This week: Lezhin’s abuse of web artists, reading Sephiroth as trans, and a response from Flying Colors Foundation.
Vrai discusses the 2003 Kino’s Journey, whose main character is referred to without gendered pronouns and whose backstory resonates with trans narratives.
Alex Henderson highlights the importance of Popuko and Pipimi as female absurd comedic leads, a relative rarity in anime.
A layout of AniFem’s financial status, costs, and how we hope to expand going forward.
The team wraps things up, discusses a remake, and celebrates the good canon ship RyuMako.
A precarious mixed bag that could wind up being a fun, absurd queer comedy or an unnecessarily mean pot-shot filled with gender essentialism.
We’ve reached our goals and have some updates for you!
The season’s wrapping up—what did you love?
When All That Glitters Is Not Gold: Webtoon Creators vs. Lezhin Comics (The MNT, Vernieda Vergara)
A rundown of Lezhin’s mistreatment of its artists and the recent protest staged outside their offices.
Unfortunately, the company’s image of being an author-centric platform changed as Lezhin Comics expanded. First and foremost, the once-profitable payment terms shifted to a model that put the authors at a disadvantage. Though such changes aren’t unheard of in the comics industry, the company instituted the new contracts without obtaining creator agreement. In fact, it appeared that as Lezhin Comics grew, communication with its authors worsened. To add insult to injury, work that had previously been done by the company’s editorial department – such as proofreading – was then placed on the creators’ shoulders. This raised more questions: specifically, if creators were doing more of the work, why were they earning only 30% of revenue earned from sales as outlined by the revised model? Why was Lezhin keeping most of the earnings when, in effect, all they were doing was receiving and uploading files to its platform?
In late 2016, news broke of the late fee Lezhin had instituted upon its creators. Under the company’s terms, creators must submit their work two days before the webtoon’s scheduled publication date. If an author is late, Lezhin would penalize them by taking up to 9% of the creator’s sales. Although the company announced it was removing the late fee after the news was made public, it took three months for the terms to be eliminated in February 2017.
An interview covering the writing of the main cast and the research that went into creating the show.
— There is a lot of attention on the friendships and relationships that bloomed between the four.
Ishizuka: They start out acting like normal high school girls towards, but as the story continues they feel more comfortable around each other. For example, when one of them hits hard times, they don’t have to bring it up like, “Oh my gosh, guys listen to this.” They don’t need to tell anyone anything, and the others don’t need to hear the complaints to know. They have the sophistication to know that there is kindness in leaving someone be — that they can trust each other without saying a word. Such a trait is rare for the normal high school girl, but it is something the girls naturally build up. They are much more than friends they are family.
— That makes sense. If they were trying not to step on eggshells the whole time, life in Antarctica would prove impossible.
Ishizuka: Correct. They are living their days in a space isolated far away from civilization. If for some reason, the girls never got together again after they returned home from Antarctica, I’m sure they could confidently proclaim that the time they spent together was one of a once in a lifetime friendship. That was a major theme I wanted to draw out from this story.
Manga Industry Insights With Renta!’s Sara (The OASG, Justin)
A thorough insight into the negative effects of scanlations and the process of bringing erotica and BL to an English-speaking audience.
People who are new to manga often genuinely have no idea that there is a difference between actual free content and “industry-published” manga. However, there’s a big difference between free and paid content.
If the creator (of manga, music, art, etc…) WANTS you to be able to access the content they created for free, that’s one thing. But if they have worked hard to earn a contract with a publisher and are selling that product in order to make a living, it’s really not okay to share that for free. It’s not even okay to share it with a note saying “This isn’t mine, it belongs to the copyright holder,” because that is NOT supporting the artist. That’s just you sharing someone else’s content with your hands up saying “I know this isn’t mine, please don’t spam me with comments that I stole it.” (Please link to the original work on the artist’s site or ask for their explicit permission, even when it’s free. Do not repost things. Always reblog, never repost. Always retweet, never quote.)
For manga artists, this is their job! As fans, we need to understand that. You wouldn’t eat at a restaurant and walk out without paying. You can’t walk into a bookstore and take whatever books you want, either. (Fellow editor: “Well, you technically can but that’s called shoplifting.”) Restaurants can’t employ chefs when everyone steals food, and bookstores and publishers have literally been shutting down, many of them telling authors that their works are not selling so they won’t be able to continue series. (I recall this enlightening article that went around sometime last year: http://maggie-stiefvater.tumblr.com/post/166952028861/ive-decided-to-tell-you-guys-a-story-about )
OPINION: Stronger Apart: A Final Separation May Be the Best Ending for The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Crunchyroll, Peter Fobian)
An argument that AMB’s themes would be best served by the two leads parting in the finale.
