Yukari Yoshihara
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Ophelia and her magical daughters
The afterlives of Ophelia in Japanese pop culture
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In her afterlives in Japan, Ophelia becomes a woman with supernatural power. In an early twentieth-century novel, Natsume’s Kusamakura (1906), the Ophelia figure resists a supernatural curse. In other mid-century novels, she is a ghost who raises an angry voice against an abusive Hamlet, such as in Kobayashi’s Ophelia’s Literary Remains (1931) and Ooka’s Hamlet’s Diary (1955). In post-modern Japanese pop culture, such as manga and anime, Ophelia is an avenging ghost (Nakata’s Ringue (1998) and The Ring 2 (2008)), a water dragon (Yagi’s Claymore (2007)), a protectress of the tree of life (Oizaki’s Romeo × Juliet (2007)), a sea goddess (Miyazaki’s Ponyo (2008)), a grim reaper (Toboso’s and Shinohara’s Black Butler (manga: 2006–present; anime: 2008-11), an adolescent ghost (Otsuka, Zero: 2014) and backstroke champion who has supernatural power to communicate with animals (Inoue, Ophelia, not yet: 2015).

This chapter argues that various transformations of Ophelia in Japan create a critical intervention in Ophelia’s fetishised image as a dedicated lover, beautiful corpse, innocent adolescent and passive victim.

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