[Feature] “Your Name”: Body-swaps beyond ecchi punchlines

SPOILERS: This post contains mild spoilers concerning character descriptions, minor plot details and discussion of themes for “Your Name”, including major spoilers for Act II, but no discussion beyond the reveal or of the ending. From Freaky Friday, to It’s a Boy/Girl Thing, to 17 Again, we’ve seen Hollywood do the “body-swapping” story on the big screen time after time with very little variation. December 2nd will see anime’s version of this supernatural trope hit the big screen for the first time in front of non-Japanese audiences with the international release of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. And not only that, but it’s a 3-for-1 special: mixing both time-travel and gender-bending components in there too. I was lucky enough to attend an English-language screening of the film in the UK ahead of its wider release. What I was expecting to see when I went into the theatre was a fluffy, gender-bending rom-com bringing together two ‘destined’ young lovers – which I got in decent helpings. What I wasn’t expecting, though, were the progressive and fantastical twists Shinkai added to breathe new life into the exhausted subgenre.

[AniFemTalk] 21-28 November 2016

It’s Monday, time to ask again what’s been on your mind over this past week! What did you think of the way Kiss Him, Not Me handled consent and sexuality in their last episode? How do you feel about Yuri!!! on ICE‘s portrayal of Yuri and Victor’s relationship in a notoriously homophobic Russia?  What would you as a feminist fan like to see from the new Code Geass series that’s been announced? (Please mark any spoilers!) More generally: What feminist observations do you want to share on an anime or manga you’re enjoying right now? Did something happen in a legal simulcast that you think AniFem readers should be aware of? Is there a legally accessible manga raising points you think AniFem readers would find interesting? Does a recent Japanese pop culture news item merit a feminist discussion? Did a conversation come up elsewhere that you’d like to know other feminists’ opinions on? Have you got a link to a blog post you think AniFem readers would appreciate? Self-promotion on these posts is permitted and even encouraged, especially if you are analysing anime, manga, Japanese pop culture or fandom from a marginalised perspective! Please only include one link per post, but you can put up a different link every Monday if you like. Just yesterday we featured an author who promoted her work here in our links round-up for the week, we’d love to read your work too!   Comments are open! Please read our comments policy before joining the conversation and contact us if you have any problems. We are just $15 away from $700 in pledges! Want to help us get closer to our next milestone of $1200 per month, which would guarantee a minimum of six posts per week? Please become a patron for as little as $1 a month! 

[Roundtable] Trash characters

Inspired by currently airing Girlish Number, some of the team decided to take a feminist look at “trash characters” like Chitose. What makes a trash character? What’s the connection between trash characters and other anime archetypes, like moe or chuunibyou? How are male and female trash characters portrayed differently? Read our takes below then get involved with your thoughts in the comments!

[AniFemTalk] 14-21 November 2016

It’s Monday, time to ask again what’s been on your mind over this past week! What feminist observations do you want to share on an anime or manga you’re enjoying right now? Did something happen in a legal simulcast that you think AniFem readers should be aware of? Is there a legally accessible manga raising points you think AniFem readers would find interesting? Does a recent Japanese pop culture news item merit a feminist discussion? Did a conversation come up elsewhere that you’d like to know other feminists’ opinions on? Have you got a link to a blog post you think AniFem readers would appreciate? Self-promotion on these posts is permitted and even encouraged, especially if you are analysing anime, manga, Japanese pop culture or fandom from a marginalised perspective! Please only include one link per post, but you can put up a different link every Monday if you like.   Comments are open! Please read our comments policy before joining the conversation and contact us if you have any problems. We are just $19 away from $700 in pledges! Want to help us get closer to our next milestone of $1200 per month, which would guarantee a minimum of six posts per week? Please become a patron for as little as $1 a month! 

[Links] 14-20 November 2016

Last week we exceeded $600 in Patreon pledges, reaching our second Patreon milestone in just 35 days! (week later we’re up to $676 – can you help us reach $700 this week?) As a result we are now on a posting schedule of four times per week, effective immediately.

