Anime and manga have been staples of Japanese culture for many decades, but their reach extend far outside of Japan. Their specific character designs, graphic violence, and overly sexualized female characters have been centres of both critique and admiration, building dynamic communities of fans around the globe. The available scholarship on gender in anime and manga demonstrates an unsurprising devotion to investigating a wide range of representations of women that can found in those particular media. As such, scholars have engaged with numerous topics such as the identification of gendered stereotypes, the psychoanalytical investigation of the otaku’s desire, the analysis of unconventional gender representations, and so on. While all of these questions certainly require further investigation, the ‘technological body’ in particular deserves to be considered under a new light. The current scholarship’s analyses of Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion have dealt in great detail with questions of post-humanism, but the complexity of the technological body in anime and manga requires the exploration of new avenues.
This essay will present a fresh perspective of the technological body by building on current scholarship emphasizing its transformative features and adding a layer of complexity to the analysis by examining the intertwined nature of technology and war in reshaping the human body into a weapon with which to wage war. I argue that technology and war—how they reinforce and depend on one another—form the core of the transformative process of altering human bodies into tightly controlled, managed, and disciplined weapons of war. In order to do so, I start with a brief discussion of the available scholarship on the technological body by identifying its main focal points as well as shortcomings. Following this preliminary overview, the focus shifts to concrete representations of the intersection of technology and war in reshaping bodies—this includes, but is not limited to, an examination of the workings of Foucauldian notions of biopower. Michel Foucault’s analysis in particular proves productive in exploring the governmentality behind technological advancements and war-making while also addressing the methods by which the states engages in controlling, managing and disciplining these technological bodies.1 in selected anime and manga, namely Strike Witches, Kill la Kill, Guilty Crown, and Saikano: The Last Love Song on This Little Planet, by providing a thorough analysis of four works depicting the intimate relationship between technology and war operating through the body to create weapons of war.
TECHNOLOGICAL BODIES, GHOSTS AND EVAs
In discussing the technological body in anime and manga, the widely popular anime movie Ghost in the Shell by Mamoru Oshii often finds its way at the centre of scholarship. Through exploring the feminine in anime and engaging with questions of technology, many authors inevitably come across this internationally acclaimed movie and more importantly for this discussion, its female cyborg protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi. In this regard, Sharalyn Orbaugh is one of the most significant contributors to the study of cyborgs in manga and anime, focusing primarily on Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Orbaugh provides constructive insights in understanding the post-humanistic features of the cyborg body and its transformative capabilities by addressing the connections and disjunctures between emotion and science, primarily in Oshii’s films, and highlights the permeability of the body through interfaces that link characters of Ghost in the Shell to the Net. Furthermore, the fact that the characters’ bodies are penetrated by data streams rather than organic chemicals, producing effects that are both physical and affective, suggests that information here is figured as material and physical (Orbaugh, Emotional Infectivity 166). The author thus offers an intricate analysis of the complex ways human and machine coexist to create cyborg lifeforms, rather than form a concretely divided binary, in Ghost in the Shell. Orbaugh also pays close attention to issues related to gender by exploring why sexuality and singularity are fundamental to cyborg subjectivity. In order to do so, she focuses on Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell in terms of the “nexus of contemporary fears or desires” regarding subjectivity that is being negotiated through those depictions (Orbaugh, Sex and the Single Cyborg 438). In Neon Genesis Evangelion she addresses the radical intercorporations of difference through bodies that cannot resist the linkage to the “machinic.” She argues that the human body and will are reinscribed as the most hopeful and effective force for resistance. In contrast, because of the “achieved compulsory permeability of the populace to information and surveillance” already present in Ghost in the Shell, the only means of resistance is to abandon the body altogether in order to move to the next level of evolution (Orbaugh, Sex and the Single Cyborg 449).
