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Anime Research Project

The Influences of the Real World on Anime

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            Anime reflects upon typical Japanese culture and what is part of the norm. Often, anime themes are “presented quite subtly and as a part of the "normal" practice of things; but someone watching a certain anime series may still pick up these cultural references and may or may not understand them.”  Mainly, these references deal with and include Japanese culture.  It can range anywhere from why a person prays after eating a meal, to why people take their shoes off before entering a house. It’s not necessary to understand all these insights to appreciate and enjoy anime.  It may seem that the most random actions are taking place, when really it is just the norm in Japan.  One slightly funny example of this is anime and its use of nudity.  Japan, stereotyped as very uptight and traditional, is more open to the idea of nudity.  In the middle of a scene for no real reason a character will just show up naked or absent a shirt.  What really seems strange is that is comes at very random times.  For example, Vampire Hunter D showed absolutely no nudity throughout most of the movie.  Then, all of a sudden and out of nowhere, a knife is flashed and a woman is chest is revealed.  There is no explanation as to exactly why Japan is more open with nudity, but that does help explain such cases in their anime (Sanchez1).

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"Vampire Hunter D"

            Some anime openly deal with issues that live-action films dare not.  The movie Grave of the Fireflies deals with serious issues such as war, starvation, and death.  This is no children’s cartoon.  It features Japan during the time of war and delves into real-life problems that were presented at that time.  The main characters are merely children that are forced to fight a loosing battle against starvation due to World War II.  This scenario was common in these times, but would be next to impossible to depict this realistically as a live-action movie.  Making this storyline as an anime took away all limitations such as acting, sets, travel, and so on.

              Anime films are made for a wide variety of audiences and often put forth many serious or deep questions to think on.  Just like in art or poetry, anime questions life and the way to live, or dwells on cultural or economical issues.  The Ghost in the Shell goes as deep as to ponder what makes a human, and if humans have a soul.  This mecha anime tells of a time in the future when people can have body parts replaced by machines, and some people go as far as to be completely made over.  Gender becomes a convention in that their bodies are just shells that inhabitants live in and can exchange.  Kusanagi, the main character in the first one, claims to only be female because the body she wears matches her favorite watch.   It put forth the question, at what point do people stop being human (Sandberg)?

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"Grave of the Fireflies"

            Anime can also deal with current issues.  The movie Jinro has a tragic love story between a rebellious girl and a man in the secret services, both of which are victims of political programs, making this film a political allegory.  This film is pervaded by melancholy and denied desires that are repressed due to the patriarchal society.  In Jinro assumptions and suggestions are made at a link between the post-war Japanese state and anti-left crusaders.  It shows Japan in a socio-political situation that pokes fun at the government and choices it makes (Freiberg).

            Another example of real-life themes found in anime comes from Hayao Miyazaki.  In both Princess Mononoke and Nausicaš of the Valley of Wind both political and economical concerns are raised, leading one to believe similar questions are raised in Japan.  In his films the forests are in trouble and there are battles over who is right and wrong.  I think another example in Miyazaki’s films that are often overlooked is his use of the unconventional bad guy.  Often, the villains in his movies don’t really see the wrong of what they are doing.  They are not trying to be evil for evil’s sake, they are only looking at one side of the problem.  Like Lady Eboshi in Mononoke; she wants to do what is best for her people, and she is a good, caring, and loved woman, but she does not think ahead to the outcome of her actions.  Maybe this is Miyazki’s way of telling the world that there are bad guys all over, even though they wish to do well.  Maybe it even asks us to look inside ourselves to see if we are perhaps the bad ones (Hayao).

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"Jinro"

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