Identity and Direction in Science-fiction Anime: From Astroboy to Chobits and Everything in Between

Japanese animation known commonly as anime can be considered to be Japan’s biggest cultural export. Many people who have never seen anime mistakenly believe that it is childish and only suitable for young children, what they do not understand is that Japanese anime has been developed and produced artistically and with a wide range of genres targeted at specific age groups. As explained by Susan Napier, for a cultural object to be truly popular overseas, “it has to be both different and the same”. Anime fulfils these criteria as the issues it discusses are universal ones, issues that everyone can relate to and understand. On the other hand, it is different from the kind of animation the rest of the world produces in terms of its style and design and the way it is directed.1

In our project we aim to explore the science-fiction genre of anime and to make a comparison of the various identity issues that Japanese society dealt with between the past and the present (the past being the 1960s – 1980s and the present being the 1990s – present day), as evidenced by anime from both these eras.

Past Era (1960s-1980s)

Astroboy:

Astroboy, first created by Osamu Tezuka in 1963, is widely regarded as the first example of what would come to be known as anime. It was chosen to be analysed in this paper because of its iconic status, and because its optimistic style and themes offer some insight into the Japanese collective mindset during the post-war era.

Anime Introduction:

Astroboy is set in the distant future, in a time where self-aware robots are on the cusp of co-existence with humans. At the time of Astroboy’s birth, all other robots merely had functional artificial personality, and only existed to serve man. Astroboy was the first to have a personality that was nigh-indistinguishable from that of a human child. The anime, shown in a 30 minute episodic format, usually comprised a crisis involving robots gone amok, during with Astroboy is, in true superhero fashion, called upon to resolve it.

Key Characters:

Astroboy was first created by Dr. Tenma, the Minister of Science, whose son, Tobio, had been killed in a car crash. He had made him in the image of his late son, in the hope that he could take him in as a ‘replacement’. However, several mishaps eventually convinced him that doing so was an insurmountable task, and ultimately he rejected Astroboy, who was sold to the circus.
Astroboy was eventually taken in by Professor Ochanomizu, who eventually became a father figure to him, and allowed him to lead a relatively normal life.

Analysis:

Tetzuka, having first produced Astroboy as a manga in 1951, was, like all Japanese, affected by the WWII bombings of Hiroshima and Nagazaki. As a post-war anime, Astroboy could be seen as an attempt by Tetzuka to create a bastion of hope for Japan in the wake of the bombings, to reassure Japan that atomic energy was not something to be feared; rather, it was a positive achievement that should be embraced. Even the robots that wreck havoc in the series are often depicted as innocent, and are provoked into action instead. For example, Giovano, the mechanical spider-like robot in the first episode of the 2003 series, runs amok, destroying part of the city in the process. However, when Astroboy confronts it, it actually says that it did not want to do it, and that it “didn’t feel good” because it had “eaten too much power”, as it was subjected to a power surge (the same one which was used to first power up Astroboy), and also to the barrage of energy from the guns which the fearful humans had fired on it.

Despite its ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ like exterior, Astroboy actually poses some deep questions with regard to identity and one’s place in society. Astroboy, who would never grow up, is depicted as being as close to a child in personality as possible, and as such experiences the joys of discovery, and is relentlessly happy, charming and optimistic – all childlike properties which are yet untouched by the cynicism of adulthood.

However, as a completely self-aware robot, he is also the outsider, being the minority in a society in which humans and robots are still engaged in a master-slave relationship. Despite this, the anime depicts an idealized society in which the prejudiced are in the minority, and even when faced with violence, contempt or ignorance, Astroboy continues with his irrepressible optimism, continuing the theme of being a symbol of hope for Japan, still the subject of prejudice following the atrocities of WWII. When faced with adversity, such as the aforementioned Giovano, Astroboy reflects the Japanese way of dealing with anger – he is non-confrontational at first, merely pleading with the robot to “Please stop it, everyone is annoyed.”