Susan J. Napier’s own discussion of Ghost in the Shell also contributes to our understanding of the intricate relationship between mind and body. Noting the film’s emphasis on technology’s positive potential, Napier analyzes Kusanagi’s birth scene: it demonstrates how she is both organically and technologically constructed, but totally free of human origins as her organic brain is scanned and placed inside a mechanical skull, and her artificial musculature is covered by metal skin and coated by synthetic epidermis. Napier also adds that the vehicle for Kusanagi’s quest for spiritual identity is not her mind, but her body. The author therefore highlights the complexity of the relationship between the “spirit” and “body” of Kusanagi, while also emphasizing the significance of incorporating gender in this analysis. Napier explains that it could be possible that the director purposefully uses her “vulnerable female body and the ‘feminine’ lyrical mode of the film itself to underline the vulnerability of all human beings in a world that is increasingly governed by oppressive and incomprehensible outside forces” (Napier 112). In a similar fashion as Orbaugh, Napier offers a valuable overview of important themes relating to the construction of the technological body in anime.
As this brief overview of Orbaugh and Napier’s contributions demonstrates, through their respective analyses of Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion, the technological body opens the possibility of reinterpreting the relationship between “mind” and “body.” This feature not only deals with post-human concerns, but reimagines gender through the authors’ engagement with the implications of this transformative process for our understanding of gender. Whether it is Orbaugh’s emphasis on the sexual difference in rendering bodies differently “permeable”—she notes in that regard that only females “incorporate genetic information from the semen their bodies take in with sexual penetration”—or Napier’s exploration of the “reproductive” scene between Kusanagi and the Puppet Master, both authors’ analysis of gender suggests that this ability to transcend gender and humanistic boundaries coexists in the technological body (Orbaugh 442). Their approach, however, remains primarily concerned with the metaphysical at a very individual level as they engage neither with the origins of the development of the technology nor the wider context and purpose enabling this transformative process. As these technological advancements, inside the narratives of anime and manga themselves, rarely occur without the “intervention” of a controlling force or power, such as the state and often through the military, this gap in the investigation of the higher structures operating in shaping the technological body needs to be addressed in some capacity. The following analysis therefore seeks to bridge this gap to some extent by exploring the intricate relationship between technology and war, as instruments of the state, and the role of their intertwined nature in reshaping bodies into transgressive technological weapons of war.
STRIKER UNITS AND LIFE FIBERS
While the existing scholarship certainly offers complex analyses of the technological body by tackling its transgressive potential, little is said about the intimate relationship between technology and war. Considering the predominance of war as a backdrop to numerous narratives in anime and manga where it serves as the driving force behind the advancement of technologies and sciences, this gap in the scholarship at hand is especially noticeable. The following pages address precisely this undeniable relationship between technology and war, and particularly how the two form the inseparable components at the heart of a process of shaping, and reshaping bodies into technological weaponized bodies in anime and manga.
Strike Witches (2010) provides an interesting point of entry as an example of the combination of magic powers and technological advancements to create human weapons for which body and machine, while inseparable in combat, combine on a rather superficial level. The show is set in an alternate re-imagination of Earth in the middle of the 20th century recreating the events of World War II wherein national armies from around the world join forces to confront an overwhelming alien threat (the ‘Neuroi’) instead of fighting among themselves. The series starts when the main protagonist Miyafuji Yoshika is suddenly recruited by a special military unit called Strike Witches to fight against the mysterious invaders. However, as her father, who was working for the military, left home to go to war and never returned when she was just a child, Yoshika immediately manifests her determination never to join the military. Nevertheless, she is rather quickly convinced to use the weapons designed by her father to fight as a witch in order to end the war. These weapons consist of miniature airplane-like machine to be equipped onto the legs called ‘Striker Unit’ (see Image 1). By combining their magical powers with the Striker Unit, a witch is able to fly, usually carrying other types of weaponry such as conventional machine guns or automatic rifles, and take on the threat of the Neuroi more effectively than any other weapons currently available. Magic and technology work together and are inseparable, as neither is functional without the other as an effective weapon of war. On one hand, magical powers may consist of numerous abilities, but none is strong enough to become a weapon itself. On the other hand, the Striker Units are too difficult to control and simply too heavy for any normal person to wear, rendering them useless unless the wearer possess magical powers to compensate.
