Understanding Japanese animation : from Miyazaki and Takahataanime

by Hu, Tze-yue

Abstract (Summary)
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of thesis entitled


Submitted by

Hu Tze Vue, Gigi

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong, Department of Comparative Literature in March 2002

Contemporary Japanese animation industry began in 1958 when the first colour animated feature film was screened. Then the introduction of animated television series in 1963 further induced its growth. The audienceship continued to expand ever since and like manga, it gradually acquired a distinctive mass medium status of its own and became popularly known as anime.

This thesis seeks to understand the popularity of the medium in Japanese society by utilizing the auteur-anime works of Miyazaki Hayao and Takahata Isao as a pivotal point of discussion. It aims to prove that the factors behind the popularity of the medium are multi-faceted with characteristics unique to the Japanese society from which it springs. Its role is not merely to entertain and like the country's other popular art forms in the past, it serves as a vehicle for expressing 'inner voices' either of the personal or the social kind. As a result, Gramsci' s concept of hegemony is applied to the Japanese situation theorizing the more complex aspects of this contemporary art form.

Though the initial research work was based in Hong Kong, one of the earliest overseas booming grounds of anime, the bulk of the greater study was carried out in Japan with one and a half years' period of intensive anime viewing, field interviews and background material collection. The utilization of Miyazaki- Takahata anime serves as a strategic approach to compare and contrast the inter-connected characteristics of the medium. Moreover, their anime cinema is highly popular both locally and internationally.

Raymond Williams's works on culture and society fonn the underlying theoretical foundations of the thesis. This thesis asserts that the directors'works are exemplary of an unbroken indigenous artistic tradition


in which a mass entertainment medium is engaged by the artist to express his or her cultural, social and political concerns. Hence, the medium's target audience is not necessarily aimed at children. In addition, it also argues that the medium plays an important psychological function in the spiritual and fantastic aspects of Japanese lives.

Due to the director's innovative proximity to the medium and the fact that it is a studio-based medium, the validity and functions of the auteur-model are discussed in the light of its application within the sophisticated framework of the country's mass media economy. To understand the meanings of their work in the localized context, textual analysis of the narrative contents is undertaken with the facilitation of both indigenous aesthetic theories and Western psychoanalytic film theories.

In Japan, anime is a general medium term equivalent of the word, animation. On the other hancL internationally, it has acquired a separate generic status due to its distinctive characteristics especially the prolific drawn 2-D animation. The study concludes that though essentially it is a Western imported art form, it has been transformed locally donning a nationalistic character which has become fascinating and intriguing for alternative animation spectatorship; however, in the light of its historical development and its cultural and artistic evolvement in the Japanese context, it can only serve as an initial guiding model for its aspiring Asian neighbours when desiring to create a home-grown animation industry. Moreover, the forces behind the anime spirit are not wholly economically determined, they are more of the outcome of a specific environment from which they both energetically reflect and shape.

To sum up, anime is simply part of the 'ironic modern self' that Japan has been searching and it is being materialized on the cinematic screen with equal intense concern of its own cultural identity and its ceaseless self inspection and struggle.

Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Hong Kong

School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:miyazaki hayao 1941 criticism and interpretation takahata isao animated films japan history


Date of Publication:01/01/2002

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