outcome. In the current “post-studio” period, the dichotomy of major vs. independent has been reconfigured to a symbiotic relationship of the former as financier and distributor, and the latter as divisions of production. Independent filmmakers often work with the sponsorship of the major studios and/or produce within an organized production company that is regularly engaged in the making of films and television programs. Conglomerates such as the Kadokawa publishing company and Fuji Television often support these independent filmmakers, whose objectives are seldom free from business constraints, in contrast to Mes’s and Sharp’s idealized notions. For instance, both J-Horror film directors Nakata Hideo and Shimizu Takashi are so-called independent filmmakers, and yet Ringu (Japan, 1998, Nakata Hideo) was produced by Kadokawa and distributed by Toho, and Ju-on: The Grudge (Japan, 2002, Shimizu Takashi) was produced by Toei Video Co. Ltd. Nakata, as one of the last generation of studio-trained directors, started his career as an assistant director in Nikkatsu Studios in 1985, then made his debut as an independent director in 1992. His first directed works were not films, but three segments for the television series Hontou ni atta kowai hanashi/Real-Life Scary Tales (Japan, 1992, Shimizu Takashi, et al.).5 Shimizu started out with a short video, produced as his film school project, and subsequently was offered the chance to direct his first horror program for Kansai Television.6

The integration of major and independent has also served to maintain historical tactics employed by the major studios for releasing films in “series” that inculcate audience loyalty. While the majors have steadily decreased their inhouse productions, they have remained heavily dependant on so-called “program pictures,” typically a film series like Tora-san with forty-eight episodes (Japan, 1969-1995, Yamada Yoji) from Shochiku or the Godzilla series (Japan, 1954-2004, Honda Ishiro, et al.) from Toho. Each company has nurtured its brand associations with its particular “program picture” built around a specific character and usually the same director, and it releases an installment once or twice a year during the high-profit holiday seasons. The “program picture” has provided a measure of economic stability to the production side, since it functions the same as a genre at fulfilling expectations in the triangular relationship of production, distribution, and reception. J-Horror, like many of the films to come out of the recent independent production system, has often been molded from this pattern of serialization as well. The independent film production company Ace Pictures, for instance, produced Ringu and distributed it with another horror film Rasen/Ring 2: Spiral (Japan, 1998, Iida Koji) as a special event; they then made it a series, following the pattern of the “program picture,” in the following years as the “Kadokawa Horror Series,” producing Ringu 2 (Japan, 1999, Nakata Hideo) and Ringu 0 (Japan, 2000, Tsuruta Norio) within three years. As these examples indicate, J-Horror grew out of the specific context of the contemporary Japanese film industry-the disintegration of the studio system and a leveling of competition, and increasing affiliations among “major” and “independent” film productions.

In the current post-studio period, many of the Japanese filmmakers are de facto independent, lacking the extensive 35mm training of many directors during the studio production period. These new filmmakers, however, have been quick to embrace new media, whether through digital video or computer editing, in order to trim their production budgets and schedules. For instance, the director Shimizu Takashi shot his film Marebito (Japan, 2004) in just eight days, between the production of his Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (Japan, 2003) and the Hollywood remake, The Grudge (Japan/USA/Germany, 2004).7 J-Horror filmmakers’ prolific production, both in speed and numbers, has been a significant cause of the cultural phenomenon of the J-Horror boom, enabled, of course, by new media technologies. More importantly, the prolific production was not simply related to film and its theatrical release, but also to an alternative venue for marketing, namely the DVD, another new technological influence since the late 1990s. What then, is the result of this technological conversion to digital on the level of filmic or post-filmic texts?


The appeal of J-Horror films can be seen in their textual elements drawn from the urban topography and the pervasive use of technology, elements which are, at once, particular and universal. In the current post-studio climate, the conditions of low budget and studio-less production are imprinted on new filmmakers’ work, especially regarding location shooting that frequently captures a sense of Tokyo urbanity. J-Horror has often effectively used this dense topography to represent a uniquely urban sense of fear attached to the possibilities of the megalopolis and its mythos. The images of Tokyo and surrounding locales tied to the city dwellers’ lives have been significant motifs in J-Horror. Ringu uses mainly three locales: Tokyo, Oshima island, and Izu peninsula. Oshima island is sixty miles south of Tokyo, where the film’s female “monster” Sadako was born, and Izu is south-west of Tokyo, where she is now confined in an old well and waiting to extend her reach. Both Oshima and Izu are usually considered weekend resort areas for Tokyo dwellers. The mix of familiarity and relative remoteness of these areas gives the film a sense of spatial and temporal reality as well as a mythical undercurrent related to the remnants of pre-modern culture lurking in rural locales. Besides Ringu, many of the J-Horror films use Tokyo as their spatial backdrop and even as a causal aspect for a character’s isolation. As one can see in Audition (Japan, 1999, Miike Takashi), the female psychopathic Asami’s residence is a cheap, drab apartment in Tokyo, and her isolation is suggested by the space being largely unfurnished, except for a telephone. Audition also draws upon various Tokyo locales, such as the subterranean bar (in Ginza), where its owner was killed and chopped to pieces, and the former ballet studio (in Suginami), where Asami, as a child, was molested by her stepfather. These spaces in Tokyo cause both feelings of familiarity and repulsion in Julia Kristeva’s sense of “abjection,” here toward the archaic and the derelict.8 In the case of the Ju-on series, the film uses an abandoned and haunted house that conjures J-Horror’s dual sensibility of space that is ordinary and familiar, yet isolated, neglected, and dreadful. A sense of claustrophobia is created by the use of an actual house, with the camera work dictated by the tight dimensions of a typical Japanese residence. When the director Shimizu made the Hollywood version The Grudge, he even built a replica of the Tokyo house, with its compartments and alcoves, in order to keep the sense of spatial constriction and claustrophobia.