The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a story about Chise’s growth and, toward that end, Elias has grown into one of her greatest barriers. Starting blocks serve as a great launching point in a race but can only trip you up when you’re approaching your second lap. In addition to his direct actions against her wishes, Chise also needs to break free of framing her own development in the context of their relationship and to rid herself of her own dependency upon him. To know she can survive on her own two feet she has to try walking without the crutch that has been propping her up and experience her ability to live, laugh, and continue to help others under her own power and without asking anyone’s permission. The conclusion of her arc with her mother perfectly matches this sentiment. Though she cannot forgive her, she won’t forget her, and she’ll move on without her.
Shoujo Versus Seinen? Address and Reception in Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) (Children’s Literature in Education, Catherine Butler)
An academic paper on how Madoka crosses genre lines and how that can serve as an educational tool.
This article uses the Japanese television anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) as a case study through which to problematise the relationship between two prominent traditions within children’s literature criticism: narratology, with its vocabulary of implied readers and textual address; and reception studies, which typically gather data through empirical work with children. The figure of the “child reader” is claimed by both traditions, although in one case that reader is a textual construct and in the other a human being; yet this ambiguity is not typically addressed within studies of individual texts. Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a complex work that disrupts viewer expectations and genre assumptions, both destabilises its implied viewership and challenges conventional beliefs about the tastes and capacities of actual viewers, especially the extent to which those viewers can be categorised by age or gender. I argue that, by taking a sideways step from page to screen, and especially by analysing a non-Western work, it is possible to highlight the contingent and arbitrary nature of some of the assumptions that permeate literary critical discussion, and to help bring narratalogical and reception studies into a more productive relationship.
Women of Mangaka: Rumiko Takahashi (Women Write About Comics, Tia Kalla)
A history of Takahashi’s career and major works.
It’s Women’s History Month, so let’s talk a bit about a woman who’s made some, and may finally get recognized for it. Through March 16, voters for the Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame will be deciding on whether the fourth nomination for Rumiko Takahashi is the charm. Takahashi already has an impressive awards shelf, with the Shogakukan New Comics Award, two Shogakukan Manga Awards, two Seiun Awards, and Comic-Con’s own Inkpot Award, but this nomination may finally get her a prize you can’t put on a shelf: being the first Japanese woman (and only the fifth Japanese person overall) to make the Comics Hall of Fame. Takahashi’s literally storied career, entering its forty-first year, covers aliens, panty thievery, love polyhedrons, monsters and spirituality, and puns. Lots of puns. . .
Ladies That Smash Life’s Balls – The Women of Gintama (Yatta-tachi, Tony Yao)
A spotlight celebrating the female characters of Gintama.
Kyubei is a genderfluid character who’s very expressive about her masculine and feminine traits. She expresses her joy in dressing up in gothic lolita clothing and inquiring about male genitalia surgery. Kyubei conforms to neither gender role. This is evident is in the popular Dekobokko Arc, where all the characters have their genders changed. Kyubei becomes the man she wanted to be and is conflicted over when to stay one because of her love for Tae. After realizing that her gender change was imposed on her by others, Kyubei decides to be not Kyubei Yagyu, the man or woman, but Kyubei Yagyu, a person with great strength and character who just happens to be female.
The Transgender Icon of Final Fantasy VII (Broadly, Diana Tourjée)
A personal essay on queer readings and the author relating to Sephiroth as trans.
“I think if anyone is secretly transgender it’s Sephiroth,” wrote another fan on a GameFAQs forum in 2016. “With the Jenova cells he can finally make his secret dream come true.” Those who find this argument compelling point out a notable change that Sephiroth underwent in the aftermath of the Jenova revelation: According to a Final Fantasy wiki, in the Japanese version of FFVII, when Sephiroth was living as a dutiful soldier for Shinra, he went by the pronoun ore, “a common masculine pronoun used by confident males [in Japan].” However, “following the Nibelheim Incident, he begins to use watashi instead, a more formal pronoun with no attached gender.”
