Category: Animation

For the Love of the Game: Yu-Gi-Oh Parody Now and Then

For the Love of the Game: Yu-Gi-Oh Parody Now and Then

At one point in the early 2000s, Yu-Gi-Oh (“The King of Games”) permeated United States popular culture. The average person may not have comprehended the characters or story, but may have recognized the spiky tri-colored hair of the protagonist or the tawny playing cards from the gaming-themed urban fantasy series.

While creator Kazuki Takahashi’s original manga began in 1996 in Japan, the series didn’t take off in the US until an English language version of an anime adaptation hit American airwaves on Kids’ WB in 2001. The English version of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, shortened to simply Yu-Gi-Oh, produced by 4Kids Entertainment introduced a generation to the ongoing franchise. The Konami trading card game based on the fictional game of Duel Monsters followed in 2002 in the US, as did the publication of Takahashi’s unabridged manga from VIZ Media in 2003.

The phenomenon extended well beyond television, game shops, and mabookstores. Yugi Muto and the Ancient Egyptian spirit sharing his body decorated magazines, apparel, cereal, and much more across everyday supermarkets. Yu-Gi-Oh could even be found in other works of fiction in the form of parody and references.

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Mr. Osomatsu Acquires a Taste for Respect Women Juice

Mr. Osomatsu Acquires a Taste for Respect Women Juice

To say Osomatsu has gone through many changes since 1962 would be an understatement. Originally a gag manga by Fujio Akatsuka, Osomatsu-kun has been adapted twice to anime in 1966 and 1988, each with its own take on the series and sense of humor. The manga, as well as both versions of the anime, also shifted from their initial premise of rambunctious identical sextuplet children–Osomatsu, Karamatsu, Choromatsu, Ichimatsu, Jyushimatsu, and Todomatsu–to focus on their neighbors Iyami and Chibita when those characters proved more popular.

In 2015, director Yoichi Fujita and series writer Shu Matsubara of Gintama fame rebooted the series to refocus on the sextuplets and bring them into adulthood. In modern Japanese society, the main characters live as social misfits: the Matsuno sextuplets having aged into NEETs (“Not in Education, Employment, or Training”) and the sole heroine, Totoko, becoming a floundering local idol. The sextuplets have always sought attention from girls, and now they’re horndogs desperate to have sex for the first time. Totoko refuses to date them, even if they’re her only supporters.

Not all characters from Osomatsu-kun carried over, including girls like Chikako. Only Totoko and Matsuyo, mother of the Matsuno family, remained as recurring characters. Besides them, women generally make limited appearances. Try as they might to get girlfriends, women outright reject the sextuplets or a relationship doesn’t last longer than an episode. (To be fair, it makes sense that women don’t want to be around men who objectify and insult them.)

Now in its third season, Osomatsu-san (localized as Mr. Osomatsu) has somewhat shifted its approach to women. Although the season premiere couched any balance between male and female characters going forward as “compliance” to appease the show’s production committee, episodes have sincerely focused on Totoko, Matsuyo, and the reboot-exclusive Nyaa-chan more than ever.

This post contains discussion of misogyny, transmisogyny, and sexual harassment, as well as spoilers for all seasons of Osomatsu-san and Osomatsu-san: The Movie.

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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 (the lack of) 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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The Voxy Bunch and the Legacy of Animated Queer-Coded Villains

The Voxy Bunch and the Legacy of Animated Queer-Coded Villains

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.

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AMV Theater: Pride Month

AMV Theater: Pride Month

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.

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What the Future Holds for Spider-Verse in the Hands of Voltron Showrunners

What the Future Holds for Spider-Verse in the Hands of Voltron Showrunners

December 14th of 2018 saw the release of not one, but two monuments in popular culture. One was the highly anticipated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, an animated film starring Shameik Moore as Miles Morales. Before the film’s premiere, Sony announced a sequel and a spin-off film in the works. Joaquim Dos Santos has been confirmed director for the sequel. At the moment, Lauren Montgomery is in talks for directing the spin-off. Dos Santos and Montgomery are fresh off their work as executive producers of Dreamworks’ Voltron: Legendary Defender, which had its eighth and final season on Netflix the same day Spider-Verse hit theaters. Audiences met Spider-Verse with critical acclaim, while the same cannot be said for Voltron season eight. Responses ranged from lukewarm to furious. After season seven left some fans frustrated with the death of a gay man of color character and other developments, season eight disappointed many more with the ending (including the deaths of more characters of color).

