This week: visual language in Revue Starlight, Ainu citizens suing for the rights to their ancestors’ remains, and homoeroticism in Metal Gear Solid.
Katrina Jagelski discusses MLEWL in terms of her own experience coming out as trans and struggling toward self-care.
Alexis Harper talks about Sanrio’s latest property and how it speaks to the landscape of sexism, work, and social expectations young women face today.
In our two-part demographic discussion, Caitlin and special guests Ashley and Lianne start with the broad strengths and weaknesses of shoujo as a genre.
Rumiko Takahashi was recently honored with induction into the Eisner hall of fame. What other great female artists are out there?
Sexist Anime Is Japanese Culture? (YouTube, Masaki C. Matsumoto)
Japanese activist Matsumoto discusses how to balance progressive critique with an understanding of Japan’s cultural context.
How do we talk about sexism, heterosexism, and ciscentrism in anime/manga when it’s part of “their culture”? Can we criticize misogynous, homophobic and transphobic anime/manga without being ethnocentric and arrogant? What’s the best way to address them? Or should we all shut our mouths and let them be? Would that make us anti-feminist and anti-queer?
How Skip Beat’s Portrait Of Female Rage is Especially Relevant In 2018 (Forbes, Lauren Orsini)
How the story of a woman out to get revenge on her horrible ex by getting big in showbiz, recently re-released, speaks to the cultural anger of 2018.
Hell hath no fury like Kyoko, and the showbiz world is about to find out.
Kyoko’s looks, wits, and a generous dollop of good luck get her where she wants to go within a couple dozen episodes. Her standout role as an actress is Mio, an angry, disfigured female character. In costume as Mio, Kyoko wears a pronounced special-effects facial scar. It’s a physical metaphor for the scars of trauma that Kyoko wears on the inside. She portrays this hurt and vengeful villainess well, we assume, by drawing on her own familiar anger.
For Kyoko, acting is how she reclaims her power. “My world revolved around how other people felt,” she says of her life until Sho’s betrayal. “When I’m studying acting, I feel like I can recreate myself.”
Through acting, Kyoko becomes fully realized. As the story continues, her vengeful blade begins to dull as she finds things in life worth living for aside from revenge. She makes her first female friend, Moko, who should honestly get more screen time. She meets a skilled senior actor who might have a crush on her, and who she might like in return.
The 25-episode anime only covers a brief snippet of the nearly 20-year-running manga, but already concludes on a more hopeful note, indicating more of a focus on Kyoko’s life beyond her revenge. Kyoko is a woman scorned, but this is only one facet of her personality.
Does the ’80s-tastic Banana Fish Work For Modern Anime Fans? (Anime News Network, Michelle Liu & Steve Jones)
A breakdown of Banana Fish’s pulpy elements and how those translate (or don’t) for modern viewers.
Steve: It’s messy as all hell. Three episodes in, we’ve already broached the topics of child pornography and rape multiple times. To the show’s credit, I think it handles these scenes as non-exploitatively as possible, but it’s still a heck of a lot to deal with if you’re not expecting it to get so dark so quickly.
Micchy: For what it’s worth, I remember being impressed that the manga straight-up stated that characters were gay in no uncertain terms; on the other hand, when most of the sexuality in the show is presented through some sort of violence, it gets a little hairy. And you’re right, it is presenting the heavier elements delicately, a handful of leery scenes aside, but it’s no doubt going to be upsetting to folks nonetheless.
LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita faces backlash after describing LGBT people as ‘unproductive’ (The Japan Times, Tomohiro Osaki)
Sugita’s discriminatory comments have been met with criticism by members of Japan’s LGBT community, including large-scale protests.
The nation’s LGBT community was quick to lambaste Sugita’s remarks.
The Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation issued a statement pointing out that Sugita’s description of LGBT people as abnormal disregards the LDP’s own acknowledgment of the fact that many sexual minorities suffer from being forced into the “norm” imposed by society.
Her assertion that LGBT people are not discriminated against in society, it said, also belies a 2017 Cabinet Office survey suggesting 49 percent of the public think gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals have been targeted by “discriminatory remarks.”
A member of the Toshima Ward Assembly, Taiga Ishikawa — one of Japan’s first openly gay politicians — said that given Sugita’s role as a member of the ruling party, her remarks “significantly tarnish Japan’s reputation” ahead of the 2020 Olympics.
“Homosexuality is not the definition of unhappiness,” he said. “It’s discriminatory remarks like Sugita’s that make us unhappy.”
Tada Never Falls in Love – Romance On the Beaten Path (Yatta-Tachi, Matthew Li)
A (brutal) review of the recent romantic comedy.
This illustration of Western monarchies, which always includes blonde hair genetics and the idea that they have any political authority anymore, is littered in every anime that touches upon it, even if they take place in the present day. That’s not to say tradition and conservatism don’t exist in the monarchy (guests can’t shake the Queen of England’s hand without a glove on), but at least not in the awkward way it’s usually portrayed in anime. Neither does anime ever seem to include these idiosyncrasies in its portrayal of royalty. There is novelty in the basic premise of Tada-kun though: a timeless story of commoner and royalty falling in love. It’s a showcase that societal standards really don’t matter when it comes to who people fall in love with, even if that person has the charisma of a decorative fake fruit bowl. While it’s easy to say that Mitsuyoshi falls in love with Teresa because she embodies the characteristics of an “ideal Japanese woman,” who prior to her have only existed in works of fiction for him, it’s puzzling to see where the love stems from vice versa.
