Category: Television

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 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 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.

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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The Voxy Bunch and the Legacy of Animated Queer-Coded Villains

The Voxy Bunch and the Legacy of Animated Queer-Coded Villains

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.

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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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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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