Philip J Cunningham is a freelance writer and media consultant with an interest in journalism, politics and culture. He was trained in Asian studies at Cornell University and the University of Michigan and has worked in East Asia since 1983. He started working as a tourguide for study abroad programs and luxury tours, including a stint on the luxury yacht formerly used by Chairman Mao as a Yangtse River cruise director. He moved into film production work, including credits on two Academy Award winning films, The Last Emperor and Empire of the Sun. He has worked on numerous television documentaries, including China Odyssey, Changing China, BBC Panorama, ABC Nightline, and The Gate of Heavenly Peace, and was employed as the in-house producer for the NHK series, China Now. He is a prolific freelance writer with regular commentary in newspapers around the world including the Japan Times, New York Times, South China Morning Post, Los Angeles Times and the Bangkok Post.
He was named a resident Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in recognition of his journalism and has conducted comparative media research as a Fulbright scholar in China and Japan. He has also lectured across Asia on grants including a year-long fellowship from the Knight Foundation. He taught media studies for ten years, first in the Faculty of Communication Arts at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and later in the Department of Media Studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. Cunningham is a visiting fellow at Cornell University where he wrote a well-regarded book about China in 1989 called Tiananmen Moon, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2009. His other books include a Japanese slang primer published by Penguin/Dutton, in print for over ten years, and a collection of short stories translated into Japanese. He is currently working on a trilogy of imaginative stories about life in Japan: Tokyo Crush, Fuji and Zen Mountain.
I would like to interview practitioners and academic experts in the counter-cultural world of Japanese manga and anime. With the help of expert input, I would like to identify, examine and analyze exemplary manga and anime that are part of Japan's pacifist and anti-militant tradition. I would then like to consider their availability, or lack thereof, outside of Japan, with a particular focus on China. Through many years of working in China and writing about China, including work on "Empire of the Sun" and "The Last Emperor," as well as many documentaries, dozens of news clips and appearances on public affairs programs on Chinese TV, I have learned that people in China reflexively underestimate the degree to which Japanese find war abhorrent, and have little or no knowledge of Japan's powerful anti-war tradition. To better understand the thinking of anti-war artists in Japan who have wrestled with war issues in a productive way, I would like to interview prominent practitioners, such as Miyazaki Hayao and Motomiya Hiroshi. To understand the social and artistic context and receptivity of such work outside of Japan, I would further like to consult with experts who have helped popularize manga and anime outside Japan, such as Matt Thorn, Frederick Schodt and Susan Napier, and knowledgeable Tokyo-based political observers such as Jeff Kingston and Andrew DeWit. Based on research, interviews and materials collected, I would like to write a series of articles and public affairs commentary about the hidden power of Japan's vibrant anti-war tradition, especially as reflected in manga and anime.