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The Japanese Anime - - Representing Ecological Imbalance and the
Samurai Culture
Sarika Goyal
Assistant Professor, DAV College, Abohar
The Japanese are environment friendly and peaceful clan emphasizing
need to develop harmony with nature. The Japanese martial art forms
learn from animals and birds the defensive techniques required for
survival among preying oppressors ready to tear the weak, the
inefficient and the coward creature into pieces. The warriors that are
shrewd having keen observation, foresight, ability to make quick
decisions and a healthy body win over the opponents easily through
these techniques.
The Japanese are considered brutal fighters but actually they have
developed defensive techniques rather than annihilating ones. The
horrors of the Second World War and the technological advancement
in its aftermath further prove that Japan is a country of fighters fighting
against oppressive forces—natural, human, beastly or technologically
driven and Japanese anime is no exception to it. The anime has carved
a place in the World cinema for itself and the release of new feature
films is much awaited in the US as well. Whereas most of the super
specialized international animated movies are a part of science fiction
that play alarmingly with the speed where human cognizance almost
fails to elude the meaning of shots appearing at the pace of some
timemachine, the Japanese anime is more humane and serves as a
platform to prepare children to fight against evil forces bent upon
destroying human existence and its harmony with nature and the
planet. Even the planet wars and the movement in the galaxy are aimed
to check appearance of destructive forces readying to bring about
catastrophic destruction for human race. The present paper seeks to
explore and analyze this ecological consciousness and the Samurai spirit
to fight against evil forces—natural or supernatural found in Japanese
people. The paper analyses some Japanese anime videos to serve its
The major Japanese animes that have taken the whole world by fire are
Doraemon, Pokemon, Beyblade etc. where a cruel world, inhabited by
monsters not of bone and flesh but of other islands, planets and
celestial bodies possessing robotic forces, laden with hi-tech devices
and instruments, capable of genocide, impregnable to human emotion
and misery, await a few young men whom I would prefer to call the
modern Samurai as they are ready to embrace death in the service of
others and the others, here, don’t make up any gender, class or creed
but the entire ecosystem, the planet and the galaxy.
Samurais were famous for the tea ceremonies and the brutal, slow act
of committing suicide using their own swords. The crude act of killing
was celebrated as a great sacrifice. ‘When he uses a sword, he makes it
serve to give life to others’ (Samurai Archives).
The modern Japanese child ids instructed through animes not to
embrace death too easily. One has to fight till the last and attempt to
come out victorious but victory will be ensured to those warriors who
work as a team. Death is acceptable only in the utmost event of
sacrificing oneself for the human race. Death may mean sudden
‘posthumous fame’ for a Samurai. Liza Lu in Doraemon can serve as an
important example of Samurai death but one must not forget that she
was simply a robot cast in human form and she died to save the whole
planet from the evil designs of a monstrous robot on the verge of
eliminating the human race.
Samurais were ready to face dangers in alien lands under strange rulers
and amid their cruel inhuman laws and evil forces capable of exercising
black magic and sorcery and could face death. As per the archives,
‘Every aspect of Japanese life was tailored to suit an existence in a land
that could be shockingly and suddenly cruel. Earthquakes could topple
castles, and plagues ravage the countryside. Raging fires often swept
towns, leading Chomei to write, ‘all of man’s doings are senseless/ but
spending his wealth/ and tormenting himself/ to build a house in this
hazardous city/is especially foolish”.
Not only Doraemon but other animes and mangas also support
Japanese ecological consciousness and Samurai culture like the
animations of Hayao Miyazaki. ‘Miyazaki’s films often contain recurrent
themes like humanity’s relationship with nature and technology and
the difficulty of maintaining a peaceful ethic’ (Wikipedia). The difficulty
for the global forces to maintain a peaceful order can be better
understood if we read Marx. The global forces fighting for command in
terms of technology, development and economic gains are the
bourgeoisie against who are pitted the conservative societies, the
ecosystems, the flora and fauna of the planet and the outer space. The
greed of man has spared none and thwarted and threatened their
peaceful and harmonious existence. The world of kids is no exception.
In their dreams and fantasies, they imagine, supernatural, advanced
bourgeoisie forces snatching their little world of gaming with friends,
pets and family members in a way forcing them to combat the sinister
designs of monstrous forms.
Marx in the first chapter of his manifesto states that ‘the need of a
constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie
over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle
everywhere, establish connections everywhere’ even by drawing the
most barbarian into civilization. The robots created by the human
scientists to explore outer space, to bring about mass production of
some products, to transform the barren (in terms of money) land of our
planet and the space into big industrial houses churning out huge
profits, have adopted the capitalist attitude like the bourgeoisie in
Doraemon and are bent upon to reduce human beings to working
hands for them. The master control lies with the machine, superior in
thinking and performing operations and immune to emotions.
With the advent of star wars, we again face the Marxian reality. ‘All
that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last
compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his
relations with his kind’. But with Japanese anime the reality is not that
sordid. The world is threatened by uncertainty, agitation and lure of
hegemony by the technologically advanced, but the real hero, the
samurai will emerge assisted by the nobility of the heart to defeat
Miyazaki also works on some other themes like fascination and antimilitary streak besides developing ecological concerns. Unlike other
Japanese animes where Nobita, Ben, Kai, Tyson, Ash and their pets or
friends like Pikachu and Doraemon rule the screen, his movies have
heroines struggling against the evil forces. ‘In an interview with the
New Yorker, Margaret Talbot stated that Miyazaki believes much of
modern culture is thin and shallow and fake and he not entirely jokingly
looked forward to a time when Tokyo is submerged by the ocean and
the NTV tower becomes an island when the human population
plummets and there are no more high-rises’ (Wikipedia). But
interestingly the Rashomon type savagery of Akira Kurosawa is missing
in most of the modern animes. The jarring music, incessant rain, horror
on the faces of the men, patternless narrative and disconnected strands
are the part of technique used by Kurosawa to enhance the savage
The Japanese colourful graphics with potent and vibrant characters and
robust themes as they are popularly called animes have pierced the
entertainment industry over the globe. The work of Osamu Tezuka is
particularly famous for shaping the robot genre and the modern cat
robot Doraemon is every child’s heartthrob.
