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Sherlock								1	
Abby Sherlock
Professor Stacey Livingstone
SOCI 184
13 December 2018
Final Paper
I. Introduction
In Western Culture, the film genre of Animation, of drawn figures and landscapes
as a medium, has historically been associated with themes for children and family-
friendly fare. Contrastingly, in Eastern society, it is mass-produced and consumed as an
integral part of the cinematic industry. Nowhere is this clearer than in Japan, the
birthplace of Anime, where it’s seen as topping their “Most Selling Films of All Time,”
(Nichols) even amongst live action pictures like the blockbuster movie Titanic. (1997)
There is no name more reverent or respected in the world of animation than Studio Ghibli
and its’ founder Hayao Miyazaki. Ghibli ’s films are global mega-hits, garnering massive
box office revenue in worldwide markets, Academy Awards™, expansive merchandise
lines, and affecting overall the perception of Japan’s reputation and society in the West.
Ghibli Studios, teamed up with the most significant name in American entertainment,
Walt Disney Studios, for much of their distribution and marketing, their recent features
have walked a line of deep multiculturalism, showcasing stories and characters that are
distantly Japanese in attributes yet somehow still persistent with American sensibilities.
Sherlock								2	
Directed by either: Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Yoshifumi Kondo, Hiroyuki Morita,
Goro Miyazaki or Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. (1984),
Castle in the Sky. (1986), My Neighbor Totoro. (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service. (1989),
(1991), Porco Posso. (1992), Whisper of the Heart. (1995) Princess Mononok.e (1997),
Spirited Away. (2001), The Cat Returns. (2002), Howl’s Moving Castle. (2004) Tales
from Earthsea. (2006) Ponyo. (2008), Arrietty. (2010), From Up on Poppy Hill. (2011),
The Wind Rises. (2013). Studio Ghibli.
In many of the Ghibli films and particularly in those written by director or
producer Miyazaki, his heroines are like acclaimed Disney princesses -- usually youthful
and beautiful. An assumption though of classifying them similar is deeply misguided as
Miyazaki tackles the conflicts within his movies and the opportunities he illuminates as
possibilities for women within his worlds. Since Ghibli’s inception in 1984, 18 of the 21
films have feature a female lead. (While the other three films have males as staring
heroes, the co-starring female characters are essential to the plot of their stories.) In
contrast to its western counterpart, Disney Studios, the roles and representations for what
constitutes femininity Miyazaki offers females who are broad, diverse, and substantive.
As an example, one of Ghibli’s most acclaimed films, Princess Mononoke, (1997)
Sherlock								3	
“features leading character San appearing on the poster not in an hourglass clad dress but
with a knife in her hand and blood from a kill staining her mouth.” (Pg. 53 Gatti)
The first film of the Disney-Ghibli partnership is Kiki’s Delivery Service, (1989).
(Nichols) a fantasy set in a seaside, European-like town, starring 13-year-old Kiki, a
magical witch who sets on her journey to find independence. Impacted by changing
Japanese expectations of gender in the latter half of the 20th century, the tale of Kiki,
although fantasy, is explained by Miyazaki to be that of every young Japanese woman,
separated by her family and striving to find her identity and individualism. The multiple
female characters that make up her adventure are dynamic, unique and comment on
different roles that a woman can have in society, no matter their age, physicality, or
limitations. There exist many positive feminist critiques of Ghibli’s filmography where
the scholar dives deep with a Western lens of analysis, but to fully understand the
intentions behind these characters, an orientation of Japanese history is a must to grasp
these heroes’ complete journeys, just like Kiki’s.
II. History & Modernity of Japanese Women Roles in Society
Overarching beliefs of Orientalism and eroticism are vital when discussing the
treatment of Japanese women within media. From outside, global sources placing
ideologies concerning Asian women as “submissive, subordinate, oppressed and
passive,” or domestic sexism found within philosophy Confucianism, roles within history
changed over time for women. During Feudal Japan, (1185-1603AD) and then during the
Meiji restoration (1868-1912AD), women artists in “commoner classes” were granted
huge amounts of freedom far surpassing those of their European counterparts. The
abolition of social classes that existed in Japan until the 19th century came with it
Sherlock								4	
Industrialization that gave women complete domination over the private and domestic
spheres of their household’s life. In these communities, sisterhood and connection among
women were important, where friendship among women and companionship of others
who empathized with them was highly respected. Within this also included 家 , i.e. the
Japanese trait/word for a family structure which now one can see Western elements of
patrilineal society in. This tradition of 家 is what makes up the part of greater society and
ones’ duty to the collective and not an individual self. This is a deep cultural difference
between Western vs. Eastern cultures in how the self is determined to exist in its
relationships with others. In the self, there is also a conflict of how to see ramifications of
their actions from others, a classic “guilt vs. shame culture.” “While in the West, people
are expected to feel guilty about certain acts, in Japan, people are expected to feel
shame.” (Pg. 306 Lachkar) Stemming from a Christian tradition where guilt is borne of
sin, other cultures where Christianity’s influence isn’t as strong show that shame is
utilized as a tactic to control societal actions.
