[History] Ahead of The Pack: How Trixie in Speed Racer broke gender barriers

For many Americans in the late 1960s, Speed Racer (known in Japan as Mach GoGoGo) was a landmark television show, marking their first exposure to anime. The show followed the adventures of Speed Racer, a young man striving to become the world’s best racer and conquering dangerous courses along the way. But Speed Racer was also exceptional for the way it depicted its primary female character, Trixie (or “Michi Shimura” in the original Japanese release). At a time when most female characters on television were barely allowed to have careers, Trixie was an action star in her own right, a racing professional and hero on equal footing with the male characters. While Speed Racer is the primary protagonist of the show bearing his name, the spotlight was often on Trixie. She has an important place on Speed’s racing team as his safety spotter, alternately riding along with Speed in his trusty Mach 5 race car, utilizing various gadgets to ensure the track’s safety, and flying her very own helicopter from overhead. When other characters do attempt to devalue her as being “just a girl,” she stands her ground, proving her knowledge of the tracks as well as the Mach 5’s mechanical parts, safety, and technology. She comes to the rescue of the Mach 5 racing team multiple times, such as in the episode “The Most Dangerous Race: Episode 2.” Better still, when Speed’s little brother Spritle tries to reject Trixie’s help because he doesn’t want to be saved “by a girl,” the series explicitly calls him out on it, depicting him as immature and in the wrong. The characterization of Trixie as a strong and capable woman was unusual for anime heroines at the time. In Japan, most female characters in the ‘60s adhered to strict gender roles and were typically mother figures, love interests, or damsels in distress. Other anime heroines from the same period include Mari Yamatone in Ōgon Bat (1967), a young girl whose main job is to cry for Ōgon Bat (her father) to save her, and a pair of female heroines on the five-person team in Rainbow Sentai Robin (1966). One is a motherly character, serving as a nurse and caretaker for the main hero. The other is a cat. While admittedly the cat’s ability to scramble radar is useful to the team, the female characters are not there to be a direct part of the action. One possible exception is the series Princess Knight (1967), where the heroine, Princess Sapphire, is a talented swordfighter who can go toe-to-toe with the male cast members. However, Princess Knight has been criticized by some modern-day critics because Princess Sapphire’s power comes from her “having a boy heart.” When she loses her “boy heart,” she loses both her sword fighting ability and the respect she previously commanded. In Speed Racer, Trixie’s strength isn’t tied to rejecting her femininity. She has a traditionally feminine hairdo, wears makeup, and is often decked out in pink racing gear. If anything, the fact that she embraces her femininity is part of her strength; she is often underestimated for it and still proves she can save everyone. In addition to being exceptional in Japan, Trixie’s character was exceptional on American television as well. The 1960s and ‘70s were decades when new roles for women were just starting to emerge in popular media. Women on television had traditionally been portrayed as idealized domestic housewives throughout the 1950s, a trend that continued into the ‘60s and ‘70s but began to be challenged. These decades saw the introduction of characters such as Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970). Mary Richards was an independent single woman working as a TV news producer. The idea that a show could be based entirely around a woman’s career was thought to be radical at the time. Other emerging characters at the time subverted the expectations of a wife and mother, such as the single mom Lucille Ball played on The Lucy Show (1962). Of course, even these exceptions were not without their issues. Neither Ball nor Moore’s characters were allowed to be divorced, as the producers worried this would be too controversial. They were also expected to show a level of respect to their male superiors that wasn’t required of their male coworkers. For example, Mary Richards always refers to her boss as “Mister” or “Sir.” This was largely unquestioned in-universe. These issues weren’t unique to live-action U.S. television, either. Implicit biases against strong women can be found in a number of animated shows that aired around the same time as Speed Racer. The Jetsons (1962) was set in the far future, but their vision of the future still saw women as homemakers or maids while men remained the breadwinners. Other action shows featuring female love interests, such as The New Adventures of Superman (1966) and Popeye (1960), used them as classic damsels in distress, rarely if ever utilizing a plot where the women saved themselves. By contrast, while characters on Speed Racer do underestimate Trixie, she frequently proves them wrong through her skill and moxie. She never refers to the male characters by anything but their first names and has no problem arguing with them (and usually gets her way). Speed largely sees her as an equal and often chooses her as his ride-along partner, picking her over his little brother Spritle and even his mechanic Sparky. Trixie was a different kind of heroine on animated television. Quick-witted, spunky, and self-sufficient, she stood out from the crowd, a feat she is still remembered for to this day.   Comments are open! Please read our comments policy before joining the conversation and contact us if you have any problems. Thanks to our generous patrons we are now able to pay all writers! 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 …

