Exploring music in Hayao Miyazakis animated worlds
Differences between Hollywood scores and the Japanese scores of Miyazakis animated features
Pim Belin 3216713
Begeleider: Prof. Dr. E. Wennekes
Table of Contents
Table of Contents1
Introduction to Miyazaki, Hisaishi and Studio Ghibli2
Chapter 1: Anime with and without a Japanese identity7
A model to analyze anime13
Miyazakis worlds and the Japanese identity15
Chapter 2: Anime music and the scores of Hollywood19
Anime and the music of Hollywoods live-action cinema23
Chapter 3: Finding Japaneseness28
Ma in Japanese film32
Chapter 4: Calling it Japanese37
Introduction to Miyazaki, Hisaishi and Studio Ghibli
In June 1985 Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki founded an animation production studio called Studio Ghibli together with another animation director Isao Takahata The studio was founded after the huge success Miyazaki had in Japan with his film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984) and afterwards the studio produced many more box office hits directed by Miyazaki or Takahata. The studios immense success while producing only feature films was even a primer for animation studios in Japan as most animation studios just produced TV series and only occasionally a movie. From its small start with a mere handfuls of part-time employees, the production studio grew to a massive production company and eventually had to build their own new studio in a Tokyo suburb after the release of Porco Rosso (Miyazaki, 1992).
It was only after 1996 that Miyazakis work became well known outside of Japan, because in that year the Walt Disney Coorperation was granted the distribution rights to Studio Ghiblis films. This meant another boost in the global awareness about Japanese animation (anime) as one of Japans biggest cultural products. The first anime boost was in 1989 after the international release and critical success of Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988), which led to the appearance of more Japanese cartoons on television in the West.[footnoteRef:1] The impact of Miyazakis animations on Western cinema could not be denied after the release of Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001). This film eventually won the academy award in 2002 for best-animated feature and Miyazakis next movie would earn another nomination for the same award in 2004. The popularity and impact of Japanese animation would also lead to more scholarly attention and the work of Miyazaki in particular.[footnoteRef:2] [1: Napier, Susan J. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. New York: Palgrave, 2000. p. 3-14.] [2: Many of the books covering at least a bit of Japanese animation have separate chapters devoted to Miyazaki. For example Wells, Paul. The impact of anime, in An Introduction to Film Studies, edited by Jill Nelmes, 248-253. (London: Routledge, 1999).]
In September 2013 after the premiere of his latest feature, Miyazaki officially announced his retirement from directing. His body of work proved to be a lot of valuable research material concerning the nature of Japanese animation by exploring the building blocks of this particular kind of animation. Furthermore these explorations of Japanese cartoons also gave insight to the contemporary Japanese cultural identity in which these cartoons sprouted according to some of the academics researching these films.[footnoteRef:3] Many of these academics stress the fact that the influences of Japanese animations, including Miyazakis, are very broad and that this cultural product is, like any other cultural product, a hybrid.[footnoteRef:4] There has not been much attention for the music in anime research, but like anime it can be seen as an important Japanese cultural product and is thus well worth investigating. The music in anime is of course like anime also a hybrid product but no literature on anime music focuses on how this hybrid product is constructed. Therefore this thesis shall explore the music of Miyazakis anime and it will try to find a structural ground on what this music is based on by examining the relations between the music of Miyazakis anime, the music of Hollywood animation and live-action cinema and a Japanese cultural identity which in turn is defined by hybridity. [3: For example see: Poitras, Gilles. The Anime Companion. Berkeley, Calif: Stone Bridge Press, 1999.] [4: This concept is discussed at length in Bhabha, Homi. K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994.]
Hybridity has been a key concept in defining cultures and it originates from post-colonial theory but its definition is not at all easy to describe. Post-colonial theorist Homi K. Bhabha first elaborately described this concept following the Edward Saids work on cultural imperialism. At its basic level, hybridity refers to any mixing of various cultures trough interaction, but this definition of cultural mixing in general is very limited and does not account for the various ways cultures can be mixed.[footnoteRef:5] To adequately use the concept in case studies, the way the cultures are negotiated and reformed needs to be examined and taken into consideration as well when discussing cultural products. [5: Ibid. p. 1-27.]
In the case of Japan there are several academics that have occupied themselves with describing the structure of a Japanese cultural identity. One of these theorists is Koichi Iwabuchi and of course the concept of hybridity is a crucial in his discussion of a Japanese cultural identity and its cultural products. How this hybridity is structured is according to Iwabuchi rather unique. One of Iwabuchis central ideas about Japanese cultural products is that these products are not associated with a specific Japanese contemporary way of life. Anime is one of these products Iwabuchi mentions as being culturally odorless.[footnoteRef:6] This is in contrast to some of Japanese traditions such as religious Shinto practices and festivals that do have a cultural odor. But because anime is not bound to these kind of cultural expressions and only limited to the imagination of its creator Iwabuchi believes anime does not even have to be related to any nationality at all.[footnoteRef:7] [6: Iwabuchi, Koichi. Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002. p. 24-28.] [7: ibid. p. 29-32.]
In the works of film scholars such as Susan Napier this has proven to be not entirely true. As stated before, the animation of Miyazaki seems to be quite connected to a contemporary Japanese identity and, as it shall be discussed below, Miyazakis anime also has a connection to not only some of Japanese traditions, but also to several Japanese social and political concepts and to Western culture.[footnoteRef:8] So in these animations it again becomes apparent that hybridity, or a Japanese is crucial when discussing anime in relation to a Japanese cultural identity. [8: Napier. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke. p. 3-14.]
The first part of this thesis shall further elaborate on what is understood about anime and how it relates to a Japanese cultural identity and how it can be explained through a Japanese form of hybridity. Subsequently there will be a short discussion on how anime could be analyzed as a product of this hybrid culture. One of the analytic models proposed by Darrel W. Davis on the analysis of Japanese national cinema will provide a guideline for analyzing anime because it focuses on how Japanese film relates to a hybrid Japanese cultural identity instead of defining Japanese film. It will be useful in the analysis of anime because it might have similar relations to this Japanese cultural identity. One film scholar who uses this kind of model as the basis of his research on anime is Thomas Lamarre. He pleads for a relational understanding of anime that takes the interconnected structures and influences in consideration. This will avoid making descriptions of anime on a general level and allows for further discussions.[footnoteRef:9] Furthermore the model Davis proposed will not only become useful in analyzing the animations but also the music, because the same reasoning. Finally the relation between Miyazakis anime and the contemporary Japanese identity shall be discussed using several examples of Spirited Away and the analysis of Susan Napier. [9: Lamarre, Thomas. Between cinema and anime. Japan Forum 14, no. 2 (2002): 183-189.]
It must be emphasized that the quality of Miyazakis work owes at least something to Joe Hisaishi, who composed the scores for all of Miyazakis Studio Ghibli outputs. However unlike the scholarly attention Miyazaki has got by film theorists as Napier, Hisaishi only gets credit for his work as the composer. Miyazaki is however not the only director who collaborated with Hisaishi. There is one other important Japanese director, Takeshi Beat Kitano, for whom Hisaishi composed multiple scores. Yet Hisaishi did not only compose film scores, but also multiple piano works and concert pieces. His work is known to incorporate many different genres such as minimalism and electronic music (see for example one of his first albums MKWAJU (1981) or his scores for Kitanos A Scene by the Sea (1991) and Miyazakis Nausicaa). And as his career advanced so did his style of composing started to get more symphonic (see for example his score for Spirited Away and the symphonic adaptations of other scores).
There are reasons to believe that Hisaishis music shows the same kind of differences as the animations show when compared to Hollywood films. For example Hisaishi had to rewrite a score once for the US release of Laputa: Castle in the sky (Miyazaki, 1986, US release 2000), because the original score would make non-Japanese viewers uncomfortable according to the Disney staff.[footnoteRef:10] This suggests that the score would have some characteristics that only the Japanese viewer would feel comfortable with. [10: Osmond, Andrew. Will The Real Joe Hisaishi Please Stand Up? AWN | Animation World Network. http://www.awn.com/mag/issue5.01/5.01pages/osmondhisaishi.php3. Accessed October24,2013.]
Therefore one could assume there are major differences between the scores of Miyazakis animations and the scores of Hollywood animations and live-action features, yet up until now there is little to no research to be found regarding this subject. That is why the second part of thesis will shed some light on the importance Hisaishis music by addressing the functions of music in film. Claudia Gorbman is of the first authors on the subject of the functions of film music and her academic studies will provide the basis for analyzing the functions of Hisaishis music. Gorbman proposed several principles on how film music in the Hollywood narrative cinema is used.[footnoteRef:11] Several of these principals will be used to find a common ground between music in the films of Hollywood and the music in Miyazakis anime. [11: See Gorbman, Claudia. Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. Bloomington: Indianna University Press, 1987. p. 73.]
Most of the analysis will be done on examples from Spirited Away but examples from other animations directed by Miyazaki, such as Porco Rosso will be used as well. The analysis of the functions of Hisaishis music will be split in two parts in order to discover not only what the music has in common but also what makes it different from first the Hollywood animations and second the Hollywood live-action cinema. These similarities and differences will become clear by first of all analyzing the relations between the music and the visuals in certain scenes and by analyzing the music itself, by using self-made transcriptions, to find some compositional properties of the music that are similar of different from the compositional properties of Hollywood film scores.
The third part will try and provide an explanation for the differences by focusing upon what several prominent Japanese artists such as composer Toru Takemitsu and architect Arata Isozaki have called essentially Japanese. The concept of ma is such essential Japanese characteristic, which will be fully explained in this section, as it is an incredible complex concept. Though ma has been acknowledged by Western scholars to be of importance Takemitsus concert music, yet by analyzing the relations between Takemitsus film music and the image in one of the scenes of Ran (1985), one of the well know Japanese films by Akira Kurosawa, several elements of the music can probably be explained by the concept of ma. Subsequently ma may explain similar elements in Hisaishis scores as well and may establish an essential Japanese quality of the music. And if its not the concept of ma that provides a link between the scores and the Japaneseness of it, there are several other ways to provide this link that will become apparent after analyzing several musical themes in Spirited Away. Yet the question remains how strong this connection this link is and how it relates to the previously mentioned discussion of the link between anime and this Japaneseness.