Post-World War II Japan entered an extraordinary time of extreme internal
cultural shame, (Losing WWII) rapid economic acceleration, and rapidly changing
gender roles for women in the workforce. Many women were committed taught to uphold
cohesiveness in their homes then found themselves thrust into careers in a booming
capitalist landscape. The very heart of the house was called into question, and numerous
effects of this action, the mobilization of the female Japanese workforce has now been
cited for many effects on Japan. Lorber explains, “If the differences between women and
men begin to blur, society's "sameness taboo" goes into action.” This was felt strongly in
Japan where male masculinity faced (and continues) to face a complex definition of what
Sherlock								5	
it constitutes. Women still consider domestic duties and parenting duties as female only
activities but also are not willing to give up their corporate jobs if they do become
married. Falling birthrates and some of the lowest marriage rates in history show the
effects to a modern Japan where the role of gender is now so complicated; it might
forever be compromised for the sake of progress.
The tale of Kiki, which was released in 1989, is of a young woman going out into
an unknown world to find her way; it is remarkably reflective of its time of production
where the urban areas of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka (Pg. 45 Hsia) were seeing incredible
spikes of single/individual female households, consisting of these new Japanese
businesswomen. Similarly, in a later scene of the movie, Kiki grows further and further
upset by the lack of money she has made in her delivery service and ponders to her black
cat companion, Jiji, “How come daily living takes up a bit of money?!” Kiki’s delusion
of her former world, made up of these dreary realities, spoke to a generation of young
Japanese women who were reeling from the same conditions and questions.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki's
Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home
Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Jiji counting money.)
Sherlock								6	
III. Gender Representations Within Kiki’s Delivery Service
Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki.
Kiki's Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home
Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Ursula showing off her painting.)
Besides the main character of Kiki and her adventure of dynamic agency,
confidence, and growth, there is also the presence of a multitude of other female
characters in the film. Unlike traditional Disney movies where motherhood is established
usually with the death of a female character, roles for women within the town where
Kiki’s is located are varied. The film is very G-Rated where sexualization of its female
inhabitants is not an issue. The setting, an European-like seaside town, is not Japanese in
its architecture or substance, but there is a layover of multiculturalism in its characters
and names. There is Osono, who acts as her landlord, boss, and also maternal figure,
Ursula, an offbeat young artist who serves as a mentor and role model, and many
supporting characters who range in appearance and age. Ageism is not seen here either,
where growing old is a sign of evil or spite, but instead of wisdom and heart. Osono is
pregnant for a majority of the film, also round-faced in her physicality but is showcased
as an extremely hard worker who is never restricted by her body type. Kiki finds herself
alone and homeless at the beginning of the movie, but she forges a new home along the
way with this lively cast of female role models and friends. Supportive female
Sherlock								7	
relationships are not superficial but are critical to her adventure as a heroine. Kiki’s most
significant conflict is that of losing her self-confidence midway through the plot when
she, seemingly out of nowhere, loses her ability to fly and to understand her cat Jiji’s
meows. Her most significant talent and dearest companion are taken away from her as
she lost her self-confidence as a young witch and businesswoman. It is only through the
mentorship of Ursula who inspires her to find a new purpose and Osono’s care of her that
she finds her center and her true identity again. Potentially, Ursula and Osono’s identities
could be seen as conflicting (married with child vs. single no child), but the film presents
both paths each woman has taken as a reasonable and valid choice. Even their names
reflect the crossover of Western and Eastern cultures, making the setting of Kiki’s a
completely “other” with distinct elements of both.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki's
Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home
Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Osono)
Regarding male characters in the film, the most important and also nuanced for a
romantic interest is that of geeky Tombo, a young boy who loves airplanes and is in awe
of Kiki’s flying skills. Tombo is a self-assured, cow-licked, redhead with thick-rimmed
glasses who serves as a foil for Kiki’s journey of independence. Whereas she is unsure in
Sherlock								8	
her identify and her strengths as a youth to hero, Tombo is unabashedly proud and direct,
publicly and personally, both in his loud, kooky interests in technology and his intense
interest in becoming close to her. He is shown to have a large group of friends and is very
popular, while Kiki struggles with connecting with others and feeling isolated and lonely.
