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From Folk Tales to Anime: Disappearance of the Feminine Body in Japanese Culture

Author: Merve Çay

Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.3 (2020), pp.107-124
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: Folk Tales, Anime, Mahō Shōjo, Cyberpunk, Gender, Psychoanalysis


Anime as a social and cultural phenomenon provides us an area of analysis for understanding sociocultural pressures and constructed gender roles of women. From folk tales to anime we can trace the narrative of the disappearance of the woman and the metamorphosing of the body. In fairy tale examples such as “Bush Warbler’s Home”, “Willow Wife” and “Snow Bride” analyzed in this paper, we see that the female characters going through metamorphosis are an example of Lacanian La Femme whom cannot be fully expressed in the realm of the language, Le Symbolique. They are in the field of Le Reel from the very beginning. If we look into the characters’ behavior, both in folk tales and mahō shōjo genre of anime, we see naive and benevolent type of characters. However, in the cyberpunk examples such as Ghost in the Shell, the narrative offers a different perspective to body while questioning identity in a post-gendered world. As Ghost in the Shell does away with passive female characters, the focus changes from the construct of gendered body to the construct of identity. Due to this shift, the body becomes Unheimlich (uncanny) and its disappearance ushers in a different kind of existence.