Week 8 – Anime

According to Callavaro (2006), what does Miyazaki think about happy endings, and how do manga and anime more generally diverge from Western narrative conventions?

In the introductory chapter of Callavaro (2006), readers are given a primer into Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki. During this section, Miyazaki’s philosophy towards endings are briefly touched upon. With Callavaro (2006) stating that when ending his films, Miyazaki purposely avoids the kind of endings which effectively resolves every loose end. Which Miyazaki himself explains is because he had refrained from trying to make films with happy endings in the most traditional sense a long time ago. Instead opting to mimic the unpredictable nature of life.

This aspect of his work arguably carried over into that of his intended successor, Yoshifumi Kondo. Which we can see in the only feature length film directed by him prior to his sudden death. Whisper of the Heart, like much of Miyazaki’s work ends on an ambiguous note. Allowing for viewers to contemplate what becomes of the characters in the future. Effectively allowing them to linger in our minds and hearts for much longer than if we had a conventional ending that gave resolution to every plot point, or a “happy” ending as described by this week’s question.

One way in which anime and manga diverge from western narrative conventions is with regards to how integral the two mediums are to one another. With anime adaptations of manga often playing into how familiar audiences are with the source material. Which some have felt are the reasons for the initially lacklustre reception to films such as Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. (Callavaro, 2006). Something we can arguably see today in western media with the numerous live action adaptations of western comic book properties.

According to Callavaro, how is he positioned in regard to war and coming of age?

In Callavaro (2006), Miyazaki is referred to as being a strong advocate of pacifism and egalitarian ideologies. This is in part due to what could be described as the transgenerational guilt he felt over his family’s complicity in Japan’s involvement in World War II. As his family’s businesses were directly involved in the production of rudders used on the warplanes of which the infamous kamikaze aerial tactic is derived from. Additionally, his shame stems from privileges this position brought his family. Allowing them to reside in the rural town of Utsonomiya, just shy of Tokyo. Which meant they were spared from seeing the eventual wartime horrors the firebombing of Tokyo would bring. This guilt would be the basis of films such as Porco Rosso and the more recent The Wind Rises.

With regards to coming of age stories, Miyazaki’s films almost exclusively employ young, female heroines that subvert expectations within Japan’s shoujo subgenre of fiction. Which typically portray their heroines as being inherently passive. Miyazaki on the other hand does the opposite. Choosing to portray his female leads as courageous and independent women who are “active”. Additonally, Miyazaki avoids depicting these characters in ways that cater to consumers of anime and manga that desire sexualised imagery in the visual design of female characters (Callavaro, 2006, p. 11).



Cavallaro, D. (2006). Introduction. In The animé art of Hayao Miyazaki (pp. 5-14). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.


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