This week: women in construction work, Liz and the Blue Bird, and Ikuhara anime.
Alison Tam explores Ooku’s story of an alternate history of a woman-centered Tokugawa dynasty, and how the narrative’s characters still have to live within a patriarchy-shaped system.
Dee compares the successes and failures of After the Rain versus Ristorante Paradiso, with a focus on the relative age and independence of the younger female character, her outside goals and relationships, and how visual coding encourages a viewer to consume certain characters as relatable versus desirable.
Vrai and Caitlin gush about one of their all-time favorite anime, while Dee provides a more levelheaded anchor.
Sometimes you just want a series that gives you the warm fuzzies. What’s yours?
In Japan, Voters Are Wary of Mothers in Public Office (The New York Times, Yuri Nagano)
Only 10% of Japan’s House of Representatives is made up of women, and within those small numbers there is enormous pushback and discrimination against women who keep their job after becoming mothers.
These days, Ms. Suzuki is focused on policy measures such as allowing elected officials to take time off when they are injured or sick. She’s also pushing to allow proxy voting for such lawmakers.
Ms. Suzuki said she was confronted almost daily with questions about her daughter. “Why was she working when she had a baby to take care of,” she recalled being asked. “I get a lot of ‘I feel sorry for your baby.’ Or, ‘Don’t you need to be at home with your baby?’ Or, ‘A mother not being with their child at this stage could negatively affect how the child grows up.’ It’s discouraging.”
Ms. Suzuki has chosen not to breast-feed and that, too, has drawn criticism. “It’s easiest to not say anything when I get these types of comments, and many people don’t realize these are just their own beliefs,” she said. “I try very hard to let them know my child is fine and we’re doing very well.
“Unless I reassure them, new mothers following my footsteps will also have to endure this criticism.”
Eulogy for the Fool – Ikuhara Kunihiko and Ohtsuki Kana Discussion (Japanese Translation)
Ikuhara discusses his ethos and the general themes of his work, and how he approaches storytelling.
Ikuhara: I do of course think that some won’t be able to like a certain kind of character, or when a character’s not a certain way maybe people won’t come to like them, but that’s just something superficial, as what I want to write are characters that are foolish. It’s their foolishness that makes them so lovable. It’s not that they’re cool because they’re right, or they’re just because they’re saving their friends, but rather it’s the opposite. Betraying their friends or clearly opposing society; it’s in this foolishness that love can be felt. I like characters where the people watching can say “That’s not right!”, so I always try as much as possible to find these sorts of areas in my characters. The more likeable I try to make a character the more of an uphill battle it becomes. I don’t really have the words inside me to make a scenario using a good person. Foolish things like doing such a thing as to hurt someone, or deceiving someone by telling a lie; I have many words inside me for this. What I want to see from fiction are these foolish parts. Characters that have a relationship with someone able to forgive despite their foolishness, or characters who form a connection with someone who is able to like them – I make characters with their foolishness at their centre. The characters that I am able to love inside me are each foolish.
BADASS WOMEN IN JAPANESE HISTORY (Tofugu)
Four collected articles (thus far) that each chronicle a different influential woman in Japanese history, from warriors to poets.
Japanese history, like most history, is a bit of a sausage fest. You’ll have no problem finding records of famous and infamous dudes. But ladies? Sorry. Historymen had too many men to write about.
That’s why we started the Badass Women in Japanese History series. We wanted to highlight the amazing lives and sheer badassery of historical Japanese women.
Learn about the sword-swinging, warrior-beheading exploits of Tomoe Gozen, the 12th century onna musha. Follow the pen of Murasaki Shikibu, the world’s first novelist and Heian noble extraordinaire. Explore the mysteries of Queen Himiko, the first ruler of Japan and first historically recorded Japanese person ever.
We’re always adding to this series so check back often. We hope to bring the exploits of amazing Japanese women to light.
The Visible Storm of Yuri Kuma Arashi (Atelier Emily)
How the visual design in Yurikuma illustrates the conflict between the stated desire to fit in homogenously and the true individuality of the cast, even the secondary characters.
It’s no coincidence that all of them end up transforming into bears, or are eaten by bears. Yuri Kuma Arashi makes it clear that queerness is not limited to those who are excluded, like Kureha, or identified (outed) as bears, like Lulu and Ginko. The lines dividing bear and not bear are purposefully muddied — even the physical ones that can be seen all around the city are not uniform and are always under construction. By making these young women immediately identifiable in a pattern despite their claim to invisibility, Yuri Kuma Arashi further underlines the futility of their resistance to the love shown by Kureha and Ginko.
Looking back at Yakuza 3 and its rare portrayal of orphans in Japan (Zam, Kazuma Hashimoto)
Yakuza 3 centers much of its plot on running an orphanage and uses that setting as a springboard to discuss how bureaucracy and social stigma harm orphaned children in Japan.
Moreover, while the game portrays Kiryu’s seaside orphanage as picturesque, that is not the case where a majority of Japan’s orphanages are concerned. Many orphanages are grossly overcrowded and understaffed, leaving children neglected and without proper care. The player gets a glimpse of this in a flashback with Yakuza 3’s main antagonist, Yoshitaka Mine. Mine shares that he too was an orphan; a victim of a society and system that neglected him. “Loved by no one. Needed by no one,” he explains he joined the yakuza to forge bonds with others in a world that had left him feeling alone and unwanted. While Mine’s story is dramatic, his experience is not wholly uncommon. A large number of real-life yakuza come from socially ostracized backgrounds in Japan, many of them discriminated against because of ancestry or ethnicity. Orphans, delinquents, and bosozoku (biker gangs) also gravitate toward the yakuza in order to find feelings of acceptance or family.
