This week: a roundtable about cosplaying while fat, the continuing struggle of being mixed-race in Japan, and the measurement-requesting Kemono Friends audition forms.
A detective show that shares a universe with Tiger & Bunny and seems primed to capture that series’ charm and dedication to diverse worldbuilding (including lots of women and a potential queer couple).
Jervon Perkins shares how Velvet’s struggles with family and trauma resonated with his own experiences.
Caitlin breaks open the assumptions of DarliFra, the politics of art, and how the same cultural anxieties that birthed the series are reflected in LDP politics.
The team celebrates a surprisingly sweet, funny, and feminist-friendly comedy about one horny teen’s quest to figure out sex.
A quiet and slightly melancholy series about family bonds, with a light touch and watercolor aesthetic.
Is there anything else that measures up to Yamada’s benchmark?
In U.S. Open Victory, Naomi Osaka Pushes Japan to Redefine Japanese (The New York Times, Motoko Rich)
While Osaka has been celebrated, many note that those with mixed cultural heritage still find themselves discriminated against.
Three years ago, when Ariana Miyamoto, a half-black, half-Japanese woman, was crowned Miss Universe Japan, the judges received some criticism online from people who said she did not look sufficiently Japanese.
Baye McNeil, an African-American columnist who writes for the Japan Times about the black experience in Japan and who has lived in the country for 14 years, said the celebration of Ms. Osaka presented a racially progressive view that did not align with a messier reality.
“This country prides itself on being homogeneous,” Mr. McNeil said. He said that to have a woman of mixed cultural heritage rise in the spotlight placed many Japanese “in an awkward position of sending a message to the world that they’re in a place that everyone knows they’re not.”
But Japan, however slowly, may be changing. The year after Ms. Miyamoto won the beauty contest, another mixed-race woman, Priyanka Yoshikawa, took the crown.
How Fandoms Fail Black Protagonists (VRV, Azha Reyes)
A discussion of fandom’s problem ignoring or being harsher on characters of color in favor of lionizing white antagonists, through the lens of Yu-Gi-Oh VRAINS.
A glance through fandom spaces will show that Go Onizuka doesn’t receive the same level of attention as other side characters in the series do, and the attention that he does receive is often negative. There’s a lack of fanart, fanfic, and positive character examinations in his underpopulated tag on Tumblr. Archive of Our Own, the most popular hub for fanfiction, has around 33 fanfics that include Go at all, and only five of those are actually about him. By comparison, Spectre is in 53 fics, with 29 of those being about him. There’s also more fanart of Spectre on Tumblr than I’ve ever seen of Go—and most, if not all, have him painted as a soft-eyed pretty-boy who just needs more care and understanding to stop putting people in comas.
It would be easy to dismiss these numbers as a result of the number of appearances of each character in the show. However, Go plays six duels across ten episodes, while Spectre only plays a mere three duels over six episodes—and his isn’t counting the many prominent appearances Go makes where he isn’t dueling. Outside of his own duels, Spectre usually appears only as a background lackey to Revolver.
Cosplaying While Fat Roundtable: Experiences With Community and Cosplay (The Mary Sue, Samantha Puc)
A discussion with three fat cosplayers about their experiences in the community (with some excellent costume pics).
Do you believe the cosplay community is inclusive of people who are not slim, white, and/or able-bodied?
TK: I think the cosplay community is a microcosm of larger society—which is not inclusive of people who are not slim, white, and/or able-bodied. In fact, I know it’s not. People pay lip service to this but then when you look at who and what they approve of, it still favors those categories. When you see disabled cosplayers, they are often slim and white. When you see Black cosplayers, they are often slim and able-bodied. When you see fat cosplayers, they are usually white and able-bodied. Rarely will you see a disabled, plus-size, POC cosplayer in a magazine or on a poster or billboard. They are rarely noticed, much less featured.
JG: Yes and no. I feel pockets of it are very inclusive, without a doubt, and pockets of it are, let’s be real, shitty to POC cosplayers, fat cosplayers, non-able-bodied cosplayers, and more. Hell, there are pockets of it that are even shitty to cosplayers who are white or East Asian with slim bodies and large chests, so it can feel like nothing [about] your body is the “correct” and “perfect” cosplay type.
CloudKBD: I think on the surface they really are. A lot of people in the cosplay community really want inclusivity, but there’s an undercurrent of *accuracy* that’s really hard to fight against. People see an impossibly proportioned character, or a character of a specific race, or a character of a certain gender, and anything that breaks that conception—no matter how accurate the cosplay—just becomes white noise I think. It’s definitely an uphill battle.
Banana Fish Part 1 (with Marion Bea) (Shojo & Tell)
A podcast discussion of the first half of the Banana Fish manga (including context links).
Covers volumes 1 through 11 of Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida
It’s a perfect day to discuss Banana Fish, the revived classic about how everyone — except some select gang members and an innocent Japanese boy named Eiji Okumura — wants to kill the brilliant and beautiful and deadly Ash Lynx. Shojo & Tell host Ashley found the biggest Banana Fish fan in Marion, and together they discuss the literary and political history Akimi Yoshida’s work draws from, the representations of race and queerness in the story, answer some of your questions about how the modernized anime compares to this very ’80s manga, and list favorite Ash and Eiji moments. Plus, Ashley and Marion take plenty of time to discuss Ash’s transformation from River Phoenix to Nurse Barbara.