[Feature] Straight guys!!! on ICE

SPOILERS: up to episode seven of Yuri!!! on ICE In episode seven of Yuri!!! on ICE something major happened… we finally had a clear reference to US national champion and Olympic skater Johnny Weir.  Not just any reference either. Many characters have embodied aspects of real life skaters as an homage, and Weir’s marriage of technical skating skill and flamboyant aesthetic both on and off the ice looked like it was going to be expressed through hyper-sexualised and somewhat problematic comedy character Christophe Giacometti. In episode seven, however, we saw a flashback to Victor wearing a version of Weir’s swan costume from the 2006 Olympics with a crown of flowers, as seen on Weir in the 2010 Olympics.

[Discourse] When anime treats sexual assault as entertainment

As Lauren recently illustrated, effective fanservice is about delivering on expectations. In a series that portrays itself as sexy, we can expect to see some skin without it seeming exploitative or out of place. The girls of Golden Boy flaunt their sexuality, the protagonist Kintaro seeks out that type of woman, so revealing clothes and sexual themes go hand-in-hand with both the story and the characterization of the women. Keijo!!!!!!!! features women enthusiastic about a sport where you knock each other over with your butts so it isn’t a surprise when someone gets a face full of bikini-clad booty. One common element in both those examples, and all series that successfully employ fanservice, is consensuality. The women are opting into the activity, without being coerced, as an active participant. In essence, when fan service is fun all parties involved are enjoying themselves. Where Keijo!!!!!!!! has proven it is able to pull fan service off right, Izetta: The Last Witch has stumbled. The series had everything going for it, taking place in a fantastical historic setting reminiscent of the beloved romanticized visuals from Valkyria Chronicles, an excellent production staff, and a great premise. Let’s be honest, a witch flying on a gun was one of those rare, forehead-slapping, “how could no one have thought of this yet?” ideas that still remained in anime. Putting fan service in what is supposed to be a serious representation of war, magic or no, is questionable by itself, but the major sticking point was the non-consensual nature of the fan service. This not only diminished Izetta, but was actively inimical to the tale it is attempting to tell.

[AniFemTalk] 7-14 November 2016

Very proud to say that, thanks to the generosity of every single one of our patrons, after just 35 days we have met our second Patreon goal of $600 in pledges per month! This is a quarter of the way to being sustainable at a minimum level, where all writing, editing and running costs are paid for. That’s fantastic progress for just over a month, and if you read our one month anniversary update you’ll be able to see some of the lessons we’ve learned and some of our plans for the future. Most important for you, however, is that meeting the $600 milestone has guaranteed four posts per week, effective immediately.

[Discourse] So That I Could Be Myself: Gender performance in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and Yuri!!! on ICE

SPOILERS: Detailed discussion of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju episodes 5-6 and Yuri!!! on ICE episode 3 “It’s not a kind of rakugo I can do. The more I hear, the more uncomfortable I get… Never mind it. I have my own rakugo.” “Trying to be the playboy isn’t me. I want to be the most beautiful woman in town, who seduces the playboy!” This year we’ve had the pleasure to see a pair of top-notch anime, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and Yuri!!! on Ice, deal with gendered expectations in two very different spheres: 1940s Japanese rakugo and modern-day world figure skating. Along the way, both series have challenged cultural expectations about how men should or shouldn’t act, and shown why it’s important to cast aside restrictive gender roles and play to our own strengths.

