Love in the Time of Corona: Heterosexual Romance, Space, and Society in Japanese Fiction on COVID-19




I will examine representations of heterosexual romance in Japanese pandemic fiction published during COVID-19, so as to scrutinize the employment of pandemic in the discussion of social issues and dynamics between the public and private interests. Ueda Takahiro uses the protagonist’s love dilemma to question the postmodern condition, where the digital attempts to replace everything, disturb the master narratives, and transform our society. Tsukui Itsuki’s story has a rather optimistic view of technological responses to the pandemic. In his work, the protagonist’s romantic pursuit realizes individual development as well as civil society building. Kanehara Hitomi incorporates the element of pandemic in the representations of anti-sociability and precarity of youths in post-bubble Japan. Furthermore, the element of pandemic enriches the depictions of anxieties and issues of contemporary Japanese society from before the emergence of COVID-19: techno-induced postmodern crisis, ideological disputes, and socio-economic stagnation. 


Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, heterosexuality, reproduction, space, science fiction, Kanehara Hitomi