It is revealing to compare the aspect of locality in Ringu and its Hollywood adaptation The Ring (USA/Japan, 2002, Gore Verbinski). In the Hollywood version, geographical specificity is transferred from Tokyo to Seattle. The film demystifies locations and does not use the dual sensibility of space to conjure familiarity and abjection, relying instead on more firmly established characters and narrative causality. For instance, the “Moesko Island Lighthouse” that Rachel (Naomi Watts) visits is a fictional name for a real lighthouse located in Newport, Oregon; the Seattle setting is actually Vancouver.9 What the film creates with its locales is not a simulation of an actual urban topography, but a geographic plot device for the narrative development. Strengthening the characters and the narrative causality makes The Ring more rational and expository than the original, and consequently the film allows the audience to identify with the characters and their predicament10; whereas Ringu presumes a level of regional sophistication on the part of its audience, an understanding of the spatial and temporal logic underlying the film’s schemata, the time and the distance that the characters have to travel in their attempt to ward off Sadako’s curse. Still, Ringu’s appeal to international audiences rests on the realism of its depiction of locales, images that resonate with a sense of Japan as a repository of the “antiquated” and the “mysterious.” The independent distributor Rob Straight, for instance, points out that the attraction of Asian horror films is their well-received original stories and culturally inflected images. “Many of the films that we’ve handled…are terrifying in a cerebral kind of way. Asian cultures provide supporting mythologies of spirits and demons that are new to us and that make the terror feel more rooted, less arbitrary. They are not the usual kind of slash-and-cut horror films, and I think people were ready for a change.”11

Despite the transformation of locale, The Ring accurately follows the original’s use of technology as a medium for the horrific.12 The indispensable gadgets of urban life such as televisions, videos, cell phones, surveillance cameras, computers, and the Internet augment the anxious reality that J-Horror films produce. Various J-Horror films, including Ringu and the Ju-on series, play with the conceit of technological fluency. A character often becomes the target of an evil spirit by a mistaken belief in his or her ability to read the texts emitted from electronic devices that unexpectedly become conduits of spirits. Ringu’s sense of the horrific derives from the idea that a curse is disseminated through trans-media, such as Sadako crawling out of a television screen, a notice of death via telephone, and videotape functioning as a medium for transferring the curse to others. All of these cases have, as their basis in reality, the possibility of a destructive force spreading through media traffic like a computer “virus.” Like an epidemic spiral, the more these everyday technologies are diffused, the more the horrific spreads along with them. In Ringu the frame of the television screen coincides with that of the film itself when it displays the sequence of the cursed videotape. The gaze of the character in the film is the same as the camera’s gaze and then the audience’s as well, producing a perfect identification between the victim and the film’s spectators. The whole scheme creates the illusion that the film itself is the medium transmitting the curse.

Likewise, Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s Kairo/Pulse (Japan, 2000) deploys the Internet as a medium for transmitting a curse.13 The film presents a succession of suicides among Internet users, and subverts the subject-object relation between human and computer by depicting Internet images that persist in logging on even after the user shuts off the computer. Kurosawa broke through with Cure (Japan, 1997), so he has often been described as a forerunner of J-Horror. However, he has stated that his later film Pulse is the first and only work that he consciously associated with the J-Horror boom.14 Kurosawa points out that the boom of J-Horror actually started in the early 1990s, with so-called “original video” (straight-to-video) films by filmmakers such as Konaka Chiaki and Tsuruta Norio. The distinct characteristic of these early J-Horror films, according to Kurosawa, was the cheap, flat, home video aesthetic due to the fact that they were originally produced on videotape. Placing something extraordinary in those ordinary looking video images, such as the image of a dead person appearing in one’s home videotape, was the charm of the early makers of Japanese horror films.15 Their methods of making a horror film were distinctly different from both Hollywood’s more expensive film productions and the pre-1970s Japanese classical horror films, such as Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan/Ghost Story of Yotsuya (Japan, 1959, Nakagawa Nobuo) and Kaidan/Kwaidan (Japan, 1964, Kobayashi Masaki), which used elaborate studio sets and classical narratives.16 In this sense, Pulse shares the characteristic of J-Horror’s juxtaposition of the extraordinary with the ordinary in the device of using the Internet to present images of someone who is already dead.

I have discussed how new technologies have influenced J-Horror films in terms of iconography, such as the Internet in Pulse. J-Horror films also take advantage of digital editing to create new styles on the level of aesthetics and narrative structure. Many of the films use the rhetoric of new media, and in the dialectical relationship between film and new media, the genre takes on the role of a storyteller appealing to younger audiences who are already steeped in a variety of digital technologies including computer games, DVDs, and home theater systems. Moreover, they are used to repeated viewing made available by these technologies. Ju-on: The Grudge uses the concept of “modularity,” in which the narrative is constructed of multiple modules or narrative segments, each one titled with a victim’s name. This structure simulates the “chapter” format of the DVD, which is typically used to cue an exact sequence, either for a repeat viewing or to watch the text intermittently. The majority of home theater viewers tend toward an interrupted pattern of spectatorship rather than watching a film straight through as in a movie theater. As Timothy Corrigan puts it, watching movies at home becomes “a combination of…visual ‘grazing’ and domestic ‘cocooning.'”17 The fragmented format of the film Ju-on: The Grudge is perfectly suited to this type of spectatorship, one predicated on the need for immediate satisfaction, fulfilled by the placement of a horrific moment within each short segment. This structure was eliminated in the Hollywood remake, The Grudge, a fact that reveals the shift of the targeted audience from the DVD home viewers to audiences in a movie theater.

The director Shimizu Takashi is especially keen to create horror films using the rhetoric of new media, as in the aforementioned film Marebito (Figure 1). Digitally shot, edited, and distributed, it is one of the best examples of the influence of new media rhetoric in its non-linear narrative structure and aesthetics and the spatializing properties made possible by digital editing. The narrative concerns a freelance video cameraman working for television news programs who is obsessed with finding the most dreadful horror one can possibly see. He engages with the world largely through a video camera, and the boundary between the reality in his life and the reality captured by his camera is increasingly blurred. One day, he discovers an entrance to the underground, where he encounters mysterious creatures called Deros (detrimental robots). He takes a female Deros back home and confines it like a pet.

As in recent science fiction films with CGI such as The Matrix (USA, 1999, Andy and Larry Wachowski) and eXistenZ (Canada/UK/France, 1999, David Cronenberg), this film deploys double layers in its narrative: a real world and an underworld. The doubling of spatial layers is deepened by a matching sense of the protagonist’s double selves, one governed by his sane cognition and the other by emerging paranoia. The film deviates from a linear narrative development, using instead fragmented time and space to develop its complex layers. Time skips back and forth, following the oscillation of his mental state. The sequence of a seemingly disturbed woman pursuing him is repeated; only later is she revealed to be his ex-wife. The “rhizomatic” narrative-the multiple and non-hierarchical collection of narrative segments-represents narrative expansion within a temporal and spatial mesh. This multiplication of narrative is heavily dependant on digital editing that allows more spatial extension than is typical of analog editing. Laura U. Marks describes such digital editing as an “open form,” and notes that the advantage of digital editing is “to multiply the opportunities for flashbacks, parallel storylines, and other rhizomatic narrative techniques, producing a story that is so dense it expands into space as much as it moves forward in time. Experimental video remains the pioneer of the digital open form, as it is more free of narrative cinema’s will to linearity.”18

