This article analyzes depictions of work in postmillennial Japanese media, particularly anime and manga, in order to theorize the function of imaginative responses to the social dislocations of neoliberalism. Critical studies of precarity in Japanese popular culture have tended to treat depictions of work as direct representations of actual socioeconomic conditions, overlooking the affective, experiential dimensions of mediated work images and their potential for imagining social relations beyond imposed precarity. The article explores this neglected potential by focusing on the anime and manga trope of isekai (other‐world), which depicts life and work in a fantastic environment. These depictions are compared with analogues in live‐action films and television during the period of Japan's neoliberalization. Invoking philosophical concepts of social imagination and drawing on autonomist theory for inspiration regarding the visualization of postcapitalist sociality, analysis will demonstrate how their imaginative responses can produce visions of collectivity amenable to postcapitalist projects without explicitly political content. The article hopes to draw out latent capacities within superficially escapist media forms and offer a possible counternarrative to pessimistic discourses about popular culture.

You do not currently have access to this content.