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Controversy Sells, It Sells Like Hot-cakes

August 11th, 2006 . by Darin

The other day I wrote about a two books coming out in Korea called, “The Secrets of Koganeshima”. Although it seems I wasn’t as clear as I had thought, my ultimate conclusion was, “controversy sells.” And no there is no better example then Kobayashi Yoshinori (小林よしのり aka よしりん).

Yes, that is the least flattering picture I could find. Yes, that’s intentional.

First, let’s read up a little about him on wikipedia:

Yoshinori Kobayashi (Penname: 小林 よしのり, Real name: 小林 善範; Kobayashi Yoshinori, born in Fukuoka, Japan, August 31, 1953) is a bestselling Japanese conservative author and manga artist.

Kobayashi’s publications include more than two hundred books/comics, but he is most famous for his controversial political commentary comics Gōmanism Sengen (ゴーマニズム宣言, roughly translated as “My arrogant declaration” or “Haughtiness Manifesto”). Among these, the book Neo Gomanism Manifesto Special – On War attracted overseas attention, including from newspapers The New York Times and Le Monde. His nickname is “Yoshirin” (よしりん, derived from the first two syllables of his given name plus the On reading of the Kanji 林), after which his staff team, Yoshirin Productions (Yoshirin Kikaku, よしりん企画) is named. He graduated from Fukuoka University with a major in French literature. He gained prominence for his intentionally provocative style in the politically delicate topics in Japan such as World War II revisionism, denial of the Nanking Massacre and other Japanese war crimes, praise for the Kamikaze, and anti-Americanism.[1]

But he didn’t start out that way.

His first publication as a comic artist was Tōdai Itchokusen (東大一直線, Beeline to Tokyo U/1976), published when he was a student at Fukuoka University. Another of his early manga, Obocchama-kun (おぼっちゃまくん, Little Princeling/1986), is a satire about a haughty rich kid rising in the heyday of Japan’s bubble economy. The long running series helped to establish his reputation as an manga artist. An anime adaptation of the series was produced, as well as Famicom and PC Engine video game adaptations.[1]

No, what really put him on the map was his political opinions (read: controversy sells).

He became one of the most well known conservative author/commentators among the young generation in Japan after a series of publication of Gomanism Sengen since 1992. Gomanism is well known for its covering of broad ranges of social and political issues such as worship at Yasukuni Shrine, Korean comfort women, the Nanking Massacre, Taiwan’s independence from China, Japanese military independence from the US, Aum Shinrikyo, and revision of Japanese history textbooks. He is also a founder and editor-in-chief of the political magazine “Wascism” (わしズム, Washizumu; a coinage consisting of washi, a colloquial word for “I”, and -ism, roughly translated as “My own principle”) which offers the opinion space for other young conservative thinkers in Japan.[1]

Wait, I want to rewind a little bit to the first section I quoted. Did everyone catch this?

He graduated from Fukuoka University with a major in French literature.[1](emphasis mine)

Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to have years of political education to talk politics; otherwise we’d all be out — but most to all of us have had experience living abroad in the countries we talk about, and most likely do have some education beyond general in the areas of politics and law. Considering he majored in French literature, it’s impressive that he managed to make it as a manga artist, but talking politics too?

The first of Yoshirin’s works I encountered was, 新・ゴーマニズム宣言SPECIAL 沖縄論, On Okinawa when I was in Okinawa. I’d heard of him but really didn’t know much about him until then. I didn’t agree with much of what he had to say. I lent to comic to one of my teachers, she was infuriated by the comic — she is very anti-America (but not anti-American), but she felt this comic was too much.

Next I purchased 新・ゴーマニズム宣言SPECIAL 靖國論, On Yasukuni. I’m currently working on sharing this comic with anyone who wants to read about it on my site, Black Ship, however there isn’t much up yet from it. While I consider there to be some good information, and I don’t think he’s too far off on everything, it’s not a very interesting read, and the ‘comic’ aspect of it all just complicates things. But more so, his style of writing just isn’t for me; I think Matt described him best by saying, “he tends to labor the point, is all” — which is a polite way to say, “a 200-page touches on everything rant is a bit too much.”