The film also mimics so-called “digital errors,” the now familiar innovations of electronic musicians and video artists. They “intentionally mess with the hardware: turning the computer on and off, or plugging the ‘audio out’ into the ‘video in,’ liberating the electrons to create random effects,”19 and they try to subvert or challenge already existing music or images with techniques such as “stutter,” repeating the same sound or image as if it is caused by a technical mistake, and “breakdown,” shutting down the sound or image abruptly. In Marebito, the latter technique is used for the sequence called “the twelve-seconds’ mystery.” The protagonist monitors the Deros with two surveillance cameras when he is out, and on returning home he finds that the Deros is near death. He then rewinds the surveillance tapes to find out what happened to it. However, once both tapes reach the same point, they inexplicably show only blank screens. Twelve seconds later, the monitoring images come back, and there is the Deros in convulsions. This breakdown of images works by extending the protagonist’s inner state to the audience, blurring the boundary between reality and the video world and threatening him/us with the nightmarish proposition that there is no reality when it is not recorded. What Marebito accomplishes in nearly poetic symmetry of narrative and form is an exploration of the human tendency to apprehend reality through the prosthetic of technology. As our dependence on technology increases and what passes for reality consists of mediated images, there is a corresponding loss of subjectivity, an inability to grasp “the real.” The film’s digital rhetoric effectively simulates the prosthetic connection between a subject and a camera, a viewer and a screen, the now privatized scale of experience that is characteristic of digital and computer technology.

A surveillance camera or its aesthetic is often used in works that are digitally shot, whether they are films or video art. Timecode (USA, 2000, Mike Figgis) deploys four screens, continuously and simultaneously shot by four digital cameras. Dead End Job (Canada, 2003, Ryan Stec) uses the actual images from surveillance cameras and edits them into a hallucinatory collage. The device allows for an exploration of real-time recording, albeit to different effect than J-Horror. A significant number of J-Horror films use surveillance camera images to create a moment of shock through the intrusion of something extraordinary within the banality of the ordinary. In Ju-on: The Grudge a sequence of a ghost appearing in a surveillance monitor is skillfully composed of continuous brief cuts that slowly lead the spectator’s point of view to the full size of the monitor image. The chapter’s victim, Hitomi (Ito Misato), witnesses, first, the image of an office hallway, partially distorted with static interference on the screen; then, a security guard is gradually enveloped by the ghost’s shadow. After the cut back to Hitomi’s reaction (she freaks out and runs away), the last shot in the monitor displays the usual image of the same hallway, only now the guard has disappeared. The film cleverly reduces the visual information in the sequence; first, reducing its color to black and white, which Ringu also used for the cursed videotape, and, second, lowering the visual resolution by blowing up the image of a small surveillance television monitor to full screen size. The film undermines our preconception that the image of a surveillance camera is objective reality, and, as the director Kurosawa pointed out, it creates J-Horror’s idiosyncratic moment, in which the ghost’s extraordinary figure appears (through CGI in this case) in the mundane space of the monitor.20 Moreover, the principle of reduction in order to create an eye-catching image is strongly tied with the use of digital cameras, with which anyone can take a well-lit, focused image, and even with synchronous sound; thus, to create a distinctive image, one needs to find a way to reduce what the camera captures. Digital shooting represents an aesthetic regime of reduction that is markedly different from conventional filmmaking, in which one needs to add the necessary elements, such as enhanced lighting and sound, in order to grant the image a degree of verisimilitude.21

As a result of using digital video cameras and computer editing, the contemporary Japanese horror films have a “new” look. It is certainly not only in the case of horror. One can also see this stylistic transformation in other genre films, such as the comedies Mayonaka no Yaji-san Kita-san/Midnight Yaji-san and Kita-san (Japan, 2005, Kudo Kankuro) and Takeshis’ (Japan, 2005, Kitano Takeshi), and the drama Distance (Japan, 2001, Kore’eda Hirokazu). Yet only J-Horror has managed broad commercial success with global audiences through the alternative distribution of DVD, rather than depending on international theatrical release. Both Kore’eda and Kitano, on one hand, brought their films to the Cannes Film Festival, and tried to extend their distribution to international markets. Kudo’s comedy, on the other hand, was only targeted for the domestic box office by following the industrial commonplace that comedy does not cross cultural boundaries well. It bears repeating that the boom of J-Horror occurred alongside the cultural contingency of independent filmmakers’ affinity with digital technology. Moreover, J-Horror has been especially successful in tapping the aesthetic of new media-in particular, the digital regime of fragmentary narrative, highlighted attention to the disrupted electronic image, privatized spectatorship, and aesthetic reduction. J-Horror’s appeal to global audiences is due to both this “new” look and how the filmic content is packaged and distributed, as I will outline in the following section.


J-Horror’s emergence parallels the rise of the DVD market in Japan. The timing of its appearance was fortuitous, since the genre had both a sufficient mass of existing narrative content in novels, manga comics, and television programs, and speed in generating new content, whether shot on film or video, to meet the demand of the growing DVD market. Indeed, one difficulty in discussing J-Horror is due to the genre’s symbiotic relation with new digital technology, which leads the film genre into a tangle of cross-media traffic. Simply put, the centrality of film as the primary medium for production, distribution, and consumption has shifted with the emerging predominance of DVD. Consequently, a discussion of J-Horror must be placed within this transitional stage of cross-media consumption. Shimizu Takashi, for example, has serialized his original video Ju-on (Japan, 1999), in a number of films and videos, as well as Japanese and Hollywood feature film versions (Figure 2). Shimizu has already directed six Ju-on videos/ films: Ju-on (video), Ju-on 2 (Japan, 2000, video), Ju-on: The Grudge (film), Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (film), The Grudge (film), and The Grudge 2 (USA, 2006, film). The seventh work Ju-on: The Grudge 3 (Japan, 2008, film) is scheduled to be produced in Japan, though Shimizu will not be the director.22 The multiple versions of Ju-on, whether originally video or film, are available as separate texts in the DVD format. J-Horror’s affinity with the extra-filmic products of DVD (and television programming for the domestic Japanese audience) has, indeed, fueled the J-Horror boom both inside and outside Japan. In other words, the genre is constructed of a number of post-filmic productions, only one of which is in the traditional form of a theatrically released feature film.