Another issue of identity is one that is typical of anime that feature self-aware robots – can robots feel, and if they can, are their feelings any less worthy than that of humans? Dr. Tenma wanted to believe that his creation could replace his child, but ultimately caved in and sold him away as he would a commodity. However, unlike many modern anime, Astroboy does not go through a state of existential angst, rather, he goes about his circus duties, and his life with the aforementioned optimism. In a way, this way of depicting a human-like ‘person’ being treated as an item further subverts the theme, enforcing the notion of the dangers of advancing with industrialization, and with robots that are getting closer and closer to emulating human personality, too fast, too soon.

Doraemon:

Doraemon was chosen as one of the anime representative of this timeline due to its immense popularity it has garnered in Japan and the entire region. Like Astroboy, Doraemon and his ten year old companion, Nobita, have become a national institution – the Japanese equivalent of Snoopy and Charlie Brown2.

Anime Introduction:

The story of this anime is basically about Doraemon, a robot cat from the future who travels back into the past to help the main character Nobita Nobi, so that his descendents do not suffer from his incompetence in the future. The stories are basically all similar; Nobita experiences some troubles, both major and minor ones, and Doraemon attempts to help him by pulling out an invention from the 22nd century from his four-dimensional pocket. But then Nobita would follow up with abusing the invention and eventually finds himself even more troubled then before. Yet each episode simply ends off like that, showing little consequence for his actions.

Key Characters:

The main character of this anime is Nobita Nobi (derived from a Japanese pun that means “exhausted or beaten man”)3. As such Nobita is portrayed as a weak under-achieving 4th grader living in Tokyo with his parents. He is poor at everything, poor in his studies, sports and is in general the lazy and bumbling fool that is constantly ridiculed by his classmates. Because of his short comings, he is always seeking help from Doraemon to solve his daily woes.
The other main character is of course Doraemon who is portrayed as constantly bright and optimistic. Although he is willing to help Nobita, he also acts as Nobita’s voice of reason, constantly berating Nobita for not working hard enough and pointing out his shortcomings.

Analysis:

Doraemon was created at a point of time just 25yrs after the end of World War II. Japan was still suffering under the post-war era as they were one of the losers of the war and was also recovering from the financial burden the war effort had placed on them. In this period of time, especially the early 1950s, Japan was struggling to boost their economy and there was an influx of American animation and Hollywood movies that greatly influenced their society. Japanese were won over by the affluences that were featured in Hollywood movies, such as televisions, washing machines and refrigerators, described by the local media as the new Three Sacred Treasures4. The Japanese became increasingly aware of the conveniences technology can provide them and this sparked the “Electronic Revolution” that led to the post-war economic boom. As economy improved and the average income of Japanese increased, families were able to afford these affluences, by the 1970s, television, washing machines and refrigerators have become an integral part of the average Japanese household. Besides the conveniences that technology provided them, Japanese were so driven to acquire them because of the wish to conform to western society and to assert their economic standings to be on-par with the western superpowers.

This is all strangely reflected in the anime Doraemon. Nobita’s character was poor and weak, yet his future generations had the potential to be rather successful. He was representative of the people of post-war Japan still struggling to build up their economy, and Japan had risen in power fairly significantly by the 1970s. While Doraemon is representative of the “Electronic Revolution”, he is the voice of optimism towards technology. The inventions Doraemon pulls out of his pocket are innovative, packaged to be small and effectively solve the immediate problem. From them, he shows how beneficial technology can be and also indirectly shows the Japanese obsession with technology that is small and convenient. Even today, the Japanese market is known for their quirky and unique inventions that manage to provide the convenience in a cheap and easily accessible form. Noticeably, all of Doraemon’s inventions are non-destructive and only serve to help mankind in peaceful ways. This is representative of the Japanese’s post-war sentiments on WWII, after all the common Japanese were also victims of the war. Unfortunately, although Doraemon tries to show technology in a positive light, his inventions often come with restrictions that cause Nobita to fail. An example is the “memorizing bread” that allows one to instantly memorize information by eating the bread. However, Nobita can only remember how much his stomach can contain. And yet again Nobita fails miserably due to his greed, by indulging on other snacks that take up valuable tummy space. Nobita serves as a message to the Japanese that technology should also be used responsibly. This message was a common Japanese sentiment during that time, as the Japanese had suffered from the American’s abuse of nuclear technology to produce the Atomic bombs that resulted in the destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6th of August 19455.

