The violence of nuclear catastrophe is fundamentally contradictory. On the one hand, when caused by nuclear weapons, it is highly visible and often spectacular. As is the case with exposure to a large dose of radiation, the consequence of this violence can be instantaneous, too. On the other hand, odourless and invisible, radiation is beyond direct human perception. Furthermore, the deadly effect of radiation often manifests itself gradually over many years or even decades. This paradox of nuclear violence on human lives and the environment, which is simultaneously hypervisible and invisible, poses a particular challenge to film and other types of visual media. In this article, I examine how Japanese cinema has long been struggling with the complex and contradictory relationship between the nuclear question and visual culture. Many Japanese filmmakers, including well-known auteurs like Kurosawa Akira and those who specialize in popular genre movies such as tokusatsu eiga (‘special effects movies’), have tried to overcome the challenge of representing the invisibility of nuclear violence and radioactive contamination of the environment. I discuss how popular Japanese cinema has experimented with various formal and stylistic means to make the invisibility of nuclear violence perceptible or imaginable.
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