At the climax of the central plot of the movie, Tombo, in a tightly done damsel in distress
reversal trope, hangs high in the air off a runaway blimp. He is moments from falling to
his death when the efforts of the townspeople fail to save him. It is at the precise moment
that only supernatural powers could save the day, and in that moment, Kiki gains back
her powers and ultimately her identity, to save someone she has grown to care about.
Besides an example of a traditionally inverted gender rescue scenario, this moment also
brings upon Kiki’s most significant moment in her life up until then of self-realization
and acceptance of herself and her unique talents.
Even though their romantic love is shown as youthful crushes, it is also seen as
powerful. Being able to open herself up to love others in a new place and even loving
herself is seen as vanquishing the final villain that stood between winning and losing. It is
in the “relational ontology behind Miyazaki shōjo (anime genre for female) ecologies that
offers its’ viewers the possibility to envision women as subjective assemblages of
narrative practices that are otherworldly. Henceforth, such relational ontology deploys an
understanding of subjectivity as an outbound and processual creation made of many
contingent fluxes and transversal references.” (Pg. 380 Bae-Dimitriadis) In other words,
Kiki doesn’t take the feminine structure and passively go along with it; she casts a spell
and disrupts it all on her own.
Sherlock								9	
Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki's
Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home
Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Tombo)
IV. Localization into the West and Disney
Kiki’s largest difference among Ghibli films and all movies for that matter is its
large lack of a villain or antagonist. There is no plotting sorceress (Kiki is a witch
herself!), (Ursula, The Little Mermaid) (1989), a power-hungry exiled relative (Scar, The
Lion King) (1994), wicked stepmother (Lady Tremaine, Cinderella),(1950) or a violent
opportunist (William Clayton, Tarzan), (1999) which is a variance for the traditional
Disney animated film. The main conflict of the movie is not external, like the examples
listed above, but from Kiki’s internal struggle. She is the protagonist and antagonist of
her own story. This multilayered and innovative treatment of a young female leading
heroine is unprecedented for stereotypically thought “children’s fare” and animation in
general. This level of complexity showcases huge amounts of respect Ghibli films give to
their audiences and even their characters. There is an understanding that themes can be
difficult and shades of gray, a world where everything isn’t binary or categorized into
black and white, made of stringent definitions of female and male. Flexibility and fluidity
aren’t just accepted in their worlds; it’s encouraged in all its heroines. Now, this
Sherlock								10	
treatment of its respective content and characters is vital when looking at the differences
of localization of Kiki’s distribution from its home in Japan, to the massive success in the
United States. The common saying of “lost in translation,” was a fear of Disney
executives when the decision was made to officially bring a Ghibli film to the States for
the first time. Certain parts of the movie were then changed to westernize it for American
audiences and Western culture. The understanding of animation in the West was just too
distinctly different than that of the East. From The Localization of Kiki’s Delivery
Service by Alexander Roedder: “In addition to the historical bias toward animated
musicals, there is also the issue of what is now common knowledge to Americans
exposed to anime: in the United States, cartoons are mostly “for kids,” but Japanese
animation had aimed at varying demographics for half a century. U.S. cartoons for adults
certainly do exist now: i.e., The Simpsons. But these shows are aimed at adults, not at the
discrete demographics of Japanese shōnen, shōjo, and other genres. Additionally, even
now an animated film aimed at all ages (not “at families,” which in the U.S. often means
“at children”) is rare. (Pg. 261)
The main localization efforts went towards the dialogue and music, to give it that
magical Disney musical feel. In regards to the dialogue some more Japanese specific
terms were deleted but most importantly, and most story altering, is the film’s ending. A
large plot point is that Kiki’s beloved pet and witch familiar, cat Jiji, loses his previous
ability of being able to converse with Kiki when she doubly is deprived of her talent of
flight. Her constant companion and closest friend is taken away from her, and the
audience empathizes with this hard lose. In the Japanese version, Jiji, who had been
hanging out with a cat neighbor and ignoring Kiki returns, to meow and nuzzle her
Sherlock								11	
shoulder. They are reunited to be together again even if he cannot speak with her
anymore. Miyazaki has stated in interviews this officially shows that Kiki has traveled
from youth to adult, no longer talking her to cat like an imaginative kid but instead
coming to terms with the loss of her childhood. In the English version he instead, upon
their reunion, inserts another one his classic, sarcastic quips, “Back again!” This is an
example of where localization can completely miss the mark of what its artist’s objective
was originally and lead to varying interpretations of a theme that was supposed to be
pretty simple. Japanese and American Kiki exist, but it took over 25 years until there was
a united concession on what her journey had been all about. (Note: there was a re-edit
from Disney in 2010 where the last bit of dialogue was taken away yet many other
dialogue elements were left because of contentious debates over Jiji’s ending and what it
meant.)
