[Links] 31 October – 6 November 2018: Suffragist Komako Kimura, Class-S in the 1920s, and NEOKawaii

By: Anime Feminist November 6, 20180 Comments
A bookstore employee with a knight armor helm on throwing her fist into the air with determination. subtitle: Let's start with what we can do!

This week: suffragist Komako Kimura, the author who codified Class-S in the 1920s, and the NEOKawaii movement.

AniFem Round-Up

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[AniFemTalk] Have you voted?

If you live in the US, voting is one of the most important things you can do right now.


Beyond AniFem

How a Japanese Lesbian Author Got Queer Content Published 100 Years Ago (VRV, Sinclair August)

On the writings of Yoshiya Nobuko, who codified Class-S during an era where chaste schoolgirl romances ending in tragedy was the only way to get queer content published at all, and why that doesn’t fly in a modern context.

This is, perhaps, the reason that so many of her stories end unhappily—because her only other option would be for her girls to enter the sphere of heterosexuality, which was often depicted quite literally as a fate worse than death. And considering how widely read her work was, there’s no doubt that even these heavily compromised depictions opened some girls’ eyes to their own sexuality. After all, if there’s one thing us queer folks are good at, it’s reclaiming flawed works. Even within the constraints of the time, Yoshiya supported herself and her partner by writing lesbian fiction—it’s hard to call that anything but subversive.

Of course, the Class S subgenre has become something quite different since then. Decades after its decline, it was brought back into the spotlight in 1998 by the hugely popular light novel series Maria-sama ga Miteiru (Maria Watches Over Us). MariMite, like its generic predecessors, is set in a Catholic girl’s school and depicts emotionally close, asexual “romantic friendships” between upperclassmen and their underclassmen sœurs as a codified tradition of the school—and by extension, one expected to end with graduation.

The main difference between MariMite and Flower Tales is context, but the importance of context cannot be underestimated—when MariMite was published, homosexuality had been decriminalized in most countries, the global LGBT and feminist movements were in full swing, and there had recently been several landmark cases ruling against discrimination based on sexuality in Japan. What was subversive and boundary-pushing in 1920 is merely regressive in 1998. To blindly copy tropes without considering their significance is to completely miss the point.

Immigration TV shows criticized as prime-time prejudice (The Asahi Shimbun, Akiko Minato and Takahiro Kawamura)

The program televised the raiding of a Vietnamese woman’s home under suspicion that she was undocumented, with lurid narration and harassment of the woman in question (who had arrived on a visa but fled her designated workplace, likely due to poor conditions).

Journalist Koichi Yasuda explained one likely cause of the problem.

“Those shows air one-sided opinions uncritically because broadcasters can easily obtain videos of foreigners being raided if they are allowed to accompany immigration officers,” he said. “Considering the narration and subtitles appear to fuel prejudice against non-Japanese in general, I feel the mass media is indirectly supporting an anti-foreigner campaign staged by certain people.”

Eriko Suzuki, an immigration policy professor at Kokushikan University, agrees.

“Airing special coverage of scenes where non-Japanese are being raided in a succession of TV programs could contribute to an atmosphere where people become suspicious of those from overseas and will try to get rid of them,” Suzuki said.

Komako Kimura: the Japanese suffragist on the streets of New York (April Magazine, Portia Chan)

Kimura was an actress and formative figure for Japanese feminists who came to America to study the techniques of the suffragettes.

The suffrage movement peaked in the early 1920s in Japan, soon after Kimura’s travel. Japanese women, however, only won universal voting rights in 1945. In the USA the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted in 1920, prohibiting states and the federal government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. Nonetheless, voting did not immediately become a right for all American women. Individual states voted to ratify the Amendment from 1919 all the way to 1984. And, for Asian-Americans in particular, the process was drawn out. Chinese-Americans were the first to win the right to vote in 1943. Nine years later all Asian-Americans won the right, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act was of prime significance, as Section 2 prohibits voting discrimination based on race or identification with language minority groups.

Japan’s Cabinet approves bill to introduce new visa categories for foreign workers, to address shrinking workforce (The Japan Times, Sakura Murakami and Tomohiro Osaki)

The new visas would offer benefits and pensions, but is structured specifically to oppose the idea that Japan will allow more immigrants—making it hard for visa workers (who must stay ten years to receive the pension) to transition.

Speaking to the same Lower House Budget Committee on Thursday, Justice Minister Yamashita revealed that a total 4,279 trainees under the program had gone missing in the January-July period this year.

“This is an extraordinary figure,” said lawmaker Akira Nagatsuma of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, adding that the pace suggests the number of missing interns in 2018 could exceed last year’s record — 7,089 — by year-end.

