The Role of Major Japanese Creators in the World War II

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Japan has been greatly affected by the events of World War II and the aftermath of it. Many great pieces of work have been created by the Japanese. The author Koushun Takami and the famous director in the anime industry, Hayao Miyazaki, are both from Japan. The works that will be analyzed are the novel Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, and the film Princess Mononoke by the director Hayao Miyazaki. A significant war that Japan participated in was World War II. From 1926 to 1989, they were led by the Emperor Hirohito. It is believed that he played a role in attempting to lead the country to militarism and ultra nationalism. In World War II, Japan took the same side as Germany and Italy. This meant that they were opposing the Allied powers. The United States placed an oil and steel embargo on Japan. (“Hirohito”) Japan heavily relied on the United States for their oil. The embargo was essentially a catalyst for war. The United States relied on the fact that Japan would recognize that they would lose if they fought them, however, this was not enough. (“Japan's Quest for Power and World War II in Asia”) Once Hirohito gave consent to fight America, they proceeded to attack Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. About 2,500 of the United States’ men were killed and eighteen of their ships were destroyed or immobilized. This was on December 7, 1941. This surprise attack resulted in the U.S. declaring war on Japan, which began Japan’s major involvement in the war. Japan continued to fight until the U.S. bombed their cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their participation ended when Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender, on August 15, 1945. (“Hirohito”) The bombing in Japan was devastating: There has been great difficulty in estimating the total casualties in the Japanese cities as a result of the atomic bombing. The extensive destruction of civil installations (hospitals, fire and police department, and government agencies) the state of utter confusion immediately following the explosion, as well as the uncertainty regarding the actual population before the bombing, contribute to the difficulty of making estimates of casualties. (“The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” p 12) The estimated total number of casualties is about 135,000 for Hiroshima and 64,000 for Nagasaki. Combined there were about 199,000 casualties. (“The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” p 12)

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The Japanese were known for their will to keep fighting: Although some Japanese were taken prisoner, most fought until they were killed or committed suicide. In the last, desperate months of the war, this image was also applied to Japanese civilians. To the horror of American troops advancing on Saipan, they saw mothers clutching their babies hurling themselves over the cliffs rather than be taken prisoner. (Powers) They highly valued honour. Their mentality can be summarized by, “Do not live in shame as a prisoner. Die, and leave no ignominious crime behind you” (Powers). Post World War II, Japan and the U.S. were able to forgive each other and are now on good terms: After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the United States led the Allies in the occupation and rehabilitation of the Japanese state. Between 1945 and 1952, the U.S. occupying forces, led by General Douglas A. MacArthur, enacted widespread military, political, economic, and social reforms. (“Occupation and Reconstruction of Japan, 1945–52”)

To this day, they are maintaining a good relationship. Koushun Takami was born in Japan on January 10, 1969. He attended Osaka University, and received a literature degree. He also attended Nihon University for their liberal arts correspondence course program, but he ended up dropping out. (“Koushun Takami”) “From 1991 to 1996, he worked for the news company Shikoku Shimbun, reporting on various fields including politics, police reports, and economics. Battle Royale was completed after Takami left the news company. […] Since Battle Royale, Takami has not released any work” (“Koushun Takami”). It took three years for Battle Royale to be published due to its controversial content. The story takes place in 1997, in Japan. The government is in control of everything, placing bans on anything it deems “immoral”. They send fifty random junior high school students to an island to fight until there is only one survivor. They tell society that this is for military research but, it is to demonstrate their power and prevent a rebellion. (“Battle Royale (novel)”) Takami’s story may have been inspired by Japan’s own government. In World War II, Emperor Hirohito attempted to have Japan thrive through violence.

Hayao Miyazaki has been highly influential in the animation industry. He was born on January 5, 1941 in Tokyo, Japan. (“Hayao Miyazaki”) His father directed a manufacturing concern. This translated into Miyazaki having a love for airplanes, which shows in many of his works. In 1963, he got a job at Toei Animation, which produces a large amount of Asia’s anime. At this job he met Akemi Ota, who he then married. (Ray) Together, they have two kids. In 1985, he co-founded Studio Ghibli. With this studio, he directed animated films that won many awards. The popularity of these films has resulted in Ghibli having an influence outside of Japan. Miyazaki’s works are known to powerfully demonstrate a variety of themes such as the struggle to remain a pacifist in a hostile environment. (“Hayao Miyazaki”) Princess Mononoke is about a prince named Ashitaka. He tries to create peace between the gods of a forest, the humans taking its resources, and animals. (“Princess Mononoke”) Miyazaki was born during World War II and grew up in Japan during the time that they faced the repercussions of their participation. His idea of being able to make amends and create a sense of unity between the characters of the film reflects Japan’s relationship with the U.S. Based on the impact that World War II has had on Japan, it is likely that it also impacted its works. Themes such as violence and unity appear to be present in the works proposed.

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