Sincerity, expectation and discourse in anime fandom

Discourse doesn’t have the best reputation in anime fandom. It surprised me, coming back to anime fandom, to see so much disdain attached to such a neutral academic word. ‘Discourse’ here means that someone wrote a thought-provoking piece, probably about something controversial, which generated conversation on social media. If you’ve been following the development of this site, you might recognise that as something I consider a goal for AniFem. The anitwitter use of the word ‘discourse’, however, is as a joke. Sometimes this is deliberately snide, with the implication that cartoons are obviously just cartoons and anyone who bothers to waste their time on more in-depth analysis than that is an idiot. Sometimes, it is a disclaimer or apology. “See, I don’t take myself too seriously, I still have perspective!” Other times, it is an expression of community. “Uh oh, everyone, here we go again…” It is not a word applied to in-depth analysis of animation artistry, visual direction or narrative structure; only personal topics like identity, representation and politics. The message is that if you have written something which sparks discourse, or participated in discourse without being quite flippant or entertaining enough in your phrasing, you should be embarrassed. How many people have avoided expressing or responding to a viewpoint because they worry people might roll their eyes? How many have adopted this use of the word discourse despite engaging thoughtfully with it when it arises, just so that everyone in their community understands they aren’t THAT kind of commentator? I’m not sure what benefits this use of the word brings, but it seems to me like there are plenty of negatives.   Sincerity As is sometimes the way, while writing this piece someone I follow on Twitter published a post on the same subject from a different angle: So what lesson are people supposed to take from this, exactly? Never be sincere online? That must be the lesson quite a lot of people took from it, as most online interactions tend to be steeped in at least six layers of irony before they’re deemed worthy of responding to. Genuine emotion tends to feel like performance, whether we feel like it or not. If you write a lengthy, in-depth piece about some social issue or trend in entertainment that’s really close to your heart, it’ll often get picked up and spread around as a “rant,” which is language that demeans the emotional and intellectual labor that goes into producing such a thing, no matter how innocently it’s used. Now replace ‘rant’ with ‘discourse’. Intended or not, the way anime fandom uses the word can come across as mean-spirited, designed to smack down the enthusiasm of people who wanted to hold an in-depth conversation about something they feel strongly about. It reduces the effort they put in and any number of nuanced, carefully constructed points to something which deserves to be laughed at simply for existing. We have a fandom culture which looks down on thought-provoking content as a concept. This use of the word ‘discourse’ is just a symptom of that. Expectations When someone does volunteer as tribute and post thought-provoking content anyway, fandom expectations are ridiculously unrealistic. You shouldn’t think too deeply about cartoons, but IF YOU DO then you’d better cover every possible scenario, perspective and contradiction, and be prepared to debate every possible aspect of the discussion perfectly with expert knowledge and extensive experience at your disposal, anticipating every possible possibility that may possibly be relevant… or have the validity of everything you’ve ever created called into question. Batting novel-length academic theses back and forth is not how people converse. Not even in academia! One article is only ever required to make one point, and if you can identify that one point then the article has done its job. All articles have a scope and specific intentions, and many have word limits too, but expectations of authors seem to be at an all-time high while benefit of the doubt is at an all-time low. Too many responses to in-depth analysis lambast the author for not including a particular point in their original piece rather than raising that point as a way to further the discussion. It’s the difference between “I think this is also relevant” or “I want to challenge this point you made” and “Why didn’t you cover this?” One asks the author to comment, the other to justify. One expects the author to be open to new viewpoints, the other expects the author to cater to all viewpoints. One expands the discussion the author began, one shrinks it to defence of a single corner. Conversation Developing discussion is something the whole team feels passionate about at Anime Feminist, and we’ve been looking at a number of ways to approach this ourselves. One area I have so far avoided is opening up our comments sections, because dealing with just our Twitter mentions is all-consuming on some days. However, this is something people have asked for repeatedly, so we really want to give it a try and do everything we can to make it a rewarding experience for everyone. We’re going to start opening them on selected articles, which we will deal with case by case. Whether we open comments on a post will depend on the content of the post and how much time we have to monitor the conversation, which will be moderated to make conversation as productive as possible. If it goes well we will open them on more articles than not. If it doesn’t go well we will shut it down and continue as we have until we are well funded enough to pay people to moderate. This is an experiment, not a new commitment. Whether we have a comments section or not, you are always welcome to tweet at us, contact us on Facebook or get in touch through our contact page. Things have been a little quiet and we’ve been less responsive for the last week or so while we’ve …