Early on, the state manifests its firm grip on the formation, control, and management of the Strike Witches, as well as other experiments conducted by the military to create more easily controllable and predictable weapons to replace them. While the show does not explicitly engage in a critical discussion of the state’s control over the bodies of the Strike Witches, their highly-regulated bodies, behaviours, and efficiency depict some recognizable elements of Michel Foucault’s biopower. More specifically, this is apparent in Strike Witches in terms of its depiction of how power operates on the body as machine, how the body is “dressed” and the augmentation of its aptitudes, how its forces are extorted, how utility and docility grow on parallel terms, and how it is integrated to efficient control systems as ensured by an “anatomo-politique” discipline (Foucault 183). Disciplining the body through military training in order to improve its ability to control the Striker Units is central to the role of the main cast of characters. As such, Strike Witches portrays the state and the army as forces constantly experimenting on human bodies in order to create technology enhancing bodies’ strength and efficiency as weapons of war. While Yoshika’s father is identified early on as the main engineer behind this new piece of technology and her quest to learn more about him and his research is at the core of her desire to join the military in the first place, very little is known about the specificities allowing these machines to function as they do. The witches’ magical powers also remain mostly mysterious, but the events unfolding throughout the series allow the viewer to at least determine that many different kinds of magic exists and that any witch can channel her powers to operate the Striker Unit. Also important is the fact that only women can possess such powers and that these powers seemingly grow weaker as a witch grows older, as one characters sees her powers weakening as she approaches twenty years of age. This limitation is particularly significant as it dictates the screening and recruiting process; locating potential talents, convincing them to join the military and its cause, and training the new recruits in becoming efficient weapons are after all at the centre of the military’s—and by extension, the state’s—program for creating a defensive force against invaders. Managing and controlling young girls’ bodies thus become an utmost priority for the state, leading to the elaboration of a regulated program to enhance their fighting potential while restraining their power as a group. It should be said that while the Strike Witches consist only of female members, including the acting commander of the special unit, its jurisdiction remains firmly within the confines of the state’s military and, as depicted in the anime, a primarily male-centric bureaucratic body of personnel. Furthermore, it quickly becomes obvious to the viewer that this male contingent is fairly dissatisfied with the increasing power of the Strike Witches. As such, there becomes a serious concern in closely overseeing the management of the unit, the training and disciplining of its personnel, and keeping under firm control their ability to operate independently; this eventually leads to a mutiny organized by a male-dominated unit of the military. Ultimately however, the almost limitless potential generated through the combination of magical powers and technological advancements enables the female cast to become independent, albeit within the confines of the state’s apparatus, and more importantly, for the purpose of waging war against the ‘enemy.’ Just as the fusion between the technological Striker Unit and the girls’ bodies remain somewhat superficial, so does its transgressive potential.
If Strike Witches’ technological machinery remains a piece of equipment, the characters’ ‘uniforms’ in Kill la Kill’s (2013) push the fusion between body and wearable weaponry considerably further, and in doing so offers a depiction of technology and war operating through the body worth our attention. The action takes place at Honnōji Academy, a school where clearly defined hierarchical ranks are attributed to individuals; a different rank means a different numbered uniform, granting both supernatural powers and social privileges. Interestingly, the ranking system implemented in school applies to the whole city’s hierarchy both in terms of social status for the whole family and its geographical location in the city’s landscape. Additionally, the city’s geographical configuration evokes indirectly Bentham’s Panopticon as discussed by Michel Foucault. Similar to the Panopticon, the Honnōji Academy sits at the centre of the circular city and overlooks the whole structure, and has the ability to communicate with all corners (see Image 2). The city’s population is also constantly observed and forcibly managed, operated by a system which encourages all citizens to self-regulate their own behaviors in order to avoid being noticed and punished for unruly conduct, or contrastingly to be rewarded for their loyalty and commitment toward their ruler. As explained by Foucault, by positioning itself as the authority in charge of the protection of the collective against the individual, the state—that is, Honnōji Academy in the context of Kill la Kill—expands its procedures of control, constraint and coercion through the dissemination of disciplinary techniques in an attempt to manage the behaviors of the individual in their minute details (Foucault 67). This is only possible through the implementation of a strict spatial surveillance layout from which the individual is forbidden to exit, and furthermore sustained by a permanent registration system. Foucault notes that this space is closed, guarded and watched in its entirety; all movements are controlled and each individual is constantly detected and examined (Foucault 197-99).
In Kill la Kill, the main antagonist and student president Kiryūin Satsuki presides at the very top of the pyramid, followed by the students’ council (Rank 3), various activity clubs leaders (Rank 2), members of these clubs (Rank 1), and finally a mass consisting the rest of the student body (Rank 0). Of these, only students Rank 2 and higher possess a uniform granting them powers which can be used in battle. The protagonist Matoi Ryūko and the main antagonist are the only ones in possession of superior uniforms known as kamui which are made entirely of ‘life fibers,’ a special clothing material allowing the uniform to manifest supernatural powers and possess its very own subjectivity and will (see Image 3 and Image 4).
