After the nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, Japan was changed forever. It is probably impossible for someone other than the Japanese themselves to realize this fact, since Japan is listed as the only country that has suffered from nuclear weapons. This event deeply affected the country not only as one of the most terrible tragedies of the nation, but also closely entered the culture. In our material on the history of anime, we mentioned in passing that nuclear strikes influenced the anime and its main themes in the future. But today we will delve into this issue.
Many American researchers, in their works devoted to the modern cultural code of Japan, say that for the rest of the 20th century, and even now, it is covered by what is called "post nuclear sublime", which I loosely translated as " post-nuclear elevation ". They refer to anime, manga, and any other cultural work that revolves around nuclear disaster or mass destruction, and is based on the collective memory of the Japanese about nuclear disaster.
And you probably know about many anime inspired by a nuclear attack or at least those where the plot is directly related to explosions and mass destruction, for example, "Barefoot Gen", "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds", "Evangelion", "Akira" , "Grave of the Fireflies".
The most famous military paintings are, firstly, "The Tomb of the Fireflies" by Isao Takahata, who put into the work his experience of surviving with his sister as a child. After their mother died in a bombing raid and their father drowned in a warship, the two children wander the country after her surrender.
Secondly, "Barefoot Gen". The manga and anime directly tell the story of how the boy Gen becomes one of the survivors of the nuclear strike on Hiroshima. And its author Keiji Nakazawa describes his story of how he survived this nightmare.
Many anime touching on the theme of nuclear war work on the principle of Geng and "The Grave of the Fireflies", where we are shown the universal suffering or personal stories of those who survived those events. Pictures like this tell a common story from the eyes of one person, about destruction, suffering and rebirth from the ashes.
And this is probably the first impact of a nuclear bombing on anime. After all, such works, which are based on the collective trauma of the nation, show us the history of the victim, which means that it is difficult for us not to sympathize with the main characters.
But post-nuclear elevation is a broad phenomenon that tends to increase its influence over time due to new social changes. And the already mentioned "Evangelion", "Akira", "Nausicaa from the Valley of the Winds" and "Astroboy" show us not traditional post-war stories about the suffering of innocent people, but completely new ones, or at least in them nuclear explosions and similar large-scale catastrophes are starting points in the plot.
Not all post-war anime that want to show us how terrible war is and how great human folly is, must directly refer to national trauma.
A New World From The Ashes
The very first person whose work is directly related to the war was, as you might guess, Osamu Tezuka. And although his Astroboy is a children's TV show with monsters of the week, in its essence the author laid a conflict between man and technology, which can be destructive. In the anime, the scientist, in order to fill the void after the death of his son, creates an exact copy of him in the form of an android, however, frightened by his power, refuses him.
In the future, Japan will become a strong economic power with advanced technology, but through this anime we see the tension of the era that technology can never replace people, and its ability to help humanity is equal to its ability to destroy it.
His successor Hayao Miyazaki, although not directly, also witnessed the bombing in his childhood, and more than once reflected it in his work. The most striking example is "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds", which was basically an anti-war work. After the devastating event called "Seven Days of Fire", humanity was practically destroyed, and the world turned into a nuclear desert, which in the future was filled with mutants and a poisonous forest, which gradually began to grow on a huge scale.
The seven days of fire directly refer to the fact that they were most likely the result of human use of nuclear weapons.
There is something similar in "Evangelion", which came out many years later. In the world of this anime, a creature known as Adama was found by scientists, and as part of their research into its power and the ability to curb it, an explosion occurred, which is called Second Impact. It caused a mass extinction, and also displaced the planet's orbit, which changed the climate so much that most of the Earth was flooded by the oceans. In the anime itself, the first year after Second Impact is remembered as “a hell on earth that cannot be described in words.”
Space Cruiser Yamato tells the story of a group of young people rebuilding an old military cruiser and using it to try to protect the Earth, exhausted by war and radiation.
But perhaps the most powerful image of a nuclear strike in the anime was in Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. But even though Akira draws heavily on the post-apocalyptic setting, it also criticizes people, politicians and social systems. Akira's first scene is an explosion followed by a bright flash of light. A giant black dome covers most of Tokyo and destroys it. It was a metaphor for nuclear destruction, after which we are immediately shown a new Neo-Tokyo in 2020, with a crater in the center.
Like other works in the apocalyptic setting, Akira presents the viewer with the unsettling reality of the lethality of nuclear power. This is most clearly illustrated by the conditions of the two main characters, Tetsuo and Kaneda, who met and grew up in an orphanage.
Throughout the anime, we see adults who, in the struggle for power and enrichment, lead the world to a new catastrophe, and we observe teenagers showing, though not immediately, but sanity.
As a consequence of the nuclear strike, many children lost their parents, were placed in orphanages, and are also subject to genetic mutations that made them look like old people.
However, another feature of many similar animes is the hope for the future, because after surviving a similar disaster and becoming a strong country, the Japanese include a similar message in their works. And in the same post-war work by Osamu Tezuki, "Hi no Toi", the main theme of the series is reincarnation.
And like the Firebird from the Tezuka manga, Japan has also been reincarnated in the future.
The Topic of Article: Anime Echoes of Nuclear Strike.