Part 1 of our super-sized shoujo manga podcast discussion with Caitlin and special guests Ashley and Lianne! In this part, the trio discusses their experiences with the demographic genre, its strengths, and weaknesses.
Date Recorded: 21st April 2018
Guests: Lianne Sentar, Ashley
0:03:06 Past experience with shoujo
0:10:49 Strengths of the genre
0:29:36 Weaknesses of the genre
CAITLIN: Hi and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Caitlin, a writer and editor for Anime Feminist, as well as the owner of the blog, Heroine Problem. Joining me today are Ashley and Lianne!
ASHLEY: Hi, I’m Ashley. I run a shoujo manga podcast called Shojo and Tell.
LIANNE: I’m Lianne Sentar. I’m the marketing manager at Seven Seas Entertainment and editor at Sparkler Monthly.
CAITLIN: So today, we are talking about a subject very near and dear to all of our hearts: shoujo manga!
CAITLIN: So, sho—yay!
CAITLIN: Shoujo manga, if you’re not aware of what that is, is basically manga and anime aimed at girls. It was, you know, originally created, more or less, as a marketing term, I believe. Shoujo is, in addition to the sort of… thematic writing and storytelling approaches, is separated out by what is advertised in magazines.
So a shoujo manga magazine is gonna have a lot of ads for things like makeup and clothes, whereas a series aimed at other demographics will have advertisements aimed at other—at their target demographics.
That is really the—probably the one true defining trait of shoujo manga versus others because the lines get a little blurry sometimes.
LIANNE: Yeah, they usually say whatever demographic the magazine that it ran in is aimed at, that’s kind of your official label. Even though… you know, there’s some things that are technically shounen. For example, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, I think is—
LIANNE: —technically in a shounen magazine and stuff.
LIANNE: Or Horimiya, I hear, called shoujo manga a lot.
LIANNE: Or, I think, technically Black Butler is a shounen…
CAITLIN: Yep, that’s a Shonen JUMP, I think!
LIANNE: No! I think it’s G-Fantasy or something. It’s a Square—I’m pretty sure it’s a Square Enix title.
CAITLIN: Hmm. [crosstalk] I’m not sure.
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Though I’m not sure. That would be a bit…
CAITLIN: No! Someone lied to me then! Oh well! [laughs] Someone lied to me. So… that is, more or less, what shoujo is. Less officially, it does tend to have a more emotionally driven and romance-driven stories—and less action-driven. But that is not a hard and fast rule.
CAITLIN: So… let’s first talk about how exactly we got into shoujo. For me personally, my first shoujo anime was Fushigi Yugi.
ASHLEY: Oh yeah?
CAITLIN: Which I [laughs] which I have talked about at length on this podcast. [laughs] But if you have not listened to the Fushigi Yugi watchalong, basically, I was twelve years old, I had never really seen anything like it.
It was… a series about a girl going on adventures, having these trials, and that really wasn’t something that existed very much for twelve-year-old me. You know… So when I read it, it was like, “Oh, this is a story with things I like! Adventure! Fantasy! Action! But with a girl and her emotions as the main focus.”
LIANNE: Twelve’s a bit young to watch Fushigi Yugi.
CAITLIN: I know! I know! [laughs] But at the same time, like… if I hadn’t seen [or] gotten into Fushigi Yugi after, like, the classic—at the time—entry point of Studio Ghibli and Ranma 1/2, I don’t know if anime would have been a lifelong thing for me. So, yeah: Fushigi Yuugi is very important to me, very near and dear to my heart.
So that was sort of what kept me going with shoujo manga for a long time was…you know, stuff like that, like Magic Knight Rayearth—basically all the isekai series. Because it showed, you know, young women like me being capable and important and maybe making mistakes, but also sort of leading the story.
ASHLEY: I would jump in to say that my experience is actually very similar to Caitlin, at least in regards to shoujo manga-slash-anime. I also watched FY around the age of twelve to thirteen, which—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Dang!
ASHLEY: —is, yes… definitely too young. But… [laughs]
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Did it mess you guys up? [laughs] Like, I was like, fifteen or sixteen when I watched it, and I was like, “Whoa! Okay!”
ASHLEY: Yes! Yes it did, it ruined us forever!
LIANNE: You can trace particular traumas to that.
CAITLIN: Well, it literally… yes!
ASHLEY: I got into it with a bunch of friends. I think that that was like… maybe helpful in making it less traumatic.
CAITLIN: Mitigate some of that content.
ASHLEY: Yeah… But like, yeah, we were all just really into, you know, like “Oh, you know, who’s the hottest celestial warrior?” But it was also great because—yeah, it was about two female friends and I watched, like, so many cartoons.
I would watch—you know, I didn’t have cable or anything growing up, but like, Saturday morning cartoon line-up, watched five hours of that straight. But it’s all mostly dude shows, right? Like it was like superhero shows and…. I don’t know. I remember like, Static Shock, and like maybe there’s some Pokemon in there eventually, and stuff like that.
But then Escaflowne is the thing that really started this. And then, from there, my friend recommended FY and then we got really into that. And then from there goes further into shoujo manga. We were like, “Okay, we’re gonna get farther into manga. We’re gonna buy more Watase things.” Like Watase’s probably the one mangaka that we like, knew [laughs] as a person.
