[Links] 26 December 2018 – 1 January 2019: Banana Fish Retrospectives, TALES OF NOiR, and Challenging Skin Color Bias in Japan

By: Anime Feminist January 1, 20190 Comments
Shoulders-up shot of all the girls of Zombie Land Saga staring toward the camera and smiling

This week: not one but two retrospectives on Banana Fish, TALES OF NOiR profiles artist Mikhail Sebastian, and challenging skin color bias in Japan.

AniFem Round-Up

[Editorial] AniFem’s 2019-2021 plans – in detail

Amelia discusses the site’s plans for financing and funding goals in detail.

[Editorial] If money and time were no object…

If we had all the money in the world, here’s what we’d bring to the site.

[Review] Hi Score Girl – Episode 1

A love letter to early 90s gaming with a rad female co-lead (though it’s a bit uncertain how her being nonverbal will be handled).

Feminist anime recommendations of Fall 2018

The team lists off their faves of the season, from late bloomers to zombie idols.

[Editorial] Crowdfunding close, clarifications, and concept art

Our campaign is complete! Amelia discusses next steps and offers a preview of the exclusive art contributors will be receiving.

[AniFemTalk] What were your favorite anime of 2018?

Before we share our faves, we wanna hear yours!


Beyond AniFem

Ash Get iPad: The Perils of Banana Fish’s Modernization (Coherent Cats, Malia)

A point by point assessment of how the anime’s half-hearted temporal update hurt its potential.

Though the original story of Banana Fish is distinctly The American Eighties, as in the genre and aesthetic, more so than a realistic depiction of the US, it connected its plot to the then relevant politics of American intervention in Latin America. However, rather than think through how modern American foreign policy has evolved since and how Banana Fish’s plot element could be changed while still retaining its themes, they simply rehash the same things with a different name. Though certainly there’s something to be said about how American imperialism hasn’t truly changed and the War in Afghanistan is touched upon, they sidestep commitment to sharp commentary on the subject by not only acting as if the Cold War is still chugging on almost exactly same but also retreat to the fictional “Khafghanistan.”

Admittedly, this would be one of the trickier aspects to modernize in detail, as the political conspiracies and context of the original manga were very specific. However, it feels disrespectful and toothless compared to the research Yoshida did for the geopolitics in the manga. Reading the manga now, while the pacing and melodrama of the plot is a bumpy ride, it still feels resonant in its accuracy of American history. But for the anime the stark spotlight put onto American imperialism was dimmed down to—ironically—keep the same template of the original plot. This is one of the cases where fidelity to the source material is clearly weaker than taking a chance at new takes or ideas.

The Troubled Metaphor of Food in Spirited Away (VRV, Eric McAdams)

An examination of how the film paints fatness as a moral failing.

Miyazaki makes an impassioned, affecting case against greed, but in doing so he holds up fat bodies as an image of selfish evil, a depiction that has become practically omnipresent in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is a lazy and hurtful cliché, but he falls into it anyway. In his eagerness to condemn capitalist society, he created a ghoulish, literally dehumanizing test, one that isn’t even remotely fair—after all, would you have thought twice before eating at that buffet? Chihiro herself is only saved because she’s scared.

Don’t be greedy, or you’ll become as fat as a pig. Don’t eat like No-Face, or you’ll end up fat like him. This is an oversimplification of the message of these sequences, but not an inaccurate one. Fatness is frequently—though not always—portrayed in Spirited Away as a sign of moral weakness, an argument that ultimately weakens the film by displacing the crimes of societal overconsumption onto individual bodies.

Praxis What You Preach – A Full Retrospective Of A Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) (YouTube, ThePedanticRomantic)

A personal essay, broad examination of trans issues in Japanese media, and analysis of anime’s most famous trans-related series.

Heisei Transformations: Challenging skin color bias to create new definition of ‘Japanese’ (The Mainichi, Sachi Fukushima)

Musician Michael Yano and his brothers experienced intense racism and othering growing up due to his mixed Ghanaian and Japanese ancestry, and wants to break what he once saw as an identity binary. The Mainichi also spotlighted professional athlete Monica Okoye, who has Nigerian and Japanese heritage.

Of the boy who sat beside him, Michael has another memory. It was from the time they were both members of the school soccer club in junior high school, and their coach told them to go shopping together. On the way back, they walked in silence, until the boy suddenly said, “You’re amazing. Does everyone always stare at you like this?” He had noticed the looks that Michael had gotten from all the people they passed during their shopping trip. Then he added, “This is tough.”

Tears began streaming down Michael’s cheeks. “I’m sorry — for you having to walk with me and be stared at like this too,” he said. While he thought that the boy had finally understood his situation, at the same time, he felt pathetic for apologizing even though he did nothing wrong. He thought, “I want to walk around with people not staring at me, even just for one day. I want to become ‘Japanese.'”

Anime You Can Stream With LGBTQ+ Characters (Crunchyroll, Carlos Cadorniga)

A beginner’s guide for those looking for streaming anime with queer representation.

We always love keeping up with our favorite anime, but those of us in the LGBTQ+ community would love to see more of our people in these shows. In a world where gay people, transgender people, and other individuals in the community are asking for, and thankfully receiving, the representation they deserve in media, we can definitely expect the same from anime.

Luckily, there are plenty of anime you can stream on Crunchyroll featuring positive LGBTQ+ characters, and story arcs that we can all feel good about. From fleshed-out character relationships to tackling subject matter particular to the community, anime certainly has its fair share of wholesome LGBTQ+ themes.

