The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: The Fantasy of the Anime Adolescent
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The development of girl into woman is a difficult transitional phase, one that's ripe for cinematic interpretation, despite its lack of representation throughout the medium's history. It's fascinating, then, that anime (Japanese animation) is often compelled to interrogate this period. Adolescent narratives are commonly portrayed in anime, thanks to the medium’s unrestricted, non-photographic capabilities. The protagonists of the typical Studio Ghibli anime, in particular, are girls in the throes of adolescence, and their films follow their struggles with the anxieties of aging, family, and identity. Anime allows for the fantastic suspension of disbelief that's perhaps necessary for the audience to engage with the stories in Ghibli films like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Spirited Away. These, among other anime, portray girls going through identifiable crises, like illness, moving, and relationships, as filtered through a fantastic genre, such as the fairy tale, magical bildungsroman, and the hero's journey. This work analyzes, through these films, anime's unique ability to utilize and portray fantasy elements to describe the adolescent experience. Assessing the films' aesthetics and narratives provides for the notion that anime is well-suited for exploring the challenges of growing up.