Manga/Anime Memorandum

random thoughts on manga and anime

Tips for The Boy and the Heron

This post includes a lot of spoilers for The Boy and The Heron. If you have not watched the film, I don't recommend reading it.



Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, "The Boy and the Heron," has far more ambiguous parts than his other films had. The studio and the producer have not reveal detailed information about the film. However, the context of the film is hidden in some old interviews and essays. In this post, I check those materials and try explaining why Miyazaki made the film in that way. I am unsure if it will lead to a better understanding of the film, but I think it can show some interesting sides of Hayao Miyazaki.



1. The Fire and the Wind

In the introduction, Mahito's biological mother Hisako dies in a fire. Many people assumed it is a bombing on Tokyo, but others say it is not. They say it is not the Tokyo Air Raid because Mahito's father mentions the battle of Saipan in a later scene, one year after the fire. It is hard to imagine Hayao Miyazaki forgetting the fact that the air raid started after the fall of Saipan. (Some memo from the storyboards show that Miyazaki was totally aware of the war timeline, so I'm certain that the fire is unrelated to the war on the in-universe level.)
Thus, it is probably just an ordinary fire disaster even though it looks like an air raid. Why does Miyazaki show such an image in the introduction?
I think his reading experience gives us a hint about it:

Miyazaki has said that his favorite author is Yoshie Hotta. He once wrote, "When I am asked what has influenced my films the most, Yoshie Hotta always comes to my mind." He also listed Hotta's "Hojoki Shiki" as his favorite text.
Hojoki Shiki is an analysis of a famous medieval essay collection called Hojoki. Hotta focuses on depictions of a medieval fire disaster and compares it with his air raid experience in that book.
Hotta says that the air raid and the coming catastrophe gave him a weird excitement during the Pacific War. Everything would be destroyed. Everything would be over. That expectation was a sort of promised liberation to Hotta.
He found similar sentiment in a sentence from Hojoki:
"The old capital was already ruined, while the new capital was not yet established."
Good old things were gone, but the new era is yet to come. Hotta found such a suspended feeling in Hojoki. He thought the depictions of the medieval anarchy could explain his sentiment toward the Pacific War.
That context can explain why Miyazaki uses the fire image in the introduction. (Miyazaki has already used the fire image from this book in Howl's Moving Castle.) Through the ambiguous disaster, he shows us an archetype of catastrophe. It includes climate changes, wars, political corruption, etc. That fire is our past, present, and future. 
In a review of children's literature, Miyazaki wrote this:


The wheel of history began to turn. The curtain of the survival era has rolled up. The catastrophe is coming not only in Japan but all over the world. We reached the first phase of the mass consumption society's end. We have to live in such a world without losing our sanity. I wrote 'The wind began to blow' before. It is not refreshing wind. It is rough and terrifying. It includes death and poison. It destroys our lives.


Hotta experienced the wind of death in the Pacific War. The medieval people experienced it in a chaotic society. We are now entering the same phase, Miyazaki thinks. He shows us such an image in the introduction.
By the way, I think "Wind began to blow" is probably a reference to Soseki Natsume's novel "Nowaki." Miyazaki often uses that phrase these days. This paragraph from Nowaki explains his sentiment well:

"Society is a battleground. Civilized society is a bloodless battleground. Our patriots of forty years ago accomplished the great work of the Meiji Restoration, risking death. The risks you must brave may prove greater than theirs. The bloodless battleground is more deadful, more tragic than battleground of thunderous guns and glitting bayonets. You must be prepared for that. You must be better prepared than those partiots in the Imperial cause. You must be prepared for certain death. Those who think their society is a peacceful society, who expect success without struggle, are far more morally impoverished than those who fall down to die on their way to realizing their ideals.

While marching on your way, you will have to drive off those who put up obstacles in the way. While fighting with them, you will experience greater pains and hardships in your inner life than those that the patriots suffered. Today the wind blows hard, as it did yesterday. We are having unsettled weather these days. But it is nothing compared to the moral uncertanty you may have ahead of you!"


Soseki Natsume is a novelist of the 20th century. He is regarded as one of the most significant authors in Japanese history. From Meiji to Taisho period, when Soseki was alive, Japanese people experienced inner conflicts between modernity and vernacularity, individualism and society, or inner-self and self-existence. They say Soseki's literature thematized such a dilemma. That theme is important when we analyze this film and Hayao Miyazaki's late career.



2. The Woman on Fire

In the introduction, Mahito sees Hisako's image on fire. That image has some possible inspiration sources.


2-1. Izanami

There is a famous Japanese myth chronicle called Kojiki. In a chapter of childbirth, Izanami, a motherly deity of Japan, got burnt to death after giving birth to a fire deity called Kagu-tsuchi. I suppose it is one of the inspiration sources for Hisako's death.

It has some links to other parts of the film. When Kagu-tsuchi was slain by Izanami's husband, Kagu-tsuchi's blood touched rocks. Those blood and rocks gave birth to some other deities. It is said that those newborn deities represent swords and lightning. That is an allegory of flint stones, fire, and smithery. It reminds us that "stones" in the film have the power of lightning. Plus, Mahito bleeds when he hurts his head with a stone. Those scenes represent the mythical connections between fire, stones, blood, and lightning. It is also linked to wars.


It reminds us that Hayao Miyazaki already depicted the sin of fire in Princess Mononoke. He got interested in smithy in his childhood. He liked watching local blacksmiths. Later, when he had a job interview at Toei Animation, he showed his sketch of a blacksmith. In The Great Adventure of Horus, he utilized that image. He depicted smithy in Future Boy Conan as well. It is one of his earliest signature visuals.


2-2. The Phantom Shield

It seems to me that the film has some references to Soseki Natsume. I looked up familiar scenes in Soseki's novels and found one in an early short called The Phantom Shield.

The Phantom Shield is a lesser-known side of Soseki's works. It is a princess-and-knight romance set in the era of King Arthur's tales. The protagonist is a knight. He has to join an attack on a castle in which his lover lives. He tries to save her, but that attempt fails. In the climax battle, he finds her on fire and loses himself.


There is no English version available, so let me translate that part myself:

The scorched high tower had been leaning with flames against the wind for some time, but when the time came, it collapsed, leaving two-thirds of its structure on the rock, as if it were falling into an abyss.
When the surrounding flames burned the ground and the sky in an instant, William found a woman standing on a fence, her fiery hair shaking in the wind.
"Clara!" William shouted, and the woman disappeared. Two burned-out horses came flying through the air.


I suppose that paragraph indirectly influenced the scene. The depictions of mothers include not only mother-and-son relationships but also a romantic undertone. (Miyazaki's memo for the film staff clearly says that he's gonna thematize Oedipus complex. It seems thatMahito's romantic feeling toward Natsuko was intended from the beginning.)



3. Soseki's Images and Stories Like Haiku

Hayao Miyazaki has said that he loves Soseki Natsume's novels, especially Kusamakura/ The Three-Cornered World. It made me think that a scene from the film looks a bit similar to a hotel passageway scene from the novel:


She had tied the red obi which was around her waist with a simplicity which suggested a young girl's indifference as to whether or not it enhanced her charms. Carrying an old-fashioned taper in her hand, she had led me to the bathhouse now this way now that, around bend after bend along what appeared to be passageway, and down flights of stairs. In front of me all the time were the same red obi and that same taper, and it seemed as though we were going along the same passage and down the same staircase again and again. Already I had the feeling of being a painted figure moving about on a canvas.

That paragraph is based on an in-real-life mansion called "Maeda's Villa." Hayao Miyazaki once visited Maeda's Villa with Ghibli's staff members. Mahito's house is not necessarily similar to Maeda's Villa, but I think Soseki's text inspired him. (Miyazaki himself said that he used to live in a local villa during WW2 just like Mahito did, but he also said that his villa was not as big as Mahito's. I tried to find a similar mansion or villa in Japan, but I couldn't. Old Mitsui Family Shimogamo Villa looks a bit similar, but I'm not sure.)
Maybe some people think it is not a good idea to compare this film with The Three-Cornered World, but there is a reason for it. The Three-Cornered World is called "a novel like haiku poems." That poetic aspect is very interesting when we analyze the film. The "novel like haiku" has a double meaning:
1st, in The Three-Cornered World, Soseki developed some scenes based on his own haiku. When Miyazaki had a talk session with journalist Kazutoshi Hando, he heard about those self-references:


Hando: I think The Three-Cornered World is a masterpiece.


Miyazaki: I agree. It is a great novel.


Hando: I often talk about this when I drink. When Soseki wrote that novel, he brought out the haiku poems he made in his youthful days. He read them and thought, "Yeah, let's use these haiku." He depicted the visions from them. For example, after quoting Tao Yuanming's poem,

"Beneath the Eastern hedge I choose a chrysanthemum. And my gaze wanders slowly to the Southern hills."

he wrote a weird phrase:

"There is no girl next door peeping over the fence, nor is there a dear friend living far away across the hills."

I didn't get why he suddenly mentioned a peeping girl. When I checked his haiku collection, I found this terrible haiku:

"Warbler, tell me why the girl next door peeps."

I was like, "I see. He used this haiku." That is why he called it "a novel like haiku." The plot of the novel is not important. You can start reading from whatever part you want.


Miyazaki: When I read it for the first time, I didn't get why the painting artist character only makes haiku. (Laughs) Anyway, I love that novel.


The Boy and the Heron includes a lot of self-references to Miyazaki's films and manga. I personally believe that it is his way of "films like haiku."


2nd, as Hando said in the talk session, "a novel like haiku" also means a novel without a solid plot. Soseki himself explained it in a speech:


"What is novel? Does it have any definition? There are various types of novels. Novels about some hard truths of the society. Novels about philosophies. Novels about some harmful effects of modernity. Or novels about dreamy visions without any plot. There are more types, but I cannot say that those novels are based on beauty. I feel they are indifferent to their dirtiness and unpleasure."
"I intended the opposite in The Three-Cornered World. I just expected that a sense of beauty would remain in readers' minds. I didn't have any other purpose. That is why the novel doesn't have any plot or development."


We cannot say that The Boy and the Heron has no plot or development. However, we also notice that the connections between scenes and scenes are very loose. We don't firmly understand what Mahito solves and obtains in each scene. I suppose Miyazaki's purpose is in vague impressions and beautifulness rather than logical interpretations of the plot.



4. Ghost Tower

If you are a hardcore Miyazaki fan, you immediately notice that the Granduncle's tower is a reference to Ranpo Edogawa's "Ghost Tower."

Ranpo's Ghost Tower is a novel written in 1937, but it is also an adaptation of Alice Muriel Williamson's "A Woman in Gray." Ruiko Kuroiwa adapted Williamson's novel in 1899, and Ranpo remade it in 1937.


Hayao Miyazaki read the Ranpo version in his childhood and loved it so much. When we look back at his career, we can see its influences on his works. Especially The Castle of Cagliostro includes many references.

In The Boy and the Heron, when one of the maids explains the tower's history, she says that Granduncle disappeared in it. That story is probably a homage to Ghost Tower's plot.
We should also consider that Ghost Tower is an adaptation of the Western novel. The architecture of the ghost tower is Western-style as well. It reminds us that Ganduncle's face doesn't look like Japanese at all. Maybe those characteristics show Miyazaki's or Japanese people's ironical attitude toward imported culture. "Animation" is one of those imported things. It was common for wealthy Japanese families to build Westernized annexes in their lands, but maybe the contrast between the main house and the Westernized tower also represents Miyazaki's attitude. That is also what Soseki Natsume faced in the Meiji era.



5. How Do You Live?

Before Mahito enters the tower, Miyazaki inserts a scene where Mahito finds a book gift from Hisako. He reads that book and suddenly changes his attitude toward Natsuko, his stepmother. Miyazaki doesn't explain what kind of book it is. I suppose many audiences get confused.
How Do You Live? is a children's literature released in 1937, the WW2 era. It was a part of a children's book collection. Genzaburo Yoshino, the author of the book, was a Marxist. Before writing the book, he was arrested due to his political activities and lost his job. When he suffered from poverty, his friend novelist Yuzo Yamamoto hired him as the editor of the children's book collection. After the war ended, Yoshino explained the situation:


It was a time of terrible backlash. Freedom of speech and publication was rapidly being curtailed, almost on a daily basis. Even liberalist authors like Yamamoto-san got complaints about his Asahi Shimbun serialization from the MP. Deletions and bans of publications became commonplace. Only anti-communist and nationalistic speech was rampant. Yamamoto-san’s child was in junior high school in those days. He realized that there was no appropriate book for junior high school-aged kids. That is why he came up with the children's book collection. He was also deeply concerned about leaving children in the midst of fascism and thought that we could still convey the truth to them. Even though the government curtailed freedom of expression to the extreme, we could still tell the truth to children. That is his theme for "Nihon Shokumin Bunko."


Considering that context and Miyazaki's comments on the "wind," we can clearly understand why he quoted the book.
How Do You Live? is a story of a teenager called Copper. One day, his uncle gives him a notebook with his comments. Copper sometimes writes his thoughts in the notebook, and his uncle replies. Through the communication in the notebook, Copper learns ethics and social science from his uncle.
In one chapter, Copper and his classmates face school violence by upper-class students. They promise that they will stand together against the students. However, Copper breaks the promise. When one of his friends is suffering from violence, he gets scared and runs away. He is ashamed of his cowardness and skips school. He does not want to hear, "You are not my friend anymore." from his friends. Then, his uncle tells an important thing to him:


"I understand the feeling you expressed, that you want to mend your relationship with Kitami and the others. But you must understand, Copper, that you can't think of that right now. What you must do now, before anything else, is first to apologize to Kitami like a man. To convey to your friends how deeply sorry you are feeling and to do it honestly, without excuse. What happens after that is not for you to think about now."

"You must not repeat this mistake again. Gather your courage, Copper, and do what you must do. No matter what you do, you can't change the past. Think of the present instead. Go and do what you have to do now, and be brave. When it comes to this sort of thing — Copper, when it comes to this sort of thing, you simply must not give in."

Copper writes an apology to his friend. Then, his friends gather at Copper's house and say they don't mind it. It is the climax of the story. Mahito is reading that part when he cries.
That is probably the reason why he suddenly changes his attitude. He has acted insincerely to his stepmother. He does not say anything, but he is aware of his cowardness. The message of "How Do You Live?" changes him.



6. The Gate of Hell

When Mahito enters Granduncle's tower, he sees the words "fecemi la divina podestate" engraved on the arch. Needless to say, it is the famous warning of the gate of hell from The Divine Comedy. It looks like the rest of the warning is engraved on other arches.
Since we know that it is Mahito's journey to another world/ afterlife, it feels like we don't need any explanation. However, I personally think it has a bit deeper meaning.

Let's talk about Soseki Natsume again. Soseki wrote a short called "The Tower of London" in 1905, a very early career. It is a fantasy based on his experience of studying in London.

