Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu, a pair of fictional police officers, debuted in the manga Reo and Mabu: Together They’re Sarazanmai by Misaki Saitou. While they spend their days raising a lost child named Sara in Reo and Mabu, they appear as antagonists transforming humans into zombies of desire in the following Sarazanmai anime television series. The second episode of Sarazanmai reveals their process of creating zombies (offering humans to the Otter Empire while dancing), as well as the fact Mabu has a mechanical heart that runs on desire energy.
The anime leaves Mabu’s robotics ambiguous, resembling both cyborgs and androids. His heart is definitely mechanical, which alone would make him a cyborg, but the rest of his body is unclear. His chest turns transparent and Reo extracts his heart from it without bloodshed. He may have more mechanical organs, based on the Chief Otticer tinkering with his insides during “maintenance” surgeries. The Chief Otticer and Reo refer to Mabu as a “doll” as if he were entirely artificial. Sarazanmai doesn’t focus on robotics, but it has a place in robot fiction with how Mabu being a “doll” affects his relationship with Reo.
The rest of this post contains spoilers for Sarazanmai and discussion of ableism.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Reconstructed Body, Reconnecting Partners”
In 2019, director Kazuhiro Furuhashi and series composition writer Yasuko Kobayashi adapted Osamu Tezuka’s classic manga Dororo to television. They not only lengthened the story, but brought it to completion more than the rushed ending of the original manga. It still follows Hyakkimaru, a young man seeking to reclaim his stolen body parts from demons, and Dororo, a rambunctious thief who looks up to him. Rather than potential for disability in the premise, Dororo (2019) focuses on issues of autonomy and justice by framing Hyakkimaru’s quest as morally driven. He retaliates against a corrupt leader willing to steal the livelihood of another and aims to take back what is rightfully his, which distracts from the potential ableism of aiming to be “cured.” Still, they missed the opportunity to incorporate the rights of disabled people into themes of autonomy and anatomy.
Instead, Dororo (2019) looks at how Hyakkimaru’s body parts were supposedly sacrificed for the greater good. The central ethical issue also rests in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” a science fiction short story by Ursula K. LeGuin first published in 1973. In “Omelas,” LeGuin posits a utopian society that operates on the torture of a single child, which metaphysically allows the land to prosper. William James’ argument in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” that humans possess innate morality because they feel repulsion at such a hypothetical society inspired LeGuin, who disagrees with the assumption. LeGuin writes that while the treatment of the child sickens the citizens of Omelas, most of them accept the bargain and go on with their lives.
The rest of this post contains spoilers for Dororo.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: The Ones Who Walk Away From Daigo”
This year, I started working at a bookstore. My knowledge of manga comes in handy for our manga section, particularly boys love and yuri as I’m the only employee familiar with the genres. I follow BL and yuri in English closely to present Rainbow Releases at conventions, as well as for my own enjoyment. I don’t consider myself an expert in the genres–or any field–because I am always learning, but I sure feel like one compared to how little the average person at my job knows of BL and yuri. They definitely haven’t witnessed the “what is BL and what isn’t” arguments that seem to happen on my sphere of Twitter every month. As a result, the designated BL and yuri shelves are largely my responsibility.
The books we order are not obviously labeled BL or yuri, with the exception of SuBLime’s logo on the spine and Tokyopop’s “boys love” and “girls love” genre boxes. At most, a book’s blurb may describe it as BL of yuri. It’s up to us, the bookstore, to decide where to shelve them.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: To BL or Not to BL”
Over the last few years, the amount of confirmed LGBTQ characters in animated television aimed at children in the United States has significantly increased. Media for children has additional hoops to leap through when including LGBTQ characters, such as fear of “corrupting” children into queerness or exposing them to “sexual content” of same-gender relationships. We’re currently at a turning point between reliance on subtext for depiction of LGBTQ people (such as under the Hays Code) and more openness about LGBTQ topics, and all the complications that come with it.
OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes on Cartoon Network juggles straightforward representation with the more nebulous. As brief as it is, Enid is deliberately drawn riding vehicles with a bisexual pride sticker, the same one Rebecca Sugar used to come out in real life. Lord Boxman and Professor Venomous, the main antagonists of the series, come across as queer in another less direct way. Boxman seeks business partnerships with other supervillains of any gender, given the same weight and imagery as if they were romantic relationships. He eventually joins forces with Professor Venomous, who previously dated a woman. Together, Boxman and Venomous are ostensibly a same-gender couple under the bisexual umbrella. Showrunner Ian Jones-Quartey later confirmed via Twitter that Boxman is pansexual and Venomous is bisexual.
On paper, two major antagonists being queer(-coded) sounds unfortunately like yet another offensive stereotype in cartoons. However, the big picture is much more complex. OK K.O. has queer characters on both the hero and villain sides of Lakewood, and even that hero and villain divide becomes blurred.