V. Conclusions of Ghibli Heroines
“In the universe of famed Japanese Company Studio Ghibli, little girls rule, if not
necessarily as princesses. That kind of screen equality is rare in American animation but
it never been an issue at Ghibli where girls have long reigned without the usual frou-
frou.” (Dargis) The numbers of an overwhelming major of female Ghibli’s protagonists
don’t lie. The Studios and pioneer Miyazaki himself demonstrates a commitment to
balance and dynamic gender representations of women and young girls in animation
unlike any other company in the film industry. Kiki’s story speaks to the countless young
Japanese women who left their homes and families to gain their sense of self during the
latter half of the 20th century for the very first time in their country’s history. Their
efforts to join a male-dominated corporate world might seem daunting but with the help
Sherlock								12	
of others, a strong community, and acknowledgment of their strength, they can do it.
Miyazaki himself stated in 1989, “The talents of the witch of this film are little more than
those possessed by any and every real-life girl.” (Kikan) Kiki’s magical talents as a witch
stand side by side with many of the personal traits all young women are gifted. Not just
Japanese women but nearly all audiences alike can (and did) empathize with her journey
of finding herself, with periods of self-doubt and loss of identity, with a collection of
friends along the way that help. We don’t have to battle dragons or wage war against
evildoers, but we eventually all have to fight the villain we least often expect, an inherent
inability to fully believe in ourselves. The beauty of Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) isn’t
just it’s a positive portrayal of women characters but ultimately that it inspires those
watching to search for their character without any societal expectations, only the limits
they put on themselves.
“Many of my movies have strong female leads -- brave, self-sufficient girls that
don't think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They'll need a
friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as
any man.” (Miyazaki, Kikan)
VI. Citations
Gatti, Tom. “Animating Principle.” New Statesman, vol. 143, no. 5209, May 2014, pp.
52–53. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=95961160&site
=ehost-live.
Nichols, Peter M. “At Mickey’s House, a Quiet Welcome for Distant Cousins.” New
York Times, vol. 147, no. 51055, Feb. 1998, p. 37. EBSCOhost,
Sherlock								13	
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=245382&site=eh
ost-live.
Napier, Susan J. “Confronting Master Narratives: History As Vision in Miyazaki
Hayao’s Cinema of De-Assurance.” Positions, vol. 9, no. 2, Fall 2001, p. 467.
EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=8560515&site=e
host-live.
Lachkar, Joan. “The Rising Power of Japanese Women: A Pop Culture Revolution.”
Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 41, no. 4, Spring 2014, pp. 301–308.
EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=94902899&site
=ehost-live.
Dargis, Manohla. “In Realm of the Tiny, Standing Up to the Big.” New York Times, vol.
161, no. 55684, 17 Feb. 2012, p. 6. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=71746123&site
=ehost-live.
Bae-Dimitriadis, Michelle, and Laura Trafí-Prats. “Girls’ Aesthetics of Existence I
n/With Hayao Miyazaki’s Films.” Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies, vol.
17, no. 5, Oct. 2017, pp. 376–383. EBSCOhost,
doi:10.1177/1532708616674996.
Hsia, Hsiao-Chuan, and John H. Scanzoni. “Rethinking the Roles of Japanese Women.”
Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, Summer 1996, pp. 309–
Sherlock								14	
329. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9703251537&si
te=ehost-live.
Roedder, Alexander. “The Localization of Kiki’s Delivery Service.” Mechademia, vol.
9, Jan. 2014, pp. 254–267. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asu&AN=98785127&site=
ehost-live.
