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Tetsuo, The Iron Man (18) + panel discussion

Anime's Human Machines


The horror – and the pleasure – of a body infected and transformed by technology are at the core of this thumping cyberpunk nightmare, a key reference for the anime that followed.

A man known to us only as ‘the Metal Fetishist’, who we’ve observed at home ecstatically sticking a piece of metal into his leg, is run over by ‘the Salaryman’, a businessman out in his car. The next morning, as he shaves, Salaryman discovers a metal spike growing out of his cheek: it’s the start of a shocking mutation that sees him transform, gradually, into a walking, hulking pile of scrap metal.

Released a year after Akira, and sharing many of the same concerns, Tetsuo is considered, with that film, a founding text of Japanese cyberpunk. To discuss its influence, and to unpack the wider themes of our season, curator Helen McCarthy is joined on-stage before the screening by a panel of experts including Jasper SharpNicole Coolidge Rousmaniere and Rayna Denison.

Japan 1989 Dir Shin'ya Tsukamoto 65 min Digital presentation

Screening in Japanese with English subtitles

Please note: this film contains strong adult imagery.

Sasakawa Foundation
The Japan Foundation logo - a purple butterfly
Japan-UK Season of Culture

About the speakers

Rayna Denison is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at the University of East Anglia, whose research and teaching interests centre on Japanese anime and film. She is the author of Anime: A Critical Introduction (Bloomsbury 2015), and the editor of Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess (Bloomsbury 2018). She is the co-editor of the Eisner Award-nominated Superheroes on World Screens (with Rachel Mizsei-Ward, University of Mississippi Press, 2015. Her scholarly articles can be found in many leading journals, including Cinema Journal, Velvet Light Trap, Japan Forum and the International Journal of Cultural Studies. Rayna is currently working on a monograph on the industrial history of Studio Ghibli, edited collections on director Isao Takahata and franchising in Japanese cinema, as well as a special issue of the journal of the Society of Animation Studies.

Jasper Sharp is an author, filmmaker and curator known for his work on Asian cinema and was the co-founder of the Japanese film website Midnight Eye. His books include Behind the Pink Curtain(2008) and The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema (2011) and he is the co-director of The Creeping Garden, a documentary about plasmodial slime moulds.

Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere is the founding Director of the Sainsbury Institute and Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at the University of East Anglia. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 1998. She spent three years on secondment as a Visiting Professor in Cultural Resource Studies at Tokyo University (2006-2009). From Summer 2011 she is Research Director of the Sainsbury Institute. She is currently seconded to the British Museum as IFAC Handa Curator of Japanese Art in the Department of Asia.


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