Manga, Murder and Mystery: The Boy Detectives of Japan’s Lost Generation

February 15, 2024, 11:00 am - 12:15 pm

Swann 320

Little is known about youth detectives in Japanese detective fiction, despite their popularity. Who are they, and what mysteries do their representations in Japanese popular culture reveal about how we understand youth society?

Mimi Okabe, assistant teaching professor at the University of Buffalo, will begin by addressing how these questions shape her current research, which has culminated in a monograph, Manga Murder and Mystery: The Boy Detectives of Japan’s Lost Generation (2023).

By exploring the construction of the shōnen (boy) detective in commercially successful manga series of the Heisei Era (1989-2019) —The Kindaichi Case Files (1992-1997), Case Closed (1994- ), Death Note (2003-06) and Moriarty the Patriot (2016)— Okabe shows how detective manga materialized in a nation undergoing a state of crisis and how the boy detective emerged as a site of national trauma to address perceived youth problems, but in thematically different ways. As the first book-length study of boy detectives in Japanese manga, Manga, Murder and Mystery foregrounds themes and critical discourses of identity, nation, and youth culture, advancing new insights regarding the trope of the boy detective in manga, re-centring discourses of the nation towards youth itself in speaking their own experiences about school, home, and social expectations.

The talk will end with a discussion on the trajectory of youth detectives beyond the shōnen genre and manga alone, exploring how youth detectives navigate complex societal issues and moral dilemmas in other Japanese media.

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Kyoko Masuda