White wings and black wings: ambiguous dichotomy in manga and anime

Mio Bryce

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The deeply intertwined dichotomy of black/evilness and white/goodness continues to have profound influences on people’s perspectives of others, often causing tangible and intangible pains to individuals and groups in many parts of the world. Because of the simplicity of the distinction such deeply metaphoric imagery can be ingeniously exploited as a powerful rhetorical form in numerous ways in literary and artistic landscapes as well as in our everyday lives. Relating critically to this intense, deep-seated dichotomy, this paper aims at gaining an insight into the possible meanings conveyed by the imagery in manga/anime of ‘winged beings’, e.g., angel-like human figures with white wings and/or black (bat-like) wings and question the relevance of the black/white dichotomy, Otherness of these beings, their ambiguous presence as non-human protagonists and the intertexuality of largely Christian iconography within Japanese cotemporary youth cultures. When only white, winged entities appear in the manga/anime narratives, their Otherness, ambiguity and fragility are frequently focused on, rather than their superiority over mere humans. When the black and the white wings are contrasted, the genuine, sympathetic soul often belongs to the black whereas righteousness, intolerance and lack of sympathy are associated with white wings. By characterising them in this way, such narratives can question the presence of the rigid boundary between so-called good and evil, indicating alternative ways of co-existence amongst multiple parties as Others. The manga/anime works being examined include Anno Hideaki’s “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, CLAMP’s “X”, Yuki Kaori’s “Angel Sanctuary”, Hikawa Kyōko’s “Kanata kara” (From far away), Watase Yū’s “Ceres, Celestial Legend”, Miyazaki Hayao’s short, music film, “On Your Mark”, as well as Tezuka Osamu’s stories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-302
Number of pages8
JournalThe International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Copyright Common Ground and The Author/s. Article originally published in The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Number 6, pp. 295-302. This version archived on behalf of the author/s and is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission must be sought from the publisher to republish or reproduce or for any other purpose.


  • white wings and black wings
  • ambiguous dichotomy of black and white
  • manga and anime
  • social commentary
  • youth cultures


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