AniFem Kotaku interview follow-up

(I need to work on catchier titles.)

Many of you are here because of an interview I had with Cecilia D’Anastasio, published on Kotaku earlier this week. Cecilia did an amazing job. I had expected a gentle, softball interview from a fellow feminist anime writer, really more of a cosy chat… but – while being perfectly lovely throughout – she showed up with challenging questions ready to push me from vague diplomacy into proper answers, and it was hard. That she’s ended up with an interview that so many commenters have told me satisfied doubts they went in with is a testament to Cecilia’s skill.

There are a few points I think have been misconstrued by readers which I would like to clarify and a couple of points I’d like to expand on though.

“If you want something that’s all fan service, seek out something like [butt-fighting sports anime] Keijo. The idea that this kind of thing adds value…”

The “this kind of thing” in question referred to the needless butt shots in Active Raid (although the needless rope bondage restraint apparently used by police officers in futuristic Tokyo illustrated the point just fine). It did not refer to Keijo!!!!!!!!. I didn’t hate Keijo!!!!!!!. I have no problem with it existing. It’s a fanservice anime designed for fanservice, I know before even watching it that it’s not for me. Contrary to my popular characterisation, this is a situation I am 100% happy with.

What I’m not happy with is when I go into an anime expecting witches, friendship and political intrigue and end up with voyeuristic shower shots after 10 minutes of daring escapes in war time. I’m not happy watching over 15 minutes of a magical girl show only to see that young girl felt up by her father then stuck naked in the woods for a laugh. I’m not happy watching the one horror anime of the season, which has nine major characters and some truly creepy moments, undermine itself by focusing on an anatomically unfeasible main character who acts like a five-year-old while also pressing the male protagonist into her breasts and tell him she’s his minion. It’s this kind of fanservice that frustrates me, not Keijo!!!!!!!! or anything else that tells you by the opening credits that it is made to turn on cis straight guys (and anyone else who sticks around is a bonus).

As I said immediately after this comment: “It’s not serving the plot, not the characterization, but the hypothetical male boner. This is targeting straight men who specifically will be so turned on by this that they will see it as a reason to continue watching the anime.” This is referring to those small moments of fanservice in an otherwise neutral show, not anime where the fanservice is the plot. Hope that clears that up.

Censorship

You know what? If I had my way, those small moments of fanservice in otherwise neutral shows would not be there. Those scenes would be cut and that imagery restricted to fanart and merchandise. It would make sharing anime with loved ones loads easier for me, and I truly believe nothing of value would be lost.

Thing is though, my way is not the way things are done and, contrary to my popular characterisation, I am 100% fine with that. No, really! You’ll notice that I’m not writing petitions, emailing animators, organising boycotts or anything else that would suggest I’m trying to shape the industry in any way. (That said, I did donate to the NPO Animator Supporters project to try to make the industry more hospitable for newbie animators – wonder how many of my critics can say the same? Not enough, since the project failed to meet its funding goal this year.)

The most I’m trying to do is write reviews that can lead people like me to the anime without fanservice and bring them more viewers, while also warning them that anime they might want to watch contains fanservice (or homophobic jokes or assault played for comedy) so they’re not blindsided and can choose not to watch if they think that’ll bother them. I wish I had other people’s confidence that my reviews will shape the entire anime industry in Japan, but I don’t. I don’t expect to change anything in Japan, not least because I’m not even trying to.

What stood out to you this season? Was there anything particularly bad or good in your view?

I really wish I had mentioned Occultic;Nine at this point! It is way worse than Scorching Ping Pong Girls, but my mind went blank and all I could think of were that, FLIP FLAPPERS and Keijo!!!!!!!!, so most of the interview revolves around those. For the record though: Occultic;Nine and Bloodivores are the ones to skip.

Like, oh, 90% of anitwitter I have completely fallen for Yuri!!! on ICE this season. I’m also enjoying WWW.WAGNARIA!!Magic of Stella and Tiger Mask W, among others. I’m watching a lot more than that though, and at the end of the season I’ll be able to give some specific recommendations. My favourite anime from the rest of the year so far are Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, ERASED, Re:ZERO, Sweetness & Lightning and Mob Psycho 100. 

“I understand Japanese. Much of the staff has lived in the country.”

“Staff” isn’t the right word – I can’t pay anyone (including myself) until we are better funded. I don’t think much of the team has lived there, though I do believe most have visited and speak Japanese to some extent. I have lived out there myself, plus in a few Japanese houseshare arrangements in the UK, but I could never have left British soil and still be comfortable critiquing an art form because that’s the way art criticism works! You offer a perspective, people discuss it, they offer their perspectives, you discuss it, schools of thought grow, change, get shot down, start up in a new direction… Nothing about anime makes it special or different. We’re just not used to anime being critiqued as an artform because most critics won’t touch anime.

“The final article I put on The Mary Sue, which was on masculinity…”

Just to clarify, that was indeed the moe one. The original title was “On Moe, Misogyny and Masculinity”, and it’s the one that sparked the backlash confirming that this fandom needed a feminist space.

It’s been indescribably motivating to find out that so many other people feel the same. Thank you so much for the warm welcome you have given us all this week! Thank you for the messages of support, both public and private, the engagement on Twitter, and particularly thank you to those who have paid $1 a month or more to support us financially on Patreon. I can’t express my gratitude strongly enough. As much as I wish it wasn’t, finance is our number one concern at the moment, so if you believe in what we do and want to see us succeed in our big plans, please become a patron for as little as $1 a month!

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