Belle Director Says Anime Creators, Including Miyazaki, Have Problems with Female Characters

Mamoru Hosoda, director of such films as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children and the new movie Belle, is voicing his criticisms of anime's portrayal of female characters, including the films of Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki.

Speaking to the AFP at the Cannes Film Festival, where Belle premiered to a 14-minute standing ovation, Hosoda said that "You only have to watch Japanese animation to see how young women are underestimated and not taken seriously in Japanese society." He went on to say, "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."

Though Hosoda did not specifically name Hayao Miyazaki, his sharpest barbs were directed at "a great master of animation who always takes a young woman as his heroine." The AFP and others have taken this to be a clear reference to Hayao Miyazaki, the majority of whose films center on young women and girls. Hosoda went so far as to claim this "great master of animation" focuses on idealized female protagonists "because he does not have confidence in himself as a man."

"This veneration of young women really disturbs me and I do not want to be part of it," said Hosoda, who wants the female characters in his films to be free from "this oppression of having to be like everyone else" and to be able to tell stories that "show the good and the bad in people. This tension is what being human is all about."

Mamoru Hosoda has personal experience working under Hayao Miyazaki. Early in Hosoda's career, when he was fresh off directing a couple of Digimon short films (packaged and localized into Digimon: The Movie in the United States), Hosoda was seen as a potential successor to Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli and assigned to direct Howl's Moving Castle. Hosoda was ousted from the film and Miyazaki himself took over as director. Hosoda's next film, One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island has been interpreted as a veiled critique of his time working at Studio Ghibli.

Belle, which tells the story of a girl who becomes a pop diva in a virtual world and falls in love with a mysterious "Beast" while struggling with online harassment, borrows from the classic Beauty and the Beast fairytale, though Hosoda promises a feminist twist. In the original fairy tale, he explained, "Beauty is just a cipher. It is all about her looks. I wanted to make her as complex and rich [as the Beast]."

Belle is now playing in Japanese theaters under the title Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime (literally translated "The Dragon and the Princess of Freckles"). Anime distributor GKIDS licensed the movie in North America and has already announced plans to give it a theatrical release sometime next winter.

Source: AFP via Yahoo! News

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