Category: Television

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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Rainbow Releases: Spring & Summer 2020

Rainbow Releases: Spring & Summer 2020

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. With anime conventions on hold for the foreseeable future, you won’t see Rainbow Releases: LGBTQ Anime and Manga in person any time soon. However, we are looking into digital events. For DigiKumo, the online alternative to Kumoricon 2020, we pre-recorded a video to be streamed by the organizers. Thank you for tuning in!

As always, we will also provide blog post companions to our panel as well as a list of releases throughout the year, even if they are delayed. There may be some inconsistences between the recorded panel and these posts, as we correct and learn new information after recording. Without further ado, here is our recap of spring and summer 2020.

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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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Fruits Basket Episode 28: Oh Brother

Fruits Basket Episode 28: Oh Brother

The third episode of the second season of Fruits Basket backtracks to chapter 36 of the manga, in which Tohru Honda and Yuki Sohma visit Ayame’s costume boutique. That’s ten chapters before the previous episode, for those keeping track like me. The disparity between the anime and manga timelines has been apparent since Mine Kurame’s cameo in the second opening of the first season, and they’ve nearly caught up with her official introduction. “Shall We Go and Get You Changed?” adapts chapters 36 and 47, in which Yuki and Ayame discuss parent-teacher conferences, of the manga.

The combination has a lot to cover: Yuki and Tohru’s blossoming relationship, Yuki and Ayame’s shared history as well as newly forged brotherhood, and Mine’s introduction. All the while, it notably doesn’t contain a single reference to the Chinese zodiac nor the curse upon the Sohma family. With almost all the zodiac introduced and transformations no longer necessary to show their corresponding animal, Fruits Basket begins to move on from the physical effects of the curse to the psychological. In this case, we look at how brothers Yuki and Ayame fare differently as members of the zodiac.

This post contains discussion of child abuse, homophobia, and transphobia.

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Fruits Basket Episode 27: The Evolution of Kyo

Fruits Basket Episode 27: The Evolution of Kyo

The second season of Fruits Basket continues with its second episode “Eat Somen with Your Friends,” and so does this weekly recap and analysis series. With anime production across the industry up in the air and more shows postponed due to COVID-19, it is unclear how long Fruits Basket season two will last. The first three episodes were completed back in March to run in US theaters, but the rest of production is unknown. For now, I plan to write these recaps as long as the show stays on streaming sites, but I understand if production will be suspended.

“Eat Somen with Your Friends” merges manga chapter 46, in which Tohru and Kyo discuss their futures with a career plan assignment in mind, and 52, in which Tohru and Kyo visit Kazuma’s house for lunch. Like “Hello Again,” the combination comes naturally through shared characters. Together, they underline the uncertainty Kyo and Tohru share over what lies ahead. While the last episode looked at Yuki’s character development, this time we marvel at how far our other leading man has come and where he will go with Tohru.

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Fruits Basket Episode 26: The Evolution of Yuki

Fruits Basket Episode 26: The Evolution of Yuki

The first episode of the second season of Fruits Basket, the series about a teenage girl named Tohru Honda who befriends members of a mysterious family cursed to transform into animals, has been released to the world. I wish I could say I saw the new episode at one of Funimation’s “sneak peek” theatre showings in the United States decked out in Machi cosplay and Yuki merchandise, but they were all cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead we’ll be watching scenes from the original manga animated for the first time every week together.

As a longtime fan of the manga by Natsuki Takaya, the way “Hello Again” perfectly ushers in the second season’s new material (especially regarding Yuki Sohma) has me hyped. In honor of the second season, this will (hopefully) be my first in a series of posts recapping and analyzing each episode. I may as well write something regularly while I’m staying home. This time the spotlight is on dear rat boy, his future, and his new friends. Newcomers and fans of the 2001 anime series will soon find there’s much more to Yuki than the early episodes.

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12 Days of Anime: Ash Lynx is Dead, Long Live Ash Lynx

12 Days of Anime: Ash Lynx is Dead, Long Live Ash Lynx

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 anime’s announcement, 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.

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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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