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Pagan News Beagle: Airy Monday, September 14

Hayao Miyazaki opens a nature sanctuary for children. A colorful comic deconstructs the magical girl genre made famous by Sailor Moon. And one woman learn how to balance femininity and feminism through tabletop gaming. Welcome to Airy Monday, our weekly take on news about magic and religion in popular culture. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

Some years ago Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's most acclaimed animator, retired after decades of work in the animation industry. However it would appear that he hasn't been idle in his retirement. Long acknowledged as a major supporter of environmental causes in Japan, Miyazaki has recently announced is backing and funding a nature sanctuary in his native Japan for children to visit and explore.

Speaking of Japan, some of you may be familiar with the country's native religion Shinto, an eclectic blend of polytheism, animism, and ancestor veneration. Because every place, person, and thing can potentially contain or become a kami (spirit or god), it is not unusual for practitioners of the religion to set up shrines devoted to extremely specific spirits. Such is the case in a museum about the Japanese animation industry, which features a shrine dedicated to voice actors.

Art is, as we all know, subjective and part of its subjectivity means that what might seem offensive or alarming to one person might not to another. Over at Comics Alliance, Kate Leth has posted a small comic about this fact and how sometimes it helps to listen to the objections of others in detail before dismissing them out of hand.

The magical girl genre is easily one of the most popular forms of superhero or fantasy works in Japan, characterized by a focus on female protagonists who lead ordinary lives but who can magically transform on the fly into powerful heroines to battle evil. The most famous example of the genre is easily Sailor Moon but numerous other works exist, including a recent Western comic which deconstructs the genre, reviewed here by io9's James Whitbrook.

Here in the West, fantasy is usually embodied by either fantasy literature like The Lord of the Rings or tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. The latter has often had a reputation as something which only appeals to young men, but that's hardly an absolute truth. This article from The Mary Sue goes into detail about one woman's experience with the game and how it helped her learn to embrace her femininity without compromising her feminism.

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Aryós Héngwis (or the more modest Héngwis for short) is a native of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, born some 5000 years ago, near the village of Dereivka. In his youth he stood out from the other snakes for his love of learning and culture, eventually coming into the service of the local reǵs before moving westward toward Europe. Most recently, Aryós Héngwis left his home to pursue a new life in America, where he has come under the employ of BBI Media as an internet watchdog (or watchsnake, if you will), ever poised to strike the unwary troll.


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