Where to Find Gay and Bisexual Male Characters in Recent Children’s Cartoons: An Incomplete Overview

Where to Find Gay and Bisexual Male Characters in Recent Children’s Cartoons: An Incomplete Overview

It feels like every time two female characters become a couple in a cartoon for children, some people steer the conversation toward gay male characters in animation instead. Specifically, they claim that lesbians and bisexual women are over-represented in fiction compared to gay and bisexual men. In actuality, all kinds of LGBTQ identities are vastly outnumbered by heterosexual and cisgender characters.

As a lifelong fan of cartoons, a number of examples come to mind when others lament a lack of gay and bisexual male characters. They often appear in the same cartoons as lesbian and bisexual female characters: OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Steven Universe, The Loud House, Twelve Forever, etc. No one’s obligated to watch or enjoy the source material, but people act as if they don’t exist. On one hand, I don’t want to derail news about lesbians. On the other hand, perhaps an informative resource could expand the conversation and prevent bad faith in the future.

Before we get to the list, let’s first establish that LGBTQ creators take precedent over fictional characters, whether they’re out and whether they have LGBTQ characters. In observance of Pride Month and in honor of Black Lives Matter, here are ten openly LGBTQ Black people in animation to start with. You can also find this list at the end of the article.

Now, here it is: an article of just what it says on the tin, created to answer “where are the gay/bi male characters?” in good faith. It’s not about gay and bisexual men behind the scenes, the history of queer-coding, or characters in animation aimed at adults. A little subjective analysis here and there, but aiming to mostly state the facts. As such, these are not recommendations or endorsements. This is not a comprehensive list of every single instance of gay and bisexual male characters in children’s animation, either. It is an overview of patterns within the last decade primarily from the United States, with illustrative examples for each category. (Unfortunately, some examples come from cartoons with allegedly abusive creators. The titles have been marked with an asterisk and you can read the allegations here.) It is incomplete without characters outside the Anglosphere (such as Henri and Masato from Hugtto! Pretty Cure), and does not claim otherwise. Feel free to add your own examples via comments, but please don’t frame it as if they’ve been forgotten or erased.

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Rainbow Releases: Winter 2020

Rainbow Releases: Winter 2020

In 2018, we introduced an anime convention panel called Rainbow Releases to highlight LGBTQ-related anime and manga coming to the United States in English. As of this post’s publication, we don’t have plans to host Rainbow Releases as a panel at any future anime conventions. We’re unsure when it will be safe to attend conventions again, or safe to be held at all. For now, Rainbow Releases will remain as our list of titles throughout the year and seasonal recaps such as these.

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Fruits Basket Episode 28: Oh Brother

Fruits Basket Episode 28: Oh Brother

The third episode of the second season of Fruits Basket backtracks to chapter 36 of the manga, in which Tohru Honda and Yuki Sohma visit Ayame’s costume boutique. That’s ten chapters before the previous episode, for those keeping track like me. The disparity between the anime and manga timelines has been apparent since Mine Kurame’s cameo in the second opening of the first season, and they’ve nearly caught up with her official introduction. “Shall We Go and Get You Changed?” adapts chapters 36 and 47, in which Yuki and Ayame discuss parent-teacher conferences, of the manga.

The combination has a lot to cover: Yuki and Tohru’s blossoming relationship, Yuki and Ayame’s shared history as well as newly forged brotherhood, and Mine’s introduction. All the while, it notably doesn’t contain a single reference to the Chinese zodiac nor the curse upon the Sohma family. With almost all the zodiac introduced and transformations no longer necessary to show their corresponding animal, Fruits Basket begins to move on from the physical effects of the curse to the psychological. In this case, we look at how brothers Yuki and Ayame fare differently as members of the zodiac.

This post contains discussion of child abuse, homophobia, and transphobia.

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Fruits Basket Episode 27: The Evolution of Kyo

Fruits Basket Episode 27: The Evolution of Kyo

The second season of Fruits Basket continues with its second episode “Eat Somen with Your Friends,” and so does this weekly recap and analysis series. With anime production across the industry up in the air and more shows postponed due to COVID-19, it is unclear how long Fruits Basket season two will last. The first three episodes were completed back in March to run in US theaters, but the rest of production is unknown. For now, I plan to write these recaps as long as the show stays on streaming sites, but I understand if production will be suspended.

“Eat Somen with Your Friends” merges manga chapter 46, in which Tohru and Kyo discuss their futures with a career plan assignment in mind, and 52, in which Tohru and Kyo visit Kazuma’s house for lunch. Like “Hello Again,” the combination comes naturally through shared characters. Together, they underline the uncertainty Kyo and Tohru share over what lies ahead. While the last episode looked at Yuki’s character development, this time we marvel at how far our other leading man has come and where he will go with Tohru.

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Fruits Basket Episode 26: The Evolution of Yuki

Fruits Basket Episode 26: The Evolution of Yuki

The first episode of the second season of Fruits Basket, the series about a teenage girl named Tohru Honda who befriends members of a mysterious family cursed to transform into animals, has been released to the world. I wish I could say I saw the new episode at one of Funimation’s “sneak peek” theatre showings in the United States decked out in Machi cosplay and Yuki merchandise, but they were all cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead we’ll be watching scenes from the original manga animated for the first time every week together.