The profusion of horror omnibuses is the best example of J-Horror’s high compatibility with new media, especially DVD. They often circulate in the DVD market without depending on a theatrical release at all, and they are either re-edited from already existing television programs or produced straight-to-DVD. The DVD, Nilwn no kowai yoru/Dark Tales of Japan (Japan, 2004, Nakamura Yoshihiro, et al.), for instance, is an omnibus of five television programs that were originally broadcast in September 2004. Shimizu Takashi directed one of the five episodes, “Kinpatsu kaidan/Blonde Kwaidan,” and in the narrative he mockingly intertextualizes Hollywood’s rush for adaptation of J-Horror films, including his own T7ie Grudge. These omnibuses function as a system for creating and sustaining the J-Horror boom in three principal ways: 1) relatively young and inexperienced filmmakers can start making a short film as practical directorial training; 2) horror films on DVD find alternative distribution without the expense of theatrical release marketing; 3) it facilitates cross-media, intertextual references to contemporary popular cultures. Distributing only on DVD makes sense, given the contemporary dearth of theatrical venues, a shortage that has caused the shelving of many unreleased films. As the film producer Kuroi Kazuo states, “Although the mass media has been fussing by saying that the Renaissance of Japanese cinema has come, there are about one hundred films still unreleased and put up on the shelf…. There are a limited number of screens, and too many films.”23

In terms of the third aspect, the practice of referencing or even adapting from other media such as comics, television programs, and novels secures an already existing audience for both films and DVD. The omnibus format in the horror genre has a long history indeed, as we can see in various examples. Three Tales of Terror (Austria/Hungary, 1912, Jacob Fleck, et al.) has three episodes directed by Jacob Fleck, Luise Fleck, and Claudius Velee; Tales from the Crypt (UK/US, 1972, Freddie Francis) is based on the same-titled comic book series, and the film has the omnibus format of five people trapped in a crypt and shown their futures; Due occhi didbolici/Two Evil Eyes (Italy/US, 1990, Dario Argento and George A. Romero) is composed of two horror segments based on Edgar Allan Poe stories: “The Facts about Mr. Valdeman,” directed by Romero, and “The Black Cat,” directed by Argento. As evinced by the omnibus format, the horror film genre, in general, has developed under the influence of short stories or comic book segments. This format is even more suitable for the DVD medium since its chapter structure allows one to watch an individual segment or skip to another episode. In the case of J-Horror, one of the most significant intertextual references for those omnibus DVDs is manga comics, as illustrated by the horror omnibuses Hino Hideji kaiki gekijo DVD-Box/Hino Hideji’s Mystery Theater DVDBox (Japan, 2005, Shiraishi Koji, et al.) and Umezu Kazuo kyofu gekijo/Umezu Kazuo’s Horror Theater (Japan, 2005, Kurosawa Kiyoshi, et al.). The Umezu omnibus includes six shorts, all based on the comic artist Umezu Kazuo’s horror manga comics. While a few of those films had limited theatrical release in Tokyo (Shibuya CinemaVera in June 2006) or at film festivals (Fukuoka Hero Festival, November 2006; Sapporo Film Festival, November 2006), the series was packaged for the DVD market. The Tomie series (Japan, six films from 1999 to 2005, Oikawa Ataru, et al.) is also based on the same title manga comics by the artist Ito Junji. This series has a television version as well, which is repackaged on DVD in the form of an omnibus, titled Tomie: Another Face (Japan, 1999, Inomata Toshiro). The original comic’s narrative device for serializing a story, with the main character Tomie as a clone with an ability to regenerate her body even after her murder, is not just timely as a topic, but also works for extending the series.

From the industrial point of view, the central force enabling J-Horror’s entry into the world market has been its integration with the DVD format. The rise of new media, DVD in particular, has altered the trajectory of cultural flow worldwide towards a decentralized model of multiplied venues that are less beholden to the theatrical screen. The concept of “global cinema” has been changing along with the distribution of cinematic content in multimedia formats. Fewer regions like India or the U.S., where the film industry is still considered a thriving business, can manage to sustain the hierarchical notion that theater screening is the center of cinema circulation. Even in the U.S., the state of cinema has been gradually changing with the improvement of the home theater as the steep curve tracking the numbers of DVD players indicates. As Barbara Klinger notes, “Rising from a 2 percent to a 30 percent penetration of U.S. homes from 1999 to 2002, DVD players have inspired owners to upgrade their entertainment equipment so that the superiority of DVD picture and sound can be fully realized.”24

Film Studies itself is still struggling to assimilate the fact that film is no longer simply represented by movies in theaters. David Bordwell writes that “a truly global cinema is one that claims significant space on theater screens throughout developed and developing countries…. The only global cinema comes from America. Blockbusters like Independence Day (USA, 1996, Roland Emmerich) and Titanic (USA, 1997, James Cameron) are international media events…. The Hollywood of the East is Hollywood.”25 While the Hollywood blockbuster might still command such attention, it should be emphasized that the examples Bordwell cites here are films produced when DVD had only recently entered the market. Moreover, since the mid-1980s, more people were seeing Hollywood films at home than in theaters.26 Titanic’s gross for rentals in the U.S. ($324,425,520) is much higher than its box office sales, ($128,099,826) as of December, 1998) ,27


Until the advent of J-Horror, Japanese cinema has never been a “global cinema” except for anime (Japanese animation) and some auteur films that circulated via various international film festivals. J-Horror’s border traffic represents a significant departure from the cinema’s long-standing failure in foreign markets. The history of Japanese exported film {yushutsu eiga) has largely been a series of misfires which, despite an often-favorable critical reception, failed to achieve wide theatrical release and box office profits. Outside of the occasional art-house film, there have been few attempts to export Japanese cinema in a commercially viable way, much less create a global cinema. The influence of Japanese popular culture has, instead, largely been in the commodities aimed at children, such as television animations and video games (Figure 3). Anne Allison writes, “Japanese ‘cool’ is traveling popularly and profitably around the world and insinuating itself into the everyday lives and fantasy desires of postindustrial kids from Taiwan and Australia to Hong Kong and France.”28 The historian William Tsutsui agrees:

Japanese popular culture exports have had a profound influence in America (and indeed, throughout the world) in the decades since World War II. From Godzilla in the 1950s through Astro Boy in the 1960s, Speed Racer in the 1970s, and the more recent phenomena of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Hello Kitty, Nintendo, and Pokemon, creations of the Japanese imagination have been high profile and big business in the United States.29

As Tsutsui’s examples indicate, Japanese cultural exports to the U.S. have been specifically in the categories of monster and animation products, but seldom in the cinema. However, there were a few periods when the Japanese film industry tried to intensively promote their films abroad, even pre-World War II.