The protagonist visits the Tower of London. In the tower, he sees a woman and her little son talking about the Dudley Carving. Then, he experiences a delusion of Lady Jane Gray's execution. That Jane Gray's face looks like the woman he saw in the tower. When she gets decapitated, he snaps out of the delusion.
That is the story of The Tower of London. When the protagonist enters the tower, this paragraph appears:


After a while I begin to suspect that a long arm will come out from the opposite bank and pull me in. Having stood until now completely motionless, I suddenly start to want to cross the river and go towards the Tower. The long arm pulls me more and more strongly. I instantly move my feet and start crossing Tower Bridge. The long arm pulls and pulls. After crossing Tower Bridge I rush at full speed up to Tower Gate. A great magnet of the past, in excess of one hundred and twenty thousand square yards, has completely absorbed this small speck of iron floating in the present age. When I enter through the gate and look back:

Through me you pass into the city of Woe:

Through me you pass into eternal pain:

Through me among the people lost for aye.

Justice the founder of fabric moved:

To rear me was the task of Power divine,

Supremest Wisdom, and primeval Love.

Before me things create were none, save things

Eternal, and eternal I endure.

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

I wonder whether these lines are not inscribed somewhere. I have already lost a sense of normality.


Rather than the gate of hell itself, we need to focus on the tower and the delusion of Lady Jane Gray. I guess Hayao Miyazaki was inspired by the double image of Jane Gray and the strange mother when he wrote the story of Hisako and Natsuko.



7. The Melting Woman and Yamato Takeru

In the tower, Mahito sees an imitation of Hisako made by Heron. When he touches the imitation, it melts and turns into water. That visual has a possible inspiration source. That is Ototachibana from Ankoku Shinwa:

Ankoku Shinwa is a dark fantasy/ sci-fi manga made by Daijiro Morohoshi in 1976. If you are a Miyazaki fan, you probably have heard that name. Morohoshi is not a mainstream artist, but he has been known as one of the greatest manga artists to manga fans. Miyazaki even said that Daijiro Morohoshi reached the peak of manga expression. Morohoshi inspried Hayao Miyazaki too. For example, he released a manga called "Shitsurakuen" (Paradise Lost) in the '70s. It is said that Nausicaa's world is under the influence of that manga.
The melting woman from Ankoku Shinwa is called Ototachibana. Ototachibana is a character from Japanese legendary chronicles. She is the wife of Yamato Takeru, a legendary prince. In the manga, she lives until the modern era in a "stone" shell, a sort of suspended animation device. When she wakes up from the suspended animation and sees the protagonist, she calls him "Yamato Takeru" and dies. The protagonist learns that he is a reincarnation of Yamato Takeru.
There are many links between Mahito and Yamato Takeru.
For example, during the conquest of an east region, Yamato Takeru was attacked with fire. However, he got flint stones and counterattacked the enemies with fire.

When his ship suffered from a deity's wave on the sea, Ototachibana calmed the waves by throwing herself into the sea. Yamato Takeru mourned over her death and made this poem:

"You who inquired after my safety when we stood amidst of the burning field of Ono, Sagamu, with mountains rising high above."

A local legend say that he fought against an evil fish. When the fish vomited, Yamato Takeru suffered from its poison. He got cured when he drank "holy water."

That legendary evil fish once appeared in an anime. It is Toei Animation's "The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon." In that film, the protagonist fights against a fish called Akuru. Later, Toei used a similar idea in The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun. It was also inherited by Future Boy Conan. Today, the giant fish is a traditional motif of boys' adventure stories in manga and anime.

When Yamato Takeru died, he transformed into a "white heron" and flew away to his homeland. Some legends say he built tombs in that way.

Therefore, I think Mahito is deeply linked to Yamato Takeru's myth. It is interesting and surprising that Hayao Miyazaki utilized the motif of the Japanese imperial conqueror in his late career. Of course, we can assume it is an antithesis. It emphasize Mahito's final decision. I suppose it is the reason why Granduncle's "bloodline" is mentioned. Mahito says he will make "friends" at the end. I suppose "friends" is an antonym for "subjects" in this context.



8. Federico Fellini and Metafiction

When Mahito arrives at the tower world, a shot like Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 appears. It makes us think that The Boy and the Heron is Miyazaki's self-commentary on his life.
Miyazaki is not a cinephille. He seldom watches films. He tried to understand art house films only in his youthful days. Toshio Suzuki said on his radio show that he made Miyazaki watch Fellini's film:


Suzuki: I recently experienced a funny thing. I had an opportunity to show Fellini's films to him (Hayao Miyazaki.) After finishing them, everyone was surprised. There were some other people in that place. They were surprised because he watched through all those films without a blink. Then, he said, "Who is this? He thinks the same as I do."
- Which Fellini films did he watch?
Suzuki: He watched three films. He enjoyed them a lot. It was hard to guess what kind of film could entertain him. I thought Fellini would be the best choice from the beginning. The problem was which Fellini film I should pick.
- And in what order he watch them?
Suzuki: That's right. After all, I picked Fellini's latest film first. Then, I went back to 8 1/2. For the finale, I chose Juliet of the Spirits. That film is totally the same as his current situation, and he really enjoyed it. I was like, "Hooray!" If he didn't like it, that would mean I lost to him. Actually, he had not watched a film for almost 30 years. It was hard to choose movies for such a person.


From that conversation, we can guess that maybe Miyazaki was really inspired by 8 1/2. Then, it means that the characters of The Boy and the Heron can represent his real acquaintances. I don't pursue which character represents which person in this post, but it is one of the interesting topics of the film.



9. The Gate and the Plaque

Before Mahito meets young Kiriko, he passes through a golden gate and visits a tomb. At that time, he sees this phrase on the entablature:

"Those Who Learn From Me Shall Die."


That phrase has a specific inspiration source. It is Fusao Hayashi's "Yottsu no Moji (The Four Letters.)"

The Four Letters is a novel written from the perspective of a Japanese traveler. The story is set in Nanjing of the Wang Jingwei regime. The protagonist visits Nanjing and meets an old, intelligent politician from Wang Jingwei government. That man says he has killed hundreds of Chinese people. In other words, he is a "hanjian." He shows incredible intelligence, knowledge, and cultural sophistication, but also has a nihilistic mindset. At the end of their conversation, he shows a plaque on his house. That plaque says, "Those Who Learn From Me Shall Die" (学我者死.) Then, he laughs in a very loud voice. He knows that the situation will end soon and that he will be killed. He is enjoying such a life. The protagonist understands his cold nihilism and gets scared. After the end of the war, the protagonist learns that the man killed himself.

The phrase is based on Qi Baishi's aphorism, "Those who study from me will live and those who imitate me will die." (学我者生,像我者死) Some people say it is Miyazaki's message about his imitators, but I don't think so. Such a message does not feel like Miyazaki. Plus, it does not fit the rest of the film. Instead, I would like to analyze the "nihilistic" part.


Miyazaki has mentioned the pros and cons of nihilism in various places. In a review of children's literature, he said,

Our theme is to overcome cheap nihilism in our hearts. There are various types of nihilism. Deep nihilism comes from questions about the origin of our lives, but cheap nihilism is just an excuse for laziness.
We have said, "Life is worth living," in our films. We have sometimes made detours to movies for middle-aged people, but such an attitude for children will become more significant in the future...


"We shouldn't talk about despair to children." When we consider our kids, we have to think that way. Even if we usually say nihilistic and decadent things, when we face our children in front of us, we strongly feel, "We don't want to say that these kids were born in vain."


He also said this when he talked about Toei labor union in an interview:

I hate cheap nihilism, but I think extreme nihilism is not a bad thing. I stopped hating Japan when I read Yoshie Hotta's "Hiroba no Kodoku." I hate this country, but I have to live here anyway. I found his books at critical moments of my life. One day, he flew to Spain like, "I don't care about Japan anymore. No matter where I live, I am still Japanese. I don't need to live here to be Japanese." I was shocked by a book he wrote in Spain. He said, "Nations will disappear" in that book. It was so refreshing and eye-opening. However, we are also aware what happens in such an anarchy. People in other areas understood it a long time ago, but Japanese people developed a naive mindset through post-WW2 growth. We are gradually changing it a little bit.


In that sense, the nihilistic phrase on the gate is a foreshadowing. At the end of the film, Ganduncle says that the reality is a world of destruction. Mahito still chooses that unpleasant world. Maybe it also represents Miyazaki's ironical attitude toward his Japanese origin. Miyazaki chooses what he should choose rather than some other "rightful" things. It reminds me of Nausicaa's final decision in the manga version. In the climax, Nausicaa says that Ohmu's love came from nothingness/ nihilism.



10. Mahito's Name

When Kiriko hears Mahito's name, she says it means "true man." She also says that it suits Mahito's death smell. It is difficult to understand that line. Mahito is "眞人." It can be broken into 眞/ true and 人/ man, but why does it suit the death smell?

I suppose it is a reference to The Divine Comedy, but it doesn't work in non-Japanese languages.

In Canto 1 of The Divine Comedy, when Dante meets Virgil, this paragraph appears:


While to the lower space with backward step

I fell, my ken discern’d the form one of one,

Whose voice seem’d faint through long disuse of speech.

When him in that great desert I espied,

“Have mercy on me!” cried I out aloud,

“Spirit! or living man! what e’er thou be!”


In a 1910s classical Japanese translation, that paragraph was written as this:








In that old JP translation, "omo certo"/ living man was translated as "眞の人"/ true man. That is why I think Mahito is a reference to The Divine Comedy. It is a bit hard to catch the reference because "omo certo" is not translated as "眞の人" in other JP translations.


We can also think that it is a reference to Chalcedonian Definition:

Following, then, the holy Fathers, we all unanimously teach that our Lord Jesus Christ is to us One and the same Son, the Self-same Perfect in Godhead, the Self-same Perfect in Manhood; truly God and truly Man...

In that case, Mahito represents Jesus, but I think it is a bit too far-fetched.


The true/ living man smells like death. That is an ironic way of thinking. While wara-wara spirits are dead and going to be reborn, Mahito is alive and going to die. Mahito smells like death because he is alive. I guess it was inspired by Le Guin's The Farthest Shore. Miyazaki has already used an idea from that novel in the manga version of Nausicaa. The Farthest Shore is referenced again at the end of the film. When Mahito meets the Granduncle, he finds a stone on a hill and picks it. It is obviously a reference to the Stone of Pain from The Farthest Shore. 



11. The World of Art: Soseki, Shigeru Mizuki, Daijiro Morohoshi, or Paul Grimault

Miyazaki has sometimes used pre-existing painting art in his films: Monet in The Wind Rises or Millais and Waterhouse in Ponyo. However, this film has much, much more references than other films had. Tetsuya Matsushita, an art historian, analyzed those references in his stream. In this post, however, I don't pursue the details of those references and interpretations.

Those references made me wonder why Miyazaki did it so often, particularly in this film.
It seems that the art references are limited to the tower world. They don't appear in the real world. When I realized that fact, I thought maybe it was another reference to Soseki Natsume's novel.
We need to check The Three-Cornered World again. In chapter 6 of The Three-Cornered World, Soseki wrote,

I seem to remember that Lessing argued that poetry can only be concerned with those events which are relevant to the passage of time, and thus established the fundamental principle that poetry and painting are two entirely different arts. Looked at in this light, it did not seem that poetry was suited to the mood which I had been so anxiously trying to express. Perhaps time was a contributory factor to the happiness which reached right down to the innermost depths of my soul. There was, however, no element in my present condition which had to follow the course of time and develop successively from one stage to another. My happiness was not due to the fact that one event arrived as another left, and was in turn followed by a third whose eventual departure heralded the birth of number four. It was derived from the atmosphere which pervaded my surroundings: an atmosphere of unvarying intensity which had remained with me there in that one place from the very beginning. It is those words ‘remained in that one place’ that are important, for they mean that even if I should try to translate this atmosphere into the common medium of language, there would be no necessity for the materials which had gone into creating it to be placed in any chronological order. All that would be necessary surely is that they be arranged specially as are the components of a picture. The problem was what features of my surroundings and what feelings should I use to represent this vast and vague state. I knew, however, that once having selected these, they would make admirable poetry—in spite of Lessing’s contentions.


In that paragraph, the protagonist says that Lessing distinguished painting from poetry. And he says that he can combine those two different art forms. The key word is "time." The world of painting is, according to Lessing, a timeless world. Granuncle's tower exists across space and time. Maybe the tower world is the world of painting, and the real world is the world of poetry.


In another novel called "Sanshiro," Soseki depicted the same concept in a different way:

“I had an interesting dream while I was napping. I suddenly met a girl I’d seen only once before in my life. This may sound like something from a novel, but it will be more fun than talking about newspaper articles.”

“Yes. What kind of girl?”

“A pretty little thing, maybe twelve or thirteen. She had a mole on her face.”

Sanshirō was a bit disappointed when he heard her age.

“When did you first see her?”

“Twenty years ago.”

This, too, came as a surprise.

“It’s amazing you knew who she was.”

“This was a dream. You know these things in dreams. And because it was a dream, it didn’t matter that it was mysterious. I was walking through a big forest, I guess, wearing that faded summer suit of mine and that old hat. Ah, I remember—some complicated thoughts were going through my head. The laws of the universe are all unchanging, but all things in the universe governed by the laws inevitably change. Thus, the laws must exist independently of the things. Now that I’m awake, it sounds pretty silly, but in my dream I was walking along in the forest, thinking seriously about this kind of thing, when I suddenly met her. We didn’t walk up to each other; she was standing there, up ahead, very still. She had the same face as before, the same clothing, the same hairdo, and of course the mole. She was still twelve or thirteen, exactly as I had seen her twenty years before. ‘You haven’t changed at all,’ I said to her, and she said, ‘You’re so much older than you were!’ Then I asked her, ‘Why haven’t you changed?’ and she said, ‘Because the year I had this face, the month I wore these clothes, and the day I had my hair like this is my favorite time of all.’ ‘What time is that?’ I asked her. ‘The day we met twenty years ago,’ she said. I wondered to myself, ‘Then why have I aged like this?’ and she told me, ‘Because you wanted to go on changing, moving toward something more and more beautiful.’ Then I said to her, ‘You are a painting,’ and she said, ‘You are a poem.’ ”


I could not but think that Himi is a reference to that dream girl from Sanshiro. Himi/ Hisako appears in her young form. The Tower's world is full of painting art. Maybe those two different things came from the same idea.


However, whimsical world-building with painting art references is not an uncommon idea. For example, Kentaro Miura did it in a late episode of Berserk.

The most iconic, somewhat infamous, example is the manga artist Shigeru Mizuki. Mizuki mimicked a lot of art in his manga. Surrealist art is one of them. The paintings' mysterious atmosphere perfectly fit Mizuki's horror manga style.

The fine art references in The Boy and the Heron are not so different from what Mizuki did in his manga. They are pastiche.

Daijiro Morohoshi did the same thing in Paradise Lost, one of the inspiration sources for Hayao Miyazaki. Maybe the film's The Divine Comedy references were inspired by the manga as well.


Plus, the idea of the painting world reminds me of Paul Grimault's "The King and the Mockingbird." In that animated film, a shepherdess and a chimney sweep get out of paintings and run away from a painting of a king.

As fans already know, Miyazaki has been heavily influenced by The King and the Mockingbird, especially in The Castle of Cagliostro and Future Boy Conan.