The rest of this post contains major spoilers for OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes.
Continue reading “The Voxy Bunch and the Legacy of Animated Queer-Coded Villains”
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 and Sakura-Con 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 spring season of 2019!
Continue reading “Rainbow Releases: Spring 2019”
There is truly a lot to unpack in Sarazanmai, the latest anime television series directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara about a trio of secretive young boys transformed into kappas and tasked with saving Asakusa, Tokyo from giant thieving zombies. The zombies in question are created by a mysterious duo of police officers named Reo and Mabu, working under the even more mysterious Otter Empire.
In the final episode, the Empire’s Chief Otticer of Science and Technology sings “I am an abstract concept.” In the end, the force opposing the Kappa Kingdom does not physically exist. They are merely social constructs borne out of the human (and kappa) characters. However, that’s not to say they’re weak or unstable. They’re strong enough to wage a war against the Kappa Kingdom, advanced enough to transform humans into zombies and harvest their desire energies, and manipulative enough to control Reo and Mabu.
In Sarazanmai, oppression is not so much enacted by living actors as by concepts embedded in society. The abstract nature of the Otter Empire goes to show how internalization of oppression, when systematic oppression negatively impacts the self-image of the oppressed group by believing in their “inferiority,” can damage a connection like that of Reo and Mabu’s as much as external forces and systems. At one point, the otters manifest as a sexually menacing version of Reo he struggles to accept. It is not a true reflection of his attraction to Mabu, but one twisted by internalized homophobia, colorism, and classism. (Although I am white and cannot speak to colorism from personal experience, I felt it would be remiss to not incorporate colorism into my analysis.)
The rest of this post contains spoilers for Sarazanmai, as well as discussion of homophobia, colorism, classism and rape.
Continue reading “Otterly Internalized Oppression”
I intended for AMV Theater to be the articles I would write when I didn’t have other ideas, but now… it’s been almost two years since my last. Maybe it’s a good thing I have enough ideas to keep me from having to fall back on it, but I still believe in sharing the artistry of AMVs. Here is the return of AMV Theater, my series of AMV recommendations.
In honor of Pride Month, all these AMVs feature songs by openly gay or bisexual artists. Their music combined with LGBTQ characters and same-gender relationships, whether or not they’re “canonical,” is a beautiful thing.
Continue reading “AMV Theater: Pride Month”
This post has been long overdue, as the convention panel it’s based on was first held at Kumoricon in October of 2018. The Asexuality in Manga and More panel is a collaboration between myself and Modulus, my aroace friend.
Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare, the latest manga by openly asexual mangaka Yuhki Kamatani, is finally available in English! This is only one of many increases in visibility of Japanese asexual people and representations of asexual identity in Japanese media. Let’s take a took at the emergence of asexual and nonsexual characters in anime and manga, as well explorations of sexuality and relationships adjacent to asexuality in other titles.
The rest of this post contains discussion of sexual assault, anti-asexual and aromantic prejudice, and potential spoilers for all series mentioned.
Continue reading “Asexuality in Manga and More”
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!
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. With all that said, here’s winter 2019!
Continue reading “Rainbow Releases: Winter 2019”
Today is Anosmia Awareness Day and I am anosmic, meaning I was born without a sense of smell. It hasn’t come up on this blog until now because anosmia is so underrepresented in fiction. There are minor characters here and there–Latula Pyrope in Homestuck, Aunt Selma in The Simpsons, etc.–and even then their anosmia is only briefly mentioned for humor or scent-related plot points. The penultimate episode of Futurama has close to a character arc about anosmia, in a parody of the 1931 film City Lights. In the episode, Zoidberg falls in love with an anosmic woman named Marianne who doesn’t realize he reeks. The episode doesn’t name Marianne’s condition as anosmia and she’s ultimately cured, but it does challenge the social construction of “bad” and “good” smells as she prefers Zoidberg’s odor to flowers. Even then, Marianne only gets one episode to herself. She’s only a parody of a blind character, not one envisioned as anosmic to begin with.
The story that’s spoken to me the most as an anosmiac is much longer, but more metaphorical. Kamen Rider OOO isn’t about anosmia per se, but does question what physical sensations have to do with making someone “complete.” In the 21st incarnation of the Kamen Rider tokusatsu television series, a young man named Eiji Hino transforms into the superhero Kamen Rider OOO with the ability to activate animal-themed medals. He was granted this power by Ankh, one of five ancient monsters known as the Greeed created by alchemists from experimentation with animal souls. The Greeed were designed as “incomplete” beings, made up of ten animal medals but “born” into consciousness through removal of the tenth. Four of them seek to recollect their core medals by creating monsters of the week, spurring battles with Kamen Rider OOO and Ankh.
This rest of this post contains spoilers for all of Kamen Rider OOO and related crossover films.
Continue reading “Taste, Disability, and Metaphor: De/humanization in Kamen Rider OOO”