behavior include the shocking scene in Nausica\u00e4 in which the protag onist kills

Behavior include the shocking scene in nausicaä in

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behavior include the shocking scene in Nausicaä in which the protag- onist kills with a sword the men who murdered her father, the confrontation between Sheeta and the evil Muska in Laputa in which Sheeta steadfastly refuses to give him her magic stone, the opening scene of Kiki’s Delivery Service when the 13-year-old Kiki leaves home wavering on her broomstick to begin a new life alone in a strange city, and virtually all the actions of Princess Mononoke ’s female protagonist, San, whose decidedly “unfeminine” behavior consists of attacking and attempting to destroy as many members of the human race as possible. The distinctiveness of these characterizations cannot be overem- phasized. While many anime heroines such as Cutey Honey or the “knights” in Bubblegum Crisis are clearly constructed as “action heroes” (albeit extremely sexy action heroes), they are usually adult women, and their actions tend to be essentially one note, consisting of various forms of violent retribution toward evildoers. Furthermore, these more typical heroines tend to be part of a larger group (crime fighters, space patrollers, etc.), while Miyazaki’s heroines are normally on their own. The opening scenes of Nausicaä, Laputa, and Kiki’s Delivery Service all show the heroine alone and literally in flight. Even the two very young girls in My Neighbor Totoro explore their suppos- edly haunted house by themselves. Traditional to mythic and fairy tale conventions, the girls are often orphaned (San, Sheeta), or with absent mothers (Nausicaä, Mei, Satsuki), or without parental support (Kiki), but their active independence is unusual for most fairy tales, particu- larly in Japan, where active protagonists are almost exclusively male. Playing on traditional conventions with a contemporary twist, Miyazaki is clearly not only attempting to break down the conven- tional image of femininity but also to break down the viewer’s conventional notion of the world in general. He is forcing us to become estranged from what we take for granted and to open up to
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126 A N I M E F R O M A K I R A T O P R I N C E S S M O N O N O K E new possibilities of what the world could be. By highlighting his female characters and making them steadfast, empowered, and inde- pendent, Miyazaki throws these attributes into sharp relief, forcing the viewer to be aware of these qualities at a level of perception that a more conventional male protagonist would be unlikely to stimulate. It is not surprising that virtually all his sh o jo characters are strongly associated with flight because it is in images of flying that the possibilities of escape (from the past, from tradition) are most clearly realized. This chapter examines Miyazaki’s use of the sh o jo in three of his major films: My Neighbor Totoro ( Tonari no Totoro, 1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service ( Majo no takky u bin, 1989), and Nausicaä ( Kaze no tani no Nausicaä, 1984) , both in the context of the sh o jo image and in terms of the films’ relation to the alternate realities they illuminate . In contrast to
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