Manga, Murder and Mystery: Investigating the Revival of the Boy Detective in Japan’s Lost Decade

  • Author / Creator
    Tsugumi Okabe
  • The past two decades have seen a sustained growth in the number of Japanese mystery and detective comics (manga) publications that feature boys (and girls) as crime fighting agents. While the earliest incarnation of the boy detective character type can be traced to the works of Edogawa Rampo (1894-1965), little critical attention has been paid to the impact of his works on contemporary manga narratives. This thesis takes up the genre of Japanese mystery/detective manga and explores the construction of the boy detective (shōnen tantei) to address the crisis of young adult culture during the so-called Lost Decade in Japan. It conducts a comparative textual analysis of three commercially successful manga: Kanari Yōzaburō and Seimaru Amagi’s Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo (1992-1997), Aoyama Gōshō’s Meitantei Konan (1994- ), and Ohba Tsugumi’s Death Note (2003-06), and reveals that the boy detective is defined by his role as the other, but that each series deals with this otherness in thematically different ways in response to the discursive formation of youth delinquents in 1990s Japan. Additionally, because the boy detective tradition in manga emerged from more traditional literature, this thesis takes an interdisciplinary approach to contextualizing the deeply complex literary history of Japanese detective fiction as it contributes to an understanding of how (youth) identity can be analyzed in detective manga. The objective of this thesis is thus twofold: to trace the literary development of the boy detective to identify how the genre evolved into the medium of manga, and to identify the social and cultural factors that led to the resurrection of the boy detective in the 1990s. In taking an interdisciplinary approach, this thesis foregrounds themes and critical discourses of identity, nation and youth culture. And, in doing so through the case study of children’s literature and manga, I re-center discourses of the nation towards youth itself to explore how the boy detective emerged as a site of national trauma. 

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
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