The final part of this thesis will put the entire discussion into a broader context of cultural identity and explain how it is justified to connect qualities of a cultural product to a certain nationality. To do so some important trends regarding globalization discussed by sociologist Roland Robertson such will be addressed and it will explain how something can be called Japanese. Most important of these trends is the relation between what is called universalism, which roughly means the homogenization of culture, and particularism, which is the consequence of the will to distinguish one culture from another. This relation is defined by what Robinson calls glocalism.[footnoteRef:12] Furthermore there will be some musicological examples of similar cases of nationality in music to further justify the reference of essential Japanese qualities in Hisaishis scores. Explicitly the case of Russian music, which has been extensively studied by musicologist Richard Taruskin, will be discussed. This does not mean that Russian music is the only other case of having an essential national quality, what Tarusin calls a national substance,[footnoteRef:13] but it shows that reference to a certain national quality in music is not uncommon and even helpful in the analysis of the structure of a hybrid cultural product. [12: Robertson, Roland. Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture. London: Sage, 1992. p. 97-115.] [13: Taruskin, Richard. On Russian Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. p. 27-45.]
Chapter 1: Anime with and without a Japanese identity
Ever since the beginning of the 1990s, Japanese animation, better known by the term anime, has become an increasingly significant player in global popular culture. As a result, it has received more scholarly attention not only in Japan but also in the West. The term anime is mostly used to refer to animation series or films that are created and produced in Japan, however the term is simply derived from the English word animation or the French term dessin anim.[footnoteRef:14] Both of these terms basically mean animated drawings and thus refer to any kind of animated picture of any origin. The term anime is usually defined however by its origin, hence in practice anime means animation produced in Japan. This definition allows an easy application of this label on animated cartoons, even though there are numerous cartoons that are partially produced outside of Japan and therefore fall inside a gray area. One example is the television series Alfred J. Kwak (19891991) that was co-produced by Dutch, German and Japanese companies. [14: Anime News Network. Anime. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/lexicon.php?id=45. Accessed September27,2013.]
However to define anime as animation from Japan does not give credit to the variety of the different films and series. Anime can be cartoon series for kids (for example Pokmon), but also full-length movies aimed at a more adult audience. Western animation, such as Warner Bros. Loony Tunes or the movies and shorts by Disney, are primarily aimed at younger children and are intended to be lighthearted and comical. Therefore the mainstream Western public often links animation of any origin with slapstick comedy and ludicrous visual images. Anime differs from Western animation because it generally does not deal with cartoonish situations. Instead anime deals with issues that are more commonly found in Western live-action cinema such as tragedy, romance and psychological or philosophical themes. It covers almost every cinematographic genre, and anime heroes and villains are often not just embodiments of good and evil, but have complex personalities.[footnoteRef:15] This does not mean that this is true for every anime, nor is every example of Western animation a comical adventure for children. [15: Napier. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke. p. 3-14.]
A definition of anime cannot be described without mentioning the comic books and graphic novels produced in Japan called manga. Like anime, manga is incredibly diverse and addresses a wide arrange of interests and audiences (there appears to be even a category for ex-juvenile delinquent mothers).[footnoteRef:16] Also like anime it often exhibits a specific visual style, for example most characters have large eyes and lipless mouths. One final link between anime and manga is that many popular manga series get an animated series or movie, yet this is not always the case. In short manga and anime share many characteristics and the one would probably not exist without the other in their current forms.[footnoteRef:17] [16: Cavallaro, Dani. The Anim Art of Hayao Miyazaki. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, 2006. p. 15.] [17: Cavallaro. The Anim Art of Hayao Miyazaki. p. 15]
Anime is definitely a phenomenon of Japanese popular culture. However anime shows a profound relation to Japanese high cultural traditions such as kabuki and Noh-theatre but also to Japanese religious practices and beliefs. The god-like spirits in film Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1998) can for example easily be linked to Shinto religion. Furthermore anime frequently deals with heavy philosophical and complex themes that are often explored by so-called high culture as well.[footnoteRef:18] For example the film Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995) deals with the question of what makes us human or the personal suffering of wartime violence in Japan exemplified in Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988). In these aspects anime films dont differ very much from Japanese live-action cinema. The film Ran (1985) by Akira Kurosawa, the most successful Japanese director in the West, for example draws inspiration from Noh-theatre, because of its use of color, expressionless faces and mannered movements.[footnoteRef:19] The film also offers a critique to the bleak theatrical representation of Japanese history in the Japanese period films.[footnoteRef:20] [18: Many examples of this can be found in: Poitras. The Anime Companion.] [19: Davis, Darrell W. Picturing Japaneseness: Monumental Style, National Identity, Japanese Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. p. 237. ] [20: Ibid. p. 244.]
By the end of the 20th century animation became more important to the Japanese film industry than live-action cinema, because competing against Hollywood live action features was getting difficult. Around the same time animes importance within the global cultural economy grew as well and it has even been called Japans chief cultural export.[footnoteRef:21] Notable examples of animes growing popularity and impact between the early 1990s and 2000s are the international box office results for Akira (1988) and Spirited Away (2001). Japanese critic Ueno Toshiya for instance encountered a mural from Akira on a crumbled wall in the middle of the destroyed city of Sarajevo in war-torn Serbia so this scene was used as an icon of political resistance. [footnoteRef:22] One more example of the popularity of anime is of course the Pokmon series that has been aired by many different network stations around the world, however it should be noted that this popularity also has something to do with the huge amount merchandizing products and not just the series.[footnoteRef:23] [21: Newitz, Annalee. Anime otaku: Japanese animation fans outside Japan. Bad subjects 13 (1994): http://bad.eserver.org/issues/1994/13/newitz.html. Accessed September28,2013.] [22: Napier. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke. p. 3-14] [23: Tobin, Joseph. Pikachu's global adventure: the rise and fall of Pokemon. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. p. 1-11.]
One anime scholar, Susan Napier, argues that the international popularity of anime stems from the position it has between national and international cultures.[footnoteRef:24] Many anime films and series do not only find inspiration in Japanese cultural traditions but also from Western artistic traditions and techniques of contemporary cinema. Works of anime are in fact a hybrid product that uses both cross-cultural elements and aspects from its country of origin. This is one of two reasons why anime is of any academic significance according to Napier, the second reason is because of the relation anime has with the Japanese culture: [24: Ibid. p. 14-34.]
For those interested in Japanese culture, it (anime) is a richly fascinating contemporary Japanese art form with a distinctive narrative and visual aesthetic that harks back to traditional Japanese culture and moves forward to the cutting edge of art and media. Furthermore, anime, with its enormous breadth of subject material, it is also a useful mirror on contemporary Japanese society, offering an array of insights into significant issues, dreams and nightmares of the day.[footnoteRef:25] [25: Ibid. p. 8.]
The works of Japans most prominent anime director, Hayao Miyazaki, are a very good example to illustrate what Napier means. First of all Miyazakis settings vary from the Adriatic Sea and the city of Milan in Porco Rosso (1992) to a small Japanese village in the countryside in My Neighbor Totoro (1990) and to various fantasy worlds that have been based on either European looking architecture in Howls Moving Castle (2004) or Japanese temples and bathhouses in Spirited Away. Secondly the central themes and issues handled in most of Miyazakis films hold international relevance and often offer thought to provoke critiques on these issues. The most prominent of these themes are the uneasy relationship between human technology and society versus nature and the ever-present phantom of war.[footnoteRef:26] Though these issues are the major themes in Miyazakis oeuvre some issues Miyazaki uses in his films are also very much related to the Japanese culture instead of a global culture. The most important example is the ambiguity and purity of the Japanese national identity addressed in his internationally most successful movie: Spirited Away.[footnoteRef:27] [26: Cavallaro. The Anim Art of Hayao Miyazaki. p. 7.] [27: Napier, SusanJ. Matter Out of Place: Carnival, Containment, and Cultural Recovery in Miyazaki's Spirited Away. The Journal of Japanese Studies 32, no. 2 (2006): 287-310.]
As many critics and scholars point out however that even if there is a connection to be found between anime and Japanese culture, the animated features often lack the positive association with the cultural features of Japan or with the ideas of a, most likely stereotyped, Japanese way of life. This is what cultural theorist Koichi Iwabuchi describes as culturally odorless.[footnoteRef:28] A cultural odor is not an association of the product with its origins based upon the knowledge it is made in Japan, but the cultural odor becomes apparent when the image of the contemporary lifestyle of Japan (in this case) comes to mind. The typically Japanese festivals (matsuri), kabuki theater and religious Shinto practices do reek of (an essentialized view of) Japaneseness. However anime, but also Japanese computer games and Japanese consumer technologies do not seek to sell a Japanese way of life and therefore do not invoke these images.[footnoteRef:29] [28: Iwabuchi. Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism. p. 27.] [29: Featherstone, Mike. Undoing Culture: Globalization, Postmodernism and Identity. London: Sage Publications, 1995. p. 9.]
The lack of a cultural odor, Japanese or any other kind, is also a result from the settings many anime films use. The films Akira (1988) and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984) for instance offer versions of apocalyptic worlds and the anime series Space Battleship Yamato (Leiji Matsumoto, 1974-1975) takes place in outer space. Of course there are also anime films that do display many Japanese characteristics such as My Neighbor Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988) and Spirited Away (2001), but even these two films are mostly played out on fantasy worlds. So these anime films all have created surroundings that are potentially free from cultural context. Furthermore it is not only the settings that are free from a cultural context but also the characters. Many anime characters do not look Japanese at all and sometimes do not even show any kind of ethnicity. This is of course one of the benefits of animation in general, because the creators of animation films and series only have to draw whatever comes to their minds. For this reason some academics, for example Iwabuchi, also have described anime with the term mukokuseki which roughly translates into nationless or stateless.[footnoteRef:30] What it means is that anime should not be related to any national identity at all. Yet this is of course not entirely the case, because the influences of both Japanese and Western are noticeable. [30: Iwabuchi, Recentering Globalization. p. 29-32.]
Although Iwabuchi, among others, specifically describe anime as a product without national identity or at least without a cultural specific fragrance, the question remains if the makers deliberately choose to create stateless fantasy worlds and culturally odorless products. There are however some animators who, like Iwabuchi, believe that anime films have no national identity. Mamoru Oshii for example, famous for his works Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004), believes that animators unconsciously create non-Japanese characters because they wish to draw internationally attractive characters. Furthermore many animators never really experienced the essential qualities of traditional Japanese values and instead they create their own world that is distinctive from Japan but also from the rest of the world. However at the same time their creations are products from a country that incorporates both essences.[footnoteRef:31] In other words they do not deliberately reject either the Western or the Japanese cultures to create their own identity, but at the same time they show Japanese and non-Japanese essences together and so create a culturally hybrid product. [31: Oshii has stated this in an interview in 1996 for a Japanese magazine. The original article can be found in Oshii, Mamoru, Ueno Toshiya, and Ito Kazunori. "Eigo to wa jitsu wa animeshon datta." Eureka 28, no. 9 (1996): 50-81. This interview is cited in both Napier, Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke and Iwabuchi, Recentering Globalization.]
