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Additonal essays (Ghibli and non-Ghibli) can be found at the Anime Manga Web Essays Archive.
|Women and Anime: Popular Culture and its Reflection of Japanese Society||Sean Boden||November 2001||
The role of women in Japan is a hot topic amongst commentators on the state of contemporary Japan. While it is important to consider analysis drawn from statistics and surveys, it is also important to look at how popular culture defines the modern Japanese woman. Consequently, Japanese animation, as a form of popular culture, can be used as an analysis of the role of women in Japanese society. Through looking at how women are portrayed in a broad sweep of Japanese animation over the last ten years or so, we can begin to identify the role of women in contemporary Japanese society.
|Resistance to the Japanese State through Popular Culture||Sean Boden||June 2002||
The nature of State authority in Japan is a well-versed topic of contemporary Japanese society by scholars both within and outside Japan. However, what has not been studied to such a degree is the public consensus of this system and ways in which they can be seen as combating or accepting current model of development. By legitimising Japanese animation as a form of popular culture appropriate for investigating public sentiment of the political situation in Japan, it is hoped that a degree of resistance or acceptance of the Japanese State can be ascertained. While unconventional, it offers an interesting angle from which one can examine the dynamism of Japanese society today.
|From Ashes to Stone: Development of Chihiro in Spirited Away||Jerry Chen||1 June 2003||
An insecure little girl is thrown in a world of wonders, magical and dangerous at the same time, and emerges a strong, assertive character. Chihiro is able to accomplish this because she does not lose her own identity to the name-stealer Yu-Baaba and in turn does not lose her virtues. Her personal journey becomes even more valiant when compared to the other characters of the bathhouse, who have lost their soul with their name.
|Meadow and Apocalypse: Constructions of Nature in the Early Works of Miyazaki Hayao||Viktor Eikman||June 2007||
Nausicaa (manga and anime)
Ecological awareness and environmentalist themes are often noted in writings on Miyazaki, but previous attempts to examine those features in detail have typically focused on stated intentions and religious symbolism. Using close textual analysis and the theoretical framework of ecocriticism, this essay problematizes presentations of the physical environment in Miyazaki's early work from a more general environmentalist perspective. Aspects of analysis are the prominence and inflections of pollution, pastoral themes, apocalypticism, wilderness, animals and the Earth itself in Miyazaki's first three productions as a director. Ideological readings are used to estimate the usefulness of that early work in raising awareness of real environmental problems for common agendas. Environmental themes relevant to an understanding of the director's oeuvre as a whole are also charted from their inception. The analyses show that while some constructions of nature in Miyazaki's early work are in line with elements of environmentalist thought, the three titles are not generally suitable for didactic use except as a source of examples for in-depth discussion of problematic cultural traditions.
|Classic Film Narrative and Flying with Pigs: What Have we been Missing?||Tim Henderson||May 2005||
Current film theory has become largely dominated by models such as those presented by Bordwell and Thompson. Within such a frame the plot is brought to the fore, with everything else that may be going on seen as subservient. This model, while dominant, has not gone unchallenged. By looking at Miyazaki's indulgent Porco Rosso, it may well be possible to find examples that point towards a focus that goes beyond mere straightforward storytelling.
|Beyond the Drawings||Gildas Jaffrennou||22 December 2002||
Once you're deep into the history and into the world of Nausicaa, you will discover why this only-seven-volume series should be counted among the major works of the comic book world.
|A Comic Book That Moveth to Tears||Michael Lane||10 March 2003||Nausicaa (manga)||
Part I is an interpretive plot summary of the thousand-page manga, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Part II is an interpretation.
The last words of the manga, "No matter how difficult it is, we must live" are words of passionate hope against seeming reason. To think that eradicating suffering is just a matter of more perfect science and planning is to trivialize it. To escape suffering and death (as Miralupa and Namulith try to do) would be to escape life, too. Nausicaa is a heroine who always intuitively and unfailingly chooses life, and that is why her life is so full of grief and so full of joy. It is the capacity of a life to suffer that makes it transcend man's attempt to predict it. Nausicaa, whose heart is as big as the world, brings out the capacity to suffer in others, notably Kushana and Ohma. Even Ohma, an artificial being, can receive the gift of a soul through his human "mother" and find redemption. In their pride, humans created gods--first the god-warriors, then the Master of the Crypt. They also created the ohmu as gods; but the ohmu chose life and suffering instead, and so transcended their design. "The blood of the ohmu and the blood of the crypt are the same" only goes to show the magnitude of the difference between them. Whether so intended by Miyazaki or not, his treatment of the theme of suffering has profound Christian echoes.
|Part I (PDF)
Part II (PDF)
|Princess Mononoke||Michael Lane||08 April 2003||Princess Mononoke||
Eboshi and Ashitaka are both god-killers, but their attitudes could not be more different. Whereas Eboshi, the revolutionary, acts with irreverent insolence, Ashitaka, a cultural dinosaur, acts with superstitious dread. He has always had one foot in the world of the numinous. San, too, has a foot in both worlds, because she is a human raised by a god. When their eyes first meet, they are both exiles from their own kind. San's hatred of humans and final acceptance of her own humanity through her feeling for Ashitaka is beautifully punctuated by the tinkling of her earrings.
When San buries her face in her mother's fur and Moro says, "There is a life for you with that boy," Moro is saying farewell and giving a mother's blessing to a love in her daughter's heart that San herself does not yet know she feels. But there is no life with that boy without Tataraba, and there is no Tataraba without Eboshi. Thus, Moro takes only Eboshi's arm and spares her life. We believe that Tataraba will be better than before because we see in Eboshi a new humility. She is no longer a revolutionary. She will not forget her debt to a wolf.
|White Moments and Miyazaki's Kiki||Michael Lane||March 2004||Kiki's Delivery Service||
Miyazaki's films, like Kurosawa's, are filled with "white moments"--moments of white-hot heat when the heart warms and expands, opens to the numinous. I counted nine in this movie. The broad theme of the film is that Kiki has to lose her art to find it. While her confused feelings about Tombo and the loss of her magic seem to her to be "evil," they are really gifts to her, forcing her to grow in art and in life. So her vulnerability is really a good thing, the very source of her strength.
Suffering is part of the process, and this is what Ursula wanted to express in her painting--suffering that is reborn in wings. Or as that wind-rider Nausicaa puts it, "Life is the light that shines in the darkness!" And as the girl of the flying horse becomes Kiki, Kiki begins to feel that her suffering could be a prelude to a wonderful birth--a birth of something good beyond her imagining that "God or someone" plans for her. Sure enough, when she has most need of it, her magic comes back to her, and we get to witness this birth.
|Studio Ghibli Feature Films and Japanese Artistic Tradition||Roslyn McDonald||June 2004||
The animated feature films of Studio Ghibli are contemporary works of art which also incorporate Japanese artistic and cultural traditions.
Human's relationship with nature and the gods of nature (kami), continuity and change, the bitter-sweet awareness of the transience of beauty, life and love (mono no aware) and the struggle between and accommodation of old and new, good and bad are recurring themes in Japanese art and literature.
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