All the Anime: Interpreting Anime

An admirably written book, fantastically accessible for readers with next to no knowledge of academic theory.

Interpreting Anime (Christopher Bolton)Interpreting Anime’s author is Christopher Bolton, Professor of Comparative and Japanese Literature at Williams College in Massachusetts, and an Associate Editor of the anime academic journal Mechademia. In his book, Bolton recalls teaching students about Ghost in the Shell. He was making connections between the 1995 film and an essay from ten years earlier, A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway. Haraway’s “cyborg” is, among other things, “an abstract metaphor… for rethinking the concept of the individual subject, particularly in the context of feminist theory.”


One of Bolton’s students protested that the teacher was reading far too much into the film. Days later, the class gathered to watch Innocence, Oshii’s sequel to Ghost in the Shell. Early on, Section 9 investigators Batou and Togusa interview a languid woman scientist about the natures of dolls and cyborgs. Her name? Haraway.

For Bolton, it was “…a gotcha moment I’ve never managed to surpass in the classroom.” He tucks the anecdote in a footnote and stresses that whether Oshii had Haraway in mind when he made the first Ghost isn’t the point. Bolton: “I think what matters is not what a director deliberately put into a film but whether a critic can extract an interesting and convincing interpretation that will then resonate for other viewers.”


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Published in: All the Anime
By: Andrew Osmond