RELATED POST:  Senior-junior relationships in Japan

Another thing noted in the anime Doraemon is the background music. There are scenes as shown during the presentation where the music is distinctly American, stemming from Big Band music that was very popular in the era. Also noted are the youth’s interests in sports such as baseball that were also spread from America. All these show the influence the west had on Japanese society that can be seen from the anime Doraemon. But despite all the influences they had on Doraemon, the anime Doraemon was only popular in Asia and never gained wide popularity in America, unlike anime like Pokemon. This might be because Doraemon’s themes resolve around failure that Nobita is constantly stuck within, that do not coincide with the average American’s policy to win. It could also be because the story of Doraemon is still distinctly Japanese, although somewhat Americanized, Doraemon is still a distinctly Japanese anime. Nobita lives in a nuclear family unit, with an average salaryman father and housewife mother. It is all so Japanese, there are not even any foreign characters or ambiguously raced characters that are very common in anime today. As such, Americans find the anime to be boring and non-motivational, whereas people from Asia find Doraemon cute and are also able to relate with the failure that Nobita faces daily, because of WWII sentiments, since the people of Asia were mostly victims of the war. And also due to the relatively less successful economies run by their country as compared to the western superpowers.

Galaxy Express 999:

The movie Galaxy Express 999, released in 1978, is based on a long running manga/anime series, and as such draws on an immensely large pool of characters and back story. However, only the movie will be discussed in depth here, so as to facilitate the brevity of the paper.
Possessing deep philosophical undertones and musings on societal trends that were way ahead of its time, Galaxy Express 999 is a classic anime whose themes belie its age, and is therefore well worthy of inclusion in this discussion of iconic science fiction anime.

Anime Introduction:

The anime is set in a futuristic era when humans are able to swap their bodies for expensive robotic mechanised ones instead, with the promise of indestructibility and immortality. As the number of wealthy people switching their bodies increases, the gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ widens, and the movie kicks off at a point where this new ‘superior’ race is rendering the human race obsolete and extinct.

Key Characters:

The protagonist of the film is Tetsuro, a boy whose mother was hunted for sport by a mechanical tyrant (Count Mecha), and single-mindedly desires to obtain a mechanical body so that he may have the indestructibility required to go after and kill the one who had taken his mother’s life. He learns that he would be able to obtain such a body for free on the planet Andromeda, which lies at the end of the route for the intergalactic train, the Galaxy Express 999. Along the way, he encounters individuals –both human and machine– who change his views on the relative importance of life and humanity with respect to his burning desire to exact his revenge on Count Mecha. He is led to question whether obtaining that machine body would help him find closure, or if it would end up compounding his problems instead. Ultimately, after killing Count Mecha, he decides to go to the machine planet and destroy the source of all the machines as well, waging a personal war against the widespread mechanization of humanity.

The other key character in the movie is Maetel, a mysterious woman who offers Tetsuro a ticket on the Galaxy Express 999 in exchange for his companionship on her journey. She bears a striking resemblance to his late mother and, over the course of the film, is shown to develop a maternal affection towards the boy. Maetel is eventually shown to be the daughter of the Machine Queen, which leads to her having to deal with the personal conflict between her love for Tetsuro and, ironically, the very human value of being filial to her mechanised parents (and turning in Tetsuro for killing one of their own kind).

