Anime Gets Everywhere: Hayao Miyazaki and Modern Romantic Fiction


Almost twenty ago on a British convention panel, Jim Trash City McLennan was asked about his hopes for the future of anime. He said that he was hoping for a day when anime would have truly integrated into Western culture: when nobody would describe themselves as an anime fan, any more than they would describe themselves as a film fan, because anime would have become just another part of the cultural mix.

The subsequent discussion looked to a future that sounded almost Utopian. Everybody would watch anime at some time, just as everybody watches movies at some time. Anime would be there, part of the landscape of popular culture, and whether one liked it or not would no longer be relevant. It wouldn’t be remarkable any more. It wouldn’t be geeky, weird or alien. It would just be there.

Utopia has arrived.

Evidence? A romantic novel: Jojo Moyes’ Me After You.

Published this spring, it’s a moving, uplifting, tear-jerking story about two people – a City whizz-kid from a moneyed family and a kook from the other side of the tracks – who would normally never have met, but change each other’s lives. Even if you’re not a big fan of romantic fiction, the sheer humanity and realism of these characters will make you warm to them.

That, and the fact that, quite casually, with no fanfare or fuss, they watch a Miyazaki movie.

It’s not a big deal. The scene – reported by a third character – takes place after a big deal, the first (and only) time the two of them stay out all night alone after a party. The hero wants therapeutic post-binge viewing and chooses “some Japanese animated film”, naming the director – Miyazaki – but not the movie. The text, though, makes it clear that they watch Spirited Away.

The third party, a sporty nurse from New Zealand, describes it as a “weird cartoon”, but the hero chooses it as “perfect hangover viewing”, implying he’s chosen it for the same purpose before. This carefully crafted, convincing, totally un-geeky character has anime as part of his everyday cultural structure.

Welcome to Utopia.

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