[Perspectives] My road to finding better Latinx representation in anime

When I first began watching anime in elementary school and noticing that the story always took place in Japan, I figured I wouldn’t see characters from other countries very often. Series were set in places like Shibuya and Tokyo and used aspects of Japanese folklore, history, and modern life.

But then I did see a tan character. A tan Latinx. You’d think it would have made me happy to see somebody who looked like me in my favorite entertainment medium, but it was the opposite. Every time I saw someone in an anime who was even somewhat similar to me or any of the other Latinx I knew, I cringed.

[Discourse] Strong Girls Doing Strong Things: Moe, femininity, and being your own hero

SPOILERS: minor spoilers for K-On!, Yuri!!! on ICE and Food Wars! A wide-eyed innocent is staring at you through the screen, her lashline shimmering with tears. “Take care of me”, she appeals without words, to a hero on screen, perhaps you as her hero. Or maybe even to the part of you that’s fragile, which you protect from a world of strangers. Many of us would recognise this as moe, what some would suppose a ‘moeblob’; a character that exists only to be vulnerable and sweet, an empty sugar shell we long to keep safe. But many of us will find something deeper to relate to in this trembling dear, kind to all, yet afraid of some imagined danger.

[Discourse] Why aren’t problematic translations fixed?

When the first episode dub of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid came out, fans were quick to notice a problem: lines which had been accurately translated for subtitles had been revised for the dub. This is not unusual; lines must be expanded or trimmed to synchronise with lip flap movements, and jokes in particular can fall flat if not overhauled. But that’s not what happened here.

[Creator Spotlight] Beyond Yuri!!! On ICE: The themes and motifs of Sayo Yamamoto

Yuri!!! On ICE might’ve been one of the best things about 2016. I know that’s is a low bar, but roll with me. It engaged viewers inside and outside anime fandom alike, it offered one of the most positive portrayals of a queer relationship I’ve ever seen in anime, and – most importantly – it’s offered me a chance to talk about Sayo Yamamoto, a director whose works have until now struggled to gain attention despite their high quality. While Mitsurou Kubo has gotten a completely earned bevvy of praise for her hard work writing the story for Yuri!!! on ICE (thanks in no small part, I would suspect, to her availability on social media), any familiarity with Yamamoto’s past works makes it clear that this is very much a joint effort. While many anime directors might not have the same recognizable stamp on their work as the western conception of a (usually film, usually auteur) director, there are exceptions. And Yamomoto, now with three full series under her belt, is proving herself to be as easy to spot as Kon, Watanabe, or Ikuhara.

Feminist anime recommendations of 2016

Now that the winter premieres have aired and most people have figured out what they’re watching this season, we’re starting to look back at which shows from 2016 deserve a second glance. We had been talking internally about our feminist recommendations of 2016, and some of the team wanted to go into a bit more detail on some of their favorites. We talked about three kinds of recommendation: Feminist-friendly favorite (you would recommend it to a feminist friend with no caveats) Problematic favorite (you would only recommend it to a feminist friend with caveats) Surprise favorite (you expected it to have caveats, but actually would recommend it without) Here’s what a few of the team thought – let us know your picks in the comments!

[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!

[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] 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.

[Feature] How fan service can attract or repel an audience, and how to tell the difference

