A good but heavy week for links. Discussion of sexual assault, harassment, and (poor handling of) mental illness.
Dee, Amelia, and Vrai got together to discuss their impressions of how the current season is progressing, chat style.
Michelle Liu discusses 18if’s attempt to discuss cultural misogyny while focusing on its male protagonist “saving” women, as well as its disastrous finale.
Getting into the good fantasy portion of the series while more than a little punchdrunk.
What series would you like to see us podcast about in future?
“URAHARA” Is the Must-Watch Anime Created by Women About Girls Saving the Day (Teen Vogue, Amanda Farough)
An interview with URAHARA director Amica Kubo and Crunchyroll’s Programming Coordinator Cayla Coats (you may remember her from our Wandering Son podcast!).
Cayla Coats: Rito, Mari, and Kotoko prize each other’s friendship quite a bit. Their connection is interesting in that it’s built upon the purely positive foundation of love for fashion and each other. The series explores their relationship and the supportive, affectionate bond among the three girls.
The friendship between Mugi Tanaka, creator of the original webcomic, Natsuko Takahashi, URAHARA‘s lead writer, and director, Amica Kubo, is a building block for the show’s writing and design. In an interview with Crunchyroll, Takahashi noted, “There’s not that many projects where women, all the women actually from the staff, get together and talk […] for hours on end.” They consider each other sisters, too.
Comparable anime like Sailor Moon and its contemporary reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal, have women involved in the creative process, including much of the writing. But the showrunners and directors are usually men. By contrast, URAHARA‘s heavy hitters are all women.
Japan’s Big #MeToo Moment (The Daily Beast, Jake Adelstein/Mari Yamamoto)
Shiori Ito discusses her recent book and continuing struggle for justice after being assaulted by a powerful friend of Prime Minister Abe.
When asked what precisely needs to be done, she paused to take a deep breath. Ito doesn’t think many people, especially men, understand the difference between consensual and nonconsensual sex.
“I’ve been interviewing and talking with many of my male friends and gotten into fights with them,” she said. “I’m quite surprised. They believe—that ‘If we [men] ask every time, if that’s OK, for consent, that we will never have sex.’ It’s such a simple thing, if you really care about someone else, to ask.”
She notes that Japan is full of sexual images, sleaze, and pornography, in movies, newspapers, even comic books; sexual services such as fellatio can be legally purchased and advertised. But the core question of consent and sexual assault is off limits. “We talk about what or how people can be sexually pleased. Japan’s known for its adult entertainment. Fine. But then we need to be able to talk about sex. But we don’t. We treat all of it like a taboo. We put all of it in a black box.
The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! Needs Content Warnings (Fantastic Memes, Frog-kun)
A critically acclaimed novel about shogi that treats its young female characters awfully.
The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! is a novel that takes a traditional Japanese board game seriously. It took four years of research before the first volume was even published. Think of it like the Hikaru no Go of light novels, except with unfunny lolicon jokes and the worst opening chapter in the world.
Seriously, it cannot be overstated just how bad of a first impression this light novel makes.
The prologue opens with a nine-year-old girl saying to a sixteen-year-old boy, “Master… It’s rock hard…” In the Japanese version, the innuendo is even more explicit; she tells him that his tama (玉) is hard. In shogi, that would refer to the king, but it can also mean balls, as in testicles.
The rest of the prologue isn’t much better. The characters are panting, and the guy makes a big show of “violating” the girl’s territory. Even when it’s revealed to be an innocuous shogi match, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
ENTER THE DRAGON LADY: ON HEROINE WORSHIP AND RECLAIMING ASIAN FEMALE AGGRESSION (Angry Asian Man, Sarah Kuhn)
Kuhn argues for the importance of angry, prickly, badass Asian women and distinguishing between these traits being present in well-rounded characters vs stereotypes.
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot: to me, what makes a stereotype is lack of nuance, complication, and specificity — not the simple presence of a certain trait.
And yet… that “simple presence of a certain trait” seems to be what some people (particularly those who unavoidably see things through the white gaze) trot out as an excuse for keeping prominent characters locked in whiteness or for whitewashing them altogether. A character who knows martial arts can’t be Asian…because, stereotype. A mystical, all-knowing guide can’t be Asian…because, stereotype. A lady who is sexy, aggressive, and kickass can’t be Asian… because, stereotype. But this is really only true if that character has literally no other traits. If the person creating/writing the character or the audience viewing the work sees that one trait and — even if the character possesses or has the potential to possess many other qualities — immediately thinks, “stereotype”… isn’t that the problem?
I’ve seen tough, prickly characters like Jessica Jones and Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road described as… well, tough, prickly and therefore altogether awesome and revolutionary. I’ve seen tough, prickly characters like Jessica Huang from Fresh Off the Boat, Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy, and Melinda May from Agents of SHIELD described as tough, prickly… and therefore dragon ladies.
Japanese Girl Says School Forced Her to Dye Hair Black, Sues Government: Media (The New York Times)
Despite schools banning hair dye, the complainant was forced to color her naturally brown hair black.
A Japanese teenager is suing the government of Osaka, saying her public high school repeatedly forced her to dye her naturally-brown hair black or be banned from attending school, local media reported on Friday.