Furthermore Oshii believes along with other animators and critics that anime is an expression or even a reflection of the Japanese contemporary cultural identity.[footnoteRef:32] This comment is exactly the same as one of Napiers reasons to study anime. Again the reason behind this belief is that anime is a hybrid form of art based upon Western and Japanese cultural aspects, yet it is not dominated by either. These claims are indeed plausible because the Japanese culture is, just like any other national culture, a hybrid. However this kind of hybridity is not exactly the same as Bhabhas original concept of hybridity, which is based upon colonial power and cultural enforcement.[footnoteRef:33] It is rather a hybridity of equalizing cultural forces and therefore leans more towards how Iwabuchi describes hybridity in a Japanese context. [32: Napier. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke. p. 24.] [33: Bhabha, Homi. K. The Location of Culture. p. 1-27.]
Iwabuchi defines this Japanese kind of hybridity by focusing on the ability of Japan to domesticate the foreign. This is a process that according to Iwabuchi goes beyond Homi Bhabhas process of hybridization, because Japan strategically borrows from other cultures.[footnoteRef:34] This strategic hybridism is an act of self-representation and is an attempt to control Japans own identity instead of being controlled by the West. Besides that it is because of the threat of foreign dominance that these foreign influences must be managed.[footnoteRef:35] This hybridism differs from hybridization because hybridism is based upon assimilation of culture, while hybridization stresses the ambiguity of cultural difference. Iwabuchi calls this a fluid essentialism in which identity is represented as a sponge that is constantly absorbing foreign cultures without changing its essence and wholeness.[footnoteRef:36] In other words, according to Iwabuchi there exists a core identity that cannot be changed, but foreign influences cannot be ignored because all cultures, including the Japanese, are a result of constant cultural borrowing. However the origins of these influences are oppressed to fit them in the Japanese culture. [34: Iwabuchi. Recentering Globalization. p. 53.] [35: Ivy, Marilyn. Discourses of the Vanishing Modernity, Phantasm, Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. p. 3-4.] [36: Iwabuchi. Recentering Globalization. p. 54.]
However with anime this kind of oppression also works the other way around. Anime has indeed the potential to be culturally odorless and this aspect returns in the mukokuseki quality of the settings and characters. On the other hand there are aspects that are closely related to the country of origin and the beliefs of the Japanese people. Though neither of these influences takes the upper hand in the plot or the visuals of many anime, it is still arguable that anime does not portray any Japanese way of life as the products main interest. But as Oshii already has commented in an interview, these negotiations between cultural fragrances could very well directly reflect the contemporary Japanese way of life.
A model to analyze anime
The previous comment still needs some nuances for it to become more acceptable. To view any Japanese film as a direct reflection of the Japanese lifestyle is, according to film scholar Darrel W. Davis, one of three different models for Japanese national cinema to relate to Japanese culture and is called the reflectionist model. It basically means that the film directly reflects the Japanese cultural identity because the film is a product of that culture.[footnoteRef:37] This is a difficult model to work with because there is no guarantee that what the viewer perceives is in fact the same as what they would perceive when living in Japan. On the contrary, movies can easily create a romanticized or stereotyped image. Furthermore it is not clear whether anime series reflect Japanese culture or if people just start to think this way about Japanese culture because of what anime portrays. Then there is also the problem with who makes the film; the director would portray his or her own version of a Japanese agency. [37: Davis, DarrellW. Reigniting Japanese Tradition with Hana-Bi. Cinema Journal 40, no. 4 (2001): 55-80.]
The second model is a dialogic model and it focuses on the relation Japanese cinema has with Western cinema (Hollywood). Within this model there are two different angles to look upon Japanese cinema though. One focuses on differences and the other on similarities between Japan and the West. Davis uses the works of Nol Burch and David Bordwell/Kirstin Thompson to exemplify these views. For the film scholar Burch Japanese national cinema is an opposite of Western cinema because it is influenced by Japanese traditional conventions, which pose a critical attitude to Western aesthetics.[footnoteRef:38] The point of view Davis writes about does not focus upon the differences but on the similarities between Japanese film and Hollywood. Film theorists Bordwell and Thompson describe in their work how it would be impossible for Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro to use his experimental style and techniques without knowledge of Western cinema conventions and techniques.[footnoteRef:39] [38: Ibid. p. 63.] [39: Ibid. p. 64.]
The focus in both angles lies on a single point and therefore cannot form a complete picture on what Japanese cinema means within its cultural context. Though together they seem to indicate the complexity of the Japanese culture and its products, because both Burch as Bordwell and Thompson claims do not necessarily exclude each other. The fact that they both find evidence in the same movies of the same director to back up their claims rather supports the ideas that both can be true. In other words these movies are constructed using both Western and Japanese traditions, cinematographic styles and aesthetics and neither of these influences are more important than the other. Furthermore it shows that Japanese national cinema indeed has a connection to Western cinema and discussing Japanese cinema without this connection would be undesirable.
This all comes together in the third model Davis proposes to approach Japanese cinema with, which is called the contamination model. Any culture is constructed with bits and pieces from inside or outside national borders. Furthermore nationality only becomes relevant when there is difference to be pointed out. This is however a relative difference and not a dialectic difference. It states that films are not a direct reflection of culture, nor is there a dialectical relation between cinemas and cultures. For Davis it is both of these, a reflection and a dialogue, plus the next stage in its evolution.[footnoteRef:40] Again this is a plea for the hybrid nature of cultural products in which there is no absolute nationality, but instead it is a patchwork of influences. Japanese cinema therefore does not directly reflect the Japanese culture, but instead it is more a reflection of a global culture with a national origin. Thus when analyzing films the focus needs to lie upon the relations it has with locale and foreign culture on various levels. [40: Ibid. p. 65.]
With this in mind, there may be some truth to Oshiis remarks on the Japanese cultural identity. Even though anime does not necessarily reflect the Japanese identity, it does shed light on how a part of this identity is constructed. Like Davis argued it is a patchwork or a mixture of cultural influences. But by searching for how and where the different influences are used and how they are related gives us information on the possible construction of the Japanese identity. This means that anime has to be approached from a relational point of view rather than establishing a singular meaning of the subject. It is what Thomas Lamarre refers to as a relational understanding that theorizes the relations between cinema and anime or animation and anime.[footnoteRef:41] In other words there is no way to define and specify what anime is just as it is impossible to define a single definitive Japanese culture because of the hybrid nature of both. According to Lamarre thinking in relations is much more effective as it takes this hybridity in consideration and allows for a more complete understanding of anime.[footnoteRef:42] For the understanding of anime music this method will be useful as well because it may or may not have similar relations to a Japanese cultural identity as anime and of course because it too is a mixture of cultural influences. [41: Lamarre. Between cinema and anime. p. 183-189.] [42: Ibid. p. 186-187.]
Miyazakis worlds and the Japanese identity
Similar to Oshiis beliefs are some of the ideas of Western anime researchers. Susan Napier for example examines the movie Spirited Away (2001) as a representation of Japans current cultural position within the global culture and as a way to reinforce some boundaries between Japans and the global cultural identity.[footnoteRef:43] On the surface Miyazakis films exemplify the hybrid identity of Japan that is discussed above. The settings vary from European locations such as the Adriatic Sea and Milan during the rise of fascism in Porco Rosso (1992) to Miyazakis version of fourteenth-century Japan in Princess Mononoke (1997). His stories, settings and themes are intertwined with two very important aspects of a Japanese cultural identity: kokusaika (meaning internationalization) and furusato (literally native place).[footnoteRef:44] This is one reason to believe that Miyazakis oeuvre could tell us more about a Japanese identity. [43: Napier. Matter Out of Place. p. 287.] [44: Ibid. p. 288.]
Kokusaika is an important aspect of a Japanese identity because it is closely associated with the opening up of Japan to the world and with the incorporation of Western culture. There is however a lack of consensus on what kokusaika actually means for the construction of a Japanese identity. The lack of consensus is most likely the result of the use of the concept to describe slightly different trends in different decades, in other words the meaning of kokusaika shifts with the passage of time. This has probably to do with the multiple times Japan had to open up their borders to the Western world since the beginning of the so-called Meiji period (1868-1912). To successfully adapt however, Japan needed to change the secluded nature of its society, which obviously stemmed from its geographical position as an island and a 250-year period of cultural isolation during the Tokugawa period (16031868).[footnoteRef:45] [45: Itoh, Mayumi. Globalization of Japan: Japanese Sakoku Mentality and U.S. Efforts to Open Japan. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. p. 23-35.]
For some academics the term kokusaika describes another trend as well, namely the spread of the Japanese culture throughout the world.[footnoteRef:46] The opening up of the Japanese boundaries also meant that Japanese culture could be, or according to some researchers had to be, exported. Edward Said, though only briefly mentioning Japan and not using the term kokusaika in his book Culture and Imperialism, claims for example that because of the internationalization Japan became a major economic power, but at the same time it became culturally dominated by the West.[footnoteRef:47] This means that Western culture was a threat to the Japanese cultural integrity and by spreading Japanese values their cultural heritage was better protected.[footnoteRef:48] [46: Ivy, Marilyn. Discourses of the Vanishing. p. 3.] [47: Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf, 1993. p. 329-330.] [48: Burgess, Chris. Maintaining Identities: Discourses of Homogeneity in a Rapidly Globalizing Japan. electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies 4, no. 1 (2004): http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/Burgess.html. Accessed September25,2013.]
What is this Japanese cultural heritage then? This could best be described by another term, furusato. Furusato literally means old village and can be associated with conservatism and tradition, but like the term kokusaika, it is not so easily defined. Although the protection of what is believed to be traditional Japanese culture against the Western culture plays a role in the definition of furusato, for Robertson it also means a reduction of a Japanese cultural identity and to a feeling of nostalgia to this ancient place that in reality is not there anymore.[footnoteRef:49] Furusato can in this way be explained as a self-essentialization of Japan and it is driven by the will to distinguish Japanese culture from Western culture and thus Japan presents itself as the other by focusing upon archaic Japanese cultural traditions and values to make this distinction. The cultural expressions that can be associated with the concept of furusato are for example Japanese festivals (matsuri), religious Shinto music and dance (kagura), kabuki and Noh-theatre and music. These are all believed to be typically Japanese cultural expressions because some were once, during the Tokugawa period for example, a great part of the Japanese society, although that does not mean these practices are exactly the same nowadays as they were in the past. They are most likely reinvented and even used as tourist attractions, so it is highly debatable whether these expressions represent a Japanese identity as a whole.[footnoteRef:50] [49: Robertson, J. Empire of Nostalgia: Rethinking `Internationalization' in Japan Today. Theory Culture & Society 14, no. 4 (1997): 97-122.] [50: Ibid. p. 106.]