Nagatsuma also said that the whereabouts of many of these trainees who disappeared from work remain unknown, with Justice Ministry data showing that there were 6,914 such individuals staying somewhere in the country, under the radar, as of January this year. “I believe that this year will also see a substantial number of missing trainees in total, but I don’t think we should blame the foreign nationals who ran away in all of these cases. I’m sure there are lots of cases where the trainees felt they had to get away, or even thought they might die if they stayed,” Nagatsuma said, citing examples of trainees being harassed or bullied, cooped up in a cramped apartment and consigned to menial jobs that require no technical skills.

“I think it’s very irresponsible of the government to try to open more doors for foreign workers while turning a blind eye to these existing problems under the trainee program,” he said.

Seoul to scrap ‘comfort women’ fund that Japan helped set up (The Asahi Shimbun, Yoshihiro Makino)

Activists have called for an alternative to the foundation as a means of support, but no announcements of plans have been made. Japan has intimated this may damage Japan-South Korea relations.

The entity was established in July 2016 to help the lives of women forced to provide sex to wartime Japanese soldiers.

The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

Cho said scrapping the foundation could not be averted as it was was no longer functioning, according to the sources.

Akiba expressed strong concern about the plan, saying it will have grave consequences for Japan-South Korea relations.

It is not clear if South Korea presented the news as an ultimatum.

Three 90s Magical Girl Shows That Wanted to Be the Next Sailor Moon (VRV, Kara Dennison)

A short listicle about some famous and not-so-famous follow-ups to Sailor Moon.

But wait. How is it going to appeal to Sailor Moon fans if there’s literally no magical fighting heroine? Simple: just write one the heck in.

Akazukin Chacha’s 1994 adaptation took, to put it lightly, a few liberties in its first two seasons. The main one involved Chacha’s ability to turn into Magical Princess Holy-Up: a teenage version of herself in Valkyrie-esque costume, whose one attack appeared to be an arrow that just sort of took care of things. Save for extremely rare occasions, the Magical Princess only ever appeared via a few seconds of stock footage in each episode.

Gov’t to apologize, compensate forced sterilization victims, stay mum on constitutionality (The Mainichi)

Court documents are still being drawn on behalf of those victimized by the 1948-1996 eugenics law.

According to the redress guidelines presented by the ruling camp on Oct. 31, the government would introduce a law to express “deep remorse and apology for the substantial physical and mental suffering experienced by the individuals who underwent eugenic operations and other procedures.” The law would make no mention of legal responsibility, and discussions will continue over who will express the remorse and make the apology.

Those who will be eligible to receive compensation are limited to the victims themselves, but their spouses or heirs will not be able to collect damages. The redress program would be designed to cover a wide range of victims, such as those without operation records, women whose wombs were removed and other people subject to measures that were not specified in the eugenic law, or people who were operated on following improper procedures. Bereaved families would receive compensation only if the victims pass away after applying for the damages.

Postwar images of Yokohama by couple that saw its underbelly (The Asahi Shimbun, Nobuyuki Watanabe)

The photos, focusing on the marginalized and outcast, are currently being displayed in the Museum of Yokohama Urban History.

In December 1946, a boys’ home was founded in the premises of a shrine in Naka Ward to take in and care for war orphans and street children. Okumura was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, and continued to take photos of people living on the fringes of society even while he was engaged in social work.

Okumura frequented Seibo-Aijien, a Catholic orphanage in Naka Ward, where he took numerous photos of children who had clearly been sired with Japanese by soldiers of the Occupation Forces.

Tokiwa, who was born in 1928, focused her lens on working women, starting with hairdressers, nurses and female wrestlers, and moving on to showgirls, nude models and prostitutes, the latter often the targets of social contempt.

She took numerous photos of the red light district, including long lines of sex workers waiting to undergo medical examinations for sexually-transmitting diseases.


NEOKawaii is a movement hoping to break the homogenized standards of the current kawaii ideal.

If, on this side of the world, the Japanese concept of Kawaii has slowly become a light-hearted, catch-all term for slightly kitsch cuteness, then back in the country of its origin the word has a more loaded meaning. “In society, the definition of ‘cute’ is set. Characteristics such as ‘big eyes’, ‘skinny legs’, ‘large breasts’, and ‘taller noses’ are considered cute,” explains Yuuki – one quarter of genre-fusing dance-pop group CHAI. But now, promoting a self-concocted manifesto of NEOKawaii (aka the new cute), the quartet – completed by sisters Mana and Kana, plus their pal Yuna – are preaching a new set of rules. “We, ourselves, aren’t perfect so that’s where the NEOKawaii idea came from,” she continues. “We do feel like there is a large pressure in Japan for women to live up to these Kawaii standards and pop stars in Japan have even more of a pressure put on them because many people look up to them. But in reality, the characteristics everyone is born with should be what makes them cute! We want to send the message that the way you are is perfect!”

THREAD: To close things out on a positive note, a twitter thread full of cute anime animals.


AniFem Community

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