As a kamui is first and foremost a uniform, it goes without saying that it needs to be worn in order to activate its fighting potential. By absorbing blood from the wearer through the threading of the life fibers directly to the blood vessels, the kamui grants supernatural strength and numerous transformative abilities in battle. These special uniforms have been created specifically for the purpose of granting exceptional strength to the person who is strong enough to wear them. There is therefore already a prerequisite of exceptional abilities and strength in order to be able to wear the uniform; otherwise, the uniform will kill its host. It is revealed early on that Ryūko’s kamui was actually created by her father, who seems to have been a typical ‘mad scientist’ dedicated to inventing the ultimate uniform. Ryūko also learns that she needs to forge a powerful bond with her uniform, which she names Senketsu, by accepting ‘him’ fully in order to gain access to its full potential. It can therefore communicate with the wearer at any given time. The uniform can also evolve and acquire new forms and abilities through acquiring more experience in battle. This becomes especially apparent when Ryūko faces the Elite Four in a king-of-the-hill tournament during which Senketsu adapts and evolves accordingly multiple times to provide the best chances of victory. In its ‘dormant’ state, the uniform takes the appearance of a normal school uniform, with the exception of a distinguishable face on the chest area. When transformed into battle mode, the uniform not only gives the wearer incredible strength, but also physically transforms its appearance into that of a very sexually explicit and revealing outfit. This enhanced appearance is loaded with erotic meanings as it reveals all but the most intimate parts of the body, barely covering the breasts and genitalia of the wearer. As Ryūko is seemingly a tomboy in every way, the revealing outfit undeniably makes her feel uncomfortable and shameful. However, she never hesitates to wear it in order to gain an advantage in battle, especially after fully accepting its nature and fully connecting with Senketsu. In contrast, the main antagonist never even has second thoughts or doubts wearing the outfit and fully assumes its sexually explicit nature.
While Kill la Kill does feature some additional weaponry, such as Ryūko’s scissor blade and Satsuki’s katana, the uniforms are undeniably at the core of each character’s fighting potential. While one could interpret this depiction of the uniforms as simply an increase in power directly related to its increasingly revealing appearance, this reading misses the most fundamental significance of this transformation: accepting one’s body and the “interference” of the technological outfit on said body. As previously mentioned, the uniform links to the body on a physical level through the blood vessels, but it also requires a positive psychological response from the wearer in order to effectively function as a weapon. As such, the uniform as technological weaponry fuses with the mind and body of the wearer in order to activate its full potential. Beyond simple clothing, the uniforms’ transformative nature comes from a combination of technological advancements in the materials such as life fiber used in ‘sewing’ new powerful uniforms and their intended purpose of engaging in destructive combat. The implications of the uniforms and the abilities they impart cannot, however, be understood simply from the perspective of the individual wearers; more than personal uniforms, they are part of societal structure regulating the whole population of the city, thus the importance of situating this intertwined nature of technology and war in the context of a highly hierarchical organization of society and managerial strategy of the state.
VOIDS AND HUMAN WEAPONS
Moving away from external technological components combining to reshape bodies, Guilty Crown (2011) offers an all-new portrayal of human as weapons. The series is set in the near future during which a biological hazard known as the Apocalypse Virus—an event remembered as ‘Lost Christmas’—plunges Japan into a state of chaos. As Japan is incapable of dealing with this outbreak on its own, external military forces play a large part in ensuring control over the threat of the virus. In the face of the extensive presence of external powers taking control of Japan’s domestic affairs and employing coercive military measures in order to maintain a high level of control, a terrorist group called ‘Funeral Parlor’ opposes these forces in an attempt to protect the Japanese population. The main protagonist Ōma Shū quickly becomes involved with ‘Funeral Parlor’ when they steal one of the prototypes of the ‘Void Genome’; but due to unexpected circumstances, Shū accidently gains the mysterious ‘Power of the Kings,’ enabling him to extract the ‘void’ of people he touches, or in other words the ability to extract the weapons of people’s psyche in their physical form. The voids of individuals are encrypted into their genome, and the Power of the King allows the user to read this encrypted genetic code and extract the resulting void. Each person’s void is different from the other and is said to reflect the shape of the heart of the individual. Because of his newfound power, Shū is reluctantly recruited by the anti-government resistance group to work alongside Tsutsugami Gai, the leader of Funeral Parlor, who has the ability to see people’s voids and with whom Shū combines his abilities to extract selectively useful voids for their resistance operations. Voids thus become crucial in their struggle against the oppressive government. The use of voids as weapons can be summarized as a combination of supernatural power, as in the physical manifestation of the spirit in the form of a void, and advanced science and technology in regards to the development of the Void Genome as a technological tool allowing its user to easily decrypt genetic code.