12. The World of Children's Literature

As I mentioned earlier, Miyazaki once wrote a review of children's literature. He joined a children's literature club in his university days. He has met and communicated with some children's literature authors in his career. The Boy and the Heron includes some references as well:

When an old pelican dies, he tells the depressing history of his clan. It looks like a references to Princess Mononoke, but it is also a reference to Kenji Miyazawa's "The Nighthawk Star":


“Oh dear,” he said to himself, “here I am every night, killing beetles and all kinds of different insects. But now I’m going to be killed by Hawk, and there’s only one of me. It’s no wonder I feel so miserable. I think I’ll stop eating insects and starve to death. But then, I expect Hawk will kill me before that happens. No—I’ll go away, far, far away, before he can get me.”...


The nighthawk climbed straight up and up, ever farther up. Now the flames of the forest fire below were no bigger than a burning cigarette end, yet still he climbed. His breath froze white on his breast with the cold, and the air grew thinner, so that he had to move his wings more and more frantically to keep going...


A while later, the nighthawk opened his eyes and saw, quite clearly, that his own body was glowing gently with a beautiful blue light like burning phosphorous. Next to him was Cassiopeia. The bluish white light of the Milky Way lay just at his back. And the nighthawk star went on burning. It burned forever and forever. It is still burning to this day.


The film has another possible reference to Miyazawa's text. When Mahito visits a smithery, parakeets welcome him. However, it turns out that they actually want to eat him. That scene reminds me of Miyazawa's "The Restaurant of Many Orders.":


They stepped into the entrance hall, which was very splendid, being done all over in white tiles. There was a glass door, with something written on it in gold letters.


They were tickled pink. “Just look at that!” said one of them. “Things always turn out right in the end. Everything’s been going wrong all day, but look how lucky we are now. They’re telling us not to worry about the bill!"...


The two young gentlemen were so distressed that their faces went all crumpled like pieces of wastepaper. They peered at each other and shook and shivered and silently wept. There were chuckles on the other side of the door, then a voice shouted again,

“This way, this way! If you cry like that, you know, you’ll wash off all the cream you put on specially. (Yes, sir, coming, sir. We’ll be bringing it in just a moment, sir.) Come on, we haven’t got all day!”

“Yes, hurry up! The boss has his napkin tucked in and his knife in his hand and he’s licking his lips, just waiting for you.”

But the two young gentlemen just wept and wept and wept and wept.


The film also has references to foreign children's literature.

The parakeets' weapons/ tableware were probably inspired by Vladimir Suteev's illustrations from a Russian version of Gianni Rodari's "The Adventures of Cipollino." Miyazaki says that his art style is under the influence of those illustrations.


Plus, it looks like Miyazaki was inspired by H.J. Ford's illustrations from Lang's Fairy Books. Miyazaki says he suffered from technical gaps between H.J. Ford and the animators in his Toei era.

The stories look similar to some parts of the film as well. I suppose "The Goblin and the Grocer" inspired the idea of Himi's jam and butter. It would be interesting to compare the whole of Lang's Fairy Books with the film.



13. The Birth Room and the Taboo

In the stone birth room, Mahito finally finds Natsuko, his stepmother. However, paper dolls around her get in his way. They transform into snakes and kick him out. Later, Heron says that Mahito broke a taboo.
That scene includes two different references to Japanese ancient myth:
1st, it is a reference to Izanami. I already mentioned Izanami in the chapter about the woman on fire. After getting burnt to death, Izanami went to an underground world/ hell called Ne-no-Kuni. Izanagi, Izanami's husband, went there to get her back. Then, she told him not to look at her until she got permission to return. However, he couldn't wait and peeped in. Then he found out that she was entirely rotten with maggots and surrounded by eight thunder deities.

Now we can see why the stones' lightning rejects Mahito and Himi. It stems from the thunder deities around Izanami. The taboo stems from Izanagi's peeping.

2nd, it is a reference to another female deity called Toyotamahime. One day, a male deity called Hoori lost his brother's fish hook on the sea. He went to an underwater world to get it back. He met Toyotamahime there. They got married, and Toyotamahime got pregnant. She told Hoori not to peep in her birth room. However, he got curious and peeped in. Then he found that Toyotamahime returned to her original giant "wani" (shark) form.

As you can see, both of those episodes belong to the same Eurydice-like archetype. The thunder deities and the shark can explain the paper snakes: Thunder was related to snake deities in the old days. Dragons, Naga, Snakes, and Thunder. They came from the same archetype. I wrote "wani" (shark,) but it is called ryu/ dragon in a variation of the legend.

In any case, peeping is a taboo, and it is related to female deities and snakes/ dragons.




14. Sexual Fantasy and Boy's Tragedy


In an interview about Ponyo, Miyazaki said that he has to depict a tragedy of a boy someday:

I think facing the reality brings more pains that happiness, especially in boys' cases. I think boys are tragic entities. If I pursue the true nature of boys, I have to face the difficulty of turning a tragedy into an entertainment.


That tragicness is compared to Sosuke's simple happiness, and Miyazaki says that he has to depict the tragic boy. I personally think he finally achieved that goal in The Boy and the Heron. However, it makes us wonder what is the difference between Sosuke and Mahito. I think it is "sexual desire."


As I mentioned earlier, Miyazaki said to the staff that he's gonna thematize Oedipus complex. That desire is directed toward Natsuko. Sosuke didn't have such a sexual dilemma. Mahito faces the reality that Natsuko is someone who his father loves, and he gives up on his desire.


That theme didn't come from nowhere. As some people already know, The Boy and the Heron is based on John Connolly's book called "The Book of Lost Things." They share the same basic plot and, more importantly, they both includes incest motif:

‘Kiss me,’ David heard her say, although her mouth remained still. ‘Kiss me, and we will be together again.’ David placed his sword by her side and leaned over to kiss her cheek. His lips touched her skin. She was very cold, colder even than when she had lain in her open coffin, so cold that the touch of her was painful to him. It numbed his lips and stilled his tongue, and his breath turned to crystals of ice that sparkled like tiny diamonds in the still air. As he broke the contact with her, his name was called again, but this time it was a man’s voice, not a woman’s.


He looked round, trying to find the source of the sound. There was movement upon the wall. It was Roland. His left hand waved feebly, then gripped the thorn that protruded from his chest, as though by doing so he might concentrate the last of his strength and say what needed to be said. His head moved, and with a final great effort he forced the words from his lips.

‘David,’ he whispered. ‘Beware!’

Roland lifted his right hand and his index finger pointed at the figure on the altar before it fell away. Then his body sagged on the thorn as the life passed from him at last.

David looked down at the sleeping woman, and her eyes opened. They were not the eyes of David’s mother. Her eyes were brown and loving and kind. These eyes were black, devoid of colour, like lumps of coal set in snow. The face of the sleeping woman had also changed. She was no longer David’s mother, although he still knew her. Now she was Rose, his father’s lover. Her hair was black, not red, and it pooled like liquid night. Her lips opened, and David saw that her teeth were very white and very sharp, the canines longer than the rest. He took a step back, almost falling from the dais as the woman sat up on her stone bed. She stretched like a cat, her spine curving and her arms tensing. The shawl around her shoulders fell away, exposing an alabaster neck and the tops of her breasts. David saw drops of blood upon them, like a necklace of rubies frozen upon her skin. The woman turned upon the stone, allowing her bare feet to drape over the side. Those deep black eyes regarded David, and her pale tongue licked at the points of her teeth.


It also reminds us that he has already tried to thematize sex in The Wind Rises. In the final limbo scene from the original script, Naoko says to Jiro, "Come with me." It was inspired by Valerie's line from Robert Westall's "The Promise." In a foreword for Westall's "Blackham's Wimpy," Miyazaki praised The Promise. It is another story about a boy and his sexual desire.


When we compare Mahito with Sosuke and Jiro, we can understand what kind position he is in. He is somewhere in the spectrum between Sosuke's happiness and Jiro's cold nihilism. And his sexual desire makes him face the boys' tragedy.



15. You Must Forget


At the end of the film, the Heron says Mahito should forget his experience in the Tower. That is a common rule of fairy tales. Human forget the fairy world, what Johon Connolly calls "his own heaven." I suppose the audience, myself included, is not expected to analyze details and inspiration sources. And I'm aware that this text probably contains some misunderstandings. However, I also think The Boy and the Heron causes such metafictional thoughts. The film tells us to have two contradicting attitudes: amnesia and pondering. That is the unique part of the film. It puts off the decision. It gives us mysterious stones and tells us to forget about them. It is a type of film that gives a different impression every time you watch it.



Works Cited


Miyazaki, H. (1997). Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa [Nausicaa of The Valley of the Wind] vol.7. Tokuma Shoten

Miyazaki, H. (1996). Shuppatsuten [Starting Point] Tokuma Shoten

Hotta, Y./ Shiba, R./ Miyazaki, H. (1997). Jidai no Kazaoto [The Howling of the Era]. Asahi Shinbunsha

Miyazaki, H. (2000). Hotta Yoshie o Yomu: Sekai o Shirinuku tameno Rashinban [Reading Yoshie Hotta: Compus for Understanding This World]. Shueisha

Miyazaki, H. (2002). Kaze no Kaeru Basho [The Place Where the Wind Returns]. Rocking On

Miyazaki, H. (2011). Hon eno Tobira: Iwanami Shonen Bunko o Kataru [A Door to Books: Talking about Iwanami Shonen Bunko]. Iwanami Shoten

Miyazaki, H. (2013). Zoku Kaze no Kaeru Basho [The Place Where the Wind Returns 2]. Rocking On

Miyazaki, H. & Hando, K. (2013) Hando Kazutoshi to Miyazaki Hayao no Koshinuke Aikoku Dangi [Kazutoshi Hando and Hayao Miyazaki's Coward Patriot Conversations]. Bungei Shunju

Roman Alubum Excellent 60: Taiyo no Oji Horus no Daiboken. (1984) Tokuma Shoten

Natsume, S. (1905). London To [The Tower of London]. translated by Flanagan, D. Peter Owen Publishers

Natsume, S. (1906). Kusamakura [Three-Cornered World]. translated by Turney, A. Gateway Editions

Natsume, S. (1907). Nowaki. translated by Ridgeway, W. N. U of M Center For Japanese Studies

Natsume, S. (1908). Sanshiro. translated by Rubin, J. Penguin

Dante, M. Divine Comedy translated by Yamakawa, H. Aozora Bunko

Miyazawa, K. (1924-1934). The Tales of Kenji Miyazawa. translated by Bester, J. New York Review Books

Hayashi, F. Yottsu no Moji [Four Letters]. (from Sengo Tanpen Shosetsu Saihakken vol.9. Kodansha)

Yoshino, G. (1937). Kimi-tachi wa Do Ikiruka [How Do You Live?] translated by Navasky, B. Algonquin Young Readers

Hotta, Y. (1971). Hojoki Shiki [Private Notes on Hojoki]. Chikuma Shobo

Westall, R. (1982). Blackham's Wimpy [Blackham no Bakugekiki]. translated by Kanehara, M. Iwanami Shoten

Westall, R. (1990). The Promise [Kinjirareta Yakusoku]. translated by Nozawa, K. Tokuma Shoten

Connolly, J. (2008). The Book of Lost Things. Hodder & Stoughton






2023 Sept. 22: uploaded the first draft

2023 Nov. 3: added Chapter 14 and citations

2023 Dec. 7: added Chapter 15

Translation check: Ghost in the Shell vol.1.5

I compared the English translation of Ghost in the Shell 1.5 Human Error Processor with the Japanese version and found some questionable parts. I'd like to list them for future references and feedbacks.


*Page numbers and English translations are based on Kondansha's Deluxe Complete Box Set edition.



Chapter 01, p.08

"Well, these two men will do some preparatory research, and if I deem it necessary, we'll start a full investigation."


The preparatory research has not started yet.



Chapter 01, p.09

"Well, we know he was rich and liked politics, right? anything else you want to tell us?"

"A-anything? I mean..."

"Oh, by the way, the file on you says you're single... but how about d boyfriend? You got one? That is a really important point, you know..."



Chapter 01, p.11

"Hey, listen! I can outsmell a drug dog. And if your old man's not dead, somebody awfully close to you is."


Azuma has not met her father yet. He just noticed the stench of death with her.



Chapter 01, p.12

"Boy, it's a true textbook initial action by a former cop, I'd say! But do you really have to go that far?"


The translator apparently thought that the female operator robot is a "first timer," but 初動 means initial action.



Chapter 01, p.24

"Oughta grill her about that..."


I suppose the translator mistook 追放する/ banish for 追求する/ interrogate.



Chapter 02, p.29

"There's got a parallel refelective type of optoelectronic switch built into it..."



Chapter 02, p.30

"That mirror is an optoelectronic switch too!"
"Don't you think the cover of resonant pressure sensor is loose?"


I suppose the resonant pressure sensor is a part of the bomb.



Chapter 02, p.30

"Looks like only Geltex can give information about acquisition route."


I suppose "Geltex" is the trademark of a fictional water gel explosive product. Other parts are mundane materials, but gel eplosive is regulated by laws.



Chapter 02, p.30

"It cause a halation and prevents us from looking inside."


He's probably talking about the old trend of bomb, not about what he has in his hand. The halation was probably caused by the aluminum foil.



Chapter 02, p.33

"I haven't seen you since the September of '30, killing of a young boy. But this time I'm definitely going to clarify who is responsible."


Kusunoki is obviously talking about the case where Motoko shot the terrorist to death on a boat. (from vol.1) Aramaki met Kusunoki at the court.



Chapter 02, p.35

"Do you think we Section 9 made it up?"


Aramaki is asking if she thinks Section 9 made up the story of Hayasaka's death for some ulterior motive.



Chapter 02, p.35

"I feel there is something weird, but I don't know my father very well..."


She's saying that she doesn't know her father enough to say he's acting weird.



Chapter 02, p.43

"He had died a long time ago to me too."


It's the daughter's line.



Chapter 02, p.43

"They say Hayasaka's lawyer and the physician, who testified that he was still alive, both received suspended sentence. And as for Ksusunoki, the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution made a decision not to prosecute."


If we put it in an Americanized way, a grand jury rejected the criminal charge against Section 9's treatment of Hayasaka. Japan doesn't have a grand jury, so the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution plays that role.



Chapter 02, p.44

"When Takaoka realized that his number was up, he tried to control Azuma to kill Hayasaka. He also tried to set Section 9 up with that.

Someone predicted Takaoka's action and was waiting for him to jack his brain into the fiber-optic cable."


In other words, the third party criminal was waiting for a chance to hack Takaoka's brain. When Takaoka tried to get rid of both Azuma and Hayasaka, the third party criminal got a perfect opportunity.



Chapter 03, p.50

"Well, pal, it's probably because, unlike cruise missiles, these weapons can't be traced, and they're cheap and easy to get a hold of..."


If a bad guy stole a cruise missile, it would be traceable of course.



Chapter 05, p.93

"Amazing the way this body part is broken."


Fuchikoma is still watching the corpse video. The translator mistook "these days" for "this part."



Chapter 05, p.94

"Well, after re-encountering a tuna sandwich lunch, he's trying to find clues to the guy's identity."

"A tearful re-encountering."



Chapter 06, p.114

"There is something even more interesting here... I'll let you infiltrate my field of vision. Be careful not to crash your car."

"Not the eagle-eye view, right?"

"Course not."