[Feature] The Josei Renaissance

For years, it was common knowledge amongst manga industry insiders and fans alike that josei manga—comics targeted at adult women—were simply too risky to license for English release. Sure, a number of publishers had tried to do so during the heyday of the 2000s manga boom, but their efforts were mostly met with middling sales and a lot of indifferent readers. The history of the genre in the U.S. is largely a depressing one, and for years it seemed as if josei was doomed to be one of the few manga demographics that would never find a foothold with English-speaking readers.

[AniFemTalk] Your questions, your answers

AniFem turned six months old on April 11th! To celebrate, Dee, Peter, Vrai and I recorded the first ever Q&A episode of our podcast, Chatty AF. Well, episodeS – we asked on Twitter for your questions, and got such a great response we had to record two episodes to answer them all. Those episodes will come out next month. In the meantime, here are versions of some of the questions we answer in the recordings – we’d love to know your answers!

Feminist anime recommendations of Winter 2017

Now we’ve reviewed all the Spring 2017 premieres, we thought we’d round up some of our favourites from shows that ended last season. We talked about three kinds of recommendation: Feminist-friendly favourite (you would recommend it to a feminist friend with no caveats) Problematic favourite (you would only recommend it to a feminist friend with caveats) Surprise favourite (you expected it to have caveats, but actually would recommend it without) Just so you know, every one of us would have picked Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju for the feminist-friendly favourite. (For those who loved it as much as we do, we highly recommend our own Dee’s insightful episode recaps for both seasons.) To give you a more diverse selection, I asked that only one person cover Rakugo and that the rest come up with other options – easily done, since we all had other anime from the season that we had loved. Here’s what a few of the team thought – let us know your picks in the comments!

[Review] Atom the Beginning – episode 1

In Japan after a great calamity, there were two geniuses who dreamed of the future. One was Umatarō Tenma. The other was Hiroshi Ochanomizu. The two labored day and night in robot research — Tenma to create a “god,” and Ochanomizu to create a “friend.” Thus a robot, A106, was born from their collaborative friendship. Source: Anime News Network As a prequel to the classic TV anime of Osamu Tezuka manga Astro Boy, Atom the Beginning comes with the weight of more historical significance than this cartoony introduction can really hold up. In Atom the Beginning two young engineer misfits use up all their funding to create a robot which pushes new boundaries of science in a robot-friendly world – that’s a solid premise for a fun show, and viewers need to expect nothing more.

[Review] Seven Mortal Sins – episode 1

The prideful archangel Lucifer disobeys God and is cast into the lowest level of hell as a fallen angel. On her way to hell, Lucifer happens to meet a high school girl on Earth named Maria, who helps her. In hell, Lucifer meets Leviathan, and Leviathan explains to Lucifer about The Seven Deadly Sins, the seven demon king rulers of hell. After The Seven Deadly Sins seal Lucifer’s powers, Lucifer goes on a journey with Maria and Leviathan to defeat them. Source: Anime News Network It….it’s porn, y’all. It’s unabashed porn centered around the deep and probing question, “hey, what if Lucifer was a super hot chick?” That’s what you’re getting here.

[Review] WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? – episode 1

Humans have been driven to extinction by “Beasts.” The duty of fighting the Beasts fall to “Fairies,” who are destined to use their powers to wield “Holy Swords” called “Kariyon” and eventually meet their destiny of death. A sole human being named Willem wakes up after several hundred years, and continues his fight against the Beasts. Source: Anime News Network In case the absurdly long title didn’t give it away, WorldEnd (or SukaSuka, to use its Japanese shorthand) is an adaptation of a light novel (LN) series. In my almost three years of watching every licensed first episode, I’ve seen a lot of LN adaptation premieres, and while I’ve quite liked a few of them (Rokka and Grimgar, for example), the vast majority tend to be, well… remember Amelia’s Akashic Records review a few days ago? Yeah. They tend to be that. All of which is to say I came in to WorldEnd tentatively hopeful based on the wistful cover art, but pretty well convinced it would disappoint me. I left the premiere pleasantly surprised and more hopeful than ever, even if I can’t quite shake my skepticism. This wasn’t just good “for an LN adaptation” (although I was downright giddy when the protagonist caught two girls and didn’t accidentally grope either of them, which tells you how high the bar’s set for LN anime these days); it has potential to be a really solid fantasy series in general.