Analysis:

At its most literal interpretation, Galaxy Express 999 chronicles a boy’s ‘coming of age’ journey, as he traverses the galaxy driven by the desire for revenge. At the movie’s outset, Tetsuro is merely a child, and many of the peripheral characters mock and belittle him as such. However, the experience of having lost his mother at such a young age forces him to grow up prematurely, and the very adult responsibility of killing the man who had cost him his mother falls on his very young shoulders. He has simple, straightforward ideals and aspirations – getting on the Galaxy Express 999; obtaining a mechanical body; finding and bringing Count Mecha to justice. Ironically, this ‘adult’ desire is inspired by his mother’s last words – “You’re on your own now. Be sure to work hard, and you’ll get that mechanical body”. In a way, he is just being filial by pursuing the mechanical body, suggesting the paradox of adult action as driven by the duties of a child.
Tetsuro personifies the man-boy complex typical of coming of age films, forced to become an adult before he has yet to live out his childhood. Within the context of the movie, he can be seen to represent humanity in its purest form. He experiences, and longs for maternal love and affection, and carries a pendant given to him by his mother, representing human warmth and a reminder of the affection of human ties (to his mother). This is in stark contrast to the robots, which are generally cold and uncaring towards humans, going as far as human hunting for sport. Even the other humans he encounters, such as the space pirates, express disillusionment with traditional human values, knowing that death may be just around the corner. In fact, as evidenced by the scene on Titan where a man is murdered and barely a head is turned in concern, death and killing are regarded as an unfortunate development, and nothing more. The film is set in a world where the moral fabric of humanity has been ripped apart by the ‘class divide’ created by the mechanised race. Tetsuro’s innocence serves to rekindle the human qualities buried within the characters he meets – Anteres, one of the mercenaries on the run from Count Mecha, finally finds the willpower to help Tetsuro take on the machines; a wandering hermit, long estranged from his mother, is reminded of his ties to his mother upon meeting Tetsuro; Claire and Maetel, both machine bodies, traverse the class divide and express warmth, even love, towards Tetsuro. In fact, in an ironic turn, Claire, the ‘indestructible’ robot, goes as far as sacrificing herself so that Tetsuro, the human, may live.

Galaxy Express 999 can also be seen as a moralistic fable, in which the desire for the ‘better life’ through obtaining expensive machine bodies is used as a metaphor for materialism. In the film, people literally trade in their humanity (their human bodies are buried in the cold graves of Pluto) for supposedly superior mechanical bodies – it questions what it means to be human, in a society in which human values are no longer treasured. All the machine people that Tetsuro meets are depicted as mere empty shells of their original selves, and have lost part of what had once made them human. The imagery is rampant – Claire, with her clear glass body, condemned to roaming the galaxy until she can earn enough money to buy back her original body, is literally empty within. Shadow, a machine body who lingers around Pluto hankering for the human touch again, has no definable facial features. Even the design of the intergalactic vessel Galaxy Express 999 is similar to that of a traditional steam engine, suggesting that despite astronomical technological advances, there still exists an innate desire and nostalgia for the humanity of old.

RELATED POST:  Shima Kosaku

“Before humanity was born to this world, the stars shone in the heavens. Long after humanity is gone, the stars will continue to shine. While they live, humanity looks up to the sea of stars… and considers its own destiny.”

This paragraph opens the film, and suggests humanity’s relative insignificance with respect to the universe.
From the post war period through the 1970s, around the production and release of Galaxy Express 999, Japan experienced the dramatic “Miracle Growth”6, due to rapid industrialization and economic and institutional restructuring. This may have had a great impact on Leiji Matsumoto, inspiring him to create a hypothetical society in which money can buy anything that one desires, except for humanity itself.

Present Era (1990s-present day)

Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion – A Joint Analysis:

Anime Introduction:

For the 1990s we will look at Ghost in the Shell directed by Oshii Mamoru, produced by Production I.G. and Neon Genesis Evangelion directed by Anno Hideaki, produced by GAINAX. These anime were selected because they best reflected the new developments in technology, genetics and also address the identity of a person or object having a soul during this time period.