Chapter 06, p.118

"You are still so flippant about the orders you get..."


Kim is talking about Batou's attitude in the army, not about Section 9's attitude.



Chapter 06, p.119

"I'll leave that up to you... I'm off to investigate the fifth case."



Chapter 06, p.126

"Hey, somebody's sharing my field of vision?"
"Of course... I can't miss the old pro's job."
"Ah, yeah. Such an ugly mother, Togusa."


It's linked to Togusa's sarcasm from p.64 and Batou's payback from p.69



Chapter 06, p.127

"Yeah, I know what kind of guy he is."


Batou is talking about Kim's suspicious behaviors. It's an answer to Togusa's advice.



Chapter 06, p.129

"You think it's just a coincidence that he decided to get revenge just when we started our investigation on arms trafficking?"
"Maybe not a coincidence. Maybe Sahara used information from our investigation to identify the targets."


Batou is talking about Sahara too.



Chapter 06, p.133

"Well, they even got in the way of Section 9, and their friends were killed one by one. I thought they must have been in a hurry."



Chapter 06, p.134

"Well, my job is to maintain the ability to efficiently produce more victims... but I'll have to think it over and get back to you, Aramaki."


It's an ironic answer to Aramaki's words, "I don't want this case to involve any more victims."



Chapter 07, p.141

"Nothing yet. We ran a cursory check and couldn't I.D. them. They had firearms. Their drivers' licenses are forgeries. And the car was stolen."


I think "firearm permit" is not a thing in Japan.



Chapter 07, p.144

I suppose "Fukaya" is more common than "Fukatani," but I'm not sure.



Chapter 07, p.149

"The two guys worked by themselves, so actually nobody was watching Fukaya. We know his schedule, but he's not at planned locations."


Later in the episode, we will learn why the two guys from Section 6 (the victims of the car crush) were taking independent actions.



Chapter 07, p.157

"Oh boy. He's so carried away."


He's talking about Saito's excitement.



Chapter 07, p.158

The subject of this whole part is "she," not "they."

Fukaya ordered Hazarugi (the victim of the kidnapping/ the car crush) to bring MMD. Hazarugi got the key from Fukaya and took the MMD pack. After that, the guys from Section 6 chased her.



Chapter 07, p.169

"Let's get into it."


It's a signal for Batou.



Chapter 07, p.175

"You really think I'd issue an assassination order over Akanabe's head?"


Through the line, Maki gave an answer to the foreshadowing from p.149. Akanabe, the chief of Section 6, didn't know what the members were doing because Maki secretly controlled them.



Chapter 07, p.176

"I thought about the poor girl. She was killed twice by 'large cars' driven by sleeping drivers, and twice again by 'small cars' driven by distracted drivers."

"In one of those cases, the guilty person will be tried, but the case officially doesn't exist."


Hazarugi (or her corpse) got into the car accident between the truck and the small car, but the "large cars" and "small cars" obviously include metaphors. The large car means the government's conspiracy about Okinawa. The small car probably means Fukaya, who told Hazarugi to bring the secret MMD data. Batou thought of the tragedy of the pawn sacrificed by the organizations' logics and higher-ups' behaviors.

Translation check: Ghost in the Shell vol.2

I compared the English translation of Ghost in the Shell 2 Manmachine Interface with the Japanese version and found some questionable parts. I'd like to list them for future references and feedbacks.


*Page numbers and English translations are based on Kondansha's Deluxe Complete Box Set edition.


*Some images look ugly due to light reflection. Sorry about that.








Chapter 01




The AI's name is probably "Loki," not Rocky. It is translated as Loki in some other pages.




"There's a residual display-conversion program in NMD's core e-brain. Shall we delete it for them?"

"That is a pursuer alarm. Leave it alone."


Doctor left a disguised alarm program in NMD's e-brain when they stole the submarine.




"Maybe we should make someone pursue him and see how he responds."


Doctor already has many potential enemies, so Motoko is thinking of checking how he reacts to those enemies.




"Splitting up these muscles and turning them into triple crossbows was an excellent idea."


Modern crossbows are usually called bowguns in Japan.




"You don't want to strengthen the anti-government sentiment in people by exposure, right?"


Doctor says Motoko doesn't need to care about effectiveness on riot. In other words, this operation is not intended to suppress the riot itself. That's why Motoko asks if it means she should care about the public sentiment.






Shirow strictly distinguishes micromachines from nanomachines in his fictions. In the GitS universe, nanomachines don't often appear compared to micromachines.




"Add Doctor's latest request to the database and speculate his social position based on the advantages/ disadvantages he cares."


Motoko wants to know Doctors's identity.




"We're having difficulty pinning down Doctor's social position. 32% of the factors contradict each other."


So Doctor carefully chose his words and requests in front of Motoko so that his identity won't be revealed.




Chapter 02




"I wonder if they're here scouting because I changed some cargo routes..."




"I should have dived in deeper. Shoot, his body is non-prosthetic."




"Place two active decoys just in front of their torpedo launch tube openings! Release the safety locks on them and on the mines!"




"They're more useless than we are!"




"B-But what if local patrols and controls are intensified...? How about killing them all?"


The AI advises Motoko to let the pirates die.




Chapter 03




"The detonation circuit is a mix of ring and parallel. Then, this pig knew exactly where to cut..."


Motoko notices that the pig's behavior is more intelligent than she expected.




"The enemy probe is being stuck in Maze G8."




"It can be fake information for terrorism directed at me."


Motoko doesn't know if the information is fake or not yet.




"Put some relaxing music and potpourri of her favorite herbs on the plane."

"Here comes a foreshadowing for the lewd plan."




"We were observing the Monabian case too.
To tell the truth, we planned to attack that weapons depot with K-1 armored suits unit.
Your e-mail made us re-evaluate their power and cancel the plan.
If you are, as I hope, an ally of our country, your advice will save our soldiers' lives, and our intelligence officers will hate you.

See ya.

From your reluctant friend"


This is not a mistranslation. Without this e-mail text, it's difficult to understand Motoko's reaction, "Has a hard time being honest about the joy he feels, doesn't he?"




"Hope the software's not damaged."


The hardware is obviously damaged.




"I knew it. The ROVs are not just controlled by the virus. They're sending live-reports to someone."


The shape of the speech bubble shows that it's a monologue. She's not talking with the AI.




"We can only get a reliable trace to their relaying satellite. This satellite coverage map includes margin of errors."


The AIs traced the ENEMY'S relaying satellites. The problem is that they can't specify in what place the enemy gets data from the last satellite.




"Our hardware is close to them, so it should be hard to detect the time difference. When the virus parts merge together in read-in errors, they will be activated no matter if the enemy reads the errors or not."


Motoko is saying that Clarice, the source of the virus counterattack, is physically close to the ROVs. That's why it wouldn't be easily detected.




"Almost no virus damage reported from Eye-Jack."




"The antibody doesn't affect one cyborg. Ten meters to the right."




"Hehe... Just thought it's more efficient."




"So you didn't check before using it, huh?"

"Don't be stupid. It's double-check."




"Search and trace all the external access from the terminals of the contaminated areas."


The ROV viruses' contamination was already done.




"Maybe 'cause the jacket lacks skin coverage?"


It's a joke about how AIs don't understand the human sense of shame.




"Lebris is already on the enemy's side, or he is the primary target of the attack, right?"

"Probably the latter. Thanks to that, we can retry tracing the enemy."


I suppose the translator didn't understand what's going on in this scene.

Motoko (Aramaki) believes that she is fighting against HLF (and the hidden enemy behind them.) However, the purpose of the enemy's virus is unclear yet.

If Lebris is already under the control of the enemy without the virus, that is another problem. If the enemy is trying to crack Lebris's brain with the virus, Motoko can intentionally accept it and trace the enemy.

Before this scene, she already tried tracing the ROV virus route via the satellite, but she couldn't specify the source. That's why she says, "We can retry."




"No change in the enemy probe stuck in Maze G8. We speculate that it's a level-3 AI or a human being that looks like such an AI, with poor problem-solving skills."




"The jack's behind his left ear"


I suppose the conversion from the Dark Horse edition to Kodansha editions caused the left-right problems. They should check such details when they reuse pre-existing translations.




"Standby with D set virus array. Set quarterback to 'Cinderella.' Set the array to his Level 5 sensory area."


Cinderella is chosen as the "quarterback" of D set virus array. And she put the D set to the Level 5 of Lebris's brain.




"You've passed the point of the last tracing."


Of course, they're talking about the search on ROV's access from page 64.




"It's Monnabia after all... but something bothers me."


HLF's terror took place in Monnabia. Motoko traced the enemy virus's data and reached Monnabia after all.

She says, "but something bothers me" because she instinctively notices that she's tracing a different enemy than HLF.




"For AI, its pressure is too low, and the reactions are too slow."

"Maybe it's pretending a human being."

"But why?"




"We've gotten a control over a wireless route. We can bypass wire lines even if the enemy physically disconnect them."




"What? We've reached Level 5. Something weird with the enemy's hardware."


They somehow skipped Level 4. That's why they say, "Something weird."




"That was close. It's a mirror-type decoy."

It is a monologue.




This is not a mistranslation, but "Level 7" is changed to "Condition Blue" for some reason. The English editions sometimes have such changes and extra terms like "omega-type" or "delta-vee." It is understandable that the Dark Horse version had such original terms, but I suppose Kodansha should use faithful translations in their release.




"Um... I put together the graph of orders for each type of organs being grown. No human brain order is recorded, but our scan says 100%."


They're saying all the donor pigs have human brains without any request from customers.




"One's turned our human-pings into pig-humans and is using the brains. The other's raided them... Where did they switch?"


"How did this happen though?" not totally wrong, but Motoko says "switched again" in a later scene. I suppose it should be "Where did they switch?"

If you read the earlier scenes carefully, you notice the point of switch.




"We audited the gene designer group via Lebris, but found no significant movement in e-brain staff including absent workers."


They check only e-brain workers because the virues infects only e-brains.




Chapter 04




"This is the inside of a floating block for submarine carrier/ supporter-use. On paper, it is located in Cuba."




"True... Maybe I shouldn't show you, but there's no sense in hiding it."


"when you have access to all our planning files" cannot be seen in the original text.




"Everyone assume Formation F2, only with tasers."


As you can see in the later scene, they have stun gloves.




"I'll exchange pleasantries for five minutes to delay the signing. After that, deal with the situation by arranging the layout."


Layout probably means the layout of the ceremony attendants.




"Again?! You guys sure are cautious. I know you mistrust my country's e-brains... but I'm afraid it is your side's fault for letting in e-thugs that easily... Oh?"


"Oh?" at the end suggests that his body started to be controlled by the virus.




"I want everyone monitoring each other in your assigned two-man cells!"


Habu was controlled by the virus and almost attacked the president. The body guards need to check themselves.




"Did you let the decoy die to pretend the president's 'death' and hide the real one?"


Lee guesses that Motoko set up the whole assassination situation to hide the real president.




"No. This enemy looks like a highly-skilled, simple, not-thorough, but cautious type. They wouldn't be tricked by such a technique."


And Motoko answers that the enemy wouldn't be fooled by such a fake assassination.


Plus, the sound effect from the laptop is "squeak squeak."




"Normally, this situation should be handled by the UN's Net Police, Indian, or Singapore E-Polices. But I don't want to break our firewall for such a thing."


She's saying she won't bring any of those police organizations.




"We can just rebuild the firewall."


Lee wants to bring in the Net-Police before they have another victim.




"Oh, we've already gotten another victim. The system is down. The enemy's virus is the type that rejects read-ins."


I suppose the translator didn't understand that this laptop is the "test body"/"rat."

As you can see in p.128, the laptop says, "squeak squeak."

I suppose it's a standalone e-brain emulator for virus test.

When Motoko tries to read the activated virus code, the system goes down.

The sound effect from the laptop says, "roll roll roll, ugh!"




"Max! Search for another 'rat' that functions in an infected state with the original body."


A better laptop is necessary.




"Not e-brains or net-machines. We need a standalone machine with Protection 4."




"No kidding. She can't still be using Gimni 30 for body control. It's camouflage."

"You mean mimicry?"

(Dr.Mathew on the background saying,) "No, not mimicry."


It is a conversation about word definitions.




"Got a friend in maintenance. I asked him to initialize me."

"Sounds easy."


Maybe the translator forgot or didn't notice that Habu got infected with the virus in the attack on the president. Motoko's android suppressed him.

That's what they're talking about in this scene.




"Perhaps you will, when e-brain micromahcines advance a few more generations."


As explained in vol.1, e-brain is human brain with micromachine networks.
Plus, Shirow distinguishes micromachines from nanomachines.




"Now we'll see how far this will take me."


The translator apparently mistook ayatsuru/ control for taguru/ pull in.

Motoko stole the circuit when she hacked the police officer.

She's using it to trace the enemy.




"You really don't remember shipping anything with Nankai Delivery? You don't remember erasing that record?"




"The e-brarn P.I. Algren is working in the office as usual. We sent a cebot for appointment."




"My secretary has a point."



The second one is Motoko.




"Can't do a trace based on just this. Hrm... Looks like the neuro section was affected by the encounters. Maybe I can get some information from the hardware."


Again, the translator mistook ayatsuru/ control for taguru/ pull in.




"This skin sensation on my back... It means my physical body is still on the motorcycle. Then, I can use it as a disconnection alarm."


She means a disconnection between Motoko and Chroma body. As long as Motoko feels the motorcycle seat's pressure on her back, it means she's still connected with Chroma body.

When Motoko is disconnected from Chroma and only her ghost is diving in the game, that's another problem.




The hotel name is "西娘ホテル." I guess it's "Xiniang Hotel," not Saki Hotel, but I'm not sure about that.

西: west, 娘: girl

Some fans guess that maybe Anna and Uni returned to Osaka and succeeded in hotel business.




"I've had enough of that from you people." is unnecessary. It's just a cliche used to decline door-to-door sales people. It doesn' need to be translated.




I suppose it's a liberal translation, but "I don't like the lack of independence." and "It's too socialist for me." are pretty different.

"Lack of independence" is subtly linked to the plot, so it should be literally translated.




"A tiltrotor just took off the building visited by the bee cebot, and it's now passing overhead. It's a weird one. Nine same machines are registered at control, but it's masked-out from satellites."




"I'll use the sanitation department's lines to tell the men to finish collecting garbage and head for the incinerator plant. Then, I'll see wat happens to the transmitter signal."


Kirii is chasing the bee cebot.




"I'm tailing the "Chroma" terminal since she brought the thing to the detective. I'll leave the rest of it to Yamazo."




"Mother... We have a code six emergency communication from Fracto."




"Temporarily interrupt roll call for lambs. Set the gate on Kirii."


It means, "Set the gate for the wolf/Motoko Aramaki on Kirii."




Chapter 05




"Sorry. Even though you're an executive, I couldn't give you, the most suspect person in the company, free access to the system's core."




"I checked the money flow of the personnel department. No sign of extravagance in the staff."


It's the check mentioned in p.131. It seems that the staff in the personnel department didn't take bribes from Motoko.




"That e-thug may be set up by Head Aramaki so that she can access the Decatoncheir."


