Handbook of Contemporary Animism, 38



"Objects of Otaku Affection : Animism ... and the Gods"

Casey Brienza


p. 479 modernist continuations of animist religion in the national homeland of anime

"The indigenous folk beliefs and practices of Shintoism, or kami no michi (way of spirits), continue to permeate the fabric of everyday life ... . Indeed, Japanese animism is everywhere in the textual contexts of anime (animation) and manga (comic books), so perhaps it comes as no surprise that Japan is also the country which gave the world the otaku. The definition of otaku ... is typically understood as a hardcore fan of ... anime and manga. ...

Simply by adjusting slightly one's perspective ... on this commonplace ... word, it is quite quite easy to argue that the otaku is in fact an animist, investing a devotion of genuinely spiritual proportions to the objects of popular culture fandom.

Thus, instead of revering the moon ..., he reveres Sailor Moon ... .

{Even "animists" worship a planetary deity rather than the planet itself : thus, they customarily worship a moon-goddess (or moon-god, or both) instead of the evidently inanimate moon visible in the sky.}

Instead of placing sacred totems around his home, he collects and displays his favourite action figures."

{This practice is, of course, so-called "fetishism" (which is commonly combined with "animism").}

p. 480 participation of single individuals in multiple religions in Japan

"many Japanese people dabble in multiple religions as inclination and/or life stage seem to necessitate : it is common to celebrate births at a Shinto shrine, weddings in a Christian church, and funerals at a Buddhist temple".

it is common to celebrate births at a Shinto shrine, weddings in a Christian church, and funerals at a Buddhist temple".

{The particular religions are selected for those particular caerimonies simply because their rituals are most elaborate for those caerimonies. (This is more of a praeference for ornate formal caerimony than the term "dabble" might suggest.)}

{Individuals tend to participate in an even wider variety of religions in Simha-pura (Singapore) : there, any particular person may be simultaneously a member of Taoist, Hindu, and Muslim temples.}

p. 480 reverence for ritual utensils in Japan

"A reverence for special objects, it seems, is a pre-existing cultural inclination going back all the way to the origins of Japanese religious history."

{This (reverence reaching back to origins) is true of every religion, whether in , e.g., the smoking-pipe of North AmerIndians, the pots and spoons of Vaidik ritual, or linga of Tantrik temples.}

p. 481 otaku

"the stereotypical otaku is ... somewhere between the English-language "nerd" and "geek" ... in popular Japanese imagination".

p. 481 "rorikon"

"anime ... of the pornographic genre rorikon (lolicon) ... fetishizes the sexuality of underage girls ... in ... many Japanese between anime fandom".

{It could be expected that the chief devotees of "rorikon" would be underage boys, who would naturally regard girls of their own age as prettier than mature women.}

p. 481 authors, in Japan, on the history of otaku

"The earliest work on otaku was written ... in the wake of Miyazaki ... and thus ... is an anthem to the virtue of the otaku ... set of dispositions. Otsuka ... is perhaps the most overt in his celebration of the otaku's creation of new {artistic} taste communities ..., but it is Morikawa ... who argues most astutely for the otaku's positive effect ..., describing the transformation of Akihabara in the 1990s into a geek mecca".

p. 482 tropes of anime

"three of anime's most popular tropes :

(a) embodied spirits of nature,

(b) giant robots, and

(c) magical girls."

pp. 482-3 spirits of anime

p. 482

"McCarthy (1999:10) prefers to refer to Hayao Miyazaki (b. 1941) as "the Kurosawa of animation". ... Either way, the anime he has produced under the auspices of Studio Ghibli ... is beloved equally by both the Japanese populace at large and by the so-called otaku-zoku (otaku tribe). ... In 1985, along with director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, he founded the independent animation studio Studio Ghibli. By the end of 2010, Ghibli had produced seventeen feature-length animated films ... . ...

My Neighbor Totoro is ... the most popular of Miyazaki's films ... . ...

p. 483

Its magical forest god, also dubbed Totoro, has even become Ghibli's official mascot. The movie takes place ... in ... Japan ... in the countryside ... . The children ... soon meet a large, mysterious creature ... "Totoro". ... The film concludes with ... the Totoro and other minor spirits watching over them unseen.