The Japanese cinema was, arguably, first introduced in the U.S. in 1904, when the producer Kawaura Ken’ichi screened newsreels from the Japan-Russia War at the exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.30 Later, a number of “bunka eiga” (cultural films)31 were shown at the New York Exposition, and most of the films served to introduce Japan to foreign audiences, as indicated by such titles as Nara Kyoto/Nara and Kyoto (Japan, 1933), Nihon no matsuri/Festivals in Japan (Japan, 1934), Shiki no Nihon/Japan in Four Seasons (Japan, 1933), and Ninon bekken/Glimpses of Japan (Japan, 1936), all produced by the Japanese International Tourist Bureau.32 Although the director Murata Minoru’s attempt to promote his film Machi no tejinashi/The Street Magician (Japan, 1925) in Europe failed in 1925, another director, Kinugasa Teinosuke, succeeded in marketing his film Crossroads, Jujiro/Shadows of the Yoshiwara (Japan, 1928) in Germany. The well-known producer Kawakita Nagamasa made two multi-national production films Atarashii tsuchi/The New Earth (Japan/Germany, 1937, Arnold Fanck and Itami Mansaku) and 7byo heiwa no michi/The Road to the Eastern Peace (Japan, 1938, Suzuki Shigeyoshi). Naruse Mikio’s film Tsuma yo bora no yo ni/Kimiko (Japan, 1935) was shown in the U.S. and harshly reviewed by the Neu> York Times in 1937.33 The breakthrough of Kurosawa Akira’s Rashomon (Japan, 1950), which won an award at the Venice Film Festival in 1951, opened the way for many Japanese films, especially “art films,” to be accepted at various international film festivals and, hence, seen by potential foreign buyers.

One might argue that the overall resistance within the Japanese film industry to produce more exportable commercial products is based on an intrinsic condition of Japanese cinema’s co-existence with Hollywood in the postwar era: only those Japanese films that were distinguished by culturally specific genres could compete with the dominant Hollywood films in the Japanese market, and due to the cultural specificity of those films the industry assumed that they were unsuitable for export. J-Horror, exemplary of Japanese genre cinema, would change those assumptions. Thanks to DVD distribution, it managed to traverse the historical boundaries that shaped Japanese cinema as a fundamentally domestic product. J-Horror thus followed the model of Japanese anime videotapes of the 1980s.

Anime crossed the boundaries between Japanese and global markets due to its capacity for modification on levels of both text and media. It is easily re-dubbed and re-edited to make it more universal, and it was highly mobile in the form of videotape. As Tsutsui’s recollection indicates, the animations Tetsuwan Atom/ Astro Boy (Fuji Television, 1963, Tezuka Osamu, et al.) in the 1960s, Mach Go Go Go/Speed Racer (Television Tokyo, 1967, Yoshida Tatsuo, et al.) in the late 1960s, and Pocket Monster/Pokemon (Television Tokyo, 1997, Yuyama Kunihiko) in the 1990s found success abroad in dubbed and re-edited versions on television worldwide, and it is likely that the majority of the viewers did not even recognize that those animations were from Japan. Anime, at the same time, has characteristics that are culturally specific, due to its jerky movement, typical of limited animation techniques. Still, it has managed to reach audiences of varying age, gender, and culture, primarily through its multitude of texts, subject diversity, and variations in quality.

Similarly, J-Horror’s assimilation of new digital technology enabled it to cross market boundaries, despite its culturally specific images, such as a ghost with a white painted body theatrically stylized like a Butoh dance performer or a vengeful woman figure with long black hair. Such cultural specificities are, on one hand, generally diminished in Hollywood remakes, reflecting the calculations of marketing to a generic worldwide audience, and, on the other hand, highlighted in the packaging of J-Horror films on DVD aimed at a cult fan demographic with an appetite for the culturally authentic and macabre violence. With products that range from high to low quality, both anime and J-Horror demonstrate a formidable capacity for variegated production aimed at diverse consumers. At one of the most popular Asian film Internet sites,, one can, for instance, find one thousand anime DVDs and more than 350 J-Horror DVDs by using combinations of the key words “animation” and “Japan” and “horror” and “Japan,”

DVD is inextricable from the enriched flow of cinematic commodities away from the Hollywood-centered film distribution model to more region-oriented models. Worldwide, DVD has extended the film industry’s market models beyond the theatrical release to address diverse, private, home-based reception patterns. The excessive price of going to a movie in Japan (approximately $17 (US) or ¥1,800 per adult) and the industrial strategy for marketing certain B genre films solely in DVD formats have spurred the tendency to purchase films on DVD. Its high information capacity with multiple languages in dubbing and subtitling has also expanded the marketing potential of J-Horror across national boundaries. The worldwide success of J-Horror is illustrative of how digital media have extended cinema’s reach as a global commodity through both official and unofficial channels, such as downloading films from the Internet, file sharing, and piracy. Indeed, the regional boom of the genre has been largely a matter of unplanned cultural contingencies, the intersection of digital media and mobile culture.

In the case of Ringu, for instance, the executive producer Hara Masato attributes the unexpected success of the series to the technological fluency of schoolgirl culture. Originally, the production side planned to market Ringu as a “date film,” but it ended up that many female high school students came to see the film and the positive word-of-mouth generated by their cell phone text-messaging contributed to the success of the series. Ringu’s gross sales were more than ten million U.S. dollars, and the following years’ Ringu 2 doubled its sales.34 The income is, of course, not only from theatrical release, but also includes video and DVD sales. Ringu’s release was especially timely, since it came right after DVD was legally licensed in Japan in 1996, and the promotion of both DVD software and hardware encouraged the purchase of films. The same strategy was used in the U.S. later, and The Ring sold more than two million DVD copies in the first twenty-four hours of video release.35

The global circulation of J-Horror has indeed depended on the less controlled cultural contingencies linked to the rise of digital networking and film piracy concurrent with the popularization of DVD since the late 1990s. As Shujen Wang notes, “The rapidly changing spatiotemporal dynamics and configurations afforded by these new [digital] technologies have radically changed the nature of ‘property’ and market, the balance of power, and the relations and means of production, distribution, and reception/consumption.”36 J-Horror, in its upending of the existing hierarchy of film distribution, is one of the best examples of this potential of new digital technologies. Global audiences, who are more equipped technologically than ever before and better informed about new trends in software and films through instantaneous Web-casting, are no longer content to wait for the local release of films when they can purchase the film’s DVD on the Internet or download it from a sharing file. While safeguards such as region codes exist, and officially they are supposed to prevent the cross-national flow of DVD from one region to the other, multi-region DVD players are cheap and widely available. An audience segment of high techno-literates, then, creates a perfect market for such pirated products. Not only that, they directly promote local digital products, such as B-movie films like J-Horror through their own Weblogs. The phenomenon of such alternative distribution subverts the long-standing economic calculations of major studios or distributors, especially by focusing on genre films, which historically were not often exported to “central” markets, such as the U.S.