In a lawsuit filed in Osaka District Court, the 18-year-old girl said her mother informed Kaifukan School in Habikino city upon her enrolment that she was born with brownish hair, as the school had a policy banning hair coloring, media reported.
Educators, however, instructed her to color her hair black, telling her repeatedly that the dye job was insufficient and forcing her to “either dye the hair black or quit school”, Kyodo news reported, citing the lawsuit.
Miss Hokusai’s Keiichi Hara Details Next Work With Planned Completion in 2018 (Anime News Network)
The next outing will be a fantasy story with a female protagonist.
Hara explained that the protagonist in the story will have adventures in another world, and that this will be his “first full-blown fantasy work.” Hara added that he is working on the storyboard and animation images now, and plans to complete the work sometime next year.
Hara’s most recent work, Miss Hokusai, debuted in May 2015. The film won the Jury Prize at Annecy in June 2015. Hara also won the Asiagraph 2015 Tsumugi Prize in recognition of individuals who have made valuable contributions to digital art.
Must-watch Asian Classics with Remarkable Female Lead Characters (April Magazine, Andrea Centeno)
Film recs from all across Asia that focus on women’s stories.
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (女が階段を上る時) is a classic Japanese film that sheds light on being an independent woman in a society dominated by men. The plot is somewhat tragic, but realistic. It’s a film that proves courage does not always come in the form of winning. Sometimes, courage is all about how much you’re willing to give up and live through.
After the untimely death of her husband, Keiko was left with no choice but to stand up on her own. Driven by the will to survive, she worked as a hostess in a Ginza nightclub where she faced numerous struggles that tested her endurance and willpower. When a Woman Ascends the Stairsis directed by one of the most prominent directors in Japanese film industry, Mikio Naruse.
5 Fearsome Women In Japanese Horror Stories (Yatta-tachi, Marion Bea)
Spooky tales for your Halloween night.
This one is from a manga, where protagonist Kazuki falls victim to Tokyo urban legend Strange Lolita. I’ll admit that I’m adding this one because I’m terrible and I find the concept a little amusing, considering the existence of shows such as Eromanga-sensei, and the currently airing A Sister’s All You Need. It’s certainly a dark twist on the “little sister fetish.”
The legend says that at midnight, a strange girl dressed as a “lolita” approaches unsuspecting men to ask: “Do you have a little sister?” If you see her, the only way to avoid her is to run away without answering the question.
If you say no, you’re killed on the spot. If you say yes, Strange Lolita will become your little sister. She will torment you by incorporating herself into your life, trying to make the perfect big brother out of you. She will only release you by giving you a “twisted” death, just before going after her next victim.
Doki Doki Literature Club Stumbles Between Deconstruction and Exploitation (Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, Vrai Kaiser)
In trying to critique the dating sim genre, DDLC writes complex mentally ill characters but ultimately exploits them for shock value.
DDLC’s primary issue is that it wants to convey how awful it is to treat its characters like exploitable objects, with Monika’s final monologue calling both herself and the player awful for “using” these girls…while exploiting them and their individual struggles with mental illness relentlessly in the second playthrough.
The first “normal” run of the game hints at very serious, well-written struggles each character faces with anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness, which the writing then turns into an unavoidable suicide, associating self-harm with a violent yandere-type personality, and using child abuse for shock value. It’s the rough equivalent of stabbing a cow and then painting “meat is murder” in its blood. The attempt to say something contributes to the problem.
There are no shortage of games depicting mental illness as frightening. Asylums are a stock setting for the horror genre (Outlast), while the very basis of the yandere as an archetype is that of a seemingly average, loving girl who “goes crazy” (School Days). Unreliable narrator stories often shock the player by revealing that the player character was mentally ill all along, as a way of creating an alienation effect (Layers of Fear). The examples of these ideas being handled poorly far outweighs attempts to incorporate those elements in a thoughtful way (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice).
ANXIETY, WISH FULFILLMENT & THE INAUTHENTIC (Wave Motion Cannon, TheSubtleDoctor)
Comparing two stories’ handling of disability and social issues, and how portrayals of “magical” integration can inform an audience’s mentalities.
What I am saying is this: repeated exposure to and absorption of media with a particular worldview or set of underlying assumptions can imprint said worldview/assumptions on the (conscious and subconscious) minds of viewers, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the individual. Repeated messaging can rewire our thinking. Especially if such viewers are largely young people, and especially if those young people aren’t experiencing media whose worldviews are informed by different perspectives. More anime is being made than ever before, and, while I don’t have hard data here, I have personally noticed (a) an increase in anime being made featuring socially withdrawn protagonists and (b) these protagonists getting “magically” socially integrated. Uncritical submersion into a sea of media that is informed by these particular beliefs can function as an unhealthy distraction that enables people to not engage with their reality (i.e. take steps toward better mental health). In the worst cases, these folks may become hostile and angry over how the world is unfair to them because their own circumstances are unlike those of the media they readily consume. Of course, this isn’t likely to be an overnight phenomenon, or even necessarily a conscious one.
We’re getting great suggestions about our watchalongs. Thanks, AniFam!
— Rugose Appendage (@rugoseappendage) October 31, 2017
— Ahyun (@maunanoiln) October 31, 2017