Nevertheless this self-essentialization of Japan clearly plays a role within Japanese cultural export products such as Miyazakis anime films, by picturing Japaneseness using these examples of furusato. For example the spirits or gods from the bathhouse in Spirited Away and from the forest in Princess Mononoke are a clear reference to Shintoism. The latter film also uses some presumably Japanese customs, such as the cutting of the protagonist hair, signifying a permanent departure from the clan, and features the samurai warriors and architecture from the Japanese medieval times.
Another reason to examine Miyazakis work is because of its popularity. In Japan Miyazakis popularity is comparable to Spielbergs popularity in Hollywood, but internationally Miyazaki has also received much critical acclaim.[footnoteRef:51] His movie Spirited Away won an Academy Award in 2002 for example and his following film Howls Moving Castle (2004) was nominated in 2005. His international success was also due to a deal Miyazakis production studio made with Disney to export his work to the US. Though due to the fact that his animations are fundamentally different from Western animation, his popularity among the general Western public is not yet that great, but at the same time many people within the Hollywood film industry, for example, have acknowledged to be great admirers of his work.[footnoteRef:52] [51: Cavallaro. The Anim Art of Hayao Miyazaki. p.5-7.] [52: Ibid. p. 5.]
It is safe to assume that Spirited Away is Miyazakis best-known work, but it is also one of the most culturally ambiguous works.[footnoteRef:53] The story revolves around a girl (Chihiro) who is on the way to her new home with her parents. They never get there in the film because they are wound up in what they think is an abandoned theme park. The theme park is actually a gateway to the spirit world and Chihiro becomes trapped within while her parents turned into pigs. In order to survive and ultimately escape with her parents Chihiro must work in a magical bathhouse for the spirits. Most inhabitants of the spirit world react very xenophobic and hostile to this intrusion, but some supporting characters do help her to return their world successfully. [53: Napier. Matter Out of Place. p.288.]
There is an obvious relation between both the story and the setting and a Japanese cultural identity. At first glance the bathhouse seems to be based on Japanese history and tradition, it is an object of furusato. The bathhouse very much looks like a Shinto temple (though Chinese and Western elements are also found in the environment) and because of its function also symbolizes Japanese kind of cleansing and purity. Furthermore during the film the bathhouse deals with multiple intrusions polluting elements, such as a human stench, blood, a river spirit tainted with human waste and a spirit that corrupts the workers in the bathhouse. If the bathhouse symbolizes Japanese purity then these elements represent foreign societies and their negative influences; greed for example can easily be connected to the Western neo-liberalist economy and politics.[footnoteRef:54] This is however nothing but a simple exploration of the superficial meaning of the film. [54: Ibid. p. 290.]
The bathhouse as a representation of Japanese tradition is, according to Napier, not so simple because of its liminality. The bathhouse lays within some fantasy world and this suggests that it is not so much a representative of furusato but more of an estranged Japanese traditional culture, which it should represent. Yet at the same time this world is easily accessible.[footnoteRef:55] This does not mean however that the bathhouse is not still strongly linked to furusato. Even Chihiro seems to take up a liminal and culturally ambiguous position. She is forced to discard her original identity and has to pass some difficult tasks to construct a new identity, which she needs to survive and leave the bathhouse and the spirit world (though at the same time she is being reminded not to lose her old identity entirely).[footnoteRef:56] Her original identity (and that of her parents) exemplifies the current Japanese cultural identity, which has become more Western, materialistic and has almost lost touch with the more traditional values (Chihiros difficulty to adapt to the spirit world shows this for instance). In the end however it is not clear whether she has fully changed and accepted her new identity. Her new hair tie is proof of her trails in the fantasy world but her behavior mirrors her behavior in the opening scene.[footnoteRef:57] [55: Ibid. p. 294.] [56: Ibid. p. 298.] [57: Ibid. p. 309.]
There is much more to say about the liminality of the plot, setting and characters, but the important part is that this liminality perfectly fits within the cultural ambiguity or hybridity of Japan and the statelessness anime can create. The film shows the relation between the Japanese and the foreign by signifying difference and by showing how the contemporary Japanese identity is influenced by foreign elements. But at the same time it shows that the traditional values are not forgotten and that the Japanese are able to connect with it in a way. Furthermore the liminal elements work very well with the concept of animation. For Napier animation itself is suggestive of a liminal state clearly distinguished from reality.[footnoteRef:58] Yet this liminalty could easily translate into mukokuseki, which means the quality of not being related to a national identity. Miyazaki presents his characters, surroundings and reasons for his characters to act in a way that they are not bound to any national essence. The role music plays in this presentation is however completely ignored by Napier. [58: Ibid. p. 295.]
Chapter 2: Anime music and the scores of Hollywood
In fact in most of the anime research the music is ignored, but this does not mean that the music does not add anything at all to the meaning of the film. On the contrary it is an essential part of almost any film as a whole. This does not only mean that music should be part of an analysis of film but also that, as film music scholar Claudia Gorman puts it, the successful evaluation of the effectiveness of music in film requires film music to be analyzed in the context of the entire film. Meaning the visual and narrative elements need to be taken into account.[footnoteRef:59] [59: Gorbman. Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. p. 12.]
This is especially true in music for animated films. Anime is in its essence an animated cartoon and anime music also shares some of the characteristics of Western cartoon music. Even though Western cartoons are often more comical and ludicrous than the anime that are discussed above, anime still remains a cartoon that, by definition, can do things that we cannot (or should not) do and the music exaggerates and celebrates that difference.[footnoteRef:60] Furthermore because animation is also inherently unreal and the characters emotions lack vitality and therefore believability, it needs music to add this.[footnoteRef:61] This would mean that the music predominantly functions as a signifier of emotion, specifically the characters emotions and that it adds life to the characters. [60: Goldmark, Daniel, and Yuval Taylor. The Cartoon Music Book. Chicago, Ill: A Cappella, 2002. p. xiv.] [61: Ibid. p. xiv.]
It is however unwise to generalize the functions of anime music since we cannot speak of anime as a specific genre, so are the functions of anime music not always the same. But what an analysis of one of the anime scores can tell us is how it fits within the movie and how this is different (or not at all) from other Hollywood or cartoon scores. Subsequently it can either reinforce the earlier statements about the statelessness of anime and the cultural hybrid nature of the Japanese culture or question these claims. This is forgotten in one of the articles on anime music by Milo Miles. He states that the works of Joe Hisaishi (composer for all of Miyazakis films) is not conducive to radical thoughts about music,[footnoteRef:62] because the music is like many other anime scores surprisingly formulaic, old-fashioned, soppy and stiff when played without the visuals.[footnoteRef:63] This latter statement is indeed true for the music in Miyazakis films. Hisaishis lush melodies and romantic scores often sound very appealing, but most of them are not at all complex. But because it is music to accompany a film it does not have to be complex. Furthermore film music often uses the visuals to become meaningful in any way and therefore Miles statement does not mean anything. [62: Miles, Milo. Robots, Romance and Ronin: Music in Japanese Anime. In The Cartoon Music Book. 219-224. p. 221.] [63: Ibid. p. 219.]
Even though music in anime has to add emotion into the drawings just like the music in Western cartoons, the similarities between the anime scores by Hisaishi and cartoon scores by Carl Stalling or Scott Bradly are scarce. Just like anime differs from Western cartoons in terms of themes and issues the medium uses, the music could also be considered more serious instead of what could be called cartoonish. For Edith Lang and George West this cartoonish quality is associated with the ability the music has (or should have) to mock emotional cues and to celebrate the unreality of the cartoon.[footnoteRef:64] Furthermore cartoon music often follows and exaggerates movement and actions happening on screen (mickey-mousing), which has been done since the silent film era.[footnoteRef:65] This also shows the importance of visual cues in cartoons. [64: Lang, Edith, and George West. Animated cartoons and Slap-Stick Comedy. In The Cartoon Music Book. 17-20. p.18.] [65: Cooke, Mervyn. A History of Film Music. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. p. 289.]
However when looking at (and listening to) one of the scenes from Miyazakis Porco Rosso (1992) the music does none of the above. After 67 minutes the protagonist, an Italian pilot who left the Air Force after WWI and for unknown reasons turned into an anthropomorphic pig, begins to tell a story about his past. When he starts to recall the last summer of the war a piano starts playing a simple but touching melody (see the appendix 1.1 for my own transcription of this melody). The melody is played slowly and expressively using high register notes and softly accompanied by strings. The image however shows planes in the sky fighting each other and apart from some engine sounds there are no other sound effects like shooting or planes being blown up. Instead there is only music that does not reflect the action, but it reflects Porcos saddened psychological state because he lost all his friends during that fight and he was the sole survivor.
A similar example can be found in Spirited Away (2001) at 48 minutes into the film. This time there is not much happening on screen. The protagonist (Chihiro) just got to see her parents for the first time after they were transformed into pigs. Afterwards she sits down and has a conversation with a boy Haku, one of the few people who want to help her, and again a piano is heard playing the main theme of the film accompanied by strings. The music itself is thus quite similar to the previous example, but not only because of its instrumentation. Again the theme is played slowly and expressively, especially at the moment Chihiro starts crying and has to recognize her fate when the theme again uses high register notes. The music does not try to mock her sadness using clichs, but instead the music uses certain musical conventions (slow tempo, high pitches on the piano, strings) to make the viewer believe she is genuinely sad. So the music in both examples has the ability to provide the psychological subtext, which is often harder to accomplish in dialogue or visually. But this quality is more associated with music in live-action films than in cartoons.[footnoteRef:66] [66: Karlin, Fred. Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1994. p. 83.]
Even though anime is often unreal and therefore could be considered nationless from a visual aspect, the psychological states and subsequently the reasons behind the characters actions are more real, or at least they try to be by using music to add subtext. But this is not at all surprising when considering the view of Miyazaki on his own work. He never creates truly good or truly evil characters for example, mainly because there are no truly good or truly evil persons in reality. Everyone has their own reasons for the way they act, which are neither good nor bad.[footnoteRef:67] So even though the characters are visually not bound to reality, the emotions and actions are bound to reality and the music is used to convey this. [67: Miyazaki, Hayao. Interview Miyazaki on Mononoke-hime. Translated by Ryoko Toyama. Theatre Program, July 1997. http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/interviews/m_on_mh.html. Accessed September28,2013.]
