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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Andrea Germer,
Dr Shiro Yoshioka
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).
Gender, particularly the figure of the shōjo, plays a crucial role in the creation of heroes and the development of plots in Japanese popular texts. This paper focuses on The Cat Returns (Neko no ongaeshi) (2002, Dir. Morita Hiroyuki), one of the lesser-known films produced by Studio Ghibli. A socio-political reading and gender-sensitive analysis reveals that this film offers a deep and critical commentary on the gender order in contemporary Japan. Moreover, with its teenage girl protagonist Haru, it presents an exceptional case of a shōjo-centred anime that does not fit conventional genre characteristics. Through Haru’s refusal to become a wife in the Cat Kingdom the film criticises the expectation for young women to prioritise the pursuit of romantic relationships (ren’ai), and it rejects the ideal of the Japanese housewife (shufu) as an existence of dependence in a semi-feudal social gender order. This paper views Haru’s coming-of-age story through major gender theories, and interprets the plot as a critique of what Ueno Chizuko and Nobuta Sayoko (2004) called the ‘Marriage Empire’ in Japan. We argue that the anime reflects shifting ideas on gender and at the same time presents an exceptional treatment of the need for young women to confront the social changes and gender role expectations of contemporary Japanese society.
Author(s): Germer A, Yoshioka S
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Japanese Studies
Online publication date: 03/07/2017
Acceptance date: 27/01/2017
Date deposited: 25/05/2017
ISSN (print): 1037-1397
ISSN (electronic): 1469-9338
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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