Voltron and Spider-Verse have more in common than a release date, however. Without getting into spoilers, the plot of season eight and themes of grief bare a striking resemblance to those of Spider-Verse. Not that one ripped off the other, but that they both aimed to tell stories about loss and family. The delicate consideration and authenticity of marginalized characters simply made audiences more receptive to Spider-Verse. If the Voltron showrunners couldn’t carry out something so similar to Spider-Verse with the same praise, how are they supposed to follow it up well?

This post contains spoilers for Voltron: Legendary Defender and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Also, a disclaimer: this is not meant as an attack on the showrunners (or any crew member) of Voltron as people. This is a critique of the TV show they produced and their role as storytellers.

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Favorites of 2018

Favorites of 2018

It’s that time of year again. Karleen and Malia have rounded up their favorite (not necessarily the best) media of the year enough times now it officially has its own tag: Favorites of the Year.

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12 Days of Anime: Neo Yokio’s Christmas Special for the Ages

12 Days of Anime: Neo Yokio’s Christmas Special for the Ages

Neo Yokio, Ezra Koening’s satirical urban fantasy animated series, arrived on Netflix in September of 2017 to mixed reviews. Season one followed Kaz Kaan, a wealthy and recently single exorcist, in his adventures slaying demons and perusing the city of Neo Yokio. With still no second season confirmed, Neo Yokio returned for a Christmas special this month. For a show that dabbled in ideas of class, materialism, and socialism, Christmas is the perfect homecoming. Most animated Christmas specials aired in the United States either focus on the myth of Santa Claus or the birth of Jesus Christ, if not both. Neo Yokio, an anime hybrid of a US Christmas special, is about neither. Pink Christmas looks at the holiday for what it’s become–materialist, self-serving celebration–through the eyes of its fictional wealthy.

This post contains spoilers for Pink Christmas and The End of Evangelion.

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Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: Battle for Motorcity

Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: Battle for Motorcity

As of this month, it’s been over six years since Motorcity was cancelled. For an introduction to the short-lived Titmouse animated series on Disney XD, see my first retrospective post that answers the question “What is Motorcity?” This time, we’ll be diving into the series proper with the first episode.

“Battle for Motorcity” was originally envisioned as a pair of episodes for a two-part premiere, but was condensed to one episode. Despite the shorter runtime, it artfully and naturally packs a ton of worldbuilding, character dynamics, and future plot points into a single high stakes pilot. In a cyberpunk future where the rich deserted Detroit to build a utopia above it, the young Burners fight to protect the old city from the evil corporation KaneCo. Let’s take a Tour of Motorcity and look at not only the fictional universe and characters, but where “Battle for Motorcity” places the story in the genre of science fiction dystopia and the sociology of economic polarization in Detroit.

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Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: What is Motorcity?

Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: What is Motorcity?

A retrospective on Disney XD’s short-lived animated series Motorcity has been a long time coming on this blog, half to express how dear it is to me and half to hopefully introduce it to other people. After rewatching it last year with a friend who had never seen it before, I started writing in-depth looks at episodes. I lost steam on the project as I felt I couldn’t do such a wonderful show justice in my analysis, but with the recent possibility Motorcity could return I’m willing to try again.

Before we get into an episode-by-episode retrospective, we first need to ask: what is Motorcity? Whatever happened to it? Why is it relevant again? What made it so special? And what now?

What is Motorcity?

Chris Prynoski had the idea for a cartoon titled Motorcity about rebellious driving in a future Detroit, Michigan where cars are obsolete for over a decade. An action-packed, if crude, proof of concept was produced for MTV following Prynoski’s Downtown in 2000, but was never picked up. Years later, now the owner of the dynamic animation studio Titmouse, Prynoski partnered with the channel Disney XD to finally develop Motorcity.

It premiered April 30th of 2012. The Disney XD series takes place in a futuristic Detroit, owned and operated by the billionaire engineer Abraham Kane, constructed on top of the old city. The dystopian Detroit Deluxe offers safety and sanitation to its citizens, at the unseen cost of personal freedoms such as artwork, fashion, and of course automobiles. In Motorcity, corporations are literally built on top of the people kept out of sight and demonized. The Burners, a diverse gang of drivers headed by their fearless leader Mike Chilton, turn their backs on Deluxe to fight for the people below and dismantle Kane’s tyranny. However, the show is anything but dreary. It’s heart-pounding, vibrant, and hilarious!

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