Localising Japanese Popular Culture in the Philippines: Transformative Translations of Japan’s Cultural Industry

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Japan’s Cool Japan Initiative has aimed to tap Japan’s cultural industry to boost the country’s soft power all over the globe. In Southeast Asia, Cool Japan has its merits in countries such as Thailand and Singapore where Japanese cultural products, ranging from restaurants to television shows, have become easily accessible. Borrowing from Koichi Iwabuchi, Cool Japan provides opportunities for the country to present their “cultural odour.” That said, when the government is no longer in control of different cultural products, this ‘cultural odour’ takes a different shape. As a country that has not been central to Cool Japan initiatives, the Philippines presents an interesting case of localisations that negotiate Japanese cultural products in the Philippines. Focusing on observations of Japan’s contents industry, particularly access to anime and manga, this paper highlights how local consumers have made efforts to transform the ‘cultural odour’ of these Japanese products. This paper focuses on digital outputs such as social media fan works and dōjinshi of popular anime shows that bravely challenge the meanings of these Japanese cultural products. I argue that these localisations present critical transformations of Japanese popular culture which has led to knowledge from deviates from normative notions of Japan.