Digital networking is much faster and more flexible compared with the containment strategies of law enforcement or its legitimate counterparts (such as Hollywood or other national film industries). J-Horror’s regional boom is largely a matter of the contingencies of DVD distribution in Asia, a model that is functionally different from Hollywood’s traditional planned timing of its film release dates. Such an exercise of global control has never been tenable for regional or national cinemas, and yet digital networking enabled those cinemas to de-center the pattern of cultural globalization vis-a-vis Hollywood. The newly emerging geography of digital cinema thrives on its center-less quality, a dynamic that also allows for the uncontrolled circulation of its products. In the case of Ringu, the film was released in Japan on January 31, 1998. Intriguingly, in South Korea, the local Korean film production company AFDF produced the film’s adaptation Ring Virus (South Korea, 1999, Kim Dong-bin) and released it on June 12, 1999-six months before the original Japanese version appeared on December 11, 1999. Of course, the Japanese DVD had been available on the Internet in June 1998, and, moreover, the film had already been released in other East Asian markets, such as Hong Kong in April 1999.

Such accelerated circulation of film (as content, whatever its form), caused by ubiquitous digital technologies has started reshaping the flow of culture and the balance of power in different media. As Wang points out in the case of Ang Lee’s Wo hu cang long/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan/Hong Kong/ USA/China, 2000), this circulation reverses the usual directional flow of commodities from Hollywood to global regions: “This Hong Kong-Taiwan-China coproduction was released in Asia five months before its U.S. premiere…. [P]irated video copies of the film were circulating in the U.S. market long before the film’s formal U.S. release in December 2000. “3? In another case of reverse cultural flow, not only at the “illegitimate” level, but also as an act of “legitimate” global acceptance, J-Horror’s circulation, which originated in Japan, caused the subsequent horror boom in Asia and, ultimately, the exporting of both its adaptations and new filmmakers to Hollywood.

J-Horror is well suited to the circumstances of industrial transition and the new economics of small screen movie viewing. The genre is aimed at younger audiences, who would rather rent or purchase DVDs than pay exorbitant ticket prices at movie theaters in Japan. The tactics of emphasizing DVD sales also suits the current circumstances of the Japanese film industry, in which “digital cinema” has not grown as fast as DVD’s popularization. Digital cinema refers to the use of digital technology to distribute and project films, and those films are distributed through hard drives, DVDs or satellite, and projected using a digital projector instead of a conventional film projector.38 In contrast to the rapid spread of DVD acceptance since the late 1990s, the Japanese film industry has been having a difficult time digitalizing its distribution and projection systems. Computerizing the system and purchasing the digital projector for each theater is about four or five times more expensive than the traditional film projection system.39 For the majority of movie theaters, investing in digitalization technology guarantees neither an increase of audiences nor revenues. Moreover, theater owners are hesitant to jump into digital systems until the format and regulation of the system are standardized. T-JOY, funded by Toei in 2000, is one of the few companies to accept digital cinema, but it has only ten entertainment complexes throughout Japan.40


J-Horror’s proclivity for crossing the borders of media and patterns of reception has made the genre fertile ground for airing problems in Film Studies’ assimilation of the transitions occurring in cinema. The genre represents what I see as the dual potentialities of new media; on one hand, a greater access and multiplicity of texts, and, on the other, the power of digitalization to erase historical context. Due to the genre’s affinity with the DVD format, J-Horror has extended its reach through an enormous number of works and extended the parameters of the genre as well. This reconstruction of the J-Horror genre as a pragmatic category in the DVD market has caused a shuffling of media (i.e. the erasure of contentorigin as films, straight-to-video films, and television programs are formatted into DVD) and history (i.e. 1960s non-horror films repackaged as precursors to J-Horror). The materiality of the genre-are we talking about film or DVD?-now needs to be specified, if one is to analyze the genre in the context of film history. The identification with each medium has become more crucial to the analysis of a text since the antiquated hierarchy among media-that film is the ultimate product and other post-filmic products are simply spin-offs-has been subverted, especially in J-Horror’s case.

For instance, the anthology Japanese Horror Cinema, edited by Jay McRoy, displays a glaring need for clarification on horror cinema’s materiality. As the anthology’s “filmography” reveals, what the book considers as film is actually DVD, and this substitution causes the reconfiguration of the horror genre itself. Although the act of analyzing a film in different formats has been indispensable to film scholars since the 1980s, the critical problem here is that in blurring the distinction between those media, the anthology’s contributors take an expansive view of what constitutes Japanese horror cinema, far beyond the historic context of the genre. Some films dealt with in the anthology, such as Ugetsu Monogatari/ Ugetsu (Japan, 1953, Mizoguchi Kenji), Kumo no su jo/Throne of Blood (Japan, 1957, Kurosawa Akira), Moju/Blind Beast (Japan, 1969, Masumura Yasuzo), Ai no korida/In the Realm of the Senses (Japan/France, 1976, Oshima Nagisa), Tetsuo (Japan, 1989, Tsukamoto Shinya), Freeze Me (Japan, 2000, Ishii Takashi), and Battle Royale (Japan, 2000, Fukasaku Kinji), were not associated with the horror genre at all in either the films’ production or distribution in Japan. They were distributed and discussed within the regimes of the auteur (Mizoguchi and Kurosawa) or other genres, such as jidaigeki eiga (the period film), bungei-mono (the literary adaptation) in the case of Blind Beast, the porno film in the case of In the Realm of the Senses, the cyberpunk film in the case of Tetsuo, and the psycho thriller in the case of Freeze Me, or simply as a topical film in connection with bestseller novels as in the case of Battle Royale. Peter Hutchings is right about the difficulty of defining horror when he notes, “If one looks at the way that film critics and film historians have written about horror, a certain imprecision becomes apparent regarding how the genre is actually constituted.”411 do not think, however, that the issue is solely a matter of genre categorization in the case of Japanese Horror Cinema, but rather that the connections among a text, its historical context, and the discursive subject go unacknowledged. Such connections are ever more crucial in my view, given that new media have the tendency to encompass and reposition old media, and the past as well.

If one goes into any Internet site promoting and distributing Japanese horror films, he or she will find that the films mentioned above are actually categorized as “horror.” At, for example, Battle Royale is included in both the “horror” and “thriller” genres, and other keywords are “action,” “children,” and “teen[-pic].”42 DVD distributors and countless other Internet retailers categorize their products following their own marketplace imperatives. The difference between film and DVD genre categories is also reflected by the shift of targeted audience/consumer from the regional movie theater audiences to the global DVD consumers. In the case of J-Horror, the dominance of DVD in the marketplace has produced a new genre system in post-filmic distribution, a system with more generic terms, but, at the same time, one resembling the genre categories of Hollywood cinema. Amidst this process, local generic terms such as jidaigeki eiga have been erased. Rick Altman indicates that “the technological and representational explosion of recent years only reinforces earlier patterns of alienation and lost presence…. While genres are certainly not as simple as most people think they are, many a placebo has provided a successful cure. Because people see safety in the apparent stability of genre, they find genre films useful as signs of successful constellated community communication.”43

