This week: a trans idol group, the year’s popular trends in BL, and Japanese war brides in New Zealand.
Marion Bea lays out why having a wider range of well-rounded and active female characters in shounen would be beneficial for both male and female readers.
Caitlin explores how Fushigi Yugi functions as a fable, with its fantasy serving as a way of grappling with common fears faced by adolescent girls.
Amelia, Dee, and guests Alexis Pratt and Isaac Akers dive into the classic reverse-harem comedy.
Are your shelves still full of box sets and manga, readers?
An interview with the three idols on their goals, ethos, and what it was like growing up trans.
Himitsu no Otome (秘密のオト女) are not the first transgender idol group to be embraced by the Japanese public; SECRET GUYZ, a three piece group made up of transgender men and the country’s first, beat Himitsu no Otome (秘密のオト女) to the punch with the release of their debut single ‘HUGxHUG’ in 2013. Himitsu no Otome (秘密のオト女) were, however, able to grace the stage of Tokyo Rainbow Pride earlier this month – alongside none other than the Empress of J-Pop herself Ayumi Hamasaki!
From SECRET GUYZ‘s debut to Tomoya Hosada‘s election to public office (making him the first transgender man in the world to do so) and an increasingly popular ‘genderless’ subculture, Himitsu no Otome (秘密のオト女)’s debut feels like another step in the right direction for positive LGBT representation in Japan and signifies the country’s growing shifttowards transgender acceptance.
Disowned, displaced and discovered: NZ’s Japanese War Brides (Radio New Zealand, Lynda Chanwai-Earle)
A profile attempting to highlight the lives of the Japanese women who moved to New Zealand after marrying soldiers and the struggles they faced.
Being Japanese in an Allied country meant the shadow of World War II hung over the lives of other war brides, including Setsuko Donnelly, who passed away in 1991. Her children, daughter Deb and son Leo Donnelly shared their mother’s story with Mutsumi.
An Ombudsman at Parliament, Leo recalls growing up in Wellington with a fiercely protective ‘tiger mother’. Setsuko valued education and upheld her Japanese culture with dignity. However, their father Mick Donnelly discouraged their mother tongue Japanese, in the belief it would prevent bullying.
At his father’s funeral a stranger approached Leo, asking if he was Mick’s son. The woman then apologised on behalf of the community, ‘“Your mother was treated really badly”.’
“I remember Mum couldn’t understand what was being said but she knew there was ill feeling,” says Leo.
The Arcana: Inclusive Fantasy Dating Sim With a Side of Murder (Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, Vrai Kaiser)
A review of a free-to-play mobile visual novel with queer romance and characters of color.
Enter The Arcana, a free-to-play dating sim set in a fantasy land of magic and tarot. In addition to kissing some eligible suitors (currently three, with three more planned if the game does well), the player will solve a whodunnit mired in courtly intrigue. While it’s difficult to judge an ongoing narrative (new chapters are added roughly ever six weeks), what’s available is both charming and intriguing. Did you like Red Embrace or Hustle Cat? This is probably for you.
The game works like this: players choose a name and pronouns for the protagonist (who is never physically described but isn’t quite a blank slate—think Hatoful Boyfriend), then play a prologue that introduces the major characters and conflict: a year ago the Count, Lucio, was murdered; the Countess intends to catch the murderer with the help of your magical apprentice.
From there, the game divides into routes. Rather than being automatically put onto a character’s story because of choices made in the prologue, the player is allowed to choose who they pursue, or even to work on multiple routes simultaneously. In fact, the narrative seems to be structured with the intent of playing that way. While each route exists in a parallel universe, the information you discover across those stories informs one element of the mystery. Countess Nadia will open up the machinations of the court. Magician Asra knows about the secrets of your past and the ghostly rituals at work. And disgraced doctor Julian is at the heart of the murder mystery.
Boys’ Love – Boys Keep Swinging (Fanthropological)
An oral history of BL fandom with Feminist Fujoshi’s Sara.