Spirited Away also features a pre-adolescent girl ..., and a world chock-ful of nature magic ... . But when the family stumbles onto an abandoned amusement park, her parents become ensnared by a magical trap there and are transformed into pigs. Chihiro, in order to rescue her parents, signs a contract of employment at an otherworldly bathhouse establishment with the witch Yubaba, who takes her name from her. Now called Sen, she helps rescue nature gods ... from the human sins of excessive greed and avarice. ... After many adventures, she is able to rescue herself, her parents, and the river god Haku from Yubaba's clutches, and Haku ... delivers her back into the human world.

Ponyo ... is loosely but explicitly based upon ... Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. However, like the others it is set in Japan. Ponyo is a little fish-girl ... . A boy named Sosuke ... names her Ponyo. ... She is able to break free of her father's magic and return to land, thereby ... triggering a huge tsunami. ... Ponyo's mother Granma[-]mare -- a goddess of the sea, since her name is actually "Grandma Ocean" (mare is "ocean" in Latin) -- arrives to test Sosuke. ... This satisfies her mother; Ponyo and Sosuke will live happily ever after -- as human beings."

McCarthy 1999 = Helen McCarthy : Hayao Miyazaki, Master of Japanese Animation : Films, Themes, Artistry. Berkeley (CA) :  Stone Bridge Pr.

pp. 484-6 mecha anime

p. 484

"Japanese animist tradition recognizes ... the spiritually potent ... in the giant robot, or mecha, anime genre, and ... relationships human characters have with their mecha in some of the most popular Japanese animated television series of all time.

p. 485

... the first unequivocal entry to the mecha anime genre is Go Nagai's aptly titled Mazinger Z (1972-4). The story features an ordinary Japanese high school boy who ... becomes the pilot of a giant robot to ... a legacy ... left behind by his forbears. ... Nagai made the connection between traditional Japanese animist gods of nature and the importance of the giant robot quite explicit; the name of the protagonist Koji Kabuto's robot, Mazinger, is meant to evoke the kanji compound ... (mashin), which means "demon god" and conveniently sounds similar to the English "machine". Koji, furthermore, pilots the robot from a cockpit within it head -- his surname means "headpiece" ... (Schodt 1988). ... Tellingly, the Mechanical Beast antagonists ..., conversely, are usually piloted by remote control. ...

The television series which was to become synonymous with the giant robot anime genre in Japan ... was Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-80). In addition ..., the original series has since spun off numerous new worlds in the Gundam franchise, including G Gundam (1994-5), Gundam Wing (1995-6), Gundam X (1996), Gundam SEED (2002-3) and Gundam 00 (2007-9). Broadly speaking, they are united by plots involving the rebellion of outer space colonies against a despotic planet Earth ... . ...

In Gundam Wing, for example, the antagonist group OZ develops the Mobile Doll system, which allows OZ to send mobile suits into battle without pilots. ...

p. 486

To take on the Mobile Dolls, one of the Gundam pilots, Heero Yuy, is able to master the ZERO System, an interface between pilot and mobile suits that computationally predicts all possible outcomes ... .

Thus, it is practically supernatural -- superhuman, certainly -- ... and it comes with a dire price : most pilots are driven insane by their information overload".

"In the Magic Knight Rayearth (1994-5) anime, based upon a shoujo (for girls) anime of the same name by CLAMP, the giant robots are literally gods. In this show, three ordinary Japanese girls, Hikaru, Umi and Fuu, are brought to a magical land called Cephiro and tasked with rescuing its princess. To do this, they must first revive three powerful spirits. ... Rayearth represents the element fire and appears as a wolf of flame ... also can assume the shape of a giant robot for Hikaru to pilot. The other two mashin are Celece, a dragon of water, and Windam, a bird of wind. They, too, transform into giant robots for Umi and Fuu respectively."

Schodt 1988 = Frederik L. Schodt : Inside the Robot Kingdom : Japan, Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia. NY : Kodansha Internat.

pp. 486-9 varieties of "magical girl"

p. 486

"the origin of the magical girl genre is attributed to the so-called manga no kamisama (god of manga) Osamu Tezuka (Gravett 2004)."

"Ribon no Kishi (Princess of Ribbons) ... began serialization in the Kodansha magazine Shoujo Club in 1953

p. 487

... . The story is about Sapphire, a fairytale princess who ... has subsequently inspired a legion of Japanese pop cultural products ... (Schodt 1983)."