[Review] Anonymous Noise – episode 1

Nino, a girl who loves singing, made a childhood promise with her first crush Momo and song-composing Yuzu to someday find her voice. The three went their separate ways, but Nino kept her promise and continued to sing. Years later, the three are now high school students, and Nino is drawn into the world of keionbu or band club. Source: Anime News Network I go into most reviews cold, but I had already reviewed the first volume of the manga so was very curious about how the anime would handle its weaker elements. From my perspective, adaptations are an opportunity to either improve upon flawed source material or elevate already strong material, with completely faithful adaptations a missed opportunity at best. Which would the Anonymous Noise‘s anime be? The answer is: a mixed bag. Some positive decisions to make changes, some misguided decisions to stay faithful, some brand new and terrible decisions in their own right, all mashed into an inconsistent, lumpy first episode.

[Review] Grimoire of Zero – episode 1

Zero is a witch who is ignorant of the world and travels with a half-beast half-human mercenary who longs to be human. Witches who practice sorcery exist in the world, however, in this era no one knows how about the art and study of witchcraft. Zero is going on a journey to search for a magical tome called “The Book of Zero” that hides a power that can destroy the world. The mercenary travels with her as her guard. Source: Anime News Network Grimoire of Zero manages to pack an enormous amount of information into its premiere, most of it laser focused on the two main characters, Mercenary and Zero, and the fundamentals of the worldbuilding most relevant to them. We learn more about Mercenary’s situation as a ‘beastfallen’, the opposite to WorldEnd‘s ‘disfeatured’, from the origins of his species to the day-to-day discrimination he experiences. We are introduced to the difference between sorcery and magic, and given some intriguing details about the connection between names and power, witches and religion. It is an impressive amount of detail for a premiere, delivered at a fast enough pace in a (mostly) natural enough way to avoid losing the viewer’s attention. Perhaps more impressive is that it delivers all this information without scrimping on characterisation. This seems to be the story of an odd couple road trip, found family and marginalisation, told through two distinctive and well rounded leads. I’m already looking forward to episode two.

[Review] Tsugumomo – episode 1

Kazuya Kagami’s most treasured possession in the world is the obi left to him by his late mother. The scent of cherry-blossoms infused into it helps him through his day – but he never expected it to save his life, becoming a beautiful kimono-clad girl who calls herself an “artifact spirit.” Her name is Kiriha, tsukumogami of the sash, who naturally moves in with him, as he is her “owner.” Throw in Chisato, his bespectacled friend, an overprotective older sister who wants to take baths with him, a busty priestess, a seductive sorceress named Kokuyoura, and Kazuya’s life has just gotten a lot more interesting. Source: Anime News Network As that about-face description may suggest, Tsugumomo is two shows crammed into one. The first is an action-fantasy about Kazuya, a mild-mannered, intelligent boy who lost his mother and carried around her obi (sash) as a memento/security blanket for years, imbuing it with energy and love until it became a tsukumogami: an object given sentience and human form. The obi turns into Kiriha, a powerful fighter who’s proud to the point of smugness, and she saves Kazuya by exorcising an evil spirit from one of his classmates. This half of the story is pretty fun! It features an energetic supernatural fight sequence and a few moments of genuine sweetness between Kazuya and Kiriha, along with promises of a meddling shrine maiden joining the cast in the future. As a fan of Shinto-inspired fantasies, I would have been happy to watch a pair of squabbling partners defeat supernatural evil together. Unfortunately, Tsugumomo is two shows, not one. And the other show is this…