G is in. Gravitation struck him like a lightning rod.
T is in. Going to check out some of Sara’s recommendations. Wants to feel things!
Z is in. Standing in front of the door to BL. Wants to open the door to vulnerability.
Sara is in. Complex genre with a really rich history! There’s probably something for everyone, but you might have to dig.
Acting secretary general Koichi Hagiuda insisted it was more “natural” for children to be raised by mothers.
“We speak of cool ideas such as a gender-equal society and men’s childrearing, but they are unwelcome ideas for children,” Koichi Hagiuda, 54, executive acting secretary general of the LDP, said Sunday in a speech in Miyazaki city, referring to care for children up to the age of 2.
“Children need an environment in which they can stay with their mothers,” he added.
His remarks came as the government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to achieve a better gender balance in politics and other fields and bring more women into the workforce to help achieve economic growth in the face of a fast-graying population and labor shortage.
FORMER IDOL SUING PIXIV’S PRESIDENT OVER SEXUAL HARASSMENT CHARGES (Otaquest, Lachlan Johnston)
The currently anonymous idol details the harassment she faced while trying to earn enough money to supplement what she made as an idol.
It’s no secret that the idol industry can often be filled with low-salaries, something that often leaves starry-eyed idols working part-time jobs to make ends meet. With that being said, it wouldn’t be much longer after the first incident that “A” would approach Nagata to ask permission to work part-time externally from either Pixiv or the idol group to supplement her 30,000 JPY ($275 USD) monthly pay from the Niji no Conquistador work. Nagata was quick to deny her request, instead suggesting that he pay her himself if she was willing to give him full body massages. Though she was reluctant, “A” knew she had to make the money, and it was clear she wasn’t going to be allowed to work externally.
Later during the interview, it was also stated that Nagata specially requested “A” stay at his family house during a special live event from the group, rather than stay at a hotel or member dormitory. “A” states that during this stay, she noticed hidden cameras scattered across the house, originating in the changing room but then changing locations throughout her stay. Though Hiroyuki Nagata has admitted to both the Kyoto trip and massage incidents, he has actively denied the hidden cameras.
THE POLARISED “DANGEROUS” BOYS LOVE MANGA OF 2018 (Otaku Champloo, Khursten Santos)
An overview of this year’s popular trends in the world of BL manga.
The top selections of Kono BL ga Yabai and Chil-Chil’s BL Awards highlight this polarity. Kono BL ga Yabai selected Momo to Manji, a romance between a dateotoko (the Tokugawa version of a ‘dandy’) and a wandering kagema (a male prostitute), by Sakura Sawa as its best BL of the year. Meanwhile, Chil-Chil’s BL Awards selected Life senjō no bokura, a story about a lifelong romance between best friends, by Tokokura Miya. These two titles bear similarities but stand at the opposite ends of BL’s ōdō.
Momo to Manji captures the hedonism of Edo culture which unearths the harsh realities of love and affection in a deeply commodified society. While Sakura Sawa’s opulent illustrations of Edo life is extraordinarily beautiful, her story is bittersweet, especially when she explores the kagema’s narrative. She draws deeply sexual scenes in an effort to imitate nanshoku depicted in ukiyo-e. While Edo romances are nothing new in BL, Sakura Sawa’s detailed illustration of this period and the poetry she weaves into the narrative was highly appreciated by Kono BL ga Yabai readers. One fan would even note the title’s “authenticity” since it captures Japanese “homosexual” traditions.
While I don’t necessarily agree to this authenticity, especially when it’s used in the argument of LGBT histories in Japan, I do agree that Momo to Manji manages to capture the complex eroticism of nanshoku, at least with how it was commercialised and romanticised during the Edo period. Still, while the visuals and romance of Momo to Manji make it a lovely read, it is a hard bitter pill to swallow. This is not the case for Life senjō no bokura.
