(2011). Science Fiction as Subversive Hypothesis: henkaku tantei shōsetsu between Entertainment and Enlightenment. Japanese Studies: Vol. 31, Special Feature: After the Trials – Repatriation and Release of Japanese War Criminals, 1946–1958, pp.
The article considers the literary sub-genre of henkaku tantei shōsetsu, detective fiction that included supernatural or pseudo-scientific elements. Such stories were published regularly in the interwar entertainment magazine Shinseinen, but this was also a journal with an intellectually sophisticated and politically engaged side, regularly publishing essays on the relationship between science and literature, and reflecting the fluidity and constant change of the period in which it flourished. I look at henkaku tantei shōsetsu's combination of rationalism and fantasy, and its oscillation between enthusiasm and anxiety towards modern science, in order to reflect more broadly on Shinseinen's position between ideas of literature as pure diversion and arguments defending its social and educational function. To investigate the specific articulation of these dynamics, I then offer a close reading of one representative work published in the magazine in 1931, ‘Robotto to beddo no jūryō’, [The Robot and the Weight of the Bed], by Naoki Sanjūgo, one of the founding fathers of modern Japanese popular literature.