Environmentalism in Manga and Anime

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Environmentalism in Manga and Anime

In Western news stories, Japan and the environment usually only come up together in one form: Japan is ruining the environment. Japan is hunting endangered whales; Japan is overfishing depleted fishing stocks; Japan has walled up the last of its wild rivers; Japan is building up all its wild areas.

All these accusations are, unfortunately, true to some large degree. Even in anime, all too often what we see are images that point to a continuation of the current trend: metal and concrete mega-cities, like those in the anime Dominion, Akira, Gunnm, or in Bubblegum Crisis, or any of the other hard science-fiction worlds. Not a pleasant picture --- and in fact, in those "cyberpunk"-ish stories, the world is not a pleasant place to be in, in general.

But, running through other works is a thread of a different hue. Listen closely, and a different voice is heard --- the voice of dissent, the voice protesting the loss of green spaces and clean waters and open air.

Where has this voice come from? I'm not quite qualified to say for sure, but I can guess. Some of it is obvious: people who are tired of seeing tranquil forests razed, or seeing their favorite beach turned into a concrete nightmare (such as in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan); people who read the news and hear of oil spills and extinctions and pollution problems. But another aspect is surely the traditional sense of Taoism that runs deep in Japanese culture. Taoism was the primary influence for ancient Asian paintings depicting humans and their habitations as mere tiny decorations on sweeping mountain vistas. Shintoism, along with traditional Chinese beliefs, helped add the concept of spirits and deities residing in trees and rocks and even household items. The sum of these philosophis suggests that humans should work within nature --- and this belief can be seen reflected in even some of today's modern manga.

Whatever the reason, though, the environmentalist call comes up loud and clear in many places.

Perhaps the best example is in the works of the father of manga himself, Tezuka Osamu. Some are familiar with his Jungle Taitei series ("Kimba the White Lion"). But Tezuka's fondness for animals and wildlife extends beyond the children's story. If we look at Black Jack (of Black Jack), we see a maverick, unlicensed, brilliant surgeon who charges ridiculous fees for his work. What does the normally cold-hearted Black Jack use the vast sums of money for?

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that doraemon is one of the classics in children's manga. the series continued on with occasional stories of this type, such as an effort to save a zoo elephant sentenced to death by the wwii japanese military
  • Analyzes how japan and the environment often come up together in western news stories. taoism is the primary influence for ancient asian paintings depicting humans as tiny decorations on sweeping mountain vistas.
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