Kumoricon 2010 was not only my first Kumoricon, but my first time at any pop culture convention. The panel I enjoyed most was the LGBTQ Convention Meet-Up Panel the night of Day Two, where the host gave an overview of LGBTQ portrayal in anime and manga from the past year through a slideshow. I arrived late, but there were plenty of seats left with how few people were there. Despite its humble size and attendance, it left a huge impact on me. It was the first time I heard LGBTQ topics in media or in general discussed outside my friends or the Internet. For years panels like those disappeared in my local convention scene, but now they’re back and stronger than ever.
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.
I discovered webcomics back in middle school and fell into them quickly. Compared to comic books, I found that they were more accessible on a financial and storytelling level. I didn’t have to shell out $3 for every issue or keep track of a bumpy release schedule. Even if a webcomic dipped in updates, it was easy to come back to. Not everything I read was good, but it opened up a world of diverse storytelling for me, from sex comedies to fantasy melodramas. Not only that, but many people often marginalized by the comics industry, like people of color and women, were able to express themselves and find an audience on their own terms without as much gatekeeping. I’ve always wanted to talk about them because while now I read more comic books than before, I still find myself more comfortable and familiar with the world of webcomics. Despite the amount of money and attention they can draw, webcomics are still considered niche when we talk about comics (until they hit print).
So welcome to Windows into Webcomics, where I talk about specific pages from webcomics I follow and love. I want to dive into what works for me about a certain page or update, and then jump into what I love about the webcomic as a whole. I think more people should take notice of the amazing things webcomics have to offer and that we should analyze them just as much as anything published by Marvel or Dark Horse.
For my first entry, I’ll cover Dumbing of Age, a longtime favorite of mine.
Note: My posts will generally contain mild spoilers, in order to describe the context of pages. I’ll warn for each post.
In honor of the publication of the final volume in Japan and the English license from Seven Seas Entertainment, it’s finally time for an in-depth look at Yuhki Kamatani‘s Shimanami Tasogare. The manga follows Tasuku, a teenage boy coming to terms with being gay after a failed suicide attempt. In his hometown of Onomichi, he discovers an LGBTQ-friendly lounge through its aloof owner known only as “Dareka-san” (Anonymous). Over the course of a year, Tasuku comes to know the community of the lounge and their housing renovation organization Cat Clowder.
In Kamatani’s Onomichi, the characters’ surroundings often mirror their states of mind: freedom, confusion, joy, frustration, fear, redemption, and more. As the characters express more of themselves, and to acquaintances, they don’t necessarily come to a better understanding of themself or others. Still, their journeys and relationships to identity reveal many facets of LGBTQ life. Together, they build and maintain community in the face of oppression.
This post contains spoilers for all of Shimanami Tasogare. Do not read it if you wish to remain unspoiled for the English edition coming in May of 2019.
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!
Shortly before the release of Solo: A Star War Story, the latest Star Wars midquel film that dives into the backstory of the original trilogy’s Han Solo, screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan supported describing the iconic Lando Calrissian as pansexual. While he may have had noble intentions, the robot-focused exploration of Lando’s sexuality does more harm than good in introducing people to pansexuality. L3-37, his co-pilot and love interest, unfortunately falls into misogynistic tropes for the first leading droid played by a woman in a Star Wars film. Together, they leave Solo with a lot to be desired in terms of gender and sexuality in science fiction.
Of course, this post contains spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a divisive film, to say the least. Many consider it “childhood-ruining,” while positive reception commemorates a rejection of nostalgia and subversion of fan expectations. However, the film is not the anti-nostalgia manifesto many believe it to be. It celebrates the beloved strengths of the series while reconciling its faults and looking to the future because, just as Rey learns, everything is a balance of extremes.
Past and future collide not only through the events of the film and its characters, but the sequel trilogy’s metanarrative on Star Wars fandom as well. The Last Jedi continues how in Episode VII: The Force Awakens the new characters connect with established characters, objects, and concepts like fans of the franchise would. It all comes to the forefront with the story between Rey, Luke Skywalker, and Kylo Ren on navigating the past, present, and future.
Of course, this post contains spoilers for The Last Jedi.
Cartoon Network’s OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes joined the national conversation on gun violence when five new episodes were digitally released weeks after the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. One of them, “Let’s Not Be Skeletons,” features allegorical argument for gun control. The timing was coincidental, as animated television develops over months to years. The episode was actually pitched back in July of 2016, (coincidentally or otherwise) not long after the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida.
While OK K.O. usually follows the goofy adventure of K.O. on his dream of becoming a hero at his local plaza populated with superpowered humans and non-humans alike, it’s no stranger to social issues. The main conflict rests between a heroic bodega and a villainous corporation, after all. Sometimes it even address issues directly; including climate change in the Captain Planet-based episode “The Power is Yours,” journalism in “Action News” (unfortunately overshadowed by “Let’s Not be Skeletons” when they were released simultaneously), and misogyny in “Second First Date.” However, this post focuses on how OK K.O. explores real world racism, addiction, and of course gun control through its fictional setting in some of its best episodes.
As more anime fans push to be more self-aware, progressive, and inclusive in their activities, different trends in fanworks are happening. One trend is fanartists deliberately illustrating anime characters with darker skin than what’s portrayed on-screen. (I’m linking to no examples because I don’t want to inadvertently attract toxic attention to artists.) The rationale behind such fanart is to compensate for the lack of representation of dark skin in the majority of popular media, including anime. Part of this emerges from Western fans also noticing similarities within their own culture of Western media, where white people are still overwhelmingly represented, even as tides are changing.
There is backlash as some argue it’s inappropriate to try to “correct” media from a much different cultural context. Beyond racist trolling, there’s genuine worry that people are clumsily approaching Japanese media the same way as media made by white Westerners, replicating racial dynamics that may not be applicable to Japanese media. The racial and ethnic demographics in Japan are vastly different from other Western countries. There’s definitely something here to look into and talk about.
So let’s talk about it then.
Last year we held a panel at Sakura-con called Beyond Yuri on Ice: LGBTQ Anime and Manga, which was about introducing people to the history of LGBTQ content in anime and more modern series with LGBTQ themes. It’s a lengthy panel and we’ve held it twice now, so we decided to retire it and create a new panel looking to the future for Sakura-con 2018 called Rainbow Releases: LGBTQ Anime and Manga of 2018.
We’re here to tell you all about anime and manga coming out in the US officially to look forward to, because it’s a good year to be an LGBTQ fan. It truly is 20gayteen. Our title in the programming was formally LGBTQ Anime and Manga of 2018, but it’s really more like LGBTQ and Adjacent. There may be an advent of realistic or otherwise specifically LGBTQ work right now, but that would still leave us with only so many to talk about. Please understand that we’ll be including some titles that aren’t as straightforward as My Brother’s Husband, but we think will interest you and bring something new to the table. Sometimes you just have to take what you can get to feel represented or just to feel good, you know?