“Inter-Mediating” Global Modernity

Benshi film narrators, multisensory performance, and fan culture

Authored by: Kyoko Omori

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Cinema

Print publication date:  August  2020
Online publication date:  August  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138685529
eBook ISBN: 9781315534374
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter first provides an overview of the multifaceted performing art of benshi narration, which arose in direct response to the advent of film in Japan during the early twentieth century and thereby helped to form a new, distinctly modern soundscape. In addition, it discusses the proliferation of other sonic and print media such as records, radio, newspapers, and magazines, which played increasingly significant roles in popularizing benshi and forming a sense of community among Japanese cinema fans. Second, the chapter addresses the ongoing legacy of benshi performance by introducing my digital archive, “Benshi: Silent Film Narrators in Japan,” which preserves examples of the rich constellation of material ephemera that arose as part of this popular entertainment. The archive features items such as records, mass-published stories and essays, advertisements, flyers, illustrations, and photographs, as well as other commercial materials related to benshi from the silent film era up to the present. In addition, the archive seeks to recreate the experience of going to the cinema during the silent movie era in Japan by employing Virtual Reality, GPS, synchronization of image with sound, and other digital technologies.

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