Posted on February 21, 2022 by Cheapest Assignment

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7MARK001W International Marketing and Communications Management

Existentialism in Anime in the context of Ponyo and death

Japanese anime is one of the most volatile concepts of visual culture that appeared amidst the transnational culture-making. The study here intends to show that anime in Japanese is framed in a distinguished way from orthodox Hollywood animation, which is more impacted by Japanese culture, aesthetics, and social norms as well as a developed role for individual animation direction (Manji, 2020). At the backdrop of this concept, the storyline goes by “when living in surface Ponyo seems to be an innocent character, filled with childish desire, however, on the inside it’s a constant symbolism of fear and death throughout.” The main significance of anime as a novel is especially related to a wider knowledge of Japanese cultural concepts. 


Of the many contributions to Japanese entertainment, there are several creative directors within Japanese animation culture. It can be argued that Japanese directors are the most imaginative and amongst them, Miyazaki Hayao is the most prolific one. The director’s work on the last three decades has constantly reflected devastation on a personal and universal level. Most of the movies highlighted the life of young people and their reaction to catastrophic world view. Based on this the research essay will highlight the reflection of disaster, existentialism in the movie, focusing on the recent film Gake no ue no Ponyo

Understanding the paradox of animation that creates a closer output to live-action than complete orthodox animation is the point of the study. It is seen that orthodox animation intends to reflect through the weight and balance of sketches themselves while carrying out an in-depth content evaluation (Standing & Standing, 2019). But Mayazaki’s movie individuals can identify a blending of varying genres in a strong narrative form that is more consistent with the philosophy of existentialism. This would support the study that animation shows a newer approach that is marked by the effect of Japanese culture on the narrative, character display, techniques of animation together that gives significant creation of animation (Cadieux, 2017). 

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In this movie for Ponyo is a goldfish who arrives in the human world. For her, the world of humans is completely new and the rule of the world seems awkward, and she feels isolated from them but she accepts them with joy. Her ultimate dream was to discover the humanized world, where she falls in love with Sosuke, a human child. However, the existentialist feeling or the feeling of death comes in when Ponyo was asked my granny if she is ready to give up her magical powers for transforming herself into a human and live with Sosuke. But her transformation into a human upset the balance in the world and results in catastrophe. 

Here in this film, the decision taken by Ponyo was important and affects crucial changes in her life on various levels (Murata et al., 2017). There were other concerns as well within the environment that was influenced by Ponyo’s switch to human life, but the catastrophe stopped once she decided to give up her powers. Ponyo’s identity or big decision made the audience relate to her opinion. She enjoyed the life of humans but as a magic fish throughout the film, her big decision came at a descending point that followed the way for a better solution. 

The idea in the movie is that everyone dies in the ravaging Tsunami that destroys the town residing beside the sea. The remaining movie, for instance, when Ponyo goes to Sosuke’s home is the afterlife. The concept of death, existentialism is very evident in the content. From the very beginning of the film death is very prevalent (The-Artifice, 2021). The song Flight of Ponyo seems to be influenced by a song that related to death and catastrophe. In the entire movie, there are explicit imageries of death after the wake of the Tsunami. The number “3” appears inherent in the film. This 3 refers to things like, body, soul and spirit, water, heaven, and earn even life and death, which is inculcated in Japanese aesthetics (Finley, 2020). 

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The movie is more targeted towards young generation kids. The film reflects childish desires in every way, with Miyazaki highlighting the surrealism of the ocean at the backdrop of the emotional core (Tsang, 2021). The film may hit a sentimental nerve with most audiences that had chaotic or disturbing childhood and those who craved peace. In sustaining with the liberating and purging context of catastrophe, Ponyo and her parents exemplify both misery and redemption which is a part of existentialism (Li, 2017) Even during the end, Miyazaki doesn’t let the dark mind Ponyo get up close to the surface. Finally, Ponyo’s parents reunite with each other to resolve the crisis that their daughter has ushered, determining that the innocent friendship between Ponyo and Sosuke will help to keep the right balance in nature. 

Amongst most movies in this genre of catastrophe and disaster, Ponyo shows its audience to decide wisely through the terror of catastrophe and get up even when another inevitable comes. Likewise, the existing generation of kids have lost their jetties and have let environmental despair and powerful forces of energy challenge the world (Kozyra, 2019). It is up to the young generation with a pragmatic viewpoint to overcome the fear of death and despair and work against protecting the environment. 

The entire concept presented in the movie can be defined in terms of social and cultural determinism, where progress necessitates history. Hence, the basic manipulation of images reflected in the movie has long Japanese history. It is rapid action to generate the illusion of movement that stays at the heart of the animation process. The interpretation of anime visual aesthetics may not be so clear as it fails to admit particular Japanese cultural traditions. In this context, animation created by Miyazaki reflected on the balance between form, medium, cultural theme, and individual mindset (Vereen et al., 2017). 

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Finally, it can be speculated the movie here reflects on the existentialist concept of entering the afterlife, where old people can walk as if they have reached young age, symbolizing a journey towards the afterlife. Arguing that the nihilist concept and existentialistic narrative in the movie that Miyazaki used in it reformulate Japanese cultural and social context shifting its emphasis from the despair of life and death towards a subjective search for the meaning of life. This concept matches with the psychology of post-traumatic Japanese aesthetics accomplishing the expectation in a specific context. 


Cadieux, A. (2017). Design and Production of an Episodic Online Animation: Cairns of Apeiron.

Finley, M. J. (2020). “Descending into Eeriness”: Navigating “the Uncanny Valley” Present in Hollywood Adaptations of Japanese Narratives.

Kozyra, A. (2019). Are Japanese People Religious? The Problem of ‘Syncretic Religiosity’in Japanese Culture. Analecta Nipponica, 41.

Li, C. K. (2017). How does the radiation make you feel? The emotional criticism of nuclear power in the science fiction manga Coppelion. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics8(1), 33-45.

Manji, R. C. (2020). Anime’s atomic legacy: Takashi Murakami, Miyazaki, Anno, and the negotiation of Japanese war memory.

Murata, K., Adams, A. A., Fukuta, Y., Orito, Y., Arias-Oliva, M., & Pelegrin-Borondo, J. (2017). From a science fiction to reality: Cyborg ethics in Japan. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society47(3), 72-85.

Standing, S., & Standing, C. (2019). Innovating authentically: Cultural differentiation in the animation sector. Systemic Practice and Action Research32(5), 557-571.

The-Artifice (2021). Retrieved 22 March 2021, from

Tsang, G. (2021). Beyond 2015: Nihilism and Existentialist Rhetoric in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Retrieved 22 March 2021, from

Vereen, L. G., Wines, L. A., LEMBERGER‐TRUELOVE, T. A. M. I. K. O., Hannon, M. D., Howard, N., & Burt, I. (2017). Black existentialism: Extending the discourse on meaning and existence. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling56(1), 72-84.

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