AFP: Mamoru Hosoda Criticizes Depiction of Women in Hayao Miyazaki Anime
posted on by Kim Morrissy
Anime filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) last week that he has issues with how women are depicted in Japanese media, highlighting the tendency to depict them as "sacred" and "nothing to do with the reality of who they are." He mentioned a "great master of animation who always takes a young woman as his heroine," and commented "To be frank, I think he does it because he does not have confidence in himself as a man. This veneration of young women really disturbs me and I do not want to be part of it." Although Hosoda did not name Hayao Miyazaki, the AFP identified him as the subject of the conversation.
According to Hosoda, "You only have to watch Japanese animation to see how young women are underestimated and not taken seriously in Japanese society." He said that in his works, he seeks to avoid portraying his heroines as paragons of "virtue and innocence," which to him represents the "oppression of having to be like everyone else."
He discussed such gender issues in the context of his latest film, BELLE (Ryū to Sobakasu no Hime, literally "The Dragon and the Freckled Princess"). The story follows a 17-year old high school girl Suzu, who becomes a virtual singer named Belle. She is introverted and lacks confidence, but finds comfort in the virtual world.
The interview also discussed representations of the internet, with Hosoda that he wanted to depict the virtual world as a positive environment for young people. He wants the younger generation to feel empowered online, saying that they have "grown up with the net... yet are constantly told how malevolent and dangerous it is." He also criticized dystopian depictions of the internet such as in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One.
"Human relations can be complex and extremely painful for young people. I wanted to show that this virtual world, which can be hard and horrible, can also be positive." He went on: "Young people can never separate themselves from it. They grew up with it. We have to accept it and learn to use it better."
Hosoda has previously expressed complex feelings about Miyazaki. In a 2009 interview with ANN, he cites the acclaimed director as his inspiration for becoming an animation creator, saying, "I was, and still am, a huge fan of the works of Hayao Miyazaki. I spent a lot of time when I was younger watching his films."
After directing the Digimon Adventure: Bokura no War Game film at Toei Animation, he was hired by Studio Ghibli to direct Howl's Moving Castle, but left the project and became independent. In later interviews, he said that he left because he felt too much pressure to make a film like Miyazaki.
BELLE opened in Japan on July 16, and is the first of Hosoda's films to receive IMAX screenings. GKIDS licensed the film for North America, and will release the film in English and in Japanese with English subtitles this winter.