12 Days of Anime 2016

After a slapdash “why not?” carefully considered decision we’re going to give 12 Days of Anime a try! Popularised by Scamp and this year hijacked by appropriant, the rules are: Starting on 14th December, write about a moment of anime from this year each day until Christmas day. It doesn’t have to be from an anime that aired this year. It doesn’t even have to be something that happened in an anime. It could be how you went to a cow appreciation fair because you watched Silver Spoon. So long as it happened to you this year, it’s eligible. We’re narrowing our scope slightly: the subject has to be feminist-relevant in some way and must in some way relate to anime which aired for the first time this year. We have no plan, just a year’s worth of unshared thoughts to tap into, which we will be collecting in this post. If you would like to join in please check out this year’s post and add your content to the spreadsheet! If one of your posts has content you think feminists would be interested in, please let us know – we’d love to include it in our links round-up. Day 1: The art of a feminist-friendly premiere Day 2: Gals of All Stripes: ClassicaLoid & the Girls’ Day Out Day 3: Challenging the male gaze in Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Day 4: Rivalry, romance and the Nodame standard   Thanks to our generous patrons we are able to pay all writers in 2017! Next we need to be able to pay members of the team for their work behind the scenes, especially their time spent editing the work of paid contributors. If you appreciate our work, believe in paying content creators fairly and can spare just $1 a month please become a patron today! 

[12 Days] Day 1: The art of a feminist-friendly premiere

This is a post in the 12 Days of Anime blogging challenge! For others in our series please check out our main post.  SPOILERS: Minor spoilers for episode one of BBK/BRNK I’ve talked elsewhere about how I can switch off a show at the first sign of gratuitous sexualisation in episode one. It’s an easy way to put me and some other feminist viewers off. Now let’s talk about how anime premieres can draw such viewers in, using my favourite example from 2016: BBK/BRNK.

[Interview] Masaki C. Matsumoto, queer and feminist activist

We first encountered Masaki through his video “5 Things You Didn’t Know About LGBTQs in Japan” in which he debunks popular myths about the real history and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in Japan. We linked to it here on AniFem, then started checking out his other videos and social media.  Learning more about Masaki, it became clear that he could give us insights into the experience of being not just queer, but a queer activist and self-identified feminist in Japan. We knew we had to interview him, and he was kind enough not only to agree but to respond in both English and Japanese so that we could open this discussion to a wider audience. It’s been a goal of AniFem since the start to showcase the voices of people talking about their own communities, and we are thrilled to be able to start here. 