This does not mean that the music in Miyazakis films has nothing in common with Western cartoon music. First of all Western cartoons do not always have to use music only to mock emotions, because Western cartoons can be as diverse as anime and thus use music in the same way as discussed above. Secondly, anime music is not always used to provide the psychological subtext, but is used to mimic movements by mickey-mousing, which is a typical function in Western cartoons. In Spirited Away for example when Haku instructs Chihiro to use the stairs outside of the bathhouse to the boiler room in order to survive, music accompanies her when going down the stairs. The music starts when she slowly climbs down the stairs mimicking her first steps and facial movements. Eventually she slips and has to run down crashing into a wall abruptly stopping the music. This of course adds a bit more comedy to the otherwise serious film.
Miyazaki sometimes also uses some sound effects accompanying a characters movements in the same manner as Western cartoons. Although this technique is used way more frequently in the films that are clearly more aimed at a younger audience. For example the film My Neighbor Totoro (1988), which revolves around two young girls that moved to a new house in the countryside while their mother lies in a hospital. The youngest stumbles upon two small unfamiliar creatures and decides to follow them into the nearby woods. Eventually she falls down a hole in a tree (of course an obvious reference to Alice in Wonderland) and into the lair of a giant version of the creatures. When she approaches the beast, she pokes him twice and these pokes are accompanied by two simple sounds. These sounds are surprisingly recognizable as poking sounds because they are comparable to the sounds used to illustrate these kinds of gestures in cartoons like Tom and Jerry.
These kind sound effects are however more of an exception than a rule. It is obvious that in the most films a lot of attention went into the careful selection of realistic sound effects. For example the sounds of Chihiro running through various places in the bathhouse on her bare feet are carefully selected on what type of ground she is running. The wooden floors of the bathhouse give a dull stump while the soft cushion-like floor in the room next to Yubabas office gives a muted sound. These detailed sound effects are somewhat rare in Western cartoons.
Anime and the music of Hollywoods live-action cinema
Though there are some elements in the music of Miyazakis films that obviously inspired by Western cartoon music, the majority of the music is more closely related to the Hollywood scores.[footnoteRef:68] One of the functions of anime music is to add psychological subtext to the film, which is more associated with Hollywood live-action cinema. But there are many different theories about the Hollywood film scores that offer many different functions of music in cinema. Many of these functions are also applicable to the Hisaishis scores. One clear example is the musical style and the orchestration of the scores, especially in Miyazakis later works. Many of the themes in Princess Mononoke (1996), Spirited Away (2001) and Howls Moving Castle (2003) for example are presented by a late Romantic orchestra, which according to Claudia Gorbman can trigger an epic feeling and can make the characters bigger than life. [footnoteRef:69] This function is of course very suitable for animation in general, because it often lacks life. [68: Even though there is no such thing as a general type of Hollywood score, many scores from classic and contemporary Hollywood films adhere to similar rules and principals in relation to the narrative, setting or moods. These are discussed at length in multiple books such as: Gorbman. Unheard Melodies, or Kassabian, Anahid. Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music. New York: Routledge, 2001.] [69: Gorbman. Unheard Melodies. p. 81.]
Furthermore the music is also often used merely as background music and also follows Gorbmans principle of the inaudibility of music.[footnoteRef:70] The majority of Miyazakis animated features also do not have any kind of diegetic music. One of the few exceptions is Porco Rosso (1992) in which the French chanson Le Temp des cerises is first heard on a radio and is later sung in a bar. It is notable that this is also one of the very few times Miyazaki used a pre-written song instead of letting Hisaishi write his own music. Yet most of the music Hisaishi writes is often used to underscore a characters emotion and thus does not have an identified source. But this does not mean of course that the music is non-diegetic as any music underscoring a characters emotion is easy to place in the fantastical gap between diegetic and non-diegetic music.[footnoteRef:71] The inaudibility of the music is however perfectly suited for what could be called metadiegetic music.[footnoteRef:72] [70: Gorbman. Unheard Melodies. p. 76-79.] [71: Stilwell, Robynn The Fantastical Gap Between Diegetic and Nondiegetic. In Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema, edited by.Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer, and Richard Leppert. 184-202. (Berkeley:University of California Press, 2007).] [72: Gorbman. Unheard Melodies. p. 23.]
One example of this metadiegetic music is the main theme of Spirited Away, which is used in the film multiple times and it sometimes serves to illustrate a characters emotions. But the entire theme itself adheres to this inaudibility, mainly because of its simplicity. During the opening scene the theme can be structured into several sections after the opening chords: AABCCDD. The two D sections however do not return when the main theme returns in the movie and other themes or previous sections take its place instead (see the appendix 1.2 for my own transcription of the opening theme).
The first two A sections consist of no more that two related motives accompanied by stacked fourths first played by synthesizers but during the A section strings take over accompanying the melody on the piano. The melody and the underlying stacked fourths are tonally ambiguous giving the music the freedom to go anywhere it wants. This sense of freedom is in this way very useful for music to be inaudible because it means that it is not bound to solve chords to the tonic for example in a tonal structure. However there are limits to this freedom because the music would be drawing too much attention and creating inappropriate moods when it deliberately avoids tonality. Though atonal music is often found in Western cartoons or Western film-noir cinema,[footnoteRef:73] Miyazakis anime films generally tries to portray moods that are not associated with these genres. [73: Cook. A History of Film Music p. 287-303.]
The sweeping strings in the A section eventually do bring a sense of stability right before the melody intensifies in the B section. The motives in the B, C and C sections again are very simple and closely related to the previous motives. The melody during these and previous sections uses many repetitive notes together with sustained ones. The simplicity of the melody makes it also possible to stop the music at almost any given time without distracting the audience because the music never really creates expectations. For example the music technically stops halfway the first measure of the C sections at about 51 minutes in the film. In short the musical structure is very adaptable and it can easily be called elastic or extensile.[footnoteRef:74] [74: Gorbman. Unheard melodies. p. 76.]
Other principles that according to Gorbman are often found in the classical Hollywood scores are also found in the scores of Hisaishi for Miyazakis films. One of these is unity and again the main theme of Spirited Away can be regarded as a good example. During the move the main theme is heard a total of four times but each time the orchestration and structure slightly varies. For example the D sections are replaced and the melodies are sometimes played by a piano and sometimes by an orchestra. The repetition of the theme suggests it could function as a motive for remembrance, however this motive is not associated with a character but rather with some important plot points.
The main theme opens the film when Chihiro and her parents are driving towards their new home. This can be considered as the beginning of a new adventure, although neither the characters nor the viewer has any idea what this adventure might be. The second time the theme returns is when Chihiro has to accept her situation and needs to go to work in the bathhouse in order to survive. The third time the theme returns is when Chihiro decides to go Zeniba, the twin sister of Yubaba who is the owner of the bathhouse, to return a special seal and to remove the curse cast on the boy Haku. The theme returns one final time near the end when Chihiro is finally able to go home after she has saved her parents. Repeating these recognizable melodies just before or right on specific narrative points therefore aids in the construction of narrative unity.
Though as established, the melodies return in slight variations and these variations are perhaps determined by the psychological subtext they should represent. The timid piano melody, as discussed before, serves to illustrate Chihiros sadness. Yet by the time the theme recurs for the third time Chihiro no longer seems to be afraid and she has fully adapted to her surroundings. She has matured and this is also reflected in the orchestration because the melody in the B section is now played by French horns instead of piano, creating a more stable and bolder sound. Hisaishi apparently makes these choices in orchestration very consciously, because in an interview he states that he tries to discern what the director is trying to convey in a scene and then to do the same with the music thematically.[footnoteRef:75] [75: Osmond. Will The Real Joe Hisaishi Please Stand Up? ]
In another interview Hisaishi makes a statement about the difference between his scores and those of Hollywood composers. The Hollywood style of using music to introduce characters and explain what's on screen is a method that I don't normally use in Japan.[footnoteRef:76] However when looking at the score of Spirited Away this in only partly true. The previous examples show that Hisaishis music indeed hardly ever mimics the action on screen or uses physical cues and that it is mostly used to illustrate a characters mood or psychological state. Furthermore most characters in Spirited Away do not have a theme attached to them to introduce them on screen. There is however one character, called Kaonashi (No Face in the translation), that does have a specific motive that is heard every time he makes an appearance before Chihiro goes to Zeniba. Kaonashi is a mysterious spirit who uses Chihiro to sneak into the bathhouse. Before he enters the bathhouse he is seen multiple times, though only briefly. However each time a very short percussive motive is heard often in between or during other musical themes. For example the second time the main theme returns the D sections are replaced by a short transition that prepares to return to the B section. During this transition Kaonashi appears and walking on the bridge for no more than a second or two before he disappears. At the moment he appears the small theme is heard played by what sounds like a gamelan type of instrument. [76: Hisaishi, Joe. Castle in the Sky - Joe Hisaishi Interview. Team Ghiblink. http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/laputa/interview.html. Accessed October20,2013.]
This theme fully expands during a confrontation between Chihiro and Kaonashi about 92 minutes into the film when Kaonashi has become a malevolent entity. This time East Asian percussion instruments like gongs and Taiko drums accompany the short motive, which keeps returning in an unpredictable manner. Eventually string pizzicatos start accompanying theme and when Kaonashi starts to go in a rampage while vomiting, the theme accelerates and brass instruments start playing. When Kaonashi starts spitting some of the bathhouse employees he ate, he begins to move more slowly and the brass instruments stop playing. The fast tempo is maintained but the instrumentation suggests that Kaonashi starts to calm down as well. In other words the music again is used to illustrate the characters psychological state. Also notable is that although Kaonashi is seen in almost every scene after this the theme never returns. A possible explanation can be found in Hisaishis statement that he tries to convey what Miyazaki meant, because at this moment in the film Kaonashi has become friends with Chihiro. He is no longer a stranger or a malicious being and it is in fact possible that the theme is not connected to the character but to the current status of the character in relation to Chihiro.
In short the score of Spirited Away contains many elements that are also found in the classic Hollywood scores. But at the same time Hisaishi seems to avoid some Hollywood conventions by scoring the characters moods instead the characters themselves or the actions on screen. Hisaishi also ignores many narrative or visual cues in favor of musical continuity whereas Western composers probably would adapt their music at these points. For example at seventy-two minutes in the film the music does not start at the moment Haku appears in his dragon form but a second later. Furthermore the moment the horns start playing and the moment the camera switches to a close-up image of the action are not timed together, but also are a split second apart.
