Mamoru Hosoda’s new anime Belle is inspired by his 5-year-old daughter and attempts to challenge the devaluation of Japanese culture towards women and girls.
The depiction of female characters in anime is often considered problematic, but director Mamoru Hosoda is trying to change this in his new film Belle.
“I feel that female characters in Japanese anime are often portrayed through the lens of lust leading to sexual exploitation and too much being denied as a right to freedom of expression,” said Hosoda. with the Washington Post in a recent interview.
The director further discussed how Japanese animation has heavily influenced the perception of women and girls and what it means to be strong and beautiful, but not in a positive way. . “Such mining [đã được] … reasonable with the view that it is happening in a fantasy world, not in reality. But I feel that, certainly, such perceptions are interconnected and will influence our reality,” he said.
Belle is the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Suzu, a shy 17-year-old girl who is self-conscious about her appearance and has no motivation to play music after her mother’s death. However, after joining the virtual world called “U”, she plays Belle, an enchanting pop star with voluminous pink hair and quickly amassing a massive following.
Hosoda described how his 5-year-old daughter inspired the film and its message about using the power of technology as a tool for women’s empowerment and a drive for good. “She’s still in kindergarten and is pretty introverted, so I was imagining how she would survive being on social media and starting to have all kinds of online interactions,” explained the director.
“For the younger generation, the standard will be to live in both worlds and both worlds being their reality,” he continued. “And the Internet plays a huge role for them to raise their voices and reach out to the world.”
Recently, Hosoda has caused controversy in the anime industry when he criticized the way other directors portray female characters in their works. While some questioned whether his characters were really different from those he condemned, others praised the director’s efforts. Professor Akiko Sugawa from Yokohama National University praised Hosoda as one of the individuals who are working to combat the devaluation of Japanese culture towards women and girls. “Anime has the power to create and disrupt gender stereotypes,” the professor said.
While projects like Belle are a huge step forward for the anime industry, Professor Sugawa says there’s still room for improvement and the industry needs to recognize more diverse voices. There are now more positive depictions of LGBTQ characters, issues and works that raise questions about social issues. And with the rise of directors and decision-makers, she explains. anime definition is more diverse, hopefully there will be more changes,” she explained.
Belle is slated to open in US theaters this winter.