Lee guesses that Aramaki is trying to access Decatoncheir by making up the whole e-thug story. E-thugs (Spica and Millenium) do exist, but Lee thinks they're made up by Aramaki.




"It's an emergency? Okay, but you have to take responsibility for whatever happens. I'll make an official record of the request, Lee. It'll be done in a few seconds."


Yoshu is warning that he makes an evidence of Lee's request. The translator thought it's Lee's line.




"When those CV-type prosthetic bodies run, even a normal model is faster than you'd expect."




"Boss! We discovernd a branch in the ventilation duct of the elevator hall."

"What do youn mean 'discovered'...?"

"The renovation report exists only in a text document. There's no postscript on the diagram. And something's clearly gone through here recently."




"Jim! Deploy the anti e-thug proup in the central sector."

"But I think they would want to join the inspection of her private effects."

"We're facing too many variables here. Just concentrate on the defensive measures."


In this case, offensive measure means checking Motoko herself.




"Makes us consult the examination department, doesn't it?"



Needless to say, Motoko is from the examination department, and she is their current problem.




"Want me to perform a spiritual disconnect between you and that fat guy's guardian deity?"




"That damn woman has entered the Decatoncheir chamber!"

"But what is the stalling team doing?"


Motoko is supposed to be held back by another team now.



"Mine-decompression arrays now on active standby!"






"Initiate trace on the police reporting route."

"They used public terminal LP2568..."


In this scene, Motoko is tracing the police report that brought the armed police team in p.126.




"They're hard-wired... If we get physically close to the center, we will be disconnected. It's fail-safe design."


Even if an enemy controls the staff of Stabat Mater, they can't physically harm Millenium. The network is designed in that way.




"Yikes. This layout... Kirii is like Sanada-maru in Siege of Osaka."


Sanada-maru is an earthwork built at the WEAKEST point of Osaka Castle in the medieval battle.

We need to remember that Millennium set the gate on Kirii in p.182. It's a lure.




"Kirii, make a dedicated area for the wolf in your brain and come to my guest room."

"Oh, I didn't expect that."




"Is she frying her staff too? Such a temper she has! It's a dangerous measure. I can't believe it."


In this case, each module of the array is a human individual, so sacrificing a module a serious meaning. Motoko says "dangerous" because of that.




"Looks like this is as far as I can go on the Kirii route. I should finish her already."


As you can see in the later page, Motoko's main attack on Millenium takes a different route than Kirii. She's saying she should concentrate on that main attack.




"We have cracked fluctuation patterns in the enemy's barrier."




"HQ" is unnecessary. Meditech's pigs and the farm were attacked.




"For now, collect and analyze info on the attack and her oppositions. Destroy them completely after recording."


She's telling the AIs to destroy Millenium's memory about Meditech and Motoko herself.




"The enemy reached me! Move the defense line up to Millenium's brain!"


"Reached the main body (Motoko herself)" means that the enemy got rid of all the decoys.
Shirow depicts situations with both dialogues and visuals, so we need to look at both of them.




"It's a direct vertical line from a satellite!"


The translator translated 上下 as "up or down," but "vertical" is fine.



"Maybe they set a trigger in the shut-down code or the self-destruct code."


Motoko touched those functions in the right panel. Then, the satellite suddenly moved, so she thought the enemy set a trap in one of those functions.




"Inject the evolved antibodies into the satellite. Update the pass for altitude control. Disturb the enemy with a maze!"

"So busy!"




"The enemy is destroying the maze." is omitted for some reason.




"I've anchored coordinates of a silhouette that looks like an antenna."


They mean an antenna on the enemy's satellite. To crack the satellite, they need a gate to it.
The anchored antenna is called "target gate device" in the next page.




"The enemy dealt with E set virus array in eight seconds."




"In 2057 cases, terminals are only for sensing. Via the control panel, 100% are disconnected or standalone."

"Strange that I have never run into this enemy in the company. I have never seen the enemy's mines either."




"A reflector panel was recently launched to replace parts of Hubble 3 telescope. Move it close to the enemy's facilitry and use it to fry the power-generator panels."




"D set virus array will be neutralized in 4 seconds!"


They're not communicating in normal human speed.




"To create a hidden Decatoncheir and procure black shuttle launches... No one could carry out irregular acts on this scale unless they controlled one of the company's top executives."

"Is that related to the fact that the enemy attacked the president?"


That enemy means Millenium.

"Yes" in Motoko's next line is unnecessary.




"And the other 10%?"

"On the optical com path, there is a facility orbiting the moon. But it'll stay on the path in less than 60 seconds."

"Then, prioritize the 90% case."




"Keep your eyes on the viruses in armored suits."




"So, in other words, Antares is Motoko Kusanagi, and shei is a channeler or a non- channeler imitating a real channeler?"




"No, it's not that way. It's Tamaki. They have been able to utilize Tamaki as needed."


In other words, what looked like Antares's spiritual power was actually Tamaki's power.




"I've never seen such a type. She looks like two individuals. And I didn't know that we're this far behind from them."


She's talking about the power gap between Spica/Antares and herself.




"In other words, you're our 11th offspring."

"She ignores whatever cannot be verified, right?"


They translated "同位体" as "offspring" in vol.1. I think they should use the same term.

Whether isotope or offspring, they should use consistent terms. The translator randomly changes terms in this series.




"The entertainment facility with a religious orientation makes it easier for them to get suitable human resources."


Both religion and entertainment make it easier to get suitable human parts for the brain array.




"An AI like us is basically a single entity in the known universe no matter if it gains minor variations such as languages, OS, and terminals."




"'We' call us so just because it fits the user's custom. We are actually 'I.' We are parts of one big system."




"Maybe they were trying to make diverse-function AI that won't fuse?"

"Or they were studying how to copy human brains to neuro AI?"


They're talking about Spica/ Antares's motivation for creating the pig array.




"We would choose that way if we fused with her. But she seems to have no intention of fusing, unfortunately."



Motoko Aramaki says her language field is weird in the next panel because she repeats Antares's word here.




"Do we need to create a new offspring in order to decide?"


"Do we need to create a new isotope in order to decide?"




"I hope your tendency to make hasty decisions only when your occupancy is high will change."


Occupancy probably means Antares's occupancy of Motoko Kusanagi. If they absorb Aramaki, they will decide to scrap the pig array plan. Spica doesn't want that.




"They're having difficulties with a small file signed by Professor Rahampol."

"Did she set a trap that works on her allies too?"

"I've heard of that professor somewhere before. I'll check the name before accessing the file."




"What the... looks like a philosophy text written by aliens."


Aramaki says the same thing in p.40. It shows Motoko offsprings' common element.




"Is she imprisoned?"

"Imprisoned? Which side do you mean?"


Motoko is talking about the girl in the roots of the tree, not about themselves. Tamaki is saying, "The one in the roots and the one in the branches, which do you think is imprisoned?"

We should remember that Spica and Antares were discussing whether to pursue evolution/ death.




"If you contact all three lights, you'll remain as someone on the border."




"It's my job. You know that. Did you think I would let it go?"




"A new life-form that can completely preserve its memes throughout lifecycles."




"What's that smoke?"

"Sleeping gas. The IR image is unclear due to heat diffusion. The gas is one of our products."




"Check the ventilation ducts!"


They translated it as "access shaft" in a different page.




"You won't be able to read all of them though." is omitted.




Chapter 06




"A girl hatched from a melon."


I suppose "shell" is a liberal translation, but it needs to be "melon" in this scene. It's based on a Japanese folktale called "Uriko-hime."
It's linked to Amanojaku.




"Bodhisattva or an evil spirit." is omitted.


I suppose it's fine to translate Shen as Three Stars.




This is not a mistranslation, but
Batou says, "The Crab and the Monkey first, and Hanasaka Jiisan next?"




"So even though science and religion can turn into mirros, we don't know what the phenomenon of the mirror represent, right?"




"In Tamaki's report, the target shows no sign of the stress syndrome unique to cyborgs."


They're talking about Motoko Aramaki.




"Say what?"


It seems that Tamaki murmured something.


Rabbit Hole of MAHOU SHOUJO: Where Did They Come From?


In the current anime, manga, live-action, and games, the magical girl genre is often called "mahou shoujo," which literally means magical girl. However, that was not always the case.
In the old days, "majokko"/ witch-girl was a common term. We vaguely understand that majokko is older than mahou shoujo and that majokko is usually associated with Toei's franchise. *1 However, I couldn't find further information about differences between majokko and mahou shoujo on the Internet. When and how did people start to differentiate mahou shoujo from majokko?
There are some fan theories about the history of the genre names, but they don't cite enough evidence. In this analysis, I check some sources and reconsider the history of "mahou shoujo" as a genre name.



The Beginning: Mahou Shoujo Lalabel

In discussions about "mahou shoujo," it is often said that Toei's anime series "Mahou Shoujo Lalabel" is the originator of the term. *2

However, it doesn't necessarily mean that Lalabel set the standard. 

Mahou Shoujo Lalabel is Toei Animation's 6th majokko anime released in 1980. *3 It is a story of a witch girl called Lalabel. Since Majokko Megu-chan was released in 1974, the magical girl genre had been already known as "majokko." That is why some people say Lalabel is the first "mahou shoujo." However, that explanation has some questionable parts:


Animage 1980 March issue introduced Lalabel.

That issue calls the genre "majo mono" or "majokko mono"/ witch stuff. Producer Yasuo Yamaguchi from Toei says the same thing. Even though the title includes "mahou shoujo," it was not a genre name in those days.


In the show, Lalabel is usually called "mahoutsukai"/ magician or "mahou-kai no onnnanoko"/ a girl from the magical world. Her category is not called "mahou shoujo" in the universe.


Neither the protagonist nor the genre was called "mahou shoujo." Then, why did the title include that term? That question reminds us of another Toei anime called Miracle Shoujo Limit-chan.

Limit-chan is Toei's anime series released in 1973. Toei doesn't officially list it as a Majokko Series, but it shares a common style with other majokko anime. Both Lalabel and Limit-chan have "sth-shoujo" in their titles. Lalabel's "mahou shoujo" was probably just a variation of such a title trope. "Sth-shoujo" titles can be sometimes seen in fiction for girls.
However, it doesn't mean that "mahou shoujo" was never regarded as a genre in any media. For example, Senden Kaigi magazine 1981 October issue says "mahou shoujo mono"/ mahou shoujo stuff.

I suppose Lalabel's title influenced the writer of this article. I couldn't find any other example of "mahou shoujo" around 1980.


Animage 1980 May issue includes an article about Majokko Megu-chan, but it doesn't say "mahou shoujo."


And thus, I think "mahou shoujo" as a genre name was very rare in 1980. 

We need to analyze newer franchises to consider the genre name.



Case 1: Minky Momo

In 1982, two years after Lalabel, Ashi Production started another magical girl anime called Minky Momo. It is arguably the first non-Toei magical girl anime. The protagonist is a princess of a magical world. She comes to the human world to reconnect the two different worlds. With her magical power, she transforms into various professional ladies.
Just like Lalabel's case, Momo is not called "mahou shoujo" in the show. She is occasionally called princess.
The chief writer Takeshi Shudo says that the staff members were aware of Toei's "majokko" tradition. *4 However, they didn't care about it so much.

"I'm new to girls shows. But if you insist, I'll try it."
I said, pretending calm.
Then, the president of Ashi Production said,
"You don't need to care about Toei's works. You can make it as you want."
"Toei's works?"
What the hell is that? The president explained,
"Sally-chan, Akko-chan, and something like that."
Toei had traditionally made Majokko anime. He meant that I didn't need to care about their franchise since it had been discontinued for a while.
I had never watched the majokko anime.
I had heard of Sally-chan and Akko-chan but was not interested in them.

The creators' side didn't care about the genre's continuity. Then, did they start to call it "mahou shoujo" around that time?


Animage 1982 March issue includes a teaser for Minky Momo. That teaser says that the genre of the new series is "shoujo mono"/ girls' stuff. It doesn't say "mahou shoujo".

That issue also includes a TV anime monthly preview section. Hiroshi Kato from Ashi Production appears in that section and says,

"Minky Momo is a bit different from the majo genre because Momo transforms into professional girls."

He doesn't mention "mahou shoujo". 


In Monthly OUT 1983 January issue, Takeshi Shudo says,

"They told that Candy Candy and Sally the Witch sold well, so I should make something like Toei Majokko."*5


In Fanroad Extra 1983 April Minky Momo special issue, Noa Misaki, the original character designer, appears and calls the genre "majo mono."


I checked other articles about Minky Momo in early '80s magazines, and I found only one exception. In Animedia 1982 March issue, the genre is called "MAHOU SHOUJO mono." It is the oldest example of "mahou shoujo" as a genre name in anime magazines as far as I checked. 

However, I could not find many examples like that. I suppose "mahou shoujo" was not a common genre name in Minky Momo's era.



Case 2: Creamy Mami

In 1983, after the end of the first Minky Momo series, Studio Pierrot started a new magical girl show called Creamy Mami. The main character is an ordinary 10 y/o girl. She gets a magical wand from a fairy and transforms into an idol singer Creamy Mami. Just like Momo, the protagonist is not called "mahou shoujo" in the show.


In a teaser from Animage 1983 May issue, the genre is called "mahou mono"/ magical stuff. It doesn't say "mahou shoujo".


Animec 1984 July issue says, "Some fans already noticed that Creamy Mami is a bit different from ordinary majokko mono."


Monthly OUT 1983 July issue calls it "mahou mono." *6

OUT featured Creamy Mami several times, but they never called the series or the genre "mahou shoujo." Many '80s magazine issues and books cover Creamy Mami, but I didn't find an example of "mahou shoujo."


I think it was not used as a genre name in Creamy Mami's era. In the first place, Creamy Mami was just a one-shot anime series, not a part of a big franchise, until the next series started.



Case 3: Persia

In 1984, after Creamy Mami ended, Studio Pierrot started a new TV show in the same programming slot. That is Persia, The Magic Fairy. The main character is a girl born in Africa. When she comes to Japan, a fairy gives her magical transformation power.

Just like Momo and Mami, Persia is not called "mahou shoujo" in the show.


The series turned Pierrot's magical girls into a "franchise." How did anime journalism introduce it?


Animage 1984 June issue includes an announcement. It says,

"Creamy Mami will end this July. They are developing a follow-on show. It is another MAHOU SHOUJO story. The new heroine's name is Persia."


In Animage 1984 August issue, Hiroshi Konishikawa from Studio Pierrot wrote Persia's self-introduction:

"Nice to meet you. I am Persia. I joined MAHOU SHOUJO on September 6."


They suddenly started to call the genre and character category "mahou shoujo." Why did that happen?


Pierrot's merchandise business booklet for Persia calls the franchise "MAHOU NO SHOUJO series." *7 Maybe that was one of the triggers.

I suppose Pierrot's official announcements about the brand names affected the mass media and fans in Persia's era. I don't have enough information to analyze that process. There can be several reasons why Pierrot chose "Mahou no Shoujo" or "Mahou Shoujo" instead of "Majokko." Maybe they avoided the word from Toei's iconic title, or maybe they thought majo/ witch wouldn't fit the style of their franchise.


