Database for Animation Studies


Spirited Away: Conceptualizing a Film-Based Case Study through Comparative Narratives of Japanese Ecological and Environmental Discourses

This article discusses interpretations of environmental themes in the film Spirited Away (2011) directed by Miyazaki Hayao, including views that do not agree with any environment-related reading of the film’s contents. In analyzing this diversity of views obtained through fieldwork and secondary sources, the discussions involve interpretations of the characters and symbolisms related to the physical settings found in the animated feature. This includes: correlations with the Japanese economic fast-growth period in the Showa period from the 1960s onwards; contrasts between characters that are representations of pollution versus traditional symbols of nature; the inter-related ideas of consumption and waste; the delicate co-existence between nature and humans; traditional conceptions of nature; spirituality and interpretations of the environment; human–nature interactions; ideas about state and non-state stakeholders in Japanese society; the impact of economic production; changes in community bonds with development, etc. The methodology is based on textual analysis and interpretive work of scholarly arguments about ideas related to the environment in Japan. A second methodology is based on oral interviews with instructors and scholarly experts within the intellectual community who have experience in teaching or writing materials related to this topical matter. The concluding section discusses reception of the film and the way audiences cognitively react to and interact with the film’s contents to arrive at their own understanding (or rejection) of its environmental themes.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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