"Himitsu no Akko-chan (Akko of the Secret)" (which secret is "her cherished hand mirror"), "based upon a manga of the same title published in the shoujo manga magazine Ribon by Fujio Akazuka from 1962 to 1965." "a kagami no sei (mirror spirit) appears before her and thanks her for caring for the mirror. The mirror spirit then gifts Akko with a new mirror in a cosmetic compact case which allows her to magically transform herself into anything she wishes."

"The animated television series Majou no Kurimii Mami (Magical Angel Creamy Mami) (1983-4) is an excellent example of ... the magical girl becoming ... sacred ... to her otaku audience. The heroine ... is Yuu Morisawa, a ten-year-old who, with the help of a magic wand, is able to transform into a teenager. ... .

... very similar stories have been repeated ..., such as in Full Moon O Sagashite. ...

Witness ... the singing synthesizer application Hatsune Miku, which is personified by a pigtailed bishoujo (beautiful girl)."

p. 488

"Bishoujo Senshi Seeraa Moon (Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon) ..., which ran from 1992 to 1997". "The heroine, Sailor Moon, channels her power ... through the ginzuishou (silver crystal) ... . The other senshi use wands decorated with their planet's zodiac symbol. Furthermore, when they activate their powers, their everyday clothing changes into their combat outfits."

"Shoujo Kaukumei Utena (1997) ... anime was directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, who had been instrumental in the development of Sailor Moon. He eventually left the animation company, Toei, ... and formed Be-papas, the studio which would go on to produce Utena", of which heroine "Girl Revolution Utena" is situated in "the fantasy world of princes and princesses, of ...

p. 489

magical prizes, of rose gardens and palaces in the sky ... . The opening theme shows the two girls laying siege to a castle in the sky on flying horses".

Gravett 2004 = Paul Gravett : Manga : Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. London:  Laurence King.

Schodt 1983 = Frederik L. Schodt : Manga! Manga! : the World of Japanese Comics. NY : Kodansha Internat.

p. 489 social movements animated by spirituality

"when particular anime spark social movements, as was the case of My Neighbor Totoro and subsequent interest in conserving forest habitat in the Saitama hill region of the Tokyo metropolitan area, people are reported to have been motivated ... by spirtuality (Kikuchi & Obara 2005)."

Kikuchi & Obara 2005 = T. Kikuchi & N. Obara : "Recreating Rurality Around the Totoro Forest in the Outer Fringe of Tokyo Metropolitan Area : the Spirituality of Rurality". GEOGRAPHICAL REPORTS OF TOKYO METROPOLITAN UNIV 40:39-52.

p. 489 "fantasy"? "akin to be dead"?

"the otaku builds a spiritual life."

{Correct! : whereas capitalist materialism is destructive to any spirituality.}

"relying on an escapist fantasy world

{We must rely partly upon our own hunches/fancies/ fantasies in order to discover an escape out of the trap of being spiritually oppressed by ploutokrat materialists.}

for satisfaction and self-actualization is akin to being dead."

{By a similar token, to rely on ploutokrat-imposed soulless materialism is very much akin to already being in the torments of A-vici (Hell); and is a very nearly sure path to eventually ending up in the actual A-vici. Swarga (Heaven), on the other hand, is very much akin to a real "fantasy world"; and we can reach Swarga by "fantasizing" in favor of it.}

p. 490 pacifist anti-capitalism

"Miyazaki, Tomino and Ikuhara themselves have strong humanist, pacifist and even anti-capitalist views which are expressed through their animated creations.

Instead, ... anime simply predisposes one to ... the capitalist's objective". {But what is the capitalists' actual (instead of merely purported) objective?}

{Wrong! The "capitalist's objective" is impiously to exploit, deprive, and degrade the working-class; whereas (much alike unto primitive animism) manga and anime help set the working-class's mind-set free from cowardly submission to ploutokrat-imposed atheistic materialism.}

{Contrary to the authoress (C.B.)'s repeated assertion (on pp. 489 & 490) that workers are the main "consumers", the fact of the matter is that workers are exploited by being deprived of most of the product of their labor, so that the ruling-class capitalists consume most of the working-class's production -- wasting on bribes and on war-materials whatever they do not put into their mansions and palaces. The workers themselves survive miserably on degradingly low wages, hardly able to afford to consume anything. The authoress is a capitalist-stooge propagandistess, for sure!}


Graham Harvey (ed.) : Handbook of Contemporary Animism. Acumen Publ, Durham; ISD, Bristol, 2013.