[Feature] Fire Balls & Ice Rinks: How My Hero Academia reflects inequality in competitive sports

Many fans of My Hero Academia love it for its twist on Western superhero tropes, presenting a world where those with “Quirks” (super powers) are no longer the quirky ones wearing weird, gaudy costumes, but have become the new normal. But when I watch these heroes-in-training attend U.A. High (the top hero high school) and compete in an elaborate sports competition that dwarfs the Olympics, I’m much more impressed with its commentary on the inequality sports competitions breed, particularly in regard to gender. SPOILERS: Discussion of events in My Hero Academia up through Episode 25.

[Perspectives] The quiet revolutions of contemporary Japanese queer novels

As a Southeast Asian, there are days when I wonder if my feelings are real and worth caring about. Where I live, videos blare about what it means to have a family and to be proper husbands and wives. Heterosexual families are the default unit in Asian societies, and going against them is considered not just sexually deviant but morally wrong. You are not contributing to society. You are not making children. You will dismantle everything society has built up. You are evil.

[AniFemTalk] Anime-inspired cartoons

Neo Yokio is the latest western work to be inspired by anime, but it’s far from the only one. As kids who got into anime during the ’90s boom grow up and make their own shows, more and more anime influences are being reflected in western media.

[Discourse] Who’s the Hero, Anyway? Made in Abyss, gendered tropes, and damaging narratives

Made in Abyss is frequently one of the most breathtaking shows of the season, juggling gorgeous cinematography and dark fairy tale elements with a grim but (thus far) not hopeless narrative. Unfortunately, it’s also a show whose flaws are all the more glaring in comparison to its moments of excellence. Discussing those flaws offers a unique challenge, however, as many of the show’s failings are cloaked beneath a layer of in-narrative justification; in other words, it makes sense on the surface as to why these things are happening in the plot. But no media exists in a vacuum, and justifying a trope doesn’t stop it from playing into broader harmful trends.

[Feature] Agency & Allies: Kaze Hikaru and the fight to be a woman with a “man’s job”

Kaze Hikaru is an exciting historical manga set in 1860s Japan shortly before the Meiji Restoration. The series follows teenage heroine Sei, who disguises herself as a boy in order to become a bushi—a samurai or warrior. I recently discovered this long-running, under-the-radar manga and was quickly sucked in, inspired by Sei’s determination to choose her own path and prove she’s capable of a dangerous role that society said women were unfit to have. The fact that Sei both succeeds in this role and gains supportive allies implicitly conveys the narrative’s approval of her “unfeminine” lifestyle.

[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.

[Feature] Adding Salt to Sweet Vanilla: The complex women of ToraDora!

ToraDora! tells a story about the bizarre tangled intricacies of teenage love, complete with matchmaker plots, zany schemes, and an increasingly convoluted love quadrangle that’s played for both comedy and drama. It also tells a story about how everyone has issues, inner turmoil, and inner selves that they keep concealed, usually with the intention of preserving a certain image of themselves for the people around them.

[Feature] As Told by Saena: Skip Beat! and the infinite variety of women’s stories

Skip Beat! is a manga series following Kyoko as she navigates the entertainment industry in Japan and builds a name for herself as an actress. By primarily telling events from Kyoko’s point of view, Skip Beat! has often conformed to the pattern of telling a “single story.” However, in Volumes 37 and 38, the manga’s perspective shifts in a big way, giving readers an unexpected glimpse of Kyoko’s mom Saena through her own eyes.

[Feature] Know When to Fold ‘Em: Princess Principal and the feel-good feminism of “Loudly Laundry”

Many of Princess Principal’s stories discuss the hardships inherent in the sharp social and economic divisions present in its world, such as the poverty that’s influenced many characters’ lives or the walls that prevented our two protagonists from being together. But it’s the upbeat and inspiring Episode 7, “Loudly Laundry,” that offers perhaps the show’s most nuanced depiction of inequality to date, asking our central cast to acknowledge their own privilege—and encouraging them to find a better way forward.

[Podcast] Chatty AF 21: Wandering Son Retrospective

Vrai does a deep dive on the anime and manga of Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) with special guests Associate Editor of Anime News Network Jacob Chapman, YouTuber Cayla Coats, and manga scholar and professional translator Rachel Matt Thorn. [Please note that Rachel began to use this name after the recording of this podcast and is therefore referred to as Matt throughout this episode.]