The Viewing Mind and Live-Action Japanese Television Series: A Cognitive Perspective on Gender Constructions in Seirei no Moribito (Guardian of the Spirit)
Keywords:Japanese television, gender, narrative strategies, cognitive processing, Moribito
The recent (2016–2018) live-action Japanese television series, Seirei no Moribito (Guardian of the Spirit), was produced by NHK in the vein of the taiga (big river) historical drama, but challenges this and other Japanese generic conventions through its production as a fantasy series, and through its female heroine rather than the usual male samurai hero. This paper takes a cognitive narratological perspective in the exploration of how story-telling devices conjure and challenge some of the most dominant patriarchal scripts found across much of Asia (and elsewhere). It examines how narrative techniques prompt viewer mental processing with regard to cultural schemas and scripts of, for instance, male/female roles in family relationships, women’s participation in the employment sector, and marriage and childbearing. The examination thereby delves into important issues in the context of recent social discourse on gender roles in Japan. A close examination of the filmic strategies and devices which encourage audience engagement with the main female protagonist, Balsa, and her relationships casts light on the state of some of Japan’s changing attitudes on gender, workforce and family roles.
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