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.
Continue reading “Where to Find Gay and Bisexual Male Characters in Recent Children’s Cartoons: An Incomplete Overview”
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.
Continue reading “Rainbow Releases: Winter 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. Thank you to everyone who attended at Chibi Chibi Con 2019, Sakura-Con 2019, and Kumoricon 2019!
For 2018, we transcribed our midyear panel as a single blog post, which left out unprecedented works later in the year such as Zombieland Saga. Since then, we’ve 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.
Unfortunately, we won’t be hosting Rainbow Releases at Sakura-con 2020 as the convention was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the list of anime and manga that would have been touched on in our presentation. The future of convention panels, anime production, and physical book releases are uncertain, but we will continue to update our blog with seasonal recaps of what makes its way to the US.
At long last, here is our recap of LGBTQ-themed anime and manga from the autumn season of 2019! With that, all of 2019 has been covered.
Continue reading “Rainbow Releases: Autumn 2019”
This year, I started working at a bookstore. My knowledge of manga comes in handy for our manga section, particularly boys love and yuri as I’m the only employee familiar with the genres. I follow BL and yuri in English closely to present Rainbow Releases at conventions, as well as for my own enjoyment. I don’t consider myself an expert in the genres–or any field–because I am always learning, but I sure feel like one compared to how little the average person at my job knows of BL and yuri. They definitely haven’t witnessed the “what is BL and what isn’t” arguments that seem to happen on my sphere of Twitter every month. As a result, the designated BL and yuri shelves are largely my responsibility.
The books we order are not obviously labeled BL or yuri, with the exception of SuBLime’s logo on the spine and Tokyopop’s “boys love” and “girls love” genre boxes. At most, a book’s blurb may describe it as BL of yuri. It’s up to us, the bookstore, to decide where to shelve them.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: To BL or Not to BL”
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”
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”
Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida, at the time of serialization, was once a contemporary story. It began in 1985 and ended in 1994, while the timeline of the main plot spanned from 1985 to 1987. So in a way, modernizing the anime adaptation of Banana Fish to be set in 2018 is appropriate. Rather than a near complete replication of a story set in the 1980s, there can be a parallel story that integrates the ideas and themes to be timely like the original was.
However, updating Banana Fish raises some clear issues. The original manga is deeply 1980s, from its aesthetics to its politics, and if handled without care, you wind up with a story that’s already dated from the very start. It’s one thing for a story to be old; we still have centuries old classics. Plus, our suspension of disbelief can be higher when we know a story was from a different time. However, with an adaptation you’re already setting up a compare and contrast situation, to mix in modernization too, it’s key to think through what needs to be changed, why it needs to be changed, and how that affects the original story. This is different for all kinds of adaptations and renditions, but ultimately it can be done in a lot of fun, unique, creative ways. In the case of Banana Fish though, it’s all about the lack of change. Though the style and technology is there, the story ultimately feels like a rerun in different clothes. This especially feels like a missed opportunity with the legacy that Banana Fish has as a classic manga that tackles heavy social issues.
This isn’t to disparage the work put into the anime or to imply it’s a complete waste. Translating a story to a new medium is difficult work and there are plenty of parts I enjoyed. It’s at least introduced the story to new audiences, including me, and opened up new avenues to discuss it. In this spirit, I want to talk about some of the missed opportunities that the anime passed over when modernizing the manga in the context of the social themes Yoshida touches on. There are some issues that are thoughtfully examined in the manga but would be reflected differently in a modern setting, and other issues that weren’t examined as deeply as they could have been in an adaptation.
Spoiler warning for the end of Banana Fish, including the side story Garden of Light.
Content warning for discussions of police brutality and sexual trauma (including child sex abuse).
Continue reading “Ash Get iPad: The Perils of Banana Fish’s Modernization”
As part of my research for Asexuality in Manga and More, a lecture panel on asexuality in Japanese media, I looked into asexual and aromantic spectrum interpretations of anime and manga characters. Such interpretations are usually referred to as headcanon, “a fan’s personal, idiosyncratic interpretation of canon.” Occasionally I would find overlap in popular asexual headcanons and gay headcanons for the same character, such as Makoto Sunakawa in My Love Story. Sometimes this overlap means a character simultaneously interpreted as asexual and gay, or a character widely interpreted as aroace (both aromantic and asexual) or as gay. I wasn’t a stranger to these fandom activities before my research, as I have my own aro/ace/gay headcanons and enjoy reading those of others.
However, the conversations around asexual and aromantic spectrum headcanons, especially asexual ones, has changed in recent years. More and more, reading a gay or widely considered gay character as asexual (aroace or not) has been looked down on. The yuri manga Bloom Into You by Nio Nakatani has long been discussed in terms of asexual and aromantic identity, and the anime adaptation this year has brought new attention to it. While others may argue over the “correct” interpretation, I find differences in headcanons say more about what experiences have in common than which one is right.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: Different Interpretations as Solidarity, not Opposition”
2018 was my third year of holding lecture panels for anime conventions at Kumoricon in Portland, Oregon and Sakura-con in Seattle, Washington; and my eighth year attending conventions overall.
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.
Continue reading “12 Days of Anime: LGBTQ Anime Panels, Then and Now”
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.
Continue reading “Shimanami Tasogare: The Construction of Identity, the Architecture of Community”