Mr. Moto: Improbable International Man of Mystery

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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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.

Mr. Moto: Improbable International Man of Mystery

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations



David MuraSong for Uncle Tom Tonto and Mr. Moto: Essays and Interviews on the Relationship of Color and the Literary Canon (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press2002); Jessica Hagedorn (ed.) Charlie Chan is Dead: An Anthology of Asian American Fiction (New York: Penguin 1993); Helen Zia Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an Asian American People (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux 2001).


BirminghamThe Late John Marquand pp. 99–100.


MarquandNo Hero p. 9.


MarquandThink Fast Mr. Moto p. 264.


John P. Marquand“These Are People Like Ourselves,” Asia (July 1941): 361–64.


MarquandThank You Mr. Moto p. 135.


Ibid. p. 149.


Ibid. p. 167.


Ibid. pp. 130–31.


Ibid. pp. 172–73.


John W. DowerWar Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Knopf1986) 344–45.


MarquandThank You Mr. Moto pp. 189–90.


Takashi Fujitani“The Reischauer Memo: Mr. Moto, Hirohito, and Japanese American Soldiers,” Critical Asian Studies 33 no. 3 (September 2001): 379–402.


 Quoted in ibid. p. 383.


Theodore Strauss“GOODBYE MR MOTO: John P. Marquand Sends an Old Friend Back to His ‘Honorable’ Ancestors,” New York Times14 December 1941 p. X7.


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