While all kinds of voids that fulfill a variety of different roles are depicted throughout the series, the main and recurring void that leads Shū to victory is main female protagonist Yuzuriha Inori’s. Not only is her void the very first one Shū extracts and uses in combat, it is also quite certainly the most powerful. Inori’s void manifests itself in the shape of a gigantic sword granting the wielder unequalled power (see Image 5). Shū’s ability thus gives physical form to her ‘heart,’ gaining unlimited access to the most powerful weapon at his disposal. While her void is extracted, Inori, as well as anyone else, becomes unconscious and defenseless. The first time Shū extracts her void, she urges him to “use her”; he then plunges his hand into her chest to extract the giant sword and fend off the enemies surrounding them. Very early on, this possession factor is emphasized as she becomes his to use according to his will. The dynamic of the voids also creates a very complex relationship to the body as it materializes the inner spirit or psyche of the individual, that is, what makes them who they are even at the genomic level. In this manner, technology and science play a fundamental role in this relationship between body and spirit while being deployed for waging war. This phenomenon is somewhat similar to Susan Napier’s discussion of Ghost in the Shell’s protagonist Kusanagi, specifically how technology plays a central role in defining the body by giving physicality to the intrinsically immaterial spirit. However, Guilty Crown’s depiction of this relationship goes one step further and explores how the body-spirit relationship can be mediated by its purpose to wage war. Also important is the fact that biologically, every human under the age of seventeen possesses a void; however, this genetic code can only be read through the Power of the Kings that comes from the Void Genome, a mysterious biochemical substance created in laboratory for purposes kept secret by the military authoritie. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that this advanced technology is first and foremost designed and used for the purpose of waging war and monopolizing violence, allowing the state to control and discipline bodies accordingly. For most of the anime, Shū uses his power in battle to fight against GHQ Anti Bodies forces.
While not every individuals’ void can be used in combat, Inori’s void consists of the primary weapon used by Shū. This unequal usefulness of the voids becomes crucial when Shū becomes the ‘king’ of Tennōzu High during the isolation that follows the second Lost Christmas events. These extreme conditions push Shū to implement a ranking system of the student body according to the usefulness and power of each individual’s void, with Shū being at the top because of his Power of the King and Inori by his side as the most powerful void of all. Voids that cannot be used in combat do not fare as well in this hierarchy, but can nevertheless be considered useful for other tasks, similar to how an engineer and a soldier can both contribute differently to a war effort, for example. As such, the management of people based primarily on their void, gives rise to a complex restructuring of the micro-society at Tennōzu High. The psyche in its void form thus becomes a measure for ranking, controlling and managing bodies. While these measures are only temporary as Shū eventually realizes the error of his ways, it does offer a significant example of the extent to which voids can be used to regulate bodies, revealing the undeniable connection between human bodies and their potential to wage war. Through both the constant state’s presence throughout the whole series and Shū’s temporary ‘rule’ at Tennōzu High, Guilty Crown portrays numerous manifestations of power that can be better understood by once again considering Foucault’s analysis of biopower. Increasing surveillance, managing and disciplining bodies, refining punishment: biopower operates in intricate ways throughout society’s mechanisms of power. While this intensification in the management of people’s lives could suggest an infringement of their freedom, Foucault articulates that freedom is actually never anything else than the relation that exists between the ones who govern and the ones who are governed. By understanding freedom as such, it only makes sense that the state engages in a principal of calculation, or security, in order to determine the precise extent to which the interest of the individual constitute a danger for the interest of all (Foucault 63-65). This explains the logic supporting the highly-regulated Japanese society depicted in Guilty Crown and most importantly, the acceptance of the population in being micromanaged. Beyond the intense surveillance and strict management, the technology to command voids allows for an even deeper control over the body and spirit of individuals. Furthermore, by giving physicality to the spirit, voids can become more easily manipulated, regulated, and controlled. It is therefore in these complex ways that science, technology, and war intersect to create human weapons.