This sort of character interpretation is part of a broader practice within LGBT fandoms. It’s closely connected with the act of reading and writing queer fan fiction—something people have been doing with great enthusiasm since the days of Star Trek. In her examination of the queer fan culture surrounding the Harry Potter series, the theorist Tianna K. Mignogna explains the deep significance of queer fanfiction and fanart: “Queer fan works impact queer readers’ experience… by creating a highly personalized world in which they are free to express themselves in a fashion that not only boosts their self-esteem as well as their representation in fan media, but also more deeply connects them to the text.”
In other words, reading and writing queer fanfiction is a significant—and subversive—way for LBGTQ fans to actively see themselves in even the most heteronormative of books, films, and video games. Queer readings of seemingly static texts can be viewed the same way. As one LOTR fanfic author wrote, this kind of creative exercise transcends the boring and limited question of what is or isn’t “canon”: “Whether the author intended a queer interpretation or not is irrelevant: Books belong to their readers, and one of the great joys of reading is that no two people will experience a book the same way.”
A series of statistics from a survey of 10,000 Japanese high school students.
1 in 5 LGBTQ respondents were unaware of the terms “LGBT” and “Sexual Minority.”
When asked “Do you know the terms LGBT and Sexual Minority?” 63.2% of LGBTQ respondents and 44.7 non-LGBT respondents answered that they do.
On the other hand, among the students who identified as LGBTQ in other questions, 18.4% said that they know of the term but don’t know the meaning, and 17.8% responded that they know neither the word nor the meaning.
About half of the LGBTQ respondents reported that they feel prejudice from those around them.
Of the LGBTQ respondents, 47.7% of respondents agreed with the statement “I feel that most people around me are prejudiced against sexual minorities,” versus 34.9% of non-LGBTQ respondents.
Why Did The Flying Colors Anime Census Lose Fans’ Trust? (Forbes, Lauren Orsini)
A response from FCF addressing fan concerns about the survey and company.
Near the end of the Anime Census, survey-takers are asked if they have ever experienced social anxiety, body image issues, drug addiction, or other “health complications.”
However, the survey website does not inform fans about how the information will be used, so it’s no wonder that some survey-takers assumed the worst.
“The intention of the mental health question is threefold,” Suh told me, “To let the community know that they are not suffering alone, to prove that anime can quite literally change lives by helping fans endure and grow through difficult times, and to understand and measure the benefits of anime on mental health. We want to help prove that anime is a global medium that could be used for good. We are aware of HIPAA regulations and, although we are not a health service provider, we are complying with its strictest rules. Any responses we receive about mental health will not be shared with anyone outside of FCF.”
BONUS: Wes Anderson’s cultural tourism undercuts the heart of ‘Isle of Dogs’ (Mashable, Angie Han)
A critical examination of Isle of Dogs‘ use of Japan as an Othered setting rather than an integral part of the story.
Watching Isle of Dogs, it’s hard not to think that the U.S. is maybe the last country on earth that should be preaching about how awful it would be if the Japanese carted off an unfairly maligned American-coded population to an internment camp. (Yes, the dogs are technically Japanese, but since they speak American English, they read to us, the American audience, as American characters by default.)
This awkwardness is exacerbated when Isle of Dogs introduces its first and only major American character about midway through the movie. Up until this point, the sole human hero has been Atari (Koyu Rankin), a 12-year-old boy who sets out to Trash Island in search of his guard dog. Tracy, voiced by Greta Gerwig, is a young American exchange student who’s enraged by the doggie quarantine and moved by Atari’s story, and sets out to do something about it.
Tracy is a classic example of the “white savior” archetype – the well-meaning white hero who arrives in a foreign land and saves its people from themselves. In this case, she’s the scrappy girl who refuses to take the mayor’s proclamation at face value, digging for answers and eventually leading a rebellion against the corrupt powers that be.
Let’s have one last healing cry about the good content this season before bidding it a fond farewell.
Devilman Crybaby and How to keep a Mummy. From one extreme to another.
— Weathering with Me ❄🌦☔🌩🌣 (@GoGoAtomicRobot) March 27, 2018
My fave was a surprise to me—Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. Did NOT expect that to be my kind of show. But the characters are all kinda great??? I wish more people were watching/talking about it. https://t.co/4ODyBqFhG9
— Nikki ▾▲🔥▼▴ (@jnikkir) March 27, 2018