Science Fiction Film & Television

The multiplicities of empire and the libidinal economy in Makoto Shinkai's The Place Promised in Our Early Days

Science Fiction Film & Television (2014), 7, (3), 387–407.

Abstract

This article places Makoto Shinkai's Kumo no mukô, yakusoku no basho (The Place Promised in Our Early Days; Japan 2004) within the context of Lyotard's libidinal economy and the desire-laden structures of empire. The film's unstable narrative frame, its alternate history context and its focus on the dual figures of Sayuri and the Tower as metaphors and objects of colonial conquest are explorations of the system of desires entailed in the colonial schema, particularly in relation to the question of what it means to map or assimilate over the gendered body. I argue that the film embodies the breakdown of the Eros/death drive equilibrium suggested by Lyotard as part of the decolonisation process and exposes the way in which empires are driven both by conquest and desire, but also by an underlying anticipatory consciousness and self-destruction mechanism which compels colonial subjects to action. Rather than a clean ‘revolution’, however, the film's climactic moment provides a Lyotardian remainder that rejects the permanence of repetitive revolution.

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Author details

Duke, Shaun