Concordia Does Mixed Media

Conference Series Looks at Video Games & Japanese Comics

Manga artist Eiji Otsuka is Experiencing the Media Mix’s keynote speaker.

A cross-section of media artists will be coming to Concordia starting Saturday, Feb. 4, to unpack the meanings and models of Japanese animation and gaming.

It’s the fifth edition of the President’s Conference Series, a yearly event exploring the combination of multiple media platforms like video games, anime, and manga.

The three-day convention will include lectures, gaming experiences and guest speakers concerned with the main focus of media mix.

Concordia Japanese History Professor Matthew Penney said we couldn’t escape the mix even if we wanted to.

“Where there once was a single film or novel, now we have networks of film-novel-video game-graphic novel-TV series-Internet sites and so on,” he said. “For example, how could one even start to identify the real Batman at this point?”

Penney is one of many scholars who spent nearly a year coordinating the conference. With an eclectic background in Japanese history, pop culture and manga, Penney earned himself a spot as guest speaker at the conference.

His lecture will explore, critique and analyze the way Japanese graphic novels illustrate history.

“I want to look at some serious attempts to render works like The Communist Manifesto as manga,” said Penney, “but at the same time I want to critique some niche fan products that make Hitler into a cute mascot character or turn SS troops into bikini girls.”

The conference will open with Eiji Otsuka, a renowned writer and theorist of Japanese manga. Although this is one of his first lectures outside of Japan, Otsuka’s The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and MPD Pshyco have a developed a cult-following in North America.

Otsuka’s works challenge themes of Japanese suicide, organized crime, political extortion and censorship. He explores Japanese war crimes such as the Rape of Nanking by resurrecting the ghosts of victims and perpetrators, giving them a voice to recount a barbaric event some continue to deny.

“In his presentation, he will be going back to the Second World War to examine animated propaganda films,” said Penney. “Otsuka will talk about its visual and thematic roots in Japanese fascism and some of the implications of this for the current industry and Japanese pop culture today.”

While the first day is mainly concerned with lectures, the second day allows guests to engage in a hands-on gaming experience organized by Technoculture, Art and Games.

TAG is a Concordia Research Centre of students, scholars, designers, and engineers with a shared interested in mixed media. They create and collaborate on games studies with digital culture and interactive art.

On the last day of the conference, invited Canadian, American and Japanese graduates together will discuss the ongoing correlation and fusion between novels, films, video games, comic books and soundtracks.

Though Japanese and American media cultures are internationally influential, this yearly conference allows Canada to showcase their own studies, creations, and theories on media mix.

According to Penney, even though Canada tends to be overshadowed by the amount of American pop culture consumed worldwide, there are lots of bright spots, and the future is promising nonetheless.

“Ubisoft Montreal has been central to developing big media mix products,” he said. “ With Canadian and American pop culture production increasingly integrated, there will be more opportunities for locals to participate in the media mix.”

The President’s Conference Series welcomes the public on February 4 and 5 at the auditorium of the Grande Bibliothèque (475 Maisonneuve Blvd. E.)