Before we conclude our discussion of the relationship between technology and war in creating gendered weapons of war through transformative bodies, one final representation requires attention. Saikano: The Last Love Song on This Little Planet (2000) portrays in its main female protagonist Chise the epitome of the mechanism by which technology and war operate through the body to create the ultimate weapon. The story revolves around Chise’s relationship with protagonist Shūji. One day, she is taken in by the military and brought to an experimental laboratory to create the ultimate weapon. No one knows about Chise’s new weaponized body and role in the war until Shūji stumbles upon Chise in her weaponized state fighting off an enemy attack in the city. After learning that she has become a human weapon, Shūji tries to continue his relationship with Chise, struggling to find a way to live through this new and devastating reality. Chosen to become the ultimate weapon because of the uniquely compatible nature of her genetic code, Chise’s new body consists of the fusion of her organic flesh with mechanical implants. In this way, she physically assumes the shape of a multifunctional weapon, capable of fighting in the war against enemy invaders. Thus, she becomes the best and only hope of humanity to win the war. The power of the state over the procedures in transforming Chise’s body is clearly depicted throughout the series. Similar to Strike Witches, the handling of technology to reshape the human body in order to create weapons remains strictly within the hands of the state. By successfully convincing Chise to cooperate, the state manifests its power to control individual bodies; this process operates through experiments and enhancements of the body, as well as enforced discipline and regulation, ensuring increased efficiency. This is made evident by the constant presence of the military forces around Chise’s house, the monitoring of her movements, and the managing of her daily schedule.
Throughout the series, Chise struggles to determine whether she is still human or if she is being completely consumed by the machine within her as the weapon’s cells within her body gradually chip away at her humanity. As her state as a weapon continuously grows stronger over time, Chise becomes less human and more machine-like in the process. Eventually, the weapon within her reacts automatically to approaching enemies: the closer they come, the harder it is for her to prevent her transformation. Her instincts are considerably enhanced over time, forcing her to automatically transform into a weapon and engaging in combat. The wings coming out of her back grow larger and the weapons she wields, mostly coming out of her arms, also become bigger and progressively more powerful. Chise quickly shows great concern about the physical state of her changing body as she tries to hide her condition from Shūji. However, after seeing the scar on her chest and her loss of control, he becomes fully aware of the dire situation. While both hold on to the hope that Chise can eventually go back to her previous self, it is soon revealed that her body will never be able to go back and will only continue to evolve as the fusion of the body with the mechanical progresses. This weaponization goes beyond the physical, however, and directly affects Chise’s mental state as well. For example, not only does her heart stop beating like a normal human being, her emotions and behaviors also progressively lose their humanity. This human-machine struggle is central to our analysis, as it can only manifest itself because of the ways technology (mechanical implants) and war (as a weapon designed to fight a foreign threat) operate through Chise’s body to achieve the state’s aims. Saikano’s protagonist thus provides a prime example of the intimate relationship between technology and war in reshaping the body through the ultimate fusion of mechanical weaponry and organic flesh for the purpose of creating the most formidable instrument of destruction.
The first appearance of Chise as the ultimate weapon emphasizes the contrasting nature of the young and seemingly-innocent schoolgirl and the violent and powerful machine (see Image 6). This dichotomy is also depicted through the contrasting shy and quiet nature of Chise, and the brutal and violent weapon she becomes. It is further emphasized as Chise is constantly portrayed in her school uniform throughout the series, thus reinforcing the gendered and feminine nature of her weaponized body. Saikano offers not only a significant representation of the fragile female body being experimented upon, but also of a sexualized body, most notably through Chise’s relationship with Shūji and the importance of possessing a ‘normal’ body in order to engage in natural sexual intercourse. These concerns for the body are not only concerns for a human body per se, but most importantly for a functional female human body. By losing her humanity both physically through the progressive transformation of her body into a weaponized machine and psychologically through her loss of distinctive personality and emotions, Chise becomes unable to remain a ‘normal’ teenager and engage in a ‘normal’ relationship with her boyfriend. This changed body and mind are akin to a new entity, as Chise becomes a life-form moving beyond her original self. Physically, her body is progressively transformed in a more efficient and murderous weapon. Psychologically, she not only seems to be moving beyond our human understanding of self, but in doing so also abandons, involuntarily, her identity as the teenage girl named Chise. By simultaneously portraying the transformation of Shūji into a mature teenager who loves Chise no matter her condition and facing numerous challenges beside her, the manga depicts the possibility for the human observer to move beyond the normative body and accept the transformative body and its post-humanistic transgressiveness.