[Review] Eromanga Sensei – episode 1

Masamune Izumi is a light novel author in high school. His artist, known only as “Eromanga Sensei” is reliable but Masamune has never met him and assumes he’s just a perverted otaku. Masamune’s little sister is Sagiri, a shut-in girl who hasn’t left her room for an entire year. She even forces her brother to make and bring her meals when she stomps the floor. Masamune wants his sister to leave her room, because the two of them are each other’s only family. One day Masamune discovers that Eromanga Sensei and Sagiri are one in the same. Further chaos erupts between the siblings when a beautiful, female, best-selling shōjo manga creator becomes their rival. Source: Anime News Network This is far from the most fanservice-laden premiere of the bunch in terms of pure T&A, but let me assure you it makes up for it with a metric ton of skeeze.

[Review] Re:CREATORS – episode 1

Sota Mizushino wants to tell stories as good as the light novels and anime he enjoys so much, like Elemental Symphony of Vogelchevalier. While watching an episode on his tablet one day, it flickers to show eerie messages like “You cannot escape from here” and “CHANGE BEFORE YOU HAVE TO”. Suddenly, the world around his tablet disintegrates and he finds himself in the situation he has just been watching – the world of Elemental Symphony of Vogelchevalier, where heroine Selesia is piloting her mecha, Vogelchevalier, to defeat a mysterious stranger attacking her with a barrage of flying swords. Realising Sota is there, Selesia dives across to rescue him. She finds herself in Sota’s bedroom, guard up and confused by Sota’s insistence that she is an anime character. This is my favourite premiere so far, and a serious contender for Anime of the Season (comparing like to like and putting aside the great sequels airing right now). Let’s talk about Selesia first.

[Review] Twin Angels Break – episode 1

Two third-year middle school girls, Sumire and Meguri, fight evil as Twin Angels under orders from a hedgehog named Miruku-chan. The girls disagree, but as they work together, little by little they become friendlier with each other. Source: Anime News Network Hey, have you ever seen a magical girl show? Congrats, you’ve seen this one too. Cute mascot, transformation item, an awkward first battle reminiscent of Sailor Moon, the whole nine yards. That’s not a knock on it–the magical girl genre is as storied as sentai, and there are plenty of viewers who find that familiar sort of tale comforting. Just don’t come looking for any wild twists.

[Review] Kabukibu! – episode 1

Kurogo Kurusu, a high school student who loves kabuki so much that it’s annoying. Kurogo yearns to perform kabuki as part of a club at his school, but currently his school doesn’t have a kabuki club. So Kurogo sets out to create a kabuki club, and his first order of business is to gather members. Source: Anime News Network Kabukibu! is naturally going to get compared to modern masterpiece Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju just because they’re both about classical Japanese theatre arts, and that’s a shame. Where Rakugo is a sweeping period drama and character study framed by rakugo’s dying popularity and eventual survival, Kabukibu! is a school story about a young person bringing life, enthusiasm and fresh blood to a surviving art form written off as irrelevant. While I appreciate this is the second time this season I’m saying this (I promise I have seen other anime…) the natural point of comparison is Chihayafuru, which Kabukibu! can certainly match for charm.

[Review] Hinako Note – episode 1

Hinako is poor at speaking, and lives in a rural part of Japan. She wants to improve her speech to be able to talk to people freely, so in high school, she transfers schools to Tokyo and plans to join a theater club. When she arrives, it turns out her boarding house is a secondhand bookstore, and a girl who eats books lives there. Source: Anime News Network This review is going to come off harsher than I mean for it to, so I apologize in advance for that. With the exception of one totally unnecessary bath tub shot (more on that later), Hinako Note is not bad. It isn’t much of anything, really, and I’m a bit bummed about that, especially given that the premise—a high school first-year with social anxiety moves to Tokyo, lives over a bookstore, and decides to improve her public speaking skills by forming a theatre troupe—is right up this bibliophile and former drama club president’s alley.

[Review] Love Tyrant – episode 1

Guri is an angel with a mysterious item that turns any two people who kiss into a couple. She appears before a high school boy named Seiji Aino. However, there is a yandere high school girl named Akane who loves Seiji. Source: Anime News Network I feel as if I have been on a journey, readers. I would like you to accompany me on it, that you may truly understand my feelings.