Analysis:

Firstly, technological aspects of the time periods can be mostly summed up in Ghost in the Shell and how new identity issues have come about due to the technological advances that were made during the 1990s. The anime is about how Major Kusenagi goes about trying to capture a computer program gone out of control but discovering that it has in fact gained consciousness and is a self proclaimed life-form. It then approaches her and asks to reproduce with him and deliver their offspring into “the Net”. The anime is thick with musings about what makes them human and what defines then as life-forms. It also portrays how fragile memories are as a means to confirm your existence as in the anime brains can be hacked and false memories implanted. These identity issues of existence and individuality were the fears of people witnessing the booming growth of the internet during the early 1990s. The potentially unlimited information available and the increasing artificial intelligence of computers and interest in development of human-like androids and robotics resulted in some degree of pessimism reflected in the anime about how these technologies which are supposed to make us stronger, more productive and more intelligent could also cause many sticky identity issues. Interesting in the movie is how DNA is compared to a computer program which defines a person as alive and existing. If so, it postulates that life-forms could exist without a body and that an existence is all you need to be an individual. This issue arose as more people started to know about genetics as the human genome project had just started in 1990.

As genetics became known to the common person, new questions of identity came about with the possibility of being cloned as people started wondering if being cloned (i.e. an exact copy genetically) would make you the same person as the original. This has lead to many anime alike to ghost in the shell in which the characters live in a world where there consciousness is separate from their bodies and is transferable. Another popular happening in these anime is that characters can be cloned such as Rei Ayanami in Neon Genesis Evangelion. And how the spirit of a person can exist in another object or body such as Shinji’s mother’s spirit being in the Evangelion he pilots. Such thought and ideas can also be attributed to Shintoism in Japanese culture where anything or anyone can be a kami and that kami can exist in everyday objects. The question of whether the body defines the individual or does his memories and spirit define him is shown to us in Rei when she is killed but a clone is simply taken out and infused with her spirit. Although the characters treat her the same, deep in the viewer’s mind she is different from the Rei before.

Secondly, social aspects for this time period also exist in these 2 anime. As the Divorce rates started to jump during this decade, more kids found themselves with a missing parent or worse, orphans. In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji Ikari is a boy with low self esteem and acceptance. His mother died when he was young and he is estranged from his father who is not interested in him as a son but more as a pilot as the candidates are few and far between. He hates his father but also wants to perform well as a pilot so his father will recognize him and accept him. He is rather unsuccessful and in the last few episodes finds it within himself to accept himself. This kind of relationship between Shinji and his father is probably an echo of Japanese society itself as many children don’t spent much time with their fathers. This is due to the social roles that Japan has placed on the men who work to support the family and the women whose role encompasses caring for their children and the household. In fact, a study done shows that an average Japanese father spent only 1 hours and 32 minutes with his children per week.7 The problem of missing parents is also seen in another character Asuka Langley. She turns out to be an insecure girl inside but portrays an arrogant exterior with an obsessive desire to be better than the rest. As many young teenagers watched this anime series, it can be said that many could relate to the main character Shinji as even if they had both parents, they were probably working and largely unavailable. Loss of the mother figure also came with the acceptance of the woman into the workforce, taking them away from the nurturing role they traditionally played in the Japanese home. This could account for the popularity of this series in Japan.

Another social aspect briefly touched on is homosexuality as the 17th angel, Kaoru, disguised as a human boy makes advances on Shinji such as touching his hand in the common baths and sleeping together with him in his room. Their deep emotional relationship can be seen as Shinji has a lot of trouble killing him even knowing his true identity. Homosexuality has been in Japan for a hundreds of years and this sexual identity issue was probably not unfamiliar to the audience.

