The success of My Hero Academia can be attributed to many factors, but most prominent among them, at least to me, has been Horikoshi’s immense familiarity with both western superheroes and mainstream shonen genres, utilizing the strengths of both while showing a willingness to break from tradition to create a truly unique story. One such example is in his handling of female characters in that shonen staple: the tournament arc.
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. One common element in all series that successfully employ fanservice is consensuality. In essence, when fan service is fun, all parties involved are enjoying themselves.
Characterization, sexuality, and objectification are extremely dense subjects and the source of a great deal of debate in modern media. This is especially true in regards to female characters designed and directed to appeal to the heterosexual male audience. There is a lot to unpack in these discussions, including whether a character is being sexualized or owning their sexuality and if these subjects fall under artistic licence or if they should be open to criticism. Rather than tackle the immense subject of characterization as a whole, my objective is to focus on one aspect of the portrayal of female characters in isolation: how camera and context can be used to sexualize or objectify a character in just about every conceivable situation. This is commonly referred to, but is just a smaller portion, of Laura Mulvey’s concept of male gaze. To tease out the sometimes minute differences that can result in either a neutral or sexualized portrayal, I’ll be comparing series with similar character designs and themes and their use of perspective and context to portray their female characters.