[AniFemTalk] Rewriting problematic stories

Over the weekend we released a podcast about the Netflix Death Note movie and lamented the wasted opportunity to tell a story about the harmfulness of white privilege (and to have less misogyny than the original instead of just a different kind of misogyny). The world is rife with stories that had the potential to be progressive or incisive but, for whatever reason, just don’t get there.

  • What series would you update if you had the chance? Why?
  • Are you drawn to stories that have unused potential, or do you find them more frustrating than fascinating?
  • Given infinite remake money and your choice of medium, what series would you remake and how?


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  • Kacey Levitt

    Depending on the series, I’d perhaps like to update the sypnosis and keep the same idea, but with less problematic elements; ditto with rewriting or cutting out certain scenes of an episode (e.g- fanservice used as plot points, make the dialogue have no misogyny, racism, or other marginalization rather than a different type of it) that audiences may be uncomfortable with or are tired of.

    I like stories that have unused potential because, in any given medium, creativity has no bounds! Why rehash a genre with the same old junk that nobody likes when you can put a new twist on it, especially in this day and age with writers and directors of all nationalities, genders, and ethnicities? Opportunities for them to shine give more potential, and so on and so forth.

  • Stephanie Gertsch

    I would like to see a remake of Sakura Wars. Not that I had many problems with the series on sexism grounds (there is some tokenism with the nationalities of the characters, however), but the style seems overly goofy for the premise. It could be a very interesting-looking steampunk anime in the vein of Legend of Korra.

  • Lauren Vaughn

    1 and 3. I would love a GOOD death note Update (not a total redo of the story or American version)because I love the anime but am aware of its misogyny problems. I’d make Misa an equal partner in Light’s scheme. The original story gave her a convincing motive for being team Kira – her murdered parents. I’d also have her mention that the stalker who tried to kill her had a previous conviction- highlighting how some women may be drawn to vigilante justice because they don’t get justice under the system. I’d also make the women opposing Kira more competent.

    I would also want to update/remake Rurouni Kenshin and give Kaoru and Misao way more fights.

    2. Unused potential makes me want to read fix-it fanfic if I like the series despite its flaws. Sometimes I want to hunt for fanfic that rescues certain characters (even if I found the series too frustrating to like or even finish) – namely Sakura, Neji and the entire Uchiha clan from Naruto.

    • Moni

      You’d think the mangaka would’ve done better job with the female characters after he got married. If anything he seemed to become more entrenched in traditional gender roles as all of the female character’s development seemed to be for not in shippuden.

  • -Re: Zero, because I feel it could be turned into a GREAT critique of otaku fulfillment fantasies with a few changes that wouldn’t require radical changes to the plot. For instance, focusing on Ram rather than Rem (imagine the confrontation scene with Ram, who will call him on his shit as well as praise him when he earns it). Giving Emilia a larger role. etc.

    -I’m drawn to them, like a moth to the flame

    -Right now, having just watched it, I would say Assassination Classroom. I loved the teaching and personal growth element, but there were some major sexism problems that hold the series back. It’d take a great deal of rewriting to fix them, but I think the potential is really there. Some day when I’m rich I’ll produce the American adaptation and make it Actually Good, haha.

  • I’d like to see another try at BBK/BRNK, because it was so, so close in so many ways.

    * Keep the gender-balanced cast, cut the boob-grabbing humor that started popping up in the second half. Also let everyone stay fully clothed when they visit (spoiler) under the ice. Also Kaoruko gets to be fully clothed to begin with.
    * Rewrite and flesh out Moses (the first black European I’ve seen in anime!) so that he isn’t stuck in a happy slave narrative.
    * Rewrite and flesh out Leticia (the first time I’ve seen a disabled person get to lead a fighting team!) so she isn’t all about getting herself fixed.
    * Give us a little more time with the Chosen One along the way. (Spoiler: it’s not our angsty teenage hero, one of the reasons this show is so close to greatness.)
    * In general, give the black and brown characters more to do. It was cool to see that much diversity, but it’s no good if they’re just standing around in the background.
    * Change ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about Shizuru’s focus episode. It was a beautiful moment for neurodiversity, and I wish it were part of some other series that I could wholeheartedly recommend.

  • ImaniToo

    Are you drawn to stories that have unused potential, or do you find them more frustrating than fascinating? – That depends on what kind of story and problem/s it had. With KADO, it was a mix of fascination and frustration to see the potential exploration of geopolitical issues via a “First Encounter” type story abandoned. It really hurt when they set up a potentially fantastic rivalry between Sakura and Shindo san where each could have acted as representatives of opposing POVs. You could tell the creators involved made an effort to do something different.