This shifting of genres between film and DVD helps us realize the difficulty of connecting a filmic text with its historical cultural context. In the period of digital technology, when visual content is released not only in multiple formats with multiple layers of ownership rights, that content is often manipulated (from black and white to color, re-edited as a director’s edition, etc.) and repackaged. Recently the director Shindo Kaneto’s film Onibaba’a/Onibaba (Japan, 1964) was released on DVD in region one, the U.S. and Canada, on March 16, 2004 (Figure 4). Although Criterion, one of the most representative DVD distributors for canonical classic films, makes no connection between “horror” and its newly packaged Onibaba, one finds that “horror” has gradually insinuated itself into the marketing of the DVD. Amazon.corn’s editorial review, for instance, begins its description of the DVD, “[A] curse hangs over Kaneto Shindo’s primal Japanese classic like a looming storm cloud, but the supernatural has got nothing on the desperation and savagery of the human animal trying to survive the horrors of war,” and IMDb (International Movie Database) categorizes the film as “Drama/Horror” and includes a link to DVD shopping.44

Once analyses of the film appear in academic discourses in the U.S., it is, without any hesitation, categorized as horror, as we see in both Jyotsna Kapur’s essay “The Return of History as Horror: Onibaba and the Atomic Bomb” and Adam Lowenstein’s chapter in his book Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film, “Unmasking Hiroshima: Demons, Human Beings, and Shindo Kaneto’s Onibaba.”45 Kapur “focuses on haunting histories and regional gothics” and reveals “the traditional Japanese horror film…is a radical reworking of this genre into a political allegory of survival in conditions of scarcity amidst class antagonism ruled by war.”46 Lowenstein “examines Shindo’s horror film Onibaba as a means of refiguring how cinematic representations of Hiroshima are legislated theoretically, with particular attention to the political issues of victim consciousness, war responsibility, and the construction of gendered models of Japanese national identity.”47

It has been a while since Frederic Jameson’s allegorical reading on “Third World Literature” was criticized due to its lack of specificity and its ahistorical tendencies.481 have no interest in directing the same criticism toward these scholars’ allegorical approach to Japanese cinema, but I must indicate the gap between the regional, journalistic discourses following the film’s release in 1964 and their post-DVD academic discourses. None of the advertisements, film reviews, and interviews at that time connected the film with the horror genre. The generic categories that these discourses associated with the film are either minwa-mono (folk tale genre) or dokuritsupuro eiga (independent film).49 When Onibaba was released on November 21, 1964, an advertisement for the film highlighted three aspects of the film: it was directed by Shindo Kaneto, who was already well known as a realist filmmaker; it was submitted to geijutsusai (Arts Festival), a wide-ranging annual festival (including theater, film, television programs, music, dance, performance) sponsored by the government since 1946; it was distributed nationwide by Toho, one of the country’s major film companies.50 Onibaba was recognized as one of the new independent films in the mid-1960s.51

1964 was actually the turning point for both independent filmmakers and major studios. As the film industry started declining in both revenue and the number of viewers in the early 1960s, the major studios dropped their policy of excluding independent films from their distribution venues and decided to support them in order to reduce production costs and make a profit from their distribution. Onibaba was one of three independent films in that year (the other two were Suna no on’na/Woman in the Dunes [Japan, 1964, Teshigahara Hiroshi] and Kwaidan) which were also distributed by Toho and made large profits for the company. As a result, the regional discourses in both advertisements and film reviews naturally focused on Onibaba’s aspect as an independent film. Shindo himself commented on this: “It has become common knowledge that one cannot make a film if he/she leaves a major film studio. So the fact that I showed that one can still make a film outside of the major studios, is some sort of contribution of this film.”52

The history of Onibaba and Kwaidan (its DVD was also released in October 2000 in the U.S.A.) has been reconfigured through their DVD release within the context of the recent horror boom. Similarly, as other films that were otherwise obscure are revived through DVD, an inflation of access to film has occurred; or, put differently, the fact that the film medium has been subsumed within multimedia has multiplied the connections between texts and their histories. As Jan Simons indicates, “Multimediality in itself, however, [is] neither unique nor new, and the novelty of new media mainly and most importantly consists of a repositioning and redefinition of old media….” He continues, “A film’s content can be redefined as ‘information’ that can be conceived of as a collection of data that can be organized in various ways, out of which a film’s particular narrative is just one possible choice.”53 As a film is located as information within the digitalizing process, the notion of cinema-films shown in movie theaters-becomes only one particular interface to that information. The concept of film as an immutable, superior material object may be preserved only in the specific nostalgic sense of “aura,” as we now recognize in the sound of vinyl records. Adam Lowenstein’s allegorical reading of Onibaba is, after all, a result of his interfacing with the text, and while one may also view the film as a precursor of J-Horror, neither view is supported by the film’s historical context. Such connections only seem plausible once the film is wrenched from its historical materiality.


I would like to thank my colleagues Andre Loiselle and Marc Raymond, who gave me valuable suggestions for improving this essay. Also, my gratitude goes to the two anonymous readers for their strong encouragement and productive advice for revisions.

1. Lee Bong-Ou, Nihon eiga wa saiko dekiru [Can Japanese Cinema Revive?] (Tokyo: Wayts, 2003), 8.

2. Geoff King, American Independent Cinema (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005), 8.

3. Ibid., 8-9.

4. Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp, The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film (Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2005), vii. Emphasis is mine.

5. “Profile,” Hideo Nakata Official Page, the latest update 2005, (accessed August 21, 2006).

6. “Shimizu Hiroshi Profile,” Shaiker. Official Page, the date of publication 2004, (accessed August 21, 2006).

7. “Trivia for Marebito,” International Movie Database (hereafter IMDb), the latest update 2005, (accessed August 21, 2006).

8. Julia Kristeva, Power of Horror: An Essay of Abjection, Leon S. Roudiez, trans. (New York: Colombia University Press, 1982).

9. “Trivia for The Ring,” IMDb, date of publication 2002, (accessed August 21, 2006).

10. Hollywood’s version closely follows the conventions of American horror films in this regard; the characters that “get it” often seem to deserve their fate. The sexually promiscuous, the know-it-all, and anyone conspicuously upper class are frequent targets of the monster’s rampage. Unlike a lot of J-Horror, the films assure us that this is, after all, a moral universe.

11. David Chute. “East Goes West,” Variety, posted May 9, 2004, 1713&cs=1&query=david+and+chute&display__avid+chute (accessed August 21, 2006).

12. It is ironic to sense The Ring’s outdated-ness regarding the videotape at the center of the dreadful curse in 2002; videotape was still popular at the moment when the original Japanese film was released in 1998, but much less so in 2002, when the remake came out Needless to say, the obsoleteness of the tape medium stands out quite awkwardly in The Ring Two in 2005.

