Laura Treglia

Panel 1F: Transcoding Japan
Session 1 – July 1, 11:00 – 13:00

Lady Snowblood or the cross-media and transnational appeal of the angry woman tale: an early example of transcodification politics and practices of the Japanese “media mix”

The adaptation and transcodification of narratives, motifs and aesthetics across different media are practices shared by cultures the world over. However, such practices have always been conspicuous in Japan. Japanese cinema was itself born as an extension onto a new medium of long-standing transcodification patterns that involved all the arts—i.e. oral storytelling, written literature, theatre, graphic novels. Nowadays, film production is decentred within the multi-pronged Japanese media franchise machine known as “media mix.” This systematically exploits successful content across different media outlets: from manga to live action and animated films, merchandising, mobile and gaming platforms.

This paper will reflect on different dimensions involved in the transcodification and crossmedia transposition of a particular intertext—what I call the ‘angry woman tale’— through the Lady Snowblood mini-saga (Shurayukihime, 1973-74). The film scripts rehashed an old practice of transposing earlier ‘masculine’ genres (action and crime) into movies protagonised by women as a way of reviving sure-fire formulas. Such narratives and themes had in time travelled from oral storytelling to serialised newspaper novels, comic books and films, which would then spawn sequels and remakes. Lady Snowblood is a female version of a male swashbuckler saga, adapted on film from a comic. It later inspired Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003-4), itself become a cult hit. Kill Bill, in turn, revived interest in Lady Snowblood films in Japan and globally, thus extending the spectrum of audiences internationally. The actress interpreting Yuki (Kaji Meiko) returned to the limelight while subtitled DVD prints of her films were distributed in Europe and the U.S. some thirty years after their initial release. Information on Lady Snowblood and similar films began to proliferate online, while Japanese director Sono Sion quoted Kaji’s iconic characters in his new film (Love Exposure/Ai no mukidashi, 2008). Extending over time and space, Lady Snowblood exemplifies those transcodification dynamics that have since evolved but were always at the heart of Japanese film and entertainment industry. The paper seeks to unravel such practices by investigating the political economy and transnational flows in film industries, taking the cue from Japanese cinema.


Laura lectures and researches on gender, film and Japanese cultural studies. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies and MA in Japanese Studies (both SOAS, University of London) and has been assistant professor in British and Qatari universities. Her main research interests include feminist film and media theory, genre and cult cinema, Japanese society and culture. Her latest work has been published for the University of Chester Press, Wiley-Blackwell, Film Studies, Berghahn Books.