[Links] 28 November – 11 December

Two weeks’ worth of links to make up for missing last week! AniFem round-up [Roundtable] Trash characters A feminist look at “trash characters” inspired by Chitose from Girlish Number, between seven members of the AniFem team. [AniFemTalk] 21-28 November 2016 Check out the comments for discussion on Kiss Him, Not Me!, Yuri!!! on ICE, Sound! Euphonium and Flip Flappers (thank you, Flip Flappers, for having no exclamation marks). [Feature] Your Name: Body-swaps beyond ecchi punchlines New contributor Hannah Collins breaks down the progressive and problematic ways Makoto Shinkai uses the time-honoured body-swap trope. (Spoilers for Your Name) [Update] AniFem will pay all writers in 2017 A breakdown of how much we will pay writers, how much we need to run sustainably and how important our $1 patrons are to us. [Discourse] Force Him, Not Me! Rape culture in shojo romance The result of commentary on our AniFemTalk post, this takes a critical look at how the actions of two of the love interests in Kiss Him, Not Me are presented and perceived. (Spoilers up to episode 9 of the anime and chapter 36 of the manga) [AniFem History] Noa’s Imposter Syndrome in Patlabor Lauren Orsini kicks off this new type of post, where we look at a character or situation from an older anime through a feminist lens. Announcing the Women in Sakuga Programme! All about our first collaboration, working with the team at Sakuga Blog to actively recruit, support and pay women (and anyone else who doesn’t identify as a cisgender man) to write about sakuga. [Update] Two months of AniFem How has it only been two months? We’ve accomplished a great deal, but we still have so much further to go… Beyond AniFem Cute ‘Kawaii’ culture may be holding back Japan’s women (Bloomberg) Akie Abe, wife of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has spoken out about her views on women’s place in Japanese society. “”Men’s thinking has not changed,” 54-year-old Akie Abe said last week when asked how society’s attitude to women has evolved since she joined the workforce in her twenties. “Japanese men tend to prefer cute women over capable and hardworking women. So women try to appear to be the type that men like. Even very talented women put on cutesy ways.”” Transgender-themed “ECHOES” wins Takarajimasha’s “This Manga is Amazing!” Grand Prix (Crunchyroll) 28-year-old mangaka Ayumi wrote ECHOES, about the members of a women’s basketball team, in part from her own experiences questioning her gender identity from the age of three. “The first prize went to 28-year-old artist Ayumi’s transgender-themed manga ECHOES. It was chosen by the judges unanimously and its tankobon is scheduled to be published on December 10. Takarajimasha has published the “Kono Manga ga Sugoi!” ranking guidebook every year since 2005 and the Grand Prix Award was established in 2010 to contribute to the discovery and development of potential young manga artists who are able to join the ranking in future.” Anime’s fan service can be a minefield (Kotaku) AniFem’s editor-in-chief is quoted in this article, which covers a range of perspectives from western fans and lots of familiar ground for AniFem readers. “‘Progressive’-identified anime fans—myself included—judge fan service on a case-by-case basis, and often, can’t adhere to simple rules. The rules are broken over and over again as each new season of anime seems to include more fan service. Many fans with whom I spoke draw similar hard lines for not-okay anime—generally when an anime girl is sexually victimized to turn male viewers on, and when underaged girls are treated as sexual objects or points of attraction.” Top 10 Japanese gay films you need to see (Film Doo) Following on from her list of Japanese lesbian films, Sharon Calingasan returns with a list of films about gay men. “Japan has a reputation for being a conservative society, but with the passing of time and increased westernization, the country has started to open up, even in terms of sexuality. In the post-World War II era, gay films have started to be produced and made available to a wider audience. Let’s take a look at some of the more well-known gay genre movies that have caught the attention of local and global audiences.” Japanese transgender idol unit “SECRET GUYZ” overcome gender boundaries (Takurei’s Room) Rei at excellent site Takurei’s Room translated this interview from Japanese. “SECRET GUYZ, Japan’s first ever FtM idol group, is broadening the scope of its activities to spread understanding of sexual minorities as it cements its position as a ‘new generation idol group”. In addition to releasing their 6th single on November 30th, the group will hold a one man show on December 1st in Toyko. The group says, “Rather than raising awareness in a serious way, we want to get the word out through entertainment.”” The self-destruction of Karasuma Chitose (Andrea Ritsu) Andrea Ritsu takes an in-depth look at the character who inspired our trash characters roundtable.  “What grabbed me the most [about Girlish Number] was the lead character, Karasuma Chitose… As the story progresses, we follow her rise to minor success and then face an eventual fall, all at the cost of her own arrogance and stubbornness. I wanted to further analyze the mindset of Chitose, as I found her behaviour unmistakably realistic and understandable, despite it often being rude or wrong.” (Spoilers for Girlish Number) Naoko Yamada: Filmed with the heart (Sakuga Blog) To celebrate her birthday, Kevin takes us through fan favourite Naoko Yamada’s entire career from her birth in Kyoto to her impact on animation powerhouse Kyoto Animation. “And so the young woman enamored with film and who’d recently finished a university course that somehow combined oil painting with the manufacture of art gadgets ended up joining a 2D animation studio right away, simply because she saw their leaflet on her campus and it felt right; considering she had already briefly worked at a bakery where she used her artistic skills to decorate cakes, perhaps this chaotic progression was the most fitting end.” The Allure of Gravure (Schoolgirl Milky Crisis) …

[Update] Two months of AniFem

Anime Feminist is two months old today! This month we have exceeded $750 in Patreon pledges, committed to pay all our writers from January 1st, set up a new contributor process to make submissions easier and run more smoothly and launched our first collaboration.

