Who am I? Is there anyone who loves me as I am? A quest for ‘individual identity’ is a major topic in manga (and anime) texts, which combine visual art forms with strong narrative-driven structures that portray a diverse range of social phenomena. This paper examines the characterisation of ‘twins’ in manga and anime, paying particular attention to ‘identical twins’ in girls’ manga, in terms of the following: the fashioning of self and the individual’s quest for / negotiation of subjective forms of agency through their struggles with actual and/or internalised pressures for social conformity.
As De Nooy (2005) claims, tales of twins figure as a significant motif in contemporary culture and these narratives continuously evolve to respond to the place and the period of their (re)telling, often representing an account of an ambiguous self and/or ‘other self’ in relation to issues of gender and sexuality. Twins in manga (and anime) are the same, yet such characters are often created by female artists for female readers as embodiments of personal, psychological struggles for individual independence rather than as a gendered girl, unlike western novels, plays and films.
Perhaps reflecting the general impression of ‘twins’ as the identical, Japanese twins in manga (and anime) are generally limited to the identical (same sex) or male/female twins with similar appearances. Male/female twins tend to represent the strong, affectionate, (mythic) bond, with incestuous overtones. It can deconstruct pre-determined gender roles but only lightly, as exemplified by the first twin manga, Tezuka Osamu’s ‘Futago no kishi’ (Twin knights) from 1958. In contrast, tales of identical twins often focus on their rivalry and their conflict, where jealousy plays a critical role. It explores psychological issues, in which the twins may be interpreted as dramatisations of the self and the mirrored self, the split and fragmented self, and the internal conflict between unconsciousness and the social self or the ego and the super-ego. Many identical twins narratives in manga revolve around deep-seated anxieties and uncertainties about individual identity, especially that of girls. As Fujimoto (2001) sums up: twin tales in the 1950s demonstrate a recovery of lost wholeness, which end with the happy reunion of twin girls who grew up separately, followed by darker and more suspenseful stories, entwined with jealousy, rivalry and conflict between twins with contrasting nature (e.g., the good and the bad). From 1985, along with a general interest in ‘identity’, twin narratives of both girl twins and boy twins flourished, with a specific focus on psychological issues, such as inner conflict; conflict between the self and the expected self, which also closely related to other narratives (e.g., clones, multiple personalities and reincarnations), all of which relate to issues concerning individual identity. In recent manga publications twin tales are increasingly characterised by playfulness, lightness and positive tones in their depiction of identical twins’ development of independence - from the double to two individuals as exemplified by Minako Narita’s Cipher.
|Keywords:||Twins, Manga/Anime, Individual Identity, Social Conformity, Hierarchical Order|
Senior Lecturer, Division of Humanities, Macquarie University, Australia
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