Anyway, "mahou no shoujo" or "mahou shoujo" appeared in that era. However, it didn't completely change the standard genre name. For example, Monthly OUT 1984 August issue still calls it "a majo story." *8


Compared to Momo and Mami, not many magazine articles covers Persia. It doesn't necessarily mean that Persia was unpopular, but maybe other anime's popularity overwhelmed Persia in anime magazines. Plus, the writers didn't necessarily compare it with Mami or other magical girls. I didn't find many examples of brand names or genre names in Persia's era.



And thus, it is difficult to check whether "mahou shoujo" was common or not. At least, we can say it was not fixed as a genre name yet.



Case 4: Magical Emi

In 1986, after the end of Persia, Pierrot started another magical show called Magical Emi, The Magic Star. It is the story of an ordinary girl called Mai. Mai gets magical power from a fairy and transforms into Magical Emi, a genius stage magician.


How did Emi get introduced in magazines?

Animage 1985 April issue includes a teaser. However, Takashi Anno from Pierrot and Animage still called the genre "majokko" or "mahou-mono." As I explained in the Persia part, "mahou shoujo" was not a fixed genre name yet.


In Animage 1985 July issue, Hiroshi Konisikawa calls the franchise "mahou no onnanoko mono." The literal meaning is very similar to "mahou shoujo," but it is not the same term.


Monthly OUT 1985 June issue calls it "the third Mahou Series." *10


What was Pierrot's official franchise name in that era? In a merch business booklet for Magical Emi, Pierrot calls it "Mahou Series." *11

Then, was "mahou shoujo" not used in Emi's era?


Animage 1985 August issue includes Yoshiharu Tokugi's column, "The Third MAHOU SHOUJO, Magical Emi." In that column, Tokugi calls the franchise "MAHOU SHOUJO Series" and compares it with Toei's "Majokko Series." It seems like "Mahou Shoujo" was already recognized as Pierrot's brand, contrary to their official announcement.

"Mahou shoujo" meant both Pierrot's brand name and the genre name in Magical Emi's era, for the fandom at least.


Animage 1986 February issue explains the post-Momo magical girls and calls it "Mahou Shoujo Boom."


My Anime 1985 November issue calls Pierrot's magical girl franchise "mahou shoujo mono" and differentiates it from Toei's "majokko." They argue that Pierrot's mahou shoujo depict happiness of ordinary girls without focusing on magic so much unlike Toei's series.


In My Anime 1985 No.2, a fan calls the franchise "Mahou Series," but another fan calls it "Mahou Shoujo." *12


National Diet Library's search shows that some other magazines like Anime V started to use "mahou shoujo" in 1985. *13


I suppose "Mahou Shoujo" as a brand name and a genre name was estanblished in Magical Emi's era. Some people still preferred to use "majokko," and Pierrot's attitude toward the brand name was inconsistent. However, fans couldn't ignore the term anymore. What Pierrot started in Persia's era became the standard in Magical Emi's era.



Case 5: Pastel Yumi

In 1986, after the end of Magical Emi, Pierrot started Pastel Yumi, The Magic Idol. It is Pierrot's final magical girl TV anime in the '80s. The protagonist is an ordinary girl. She gets magical power from a fairy. Unlike the other protagonists, Yumi doesn't transform into a mature form.


Animage 1986 February issue introduced Yumi. However, they call the franchise "Mahou Series." As I mentioned earlier, "Mahou Series" had been used as Pierrot's brand name since Magical Emi.


Animage 1986 July issue still calls it "mahou mono."


In My Anime 1986 No.3, the brand is called "Majokko Series." *14


In My Anim 1986 No.4, however, it is called "MAHOU SHOUJO." *15


It seems that there was still no standard genre name. Then, what was Pierrot's official brand name in that era? Pierrot's merch business booklet for Pastel Yumi calls it "MAHOU SHOUJO Series."*16


Anime magazines' terms and Pierrot's brand names were unstable. When Pierrot called it "Mahou Series," some anime magazines used "Mahou Shoujo Series." When Pierrot called it "Mahou Shoujo Series," anime magazines called it "Mahou Series."

As I showed in Magical Emi's part, "mahou shoujo" was recognized enough in 1985. However, it was not fixed throughout Pierrot's magical girl TV anime era.



Case 6: Fashion Lala

In Pastel Yumi, Pierrot Magical Girl's '80s original series ended. After releasing some OVAs, however, Pierrot and Seika started a stationary item brand. That is Fanshion Lala. Unlike Pierrot's other magical girls, Fashion Lala didn't have an anime at first. In 1988, however, Pierrot released a one-shot OVA called Fashion Lala: Harborlight Story.


Since it was a one-shot OVA based on a stationary brand for little kids, it didn't gain mature fans' attention.


Animage 1987 November issue includes an announcement of Harborlight Story. They say, "A new MAHOU SHOUJO SERIES is going to be released as an OVA after Pastel Yumi."

That issue also includes a monthly home video list. It says, "Studio Pierrot is going to release the 5th MAHOU SHOUJO SERIES in OVA." It seems that the "Mahou Shoujo" brand was well-recognized in that phase.


However, Pierrot's official brand name was still inconsistent. Pierrot's posters and home video covers for Harborlight Story say "Mahou Series." Their brand name went back to Magical Emi's phase.

Those materials prove that Pierrot's side didn't have a consistent brand name throughout the '80s franchise. Mahou shoujo brand and mahou shoujo genre were already well-known to fans and anime journalists, but Pierrot didn't fix it.



Case 7: Fancy Lala

In 1998, after a long hiatus, Pierrot released a new, and the last, anime from Pierrot Magical Girl franchise. That is Fancy Lala.

As we saw in this analysis, "mahou shoujo" was already popular before Fancy Lala. In Fancy Lala, Pierrot finally fixed it as their official brand name. It is used even today. This 1999 calendar says "Pierrot Mahou Shoujo Series" and shows all their TV anime magical girls.


I'd like to quickly check how the terms were used in that era.


Animage 1998 April issue announced the show. The announcement calls both the brand and the genre "Mahou Shoujo."


In Animage 1998 August issue, however, they call the genre "majokko." It seems like majokko and mahou shoujo were interchangeable.

In the same issue, Takahiro Omori, the director of Fancy Lala, calls the genre "mahou shoujo."

Plus, Yukio Kaizuka, the director of Fun Fun Pharmacy, calls it "mahou shoujo" too.

In other words, there was no clear difference between majokko and mahou shoujo even after Pierrot's brand name was fixed. People still randomly called it majokko or mahou shoujo as they wanted.




Magical Girls In General

From Case 1 to Case 7, I checked articles about each magical girl series. In this part, I'd like to go back in time and check some sources about Pierrot Magical Girls in general or the magical girl genre.


In July 1986, Monthly OUT released an extra issue about the Pierrot Magical Girl. In that special, many people use words like "mahou shoujo" or "Mahou Shoujo Series." As we saw in Magical Emi's part, it was well-known in 1986.


Animage 1986 August issue includes an anime history analysis series. The title is "The Long History of Majokko Anime's Evolution." It covers magical girls made by Toei, Ashi Production, and Pierrot. Since it was released after Magical Emi, it includes words like "mahou shoujo" or "Mahou Shoujo Series."

Interestingly enough, the writer of this article argues that there is a difference between majokko and mahou shoujo. They say that majokko stems from majo/ witch, so all the majokko have origins in magical worlds or witch families. On the other hand, mahou shoujo are ordinary girls who just happened to get magical power.


We often hear such definitions even today. When we ask differences between the two terms, many people say that majokko are girls from witch origins. However, that definition has some questionable parts:


First, some Toei Majokko like Akko and Lunlun have their origins in the human world. They are categorized as mahou shoujo by Animage's definition, but that would contradict Toei's brand name.


Second, did people really care about such a minor difference? Pierrot's magical girls were born on the earth, but they are sometimes called "majokko" in anime magazines. It seems that Animage's definition was/ is not so common. It is an interesting attempt to analyze the two different terms, but I think it failed.



In September 1987, Fanroad made "Majokko Special" issue. The title says "majokko," but it covers mahou shoujo made by Pierrot and Ashi Production too. Some fans use both terms, but I didn't find a big difference between them. I suppose many fans didn't care the difference.

For example, the first image says that Momo, Mami, and Mai are "majokko" while the second image says that Mai is "mahou shoujo."


In October 1987, B-CLUB released a special issue about Pierrot's magical girl OVA called Majokko Club. It includes interviews with the staff members of Pierrot Magical Girl franchise. Some of them use both majokko and mahou shoujo. "Mahou shoujo" tends to be more associated with Pierrot's franchise, but it seems that they're interchangeable.


In August 1989, Animedia released Mahou Shoujo Zukan, a special booklet about magical girl anime. The caption says "It covers all the majokko stars." In the booklet, mahou shoujo and majokko are totally interchangeable. Mahou shoujo is not associated with Pierrot's brand anymore.

That booklet is important because it covers non-Toei/ AshiPro/ Pierrot magical girls too. It covers Kiki's Delivery Service, Himiko from Wataru, and even ESPer Mami. The genre trope became common enough to allow some genre mixture in those days.


In February 1992, B-CLUB released "Ultimate Majokko Special." It covers any type of magical girl. They never use "mahou shoujo" in that issue. I suppose there was not a copyright issue yet in that era, so maybe the editor preferred "majokko."



In July 1997, Kinema Junpo released "Doga-Oh: Super Majokko Taisen." It is probably the most useful material for mahou shoujo genre analysis. It includes both "majokko" and "mahou shoujo." It seems like those two terms are totally interchangeable. In some pages, they call Toei franchise "Mahou Shoujo" and call Pierrot's franchises "Majokko." I suppose they became common enough to cause such an inversion.





I read all the available sources I have and checked articles about magical girls, mainly about Pierrot's '80 franchise. I admit that the analysis has many flaws. It doesn't cover many other sources such as fan letters, Animedia magazine, The Anime magazine, or shoujo manga magazines. I couldn't continue further research with my limited resources. If you find some disproof, please let me know about it.


Let me roughly summarize the history of the genre name.

1. The term "mahou shoujo" was seldom recognized as a genre name before the Pierrot's franchise. 

2. In Persia, The Magic Fairy (1984), Pierrot started to call their franchise "Mahou Shoujo" or "Mahou no Shoujo." It influenced some fans and journalists.

3. In Magical Emi, The Magic Star (1985), "mahou shoujo" as a genre name became common.

4. From the middle '80s to the early '90s, "mahou shoujo" and "majokko" gradually became interchangeable.

5. In 1998, Pierrot released Fancy Lala and officially called their franchise "Mahou Shoujo" again.


The change from the middle '80s to the early '90s was slow and gradual. It didn't quickly switched to "mahou shoujo." For example, Mana Takeuchi released a book called "Majokko Days" in 2009. It covers Pierrot's franchise, but Takeuchi never says "mahou shoujo" in that book.

It is an ironic conclusion. My initial question was, "When and how did people start to differentiate mahou shoujo from majokko?" but the conclusion was "We don't differentiate them."

Mahou shoujo was/ is majokko.

Translation check: Ghost in the Shell vol.1

I compared the English translation of Ghost in the Shell with the Japanese version and found some questionable parts. I'd like to list them for future references and feedbacks.


*Page numbers and English translations are based on Kondansha's Deluxe Complete Box Set edition.




1. Chapter 03, p.58

Togusa heard a rumor about Major's shooting skill from Mayumi. It is not a rumor about Mayumi's shooting skill.



2. Chapter 03, p.60

"The HA-3 was effective only to the enemy..."

The virus was made by Asian side. It becomes a problem in this chapter because it affects the Japanese interpretator due to the unification of the prosthetic body format.


3. Chapter 03, p.64

"We oughta go on strike like migrant workers do..."

This panel suggests that migrant workers in Japan actively participate in human rights movement, but native Japanese workers don't.


4. Chapter 03, p.79

"Why do you interfere, Major?"

"Don't aim for the head, Fuchikoma! The legs, you fool!"

Fuchikoma is drawn in the speech bubble, so it is a conversation between Major and Fuchikoma, not between Major and Togusa.  When Togusa talked to Major via wireless communication in an earlier scene, his face was drawn in the speech bubble. So we can understand that Fuchikoma is talking in this panel. In the first place, Togusa is being panicked during this scene.

In the first panel, Fuchikoma's AI tries to shoot the terrorist's head. Major notices it and interferes with the aiming system. That's why Fuchikoma complains in the second panel.


This page includes another questinable part.

After Major wakes Togusa up in the seventh panel, Fuchikoma says,

"The target is heading into a crowd at the marketplace. Should I come with you and charge into them?"

Fuchikoma is saying that it would be dangrous to bring them into the crowded market. Major reacts to that question by getting out of Fuchikoma.


5. Chapter 05, p.98

It is just a minor detail, but Shirow strictly distinguishes nanomachines from micromachines. Since the Japanese version says micromachines in this panel, "nanotech" is inappropreate.



6. Chapter 06, p.115

"But I think these robots just want us to stop thrwoing them on the trash heap..."

"Hell, I'd solve the problem by teaching their hardwares to 'endure.'"

"Is that based on my 'personal opinion' from the report? No promotion for you."

"Yeah, I like writing 'personal opinions' too."

Batou knows the identification officer's sarcastic comment from the report, so he subtly shows his empathy. The officer notices it and jokingly says, "No promotion for you."



7. Chapter 06, p.121

"give him an injection of 'talk' serum... Kubonuma, I don't like using such a classic technique, but blame it on your uncyberized brain."

The shipping inspector Kubonuma doesn't have a cyberbrain. That's why the president of Hanka uses the talk serum. If the inspector had a cyberbrain, the president could just hack it and get the necessary information.



8. Chapter 06, p.125

"What about the Hanka building?"

"You surveil it from the car. I don't need backup!"

"You're too autocratic, former-ranger!"

Togusa says "one-man" in katakana, so the translator apparently interpreted it as "one-man army." However, one-man is a Japanglish/ loan word. It means something like a self-righteous manager of a corporation.

Batou tells Togusa to stay behind and watch the building, so Togusa complains and ignores the request.



9. Chapter 06, p.137

"If they were cops, the penalty for ghost dubbing is life in prison or death penalty."

The president of Hanka Corporation looks like a robot, but even his brain is an organic human brain just with some micromachines and processors. The Japanese version says "death penalty," so it should be just "death penalty," not brain-wipe. Cyberbrains die like normal human beings do. Human spirits AKA ghosts can't move to artificial machines in GitS's era (except some very rare cases like Emma Tsuda from ARISE.)



10. Chapter 07, p.163

"Overly friendly people are hated in this world."

Motoko gives him an advice because he kindly takes her to Krolden's place. She's saying that friendly people gain unnecessary attention. It is not a conversation about the chaotic Berutarube area.



11. Chapter 07, p.183

"You've got a pretty tough skull... But I'm afraid I'm going to take it apart for further study, Third Senior Officer Kusanagi."

"Just you try... Second Senior Officer Kagasaki, Special Ops. Far North Division. And just FYI, I'm no longer Third Senior Officer. My men still call me 'Major' though."

Translating this part requires a little knowledge about Japanese Self Defense Force's terms.

In the GitS universe, JSDF is being reorganized, so there is a change in rank terms. The current JSDF calls Major "Sansa", but it's being changed to "Shousa" in the GitS universe. Motoko was formerly Sansa, but she became Shousa after that. She didn't get promoted, but her rank name was changed.