The existing scholarship on the technological body, while contributing significantly to our understanding of its transgressive potential, fails to address appropriately the intricate relationship between technology and war at the core of the creative process of the technological body as seen in numerous anime and manga narratives. Through an exploration of the role of technological advancements in creating complex mechanical weaponry for the purpose of waging war more efficiently and the centrality of this purpose in transforming bodies into instruments of war, it has been demonstrated that technology and war combine in complex ways to reshape bodies. This process not only consists of creating, but also controlling, managing, and disciplining the technological body; understanding this context in terms of the state’s biopower allows us to fully grasp the extent to which state power manifests itself in the handling of technology, waging of war, and reconfiguration of bodies. While said relationship between technology and war greatly varies in composition and intensity, it nevertheless features at the core of the technological body and its numerous representations. While certain anime like Strike Witches and Kill la Kill, among others, keep the divide between the body and the machine intact to a certain degree, this is not the case for Guilty Crown and Saikano. However, the anime and manga demonstrate the centrality of considering the intertwining of technology and war in their depictions of the technological body and the direct involvement of the state in disciplining and managing this body. As the works explored in the present essay represent wider trends in anime and manga, the relationship between technology and war should be more closely examined in order to further our understanding of the complexity of the technological body.
In conclusion, while it has been argued that an analysis of the relationship between technology and war is essential to appreciate depictions of the technological body in anime and manga, it could also be determined that other elements play an active role in shaping bodies in various ways. For example, the connection of the technological and the fantastical or supernatural with war, or the role of the state in controlling and disciplining transformative bodies and its implications in rethinking gender, could be explored further. Additionally, one could investigate the meaning behind the overabundance of female characters in these narratives: is it simply a matter of reflecting the vulnerability of the body as suggested by Napier? Moreover, how do different types of conflict also contribute to shaping the technological body? By identifying the necessity of addressing new representations of the body, this essay seeks to open the dialogue for new interpretations of gender in anime and manga. As such, the argument presented should not be understood as the end of this analytical process, but rather as the beginning.
University of Toronto
- For the purpose of the suggested analysis, Michel Foucault’s elaboration of biopower was deemed the most productive. The intent is not to dismiss other contributions to the concept, but a statement of the enduring relevance of Foucault’s analysis in exploration the involvement of the state in managing bodies. For example, while Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s emphasis on global relations and biopolitical production of subjectivity, and Giorgio Agamben’s investigation of ‘bare life’ greatly contribute in expanding the understanding of biopower conceptually, Foucault’s original notion of biopower shall prove more appropriate in addressing directly fundamental concerns at the core of the anime and manga animating this discussion. As is demonstrated through these works, the overall connections to capitalist production and their global implications do not form a significant aspect requiring the kind of theorization advanced by Hardt and Negri’s notion of biopower, although it could potentially be beneficial in exploring different anime and manga. Similarly, these anime and manga deal with more traditional forms of body management and discipline, rather than the state of exception and bare life explored in Agamben’s work. As such, Michel Foucault’s original notion of biopower has been chosen to appropriately address the central issues of state-control over the technological body in the selected anime and manga.
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Guilty Crown (ギルティクラウン). Dir. Araki Tetsurō. Production I.G, 2011-2012. Television.
Kill la Kill (キルラキル). Dir. Imaishi Hiroyuki. Trigger, 2013-2014. Television.
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Strike Witches (ストライクウィッチーズ). Dir. Takamura Kazuhiro. Gonzo, 2008. Television.
Takahashi, Shin. Saikano: The Last Love Song on This Little Planet (最終兵器彼女). Shogakukan, 2000-2001. Print.