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Wings and freedom, spirit and self : how the filmography of Hayao Miyazaki subverts nation branding and soft power


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Shadow, S 2015 , 'Wings and freedom, spirit and self : how the filmography of Hayao Miyazaki subverts nation branding and soft power', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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For close to four decades, the work of Hayao Miyazaki has been presented throughout the
world as the pinnacle of Japanese cinematic animation. Often referred to by fans as “the Walt
Disney of the East”, Miyazaki has created films that delight people of all ages. Yet Miyazaki
does not see what he does as providing simple entertainment and distractions. Rather,
Miyazaki’s entire filmography courses with his personal ideologies; from his
environmentalism to his anti-extreme capitalism stance, his views of pacifism, his concern
with interpersonal connection as well as the ideas of love and justice intrinsic to his view of
humanity. His works have also been used by various vested interests – including the Japanese
government and corporate-media entities – to push awareness of, and increase desire for,
Japanese brands, media (specifically anime), and cultural products.
This thesis focuses on a close reading of two of his works, Porco Rosso (1992) and Spirited
Away (2001), where the purpose is to examine how these two films demonstrate Miyazaki’s
subversion of many national branding and soft power programmes. This is further supported
by drawing upon the works of academics such as Susan J. Napier, Ayumi Suzuki, Tai Wei
Lim, Kevin M. Moist and Michael Bartholow.
Within this context, this thesis demonstrates the central motifs and thematic representations
which can be seen as subversive or at least challenging to an imposed ideology. The core of
Miyazaki’s works can be read as setting up subtle critiques of various social and
governmental policies and practices over the past few decades. With many of them centring
around how Japan should perceive itself, how its people should behave and how they should
codify their identities in order to conform to invented norms. This is done through the use of
visual and narrative markers as well as through the construction of characters to be reflections
of the times in which they were created – specifically the so-called Lost Decade (1991-2002),
a period in which a faltering economy pressured the Japanese government to increase their
national branding and soft power programmes in order to combat external and internal
perceptions of weakness and failure. With Porco Rosso and Spirited Away coming at the
beginning and end of that period, these films best demonstrate Miyazaki’s subversion of the
way Japanese enactors and investors sought to control all discourses surrounding (self and
national) branding and soft power.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Shadow, S
Keywords: soft power, Miyazaki, Anime, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso
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Copyright 2015 the Author

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