There are more of these examples of timing in the film, but also in other Miyazaki films there are numerous examples. Most notable is the timing in the first scenes of the Japanese version of Laputa (1986). One of the protagonists, Sheeta, falls from the sky, but before she hits the ground her necklace starts glowing violently and she begins to descent slowly. During the production of this film Hisaishi has ignored this visual cue and he brought the music to a climax a few seconds earlier. However when Disney produced the film for American audiences, Hisaishi had to rewrite most of the score. First of all he had to extend the length of the score by more that thirty minutes because Disney believed the American audience was used to hear more music in animated features.[footnoteRef:77] Hisaishi completely rewrote the score for the American release and as a result the music also adapts to the visual cues. The music in the opening scene for example climaxes at the exact same moment the necklace glows. Laputa is however the only anime by Miyazaki that got an entire new score for the American release. All the other movies only got new voices and sometimes an English version of the opening theme or ending credits theme. The fact remains that most of the movie scores do not adhere to the Hollywood conventions of visual cues. Instead Hisiashi music also follows a path on its own, rather than following along with the visuals. [77: This is taken from an interview originally published in the Japanese Keyboard Magazine, August 1999: Team Ghiblink. Music // Laputa: The Castle in the Sky. http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/laputa/music.html. Accessed October20,2013.]
Chapter 3: Finding Japaneseness
So the functions of music in Miyazakis work are not that much different from the functions music has in classic Hollywood movies. Yet it is also clear that Hisaishi first of all does not wish to follow every Hollywood conventions and that he is indeed successful in avoiding some of them. But next to the issue of timing, there are more differences between Hisaishis scores and those of Hollywood films. These differences are important, because according to Davis contamination model nationality becomes relevant when there is difference to be pointed out. This does not mean that every score that does not follow Hollywood conventions is always an example of non-Western national cinema. But some of the differences between the classical Hollywood scores and Hisaishis scores might be explained by the fact it is a product of a Japanese culture. In other word these difference can point to a kind of Japaneseness.
As it is already discussed the search for Japaneseness has been a major influence on Japanese cultural expressions and it has been summed up by the term furusato. Even though furusato is one of the catchwords within contemporary Japanese society the will to distinct itself from the West and the following self-essentialization of a Japanese national identity can be traced back to the opening up of Japan at the beginning of the Meiji Period. Since then many traditional cultural practices have been displaced in favor of Western culture. People were getting educated in the Western styles of music for instance.[footnoteRef:78] However as a reaction to the dominant position of the West, Japanese academics and even artists started to explore their own unique (essential) identity.[footnoteRef:79] [78: Yang, Mina. East Meets West in the Concert Hall: Asians and Classical Music in the Century of Imperialism, Post-Colonialism, and Multiculturalism. Asian Music 28, no. 1 (2007): 1-30. p. 4.] [79: Tezuka, Yoshiharu. Japanese Cinema Goes Global Filmworkers' Journeys. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012. p. 9-10.]
The discourse around an essential Japanese national identity has been called nihonjinron, which literally means theories about the Japanese people. The fact that these are just theories should be emphasized, because a lot of nihonjinron literature is merely a search for Japanese uniqueness. It is only natural to be very critical about the claims coming from some nihonjinron literature. Peter Dale for example shows in his book The myth of Japanese uniqueness how even the more plausible claims are debatable and that all stems from a cultural nationalism, one that is not much unlike German nationalism in the previous century.[footnoteRef:80] [80: Dale, Peter N. The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness. London: Croom Helm, 1986. p. 215.]
Though not all critique is necessarily a fact. In a review of the previous book, Robert Marshall begins with: To salvage anything from this intellectually dishonest an intensely contentious book, we must begin with what we know: in the broadest context of world history, Japan is unique.[footnoteRef:81] One of the central counterarguments Marshall makes is that uniqueness, or the search for distinction between Japan and the rest of the world, serves the Japanese construction of reality in the same way that freedom serves Americans.[footnoteRef:82] Moreover it is not uncommon for a nation to try and distinct itself from others, especially when the other is represented by the West. Nihonjinron asserts nothing more than that Japan is distinct, for example it is the only non-Western nation that has fully industrialized every aspect of its economy. Therefore it should not be portrayed as a mere myth. Though some claims proposed by nihonjinron are indeed highly debatable and can even be considered propaganda, others can be useful when theorizing about Japanese culture because it can reveal the reasons behind the differences in cultural products. [81: Marshall, Robert C. Review of The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness, Peter Dale. Journal of Japanish Studies 15, no 1 (1989): 266-272. p.266] [82: Ibid. p.268]
The written works of Toru Takemitsu, one of the most famous Japanese composers during the postwar period, can also be considered part of the nihonjinron literature, yet it might prove useful for analyzing Hisashis scores. Takemitsu was trained in the Western concert idiom and long avoided being Japanese until American composer John Cage convinced Takemitsu otherwise and Takemitsu ultimately recognized the elegance of traditional Japanese music. From the early 1960s Takemitsu began to explore the differences between Japanese and Western musical traditions. He began searching for the essence of Japanese music in contrast to Western music.[footnoteRef:83] He eventually explained the concepts of sawari and ma as essential qualities of Japanese music in contrast to the essential elements of Western music; rhythm, melody and harmony. Sawari for example is explained as a noisy sound that gives an individual meaning to the played note instead of the relational meanings, such as the chord progressions that are found in Western music.[footnoteRef:84] [83: Takemitsu, Toru. Contemporary Music in Japan. Perspectives of New Music 27, no. 2 (1989): 198-204.] [84: Takemitsu, Toru. Confronting Silence: Selected Writings. Translated by Yoshiko Kakudo, and Glenn Glasow. Berkeley: Fallen Leaf Press, 1995. p. 64-66.]
A second important concept for Takemitsu was the concept of ma.
To define this concept of ma seems to be a rather difficult task and many scholars remain at least a little bit vague about the true meaning of the word. Research on this particular concept has furthermore shown that ma is a Japanese way of seeing. Takemitsu is one of the writers on ma who shares this view, for him ma is a (Japanese) way of understanding time and space and it is seen as fundamentally different from the Western perception of a linear time and space.[footnoteRef:85] Ma is seen as the intervals of space and time that invite a certain action to fill them with meaning, yet this does not really show mas deeper significance. Kenjiro Miyamoto further suggests that when Takumitsu relates ma with traditional Japanese music, he describes the concept as the silences that are consciously integrated between the notes and that these silences are never a void but is filled with the sounds of space.[footnoteRef:86] The result would be that the silences are equally important as the sounds, though they need to be recognized by the listeners. Furthermore Takemitsu emphasizes that ma is not just a silence or an empty space, but it is an interval marked out by events and objects in time and space and cannot be separated from these events accordingly. In other words silence does not exist without sound.[footnoteRef:87] [85: Ibid. p. 56-57.] [86: Miyamoto, Kenjiro. Klang im Osten: Klang im Westen : der Komponist Toru Takemitsu und die Rezeption europischer Musik in Japan. Saarbrcken: PFAU, 1996. p. 150.] [87: Takemitsu. Confronting Silence. p. 51.]
The concept of ma does not only form a key element in Japanese music but also in other Japanese art forms, such as Noh-theatre.[footnoteRef:88] Even Japanese architectural design can be related to ma, because even a room can be seen as a space between walls.[footnoteRef:89] Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, who also uses ma in his designs, believes that the concept has a close connection to an ancient Japanese religious experience of intense waiting for the moment the Japanese spirits (kami) will descent to earth. These kami were believed to descent in vacant places marked by four posts, one in each of the corners of the area. These places were to be filled with the kamis spiritual force called chi. Ma is the period of waiting for this place to be filled with chi. In Isozakis own words ma would thus mean something in both space and time: Space was perceived as identical with events or phenomena occurring in it; that is, space was perceived only in relation to time flow.[footnoteRef:90] Furthermore Isosaki also explains that this place was a bridge between two different points, the spirit world and the real word and that ma thus connects these edges but it again needs some kind of action to successfully do so.[footnoteRef:91] [88: Konparu, Kunio. The Noh Theater: Principles and Perspectives. Translated by Jane Corddry. New York: Weatherhill/Tankosha, 1983. p. 70-95.] [89: There have been multiple exhibits on this relation in museums in Paris, New York and Chicago between 1978 and 1980. The relations presented in one of these exhibits have been summarized: Isozaki, Arata. Ma: Japanese Time-Space. The Japan Architect 54, no. 2 (1979): 69-81.] [90: Ibid p. 71.] [91: Ibid p. 74,]
The complexity of the concept should now be evident and to create single clear and meaningful definition is an incredible arduous or even impossible task. But even in absence of such a definition researchers have been able to pinpoint how ma is used in Takemitsus music. Peter Burt for example believes that ma in Takemitsus refers to silences surrounding the notes which again are never void, but part of the stream of sound.[footnoteRef:92] But looking back at some of the descriptions above ma can also easily be connected to Takemitsus use of Western and Japanese instruments or sounds. These sounds represent two different points (separated because of the nature of Japanese sound which is called sawari) that can be connected through ma. For example in Lewis Cornwells discussion of November Steps ma is seen as a product of the interaction between the sounds of the biwa, shakuhachi and conductor/orchestra. Even the seating arrangement of the players was of great importance to Takemitsu in order to create not only a bridge between sounds but also a bridge covering a literal space.[footnoteRef:93] [92: Burt, Peter. The Music of Toru Takemitsu. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. p. 30, 236-237.] [93: Cornwell, Lewis. Toru Takemitsus November Steps. Journal of New Music Research 31, no. 3 (2002): 211-220. p. 212-213.]