13. Pulse’s distribution rights were purchased by Magnolia, and the film was also remade under the same title by Jim Sonzero and released in August 2006. The remake rights to Kurosawa’s previous film, Cure, have also been acquired by United Artists.

14. The following information provided by Kurosawa Kiyoshi in an interview with the author in Tokyo, June 2006.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Timothy Corrigan, A Cinema Without Walls: Movies and Culture After Vietnam (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 27.

18. Laura U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 233.

19. Ibid., 158.

20. Kurosawa, interview with the author (see note 14).

21. Ibid. The idea of “reduction” and “addition” is also pointed out by Kurosawa.

22. Shimizu has stated that he would not be directing Ju-on: The Grudge 3. Interview with the author in Tokyo, December 2006.

23. Kuroi Kazuo and Hara Masato, “Sokatsuteki taidan: Soredemo anata wa purodyusa ni naruno ka (Summarizing Interview: Do You Still Want to Become a Producer?),” Eiga prodyusa no kiso chishiki: Eiga bijinesu no iriguchi kara deguchi made [A Basic Guide for the Producer: From Entrance to Exit of the Movie Business] (Tokyo: Kinemajunposha, 2005), 178.

24. Barbara Klinger, Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 23.

25. David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 82-83.

26. Janet Wasko, Hollywood in the Information Age: Beyond the Silver Screen (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994).

27. “Business Data for Titanic,” IMDb, the latest update December 2003, (accessed August 21, 2006).

28. Anne Allison, Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 5.

29. William Tsutsui, Godzilla on My Mind (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 7.

30. Tanaka Junichiro, Nihon eiga hattatsu shi I, katsudo shashin jidai [The History of Japanese Film Development I, The Age of Motion Pictures]) (Tokyo: Chuokoronsha, 1975), 117-118.

31. The term bunka (culture) came from the German term “kultur” and the film genre is usually defined as the non-drama or non-news film; it is also known as kyoiku eiga (educational film), kagaku eiga (science film), and kiroku eiga (documentary film). Fujii Jinshi describes bunka eiga as a mere representation or a discursive construction that can’t be fully quantified. Fujii Jinshi, “Bunka sum eiga: Showa-10 nendai ni okeru bunka eiga no bunseki (On Bunka Eiga: Analyzing the Discourses of ‘Culture Film’ in 1935-1945,” Eizogaku [ICONICS: Japanese Journal of Image Arts and Sciences], 66 (2001): 5-22.

32. Yamamoto Sae, “Yushutsu sareta Nihon no imeji: 1939-nen nyuyoku bankoku hakurankai de joei sareta Nihon eiga (The Export of Japan’s Image: Japanese Films Screened at the New York World’s Fair, 1939),” Eizogaku [ICONICS: Japanese Journal of Image and Sciences], 77 (2006): 62-80.

33. Susanne Schermann, Naruse Mikio: Nichijo no kirameki [Mikio Naruse: The Glitter of Everyday Life] (Tokyo: Kinema Junpo-sha, 1997), 82.

34. Hara Masato, Eiga purodyusa ga kataru hitto no tetsugaku [Philosophy for Making a Hit by a Film Producer] (Tokyo: Nikkei BP, 2004), 193.

35. “Trivia for The Ring,” IMDb.

36. Shujen Wang, “Recontextualizing Copyright: Piracy, Hollywood, the State, and Globalization,” Cinema Journal 43.1 (2003): 38.

37. Ibid., 40.

38. “Digital Cinema,” Wikipedia, date of publication July 2006, cinema (accessed August 21, 2006).

39. Sugaya Minoru and Nakamura Kiyoshi, eds., Eizo kontentsu sangyo-ron [Visual Content Industry Studies] (Tokyo: Maruzen, 2002), 207.

40. “T-Joy,” Wikipedia, A6.82.E8.A6.81 (accessed August 21, 2006).

41. Peter Hutchings, The Horror Film (Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2004), 1.

42 “Battle Royale,” (accessed August 21, 2006).

43. Rick Altaian, Film/Genre (London: BFI, 1999), 194.

44. “Onibaba, Criterion Collection (1965),”, and (accessed August 21, 2006).

45. Jyotsna Kapur, “The Return of History as Horror: Onibaba and the Atomic Bomb,” in Honor International, Steven Jay Schneider and Tony Williams, eds. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005), 83-97. Adam Lowenstein, Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 83-109.

46. Steven Jay Schneider and Tony Williams, “Introduction,” in Horror International, Schneider and Williams, eds., 6.

47. Lowenstein, 83.

48. Frederic Jameson, “Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” Social Text 15 (Autumn 1986): 65-88. For criticism of Jameson’s approach see Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures (London and New York: Verso, 1992), 95-122.

49. “Folk tale genre” is cited from “Nihon eiga shokai, Onibaba’a” [“Introduction of Japanese Film, Onibaba’a^, Kinema junpo, 379 (November 1964): 80. “Independent film” is cited from Itoya Hisao, “Onibaba’a seisaku no kiroku [The Records of Onibaba’a Film Production],” in the special report of “Dokuritsu puro: sono genjitsu to daikigyo to no kankei” [“Independent Production: Its Situation and Relation with Major Studios’], Kinema junpo, 387, (March 1965): 23-25.

50. Kinema junpo, 380, (December 1964): n.p.

51. The first boom for independent films was 1951-1957. The major film studios started excluding those independent filmmakers and their films from the film industry, once they had stabilized their production and distribution system in the late 1950s. Many independent filmmakers gave up filmmaking in this period; Shindo Kaneto was one of the few remaining independent filmmakers. He continued filmmaking by either sending his work to international film festivals, as in the case of Hadakano shima/The Island (Japan, 1960), which was awarded the Grand Prix at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1961, or negotiating with a very limited number of independent movie theaters to screen his films.

52. Interview among Shindo Kaneto, Imai Tadashi, and Daikoku Toyoji, “Imai Tadashi, Shindo Kaneto shinshun taidan: omo ni eiga sakka no shutaisei o megutte” [The New Year Interview, Imai Tadashi and Shindo Kaneto: About Filmmaker’s Subjectivity”], Kinema junpo, 383, (January 1965): 56.

53. Jan Simons, “New Media as Old Media: Cinema,” in The New Media Book, Dan Harries, ed. (London: BFI, 2002), 237.

MITSUYO WADA-MARCIANO is Assistant Professor of Film Studies in the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University. She is the author of Nippon Modern: Japanese Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s (forthcoming, 2008). Her articles have appeared in a number of journals including Asian Cinema, Camera Obscura, and Iconics. She is also co-editor of Asian Extreme: Changing Borders of Nation and Culture in Asian Horror Cinema (forthcoming, 2008).

Copyright Film Studies Association of Canada Fall 2007

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