A podcast about the East Asian pop culture and media that you love.
Showa and Graphic Novels
Shigeru Mizuki's Showa is an epic four-volume graphic novel series about the Showa era of Japan (1926-1989) and a semi-biographical account of Mizuki's own life during that period. It's funny, heartbreaking, illuminating, beautiful, and complex, and it shows why graphic novels are such a powerful and important medium. We talk with Dr. Maryanne Rhett about using graphic novels in the classroom and some of her favorites.
The Handmaiden and Colonial Korea
Park Chan-wook set his 2016 film The Handmaiden in Korea under Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945). Colonial Korea proves to be the perfect setting for a romantic crime story that explores sexuality, deception, and power. Park is known for his gorgeous—and gory—films like Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. The Handmaiden is based on Sarah Waters's 2002 novel The Fingersmith, set in Victorian-era Britain and shortlisted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize. Professor Kelly Y. Jeong of UC Riverside joins us to discuss the film.
The Three Body Problem
Liu Cixin's The Three Body Problem is a wildly popular Chinese science fiction novel, and it's easy to see why. It opens during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, setting the tone for a multigenerational, universe-spanning story that careens between missing scientists, a mysterious video game, and an exploration of the nature of humanity and the cosmos itself. In this episode, we situate Liu's novel within the history of Chinese science fiction and also bring in Dr. Colin West, a theoretical physicist from the University of Colorado, to help us understand the science in the The Three Body Problem.
Hooligan Sparrow and Activism in China
"Principal, call me if you want to get a room. Leave the students alone." This was the sign that Ye Haiyan, a Chinese activist better known by the nickname Hooligan Sparrow, held up during her protests over the handling of the kidnapping and rape of six girls in Hainan province, China. In this episode, Prof. Gail Hershatter joins us to talk about Hooligan Sparrow, Wang Nanfu's 2016 documentary about Ye Haiyan and her activism.
Hero (2002) and Tianxia
Do you love wuxia (martial arts) films, Chinese history, Jet Li, the gorgeous 2002 film Hero, or all of the above? This is the mini-episode for you! We talk about Zhang Yimou's Hero, the historical narrative it tells about Qin Shihuang — best known as the first emperor of unified China, the concept of tianxia, and much more!
The Interview and North Korea in the News
We originally planned for this episode to focus on the 2014 film The Interview, but we ended up talking about the Olympics, U.S.-North Korean relations, the Korean War, and even a Korean folk story about the war! If you want some perspective on all the recent developments in North Korea, listen to this episode, featuring an interview with Christine Hong, professor of literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.