Deku’s Tears: Why the World Needs a Hero Who Wears Their Heart on Their Sleeve (Crunchyroll, Danni Wilmoth)
In praise of My Hero Academia’s willingness to let his hero cry openly without treating it as shameful or weak.
It’s not just his friends and loved ones Midoriya inspires, either. He inspires us as well. We can’t relate to superhuman powers and intense battles, but we can relate to pain and struggle. Fear and pain can make you feel weak and powerless. Powerlessness is a strong, debilitating feeling. It consumes us. It overwhelms us. It makes us feel small and useless. We find ourselves thinking that if only we were someone greater and more powerful we’d be able to stand up for ourselves and fight.
When I started watching My Hero Academia, I was at a place where I felt overwhelmed by those feelings. Deku became an important figure to me, as he has to many, many others. He was small, meek, and didn’t have any power, yet he fought. He embraces all those emotions that make him human. They burst from him like tidal waves as he fights. Even after One-for-All was passed onto him, he never gave them up. That emotionality made him worthy of his power. It gives his power meaning. If All Might is the hero who saves people with a smile, Deku is the hero who saves people while crying. While All Might’s smile assures that someone will be there to save us, in Deku’s tears we see the reflection of our own fear and the will to keep moving forward. When Kota looked at the bloody, broken, triumphant Midoriya, he also wept. We had finally found our hero.
How Japanese Women At Internment Camp Made Their Clothes Their Own (Refinery29, Meiko Takechi Arquillos and Wendy Steiner)
Materials for clothes in American internment camps were limited, so Japanese women often made pins from spare material in order to individualize their outfits.
My professor explained to us that the pins were all made from materials found inside the multiple American camps that held 120,000 people of Japanese descent from 1942 through 1945. This included my Grandma Emi, who was there starting in 1942, when she was just 10 years old. Photography within the camps wasn’t allowed except for the rare makeshift camera, and the government-sanctioned pictures that do exist are black-and-white, which can make them seem bleak and dusty since many of the camps were in deserts.
That’s what caught my eye that day. I had never seen something colorful for decoration from such a shameful time in history. The pins made my heart swell. I became truly obsessed with them when I learned what they were for.
According to historical accounts, Japanese families who were interned couldn’t shop at local stores and were only allowed to order new clothes or fabric to sew their own clothes from a handful of mail-order catalogues. As a result, my professor said women would find themselves all wearing very similar coats. Nowadays, wearing the same outfit everyday may seem cool in a minimalist way. But for people who are incarcerated or detained, having to wear the same outfit as your peers has always been a standard. Uniforms signify discipline in some way or another, which is why some schools enforce this as a policy as well.
While intended as a sign of support, LGBT citizens complained that the stickers could end up drawing potentially harmful attention to them instead if they used those bathrooms.
In February, a meeting among LGBT people was held in Kyoto to discuss restrooms for sexual minorities.
A participant said some measures are disturbing even if they are based on goodwill, while another voiced concern over possible social recognition that LGBT people use particular restrooms.
“Support means offering a hand to help with individual difficulties,” one of the meeting’s organizers said. “Posting stickers is not synonymous with support.”
Streaming and digital release has changed the face of collection, but it sounds like physical libraries aren’t quite dead yet. If you’ve got a cool collection, show it off!
Yes and I SURE WOULD LOVE to add Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju to that shelf.
— Joseifuru (@joseinextdoor) May 29, 2018
Manga? Yes! I don't care for reading comics digitally. I've never purchased a single blu-ray though. I've always been content on watching it through the various streaming sites, although there are some I'd love to own, i.e Kyousougiga. https://t.co/SHxyQlFtZZ
— Kaleb Russell Is Getting Stronger (@ImpreciseWords) May 29, 2018
I buy art books and graphic novels and books with quality a that makes them better that way. I don’t buy movies or anime physically. I’d love if I could buy Ghibli movies and a few others digitally. For series I won’t watch multiple times, steaming is fine.
— 🍃 an introverted artist 🎨 (@sofairyquiet) May 29, 2018