Thirdly, Japan as a country in the global community can also be seen in Neon Genesis Evangelion. The organizations NERV and SEELE are all over the globe, portraying a world wide presence of the future Japan. Japan and its identity in the global community had not been good after the war but during the 1990s they were beginning to contribute military assistance to the UN. They contributed in the gulf-war, in Cambodia and on various other UN peacekeeping missions. The beginnings of the future we see in the anime.

The loss of the traditional model for the family also is explored in this anime as they featured struggles of teenagers with missing parents – something the audience could definitely relate to.

Chobits:

In order to gain useful insights from Chobits on the popular culture of Japan and its people, we should take a look at the creators of Chobits and the audience it is intended for, in addition to an analysis of the anime itself. Researching the creators would give us valuable insights as to the possible influences they face while creating Chobits as an anime is more often than not a reflection and representation of the creator’s views and opinions. Taking note of the audience it is intended for is also important as are age specific and are intended to reach out to a specific age group. Hence the creators probably feel that the anime’s issues can strike a chord with the audience who can identify with the issues.

RELATED POST:  Report on comic drawing scene in Singapore

Anime Introduction:

Chobits is published by a team of 4 women known as CLAMP. These 4 women (Mokona Apapa, Ohkawa Nanase, Igarashi Satsuki and Nekoi Mikku) were born after the postwar baby boomers and are considered as Generation “Xers” with their teenage ages in the 1980s. These 4 women grew up in a technologically advancing era, of personal computers and of robotics (note that the robotics industry in Japan started around the 1960s as well). Hence, they would inadvertently begin to question the implications and the possible repercussions brought about by this relentless advance of technology especially in the field of robotics which seems particularly relevant to them as they have in a way advanced with robotics from the 1960s till the present. Chobits discusses the various implications of an integrated human and robot society and its possible repercussions as well as providing us with certain insights to the Japanese popular culture. Audience-wise, Chobits was meant to cater to an above 16 year-old crowd as the issues raised in the show might be too difficult for those under 16 to grasp. This probably shows that for all Chobits’ apparent lightheartedness, CLAMP meant for it to be a serious and thought provoking anime about Japan’s possible future, a future assimilated with robotics.

Chobits is set in 22nd century Japan where technology has advanced to a stage where persocoms are a prevalent and common sight in Tokyo. The direct meaning of persocoms meant personal computers and these persocoms are in the form of attractive men and women as well as child-sized persocoms and mobile persocoms which behave very much like our current mobile phones. A persocom can be programmed to do almost everything including usual functions like surfing the internet to doing one’s grocery shopping and as a sales person. One can even program the persocom’s personality.

Key Characters:

The main characters are Hideaki and his persocom Chi. Hideaki is the typical lost and confused guy who goes to Tokyo to attend a cram school (juku) as he has failed his university entrance exam. Chi is the persocom he finds abandoned in a pile of rubbish and, as she can only say Chi, that is what he names her. CLAMP begins this anime with various light-hearted scenes before taking a more serious tone and tackling the various issues resulting from living in a robot-human society. The main core of the issues is that of identity, both that of a human as well as that of the robot together with some smaller identity issues. This theme of identity is underlying throughout the whole anime and is illustrated in the various relationships the characters (i.e. Hideaki’s friends) have with persocoms as well as with each other and with their society. We will go on to discuss below the insights we have obtained from the anime.

Analysis:

Firstly, in the beginning of the anime, the identity of a human and a robot is clearly defined and differentiated by some of the characters like Shinbo (Hideaki’s best friend) and even Hideaki himself. CLAMP differentiates a human from a robot through the concept of memories as well as of free will and emotions. Robots do not have free will and emotions, they make decisions for themselves and their memories are not truly theirs in the sense that they can be erased, altered or added. However, as the anime goes on, we can see how it is possible for this clear distinction between 2 separate identities to be eroded as seen through Hideaki’s change in stand. Where once he strongly believed that robots are different from humans and that he can never fall in love with one, he’s views are slowly changed as he spends time with Chi and he begins to fall in love with her.

