Women and Comics: Google’s 2018 International Women’s Day Doodle

Today’s Google Doodle is a women’s comic book shop. The Google search page has a revolving slideshow of comic art from twelve different women. Clicking the large purple play button opens onto a collection of twelve short comics. Even on the results page, Google’s “o” has been replaced by an open comic book, full of colorful panels. Perhaps we should find some irony here. Comic book stores are infamously uncomfortable spaces for women–dominated by male staff and male customers, and filled with comics featuring almost exclusively male superheroes. Women in comics were for the most part either in distress or scantily clad (or both). Yet, such an assessment of comics skips over the last couple decades, and especially the last several years. From the Wimmen’s Comix movement that began in the 1970’s to the boom in indie comics and manga over the past fifteen years, women have been increasing prominent in the US comics scene. And perhaps that’s what today’s Doodle is really about: Comic are a metaphor for women’s rights and women’s voices.  Continue reading

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Arakawa Naoshi’s Empowered Soccer Girls

The newest work of Arakawa Naoshi, creator of the wildly popular 四月は君の嘘 (Your Lie in April), centers on high school competitive girls soccer. Entitled さよなら私のクラマー (Farewell, My Dear Cramer), it is a continuation of sorts of Arakawa Naoshi’s earlier two volume series さよならフットボール (Farewell, Soccer or Sayonara, Football). While Sayonara, Football focused on the trials of a girl on a boys soccer team, Farewell, My Dear Cramer focuses on girls soccer. In this world of girls soccer, there are no boys or men coming to the rescue–as is common in both shōnen (boys’) and shōjo (girls’) manga. The girls do not lust over beautiful, brilliant, or powerful men, but rather strive to be like the champion girls and women’s soccer players of the past. In this pursuit they are guided by passionate female role models–in particular their coach, who herself was a champion soccer player in her youth. In a way, it is a feminist utopia in which self reliant girls push one another to realize the full extent of their physical capabilities, all the while striving to become the best players in the world. Yet, Arakawa never lets us forget the damaging and pervasive influence of men’s mysogyny and sexism. Continue reading

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Viewing Bunraku through the Lens of Anime

I would like to briefly address the question of whether or not bunraku (traditional Japanese puppet theater) can be considered a predecessor of anime. There are multiple points on which this comparison can be made, including the use of constructed beings to represent humans, the use of type characters, plots which are enjoyed for their familiarity as much as their originality, exaggerated movements and expressions understood as signifiers of emotions by the audience, the tradition of adaptation from other sources, and so on. Many of these trends are not true of just anime and bunraku, but rather apply to a number of different forms both of traditional Japanese performance and modern entertainment. That being said, there are a number of points that I find to be of particular interest when viewing bunraku and its stories from a modern vantage point (as we inevitably must). Continue reading

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The Golden Ani-Versary: 50 years of anime, blog style

For those interested in the history of anime, check out the above blog. Following the history of anime year by year in chronological order, from serialized anime’s inception in 1953, the blog features a different author for each year. Coming from a great variety of backgrounds, each participant looks at their year from a different perspective, from focusing on larger historical context, to technology, to the experience of watching these shows as children. This blog therefore is not just an examination of anime from the past year, but of its fandom, and of the experience of going from the position of fan to that of historian or perhaps archivist.

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The Morality of Blind Pursuit in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below

The representations of characters along the lines of gender and age is for the most part unsurprising in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below. Yet, the way in which these tendencies are presented redefines strength through the course of the film, shifting from drive and physical strength, to the acceptance and embracing of life. While the film portrays itself as an adventure, it more aptly addresses the tensions between morality and blind perseverance. Continue reading

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Shinkai’s Portrayal of Strength in Loneliness in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below

Shinkai Makoto’s newest film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below (星を追う子ども), was screened on at last month’s New York Comic Con. The newest of Shinkai’s works, it shows heavy influences from Miyazaki, with multiple scenes and characters strongly reminiscent of those in Miyazaki’s films. At the same time, the film is markedly different from Miyazaki’s works, bringing with it the breathtaking scenery and poignant portrayals of moments from our everyday lives that we have come to expect from Shinkai. Perhaps the most interesting point of connect and point of difference between Miyazaki’s work and Children are the young female leads. Continue reading

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Water in Miyazaki’s Mizugumo Monmon

Water is perhaps one of the most challenging substances to portray through animation. So challenging in fact, that multiple movies and series either feature live action cuts of water, such as in Samurai X, or computer renderings of it. While such an omnipresent substance would seem to call for an easily simplified representation, it is perhaps because of its omnipresence that the simple circles of blue that sufficed in our childhood drawings no longer seem adequate in the animation we watch. Water is extremely, undeniably important to not only us as humans, but to the entire world in which we live, and to cut it out or overly simplify it is to undervalue it.

Although the act of slicing into otherwise beautiful animation with scenes of actual water or complex computer renderings of it shows a sort of respect for the complexities of water, it also feels disappointing. We look to animation for representations, for the artist’s perspective on the world, whatever that world may be, and for a chance to revisit reality through the artist’s reinvention of it. Fortunately, there are some directors who, rather than ignore the intricacies of water, revel in it, thereby giving us the opportunity to explore the nature of water and its significance in our lives. Foremost among these is Hayao Miyazaki.

Water plays such a major role in Miyazaki’s works that to attempt to document even only the most touching and powerful scenes played out through the use of water would easily comprise an entire book. I will attempt to make do with a brief analysis of one of Miyazaki’s lesser know works, Mizugumo Monmon [Mon Mon the Water Spider]. Continue reading

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