[Feature] REAL and portrayals of disability

In the manga REAL, Takehiko Inoue uses three similarly aged young men—Tomomi Nomiya, Togawa Kiyoharu, and Hisonobu Takahashi—to portray different aspects of physical disability. In using the perspectives of an able-bodied survivor, someone who has been disabled for a number of years, and someone who is faced with becoming disabled, Inoue captures many of the complexities and stigmas of physical disability. By looking at these characters and their interplay, we can delve further into some of the ways Real succeeds and fails at portraying disability.

[My Fave is Problematic] Kare Kano

I was in middle school when I first got ahold of Volume 1 of Masumi Tsuda’s Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou, often shortened to Kare Kano and released in English as His and Her Circumstances (or Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances for the manga). The award-winning series details the lives of two outwardly “perfect” honor students, Yukino Miyazawa and Soichiro Arima, as they accidentally uncover one another’s imperfections, fall in love, and agree to be true to themselves.

[History] Not Just A Man’s Job: How war involves (and hurts) everybody in Gundam 0080

A memorable scene from Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket highlights the horrors of war: after much damage to the town, paramedics pull a female pilot out of a wrecked Gundam surrounded by debris. Our protagonist, a young boy named Al, is shocked, pupils as dilated as can be. To him, this female pilot occupies a very different sphere: a domestic one. In fact, she’s his old babysitter.

[Feature] Princess Mononoke as a force of nature

San, the titular Princess Mononoke, is a force of nature, uncompromising and undaunted by violence. Raised in nature, she sought to become its hand of vengeance against humanity. A young woman pursuing her own goals against ignorance and petty enmity is a typical (albeit early) example of Hayao Miyazaki’s dedication to well-rounded female characters.

[Feature] Escape from Yuri Hell: FLIP FLAPPERS’ critique of the Class S genre

In FLIP FLAPPERS, Cocona and Papika’s trips to Pure Illusion serve as both a genre homage and a character exploration, often touching on themes of coming-of-age and the complicated business of sexual maturation. As part of this trend, Episode Five, “Pure Echo,” develops and explores our heroes and the trials of adolescence by throwing them into a world that combines Class S, a genre of sweet yuri romance, with horror. Now, what in the world could that strange combination be trying to tell us?

[My Fave is Problematic] Ranma 1/2

When I read Ranma ½  during my first year of high school, I fell in love with Rumiko Takahashi’s signature expressive art. I loved her colorful cast just as much, always getting caught up in over-the-top situations. Like many people, I remember it fondly. Yet the older I get, the harder it is to ignore some of the most problematic aspects of the series, especially how it deals with femininity.

[Feature] The challenges of a queer immigrant and the shortcomings of A Certain Marriage

At first glance, A Certain Marriage by Ruri Kumashika is an attractive addition to the expanding collection of LGBT-oriented comics coming out of Japan. It tells the story of Saki Honjo, a Japanese woman who moved to Los Angeles to join her high school girlfriend Anna Abel, and their journey toward marriage. A bitter-sweet story, A Certain Marriage delves into the beauty of gay relationships and the discrimination LGBT people experience. The story, however, ultimately fails to delve into the challenges queer immigrants from Japan face living in America.

[Discourse] The failed feminism of 18if

Sparse as it was, the Summer 2017 anime season did bring us a number of ambitious projects. Less discussed in my circles, however, was this little show called 18if—understandably so, given its often less-than-stellar animation and lack of an obvious narrative hook. The most distinctive thing about it is easily the production itself: each episode offers lesser-known creatives free reign over a largely self-contained story. Supervised by industry veteran Morimoto Koji (Magnetic Rose, Animatrix), 18if varies wildly from episode to episode in both writing and visual design, which is both a strength and debilitating weakness.

[Roundtable] Fall 2017 three-episode check-in

Given the sheer number of promising new titles as well as the limited nature of a premiere review, we’ve decided to try a new, informal “check-in” roundtable to talk about the currently airing shows and our thoughts three episodes into the season. Amelia, Dee, and Vrai got together to talk (and talk!) about the many shows in their queues and how they’re doing a few weeks into the Fall.

[Feature] Those Who Defy Their Fate: How Princess Tutu rejects traditional narratives

Ikuko Itoh’s Princess Tutu, which aired in Japan from August 2002 to May 2003, is a lesser-known yet widely praised addition to the mahou shoujo genre. The series pays tribute to various classic ballets and fairy tales, such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, while simultaneously weaving a new fairy tale-like story that upends gender roles and rejects the archetypal tragic narrative found in most ballet. In doing so, Princess Tutu embraces feminist ideals of individual freedom, rebellion against archaic tradition, and the construction of a new, more liberating society.

[History] Sazae-san and the Grandmother of Manga

Ahh, Osamu Tezuka, the Godfather of Manga. Even if you haven’t read his work, you know he’s had a lasting impact on Japanese animation and comics. But Tezuka isn’t the only person who’s influenced the creation and development of these art forms. If there’s a Godfather of Manga, does that mean there’s a Godmother of Manga, too? There is, in fact—although she’s usually referred to as the “Grandmother of Manga” instead. Her name is Machiko Hasegawa, and she’s profoundly influenced animation and manga with her most popular work, The Wonderful World of Sazae-san.

[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.

[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.

[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.

[Feature] How Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun compassionately handles mental illness

When this season started out, Clean Freak! Aoyama kun had a huge uphill battle to win my respect. I can count the number of sports anime that have really grabbed me on one hand, and even if that weren’t the case… well, look at the title. But it won me over. Aoyama-kun is good. And it’s stayed good, mostly due to the compassion it shows for its ever-expanding ensemble cast.