Girls with arms and girls as arms in anime

The use of girls for “soft” militarism

Authored by: Akiko Sugawa-Shimada

The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138895201
eBook ISBN: 9781315179582
Adobe ISBN:


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In sci-fi or fantasy TV animation programmes or films featuring male leads, battles with robots and high-tech machines can often facilitate constructing their masculinity and coolness, whereas women and children are often used as victims to be protected by male characters. However, in Japan, fighting girls associated with machines in wars are one of the most popular motifs in anime in order to illustrate conventional adolescent troubles as metaphor. Since the 2000s, several Japanese anime primarily for young male audiences have featured cute and vulnerable girls, who are closely associated with World War II weaponry and the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF). This chapter explores how girls are associated with WWII weaponry and JSDF in anime and how tie-up or collaborative events between anime and JSDF serve to promote JSDF’s public impressions by analysing first Girls und Panzer (2012–13) and High School Fleet (2016) (both of which depict human girls associated with JSDF) and then Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova (2013) and Kantai Collection (2015) (both of which feature anthropomorphised girls based on WWII warships). It then argues how representations of girls are deftly used to connect young audiences to “soft” nationalistic ideology by alleviating antipathy against extreme and obvious militarism.

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