Kikan Iichiko, October 20, 1994. The Hopes and Spirit of Contemporary Japanese
Girls Reprinted in Shuppatsuten by Hayao Miyazaki; published by Tokuma
Shoten, 1996
Lorber, Judith. “Night to His Day.” Paradoxes of Gender, 1994, Yale University, pp.
Chapter 1.

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Ghibli Heroines

  • 1. Sherlock 1 Abby Sherlock Professor Stacey Livingstone SOCI 184 13 December 2018 Final Paper I. Introduction In Western Culture, the film genre of Animation, of drawn figures and landscapes as a medium, has historically been associated with themes for children and family- friendly fare. Contrastingly, in Eastern society, it is mass-produced and consumed as an integral part of the cinematic industry. Nowhere is this clearer than in Japan, the birthplace of Anime, where it’s seen as topping their “Most Selling Films of All Time,” (Nichols) even amongst live action pictures like the blockbuster movie Titanic. (1997) There is no name more reverent or respected in the world of animation than Studio Ghibli and its’ founder Hayao Miyazaki. Ghibli ’s films are global mega-hits, garnering massive box office revenue in worldwide markets, Academy Awards™, expansive merchandise lines, and affecting overall the perception of Japan’s reputation and society in the West. Ghibli Studios, teamed up with the most significant name in American entertainment, Walt Disney Studios, for much of their distribution and marketing, their recent features have walked a line of deep multiculturalism, showcasing stories and characters that are distantly Japanese in attributes yet somehow still persistent with American sensibilities.
  • 2. Sherlock 2 Directed by either: Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, Yoshifumi Kondo, Hiroyuki Morita, Goro Miyazaki or Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. (1984), Castle in the Sky. (1986), My Neighbor Totoro. (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service. (1989), (1991), Porco Posso. (1992), Whisper of the Heart. (1995) Princess Mononok.e (1997), Spirited Away. (2001), The Cat Returns. (2002), Howl’s Moving Castle. (2004) Tales from Earthsea. (2006) Ponyo. (2008), Arrietty. (2010), From Up on Poppy Hill. (2011), The Wind Rises. (2013). Studio Ghibli. In many of the Ghibli films and particularly in those written by director or producer Miyazaki, his heroines are like acclaimed Disney princesses -- usually youthful and beautiful. An assumption though of classifying them similar is deeply misguided as Miyazaki tackles the conflicts within his movies and the opportunities he illuminates as possibilities for women within his worlds. Since Ghibli’s inception in 1984, 18 of the 21 films have feature a female lead. (While the other three films have males as staring heroes, the co-starring female characters are essential to the plot of their stories.) In contrast to its western counterpart, Disney Studios, the roles and representations for what constitutes femininity Miyazaki offers females who are broad, diverse, and substantive. As an example, one of Ghibli’s most acclaimed films, Princess Mononoke, (1997)
  • 3. Sherlock 3 “features leading character San appearing on the poster not in an hourglass clad dress but with a knife in her hand and blood from a kill staining her mouth.” (Pg. 53 Gatti) The first film of the Disney-Ghibli partnership is Kiki’s Delivery Service, (1989). (Nichols) a fantasy set in a seaside, European-like town, starring 13-year-old Kiki, a magical witch who sets on her journey to find independence. Impacted by changing Japanese expectations of gender in the latter half of the 20th century, the tale of Kiki, although fantasy, is explained by Miyazaki to be that of every young Japanese woman, separated by her family and striving to find her identity and individualism. The multiple female characters that make up her adventure are dynamic, unique and comment on different roles that a woman can have in society, no matter their age, physicality, or limitations. There exist many positive feminist critiques of Ghibli’s filmography where the scholar dives deep with a Western lens of analysis, but to fully understand the intentions behind these characters, an orientation of Japanese history is a must to grasp these heroes’ complete journeys, just like Kiki’s. II. History & Modernity of Japanese Women Roles in Society Overarching beliefs of Orientalism and eroticism are vital when discussing the treatment of Japanese women within media. From outside, global sources placing ideologies concerning Asian women as “submissive, subordinate, oppressed and passive,” or domestic sexism found within philosophy Confucianism, roles within history changed over time for women. During Feudal Japan, (1185-1603AD) and then during the Meiji restoration (1868-1912AD), women artists in “commoner classes” were granted huge amounts of freedom far surpassing those of their European counterparts. The abolition of social classes that existed in Japan until the 19th century came with it
