[Discourse] FranXX vs. FranXY: The outdated gender politics of DARLING in the FRANXX

Studio A-1’s teenage mecha show, Darling in the FRANXX, was one of the most anticipated series of the winter 2018 season. With a post-apocalyptic setting, thick psychosexual symbolism, and mecha action scenes directed by Studio TRIGGER’s Hiroyuki Imaishi, there was a lot to look forward to and a lot of room for thoughtful exploration of adolescent sexuality and gender relations.

However, fans hoping for that thoughtful exploration were quickly disappointed, as the show didn’t seem interested in challenging expectations at all. Darling in the FRANXX purports to have something to say about sex, gender, and adolescence, but as illustrated in the “battle of the sexes” plotline in the episode “Boys x Girls,” thus far it only rehashes outdated stereotypes and an antiquated “boys will be boys” attitude.

[Versus] After the Rain, Ristorante Paradiso, and the delicate art of the age-gap romance

At first glance, Ristorante Paradiso and After the Rain bear remarkable similarities. Both are anime adaptations of manga series written by women that center around a May-September romance. Both star a young woman and a middle-aged divorcee. Both even feature characters who work at a restaurant together! So why does Ristorante Paradiso leave me with the warm fuzzies, while After the Rain just leaves me feeling vaguely skeevy?

[Feature] Hyouka’s poetic depictions of normalizing otherness

Hyouka was an utterly plain series. It was easy to assume it wouldn’t stand out beside any other high school slice-of-life show. Within that plainness, however, the series presented itself in subtler ways compared to its contemporaries of more defined fantasy and slapstick comedic genres. Hyouka’s “normalcy” helped it present a very grounded take on high school life, carefully depicting the flaws and struggles of its main characters without reducing them to archetypes.

[Discourse] Catherine, Trans Identities, and Representation in Japan

In late 2017, ATLUS announced they would be re-releasing Catherine with a new addition to the cast. Her name is Rin. She’s a new love interest for the main character, Vincent, and the website heavily suggests her story will be one deeply tied into trans identities. Little is known about the character, but already the public has ATLUS under deep, and well-deserved, scrutiny.

[Feature] Gender Inequity in My Hero Academia

My Hero Academia is one of my favorite series in recent years. Thanks to its compelling, lovable cast and exciting world-building, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had with shounen and superheroes. Regrettably, though, it’s not entirely free of some of the most frustrating (and typical) shounen stereotypes that frequently undermine its strong female cast.

[Discourse] Shonen JUMP and the cycle of letting it slide

In November 2017, Nobuhiro Watsuki was arrested for the possession of child pornography. Shueisha responded by suspending publication of his Rurouni Kenshin sequel. This isn’t the first time a Shonen JUMP author has been arrested for crimes involving underage girls. In 2002, Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro was arrested for violating laws against child prostitution. He had met up with a 16-year-old girl via the internet and allegedly paid her for sex. He did so giving a false occupation, and he admitted to doing the same thing on prior occasions (the source is in Japanese; it refers to Shimabukuro being charged for paying three girls of high-school age).

[History] The diversification of otaku in Japanese media

While as a westerner it’s difficult to have a truly nuanced understanding of the cultural norms surrounding the term “otaku,” we can get an idea of how stereotypes and expectations have changed by looking at how otaku are portrayed in anime and manga, and how those portrayals have evolved to include more diverse, sympathetic, and positive depictions over the years.

[Feature] DEVILMAN crybaby, legacies of queerness, and diversifying remakes

DEVILMAN crybaby has been tearing up the internet since it dropped a few weeks ago, sparking conversation about its use of sex, violence, horror, and taboo to tell a story about love and the end of the world. Not an inconsiderable amount of that discussion was centered around the series’ queer representation. What do you do with a series that features sympathetic representation while also killing queer characters off, and does it make a difference that everybody is dying?

[Roundtable] Age-gap relationships in fiction

During the Chatty AF Fushigi Yugi watchalong, Caitlin, Dee, and Vrai would frequently chat privately about the show. While watching the OVAs, the conversation turned to the relationship between a pair of supporting characters, which in turn developed into a spontaneous discussion about age-gap romances in fiction. As the subject is a complicated one (and particularly topical given recent anime), the team thought it worthwhile to expand it into a roundtable and publish it for the site.

[Discourse] Does anime believe women? Three depictions of sexual harassment in fiction

Conversations like #MeToo are emphasizing an important point: we need to believe survivors. That doesn’t mean we throw away due process, but it does mean that society needs to stop treating sexual assault and harassment victims with doubt and suspicion. It also means challenging victim-blaming, the attitude that victims “asked for it” because of what they did or wore, their past sexual history, and so on. It’s worthwhile to take stock of whether the fiction we consume promotes trust and respect for survivors. This article examines three narratives from recent anime about real or alleged sexual harassment and assault.

[Feature] Achieving whiteness through social mobility in Gankutsuou

There have been many adaptations of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  Some have tried to simplify the story to make it easier to fit into a constrained time limit, while others were so faithful to the plot that the spirit is entirely lost. Gankutsuou, by contrast, is arguably the best adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo while also being its own original story.

It’s evident that the creative team behind this series had a lot of love for the source material that they were able to capture the nuances of what made the book a compelling drama to read.  Unlike the previous adaptations of the book, which overwhelmingly cast white actors for all the roles, the anime makes a point of depicting the main characters as people of color, specifically brown characters.

[Feature] Escapism and healing in Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a bit of a misleading title. Looking at this romantic comedy by name and genre alone, it seems at first to be about its geeky protagonist, Morioka Moriko, getting pried away from her addiction to online games and finding happiness (and perhaps some good ol’ romance) in the real world. Instead, MMO Junkie gives us a story about finding happiness and fulfillment through online games, using their safe zone of community and anonymity as a foothold to regain emotional confidence. More importantly, it gives us Moriko herself, a complex, flawed, and likable female protagonist who provides valuable representation for adult women with geeky interests, as well as a moving personal story about anxiety and recovery.

[Feature] Land of the Lustrous, singular “they,” and the politics of subtitles

Land of the Lustrous has proven to be a sleeper hit of the Fall 2017 season, with its beautiful melding of CG and traditional art, creative direction, likable characters, and penchant for cliffhangers. It also made minor waves by deciding to refer to almost the entire cast with neutral “they/them” pronouns. In an industry that has historically elected to choose binary pronouns for characters who aren’t gendered or are gendered ambiguously in the original text, this marks a small but important—and most crucially, conscious—shift.

[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.