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Free Content The ‘Totoro Meme’ and the politics of transfandom pleasure

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This article is an exploration of the ‘Totoro meme’ as a site of affective, transfandom pleasure. In the Totoro meme, Japanese and non-Japanese fans alike appropriate the now-iconic image of Satsuki, Mei and an umbrella-toting Totoro at a bus stop from Hayao Miyazaki’s 1988 film, Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro), to their own fannish ends, creating fan art that inserts favourite characters from other media into the scene in ways that often have a doubled semiotic resonance. I argue that this meme is characteristic not of the global appropriation of a broad ‘Japanese anime style’, per se, but a specific, affectively appealing ‘Ghibli style’, one that is fully part of non-Japanese fans’ own popular cultural repertoires. In its cross-border merging of globally circulating Studio Ghibli aesthetics with other fan-favourite media, I contend that the Totoro meme and its associated fanworks are in fact wholly congruent with, and representative of, what Matt Hills has termed ‘trans-fandom’ (2015), contemporary practices of ‘navigating across and combining and fusing fandoms’ (Hills 2015: 159). I conclude with a consideration of the implications of what might be termed ‘corporate transfandom’ in the context of transfannish citations of Kaze no tani no Naushika (NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind) (Miyazaki, 1984) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015).

Keywords: My Neighbor Totoro; fan art; fan-producer relations; intertextuality; memes; transcultural fandom; transfandom

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Independent Scholar

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is the leading academic peer-reviewed journal for scholars, teachers and students from around the world interested in the popular culture of East Asia. In recent decades, East Asian popular culture has attracted increasing attention within academia and beyond. The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is one manifestation of this, serving as an important forum for academic debate over popular cultural phenomena throughout the region and their social and political ramifications. The journal's scope embraces all aspects of popular culture in East Asia as well as the cultural interplay between East Asia and the wider world. Encompassing work on genres from film to music, art to translation and fashion to tourism; the journal offers a forum where multidisciplinary work can come together in new and exciting ways. We welcome original scholarship related to all aspects of East Asian popular culture from creation to dissemination and beyond. We also offer a space for shorter reviews or reports of cultural events and activities, and for reviews of scholarship in any language related to East Asian popular culture.
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