  • 4. Sherlock 4 Industrialization that gave women complete domination over the private and domestic spheres of their household’s life. In these communities, sisterhood and connection among women were important, where friendship among women and companionship of others who empathized with them was highly respected. Within this also included 家 , i.e. the Japanese trait/word for a family structure which now one can see Western elements of patrilineal society in. This tradition of 家 is what makes up the part of greater society and ones’ duty to the collective and not an individual self. This is a deep cultural difference between Western vs. Eastern cultures in how the self is determined to exist in its relationships with others. In the self, there is also a conflict of how to see ramifications of their actions from others, a classic “guilt vs. shame culture.” “While in the West, people are expected to feel guilty about certain acts, in Japan, people are expected to feel shame.” (Pg. 306 Lachkar) Stemming from a Christian tradition where guilt is borne of sin, other cultures where Christianity’s influence isn’t as strong show that shame is utilized as a tactic to control societal actions. Post-World War II Japan entered an extraordinary time of extreme internal cultural shame, (Losing WWII) rapid economic acceleration, and rapidly changing gender roles for women in the workforce. Many women were committed taught to uphold cohesiveness in their homes then found themselves thrust into careers in a booming capitalist landscape. The very heart of the house was called into question, and numerous effects of this action, the mobilization of the female Japanese workforce has now been cited for many effects on Japan. Lorber explains, “If the differences between women and men begin to blur, society's "sameness taboo" goes into action.” This was felt strongly in Japan where male masculinity faced (and continues) to face a complex definition of what
  • 5. Sherlock 5 it constitutes. Women still consider domestic duties and parenting duties as female only activities but also are not willing to give up their corporate jobs if they do become married. Falling birthrates and some of the lowest marriage rates in history show the effects to a modern Japan where the role of gender is now so complicated; it might forever be compromised for the sake of progress. The tale of Kiki, which was released in 1989, is of a young woman going out into an unknown world to find her way; it is remarkably reflective of its time of production where the urban areas of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka (Pg. 45 Hsia) were seeing incredible spikes of single/individual female households, consisting of these new Japanese businesswomen. Similarly, in a later scene of the movie, Kiki grows further and further upset by the lack of money she has made in her delivery service and ponders to her black cat companion, Jiji, “How come daily living takes up a bit of money?!” Kiki’s delusion of her former world, made up of these dreary realities, spoke to a generation of young Japanese women who were reeling from the same conditions and questions. Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki's Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Jiji counting money.)
  • 6. Sherlock 6 III. Gender Representations Within Kiki’s Delivery Service Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki's Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Ursula showing off her painting.) Besides the main character of Kiki and her adventure of dynamic agency, confidence, and growth, there is also the presence of a multitude of other female characters in the film. Unlike traditional Disney movies where motherhood is established usually with the death of a female character, roles for women within the town where Kiki’s is located are varied. The film is very G-Rated where sexualization of its female inhabitants is not an issue. The setting, an European-like seaside town, is not Japanese in its architecture or substance, but there is a layover of multiculturalism in its characters and names. There is Osono, who acts as her landlord, boss, and also maternal figure, Ursula, an offbeat young artist who serves as a mentor and role model, and many supporting characters who range in appearance and age. Ageism is not seen here either, where growing old is a sign of evil or spite, but instead of wisdom and heart. Osono is pregnant for a majority of the film, also round-faced in her physicality but is showcased as an extremely hard worker who is never restricted by her body type. Kiki finds herself alone and homeless at the beginning of the movie, but she forges a new home along the way with this lively cast of female role models and friends. Supportive female
  • 7. Sherlock 7 relationships are not superficial but are critical to her adventure as a heroine. Kiki’s most significant conflict is that of losing her self-confidence midway through the plot when she, seemingly out of nowhere, loses her ability to fly and to understand her cat Jiji’s meows. Her most significant talent and dearest companion are taken away from her as she lost her self-confidence as a young witch and businesswoman. It is only through the mentorship of Ursula who inspires her to find a new purpose and Osono’s care of her that she finds her center and her true identity again. Potentially, Ursula and Osono’s identities could be seen as conflicting (married with child vs. single no child), but the film presents both paths each woman has taken as a reasonable and valid choice. Even their names reflect the crossover of Western and Eastern cultures, making the setting of Kiki’s a completely “other” with distinct elements of both. Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki's Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Osono) Regarding male characters in the film, the most important and also nuanced for a romantic interest is that of geeky Tombo, a young boy who loves airplanes and is in awe of Kiki’s flying skills. Tombo is a self-assured, cow-licked, redhead with thick-rimmed glasses who serves as a foil for Kiki’s journey of independence. Whereas she is unsure in
