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 the anime was announced, 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.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Ash Lynx is Dead, Long Live Ash Lynx”
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.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: The Year in Vintage Shoujo Manga”
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 is 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 she’s 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.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Char’s Counterattack, or How to Resolve a Nine Year Love Triangle the Gay Way”
Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu, a pair of fictional police officers, first appeared in the manga Reo and Mabu: Together They’re Sarazanmai by Misaki Saitou. While they spent their days raising a lost child named Sara in Reo and Mabu, they appeared 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.
Mabu’s robotics are 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 can turn transparent and Reo can extract his heart from it with no bloodshed. He may have more mechanical organs, based on the Chief Otticer tinkering with his insides during “maintenance” surgeries. Mabu is also referred to as a “doll” by the Chief Otticer and Reo as if he were entirely artificial. Robotics are not the focus of Sarazanmai, 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, incorporating the rights of disabled people into its themes of autonomy and anatomy is a missed opportunity.
Instead, Dororo (2019) looks at how Hyakkimaru’s body parts were supposedly sacrificed for the greater good. The central ethical issue is the same as 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. Omelas was inspired by William James’ argument in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life” that humans possess innate morality because they feel repulsion at such hypothetical society. LeGuin writes that while the citizens of Omelas are sickened by the treatment of the child, most 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”
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”