[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.

[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.

[Discourse] Fanservice and the Female Viewer: Abs for Empowerment

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I saw the cover art for Free!, given that it features an assortment of scantily clad young men standing very close to one another, abs on display like muffins in a bakery. I soon discovered that was only the start of the fanservice, as I found myself on a wild emotional ride that convinced me that when it comes to creating fanservice for girls, it’s not simply a matter of reversing panty flashes into brief glimpses of, well, briefs. Watching Free! with my husband, sister, and niece showed me that this show’s effort to appeal to the ladies led to an audience performance far deeper than the shallow side of the swimming pool.

[Discourse] ‘Trapped’ by fandom: The very real harm of calling ‘trap’ a genre

Recently Juné, a yaoi manga publisher, included the word “trap” as part of their marketing (in a tweet that has since been deleted, but we have a screenshot below). On Twitter, Anime Feminist rightfully pointed out how bad that was, referencing GLAAD’s inclusion of “trap” as a slur and linking to an article about problematic translations. Seeing all this, the fit of rage I felt as a trans person was massive. This rage only built upon seeing Juné’s (non)apology. What they said is fundamentally wrong and ignores just how hurtful the “trap” mentality is. CONTENT WARNING: Brief mention of sexual assault, suicide statistics, and murder

[Discourse] The problem with the dark magical girl genre

Magical Girl Raising Project finished airing a few months ago, drawing its Battle Royale-esque death game to a close with most of its young, frill-clad, magical girl cast dead. It’s the expected outcome of anything that comes with that formula, but it’s an incredibly grim way to describe a magical girl show—shows that are, traditionally, at their hearts all about girls banding together to support each other and saving the world with the power of love and friendship. Murder and despair are normally nowhere near the magical girl archetype, but that’s changing in some recent and disturbing developments.

[Discourse] Strong Girls Doing Strong Things: Moe, femininity, and being your own hero

SPOILERS: minor spoilers for K-On!, Yuri!!! on ICE and Food Wars! A wide-eyed innocent is staring at you through the screen, her lashline shimmering with tears. “Take care of me”, she appeals without words, to a hero on screen, perhaps you as her hero. Or maybe even to the part of you that’s fragile, which you protect from a world of strangers. Many of us would recognise this as moe, what some would suppose a ‘moeblob’; a character that exists only to be vulnerable and sweet, an empty sugar shell we long to keep safe. But many of us will find something deeper to relate to in this trembling dear, kind to all, yet afraid of some imagined danger.

[Discourse] “I Am Not a Doll”: Rei Ayanami, Escapism, and Objectified Images of Desire

SPOILERS: for the Evangelion franchise Twenty-six episodes, two movies, a yet-to-be-completed remake/sequel(?) film tetralogy, and a whole lot of fan-wank later, Neon Genesis Evangelion continues to reign as one of anime’s most lucrative, most groundbreaking, and most perplexing works. There are a million-and-one ways we can interpret Evangelion, but as you’ve probably guessed, this article will be looking at it (the original series and The End of Evangelion) from a feminist standpoint. Girls, women, and female-aligned celestial beings play central roles within the series, threading issues of motherhood, female ambition, and sexuality throughout.

[Discourse] Why aren’t problematic translations fixed?

When the first episode dub of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid came out, fans were quick to notice a problem: lines which had been accurately translated for subtitles had been revised for the dub. This is not unusual; lines must be expanded or trimmed to synchronise with lip flap movements, and jokes in particular can fall flat if not overhauled. But that’s not what happened here.

[Discourse] Force Him, Not Me! Rape culture in shojo romance

SPOILERS: up to episode 9 of the anime and chapter 36 of the manga Kiss Him, Not Me (the manga is being simulpubbed on Crunchyroll if you would like to catch up!) I caught up with Kiss Him, Not Me over the last few days because I heard that episode 8 had an Incident of Feminist Interest, which turned out to be sexual assault by an effectively unconscious person. When mentioned in last week’s AniFemTalk post, our community had a lot to say about the way sexuality, boundaries and consent were presented (thank you for your insights, commenters!), so I had to see for myself. Once you read this article you should definitely check out their thoughts, which cover a broader range of subjects than I raise here. In many ways, Kiss Him, Not Me is a perfect series for a feminist blog to explore: it does some things very well, some things very badly and inspires strong, mixed feelings. The response to episode 8 is no exception, and not all commenters will agree with my position here. That’s good. This is a discourse post, and the point is to host a constructive, interesting conversation from multiple points of view. Whether you agree or disagree, please come to the comments and tell me why!

[Discourse] When anime treats sexual assault as entertainment

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. The girls of Golden Boy flaunt their sexuality, the protagonist Kintaro seeks out that type of woman, so revealing clothes and sexual themes go hand-in-hand with both the story and the characterization of the women. Keijo!!!!!!!! features women enthusiastic about a sport where you knock each other over with your butts so it isn’t a surprise when someone gets a face full of bikini-clad booty. One common element in both those examples, and all series that successfully employ fanservice, is consensuality. The women are opting into the activity, without being coerced, as an active participant. In essence, when fan service is fun all parties involved are enjoying themselves. Where Keijo!!!!!!!! has proven it is able to pull fan service off right, Izetta: The Last Witch has stumbled. The series had everything going for it, taking place in a fantastical historic setting reminiscent of the beloved romanticized visuals from Valkyria Chronicles, an excellent production staff, and a great premise. Let’s be honest, a witch flying on a gun was one of those rare, forehead-slapping, “how could no one have thought of this yet?” ideas that still remained in anime. Putting fan service in what is supposed to be a serious representation of war, magic or no, is questionable by itself, but the major sticking point was the non-consensual nature of the fan service. This not only diminished Izetta, but was actively inimical to the tale it is attempting to tell.

