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”
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”
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, the 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. Spider-Verse was met with critical acclaim, while Voltron season eight was not. Response ranged from lukewarm to furious. After some fans of Voltron were frustrated with the death of a gay man of color character and other developments in season seven, many were left disappointed with the series ending (including the deaths of more characters of color).
A release date wasn’t all Voltron and Spider-Verse had in common, however. Without getting into spoilers, the plot of season eight and themes of grief bare a striking resemblance to those of Spider-Verse. It’s not that one is a rip-off of the other, but that they both aimed to tell stories about loss and family. What made audiences more receptive to Spider-Verse was its delicate consideration and authenticity of characters of marginalized groups. 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”
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.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Neo Yokio’s Christmas Special for the Ages”
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.
Continue reading “Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: Battle for 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!
Continue reading “Tour of Motorcity Retrospective: What is Motorcity?”