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.
Continue reading “For the Love of the Game: Yu-Gi-Oh Parody Now and Then”
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”
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.
Continue reading “When the Social Issues of Lakewood Plaza Turbo Hit Close to Home”