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”
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”
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.
Continue reading “What the Future Holds for Spider-Verse in the Hands of Voltron Showrunners”
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.
Continue reading “Favorites of 2018”
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.
Continue reading “The Duality of Miki”
Before the manga Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida, there was her short story “Fly Boy in the Sky.” It marked the first appearance of Banana Fish characters, published a year before Banana Fish entered serialization. In the one shot, 25 year old Ibe comes across a televised high school pole vault competition and decides to track down and photograph teenage Eiji. Ibe’s photography captures Eiji in a moment of grace he doesn’t know he’s capable of. “Garden of Light,” the final Banana Fish short story by Yoshida, shows how Eiji captured Ash with his own camera in turn.
This post contains spoilers for Banana Fish and discussion of child pornography.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: The Power of a Photograph”
As part of my research for Asexuality in Manga and More, a lecture panel on asexuality in Japanese media, I looked into asexual and aromantic spectrum interpretations of anime and manga characters. Such interpretations are usually referred to as headcanon, “a fan’s personal, idiosyncratic interpretation of canon.” Occasionally I would find overlap in popular asexual headcanons and gay headcanons for the same character, such as Makoto Sunakawa in My Love Story. Sometimes this overlap means a character simultaneously interpreted as asexual and gay, or a character widely interpreted as aroace (both aromantic and asexual) or as gay. I wasn’t a stranger to these fandom activities before my research, as I have my own aro/ace/gay headcanons and enjoy reading those of others.
However, the conversations around asexual and aromantic spectrum headcanons, especially asexual ones, has changed in recent years. More and more, reading a gay or widely considered gay character as asexual (aroace or not) has been looked down on. The yuri manga Bloom Into You by Nio Nakatani has long been discussed in terms of asexual and aromantic identity, and the anime adaptation this year has brought new attention to it. While others may argue over the “correct” interpretation, I find differences in headcanons say more about what experiences have in common than which one is right.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Different Interpretations as Solidarity, not Opposition”