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Mr. Moto: Improbable International Man of Mystery

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Author:
Michael A. Schneider Knox College mschneid@knox.edu

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Mr. Moto, a fictional Japanese detective, achieved mass popularity through a series of 1930s films starring Peter Lorre. Moto was the creation of successful writer John P. Marquand (1893–1960), whose novels depicted a Japanese international spy quite different from the genial Mr. Moto of film. Revisiting the original Mr. Moto novels illuminates a Japanese character who rationalized Japan’s 1930s continental expansionism in ways that might have been acceptable to many Americans. Although Marquand intended to present Mr. Moto as a “moderate” and reasonable Japanese agent and generally present East Asians in a positive light, it is difficult to see the novels as doing anything more than buttressing prevailing racial and ethnic stereotypes.

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