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Japanese filmmaker Mamoru Hosoda criticizes the portrayal of women in Japanese anime

Written by: Adrian Andulan

Published on: August 04, 2021 at 5:15 PM PHT (GMT+8)

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Mamoru Hosoda, the director of critically acclaimed films 'Mirai' and 'Belle' spared no words with regards to the treatment of women in Japanese animation.

Mamoru Hosoda, Japanese director and filmmaker
Mamoru Hosoda | PHOTO COURTESY: The Japan Times

Director Mamoru Hosoda shared fierce words during his interview with Agence France-Presse for the Cannes release of his latest film 'Belle'. He shared his frustrations with the contemporary approaches made in films with regards to the topics of the Internet and the way that women are portrayed.

"You only have to watch Japanese animation to see how young women are underestimated and not taken seriously in Japanese society"

Mamoru Hosoda's previous works have all reflected his beliefs. From the empowerment of single mothers in 'Wolf Children' to the exploration of adolescence in 'The Girl Who Leapt through Time', Hosoda is constantly pushing for complex stories on humanity. He comments that he always aims to "show the good and the bad in people. This tension is what being human is all about". This same principle is what drives his latest artistic venture in 'Belle'.

In the film 'Belle', the story revolves around Suzu, a young girl who finds fame through her online persona, where she becomes a virtual idol. Calling it a "21st-century approach to 'Beauty and the Beast'", Hosoda aims to explore the emotional complexities of adolescence and human interaction on the internet

"Human relations can be complex and extremely painful for young people. I wanted to show that this virtual world, which can be hard and horrible, can also be positive"

He also criticizes the way Hollywood and contemporary takes on the internet are overwhelmingly negative. He cites the darker and more dystopian approach to stories about the virtual world as "not doing anyone any favors, particularly women," he said during the interview. He uses the likes of Stephen Spielberg and his adaptation of the book 'Ready Player One' as an example.

The filmmaker commented on his desire to empower the younger generation by providing a different portrayal of online spaces and making them aware of their capacity to take control of their online power.

"They have grown up with the net... yet are constantly told how malevolent and dangerous it is"

During the interview, Hosoda also criticized other Japanese filmmakers for the portrayal of women in their films. While names were not provided, many speculate that the filmmaker in mention was Hayao Miyazaki, notable for his use of female heroines in his movies. Debates have since arisen on the topic of the portrayal of women in both Hosoda and Miyazaki's work, as well as in Japanese animation as a whole.

"It really annoys me to see how young women are often seen in Japanese animation -- treated as sacred -- which has nothing to do with the reality of who they are"
"This veneration of young women really disturbs me and I do not want to be part of it,"

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