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. As of this post’s publication, we don’t have plans to host Rainbow Releases as a panel at any future anime conventions. We’re unsure when it will be safe to attend conventions again, or safe to be held at all. For now, Rainbow Releases will remain as our list of titles throughout the year and seasonal recaps such as these.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
I only watched a handful of Samurai Jack episodes as a child, but I couldn’t miss its conclusive return on Adult Swim this year. It gave me hope that creative, artistic shows cancelled prematurely could come back to life. (I’ll wait for you forever, Motorcity.) The fifth season finds Jack 50 years later, directionless without his sword–the only weapon that can defeat Aku and restore peace to the world. A pack of Aku-worshipping septuplets come to murder him, though only one named Ashi survives. The early episodes were impressive, but my excitement dimmed after the direction Ashi’s arc took in the eighth episode.
Warning: this post contains spoilers for Samurai Jack season five, Princess Mononoke, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
Thank you to everyone who attended our panel Beyond Yuri!!! on Ice: LGBTQ Anime and Manga at Sakura-con 2017 (or wanted to and didn’t get in)! We didn’t expect so many people and were incredibly grateful for the support. We held this panel again at Kumoricon 2017 in two parts. Thank you to everyone who attended at either convention! Now that it’s been a year since Yuri!!! on Ice aired, this panel has been retired but the transcript will remain. Keep in mind this post lacks the slideshow, delivery, and discussion time of the full panel.
The title isn’t a knock on Yuri!!! on Ice at all. (We hosted this panel cosplaying Yuri and Victor, after all.) Rather, we want to use its popularity as a springboard to bring attention to other anime and manga that feature LGBTQ themes and issues.
We’ll be covering a variety of manga and anime that portray LGBTQ themes in positive, negative, and mixed ways. This includes some gross stereotypes and tired tropes, given that they can affect what may be seen as LGBTQ representation. (In other words, keep in mind that we’ll be talking about homophobic, transphobic, and gender essentialist content.) Anime or manga that use the words lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer are rare; but we’re working with those that come as close to it as possible. By the way, we generally won’t be including adaptations of video games, visual novels, and light novels because it would simply get too long. Those mediums have unique histories and conventions that require analysis outside the scope of this panel.
We will also be including LGBTQ history and topics in Japan to give context and see how they connect to anime and manga. The only spoilers we’ll discuss will be relevant to the LGBTQ content. If you were recommended an anime on the basis it has a gay character but it turned out they were actually straight or they die you’d want to know beforehand, right? We’re sorry if we don’t mention your favorite anime or manga, but it’s impossible for us to know and cover everything. We’ve aimed to include a variety of works with major LGBTQ characters and themes, but more importantly manga by LGBTQ creators. We’re also prioritizing those that are legally available in the United States, unless they’re historically important or otherwise significant.
As a disclaimer, when it comes to our criticism, we don’t mean it as a personal condemnation or attack on anyone who enjoys any work we discuss. Both of us love most of the media that we cover here, even when they’re deeply flawed. Obviously, fans aren’t synonymous with all the problematic ideas a story can contain and perpetuate. We believe critical analysis of media is important and even when we love something or think that it’s important, that doesn’t mean it’s excused from critique. If everyone can agree on one thing, it’s that media can have great impact, positive and negative, which is worth discussion.
Also, it should go without saying this panel comes from a Western perspective to a Western audience. We’ve aimed to incorporate Japanese perspectives and insights and find our common ground as LGBTQ folk and build a bridge between cultures. When it comes to most of the Japanese creators we talk about, we only know so much about their identities and private lives. Between this and the culture and language barriers, we try not to assume too much about the creators themselves. Rather, we can only judge them by the content of their works and how they may or may not resonate.
With that in mind, here we go!
Last weekend was my seventh year attending Kumoricon, but my first year there as a panelist with Intro to the Works of Yuhki Kamatani. I plan to bring this panel to future conventions with modifications and possibly a different title, but for now here is a blog post version of my script. Keep in mind this lacks the slideshow, delivery, and discussion time of the full panel.
Yuhki Kamatani combines lovely artwork and progressive story in exploring adolescence, such as their best known manga Nabari no Ou. Their latest manga looks at LGBTQ identity, informed by their experience as nonbinary and asexual. Since this is an “introduction,” spoilers will be avoided. Some developments and reveals will be discussed, but nothing that would ruin your experience if you want to read them for yourself.