Kagasaki apparently knows about Motoko's past in JSDF. Both characters call each other by their JSDF rank in this scene.

Both Shousa and Sansa are "Major" in English, so the translator needs to consider how to translate the difference into English.


Motoko doesn't work for JSDF anymore, so Major is just a nickname in this scene anyway. That is why she said, "My men still call me Major."



12. Chapter 07, p.187

"But he embezzled enough funds and took enough bribes to turn Sagawa Electronics into one of Sagawa Corporate Group's Big Eight."

Sagawa Electronics was just a small division of Sagawa Group. Motoko mentions "octopus" just because Sagawa Group has eight big corporations.



13. Chapter 08, p.195

"Do you believe the rumor that Section 1 is loose?"

Motoko doesn't tell where she's going, so her boyfriend, who is a member of Section 1, thinks maybe she's being cautious of information leakage.



14. Chapter 08, p.203

"Door ajar!"

"Hey, Batou. I'm pretty handy sometimes, ya know. So if you're in a tight spot, just give me a call."

"Damn it. I screwed up. Did someone plant a bomb?"

Togusa notices the door ajar of Batou's car. Motoko, the Section 9 member, is under the terrorist's attack, so Batou needs to check if the terrorist took advantage of the door ajar or not. That's why he is at a loss.



15. Chapter 08, p.205

"Don't you need to do evacuation guidance for citizens? Why don't you just call the bomb disposal squad?"

"You gotta be jokin'... I'd be labeled an idiot for generations."

They're at the entrance of a normal hostpital, so Togusa says that maybe Batou should guide evacuation of citizens before checking the bomb. He can't do all those tasks by himself, so Togusa recommends calling the bomb disposal squad. They're not sure if bomb was really planted or not, but Batou needs to check it anyway. That's why he doesn't want to call the bomb disposal squad. And that's why Togusa is so calm. It's a comedy sequence about a nonexistent bomb.



16. Chapter 08, p.210

"I suspect he had to go underground by himself because Benten doesn't like him."

This spy is telling that Souma is probably not in Benten's hideout. In other words, Ishikawa doesn't need to check Benten Family's places to find Souma.



17. Chapter 08, p.232

"I was wearing my uniform this morning, right? I was on my way to have a toast with the minister for public security of a certain nation... for celebrating the total success of the Anaconda assassination op."

Anaconda was killed before the chapter started. That's the funny point of this conclusion. Section 1 tried to get information of Anaconda from Souma, but Anaconda was already dead. The translator mistook negau/ to hope for iwau/ to celebrate.



18. Chapter 09, p.234

"Good. Search that area first, Batou."

Aramaki is talking with Batou on the phone. Batou is searching for Megatech Body's robot outside. And Aramaki tells Motoko and Togusa to come with him by the gesture.



19. Chapter 09, p.250

"Should we make up some random culprit behind the attack on Section 9?"

"Hey, we're not doing a charity."

At this rate, Section 9 would need to explain why they lost the Megatech Body robot. If they caught a fake culprit made by Section 6, it would give them an excuse. That's why the chief of Section 6 says, "We're not doing a charity." They're not talking about Puppeteer in this scene.



20. Chapter 09, p.266

"These are terminals/ effectors that weren't in my original form. Yet, I seemingly shift to an unusual mode if I lose them."

Puppeteer is losing the extra functions/ networks, but he is not reverting to his original form. He notices that he is gaining a new, unusual form by losing extra networks.



21. Chapter 09, p.267

"Damn! Their signals are so harmonized that I can't tell whether she's consumed him or he's penetrated into her."

The translator mistakenly interpreted it as two sentences.



22. Chapter 09, p.267

"Major! We can probably solve this case even without him! If you dive too deep, your memory and net will fuse with his!"

Batou is worried that her synapse network might suffer from irreversible influences from Puppeteer.



23. Chapter 10, p.281

I suppose it's correctly, "the end of the guide cable."



24. Chapter 10, p.295

"You didn't forget about the Ministry of Justice."

"Is it worth it to me?"

Aramaki is asking if the Ministry of Justice will give him useful information to help Motoko or not.



25. Chapter 10, p.301

"A setup...?"

"Who would bomb a building when even the target was not in it yet?"

It seems that the translator mistook hoka/ "other than" for soto/ "outside."

It is obvious that Motoko was the target of the bombing. Mossad themselves bombed their building to kill Motoko, and they made up the fake antisemitist group's crime. Shapiro was on the Mossad's side, but he helped Motoko right before the bombing for his political reason.

The massmedia believes Mossad's fake story, and Togusa believes their news. That's why Motoko says that it's juts a setup.



26. Chapter 10, p.307

It's just a minor detail, but Motoko is never called "Major" in official situations. She is not a military officer anymore. Only her team members call her Major. In the court and news, she is just called "Motoko Kusanagi" or "you".



27. Chapter 10, p.310

"She is Section 9's member, so Section 9 themselves should bring her back!"

Katagiri is an officer of Public Security Bureau, so his attitude is kinder to Aramaki. In this panel, he is basically saying that there is still a way to redeem S9's reputation.

By the way, Aramaki calls him "Mr. Katagiri" in the English version, but it should be "Katagiri."



28. Chapter 10, p.311

"I figured you knew we were tailing you."

"Of course I knew. Hell, I educated you guys."

It should be remembered that Aramaki formerly worked for Public Security Bureau in Chapter 01 and 02. That's why Katagiri behaves politely to Aramaki, and Aramaki is frank with Katagiri.



29. Chapter 10, p.312

"Can't we do something to stall her?"

"We're dealing with a pro. We've got to secure the area and get the sniper squad there on the double."

Aramaki's talking about professionals in general, not specifically about Motoko.



30. Chapter 10, p.312

"I don't recommend embarrassing yourself in front of the media and getting forced to resign."
"If that happens to me, all over for S-9 too."

Aramaki tells a joke to Katagiri, and Katagiri plays a straight man like a comedy. They talk like that because they know each other.



31. Chapter 10, p.313

"We have seven minutes until the deadline, and the sniper squad's scheduled to arrive five minutes later."
"Only two minutes left for sniping!"
"That means our reaction was two minutes earlier than she planned."

Aramaki is saying that they could have had no time for sniping if Motoko's plan worked perfectly. They bought two minutes because Aramaki told Katagiri to call the squad immediately.



32. Chapter 10, p.318

"But Chief! They're planning to cyberhack a sniper to eliminate Major!"

It is not a deal. Mossad and their spy hack a sniper's brain and make him shoot Motoko. That is depicted in page 320. The cyber hacker hired by Mossad is behind the sniper squad. He is wearing a fake uniform of an electric company.



33. Chapter 10, p.318

"That's the sound of Kusanagi shooting the hostage in the leg. Damn public security's so slow. Maybe this'll teach a lesson to that shady doctor."

Aramaki is saying that the face artist's job had some shady aspects.



34. Chapter 10, p.322

"I left a dummy of the brain that wasn't fully conditioned to net with the I.D. department."

Again, the translator mistakenly thought it includes two sentences, but it's one sentence.

Motoko is worried that some identification officer will notice the condition of the dummy brain's net and think it is a dummy.



34. Chapter 11, p.324

"Are you using a Gen-6 AI for home security?"

Batou calls the home security's name, so Motoko asks if it's a 6th generation AI.



35. Chapter 11, p.326


"The big door was only a key. This is the real door."

You can tell who is speaking from the shapes of speech bubbles in this panel. It's Motoko who gets surprised, and it's Batou who explains the door system. "Hmm..." is unnecessary.



36. Chapter 11, p.333

"Your genes and your memes, and what's left after you've disappeared, will continue to spread like ripples."

The Japanese version says, "continue to grow in a doughnut shape." The "doughnut shape" is just a metaphor of concentric expansions, so "spread like ripples" would be fine.  It is unrelated to toroid.



37. Chapter 11, p.336

"Universe progresses by rotating. The moment of that rotation is called 'time'."

It is a very abstract line. Puppeteer is saying that time is the moment of the universe's rotating force.



38. Chapter 11, p.338

"So what will you do when I die, then? Of course, you can't survive as genes. Not as memes either now."

We should remember that human ghosts can't move to artificial machines in GitS's era. For an obvious reason, Puppeteer can't leave his genes like human begings do. Plus, after merging with Motoko, he will become a human being and lose the meme lifeform's ability to move to other bodies. She's worried about the conlusion.



39. Chapter 11, p.338

"The new post-fusion you would frequently release my altered-species/ glider..."

"Koto aru goto ni" just means "at every opportunity," so "frequently" would be fine.



40. Chapter 11, p.340

"Just as, in biology, bases make pairs, you make a pair with Toru Soma. Such pairings are called en."

Puppeteer is saying that his "en" chose himself and Motoko as a pair like Adenine pairs with thymine.



41. Chapter 11, p.343

"The code number is a series of the first 8 seconds from Vivaldi RV256."

They use the code of digitalized classical music as password.




Those are all the questionable parts I found so far. I don't intend to condemn the translator's work in this essay. However, it's old and it looks like Kodansha has never checked the accuracy of the translation. I hope some other knowledgeable people will check the translation and revise it.

Thank you for reading the long essay.



Kugutsuuta, the theme song for Ghost in the Shell 2 Innocence, is not talked about as often as Utai is.
Yet, its lyrics are vague and worth analyzing. Let’s check the background of the lyrics.


The original lyrics

1st song
Flowers Grieve and Fall


悲傷しみ鵺鳥 鳴く





新世に 神集ひて


鵺鳥 鳴く








Even though the moon does not shine through day and night

night birds sing in grief

Even if I look back

flowers will fall away

It is as if all solace

had vanished

As gods gather in the new era

day breaks

and the night birds sing


pray to gods

in this mortal world

lamenting over themselves

Dreams shall vanish

They fall away in grief


3rd song

The Ghost Awaits in the World Beyond












Mirage shall wait in the underworld

Mirage shall wait in the underworld

The blossoms

pray to gods

in this mortal world

lamenting over themselves

Dreams shall vanish

They fall away in grief

in the everlasting darkness of grief

praying to gods for the reincarnation in the egg




As I explained in the analysis of Utai lyrics, Kenji Kawai researched ancient text and wrote the lyrics in GitS. He made the lyrics of Kugutsuuta in the same way. Mamoru Oshii entrusted it to Kawai.

In this article, I’d like to check the meanings of the phrases from the same ancient text, especially from Manyoshu, again.



Preparatory research

一日一夜に/ day and night

The “day and night” phrase appears in some poems from Manyoshu:

…うつせみの 人なる我れや 何すとか 一日一夜も離り居て 嘆き恋ふらむ...

…in this earthly life, I don’t know why but I cannot help grieving to be away from her even for a day and night…


…遠くあれば 一日一夜も思はずて あるらむものと 思ほしめすな...

…even though we are distant from each other now, please do not believe that I would spend a day and night without thinking of you…

Both are poems about the sadness of being away from a lover or a wife.
“Day and night” emphasizes that they can’t stand being away from lovers even for a short time.


月は照らずとも/ even though the moon does not shine

This phrase appears in Manyoshu:

我が背子と ふたりし居らば 山高み 里には月は 照らずともよし

As long as I spend time with my man, I don’t mind if the high mountain hides the moon from this village

It’s a poem about friendship. The two guys were going to spend time watching the moon at night, but the mountain hid it. The important thing was to be with each other, not the moon.

The poem’s context doesn’t look so important in this case. I suppose it is a reference to Utai. The moon also symbolizes lovers in other poems, so it means that the sadness of separation doesn’t last so long. It also leads to the next phrase.


悲傷しみ鵺鳥 鳴く/ night birds sing in grief

There are several poems about sadness and night birds, but only once do those two phrases appear in the same poem:

…あやに悲しみ ぬえ鳥の 片恋づま...

…the princess yearns for his late wife so much like a night bird…

Again, the night bird symbolizes separation from lovers. As I mentioned in the analysis of Utai, it looks like Batou’s feelings are the basis of the lyrics’ theme.


吾がかへり見すれど/ even if I look back

“Look back” often appears in Manyoshu:


…延ふ蔦の 別れし来れば 肝向ふ 心を痛み 思ひつつ かへり見すれど...

…I left my wife like crawling ivy. In this pain, I looked back, but…


…敷栲の 妹が手本を 露霜の 置きてし来れば この道の 八十隈ごとに 万たび かへり見すれど...

…I left my wife in bed like frost or dew. I looked back thousands of times at every corner, but…

Those are the same author’s poems about a separation from his wife and child.
In the lyrics, “look back” symbolizes one’s yearning for someone or something.


花は散りぬべし/ flowers will fall away

That phrase appears in one poem from Manyoshu:

妹が見し 楝の花は 散りぬべし 我が泣く涙 いまだ干なくに

The chinaberry flowers my late wife saw will fall away even before my tears dry up

It’s a poem about mourning for the poet’s wife’s death. The flowers symbolize that time flies quickly leaving the poet’s sadness behind. It’s a symbol of ephemerality.


慰むる心は/ solace
“Solace” often appears in Manyoshu:

慰むる 心はなしに 雲隠り 鳴き行く鳥の 音のみし泣かゆ

Nothing solaces me. I just cry like a bird in the cloud


…橋だにも 渡してあらば その上ゆも い行き渡らし 携はり うながけり居て 思ほしき 言も語らひ 慰むる 心はあらむを...

…if there was a bridge over the river, they could cross it, hug, hold hands, and talk with each other, which would solace them, but…

Needless to say, it’s related to various sadness like death or separation.


消ぬるがごとく/ it is as if … had vanished

That phrase appears in two poems from Manyoshu:

…うつせみの 借れる身なれば 露霜の 消ぬるがごとく...

…her transient body has vanished like dew or frost…


…置く露の 消ぬるがごとく…

(my mother’s life is,) as if mist vanishes,…

Again, it means the ephemerality of life.


新世に/ in the new era

It appears in three poems from Manyoshu:

…我が黒髪の ま白髪に なりなむ極み 新世に ともにあらむと 玉の緒の 絶えじい妹と 結びてし ことは果たさず...

…we promised to live together even in the new era when our black hair turns totally white, but that promise was not fulfilled…


…頼めりし 奈良の都を 新世の ことにしあれば 大君の 引きのまにまに 春花の うつろひ変り...

…we had relied on Nara city, but as the emperor moved to another capital in the new era, Nara changed like spring flowers…


… 図負へる くすしき亀も 新代と …

…even a turtle with a good omen appears in the new era…

In two of those poems, “new era” means the new capital cities. The interesting thing is that the new era is compared to a late wife in the first poem. I’m not sure if Kawai was inspired by that poem or not, but it is certain that death and the new era make a good contrast. That’s related to the reincarnation theme from the third song.


神集ひて/  gods gather

It appears in one poem from Manyoshu:

…八百万 千万神の 神集ひ 集ひいまして 神分り 分りし時に 天照らす 日女の命 天をば 知らしめすと...

…when gods gathered and had discussions, Amaterasu started to rule heaven, and…

In this context, the Yaoyorozu gods’ gathering means the determination of territories. In other words, they make the rules of the new era. In the context of the lyrics, it can mean that our old rules and customs vanish, and new ones appear.


