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  • Writer's pictureTze-yue Gigi Hu

Anime with a Purpose: Peace and Paper-Cranes

The following write-up first appeared in the Society for Animation Studies SAS Newsletter 2012, v25n1, p.19.

by Tze-yue Gigi Hu

How to present the subject of animation as less of a technological event and more as a humanistic one, for the enjoyment of the general public? Can we combine an animated film event with some hands-on activity where people of all ages can participate? As a project director of the Japan in a Suitcase project (2011-12), a community-educational outreach program supported by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, I selected an anime film, On a Paper Crane: Tomoko’s Adventure (1994), to promote the therapeutic activity of origami.

(For some background information about the Japan in a Suitcase project, see

One particular event focused on making paper cranes and the universal peace messages behind this unique, independent anime film.

On a Paper Crane: Tomoko’s Adventure is conceptualized by peace activist Ms. Miho Cibot as promoting a nuclear-free world. The story is about a contemporary young schoolgirl, Tomoko, who visits the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on a class assignment and meets a mysterious girl named Sadako. She takes Tomoko on an eye opening journey crossing space and time.

The film screening time lasted 27 minutes and thereafter the audience members were invited to make paper cranes with origami paper. At the various film workshops conducted, my colleagues at the Japan-America Society of Oklahoma acted as origami teachers as well. We traveled to schools, universities, senior centers, public libraries and other community organizations in Oklahoma City and the greater region. Teachers, parents, students, the elderly, and others became our audience-participants. Traditional arts and crafts play a vital role in our heritage of ideas and values; this short animated film was able to pay tribute to the simple activity of paper-crane making and communicate to us the historic meanings of world peace and the related inner peace of individuals.

Tze-yue Gigi Hu is an independent scholar and project director of Japan in a Suitcase in Oklahoma City. She is the author of Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building (University of Hong Kong Press, 2010) and co-editor of Japanese Animation: East Asian Perspectives (forthcoming 2013, University Press of Mississippi).

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