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Transforming the World: How Japanese Robots Saved a Nation and Charmed a Planet

Time & Location

December 5, 7pm EST

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This event is presented as part of JFF Plus: Online Festival.

Its infrastructure devastated by World War II, Japan’s economic engine cranked back to life thanks to the power of imagination, from intricate toys to thrilling comics and anime. As Japan’s creative geniuses honed their crafts, increasingly immersive products and virtual escapes began profoundly transforming lifestyles around the globe — and making Japan the planet’s factory of dreams. Join Matt Alt and Fred L. Schodt as they discuss the influence of Japanese robots in pop culture, fantasy robot genres such as autonomous android robots and “drivable” robots, and about real-world robots inspired by childhood dreams. The conversation is moderated by Christopher Smith.

The panel is co-organized by the Japan Foundation and Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

For more information, please click here.


Matt Alt is the co-founder of AltJapan Co., Ltd., a Tokyo-based entertainment localization company. With more than twenty years’ experience working alongside Japanese game, manga, and other content creators, Alt brings a unique perspective from inside Japan’s pop-cultural production machine. His writing has appeared widely in print and online at The New Yorker, Slate, Wired, CNN, BBC, Vice, and more. His latest book is Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World (Crown Publishing, 2020).

Frederik L. Schodt is a writer and translator. He has written numerous books on popular culture, technology, and history. Among other books, Schodt is the author of Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics and the Coming Robotopia and The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution. Schodt is the translator of robot-related manga such as the 23 volume Astro Boy series, Ghost in the Shell, and Pluto, as well as Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam novels. In 2009, Schodt was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, and in 2017, he won the Japan Foundation Award. His latest book is My Heart Sutra: A World in 260 Characters (Stone Bridge Press, 2020).

Christopher Smith teaches modern Japanese literature and popular culture at the University of Florida. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawai’i in 2017. His research examines how literature and culture represents, manipulates, and ultimately plays with Japanese history, examined through the lenses of nationalism, national identity, the historical legitimation of power, and postmodernism.

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