Honors Program Theses


Honors Program Thesis (UNI Access Only)

First Advisor

Cynthia Dunn


Death--Japan--Folklore; Death in popular culture--Japan; Ghosts--Japan--Folklore;


Levy-Strauss proposed that the study of myth is a useful means of learning about a culture because whereas people may feel constricted in their self-expression in institutions such as religion or politics, the fictional world of myth offers an illusion of free will and freedom of expression (Lévi-Strauss 1964). Curious about the longevity of the universal binary of life:death in Japanese culture, I performed a structural analysis of 72 traditional Japanese folkstories and six modern anime which each held death as a primary thematic element. Specifically, I compared stories on death which featured there topics: karma, jibakurei (earth-bound ghosts), and cannibalism/the consumption of human flesh. My analyses showed that the structures underlying traditional folklore and modern anime are practically identical. The small differences that did exist seemed to be due to the respective nature of each type of media morso than any significant cultural changes. While previous literature exists on the classification of Japanese folklore (Works by Lafcadeo Hearn and Keigo Seki, especially Seki 1966), this comparison of anime and folklore is to my knowledge the first of its kind.

Year of Submission



Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (53 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download