Before San Fransokyo, There Was Washinkyo from Hurricane Polymar


When watching the Disney animated film Big Hero 6, one of the first things that stands out is the city in which the characters live: the portmanteau of “San Fransokyo.” How it relates to either San Francisco or Tokyo remains a mystery, but it’s probably meant to pay tribute to both Disney’s own American origins and the inspiration Big Hero 6 takes from Japanese media.

However, Big Hero 6 hasn’t been the only work of fiction to combine American and Japanese cities. One such work is an anime that dates back to the 1970s: Hurricane Polymar.


A series by Tatsunoko Production, the same studio responsible for classics such as Gatchaman and Casshern, Hurricane Polymar comes from that same era and young Amano Yoshitaka-derived aesthetic sense. A mix of Inspector Gadget, Bruce Lee, and Superman, the series takes place not only in the capital of “Washinkyo” (Washington DC + Tokyo), but in the country of “Amehon” (America + Nihon [Japan]).

I think it’s fun to imagine what an actual “Amehon” would be like, or where it would come from. Would it literally be the US and Japan deciding to be one nation? Would it be some strange alternative universe where they were the same land mass all along? Would anime fans who despise American culture and love Japanese culture be more at home, or would the appealing “foreignness” of Japan be lost in the process? Going back to anime itself, could Hurricane Polymar himself be considered a blend of American and Japanese superhero tropes and qualities, similar to how the characters of Big Hero 6 occupy a similar category?


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4 thoughts on “Before San Fransokyo, There Was Washinkyo from Hurricane Polymar

  1. I’m not going to advocate it for reality, but at least one person has suggested that the North American continent was visited by the Chinese, during the period when Zhenge He was sailing from China to Africa and back. A few even suggest a similarity between the Tao-Tieh (sp?) face on Shang dynasty bronze vessels and some faces on North American totem poles.

    So lets say, for a speculative timeline, that Chinese discover the Alaskan/North American coast in 1421. Japan and the rest of East Asia learn of it as one more thing the Emperors boast of, but the change of attitude by the administrative class of China (Emperor, Eunuchs, Civil officials) brings an end to the era of voyaging and more internal focus. The Japanese sail into the void left by the Chinese and find that the coast from modern Juneau down to modern San Francisco bay is a very similar climate to Japan.
    Until 1573, the Ashikaga Shogunate is in charge of Japan. The Onin War, from 1467 to 1477 results in some Daimyo having to flee their homelands, and in this timeline, a few of them flee to North America. Japan won’t start to close itself off from the world until the Sakoku in 1633, so for about 150 years, in this timeline, Japanese can escape their enemies by sailing to and settling on the North American coast. Cabrillo sails north from El Salvador in 1542 and makes it to the southern extent of the forested coast, and on to the mouth of the Russian river so he might meet Japanese there. Perhaps they capture or kill his expedition. In our timeline his reports are “forgotten” until some time in the 1600s. Francis Drake sails through in 1579, and Galleons returning from Manila stop for water after crossing the Pacific. The Spanish (in reality) don’t get serious about California until the Portola expedition in 1769, which discovers San Francisco Bay and begins the era of Spanish Franciscan Missions along what became the Camino Real.
    So in this timeline, the Japanese have from 1477 until 1769, 292 years, to settle on the North American coast, assimilate or annihilate the natives (sadly human beings are very tribal, and to get to a Big Hero 6 world, Japanese influence has to be preeminent), and set up a group of areas on the mouths of rivers or on fertile plains a short distance inland (like the Willamette Valley in Oregon).
    In my imagination the Japanese in North America are disunited and occasionally warring city states, though not fighting amongst themselves as often as the Japanese on the home islands. The incursion of the Spanish after Portola will create a panic among them that leads to a confederation, Japanese united against Spanish. If they can hold off the Spanish, it will be partly because gunsmiths, prominent during the Sengoku wars but then threatened with execution at the onset of the Sakoku, will have escaped to North America and continued to develop their craft. 130 years of development might even give the Japanese rifles to face the Spanish flintlocks. Or the English and/or Russians could ally with the North American Japanese to undermine Spanish hegemony in the Pacific, although Capt Cook won’t explore the Oregon coast till 1778 and the Russians don’t get there till the 1800s.
    San Francisco bay first has a Japanese settlement, perhaps a small frontier city. Then the Spanish conquer and occupy it, then an expedition of N.A. Japanese take it back. It gets bounced between owners for years at a time, until finally a gold rush starts, leading to a scramble that results in a final equilibrium. By modern times the city is San Fransokyo.


  2. Pingback: Teikoku State of Mind: Anime NYC 2017 | OGIUE MANIAX

  3. Pingback: River City Girls and the San Fransokyo Aesthetic | OGIUE MANIAX

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