[Discourse] So That I Could Be Myself: Gender performance in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and Yuri!!! on ICE

SPOILERS: Detailed discussion of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju episodes 5-6 and Yuri!!! on ICE episode 3 “It’s not a kind of rakugo I can do. The more I hear, the more uncomfortable I get… Never mind it. I have my own rakugo.” “Trying to be the playboy isn’t me. I want to be the most beautiful woman in town, who seduces the playboy!” This year we’ve had the pleasure to see a pair of top-notch anime, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and Yuri!!! on Ice, deal with gendered expectations in two very different spheres: 1940s Japanese rakugo and modern-day world figure skating. Along the way, both series have challenged cultural expectations about how men should or shouldn’t act, and shown why it’s important to cast aside restrictive gender roles and play to our own strengths.

Sincerity, expectation and discourse in anime fandom

Discourse doesn’t have the best reputation in anime fandom. It surprised me, coming back to anime fandom, to see so much disdain attached to such a neutral academic word. ‘Discourse’ here means that someone wrote a thought-provoking piece, probably about something controversial, which generated conversation on social media. If you’ve been following the development of this site, you might recognise that as something I consider a goal for AniFem. The anitwitter use of the word ‘discourse’, however, is as a joke. Sometimes this is deliberately snide, with the implication that cartoons are obviously just cartoons and anyone who bothers to waste their time on more in-depth analysis than that is an idiot. Sometimes, it is a disclaimer or apology. “See, I don’t take myself too seriously, I still have perspective!” Other times, it is an expression of community. “Uh oh, everyone, here we go again…” It is not a word applied to in-depth analysis of animation artistry, visual direction or narrative structure; only personal topics like identity, representation and politics. The message is that if you have written something which sparks discourse, or participated in discourse without being quite flippant or entertaining enough in your phrasing, you should be embarrassed. How many people have avoided expressing or responding to a viewpoint because they worry people might roll their eyes? How many have adopted this use of the word discourse despite engaging thoughtfully with it when it arises, just so that everyone in their community understands they aren’t THAT kind of commentator? I’m not sure what benefits this use of the word brings, but it seems to me like there are plenty of negatives.   Sincerity As is sometimes the way, while writing this piece someone I follow on Twitter published a post on the same subject from a different angle: So what lesson are people supposed to take from this, exactly? Never be sincere online? That must be the lesson quite a lot of people took from it, as most online interactions tend to be steeped in at least six layers of irony before they’re deemed worthy of responding to. Genuine emotion tends to feel like performance, whether we feel like it or not. If you write a lengthy, in-depth piece about some social issue or trend in entertainment that’s really close to your heart, it’ll often get picked up and spread around as a “rant,” which is language that demeans the emotional and intellectual labor that goes into producing such a thing, no matter how innocently it’s used. Now replace ‘rant’ with ‘discourse’. Intended or not, the way anime fandom uses the word can come across as mean-spirited, designed to smack down the enthusiasm of people who wanted to hold an in-depth conversation about something they feel strongly about. It reduces the effort they put in and any number of nuanced, carefully constructed points to something which deserves to be laughed at simply for existing. We have a fandom culture which looks down on thought-provoking content as a concept. This use of the word ‘discourse’ is just a symptom of that. Expectations When someone does volunteer as tribute and post thought-provoking content anyway, fandom expectations are ridiculously unrealistic. You shouldn’t think too deeply about cartoons, but IF YOU DO then you’d better cover every possible scenario, perspective and contradiction, and be prepared to debate every possible aspect of the discussion perfectly with expert knowledge and extensive experience at your disposal, anticipating every possible possibility that may possibly be relevant… or have the validity of everything you’ve ever created called into question. Batting novel-length academic theses back and forth is not how people converse. Not even in academia! One article is only ever required to make one point, and if you can identify that one point then the article has done its job. All articles have a scope and specific intentions, and many have word limits too, but expectations of authors seem to be at an all-time high while benefit of the doubt is at an all-time low. Too many responses to in-depth analysis lambast the author for not including a particular point in their original piece rather than raising that point as a way to further the discussion. It’s the difference between “I think this is also relevant” or “I want to challenge this point you made” and “Why didn’t you cover this?” One asks the author to comment, the other to justify. One expects the author to be open to new viewpoints, the other expects the author to cater to all viewpoints. One expands the discussion the author began, one shrinks it to defence of a single corner. Conversation Developing discussion is something the whole team feels passionate about at Anime Feminist, and we’ve been looking at a number of ways to approach this ourselves. One area I have so far avoided is opening up our comments sections, because dealing with just our Twitter mentions is all-consuming on some days. However, this is something people have asked for repeatedly, so we really want to give it a try and do everything we can to make it a rewarding experience for everyone. We’re going to start opening them on selected articles, which we will deal with case by case. Whether we open comments on a post will depend on the content of the post and how much time we have to monitor the conversation, which will be moderated to make conversation as productive as possible. If it goes well we will open them on more articles than not. If it doesn’t go well we will shut it down and continue as we have until we are well funded enough to pay people to moderate. This is an experiment, not a new commitment. Whether we have a comments section or not, you are always welcome to tweet at us, contact us on Facebook or get in touch through our contact page. Things have been a little quiet and we’ve been less responsive for the last week or so while we’ve …