Presented a conference paper entitled Supporting the Nail: The Role of a Shojo Manga in Promoting Independence and Self Worth at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico in February of 2007.
The paper was one of two co-winners of the Diana Cox Award for Images of Women, Graduate Student Award for Outstanding Conference Paper.
“The nail that sticks out gets hammered in.” This common description of the Japanese reaction to the expression of individuality is challenged in Natsuki Takaya’s Japanese comic (manga) series Fruits Basket. Manga’s long history of reflecting and caricaturing Japan norms has made it possible for comic writers to embed opinions critical of the dominant ideologies into their works. In Fruits Basket, a seemingly “traditional” sixteen-year old girl named Tohru Honda finds herself at the center of a familial revolution. Over the course of Takaya’s manga, Tohru Honda subverts the hegemonic ideas of what it means to be a proper Japanese female by simultaneously acting like an ideal young Good Wife and Wise Mother while promoting the acceptance of individual human differences and personal independence. In this way she contests the dominant Japanese ideology of harmony and social place. Therefore, Takaya makes the case that the best kind of Japanese woman is one who can act in a loving, nurturing fashion, but at the same time help eliminate the constant need to fit smoothly into a particular, preset, place in society. Women can help each young person learn how to be the best person he or she can be, and appreciate their children’s unique talents, not feel the need to always strike down the nail that stands up.