Ma in Japanese film
Takemitsu did not only compose music for the concert hall but he composed music for over a hundred films, including some directed by Akira Kurosawa. One quick look at the film Ran (1985) also shows that Takemitsu incorporated the concepts like sawari and ma into the score. For example the main title features a high-pitched musical motive played by strings that resemble the sound of a Japanese flute used in Noh-theatre.[footnoteRef:94] Also during the final moments of the film Takemitsu uses an instrument that again sounds like a Japanese flute. These sounds clearly display what Takemitsu means by the difference between the Japanese and Western instruments. The complexity of the timbre produced by these sounds is a clear example of sawari. These Japanese sounds become even more notable when heard next to the heavy symphonic music Takemitsu composed for the siege of the warlords castle. It creates a careful synthesis between Western and Eastern elements that become clear because of difference.[footnoteRef:95] [94: Doering, JamesM. A look at Japanese film music through the lens of Akira Kurosawa. Randolph-Macon College. http://www.rmc.edu/Academics/Asian-Studies/Japan-Foundation/~/media/82D3F7F561BD4F2EB454FC42D35ECAF1.ashx. Accessed October26,2013.] [95: Calabretto, Roberto. Takemitsu's Film music. In Music Facing Up to Silence. Writings on Toru Takemitsu, edited by Gianmario Borio, and Luciana Galiano, 177-201. Pavia: Pavia University press, 2010. http://www.paviauniversitypress.it/scientifica/download/takemitsu-sito15nov2010.pdf. ]
There are also examples in the score of Ran that can be connected to the concept of ma. For Takemitsu the sounds of silence before and after music are perfect to convey emotions. For example, during the siege of the warlords castle in which all the sounds of battle are replaced by a Mahlerian symphonic sequence. This sequence abruptly comes to a halt after a gunshot and all that is left is a painful silence followed by the sounds of death.[footnoteRef:96] So this silence is not just a void moment, but rather intense as it invites the viewer to actively contemplate on what has happened and is currently happening in the film. [96: Kalinak, Kathryn Marie. Film Music A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. p. 75.]
There is also another way to find ma in this sequence, though not in the form of a silent moment. The motion picture and the music that together form a film can also be interpreted as two worlds and the meaning of both of these worlds are supposed to be connected by the viewer. Yet in this sense every bit of film music would be called ma, which is of course not the case. As seen in one of the explanations of ma it is the bridge between different worlds, for example the spirit world and the real world as pointed out by Isozaki or the difference between Eastern and Western sounds and even culture described by Takemitsu.[footnoteRef:97] In the case of Ran the difference between Eastern and Western are blatantly obvious as Takemitsu scored a Mahlerian symphonic sequence in a film based on Japanese history. Furthermore the gap between the music and picture is made even bigger because the music does not mirror the action. Instead the music implies the terrible sadness and horrors of the bloody battle, but it is the viewers task to give that meaning and bridge the gap between the music and de picture. [97: Takemitsu. Confronting silence p. 51-71.]
Both examples of ma in Ran (1985) can also explain some of the choices and statements made by Hisaishi when he composed for Miyazaki. Beginning with the short amount of music that is often found in Miyazakis anime, the amount of music in Laputa (1986) was only sixty minutes and had to be expanded for American audiences. In Princess Mononoke (1996) for example the battles between the forest gods and the humans are almost never scored, letting the images and sound effects speak and letting the viewer add an appropriate emotion. Yet the preparations and the first glimpse of the aftermath of one of the major battles (around respectively 85 and 93 minutes into the film) are provided with music, but here the short pauses between rhythmic patterns on presumably Japanese percussion instruments create the most intense moments of silence. It should also be noted that during these moments the music is not inaudible anymore and instead takes the viewers attention because loudness and a-synchronic relation the music has with the visuals. One of these moments that deserves a bit more attention is the first glimpse of the aftermath mentioned above. The moment the protagonist looks towards the battlefield is underscored by nothing more than a couple of consecutive Taiko drum sounds. These sounds seem to be asynchronic and unpredictable and thus create moments of intense waiting between them, much like the intense waiting for the spirits to come down.
In Spirited Away (2001) a similar way of using silence can be found in the multiple encounters with the spirit Kaonashi during the first half of the film. He is one of the few characters with its own musical theme or motive, though it only exists of a couple of percussive sounds. This motive is used the same way as the drum sounds mentioned before as they occur in an arhythmic fashion and the space in between invites just an uneasy and strange feeling as the motive itself. It should be noted that these spaces are however almost never silent because the Kaonashi theme often appears as a part of other musical themes. But even together with the other musical theme, the intervals between the Kaonashi motives seem to tie these events together and forming a complete cycle.
Whether Hisaishi is fully aware of using ma in the scores is however debatable and even though there are some examples to be found in his scores, these are not very common. Furthermore Hisaishi never stated that he would use such a concept to compose his music, nor is music films the best place to use such aesthetic concepts like Takemitsu did in his orchestral works. But the fact that ma can explain some of the qualities of music also creates an explanation to how and why Japanese film music is different from Hollywood film music. For example in Japanese films such as Akira Kurosawas Ran and anime films such as Princess Mononoke use less music than Hollywood films and that the Japanese audience is probably not bothered with it as much. The concept of ma as a unique Japanese quality in Japanese art is a plausible explanation for the use of more silence; because of ma it can become a very fruitful way to express meaning.
There are also some more similarities to be found between Hisaishis scores and Takemitsus, which could imply more characteristics of film music in Japan. Both Takemitsu and Hisaishi do not try capturing the action on screen in the music, which according to Hisaishi is a very Hollywood way of using music, but use music for the psychological subtext. But of course this is not a unique Japanese quality of film music. On the contrary, this function of film music is more of a feature of film music in general and hence can be found in many Hollywood films as well.[footnoteRef:98] However one of the characteristics of the music used in the Japanese Noh-theater is that the music is put to the characters mood and to portray the emotional tension of the plot.[footnoteRef:99] So the use of music in Japanese and anime films could very well be influenced by these traditional Japanese art forms. [98: Prendergast, Roy M. Film Music: A Neglected Art: a Critical Study of Music in Films. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992. p. 216.] [99: Malm, William P. Nagauta: The Heart of Kabuki Music. Rutland, Vt: C.E. Tuttle Co, 1963. p. 29-30.]
Nevertheless looking at Hisaishis score for Spirited Away shows many elements that can be considered Japanese, such as Japanese instruments or at least instruments that a Western viewer believes to be East Asian. This is a very superficial way of expressing Japanessness, however because these Japanese instruments sound notably different from Western instruments they are perfect to express nationality. This creates yet another possibility of using ma as the interval between separate worlds (the Japanese and the West) that has to be bridged.
This also seems one of the key elements within some of Miyazakis films. As seen in Napiers analysis of Spirited Away, the film exactly represents her so-called liminal space between the edges of traditional Japanese culture and modern Western culture and even the space between the concepts of furusato and kokusaika can be considered to be ma. Though coloring this space with his own vision of how this space should be filled (surely it is his imagination that is drawn), he also leaves some bits open to interpretation of the viewer. Among the most notable ones are some of the endings to his movies that do not give away a sense of closure. In Princess Mononoke it is uncertain if the distance between nature and man has been bridged, that it could happen in the future or that it never will. More importantly Miyazaki shows that at least a status quo can be achieved but to connect both worlds we have to be patient and sensible about it.
Just like the movie plots, the music also often sits between the sounds of the West and the sounds of Japan. Looking back at the examples of ma in the scores these solely occur in combination with non-Western sounding instruments. Furthermore the moments the sounds of these instruments appear seem to be carefully planned because the appearance of these instruments is significantly greater during scenes that show a connection with Japanese tradition and myth such as the introduction of the spirits and the spirit world in Spirited Away about 14 minutes in the film. At the moment night falls and Chihiro becomes trapped in what has now become spirit world, the instrumentation changes from a string orchestra to an instrument that sounds like a Japanese plucked string instrument like a koto. The music during this moment seems to be more audible than at other points, first of all because it is an (from a Western viewers point of view) unfamiliar instrument, which stands out more. Secondly the music is not subordinate to voices or the image at that point.
Another moment worth mentioning is the first day of Chihiros work in the bathhouse about 52 minutes in the film. The bathhouse is of course linked with the traditional Japanese identity (furusato), even though Napier has argued it is more an object of an estranged identity. The music supports the idea that the bathhouse represents a kind of Japaneseness, because next to the use of non-Western instruments (consisting of percussion and a plucked string instrument) Hisaishi also used a pentatonic scale instead of one of the (Western) diatonic scale he mostly uses. This of course makes the theme to sound even more non-Western[footnoteRef:100] (see appendix 1.3 for my own transcription of the first motive). [100: It should be noted that pentatonality is not at all uncommon in Western music. However the use of certain clichs to induce in this case oriental connotations is very common and usefull. See for example Burnand, David & Benedict Sarnaker. The Articulation of National Identity Through Film Music, National Identities 1, no. 1 (1999): 7-13.]
The majority of Hisaishis music is however scored for a late romantic orchestra and the Japanese instruments only play a minor role in the entire film. This of course makes them stand out more in the first place, like the Kaonashi theme that is heard during a theme played by the orchestra most of the time. But in many other instances the Japanese instruments seem to blend in with the orchestra eventually and become inaudible. Even in the previous example of Chihiros work in the bathhouse the strings and French horns start supporting the song after a minute. Furthermore the melody of that theme is not at all a reflection of the distinctive Japanese sound Takemitsu called sawari. Instead it seems to be played by Western concert flutes because it sounds very pure and bright, unlike the complex sound a Japanese flute like the shakuhachi would give, which would of course not be suitable for the inaudibility of the music.
In many other cases these Japanese instruments only take the part of supporting roles in the music. The theme played by a koto at the moment Chihiro is trapped in the spirit world eventually becomes a mere rhythmic ostinato underlining the fanfare-like music played by loud brass instruments and lush strings. This is another example of the Japanese instruments blending in with the overall Western romantic style of composing. Even though the Japanese instruments are used and are sometimes very noticeable within the score, mainly because of the different sound they produce, in the end most times the music does not fit within a distinctively Japanese sound after all. Instead of distinguishing Japanese sounds from Western sounds, Hisaishi seems to tighten gap between these worlds, either by letting the Japanese instruments have a minor role in the bigger picture or by avoiding using instruments that cannot produce more pure sounds. For example using a Western concert flute instead of a Japanese flute in the previous example.
Chapter 4: Calling it Japanese
So even when in both Miyazakis animations and Hisaishis music some aspects are closely related to a traditional Japanese identity, it can also be considered a representation of a modern Japanese identity according to director Mamoru Oshiis beliefs. The music, like the story and animation, is heavily influenced by Western cinema but at the same time its differences from Western cinema can be connected to Japanese tradition making it a hybrid product. So could we thus label the movies including the scores still Japanese? Of course it is already established in the previous chapters that it cannot be purely Japanese, yet there could be multiple answers to this question depending on whose point of view is taken. From to either the director Oshiis or the scholar Iwabuchis point of view this hybrid product could very well be called Japanese, because. Miyazakis anime, like many other anime in general, covers both Western and Japanese identities and even highlighting the friction between them.[footnoteRef:101] In other words neither of the identities show dominance over the other, but they rather exist together much like Iwabuchis theory about the Japanese identity. If this is still true for the music however is still debatable. [101: Cavallaro. The Anim Art of Hayao Miyazaki. p.7.]
