"Exuberant or Uncanny? Femininity at Crossroads in Yonebayashi Hiromasa's Animation Movies"

Presented By: Maria Grajdian (Hiroshima University Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences)

This presentation critically scrutinizes the three animation movies released by the Japanese director Yonebayashi Hiromasa (born 1973): The Secret World of Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietti, literally “The Borrowers Arrietty”, 2010), When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Mânî, literally “Memories of Marnie”, 2014) and Mary and The Witch’s Flower (Meari to majo no hana, 2017). Either in fantasy movies, such as the first and the third productions, or in drama form, such in the second work, Yonebayashi Hiromasa generously explores alternative dimensions of femininity, emerged in relation to the postwar version of shôjo: the dwarf living in the hidden, invisible spaces of the human habitat, the protective grandmother from the netherworld who encourages her granddaughter and takes over the responsibility of a broken family, the prepubescent girl who incidentally receives magical powers for a limited amount of time. While the first two movies have been released by Studio Ghibli and, accordingly, continue its quest for the expansion of the animated medium beyond its plain entertainment function, the third movie was produced by Studio Ponoc (which was founded by former Studio Ghibli lead producer Nishimura Yoshiaki in April 2015) as its first feature work: correspondingly, it distances itself from the previous two animated movies with their rather heavy existential questions and searches for lighter tones in describing the process of growing-up. Based on ethnographic analysis and hermeneutic interpretation, the current presentation strives for a cross-cultural embedding of these animation movies in the larger context of cultural history, both due to the fact that they are all based on British children’s novels with their fantasy worlds as backgrounds for complex journeys of initiation, and as powerful Bildungsromane (novels of formation) transcending Japan’s infamous culture of mindless consumerism.