[History] Noa’s Imposter Syndrome in Patlabor

Welcome to Anime Feminist History, in which contributors take turns choosing an older anime series and examining a character, plot point, or scene under a feminist lens. This week, Lauren kicks off the column with a look at Noa Izumi in 1989 mecha show Patlabor! If most giant robot anime are based on masculine stereotypes, Patlabor is based on a feminine one. Usually, mecha are intended as weapons of war, but Labors (as their name implies) were originally intended for municipal tasks like construction and keeping the peace. Of course, we wouldn’t have much of a conflict without the Patrol Labor team using their Labors for the most ridiculous slapstick reasons possible. One of the biggest repeat offenders is Noa Izumi, an energetic, enthusiastic young policewoman who simply adores her “Pat-chan.” Nobody ever expects Noa to be a cop. It’s always played for laughs when Noa informs people (usually men) that she’s actually the pilot of that giant Labor standing over there. Noa’s position as a female protagonist also makes light of the trope that a woman needs to be twice as good as a man to get the same role. Ota Isao is a hothead who is often demonstrated to be laughably incompetent as a Labor pilot but he still has the same job and status as Noa. Usually, Noa’s okay with that. Even if Ota also gets to pilot his own Labor despite her being the one who constantly has to pull him out of scrapes, at least Noa can rest assured that she’s more competent than her teammate in every way. That is, until episode 36, “Noa’s Adventure,” when during target practice, Noa discovers that Ota is twice the marksman she is. He certainly has more experience with shooting—while Noa is hesitant to use her gun within city limits and risk harming the residents, Ota’s temper usually ends up getting the best of him. In “Noa’s Adventure,” it seems to Noa that everyone on the PatLabor team is growing and gaining skills except for her. So when she spots 10,000 yen bills floating downstream on her way back from a food run, she opts not to notify her unit about the potential police case. Instead she sets off by bicycle to apprehend the culprit herself. It’s a sweet episode that shows how much Noa’s teammates worry about and care for her when she doesn’t come back, especially the normally antagonistic Ota. But the major lesson of the episode is that Noa’s insecurities were all in her head. She doesn’t get so much as a slap on the wrist from the chief. And as Asuma points out afterwards, Noa already proved herself in spades during her pivotal battle with the Black Labor. Nobody doubts that she belongs on the team. Noa’s doubts in this episode show her falling into a common trap for high-achieving women—Imposter Syndrome, or the feeling that you are a fraud fooling everyone with a veneer of competence. It’s easy to see why Noa might feel this way when she’s so often treated as an equal to somebody as bumbling as Ota. When you have to be twice as skilled as a man to be considered as good as him, it’s hard to feel like you have any talent at all. Back in 1989 when Patlabor was created, it was more realistic to imagine a future with giant robots than one where women were treated equally all the time! But they were right; issues like Imposter Syndrome are just as critical to discuss today as they were then, especially for women. We still have to worry about whether we’re perceived to be as good as men doing the same thing. We still feel the pressure to keep our professional skills sharpened and stay ahead of the pack, especially as we get closer to an age when employers begin to assume we will become less career focused. Almost three decades later, Noa’s concerns are sadly still relatable, making this 1980s mecha anime surprisingly relevant to women working in the 21st century.   Thanks to our generous patrons we have committed to paying all writers in 2017! However, we are still a little short of the $800 in pledges we need to be able to do that and are relying on you to help us hit that goal by December 31st. Almost half our patrons have pledged just $1 which adds up to a massive $80 every month, it’s an enormous help and appreciated more than you might realise. If you appreciate our work, believe in paying content creators fairly and can spare just $1 a month please become a patron today! 

[Discourse] Force Him, Not Me! Rape culture in shojo romance

SPOILERS: up to episode 9 of the anime and chapter 36 of the manga Kiss Him, Not Me (the manga is being simulpubbed on Crunchyroll if you would like to catch up!) I caught up with Kiss Him, Not Me over the last few days because I heard that episode 8 had an Incident of Feminist Interest, which turned out to be sexual assault by an effectively unconscious person. When mentioned in last week’s AniFemTalk post, our community had a lot to say about the way sexuality, boundaries and consent were presented (thank you for your insights, commenters!), so I had to see for myself. Once you read this article you should definitely check out their thoughts, which cover a broader range of subjects than I raise here. In many ways, Kiss Him, Not Me is a perfect series for a feminist blog to explore: it does some things very well, some things very badly and inspires strong, mixed feelings. The response to episode 8 is no exception, and not all commenters will agree with my position here. That’s good. This is a discourse post, and the point is to host a constructive, interesting conversation from multiple points of view. Whether you agree or disagree, please come to the comments and tell me why!

[Update] AniFem will pay all writers in 2017

On our 50th day AniFem made it to over $700 in pledges! To do so on a platform like Patreon, known as a beer money tip jar rather than a business model, is a pretty staggering achievement. Again, we started with no community, no name recognition, very limited content – and fandom has showed up for us, ensuring that we don’t have to rely on other income streams like affiliate links or ads. As a result, I am committing here and now to paying every single one of our writers in 2017, starting January 1st.

[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.