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Hollywood Medieval Japan

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What do you mean, it's unrealistic? She has a katana, doesn't she?

In real history, Japan had many periods with their own distinct politics, mindsets, and manner of dress. But in Hollywood, Japanese history is pretty much one long indistinct period filled with pagodas and geishas in strangely easy-to-remove kimonos, where Samurai and Ninja roamed the land chopping each other up with katana and shuriken at the slightest provocation. This is the land David Plath called Jawpen — "this place of which so many Westerners have jawed and penned", a country "made up of traditional Japanese parts ... invented and assembled here in the West for domestic consumption."

The anime portrayal is somewhat more accurate, but naturally, Japan has its own stereotypes about its past. For a look at native Japanese anime and live action film depictions of this era, see Jidai Geki.


See also: Anachronism Stew, Hollywood History, Western Samurai. The fantasy equivalent is Wutai.

Popular tropes from this time period are:

(Western) works that are set in this time period include:

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     Comic Books  

  • Usagi Yojimbo does this better than most — Stan Sakai was born in Japan (though he moved to Hawaii at an early age), grew up watching chanbara movies and his comments in the back of the comic book collections show that he has indeed done research, and it shows.



     Tabletop Games 

  • The Draconis Combine in BattleTech is basically Hollywood Medieval Japan IN SPACE! with Humongous Mecha: people in the Combine speak Japanese, they fight with katanas, they sic ninjas on their enemies, they commit seppuku when they've acted dishonorably... This is even subtly acknowledged in several books, such as a note in one novel where several Draconis Combine warriors visited Japan while on Terra and annoy the heck out of actual Japanese people with their Loony Fan behavior.


  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado
    • Which was actually an intentional parody of the British aristocracy set in Japan.
  • Madame Butterfly
    • Only with a very wide definition of medieval - it is set at late 19th or early 20th century, about the time it was written in.

Alternative Title(s): Hollywood Japan, Medieval Japan


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