Why We Should Celebrate All Types Of Women In Japan: An Interview With Melanie Brock (Savvy Tokyo, Julia Mascetti)

Brock is the Chair Emeritus of the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan and heads up the project dedicated to spotlighting diverse depictions of womanhood.

What motivated you to begin the project?

I first came to Japan in 1982 and have observed the strength and hard-working nature of many Japanese women from the very beginning. My first profile on CWJ was of my host-mum, a doctor. Her commitment to her profession and to her family, her compassion, and the struggles she faced as a woman in Japan were things I was so proud to be able to share. In many cases, people outside of Japan don’t see the greatness and depth of Japanese women. I wanted to honor those women who have been such a big part of my Japan journey.

One of the things that stands out in your project is that you feature women from all walks of life. As well as women in executive positions, you have profiles of blue-collar workers, younger women and women in non-traditional lines of work. Why is this important to you?

I think there is a danger in only profiling or focusing on women in executive positions when discussing the role of women in Japan. These women play a key role in breaking down workforce barriers but I wanted to focus on a range of women in Japan.

Directive allows long detentions of overstaying foreigners (The Asahi Shimbun, Rei Kishitsu)

“Long” means a period of over six months, and currently includes almost half of foreigners who’ve been detained.

The Justice Ministry released the document in response to an information disclosure request from The Asahi Shimbun.

It states that even foreigners with little immediate prospect of being deported but deemed unsuitable for provisional release can be “continuously detained until it becomes possible to deport the individual.”

The document calls for “strict enforcement” of the provisional release of detainees.

Such releases are often approved on humanitarian grounds and allow foreigners to live outside of the detention facility. But the document also states that even those under provisional release should be closely monitored.

Future of Shrinking Japan: Efforts needed to ensure living with foreigners in harmony (The Mainichi, Shin Yasutaka, Jun Kaneko,  Hiroshi Endo, and Buntaro Saito)

A snapshot of the daily struggles of an interracial community sharing an apartment building, connected back to the upcoming push for more foreign workers in 2019. Part of a series.

The municipal government of Chiba, which hosts the Kaihin New Town, has trained interpreters and organized events to help Japanese and foreign residents interact with each other.

However, a survey the municipal government conducted in 2015 shows that only 12.9 percent replied that mutual understanding between Japanese and non-Japanese residents had been deepened, almost the same level as in the previous survey in 2012. Those who answered they did not think so accounted for 30.9 percent, about 1.5 times the figure in 2012, which stood at 20.8 percent.

Some municipal government workers think it is difficult to achieve a peaceful coexistence between Japanese and foreign residents.

TALES OF NOiR: Mikhail Sebastian “People Who Look Like Me” (YouTube, Noir Caesar Entertainment)

A short video on the artist’s inspirations and background.

Popular artist Mikhail Sebastian talks his journey to becoming an artist, friendships, and future projects in development.

Banana Fish: the negotiations of a show, a love story & things that hurt (Otaku She Wrote, Marion Bea)

A meditation on the difficulties of interfacing with the series’ extreme highs and lows, and on the choices of the adaptation in particular. Heavy spoilers.

The ending is not the only time a strong message is undercut in the story: Foxx’s existence itself has no sensible justification. While the show tones down certain things, he’s a terribly underdeveloped character who only inflicts even more abuse to Ash, after all he has already been through,  just after Max tells him he doesn’t have to be controlled by his past. Instead, Ash is abused again specifically because of his past, and after everything is over, he’s given an absurdly contrived death without ever getting the freedom he fought so hard for.

Banana Fish operates under the same logic that enables plenty of action movies and its heroes: yes, characters kill, yet they kill nameless henchmen, 2d monsters, unquestionable evil, and if they stray from it, it’s due to inescapable circumstances. The heroes regretting this–which Ash does; the idea that he’s remorseless is demonstrably untrue–is a testament to the goodness in their hearts.


AniFem Community

This wasn’t as star-studded a year for anime, but there was still plenty to cheer about—we’re glad to have our readers highlighting shows we might not have seen.

My 3 anime of the year are Planet With, Zombie Land Saga, and SSSS.Gridman.  Planet With is simply a beautiful show, with it's message of forgiveness.  Zombie Land Saga does so many things right, it's truly an amazing thing.  SSSS.Gridman made me doubt, but that finale was all that the show needed, and gave it all meaning. Certainly a show that didn't do things by the book, but I like the risks it took.

For a different perspective from most other commenters: I'm going to say my anime of the year are Devilman Crybaby and Bloom Into You. Crybaby wasn't perfect by a long shot, but I'm not sure anything else this year has been as off-the-wall ambitious. The visuals are incredible, the characters are complex and flawed, the themes are political, significant, and relevant. Bloom Into You is kind of the polar opposite! It's a far more gentle story, but so beautifully executed that it absolutely hooked me. It was one of the only shows that I kept coming back to week to week, that I was invariably excited for. From the storyboarding to the voice acting, it was absolutely a standout this year.  There were a lot of good anime this year, though! I initially slept on Planet With, but ended up bringing it a ways after it finished after seeing a million recommendations on twitter. I adore that show's dichotomy of "evolution of power" vs "evolution of love" and how it portrays different forms of pacifism. It was absolutely one of the best shows of the year.

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