His next ‘piece of work’ (and that it is) is called, いわゆるA級戦犯ゴー宣SPECIAL, The So Called “A-Class War Criminals”. The first chapter is about Tojo: 東条英機 一切弁解せず、天皇のための戦い — Tojo Hideki He made absolutely no excuses in his fight on behalf of the Emperor. It was first printed on June 30th. I picked up a copy just now, printed on August 10th already the 6th printing. Oh yes, controversy sells very well.

I’d like to share a few lines from the first chapter of The So Called “A-Class War Criminals”. By posting these quotes, I am neither supporting nor criticizing them (at this moment), so please refrain from personal attacks or praise.

During the moments after Tojo shot himself in his home, American soldiers and foreign journalists engaged in a free-for-all to collect “mementos” wiping up Tojo’s blood onto their handkerchiefs and rampaged through the house. [Page 8]

[Once he was placed on the operation table at the hospital], the doctors and medical orderlies fought over stealing Tojo’s shirt, pants, even underwear. [Page 8]

In Burma, the volunteer “Flying Tigers” of the American Air Force fought with the Japanese military. [Page 17]

Just like Justice Rahda Binod Pal said later, “America had already engaged in war on it’s own long before the attacks on Pear Harbor”, Japan and america were already at war. [Page 17]

… as he faced increased criticism, he was taken over with a narrow-minded character that was unable to tolerate those who opposed him. [Page 21]

On New Years Day, 1943, politician Nakano Seigo ran an articled called, “The Minister of War” in his column in the Asahi Shimbun.

Although he didn’t name Tojo directly, Tojo became very upset when Nakano criticized him by saying “a Prime Minister must be strong when we face difficult times” (implying that Tojo is not strong) and forbid him from publishing any more articles. [Page 21]

Later, Tojo had Nakano arrested claiming he was involved in a plot to try and overthrow the government. [Page 21]

There is so much more I want to translate from the first chapter (and probably the whole book once I’ve read the rest), but it’s getting late. I’ll probably provide more in-depth translations at a later date.

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[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Yoshinori Kobayashi,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yoshinori_Kobayashi&oldid=60323357 (accessed August 11, 2006).

3 Responses to “Controversy Sells, It Sells Like Hot-cakes”

  1. comment number 1 by: eli

    Controversy is an interesting thing. Facts are facts–stating them shouldn’t be controversial. Either they’re true and relevant or they’re not. If someone blows a gasket because the facts aren’t to their liking then usually it’s because they don’t have any truth of their own and are operating on emotion.

    By the way, what’s with the ad-hominem relating to his French degree?

  2. comment number 2 by: pacifist

    I don’t know any other books he wrote, but his 台湾論 (On Taiwan) was interesting with a lot of information. Many Japanese don’t know the history of Taiwan after WWII.

  3. comment number 3 by: Darin


    I don’t think all controversial things don’t have to be false, just like not all factual things are non-controversial. He’s pretty controversial because he says things that are taboo to say the least. I think your analysis of people getting upset about the truth is right. For example if me telling people about the actions of Mr. A makes Mr. A upset, and that bit of information is true, then Mr. A should just stop doing whatever it is he is doing because that’s the real problem.

    As for the comments about his French degree… He studied French Literature and now draws political comics. I’m the only one who stumbles on that thought process? If he specializes in two areas (comic and politics), I would think he studied at least one of the two instead of something that is pretty much unrelated.

    It does make sense that he’s a literature guy though, because his ‘comics’ are really just essays with pictures. The pictures to words ratio is a little bit higher on the words side then it is for what is generally called a comic.


    I haven’t ‘read’ 台湾論 but I’ve heard it was received very well in Taiwan both in sales and in reviews/public opinions of it. Maybe I’ll have to pick it up some time to add to my collection. Funny things is, my only comics are political comics — in reality I hate comics, never been a fan.