Global interactions with the inanimate are becoming increasingly intimate. This is certainly true in Japan, where the relationship between people and things is a defining feature of twenty-first-century life. In Junji Ito’s Fragments of Horror, women seduce buildings and futons consume people, suggesting that the horrors of late capitalism are embodied by the structures we live in and the objects we own. As such, this paper argues that short stories ‘Futon’ and ‘Wooden Spirit’ conflate bodies with objects to interrogate the realities of who, and what, we let into our homes. In the first, a man hides from malicious spirits under a trusted futon, only to discover that it is filled with hallucinogenic mould. In the second, a woman seduces a cultural heritage site, which responds to her advances by transforming into a monster. In both cases, the characters become part of the objects in question.
In her book Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination, Anne Allison examines perceptions of Japanese materialism, which social critics often attribute to ‘a culture of transparency where people value personal acquisitions far more than they do interpersonal relations.’ This is facilitated by a cultural interest in animism, which sees the attribution of souls or personalities to inanimate objects. Allison coins the term ‘commodity animism’ to describe the capitalist version of this, where goods are sold as substitutes for human connection; she argues that the solitary lifestyle lead by many has created a spiritual void for consumerism to fill, meaning that possessions are not only used to vocalise the self but internalised as part of it. As such, my paper indicates that post-millennial Japanese horror has shifted to meet the demands of a nation that finds comfort and fear in an increasingly object-orientated world.
About the speaker
Leonie Rowland is a Masters Student with the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. She graduated from The University of East Anglia with a BA in English Literature, and her research interests include Asian Gothic, globalgothic and J-Horror.