As a longtime fan of the manga by Natsuki Takaya, the way “Hello Again” perfectly ushers in the second season’s new material (especially regarding Yuki Sohma) has me hyped. In honor of the second season, this will (hopefully) be my first in a series of posts recapping and analyzing each episode. I may as well write something regularly while I’m staying home. This time the spotlight is on dear rat boy, his future, and his new friends. Newcomers and fans of the 2001 anime series will soon find there’s much more to Yuki than the early episodes.

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Rainbow Releases: Autumn 2019

Rainbow Releases: Autumn 2019

In 2018, we introduced an anime convention panel called Rainbow Releases to highlight LGBTQ-related anime and manga coming to the United States in English. Thank you to everyone who attended at Chibi Chibi Con 2019, Sakura-Con 2019, and Kumoricon 2019!

For 2018, we transcribed our midyear panel as a single blog post, which left out unprecedented works later in the year such as Zombieland Saga. Since then, we’ve keep a simple list of all releases on a Rainbow Releases: LGBTQ Anime and Manga of 2019 blog page, with in-depth blog posts looking back on each season as we move through the year.

Unfortunately, we won’t be hosting Rainbow Releases at Sakura-con 2020 as the convention was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the list of anime and manga that would have been touched on in our presentation. The future of convention panels, anime production, and physical book releases are uncertain, but we will continue to update our blog with seasonal recaps of what makes its way to the US.

At long last, here is our recap of LGBTQ-themed anime and manga from the autumn season of 2019! With that, all of 2019 has been covered.

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Rainbow Releases: Summer 2019

Rainbow Releases: Summer 2019

In 2018, we introduced an anime convention panel called Rainbow Releases to highlight LGBTQ-related anime and manga coming to the United States in English. We plan to continue hosting this panel so long as there are LGBTQ titles to discuss and conventions will have us, and thankfully 2019 has plenty. Thank you to everyone who attended at Chibi Chibi Con 2019, Sakura-Con 2019, and Kumoricon 2019!

Last year we transcribed our midyear panel as a single blog post, which left out unprecedented works later in the year such as Zombieland Saga. This year we plan to keep a simple list of all releases on a Rainbow Releases: LGBTQ Anime and Manga of 2019 blog page, with in-depth blog posts looking back on each season as we move through the year.

Without further delay, here is our recap of LGBTQ-themed anime and manga from the summer season of 2019! Better late than never?

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12 Days of Anime: Ash Lynx is Dead, Long Live Ash Lynx

12 Days of Anime: Ash Lynx is Dead, Long Live Ash Lynx

On this day last year, the awaited final episode to Studio MAPPA’s anime adaptation of Banana Fish aired. Some viewers had dreaded it ever since the anime’s announcement, some learned along the way and joined them, and some watched it unfold without spoilers. They dreaded it not because they’d be left with no more episodes to watch, but because of the nature of the ending.

The rest of this post contains spoilers for Banana Fish and brief discussion of child sex abuse.

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12 Days of Anime: The Year in Vintage Shoujo Manga

12 Days of Anime: The Year in Vintage Shoujo Manga

In the United States, classic shoujo manga (comics aimed at young girls) in English can be hard to (legally) come by. Books like Four Shojo Stories are long out of print, if titles are licensed at all. Even as more manga from the 1970s are brought to the United States, such as through the “Classics” line from Seven Seas Entertainment, almost all are originally shounen manga (comics aimed at young boys). Claudine…!, a historical fiction manga about a European closeted transgender man, by Riyoko Ikeda from Seven Seas is a recent shoujo exception. Compared to the past, 2019 has been a relatively big year for vintage shoujo manga in the Anglosphere, with some available in print as well as attention brought to other titles through discussion. Here are some highlights of the year.

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12 Days of Anime: Char’s Counterattack, or How to Resolve a Nine Year Love Triangle the Gay Way

12 Days of Anime: Char’s Counterattack, or How to Resolve a Nine Year Love Triangle the Gay Way

This post contains spoilers for Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Char’s Counterattack, and Fruits Basket.

In honor of Mobile Suit Gundam‘s 40th anniversary, the 1988 feature film Char’s Counterattack from the Universal Century timeline had a limited theatrical run in the United States. Char’s Counterattack is many things: a spectacle of animation, the end of an era, a divisive film. It brought a close to the story of Amuro Ray that began with 1979’s classic Mobile Suit Gundam, at least until more continuations came along. Amuro survives the One Year War piloting the first Gundam, albeit traumatized by war. His inadvertent murder of Lalah Sune, an enemy soldier he nonetheless emotionally connected to, haunts him in particular. He lives on to fight in the Gyrps Conflict featured in the 1985 sequel Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Alongside him stands Char Aznable, the commander and mentor of Lalah, whether as an enemy in year 0079 or ally in 0087.

Lalah loves both Char and Amuro, devoting herself to the former and regretting she met the latter “too late” to truly connect to him. At first, this “love triangle” seems resolved through Lalah’s demise. She cannot choose between them if dead. However, she lingers in their minds, in memory as well as a literal ghost. The loss of Lalah fans the flames of Amuro and Char’s rivalry, which continues to evolve.

The rest of this post contains discussion of sexual content and child grooming.

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