CLAMP also explores the issue of moral and ethical problems that could arise as technology advances to such a stage. In this case, love between robots and humans have been displayed in different forms in this anime including parental love8, love between men and women9 as well as love between robots10. Furthermore, CLAMP goes on to reveal in the anime that Chi alone possesses free will and upon finding “her special person” (i.e. the one she loves) she will release a program that will enable all persocoms to possess free will as well. A relevant quote is as goes:

“If an android is intelligent and human enough that you can fall become emotionally attached to it then there is nothing actually wrong with doing so, because it has become indistinguishable from humanity.”

And this is essentially what CLAMP worries could happen in Japan’s relentless advance in the field of robotics and that is that soon we will no longer be distinguishable from the robots we have created. If we take away what distinguishes us humans from them robots (in this case the robots are given free will which was what once differentiated us from them), are we any less human? Can the robots now be considered human? Chobits is hence CLAMP’s warning to their audience to start thinking about our identity as humans and to decide on the path we want to take as humans as technology advances.

The other underlying identity issues include that of Hideaki and Shinbo’s identity as ronins. This is a culture relatively unique to Japan. The term ronin is actually used to denote a samurai without a leader. In the contemporary context, this term is used to denote students who have failed their entrance exams and similarities are drawn between modern day ronins and their olden day counterparts. For one, both are synonymous with shame and, for another, both are wandering, one without a school and the other without a master.12 There is also the issue of construed versus real identity as seen in Shimizu Sensei’s struggle with herself as to whether to do what she wants to or to follow what society demands of her as a teacher and a wife. In a Japanese society, a wife has certain social roles to carry out as well such as to care for their children and to take care of the household needs as well as her family’s needs. However, what Shimizu wants is to break away from her husband who has forgotten her and be with someone who loves her and will not constrict her.

Finally, to conclude, we should note that there is a wide range of anime that deals with the theme of robotics. Why is it that the Japanese are able to accept robotics easily so much so that Japanese robotics have advanced so quickly though it only begun in the 1960s? This can be attributed to a number of reasons. Firstly, robotics is deemed to be the solution to their problems of a graying population and the subsequent lack of manpower in the near future. Japan’s 21st century vision overview even stated the point of having domestic robot helpers so as to care for its elderly. Also, many companies have begun research so as to come up with robots to help out in the security of companies and other buildings hence freeing more people to carry pout other kinds of jobs. Most importantly, it can be attributed to the Japanese religion of Shinto. Shinto was once the state religion of Japan and hence a wide population of people practice or believed or learned about Shinto. In fact, up to now the percentage of people in Japan who observe both Buddhism and Shinto make up 84% of the population. Shinto is the belief of animism in animate objects hence it means they embrace spirits inside of trees, rocks and therefore this belief is extended to that of machines and robots. After all, what makes one inanimate object different from another, just because robots are a recent invention does not mean it cannot be awarded the same respect and reverence as a rock. Moreover, Robots have the added advantage of making itself more acceptable to humans through its functions and its looks. They can be programmed to carry out useful functions as well as designed to look good and appealing to the people.

Conclusion

In conclusion, an in-depth analysis of each of the anime reveals that there is some constancy in the themes between the two eras – both Chobits and Astroboy explore the impact, on both a societal and personal level, of having robots which are nigh indiscernible from humans, while some of the other anime, such as Ghost in the Shell explore the advancement of technology in other ways. What has changed is largely the mood and tone taken by the anime – where Astroboy and Doraemon take an optimistic view towards technology, Ghost in the Shell, Evangelion and, in a way, Chobits seem to take a more cynical and pessimistic approach to the promise of technology. It is clear however, that anime of an era are reflective of societal concerns at their time of production, and offer much insight into the potential, both good and bad, for technology in an ever-changing world.

Sign up for updates

About the author

Nadia Petrova

I'm running this blog because I love Japanese culture, especially the art of geisha. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of becoming a geisha myself. In my spare time, I enjoy watching good anime and reading some manga.

Keep Reading

Leave a Comment