    It’s pure frustration when fantasy stories sideline great female characters in favour of a bland male lead. It’s obvious in most cases that it never even occurred to to think outside the box, or even make inside the box less mundane.

    Given infinite remake money and your choice of medium, what series would you remake and how? – Fate Stay Night anime. I’d remove Shirou as a character, make Rin the obvious star she is, and pair Saber with Sakura. Sakura can remain shy (at the start) and domestic–there’s no reason she can’t be a pro active heroine in her own right while liking to cook.

  • alecksis

    No Game No Life. It has such a fantastic premise and such a gorgeous artstyle… and then there are the lolis and the overt incest vibes… *uncontrollable shrieking*

    • Zaid

      Honestly the premise for NGNL is fantastic. The fact that the MCs are overpowered is cherry on top. Unfortunately I could not get more than 10 minutes in with incest and sexualization of the little sister

  • Ergoemos

    1) I think that, if I could capture the magic of it, I’d remake The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I love the show, but I can’t recommend it but grudgingly given Haruhi’s abuse of Mikuru (*eccentricities*, as they put it in the show, it was clearly known as being too much but… no finished throughline) .

    I’d either tone down her abuse, or insert an honest arc about Haruhi learning about her inappropriate behavior (which could very well play into the show’s overall premise). Well, I suppose I kinda wrote fanfiction to do that, but still.

    Its probably not the most deserving anime of an infinite budget remake, but its one series that I hold near to my heart, as it recently dropped from my top 3 anime list, dethroned by Re:Creators, which was Wholesome, Good, and Smart.

    • Ashen

      I agree! Haruhi’s abusive behavior which she was never called on made me drop the show once I found out there was zero payoff for the Endless Eight.

  • Petrosilia Zwackelfrau

    Series to remake:

    – Nurarihyon no Mago, one of my all-time favourites, with a significant power-up for the female characters. And also just more female characters among the youkai.

    – Lovely Complex with higher production value and a better characterization for the trans character. I’d also like to change one thing specifically: Nobu going to the country to help her grandmother. It has an important function in the story, namely showing the strength of her and Naoko’s relationship, but to me it also highlights how women often give up a lot in order to be caretakers in their family. So I’d love to her to have a brother who could step in to do it for her.

    – I’d also remake SOA because something has to replace all the bad memories from watching to much of that horribly misogynist show.

    Unused potential:

    I can fall in love with stories that are “not perfect”, but I’ve definitely had trouble with watching shows that are cool in some respects but just a bit too sexist for me too overlook wholly. If a series is misogynist, I can’t help but take it personally. If I watch it alone, it feels like I’m passively accepting society’s abuse of women. Feminist discussions of the kind done here on Anime Feminist actually help me get over that sometimes, which is one reason why I’m so grateful this site exists.

  • Encino D Cervantez

    Part 2 of Jojo, take out the whole keyhole scene and make Stroheim a less problematic and uncomfortable character by keeping the excessive nationalism but explicitly stating at some point that he’s not entirely on board with all the antisemetic stuff.

  • Ashen

    With those criteria I’d have to pick Sword Art Online. Not because I want to hate on it–I really enjoy its fun ride, even if it’s flawed–but because I wish it could’ve balanced its cast better, allowing both female and male characters more satisfying story arcs.

    The harem underpinnings always bugged me because I became invested in Asuna and Kirito’s relationship. And it was such a waste of potentially diverse, empowering female characters; reducing the passionate blacksmith Lisbeth, plucky beast tamer Silica, and every other female player into cardboard archetypes whose only purpose was to drool over Kirito was disheartening to say the least.

    I would have loved to see a more balanced scale, ala Baccano!, which managed to have a myriad of interesting characters, both male and female and of varying ages, without ever dipping into “women as eye-candy,” “men as wish-fulfillment.”

    • Moni

      SAO could’ve been a great series but the source material wasn’t all that great too. The anime directors and writers could’ve used the transition from light novel to anime as an opportunity to improve the story (dramatically).

  • Moni

    Probably my ultimate problematic “could’ve been fave”, Ai No Kusabi. Dear lord, rewriting the problematic as hell “love story” of the main characters would just be the start of it. The world building does point out there is a caste system and how humans tried to gain civil rights only to loose them all. The series could’ve been an dystopian novel with real critiques of sex negativity (as sex acts were banned for the elites) and racism. I actually have a headcannon that Juptier (the AI that controls their world) was actually designed by scientists who were disgraced on earth for their eugenicist and neo-nazi beliefs and attempted to create their own “fourth reich” fantasy with fellow believers ,only to be deemed “degenerates” by the AI who then went on to create the elites as the fantasized “ubermench”. The elites were still humans and I think they were socially conditioned to see “mongrels” as not full individuals (3/4 of a person sort of thing) and Iason is implied to have had this conditioning at least somewhat confronted as he falls in love with Riki, but he still deliberately kept him dependent on him.