There’s a misconception that feminists believe any and all fan service is always bad. But in this feminist’s opinion, fan service goes wrong when it interrupts the mood of the show. Take Keijo!!!!!!!!, my guilty pleasure of this anime season, in which girls don skimpy swimsuits, study “asstronomy,” and use their ample buttocks to knock each other out. I love comedies and over-the-top action, and I knew instantly that I’d find this entire premise hilarious. I love that Keijo!!!!!!!! knows itself. It knows exactly why we’re watching and doesn’t try to be anything else. Sometimes fan service, defined here as the act of giving the fans exactly what they want, hits the mark. Keijo!!!!!!!! is one of those instances, dishing out exactly what it promised. The same goes for Free!, which advertises—and delivers—on plenty of male skin. And for an example of how fan service isn’t always sexual, let’s bring up a truly wild mecha anime, GaoGaiGar, which is undeniably gratuitous with its slick giant robot battles and rewarding explosions. Fan service can be exciting, sexy, fun, or all three—when it’s implemented well. I recently enjoyed Monster Musume, the unlikely and over-the-top tale of an everyman who is compelled to care for a menagerie of mythical half-women who are all crazy for him. It was a comedy, and often a surprisingly sexy one. Yes, I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to watch a snake girl try on lingerie or meet a dominatrix spider lady, but nobody is going to go into Monster Musume without getting exactly what the show’s premise implies. Meanwhile, I was extremely put off by certain parts of God Eater. This video game series turned anime is known for its unusual, beastial enemy designs, its post-apocalyptic futurescape, and its stunning, almost painterly art. So I was extremely bothered by the anime’s constant visual focus on some female characters’ breasts. Major Amamiya is portrayed in the games and parts of the show as a competent leader and combatant, but we see more of her breasts than her face. I’m not saying that strong women can’t be sexy, but it seems as if the show is undercutting itself, leaving me pondering its jarring camera angles instead of immersing myself in its story. “Wait, didn’t you just say you liked Monster Musume, which was full of boobs?” Yes, but have we considered that there’s a time and a place for boobs, and a serious war drama isn’t it? When I use the term “fan service” in a derogatory way, it’s not because I hate fan service, far from it! It’s because I am critiquing the creator’s understanding of what type of content actual serves fans of a show. When the girls of Keijo!!!!!!!! flaunt their considerable assets, it’s totally in line with the story. But when an otherwise serious show suddenly points the camera at a female character’s panties, it’s saying several unfortunate things: The creators have no confidence in their product. It reeks of self-doubt on the storyteller’s part. “Don’t like our storyline? Let’s toss in some skin just in case.” The creators don’t know why we’re watching, and are hoping to compensate for that with unasked-for sex appeal, ultra-violence, etc. It’s tone-deaf. In the case of female skin, the creators may believe that this is the only way to make women interesting. “She’s a magic-wielding soldier from the future, but if you still think that’s boring, take a look at her boobs.” Imagine you’re watching Dragon Ball Z. Goku is launching into his Kamehameha attack and the camera goes closer, closer… until it lines right up at his crotch. To me, that would say “Fans, we realize this is a real yawn, so let’s throw in some sex appeal to spice things up.” This would be ridiculous because it would intentionally pull viewers out of the story. It would be ridiculous because Dragon Ball Z already HAS fan service—depicting the craziest attacks possible. Adding gratuitous sexuality on top of that would just take away from that. Fan service can often be the product of sloppy storytelling: give the fans what they think they want in order to compensate against larger issues. Not all fan service is bad. But the fan service that works for one show isn’t going to serve the fans of another. If I turn on Gundam, I want to see some robot explosions, complete with twisted metal carnage. And if I turn on Keijo!!!!!!!! and don’t see a “Butt Guillotine,” I’m going to be disappointed. Giving fans what they want is awesome. The problem is creators often don’t know what that is. This may seem like a surprising proposal from a Monster Musume fan, but it’s time for anime to stop relying on fan service as an all-purpose Band-Aid. It simply doesn’t work in every show. For me, the shower scenes in Izetta the Last Witch feel as out of place as if the characters in Yuri!!! On Ice punctuated their skating routines with Michael Bay style explosions. For fan service to be successful, it has to align with the audience’s expectations. What is a show advertising in its promos, its  opening credits, its first episode? Did we come to the show for a space opera and get butts instead? Did we come for butts and get a straight-laced period drama? Part of the reason AniFem exists is because there’s very little you can do to verify the absence of fan service other than watch the show, so some of the reviews here attempt to remedy that by warning fans in advance. That shouldn’t have to be the case! Certain art styles and storytelling cues should be enough to let us know who a show is for, and who is going to be completely put off by surprise fanservice. Of course, this means admitting that not every anime show has something for everyone—and being OK with that. I’d rather see shows go all out to please their intended audiences than dilute themselves …

[Review] Yuri!!! on ICE – episode 1

Yuri is a young figure skater considering retirement after he plummeted from world championship level to failing to qualify at nationals over the course of a single season. He goes home for the first time in five years in poor physical and emotional condition, reconnecting with his family and trying to reconnect with his love of skating – not realising everything is about to change.