It is worth mentioning here that surreal art has added a great deal to
these colourful graphics. In American Visual Graphic narratives that are
close to science fiction, ‘the bourgeoisie has drowned the most
heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of
philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation’
(Communist Manifesto). The bourgeoisie are the American production
houses engaged in producing cinema. The Japanese employ surreal
images and like Salvador Dali pave the way for mixing the world of
dreams and fantasy with the real world (Victoria estrepo). The
surrealist images, here, ‘don’t offer ways to undermine the dominance
of vision, to explore the absurdities of representation, to reach the
point of death in language, and to listen to the screams of the body in
Foucauldian sense’ (Carrette, 49).
Another significant factor is that they do not build up industrial or
associational societies, the Gesellschaft that weaken the traditional
bonds of family, kinship and religion with their rational self interest and
calculating conduct (Tonnies). It is rather the communal feeling with
one’s friends, neighbours, society and country which is further
extended to all the living forms of the mother Earth.
In order to analyse the above formulations further, I am taking up a few
Japanese animes. I will dwell on the thematic concerns rather discuss
the techniques of animation or cinematography which is beyond the
scope of my paper. To begin with, in a Pokemon movie, the boys are
trapped in the reverse world, an alternate dimension which reflects
Earth. Zero flees to the reverse world to destroy Earth, damaging the
mountains and glaciers that are ultimately saved by the Pokemon
trainers (Giratina and the Sky Warrior). The very name zero signifies
annililation and nullification of the world to a naught. The human
activity has the most destructive effect on natural landscape affecting
hills and oceans destroying which the Earth will be a heap of debris and
junk like the destructive battlefields after any war.
Nobita in ‘Peko and the Exploration Party’ assists the inhabitants of
outer space in establishing a world order and foils the attempt of
robotic aliens to destroy Earth or remove any traces of human
emotions from it. Same happens in another expedition in ‘Galaxy Super
Express’ where a train commuting through galaxy helps in saving
humans trapped on other planets to work as machines for the new
bourgeoisie that is robotic brains with super technology. Other movies
like ‘Nobita and the Robot’ and ‘Adventure of Koya Koya planet’ explore
similar themes. Nobita assures his tree friend Keebo in another movie
that human beings will make efforts to maintain the dignity and
existence of plant life on Earth. Similarly he assists his Dinosaur friendin
rehabilitation with his family in another time Zone being fully aware
that the extinct animals can’t make a comeback with the changed
demographic, climactic patterns of the earth. In another movie, he
assists the child prince Rio in Struggling against the evil designs of a
sorceress in the Samurai way.
Miyazaki displays true ecological consciousness in the movie ‘Nausicaa
of the Valley of the Wind’. The movie projects earth, in the far future, a
thousand years after and it has become toxic after a nuclear war. A
princess named Nausicaa lives in a small valley and tries to understand
the toxic jungle filled with oversized insects. This is the true misery of
humanity. We try to make any living space on earth suitable or
favourable to our requirements and seldom bother to think about the
co-existence of other living species. Furthermore, our basic instinct is to
kill those beasts or insects that we find toxic but we fail to provide
them their space on the planet. Nausicaa saves the world from another
holocaust like Doraemon movies and also protects the planet by not
destroying the toxic jungle as she comes to realize that the excessive
toxin is being drained out of the air by these plants. This again is a pun
on human knowledge and consciousness when we are reluctant to
admit that during initial years of Earth’s cooling and paving way for life,
it was insects and plants that made it worth living for human existence
because of their better adaptability to a hostile environment.
To conclude it can be very well argued that Japanese animation offers a
tough competition to the American counterparts where speed, thrill,
annihilation and star wars of the hi-tech organisms dominate the
senses. The Japanese are more humane, compassionate and
considerate as they have realized that peace can be restored on the
earth by living in mutual co-operation and harmony with other living
creatures and by respecting and honouring the will of natural forces.
The surrealists images employed are used to explore points of
interception and differentiation between different realms of existence
on this planet and without other living creatures with robotic machines
on alien lands among some cold deserts.
Works Cited
The Samurai Culture. 26th July 2014.http://www.samurai.archives.com
Hayao Miyazaki. 30th Dec, 2015.en.wikipedia.org
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. 30 Dec, 2015. www.youtube.com
Doraemon:Galaxy Super Express. 12 Apr, 2016. www.youtube.com
Doraemon: Adventure of Koya Koya Planet. 16 Aug, 2015.
Pokemon: Giratina
Tonnies, Ferdinand. Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.16 Apr, 2014.
Surrealist Cinema. 15 Sep, 2015. En.wikipedia.org
Surrealist Art. 15 Nov, 2015. www.victoriaestrepo.com
Carrette, Jeremy R. Foucault and Religion - - Spiriyual Corporality and
Political Spirituality.London:Routledge, 2000.