LGBT hospitality house to be established for 2020 Tokyo Games (The Japan Times, Sara Suk)
The house will serve as a resource and information center, and will remain in place after the games conclude.
“Sports has the power to change the future,” Matsunaka said. “We want to work closely with the sports world to make diversity something that’s positive.”
Also attending the joint news conference, Fumino Sugiyama, a transgender person who formerly represented Japan as a female fencer, said Japanese LGBT athletes often find it difficult to come out because of potentially negative repercussions.
“I hope everyone will accept other people’s individuality and differences, and work together with the power of sports to cooperate with each other and raise momentum,” Sugiyama said.
The Witch of Tata: A Social Commentary on Isekai (Fantastic Memes, Frog-kun)
A review of a pair of light novels examining the role of isekai wish fulfillment for Japanese students.
The first volume of Tata makes a pointed statement about the kinds of things young Japanese students are allowed to dream about. Most of them have submitted to the stable career paths that their parents and teachers wanted for them, and those dreams are useless in the fantasy world. The characters who were influenced by escapist fiction and made frivolous wishes like “I want to become a wizard” gained those powers in the fantasy world. Towards the end of the story, however, Tata the witch tells all the surviving characters that they must give up on their dreams in order to return to the real world.
Local officials want LDP to address LGBT issues in election (The Asahi Shimbun, Yuki Nikaido)
While Abe has made a statement saying it is natural to “seek a society where diversity is respected,” many feel this to be an insufficient response.
Taiga Ishikawa, a member of the Toshima Ward assembly and an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) local assembly federation leader, who has come out as gay, and others held a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Sept. 5.
“We want Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to speak in earnest about how he will deal with LGBT rights issues,” Ishikawa said. “Shigeru Ishiba, former secretary-general of the LDP, has actively spoken about LGBT issues (at news conferences and lectures), but Abe hasn’t talked directly about it.”
How Perfect Blue Is More Relevant Than Ever 20 Years Later (Crunchyroll, Tim Rattray)
The 1998 film was prescient in its discussion of internet persona and possessive, violent fandom.
In an age of Twitter and vlogs, this facade of authenticity is more prevalent than ever. Whether it’s the side of ourselves we choose to show or the side portrayed by others, who we are in public spaces becomes who others outside of our intimate circles come to view us as. There’s no controlling the perception of information as it spreads and spreads. This is especially true for celebrity culture where we jump to conclusions on who these people we’ve never met are because of the slices of their lives we’re privy to. These perceptions then come full circle to impact the lives of the subjects at hand. Perfect Blue showcased the pitfalls of such a cycle 20 years before it became the norm.
Mima’s fans take offense as her persona shifts from the idol industry’s carefully crafted personification of innocence to an actress with a mature image. Her world devolves into madness as violent acts are committed by individuals disgruntled with the new Mima. This has been mirrored in modern idol culture in situations where idols have been made to debase themselves and at times physically attacked when they break the facade that the public believes to be real. It turns out that what Perfect Blue portrayed as horror isn’t so fictitious after all. The personal information about ourselves that’s more readily available than ever before becomes a part of who we are.
Okinawa huts raise questions about care for mentally ill (The Asahi Shimbun, Kyosuke Yamamoto)
The huts, formerly used to forcibly imprison the mentally ill, have been preserved as a reminder for modern society.
According to a book titled “Isei Hachiju-nen Shi” (80 years of history of medical system) issued in 1955 by the health ministry, more than 7,000 people with mental illnesses were confined inside sheds across the country in 1935.
“Confinement of the mentally ill in a shed lacked consideration for human rights and the medical care was insufficient,” said Akira Hashimoto, professor of history of mental health at Aichi Prefectural University. “The wretched treatment for the mentally ill worsened their negative image.”
Confinement of the mentally ill in huts was banned by a mental health law that went into force in 1950.
However, it had been a legally and socially accepted practice under the Ryukyu mental health law in Okinawa, which had been under the control of the United States following Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II until 1972, when Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty.
Voice actresses applying for roles in ‘Kemono Friends’ anime must say how big their breasts are (Japan Today, Casey Baseel)
Audition forms included actress measurements as required fields, as well as a photograph.
It’s also worth noting that while the applicant’s measurements are a must, the section for academic and professional experience is optional, and can be left completely blank (though the box for “hobbies/special talents” must be filled in).
“This is so creepy…” tweeted @fanzell_lolott2.
But while asking aspiring voice actresses for their measurements is unusual, it’s pretty much the norm for live-action acting and modeling in Japan. It’s also worth pointing out that, as per the “Kemono Friends” application site, the producers aren’t looking just for voice actresses, but for members of a new idol unit, which in today’s industry means the voice actresses will expected to perform on stage in front of fans of the anime at promotional events. That puts them closer to the sphere of mainstream, in-front-of-the-camera entertainers, which in the Japanese show business world usually means having to fit with mainstream ideas of beauty.
This week’s community section is dedicated to what might be the best comment thread we’ve ever had on the site, regarding Yamada’s First Time.