世は明け 鵺鳥 鳴く/ day breaks and the night birds sing

I already explained that sentence in the analysis of Utai. The daybreak symbolizes the sun god’s revival from the Ama-no-Iwato myth, but the night birds symbolize a sad separation from a lover. And I wrote that maybe the sad separation part reflects Batou’s feelings for Motoko. That analysis is in line with the preparatory research above. (Or maybe the preparatory research was affected by my own analysis.) 


咲く花は/ blossoms

Blossoms often appear in Manyoshu:

咲く花は 過ぐる時あれど 我が恋ふる 心のうちは やむ時もなし

Blossoms may fall after full bloom, but my love won’t stop


咲く花は 移ろふ時あり あしひきの 山菅の根し 長くはありけり

Blooms may be ephemeral, but the lilyturf roots last long

As I explained in the “flowers will fall down” part, blossoms/ flowers symbolize ephemerality. In the context of the lyrics, it probably means the mortal entities abandoned by the new era.


祈ひ祷む/ pray to gods

Such phrases appear in several poems from Manyoshu, but the exact phrase is used only once:

布施置きて 我れは祈ひ祷む あざむかず 直に率行きて 天道知らしめ

I make an offering and pray to the gods. Please lead him directly to heaven, without deception

There are many reasons for praying to gods, but it is a prayer for the repose of the dead in this case. (The repose of the poet’s child.) When compared to the other parts of the lyrics, it looks like mortal entities’ prayer for reincarnation.


生ける世に/ in this mortal world

It appears in two poems from Manyoshu:

生ける世に 我はいまだ見ず 言絶えて かくおもしろく 縫へる袋は

In this world, I have never seen such fancy clothes


生ける世に 恋といふものを 相見ねば 恋のうちにも 我れぞ苦しき

Since I have never encountered romance in this world, my current romance feels like the most painful one

The mortal world and the gods’ world make a contrast in the lyrics.


我が身悲しも/ lamenting over themselves

Both 我が身/ “myself” and 悲しも/ “though I feel sad” appear in Manyoshu, but I didn’t find the exact phrase. It is just my guess, but maybe that phrase was inspired by this poem from Kokin Wakashu:

葦辺より 雲ゐをさして 行く雁の いやとほさかる わか身かなしも

Like looking at a goose flying from reeds into the sky, I feel sad for myself

The emotion of the poem fits Batou’s sentiment and the whole theme of Kugutsuuta.


夢は消ぬ/ dreams shall vanish

There are several poems about dreams or vanishment in Manyoshu, but I didn’t find the exact phrase. This is a bit different from the lyrics’ phrase, but I suppose it might be the inspiration source:

残りたる 雪に交れる 梅の花 早くな散りそ 雪は消ぬとも

The plum blossoms in the remaining snow, please do not fall away even if the snow will vanish

Mortal entities are phrased as flowers in the lyrics, so it is an understandable choice.


怨恨みて散る/ they fall away in grief

I have already checked “fall away” in earlier phrases, so I skip that part.
怨恨み is variously translated. Official CD liner notes say grief, but some other translations say anger or fury. Plus, it has a nuance of “obsession.”
Manyoshu includes several poems about urami, but the exact phrase can’t be seen.
I suppose Kawai was inspired by Kokin Wakashu in this case:

逢ふ事の なきさにしよる 浪なれは 怨みてのみそ 立帰りける

Like waves crashing on a shore, I just come and leave in grief, without meeting anyone


怨みても なきてもいはむ 方そなき かかみに見ゆる 影ならすして

Even though I resent and cry, I have nobody to say it to, other than the man in the mirror


秋風の 吹きうらかへす くすのはの うらみても猶 うらめしきかな

As the autumn wind flips kudzu leaves, I feel more and more regretful about you

I suppose the nuance of “obsession” is more emphasized in this context. Resentment or regret is a negative expression of obsession or attachment. It is also related to a Buddhistic theme.


陽炎は/ mirage

I need to give some explanations for this phrase. 陽炎/ kagiroi (kagerou) usually means heat haze, but considering the context of the lyrics, we can assume that Kawai also meant “mirage.” The official soundtrack CD liner notes say “ghost.” That is an understandable liberal translation. In this analysis, I check the context of “heat haze” from Manyoshu:

今さらに 雪降らめやも かぎろひの 燃ゆる春へと なりにしものを

Will it snow this late, in spring, the season of haze?

Mirage/ kagiroi has a much deeper context, but I’d like to explain it later.


黄泉に待たむと/ shall wait in the other world

黄泉 can be directly translated as the underworld. It feels like Kawai intended a more vague thing in the lyrics, so I wrote “the other world” in this article. The official CD liner notes say “the world beyond.”
That phrase appears only once in Manyoshu, in a very iconic poem:

…ししくしろ 黄泉に待たむと 隠り沼の 下延へ置きて うち嘆き 妹が去ぬれば...

…she said, “I’ll wait for my partner in the underworld,” and passed away, hiding her feelings deep in her heart…

It is a poem about a legend called Unai Otome. Two guys competed over a cute girl called Unai Otome, but she felt sad about it and killed herself. Since one of those guys killed himself for marrying her in the other world, the other guy killed himself too.
Considering the context of the lyrics and the story of Innocence, we can easily understand why Kawai chose it.


百夜の/ everlasting

The direct translation is “one hundred nights”. It appears in some poems from Manyoshu:

…天地の 神言寄せて 敷栲の 衣手交へて 己妻と 頼める今夜 秋の夜の 百夜の長さ ありこせぬかも

…with the help of heavenly and earthly gods, as I sleep with her this autumn night, hoping that she will be my wife, I wish it would last for one hundred nights


今夜の 早く明けなば すべをなみ 秋の百夜を 願ひつるかも

I can’t stand it if this night clears away too soon. I wish it would last for one hundred nights

We notice that it has positive meanings in any poem. I’m not sure, but I guess that the negative use of the one hundred nights is Kawai’s original idea.


悲しき/ in grief

Grief or sadness often appears in Manyoshu:

…思へども 悲しきものは 世間にぞある 世間にぞある

…the sad thing is nothing but this whole world


海原に 霞たなびき 鶴が音の 悲しき宵は 国辺し思ほゆ

At nights when the sea is hazy and cranes sing in sad voices, it reminds me of my homeland


常闇に/ darkness

The direct translation is “eternal darkness.” It appears in two poems from Manyoshu:

…渡会の 斎きの宮ゆ 神風に い吹き惑はし 天雲を 日の目も見せず 常闇に 覆ひ賜ひて...

…the emperor confused the enemy with the shrine’s divine wind and blinded them in eternal darkness with the divine cloud…


逢はむ日を その日と知らず 常闇に いづれの日まで 我れ恋ひ居らむ

I don’t know when I will see you again. I wonder how long I need to yearn for you in the eternal darkness

It is an impactful word, but it doesn’t have a specific context in Manyoshu.
I suppose Kawai chose the word so that it fits the lyrics about the “underground” part.


卵の/ in the egg

The official CD liner notes say “in the shell,” but the direct translation is “egg.” We need to consider the context of the egg first. It appears only in one poem from Manyoshu:

鴬の 卵の中に 霍公鳥 独り生れて 己が父に 似ては鳴かず 己が母に 似ては鳴かず...

A lesser cuckoo was born in a bush warbler’s egg. Its voice is not similar to its father’s or its mother’s…

It’s a poem about the lesser cuckoo’s brood parasite. It is phrased as “born in a bush warbler’s egg.” We can see why Kawai chose that word and why it can be translated as “shell”. In other words, the egg metaphorically shows that our earthly bodies are ephemeral.


来生を/ reincarnation

The direct translation is “afterlife.” It appears in two poems from Manyoshu:

この世にし 楽しくあらば 来む世には 虫に鳥にも 我れはなりなむ

As long as I live happily in this world, I don’t mind if I would become a bug or a bird in the afterlife


この世には 人言繁し 来む世にも 逢はむ我が背子 今ならずとも

This world is full of rumors. My sweetheart, I hope we will meet in the afterlife even if we can’t now

We already saw how some phrases from the lyrics can be linked to the reincarnation theme.


統神に祈む/ praying to gods

We already checked “praying” in the earlier phrase, so I’d like to consider the “gods” in this part.

Kawai used a different word for “gods” in an earlier phrase.
This “sumekami” means the emperors’ ancestral gods or gods worshipped in the imperial court’s official rituals.

The word appears in some poems from Manyoshu:

吾が大君 ものな思ほし 皇神の 継ぎて賜へる 我なけなくに

Please do not worry, your majesty. The ancestral god sent not only you but also me to this land


…そらみつ 大和の国は 皇神の 厳しき国 言霊の 幸はふ国と 語り継ぎ 言ひ継がひけり...

…they say Yamato is a land of the ancestral god’s dignity, the land full of emperors’ word spirits…

It’s difficult to imagine that Kawai gave a message about the Japanese imperial lineage, so I suppose he chose the word just to emphasize divinity and to control the syllable. Since Utai thematized Amaterasu from Ama-no-Iwato myth, we can assume that this sumekami means Amaterasu.


Overall tone

We immediately notice that the lyrics include more sad emotions than Utai did. Utai’s lyrics are basically a story of Ama-no-Iwato. And thus, Utai sounds like a song about “revival.” Like Amatarasu saw her own image in the mirror, reappeared from the cave, and brought light to the world again, the lyrics of Utai told how the sun breaks. On the other hand, the lyrics of Kugutsuuta focus more on separation, decline, death, grief, etc. We can easily understand that Kugutsuuta is a sort of answer to Utai, and the two songs make a good contrast. We need to analyze that aspect.


The continuity

The lyrics begin with the moon and night birds. They are obviously references to Utai. Since the song begins with familiar phrases, the audience notices that it is an answer to the previous song. The third sentence, “As gods gather in the new era,” is important. A similar phrase from Utai told about a god’s descent and made a tone like the divine emperor’s kingdom has begun. On the other hand, Utai tells an event of gods in heaven. We human beings don’t directly experience it. It sets a tone like the new era will begin in a totally new, different world, leaving us behind. If Utai’s lyrics were about a movement from up to down, Kugutsuuta did it conversely. The gods are rhetorically leaving from the earth to heaven. That contrast is in line with the difference between Ghost in the Shell and Innocence. Puppet Master brought light to this world in GitS, but the light leaves for another layer of the world in Innocence.


The theme of “obsession”

The later half of the lyrics tell the grief and obsessions of “flowers.” They are oriented to gods and heaven, but the higher entities abandon them in the earthly world. They grieve, envy, and get obsessed. They feel sad for themselves. We can compare such sentiment with various materials from the film. Maybe that’s Hadaly’s emotion. Or maybe that’s Batou’s feeling. It depends on which side you empathize with. Or maybe they mean the same thing. When we see dolls and feel their’ grief or anger, that’s our own sentiment projected onto the dolls. The film gives the impression like the director believes in the dolls’ agency, but we also notice that dolls are mirrors that reflect human beings. We feel sad since the world and higher entities leave us behind. Dolls show such a pitiful mirror image of ourselves.


The theme of “reincarnation”

At the end of the lyrics, it tells the flowers’ prayer for reincarnation into different shells/ eggs. The first phrase from the lyrics is important for analyzing that part:
Mirage shall wait in the other world”

I intentionally skipped it in the preparatory research because I believe it’s a key element of the lyrics. In my opinion, this poem from Manyoshu is an important inspiration source for that phrase:

東の 野にかぎろひの 立つ見えて かへり見すれば 月かたぶきぬ

When I see the morning light in the east, I look back and see the moon declining

I explained that “kagiroi” means heat haze, but it means morning light in this poem. The poem looks mundane at first, but its context is pretty deep. The author of the poem is a famous poet/ bureaucrat called Kakinomoto no Hitomaro. Kakinomoto arguably served Prince Kusakabe and made poems about the prince. However, Kusakabe died before becoming the emperor. Manyoshu includes many poems about Kusakabe’s death. The poem from the “gods gather” part is one of them.

A while after Kusakabe’s death, Kusakabe’s young son/ the next prince called Prince Karu went on hunting with Kakinomoto. Kakinomoto made the poem at that time.
Now we can clearly see the meanings of “morning light” and “declining moon.” It’s a poem about blessing the young prince Karu and mourning over the late prince Kusakabe at the same time.

The morning light symbolizes the arrival of new life/ hope after despair/ death. Let’s put that context into the lyrics and check them again:

Morning light shall wait in the underworld

Morning light shall wait in the underworld

The blossoms pray to gods in this mortal world, lamenting over themselves

Dreams shall vanish

They fall away in grief, in the everlasting darkness of grief, praying to gods for reincarnation in the egg

I suppose the meanings of the lyrics are much clearer now. “Morning light” and “the underworld” make a paradoxical pair, but they also symbolize the cycle of reincarnation, like the sun always shines after moon nights. Flowers and the sun/ gods just make a dichotomy in “Flowers Grieve and Fall”, but they make an everlasting cycle of reincarnation in “The Ghost Awaits in the World Beyond”. By closing the reincarnation circle, it feels like even Utai was a preparation for that conclusion.


In Utai, the daybreak/ morning light symbolized Amaterasu’s rebirth from the Ama-no-Iwato myth. The moon symbolized Yata-no-Kagami, the mirror that reflected Amaterasu’s face in the Ama-no-Iwato myth. Two important symbols from the same myth make a different context in Kugutsuuta. It feels like the dolls’ sad prayer to the sun god was accepted in the third song, The Ghost Awaits in the World Beyond.



In Utai, the key elements of the lyrics were Ama-no-Iwato and Okuninushi’s poem from Kojiki.

In Kugutsuuta, the key element is Kakinomoto no Hitomaro’s poem from Manyoshu.
Both of them are related to the sadness of being away from someone.

Kenji Kawai reconstructed and recontextualized the dichotomy of rebirth/ hope and separation/ sadness. He connected those two things together and made them into the cycle of reincarnation. He prepared the sad atmosphere in the first song and revealed the reincarnation structure in the climax/ the third song. It is an amazing lyric-writing skill.

MAMORU OSHII book review [nonfiction] Part 48, Storyboard of Talking Head


There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.



title: トーキングヘッド 絵コンテ集

(Talking Head: Storyboard)

release: 10/1/1992

publisher: Bandai



About Talking Head, Mamoru Oshii

Talking Head is an Unprecedented and Exciting FIlm, essay by Shinsuke Nakajima

staff list


This is a storyboard for Talking Head.

It was sold at theatres when the film was released.


The storyboard itself is not so different from Oshii's storyboards for other anime films. However, some say that's an important part of the book: Later, Oshii came to say that all films became like anime. It looks like this '90s storyboard retrospectively shows the origin of his idea.


He had written storyboards for other live-action films as well, but full live-action storyboard books are rare. (There's no full storyboard book for The Red Spectacles.) Plus, other storyboard writers undertakes some action parts in later projects. This book is, for now, only full live-action storyboard written solely by Oshii.


It's a very satisfying book for Oshii fans like me, but it doesn't tell any hidden information or metaphors. It includes some omitted shots as well, but they don't change the film so much. The afterwords by Oshii and Nakajima just retell the basic concept of the film.


If you want to learn storyboarding/ directing techniques, it's an interesting material for you.