Within the mediums of popular culture, the representation of women has often been controversial, due to the use of their gender and the attitudes toward them. In a majority of anime themes, the women have been drawn for their sensuality and sexuality constraints. Their role was to be dominated by their male counterparts. It has reinforced the stereotypical role of women which is the passive and sensitive role. Why is popular culture important? It influences the thoughts of the people and shapes their attitudes and behaviours.
During the late 20th century, Japan experienced the rise of feminist movements who desired to change the feminine historical narrative. How did Japanese women become empowered? The paper will demonstrate that the empowerment of Japanese women shifted the representation of them within the medium of anime films, during the late twentieth century. Specifically, it will analyze the female characters of Ghost in Shell, Princess Mononoke, Naussicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and Patlabor. The reasoning behind these chosen films is that they each have a strong female character that have many differences and similarities, when one compares them to each other. Also, they were made within a ten year lifespan between the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties.
Structurally, the paper is divided into three sections: the empowerment of Japanese women, strong female characters, and the identity of women. The first section will present the rise of the feminist movement of Japan that will explain the historical background. The second section examines the development of the strong female characters and how they contribute to the empowerment of Japanese women, through the analysis of the four films mentioned. Finally, the third section relates the identity of Japanese women to the notion of strong female characters and illustrates its cinematic meaning and social liberation.
To begin with, the empowerment of women enables the understanding of the development of the modern Japanese women and their social and cultural representation. There is a lack of knowledge of the first wave of the feminist movement, in Japan. Women’s studies were formed in the late sixties and late seventies from external factors, such as the United States and the creation of the International Year of Women.1 The movements started during the early years of the Meiji period that abolished the feudalistic system and integrated the capitalist system to modernize Japan.2 They formed Women’s Associations, in various areas, to improve their living and to gain an education, through the political sphere.3 As a result, the Japanese feminists were categorized as just a resistance or rebellion against the conventional order, meaning a women’s movement would either be oppressed or banned.4
For the purpose of this paper and the timeline of the films, the focus will be on the second or new feminist movement of Japan, during 1970-1990. The movement emerged as a...