By S. Napier
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Additional info for Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation
Anime is not always frenzied and intense, however. The medium also exhibits the lyric and the elegiac mode. The word “elegiac” literally refers to a poem about death written in a style of lamentation and may be taken in a wider sense to refer to a mood of mournfulness and melancholy, perhaps mixed with nostalgia. This wistful mood is an important element in Japanese cultural expression. As anthropologist Marilyn Ivy has shown,36 contemporary Japanese society shows a strong consciousness of the “vanishing” of many links with tradition, and it is consequently not surprising that some of the greatest works of postwar culture, such as many of the works by the novelist Kawabata Yasunari or the brilliant films of Ozu Yasujiro, may be seen as elegiac.
Anime mines all aspects of society and culture for its material, not only the most contemporary and transient of trends but also the deeper levels of history, religion, philosophy, and politics. At its best, anime ANIME AND LOCAL/GLOBAL IDENTITY ✱ 33 can be highly creative, intellectually challenging, and aesthetically memorable. But even at its most pedestrian, the incredible variety of animated works can offer rich insights into a complicated and sometimes agonized culture. In other words, Japanese animation is far more than simply an escape valve for the masses.
Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter While Akira turns its back on normality to present an extravagant spectacle of the monstrous, Ranma 1/2, our next work to be discussed, portrays its eponymous hero as frenziedly seeking the normal. Both Akira and Ranma 1/2 play on the motif of the changing adolescent body but while Akira presents the changing body as menacing, Ranma 1/2 uses it largely for comic effect. To put it another way, Akira is fundamentally apocalyptic, although it participates in the festival mode, while Ranma 1/2, although containing episodes of destruction and even elegiac interludes, is largely a celebration of the festival.
Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation by S. Napier