TOSHIYA UENO: ‘On the Recent Tonality of PanPsychism in Japanese Animation’, with response by Esther Leslie, and plenary  

This paper explores the meaning of non-human agency and characters in the recent Japanese Animation. There have been some intriguing currents since years. Many animations and manga are concerned with non-human agencies. Non-human or non-living beings are focused in the form of characters and protagonists of some anime pieces. As one of facile examples, Tales of Agriculture, a.k.a. Moyashimon, is to be raised and scrutinized in this presentation. In this narrative setting, a student as the protagonist in the agricultural university can communicate with microbes or bacterias and even envision all operations of microorganisms in our everyday life. Then, what kinds of methods and perspectives can afford a proper explanation for the plural appearances of the current in anime and manga genre? This paper will address the recent discussion on panpsychism in both scenes of cognitive science and contemporary philosophy. Unlike a metaphorical anthropomorphism or cozy animism, panpsychism problematizes the relation of thinking and being, subjectivities and the world, mind and Nature with which Cartesian or Kantian framework has dealt in a conventional manner. It doesn’t claim that everything, including non-humans, non-livings, even things and objects, can hold an intelligence, but suggests the notion of a certain sentience in everything, rather than invoking the presence of intelligence or mind. Panpsychism can be a clue or secret kernel of contemporary animations.  


Toshiya Ueno is a Professor of the Department of Transcultural Studies in the Faculty of Representational Studies at the Wako University, Tokyo. He has published The Crimson Metal Suits:Anime as a battlefield, The Quadruple Ecology: Thoughts of Felix Guattari, The Dissident Intellectuals in the Post War Japan, (all in Japanese) and contributing papers (in English) to some books, Deleuze and Buddhism, Planetary Atmospheres and Urban Society After Fukushima, Ecocriticism in Japan, etc.