  • 8. Sherlock 8 her identify and her strengths as a youth to hero, Tombo is unabashedly proud and direct, publicly and personally, both in his loud, kooky interests in technology and his intense interest in becoming close to her. He is shown to have a large group of friends and is very popular, while Kiki struggles with connecting with others and feeling isolated and lonely. At the climax of the central plot of the movie, Tombo, in a tightly done damsel in distress reversal trope, hangs high in the air off a runaway blimp. He is moments from falling to his death when the efforts of the townspeople fail to save him. It is at the precise moment that only supernatural powers could save the day, and in that moment, Kiki gains back her powers and ultimately her identity, to save someone she has grown to care about. Besides an example of a traditionally inverted gender rescue scenario, this moment also brings upon Kiki’s most significant moment in her life up until then of self-realization and acceptance of herself and her unique talents. Even though their romantic love is shown as youthful crushes, it is also seen as powerful. Being able to open herself up to love others in a new place and even loving herself is seen as vanquishing the final villain that stood between winning and losing. It is in the “relational ontology behind Miyazaki shōjo (anime genre for female) ecologies that offers its’ viewers the possibility to envision women as subjective assemblages of narrative practices that are otherworldly. Henceforth, such relational ontology deploys an understanding of subjectivity as an outbound and processual creation made of many contingent fluxes and transversal references.” (Pg. 380 Bae-Dimitriadis) In other words, Kiki doesn’t take the feminine structure and passively go along with it; she casts a spell and disrupts it all on her own.
  • 9. Sherlock 9 Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents a Studio Ghibli film. Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki's Delivery Service. [United States]: Burbank, CA: Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2003 (Kiki with Tombo) IV. Localization into the West and Disney Kiki’s largest difference among Ghibli films and all movies for that matter is its large lack of a villain or antagonist. There is no plotting sorceress (Kiki is a witch herself!), (Ursula, The Little Mermaid) (1989), a power-hungry exiled relative (Scar, The Lion King) (1994), wicked stepmother (Lady Tremaine, Cinderella),(1950) or a violent opportunist (William Clayton, Tarzan), (1999) which is a variance for the traditional Disney animated film. The main conflict of the movie is not external, like the examples listed above, but from Kiki’s internal struggle. She is the protagonist and antagonist of her own story. This multilayered and innovative treatment of a young female leading heroine is unprecedented for stereotypically thought “children’s fare” and animation in general. This level of complexity showcases huge amounts of respect Ghibli films give to their audiences and even their characters. There is an understanding that themes can be difficult and shades of gray, a world where everything isn’t binary or categorized into black and white, made of stringent definitions of female and male. Flexibility and fluidity aren’t just accepted in their worlds; it’s encouraged in all its heroines. Now, this
  • 10. Sherlock 10 treatment of its respective content and characters is vital when looking at the differences of localization of Kiki’s distribution from its home in Japan, to the massive success in the United States. The common saying of “lost in translation,” was a fear of Disney executives when the decision was made to officially bring a Ghibli film to the States for the first time. Certain parts of the movie were then changed to westernize it for American audiences and Western culture. The understanding of animation in the West was just too distinctly different than that of the East. From The Localization of Kiki’s Delivery Service by Alexander Roedder: “In addition to the historical bias toward animated musicals, there is also the issue of what is now common knowledge to Americans exposed to anime: in the United States, cartoons are mostly “for kids,” but Japanese animation had aimed at varying demographics for half a century. U.S. cartoons for adults certainly do exist now: i.e., The Simpsons. But these shows are aimed at adults, not at the discrete demographics of Japanese shōnen, shōjo, and other genres. Additionally, even now an animated film aimed at all ages (not “at families,” which in the U.S. often means “at children”) is rare. (Pg. 261) The main localization efforts went towards the dialogue and music, to give it that magical Disney musical feel. In regards to the dialogue some more Japanese specific terms were deleted but most importantly, and most story altering, is the film’s ending. A large plot point is that Kiki’s beloved pet and witch familiar, cat Jiji, loses his previous ability of being able to converse with Kiki when she doubly is deprived of her talent of flight. Her constant companion and closest friend is taken away from her, and the audience empathizes with this hard lose. In the Japanese version, Jiji, who had been hanging out with a cat neighbor and ignoring Kiki returns, to meow and nuzzle her
