Seventh Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday, June 21-Sunday 22, 2003
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University



ASCJ Executive Committee
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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 28
Manga, Anime and Contemporary Japanese Spirituality
Organizer/Chair: Mark MacWilliams, St. Lawrence University

Anyone who has read Japanese manga or seen Japanese anime realizes that they often explicitly deal with religion. They have stories filled with religious themes, scenes, and personages drawing explicitly upon ancient classical, folk, and even Western religious traditions to convey serious messages to Japanese adults, teens, and children. The goal of this panel is to build upon the several groundbreaking studies of manga and anime that have appeared in recent works by Frederick Schodt, Anne Allison, Sharon Kinsella, and Susan Napier. These scholars have looked at the various connections between these mass visual media and popular culture, but have neglected the contemporary spiritual dimension that is an important theme in the works examined in this panel. Mark MacWilliams looks at the ways a variety of contemporary manga artists represent kami in their stories, focusing on the work of Hiroki Ogawa, Tori Miki, Mizuki Shigeru, and Moroboshi Daijiro. David Loy and Hiroshi Yamanaka will examine the work of Miyazaki Hayao, the most important anime artist in Japan today. Loy will examine religious themes in the films, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke, while Yamanaka examines Miyazawa's new hit film, Spirited Away.

1) Mark MacWilliams, St. Lawrence University. "The Survival of the Kami in Commercial Manga"

In his important book Kami to Nihon bunka (1983), Ishida Ichiro argues that there is an underlying "functionist" (kansushugi) or deep structure of the kami cult that forms a common spiritual sensibility throughout Japanese history. His line of argument can be traced back to Yanagita Kunio's work in Japanese folklore. Ishida argues that Shinto changes its religious and intellectual clothes from time to time like a "dress up doll." That is to say, at the beginning of the Nara period, it appeared in the Kojiki in the guise of the ancient ritsu-ryo ideology. In the Kamakura period, it became the honji suijaku Shinto of Tendai, etc. Underneath these changing guises the kami, with their unifying homeostatic power to adapt and assimilate any external heterogeneous influences, are the fundamental matrix. My paper explores Ishida's thesis by looking at how the kami survive in contemporary manga. I will examine the work of important present day artists such as Hiroki Ogawa, Tori Miki, Mizuki Shigeru, Moroboshi Daijiro and Miyazaki Hayao. I will argue that the "dress up doll" model of a unitary structure of kami faith is far too simplistic to understand the kami in contemporary manga. Through their differing visual forms and narrations, these artists have transformed the kami into new divine figures that contest the traditional roles and meanings that kami have signified in the past.

2) David Loy, Bunkyo University. "The Dharma of Miyazaki Hayao"

The films of the Japanese animation director Miyazaki Hayao often have
religious themes and motifs embedded within them. My paper will examine
some of the main themes in what are perhaps his two most important films,
"Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" and "Princess Mononoke." I argue,
further, that these films demonstrate deep spiritual insight into the
nature of good and evil, including human conflict and how to resolve it.

3) Hiroshi Yamanaka, University of Tsukuba. "A Utopia with a Power for Living"

The success of Miyazaki Hayao's newest film, Spirited Away, goes far beyond its significance for the genre of Japanese animation. It is significant in relation to the whole of contemporary Japanese spirituality. In this presentation, I will make clear how Miyazawa's animated films offer Japanese people psychological healing and give a sense of liberation. They serve as a kind of popular religion at a time when globalization and rapid development based on the principle of unsparing competition have caused tumult and reverberations can be found in the collective mentality of the Japanese people.


list of panels