Female leaders encourage women to be confident and believe in themselves at Tokyo conference (The Japan Times, Sakura Murakami)
The conference was meant to combat the discouragement young women face, both internal and external, when considering non-traditionally feminine career paths.
“Governments can certainly help by setting the agenda, but they can’t do it alone. Companies can’t do it by themselves either. The key catalyst is the attitude of women,” Casanova said in her speech.
“And if women are unwilling to step up to lead because they lack confidence, we need to give them the encouragement and support that they need. We need to work together to live strong,” she added.
“The bottom line is this — as women, we have to support one another. When you find yourself in a position of influence, no matter what level . . . bring other women along. It’s not us against the men, it’s us together, both men and women, working together,” said Zambian Ambassador to Japan Ndiyoi Muliwana Mutiti.
The investigation could be part of the slow road toward marriage equality in Japan.
In their party platform, titled “How We Interpret the Constitution”, the Constitutional Democratic Party stated that “There are many areas where LGBT discrimination must be eliminated and there is a need to establish and guarantee these individual’s rights.”
Furthermore, on same-sex marriage, the party stated, “We must confirm whether or not there is a constitutional impediment before it is possible to prepare legislation.”
An analysis of the visual language in Starlight’s first three episodes.
Maya’s first appearance not only introduces her as a character, but position zero itself: the place of the troupe’s top star. She walks through Futaba Isurugi and Kaoruko Hanayagi’s conversation and they part to let her through. Maya then claims the center position for herself. Revue Starlight introduces her there, at position zero, with title card as her shadow is cast over the pink tape representing the center position.
Where Karen Aijou had previously walked to it, stood beside the center position, and invited Mahiru Tsuyuzaki to join her in stretching, Maya claims it. Later, before Karen crashes Hikari Kagura and Junna Hoshimi’s first audition, Maya is positioned at the head of the table in the common room, calmly drinking tea as if she’s presiding over the audition even though she’s not dueling herself.
Japan’s indigenous Ainu sue to bring their ancestors’ bones back home (The Japan Times, Kayoko Kimura)
The construction of the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony is meant to pay respect to the Ainu and house unclaimed artifacts, but many Ainu are concerned that the bones of the deceased will be among the stored items and want them returned.
While Japan is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it has not offered all the rights touted in that document to its own indigenous people. Japan’s policy on the Ainu focuses on preserving and promoting their traditions and culture, in line with Article 11 of the UNDRIP. However, critics say the government has neglected to protect individual and collective rights of the Ainu such as the right to self-determination and the collective right to live in freedom. Japan has never taken executive action to address the rights promised in Article 26: the right to own, use, develop and control traditional land and resources.
“In the United States, for example, Native American tribes govern themselves and the tribal governments exercise these rights,” says Tsunemoto. “Regretfully, such a system has not existed in Japan, and at this stage it is too much to ask the indigenous rights to land, resources and self-determination.
“But first of all, it is necessary to establish the so-called tribe of the Ainu people, and to realize that, the Japanese government should implement programs to support them,” he says. “The most important thing for the indigenous people is that they are able to argue with the government on an equal footing and exercise self-determination.”
Metal Gear Solid: Military masculinity and homoerotica (Medium, Ruben Ferdinand)
A longform analysis of the gay subtext of the MGS franchise and how it intertwines with the violent homoeroticism of the military and military fiction.
What Metal Gear Solid presents is a type of masculinity that overlaps with war fiction of the 80s and the visual tensions of gay porn. Kojima idolises the soldier, not the state, and means to recreate this through a politically complicated series where soldiers defect to fight the state itself. It cannot, and refuses to, escape the confines of military thinking: struggle and violence is the only way to ‘becoming’, and there is no end to this path. It reflects the boot camp mentality of purging, but sees male intimacy as a reinforcement, rather than a toxin.
It is through the visual verbiage of battle that the male body is explored, and that is its connection with gay male fantasies. This clearly isn’t without problems, as you’ve come to realise. Metal Gear Solid’s subtextual gayness operates on violence, whether it be psychological or physical, and no matter how erotically you present a torture victim, it is still torture. There is care and there is solidarity between soldiers, but the tension is military. And by that, I mean that it is heterosexual. By that same count, it is also very sexist.
It’s a strange thing — for gay and queer people, to have our desires fulfilled, we have to locate them within ostensibly straight media. And we have to give the representations (the memories!) of homophobia, the violence, the trauma, a compartment in order to access what they could mean for us. Comfort, safety, passion. But it is this power of the imagination that we can redirect violence: it can stop hurting, it can start healing.
The response to this week’s prompt has been fantastic! Be sure to check out the Talk page and Twitter, because there’s more than we could ever list here.
Natsume Ono is fantastic. House of Five Leaves, Ristorante Paradiso, and Not Simple are outstanding works. Her exploration of the subtleties of interactions and relationships, and her slyly expressive facial expressions go a long, long way.
— Kyle (@TheYellingHorn) July 31, 2018
I love Nakamura Asumiko ! She writes deep stories with complex characters and relationships with a gorgeous art style pic.twitter.com/y07YZu54pH
— forever questioning ✂ (@_misspokenwords) July 31, 2018