  • 11. Sherlock 11 shoulder. They are reunited to be together again even if he cannot speak with her anymore. Miyazaki has stated in interviews this officially shows that Kiki has traveled from youth to adult, no longer talking her to cat like an imaginative kid but instead coming to terms with the loss of her childhood. In the English version he instead, upon their reunion, inserts another one his classic, sarcastic quips, “Back again!” This is an example of where localization can completely miss the mark of what its artist’s objective was originally and lead to varying interpretations of a theme that was supposed to be pretty simple. Japanese and American Kiki exist, but it took over 25 years until there was a united concession on what her journey had been all about. (Note: there was a re-edit from Disney in 2010 where the last bit of dialogue was taken away yet many other dialogue elements were left because of contentious debates over Jiji’s ending and what it meant.) V. Conclusions of Ghibli Heroines “In the universe of famed Japanese Company Studio Ghibli, little girls rule, if not necessarily as princesses. That kind of screen equality is rare in American animation but it never been an issue at Ghibli where girls have long reigned without the usual frou- frou.” (Dargis) The numbers of an overwhelming major of female Ghibli’s protagonists don’t lie. The Studios and pioneer Miyazaki himself demonstrates a commitment to balance and dynamic gender representations of women and young girls in animation unlike any other company in the film industry. Kiki’s story speaks to the countless young Japanese women who left their homes and families to gain their sense of self during the latter half of the 20th century for the very first time in their country’s history. Their efforts to join a male-dominated corporate world might seem daunting but with the help
  • 12. Sherlock 12 of others, a strong community, and acknowledgment of their strength, they can do it. Miyazaki himself stated in 1989, “The talents of the witch of this film are little more than those possessed by any and every real-life girl.” (Kikan) Kiki’s magical talents as a witch stand side by side with many of the personal traits all young women are gifted. Not just Japanese women but nearly all audiences alike can (and did) empathize with her journey of finding herself, with periods of self-doubt and loss of identity, with a collection of friends along the way that help. We don’t have to battle dragons or wage war against evildoers, but we eventually all have to fight the villain we least often expect, an inherent inability to fully believe in ourselves. The beauty of Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) isn’t just it’s a positive portrayal of women characters but ultimately that it inspires those watching to search for their character without any societal expectations, only the limits they put on themselves. “Many of my movies have strong female leads -- brave, self-sufficient girls that don't think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They'll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.” (Miyazaki, Kikan) VI. Citations Gatti, Tom. “Animating Principle.” New Statesman, vol. 143, no. 5209, May 2014, pp. 52–53. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=95961160&site =ehost-live. Nichols, Peter M. “At Mickey’s House, a Quiet Welcome for Distant Cousins.” New York Times, vol. 147, no. 51055, Feb. 1998, p. 37. EBSCOhost,
  • 13. Sherlock 13 search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=245382&site=eh ost-live. Napier, Susan J. “Confronting Master Narratives: History As Vision in Miyazaki Hayao’s Cinema of De-Assurance.” Positions, vol. 9, no. 2, Fall 2001, p. 467. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=8560515&site=e host-live. Lachkar, Joan. “The Rising Power of Japanese Women: A Pop Culture Revolution.” Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 41, no. 4, Spring 2014, pp. 301–308. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=94902899&site =ehost-live. Dargis, Manohla. “In Realm of the Tiny, Standing Up to the Big.” New York Times, vol. 161, no. 55684, 17 Feb. 2012, p. 6. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=71746123&site =ehost-live. Bae-Dimitriadis, Michelle, and Laura Trafí-Prats. “Girls’ Aesthetics of Existence I n/With Hayao Miyazaki’s Films.” Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies, vol. 17, no. 5, Oct. 2017, pp. 376–383. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/1532708616674996. Hsia, Hsiao-Chuan, and John H. Scanzoni. “Rethinking the Roles of Japanese Women.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, Summer 1996, pp. 309–
  • 14. Sherlock 14 329. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9703251537&si te=ehost-live. Roedder, Alexander. “The Localization of Kiki’s Delivery Service.” Mechademia, vol. 9, Jan. 2014, pp. 254–267. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asu&AN=98785127&site= ehost-live. Kikan Iichiko, October 20, 1994. The Hopes and Spirit of Contemporary Japanese Girls Reprinted in Shuppatsuten by Hayao Miyazaki; published by Tokuma Shoten, 1996 Lorber, Judith. “Night to His Day.” Paradoxes of Gender, 1994, Yale University, pp. Chapter 1.