Category: Anime

12 Days of Anime: Reconstructed Body, Reconnecting Partners

12 Days of Anime: Reconstructed Body, Reconnecting Partners

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 who transform 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.

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12 Days of Anime: The Ones Who Walk Away From Daigo

12 Days of Anime: The Ones Who Walk Away From Daigo

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. InOmelas,” 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.

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Rainbow Releases: Spring 2019

Rainbow Releases: Spring 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 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!

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Otterly Internalized Oppression

Otterly Internalized Oppression

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.

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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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Asexuality in Manga and More

Asexuality in Manga and More

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.

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Rainbow Releases: Winter 2019

Rainbow Releases: Winter 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!

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!

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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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The Duality of Miki

The Duality of Miki

It’s been one year since Devilman Crybaby, Masaaki Yuasa’s anime adaptation of Go Nagai’s classic manga, took the world by storm. Devilman Crybaby increased the presence of women in the main cast from a single girl named Miki to two both named, well, Miki. Although they share a name, they have distinct personalities and roles in the story. Miki can no longer be reduced to “the girl,” nor does one character have to represent all of womanhood. Between the Miki Makimura admired by her peers and the Miki Kuroda left behind, Crybaby paints a picture of how misogyny affects women deemed good or bad when they’re truly not so different.

This post contains discussion of rape, as well as spoilers for the original Devilman manga and Devilman Crybaby.

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Ash Get iPad: The Perils of Banana Fish’s Modernization

Ash Get iPad: The Perils of Banana Fish’s Modernization

Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida, at the time of serialization, was once a contemporary story. It began in 1985 and ended in 1994, while the timeline of the main plot spanned from 1985 to 1987. So in a way, modernizing the anime adaptation of Banana Fish to be set in 2018 is appropriate. Rather than a near complete replication of a story set in the 1980s, there can be a parallel story that integrates the ideas and themes to be timely like the original was.

However, updating Banana Fish raises some clear issues. The original manga is deeply 1980s, from its aesthetics to its politics, and if handled without care, you wind up with a story that’s already dated from the very start. It’s one thing for a story to be old; we still have centuries old classics. Plus, our suspension of disbelief can be higher when we know a story was from a different time. However, with an adaptation you’re already setting up a compare and contrast situation, to mix in modernization too, it’s key to think through what needs to be changed, why it needs to be changed, and how that affects the original story. This is different for all kinds of adaptations and renditions, but ultimately it can be done in a lot of fun, unique, creative ways. In the case of Banana Fish though, it’s all about the lack of change. Though the style and technology is there, the story ultimately feels like a rerun in different clothes. This especially feels like a missed opportunity with the legacy that Banana Fish has as a classic manga that tackles heavy social issues.

This isn’t to disparage the work put into the anime or to imply it’s a complete waste. Translating a story to a new medium is difficult work and there are plenty of parts I enjoyed. It’s at least introduced the story to new audiences, including me, and opened up new avenues to discuss it. In this spirit, I want to talk about some of the missed opportunities that the anime passed over when modernizing the manga in the context of the social themes Yoshida touches on. There are some issues that are thoughtfully examined in the manga but would be reflected differently in a modern setting, and other issues that weren’t examined as deeply as they could have been in an adaptation.

Spoiler warning for the end of Banana Fish, including the side story Garden of Light.

Content warning for discussions of police brutality and sexual trauma (including child sex abuse).

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