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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Japanese Popular Culture and Character Fashioning: Subjection and Abjection in the Animated Films, “Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind” and “Perfect Blue”

Mio Bryce, Prof. John Stephens.

What constitutes and/or determines one person’s identity and uniqueness in the discourses of Japanese popular culture? Are individuals attributed with a potential for self-fashioning in dialogue with their surrounding community, or are they rather interpolated by social formations and influences? Situating narratives within the prevailing pressures to conform which are imposed intentionally or unintentionally on individuals in Japanese society, and the individuals’ internalised conflicts over their identities, this paper contrasts how two Japanese animations, “Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind” and “Perfect Blue” produce the characterisation of Nausicaä and Mima in terms of subjectivity and abjection.
The metafictive element of “Perfect Blue” — the initially disastrous attempt to transform Mima from pop idol to actress — accentuates body as social production. Whether as lead singer in a look-alike girl group, or uttering lines written for her by a less than competent screen writer, she is nothing more than a body under constant social surveillance and upon which is inscribed a series of events which produce a dissociated Self in a state of perpetual disintegration. The opening stage performance offers the body as a kind of “innocent” spectacle (the girlish body), with the erotic focus being the exposed flesh between stocking tops and skirt; the need for “exposure” to boost the acting career leads to the display of the naked, womanly body. The beginning of the disintegration of the body is formally marked by the letter “bomb” that explodes during Mima’s first scene as an actress (and her only line is to be “Excuse me, who are you?”). The disintegration is externalised by the multiple deaths that occur around her. Wholeness is produced narratively by projecting the identity split outwards and disclosing that the truly abjected character is Rumi, not Mima.

Both films ultimately celebrate that (paradoxical) version of agency whereby an individual chooses of their own volition the path that society privileges for them.


Mio Bryce  (Australia)
Asian Languages Division of Humanities
Macquarie University

Lecturer in Asian Languages at Macquarie University, teaching Japanese language and literature and “Japan’s Contemporary Culture through Manga”. PhD in Japanese classical literature, The Tale of Genji, from the University of Sydney.

Prof. John Stephens  (Australia)
Professor in English
Department of English
Macquarie University

John Stephens is Professor in English at Macquarie University, where his main teaching and research is in children's literature. He is author of "Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction", "Retelling Stories, Framing Culture" (with Robyn McCallum), editor of "Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinities in Children's Literature and Film", along with about sixty articles, and two books on discourse analysis. He is currently part of a research team investigating the impact of geopolitical shifts on children's literature since the end of the Cold War.

  • Characterisation
  • Subjection
  • Abjection
  • Japanese popular culture
  • Anime (Japanese animation)
Person as Subject
  • Miyazaki Hayao Takeuchi Yoshikazu Kon Satoshi Otomo Katsuhiro

(Virtual Presentation, English)