  • Moni

    I agree, the mangaka does try to make developed female characters but it definitely could’ve been better. I kind of hoped to see more fights from Kaoru as she is considered in the series as the master of her father’s fighting style and Kenshin always gave what I saw as backhanded compliments to it. He would call it naive but then say it would be nice to have it be the norm.

  • LoveDeluxe

    Well, hear me out:

    Kill la Kill.

    Spoilers ahead of course.

    It’s possible to sexualise or desexualise anything. If it’s possible to present nudity in a way that is not objectifying, it is possible to present any outfit or design in a way that is not objectifying. Easiest way to fix the objectification in Kill la Kill would be to change the Kamui designs.

    But I wouldn’t do that. I think that with the themes the show lends itself too, you don’t need to do that. There are moments where the show half-assedly tries to make some kind of statement about how society’s sexualisation of women’s bodies limits what women can achieve, and one step to progress is deconstructing and rejecting the hypersexualisation of the body. That someone seeing you in a sexual way is on them, and you should not feel ashamed of your body. That’s what I feel the “you’ve got to get nakeeeed” speech could be about.

    If it was not used as an excuse for fanservice instead, which it is. People sometimes defend the show by trying to point this out (e.g. “but Satsuki says she doesn’t care if people see her boobs because she’s got more important things to focus on so it’s ok to sexualise her”) but it’s something the show dances around, briefly has a few lines sort of implying it, and then uses that as an excuse for sexualisation.

    The key is framing.

    I’d rather focus on storyboarding and shot-composition changes, and changes to events. Firstly remove the rape scenes. They’re awful, gratuitous, fetishised and disgusting. Secondly, changes the shot choices, especially in the action scenes. Remove the upskirt shots, the pantyshots, the boob-grabs, the ‘oh-no-Ryuko’s-pyjamas-fell-down’ shots, and the other visual fanservice shots. Especially from the action scenes.

    Change the shot angles. If we see Ryuko standing facing off against someone, do we need to see her butt? No.

    Because there are ideas and themes in Kill la Kill that would have the potential to be progressive, thoughtful and feminist if they were handled differently.

    There are a couple of moments in the show that actually almost tries to do this and screws it up, the big one being the fight with Gamagori, where it felt like the male writers were really trying to juggle trying to be satirical/parody, ridiculous comedy, action, and trying to be semi-empowering while still just being objectifying.

    Gamagori whips himself in front of an audience, brags about how he ‘enjoys being punished’, wears a ballgag and bondage-themed outfit, and how he’s going to bring himself to ‘an explosive climax’, then accuses Ryuko of being ‘a slut’ based solely on how she’s dressed, even though she is not doing or saying anything sexual but he is. The crowd cheers and applauds him, and boos and shames her.

    And I was like “oh my god are they actually going to make a statement abou-” and then pantyshots again and I was like, “oh yeah, this is Kill la Kill. Shit.”. It was the rape scene that was the final nail in the coffin, the animation style and bonkers humour was the only thing that he kept me in it to then.

    But think of how that scene could be with minor dialogue tweaks and changes in shots and framing.

    If you actually explored the theme of society encouraging and glorifying male sexuality while rejecting, mystifying and demonising female sexuality, if you used the idea and designs to explore themes of sexualisation and bodyshaming and criticise society’s perception of women’s bodies, if you threw out the fanservice and made Ryuko a badass who the audience respects, if you took out the objectification and made something empowering, you would end up with a very different (and in my opinion massively improved) show. And you could pull that off, I believe, without significantly changing the costume design.

    If there were more women involved higher up in the production, who had more of a voice about this sort of thing, we could have got something like that.

    And that’s what pisses me off so much about Kill la Kill, and many other shows. There are elements that I want to like, utterly ruined by the fanservice. The wasted potential that with a few tweaks you’d have a show that would have all the same positive points with none of the horrendous sexual objectification. Draw in the crowds with the character designs and whack them over the head with surprise feminism. They probably wouldn’t even notice. Make them woke!

  • Anime Commulist

    Neon Genesis Evangelion. I’d sort out the more problematic elements (treatment of female characters etc.) and then actually try to make the whole damn thing make some sort of sense and have some sort of satisfying conclusion. Instead of the total nonsense of the original endings instead make one to focus on the characters in the aftermath of all that’s happened.

    Either that or flesh out some of the queer themes in K-On (particular Yui being best asexual aromantic agender guitarist) and put more actual music in, since there’s an apparent infinite budget.

    Or both.