"The Heroine Image in Anime" by Minako Saitou, Part II

Part II - Less than Heroic Women: The Simplicity of "Future Boy Conan"

Future Boy Conan is the battle between an agriculture-based state and an industry-based state.

I said that Miyazaki anime depicts the battle between Boys' Land and Girls' Land. The first anime that shows this fairly simply is "Future Boy Conan." The series was broadcast on NHK in 1978 and it is what made Miyazaki's name known in the world.

It is 2028, twenty years since advanced magnetic weaponry brought on a final war that caused five continents to sink into the ocean. The few people who survived the destruction live on a small island named "Remnant Island." All of these people eventually die, leaving only the one boy who was born on the island to fend for himself. Soon we find out that other lands survived on the earth as well. One is Industria, and industrial nation that still clings to past civilization. The other is High Harbor, an agricultural country--"paradise on earth"--that lives cooperatively with nature. The story that follows becomes fairly complicated. Troops from Industria enter High Harbor looking for the secret of "solar energy" (the professor who holds the key to solar energy lives in the Harbor). Conan joins the conflict and fights on the side of High Harbor.

This simple setup of Industrial Nation = bad, Agricultural Nation = good might seem pleasant compared to what we've seen, but we must pay attention to the fact that Industria is not simply an evil empire. Even after the apocalypse, the country defends the scientific tradition of the past, somewhat resembling the earth in "Space Cruiser Yamato." Furthermore, the protagonist Conan comes from a third land (Remnant Island) that is not part of either of the fighting countries. Conan just defies battle, with the personal objective of saving High Harbor's number one girl. The plot is not only about protection of the good country, but also about the liberation of the hostile nation's people (Industria is a class society that uses humans as slave labor).

So in a variety of meanings, it could be said that "Future Boy Conan" relativizes the 'justice' created by the old regime's Boys' Land, clearly setting it on an axis in a technology vs. ecology, civilization vs. nature, modern vs. anti-modern, boy vs. girl opposition. There is one problem with this, however. Battle between the military state Industria and the weaponless High Harbor doesn't break out in the first place. How will High Harbor overcome the crisis of invasion?

The position of the female characters is deeply related to this. In "Conan" there are two heroines--High Harbor (Girls' Land) resident Lana and Industria (Boys' Land) officer Monsley. The two create an ambiguity that could be called the first version of the "two main heroine" figures in later Miyazaki hero anime.


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