Japan Wants More Women in Construction. Pink Toilets May Not Be Helping. (The New York Times, Mari Saito)
Promotional campaigns have involved lots of pink and flowers, but so far little has been done to address actual on-the-job parity and combat sexism from male workers.
“There are still plenty of men who don’t want to take orders from women,” Ms. Komorita said. Recently, she said, one of her female employees was mocked by workers she supervised as being “hysterical” when she demanded that a certain project be completed in time.
Wages also remain a problem. Despite the labor shortage, construction workers earn on average 25 percent less than their peers in other industries. And women in construction earned 30 percent less on average than their male counterparts, according to a 2016 government report.
“With these wages, you can earn the same or even a bit more money at supermarkets or factories,” said Hirotake Kanisawa, a professor in the department of architecture at Shibaura Institute of Technology, “and compared to those kinds of jobs, construction is much harder.”
Liz and the Blue Bird: Interview with Director Yamada Naoko (Japanese Translations)
An interview abut the upcoming Sound Euphonium-adjacent film, focusing on the relationship between two different young women.
Nozomi’s existence is the world to Mizore and so the shape of her ‘love’ towards Nozomi just doesn’t match up with the shape of Nozomi’s ‘love’ towards Mizore. This work carefully digs down into this difference in their shape of thought. They both love each other and can’t have a relationship without being interested in the other, but the shapes just don’t match…… But I don’t think it’s just that the shapes are missing each other. It’s a bit like two cogs of different sizes coming together for just a brief moment. I wanted to depict this moment between the two in a hopeful manner.
It’s Time To Stop Acting Like Nobody Watches Anime (Kotaku, Gita Jackson)
Anime is mainstream now. And that’s great; or, about the shocked gatekeeping responses to celebrities publicly liking anime.
When you see someone like Kim Kardashian in Tokyo shopping for manga or declaring her love for anime on Twitter and Instagram, it seems a little shocking. But she would have been around 17 when Sailor Moon made its debut in the United States, and with three sisters, two of them younger, it’s pretty likely that someone in the Kardashian household would have an interest in the show. Britney Spears’s son loves Dragon Ball Z with the ferocity of many young boys before him, but Britney herself also has Sailor Moon merch she keeps in her gym. Why not? When the show aired on television, she would have been around sixteen, right in the target demographic. Michael B. Jordan’s show of choice is Naruto, another show that aired on Toonami and then on Crunchyroll. He didn’t have to take an exam to find out about this show. He just had to have some enthusiasm for stories about friendship and ninjas, and either an internet connection or cable. Anime is just part of our world at this point. Maybe it’s time to stop acting surprised that people like it.
Vampire Princess Miyu: We Need More Shoujo Horror (Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, Vrai Kaiser)
A review of the Miyu OVA, a rare work of anime horror both starring women and drawn from shoujo source material.
The issue of Miyu’s age seems like an odd sticking point given anime’s general handling of the subject (primer: it’s bad at it), but this now 30-year-old OVA stands in stark contrast to how it would’ve been handled were it released today—that handling, in turn, is wrapped around why OVA excels as a horror series.
Miyu’s body is not a source of appeal for others but centralized as a source of anguish for her. Because she’s still 14 and will be 14 as long as she’s tasked with banishing Shinma, her life is completely derailed. She’ll never have an adult body or be able to achieve adult milestones, and her power to give others immortality is a stand-in for actually being able to build relationships with them. The coquettish elements of her character are half-measures that don’t make her happy. They are stand-ins for growing up, and they come across as such (I believe this blog has been quite vocal about its love for the horror of child vampires).
Part of this is down to the manga and its spinoffs being marketed as shoujo. These stories were created for an audience of young women, with Miyu as someone for them to identify with rather than someone for a male audience to lust after. Through that lens, the OVA begins to fall into place.
How Netflix’s ‘The Outsider’ Dangerously Perpetuates The Fetishizing Of Asian Women (Bustle, Olivia Truffaut-Wong)
A rundown of how Netflix’s newest film, about a white man joining the yakuza, uses its female characters as props and plot devices.
Throughout most of The Outsider, Asian women are kept in the background, seen and not heard. They are half naked strippers and prostitutes, actors and arm candy — little more than hyper-sexualized set dressing. This is not only the norm set by the movie, but by the world it portrays. On his first yakuza mission, Nick confronts an American trader who lashes out at him, accusing Nick of “banging some slanty-eyed broad.” And this line perfectly sums up how the movie sees Asian women. The one named female character in The Outsider is Miyu (Shiori Kutsuna), and her sole purpose is to entice Nick into bed, get pregnant, get beaten and almost raped, and then get rescued (in that order).
anime fans pic.twitter.com/LehXTBTBxL
— SungWon Cho (ProZD) (@prozdkp) March 12, 2018
Y’all love iyashikei, it turns out. We had way more examples than could possibly fit here, so make sure you head over to Twitter to see what other shows people are excited about!
Mushishi. The protagonist forced to constantly wander from place to place is an apt metaphor of how life is, or can feel. Some episodes switch genres, too, from Horror to SoL, and I find that quite true to life, too. Watching it feels cathartic. pic.twitter.com/TNNNiJy2j1
— No blasphemy before tea (@PretentiousSong) March 13, 2018
Non Non Biyori! Their innocent shenanigans and distinctive personalities combined with the gorgeous backgrounds and simple music makes watching the anime such a soothing and happy experience.
Azumanga Diaoh and Minami-ke will also always have special places for me, too!
— Enyo (@Enyo287) March 13, 2018
for iyashikei, either Tanaka-kun is Always Listless or Laid-Back Camp
but what truly heals me, no joke, is the very not-iyashikei Hajime no Ippo pic.twitter.com/GFx4Hwrrl3
— Nate????????GDC Parties! (@NateMing) March 13, 2018