More than a year and a half ago, early in 2015, the editors of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities announced a Call for Papers for a special Media Review section in an upcoming issue of the journal, that would be dedicated to “apply[ing] ecocritical and Green cultural studies approaches to the field of Japanese animation.”
The CFP provided additional background for the section, and listed the specific titles that the editors were hoping to attract reviews of.
“2014 was a watershed year for Studio Ghibli, arguably the leading anime studio, because it marked the retirement of the founding directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. who issued their swan-songs The Wind Rises and Princess Kaguya. To honor this moment and attract more critical attention to anime, we are soliciting reviews of the following:
- Miyazaki’s films, especially Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Ponyo.
- Takahata’s Ken the Wolf Boy, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, Pom Poko aka “Tanuki Wars,” Grave of the Fireflies, and Princess Kaguya.
- We are also interested in work inspired by or intertextually related to Studio Ghibli, such as Disney’s Lilo and Stitch; Irish director Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea; and the animated version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (including its sequel, The Legend of Korra, which is a gold mine for feminist, post-colonial, eco-cosmopolitan, and queer ecocriticism, just sayin’).
- Reviews of other anime films, TV series, and manga unrelated to Ghibli will also be considered.”
For a while after the call for papers went out, I had not heard anything about this project – and in fact, it does not appear that the journal’s website has not been updated in more than two years either. But, as it turns out, electronic versions of it are available in both JSTOR and Project Muse, and, Ecocritical Reviews to Studio Ghibli was in fact published as the Media Cluster section of Resilience‘s Fall 2015 issue (Volume 2, No. 3).
Looking at the articles that actually appeared in the section, a few things come to mind right away. The “spread” of films that the authors who responded to the CFP addressed is definitely fairly expansive – though not quite comprehensive – with separate essays on Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Pom Poko, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the non-Ghibli anime Mushishi, and the arguably “inspired by Studio Ghibli” The Secret of Kells, as well as two more that discuss broader topics as expressed in more than one film. And, the list of authors is fairly wide-ranging as well – although most are based at American colleges/universities, others are affiliated with institutions in Australia, Germany, and the U.K. At the same time, the question also stands – Miyazaki’s work and influence has already been the subject of literally dozens of journal articles, and at least two journal special issues. Is another one really necessary? And, does it then merely emphasize Jacqueline Berndt’s argument that Miyazaki exerts an undue influence on the shape of anime studies as a field, and that this outside influence leads to a tendency to treat Miyazaki’s films as “typical of anime as a whole”, and largely ignore anime that doesn’t neatly fit this image or stereotype?
Regardless, the actual contents of this Special Section are as follows:
Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities
Special Section – Ecocritical Approaches to Studio Ghibli
- Lioi, Anthony. Introduction to Studio Ghibli (pp. 111-112)
- Abbey, Kristen L. “See with eyes unclouded”: Mononoke-Hime as the tragedy of modernity (pp. 113-119).
- Heggins Bryant, Nathaniel. Neutering the monster, pruning the green: The ecological evolutions of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (pp. 120-126).
- Borlik, Todd Andrew. Carnivalesque ecoterrorism in Pom Poko (pp. 127-133).
- Bryce, Mio, & Davis, Jason. Mushishi (pp. 134-138).
- Bryce, Mio, & Davis, Jason. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (pp. 139-146).
- Donsomsakulkij, Weeraya. Spirited Away: Negotiation between capitalism and reminiscent environmental ethics (pp. 147-151).
- Hall, Chris G. Totoros, boar gods, and river spirits: Nature spirits as intermediaries in the animation of Hayao Miyazaki (pp. 158-165).
- Morgan, Gwendolyn. Creatures in crisis: Apocalyptic environmental visions in Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke (pp. 172-183).
- Wilson, Carl, & Wilson, Garrath T. Taoism, Shintoism, and the ethics of technology: An ecocritical review of Howl’s Moving Castle (pp. 189-194).
Once again, at this point, all I can do, really, is congratulate the journal’s editors and all of the authors who contributed their essays to this project, and thank all of them for their hard work. Yes, there is already plenty of scholarship on these topics out there. But, as I have said time and time again, one of the defining features of the “academic approach” to any topic is that it is an ongoing conversation, and this new publication definitely makes a significant addition to the ongoing conversation about the films of Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli, their themes, and their worldwide influence.