The music is of course also a hybrid product, but it is questionable whether it follows the same kind of hybridity the other aspects of anime follow. As discussed above, the more Japanese characteristics in the music are not as clear and noticeable as they can be, even though most of the time they are heard during the more Japanese images. Hisaishi almost never uses Japanese instruments in a leading role and only occasionally using distinctively non-Western musical structures in favor of a romantic style of composing. Because of this it seems that the music leans to a Western style creating scores with only minor influences from it Japanese roots. Thus the music is not at all a hybrid of equal influences, nor is it a very Japanese sounding score that has assimilated Western influences like Iwabuchi would argue is the case for most Japanese cultural products. In the case of the score it seems more like the other way around. It is mostly a Western score that has incorporated some Japanese characteristics.
Yet the score itself is of course not the entire cultural product as it is only a part of the entire movie. In contrast to just the scores Miyazakis storytelling does seem to adhere to Iwabuchis theory. When looking at both Spirited Away (2001) and My Neighbor Totoro (1988) a viewer might notice some similarities with Disneys Alice in Wonderland (1951) for example.[footnoteRef:102] Spirited Away deals with a young girl who becomes trapped in another world and in My Neighbor Totoro a girl falls down a hole in a tree into the lair of an otherworldly catlike creature. Though these similarities seem quite obvious, the worlds and characters Miyazaki has created are notably different and show off a more Japanese odor, as Iwabuchi would call it, than Alices wonderland and thus hiding away this Western influence. In other words Miyazaki borrows Western elements but incorporates them to create something that seems entirely new and, more importantly, different or even non-Western. This could very well be the case with the music as well. Though the music in Miyazakis movies sounds like music used in Hollywood cinema most of the time, it is still notably different. To summarize the scores uses just enough Japanese influences, like the use of more silence or ma, to be different from Hollywood scores. [102: Napier. Matter Out of Place. p. 290.]
The question whether to label Miyazakis films Japanese is still difficult to answer, because how would it be possible to label cultural product that, like Davis mentioned earlier, is influenced and built using elements from various sources that either have roots in Japan or are more related to other cultures. But this is something it has in common with almost any kind of cultural product, most of all due the concept of globalization and its relating trends that are as old as ancient human civilizations. Two trends are those of universalism (or homogenization) and of particularism.[footnoteRef:103] [103: Robertson. Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture. p. 97-115.]
Universalism describes the process through different cultures become the same, mostly because of the spread of Western (or even American) popular culture. The products of this culture, such as music, movies and tv-shows, are spread by mass media and promote a Western way of life. Particularism occurs at the same time as universalism and as a reaction to it. It stems from the will of having a unique identity but also from the unique historical backgrounds that distinguishes certain cultures from others.[footnoteRef:104] Thus instead of the rise of a single world culture distinctness and differences between local cultures still exist and are actively celebrated. Although these two processes seem contradictory, it is not impossible for them to coexist. For instance the awareness of the differences between cultures is seen everywhere and at the same time universal ideas such as human rights or free trade are enacted in different ways in different cultures. This relation between universalism and particularism can also be summarized with Robertsons concept of glocalization, because glocalization means the simultaneity --- the co-presence --- of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies. [footnoteRef:105] [104: Ibid. p. 98-105.] [105: Robertson, Roland. Comments on the "Global Triad" and "Glocalization". In Globalization and Indigenous Culture: 40th Anniversary Memorial Symposium, January, 1996, edited by Nobutaka Inoue. Tokyo, Japan: Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University, 1997. http://www2.kokugakuin.ac.jp/ijcc/wp/global/index.html ]
The third trend is that of hybridity and in its basic sense within the cultural globalization debate it refers to the blending of different cultures that eventually create new cultural products. This does not mean that the hybridity leads to a single world culture, because as Robinson already stated that there are still differences to be found between cultures due to particularizing tendencies. These differences appear for example in languages or in cultural traditions. These differences are exactly what can be found in the Miyazakis animations and Hisaishis scores and it is thus not strange that the reasons behind these differences can be linked to Japanese tradition and therefore the scores might be called at least a bit Japanese.
Even in other musicological literature it is not uncommon to keep referring something as Japanese or Russian or German because some characteristics of the music have a connection to a certain cultural tradition or history. In other words the labeling and connection of a nation to a piece of music is not at all unique. Many examples of this can be found in romantic German or Italian operas. One more example is Stravinskys so-called Russian period that is called Russian due to the influences of Russian folklore and folksong, both of which greatly contributed to his three great ballet pieces; The Firebird, Petrushka and the Rite of Spring. This resulted in something that sounded different from the conventional Western music at that time.[footnoteRef:106] A similar argument can be found for Stravinskys teacher Rimsky-Korsakov who also drew inspiration from many folksongs and legends operas. Subsequently his operas are one of the most celebrated Russian operas, though in many cases it seems that these operas show many features that are more related to non-Russian and more Western music, such as Wagners operas.[footnoteRef:107] In other words his treatment of his Russian sources often followed principles of conventional Western art music. [106: Taruskin, Richard. The Oxford History of Western Music Vol. 4. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. p. 151-190, 488.] [107: Taruskin. On Russian Music. p.166-178.]
So even though it is not purely Russian music, nevertheless there remain reasons to call it Russia. In the case of these Russian examples (and many others) the reason relates to the nationalism of the 19th century.[footnoteRef:108] Of course in our case of Japanese film scores its incorporation of Japanese elements do not have very much to do 19th century nationalism. It does however show some kind national substance, as Taruskin calls it, similar to the music of many Russian composers that are regarded as Russian composers.[footnoteRef:109] This suggests that even in the late 20th century, Japanese cultural products follow similar principals of distinguishing some kind of nationality. Yet the answer to the question what is this national substance? remains unclear, because there is no plain answer to give. Richard Wagner even agrees on this in a postscript on his essay What is German? He answers: I have come up against this question with more and more confusion it is impossible to answer.[footnoteRef:110] [108: Dahlhaus, Carl, Nationalism and Music. In Between Romanticism and Modernism: Four Studies in the Music of the late Nineteenth Century, 79-101. Translated by Mary Whittall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.] [109: Taruskin. On Russian Music. p. 27-45.] [110: Applegate, Celia, and PamelaM. Potter. "Germans as the People of Music: Genealogy of an Identity." In Music and German National Identity, 1-35. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. p. 33.]
Hence when looking at Hisaishis scores it is not relevant to answer the question what is Japanese about it? That is why the research must focus on what makes it different from other films and where those differences could come from. These are the areas that are explored in the scores and as result it might be possible to call the scores and even the films in general at least something different from Hollywood films. Yet to be calling it Japanese is unwise, as there should be no such thing as something Japanese. On the other hand the differences are often a result of using elements that are rooted in a native or perhaps a national place, thus labeling the scores Japanese might just be like referring to this quality and it distinguishes it from Hollywood scores.
Japanese animation has proven to be a valuable research subject not only because of its popularity in Japan and increasing awareness of this cultural product in the West, but also for the way it is constructed. Many of the anime series and films discussed before show the deep connection they have to their Japanese roots while at the same time they can appear to be very disconnected from any kind of national culture. The settings, characters and story often do not invoke any image of a distinctively Japanese way of life and therefore, as Iwabuchi calls it, anime is culturally odorless. It is thus believed that most anime have a unique quality of not showing off any cultural identity, while still being influenced by both Western and non-Western cultures. In turn this is also believed to be exactly what the contemporary Japanese cultural identity would beheld.
This is however a dangerous statement because one could oversimplify and essentialize the Japanese cultural identity this way which makes it not very useful to approach anime in this matter. However analyzing anime can be useful in order to figure out how the input of different cultural influences are negotiated in a Japanese cultural product and subsequently discover how and why anime is something different from Hollywood animation and live-action cinema. The work of director Hayao Miyazaki often served as a valuable research subject regarding these questions because his work ranges across the two interconnected concepts that appear to be defining Japanese contemporary society, named kokusaika and furusato. Up until now almost none of the research on Miyazakis work however has involved the scores, of which Joe Hisiashi composed almost all.
In analyzing the scores of some of Miyazakis best known works there are many relations to be found between the way music is used in Hollywood live-action cinema and Miyazakis anime. Many of the concepts describing the functions and features of Hollywood film music are easily applicable the scores of Hisaishi. The music is simple and inaudible, creates unity and adds a psychological subtext. The connections Hisaishis music has to specifically Western animation like The Loony Tunes or Tom and Jerry are considerably less. In the case of Western cartoons the music generally exaggerates actions and mocks emotions to create a more lighthearted atmosphere. But anime in general is often not very lighthearted itself, and so is the music in Miyazakis anime. There are however moments in the films in which the music is in fact used to create a more cartoonish situation. This suggests that Hisaishi is very aware of how the music can make a scene funny and that Miyazaki sometimes wants to add some comic relief within the movie.
There are also differences between the general Hollywood scores and the scores of Hisaishi, such as the use of certain instruments and the amount and silence in the entire score. Most importantly there is a connection that can be drawn between these differences and the concept of ma. This concept has been related to many different Japanese cultural products, such as music, theatre and even architecture. Many of the theorists on this concept are however Japanese and hence might be biased. Furthermore the concept itself is difficult to define, but it is implausible to deny that this concept played a pivotal role in much of Japans art because most artists have consciously worked with similar ideas. Working with the definitions given by both composer Takemitsu and architect Isozaki, the concept can easily also be related to the film scores by Hisaishi and it can explain the absence of sound during multiple scenes in the anime films.
The music has definitely shown some similar trends that also seem to appear in the other aspects of the anime. It also ranges across a Western or international style of composing for film while implementing a distinct Japanese touch to it, supported by the visual animations. Though this Japanese touch appears in a far less obvious sense than the visual animations do. Would the score stand on its own it is even possible to claim it has almost nothing to do with a distinctively Japanese culture, because the Japanese influences seem to only have a minor role.
But even with regard to the characteristics that do make the score different from a general Hollywood score, it is inadvisable to call the score a uniquely Japanese cultural product that exemplifies the contemporary Japanese identity, mainly because it is not unique at all. Due to the process of globalization and constant cross-pollination of cultures, every product is a hybrid even though many theorists have tried to come up with distinctive national qualities of their own culture tied to certain national traditions or folklore and as a result Hisaishis scores Japanese. In short the Japaneseness of the scores has its meaning attached to characteristics that relate to a view on Japanese tradition. From this point of view we could view the scores, and perhaps all aspects of Miyazakis anime, as something uniquely Japanese, because it is indeed tied to some Japanese roots. And it is because of this connection the scores are something different than the Hollywood standard.
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