CAITLIN: Oh yeah! Oh yeah!
CAITLIN: She was super important to me when I was growing up. [crosstalk] For better or for worse.
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] Yeah—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Yeah, well, she keeps churning out the good stuff, you know?
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] I know!
LIANNE: I think she might be slowing down now. She’s had chronic health problems for a really long time. I think that she said that the current Fushigi Yugi she’s working on is the last one. And which makes sense, right? She’s on the fourth girl. But I… I almost wonder if she’s slowing down kind of in general, maybe?
CAITLIN: Yeah, you—she’s been doing it for so long, and manga writing is really bad for your health. Like, honestly the anime and manga industry is very exploitative.
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Oh yeah, for sure.
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] Yeah…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] But we won’t— [pained laughter]
LIANNE: She works noon to midnight every day. [crosstalk]
CAITLIN: But— [crosstalk] Or that’s what she said in an interview a while ago. Oh my gosh, I couldn’t survive that. I would burn out so fast.
ASHLEY: It’s really awful.
CAITLIN: Sometimes I feel—like, sometimes I feel close to that because I do freelance writing on top of a full-time job, but like… Oh, no. And for as long as she’s been doing it, too!
ASHLEY: Yeah, I mean, she’s—it feels like she’s definitely slowing down, ‘cause she, you know, she took a hiatus. She takes more hiatuses I guess? Is, uh…
ASHLEY: Like there was a long hiatus when Genbu Kaiden was coming out, and now… Byakko is coming out. But, who knows? She might have to go on hiatus for that. I don’t know, there’s only like a volume out.
LIANNE: I mean she’s—let me think. [pause] Well, she’s been doing it—she debuted quite young. I’m pretty sure her debut, like, she was like… 18 or 19.
CAITLIN: Yeah! Because Fushigi Yugi, she was 22 when she started, and she had already done a series before that.
LIANNE: So, I mean… so that was 20 years ago. Well, actually more like 25. Well… I feel like Fushigi Yuugi the manga was—it aired on TV in ‘96, so it probably [crosstalk] started as a manga.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It started in 1992!
LIANNE: Was it ‘92? Geez!
CAITLIN: It was ‘92!
LIANNE: It’s just like Sailor Moon! Well actually, that’s when the anime Sailor Moon started, I think. Wow! Yeah, so she’s—[laughs] if I were her… I’d probably stop. [laughs]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Or like, go to novel writing or something that’s just a little bit less hard on your body, maybe. You know?
LIANNE: She had a number of novels that she sort of—I mean, I think they had somebody else write them, but you know, they’re a bunch Ceres novels.
CAITLIN: Yeah, she did the outline for the Fushigi Yugi novels—
LIANNE: —That eventually got animated. So it was cool.
CAITLIN: Unfortunately. [laughs]
LIANNE: Well, I mean… [laughs] Okay, if you wanna argue about the story on that, fine.
LIANNE: But… I always like when spin-off stuff ends up being folded into the biggest format canon. So, like, when you get these spin-off things that get put into the anime. That was true with like, World’s Greatest First Love I think, too. I think there was a whole couple that was literally just novel form, and they just kind of put them in with the other guys.
CAITLIN: But Lianne, how did you get into shoujo manga?
LIANNE: Sailor Moon, like a lot of women of my age. [laughs] I was, uh… 14, when it first started coming out on American TV, dubbed. And that was—there wasn’t much else, anime, at the time. It was basically that and Dragon Ball. Debuted similarly, on American TV, like around the same time.
And all the dudes were into Dragon Ball, and a lot of girls were into Sailor Moon. Like it wasn’t just the nerds, it was like, the cool girls and stuff. So, I got kind of in that way, and also, it was just completely different from everything else I’d seen before. Just anything from Japan. I mean at that point, there’d been a little bit of like, A-ko—Project A-ko, I don’t if you guys are familiar, it’s a really old—
CAITLIN: Oh no, I’ve heard of it.
LIANNE: Yeah, it was one of the earlier anime OVAs that came over here. I think even… Cartoon Network put some of the movies on or the SYFY Channel, or something crazy. It was just one of those early experimental things like Ninja Scroll. We’re talking like, early to mid-90s stuff. But… yeah, Sailor Moon was… and then I got a job in it shortly after, so…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah! [laughs]
LIANNE: [crosstalk] There was no [unintelligible beneath laughter].
CAITLIN: So I think we are all saying similar things in that we had never really seen anything like shoujo manga when we came across it. So what exactly was personally appealing about it? Was it just that it was, you know, like I said, girls taking charge, being the focus? Was that mostly it?
LIANNE: I mean, yeah, there was kind of the centralizing female characters and what they felt and what they were going through as sort of the central narrative.
I thought the way they dealt with boys was very different too? Instead of having, you know, the one boy, or in the case—I mean, Sailor Moon had the one boy, to be fair. In everything beyond Sailor Moon, I should say. You know, Fushigi Yuugi is a great example of that. There was like—here’s a cavalcade of hot dudes.
LIANNE: And it kind of–she ended up being bounced between two, the way that, you know, even YA fiction for girls have moved. There’s often like a love triangle—so there’s two different guys—but just being surrounded by that and having options and just feeling that everything from… you know, not just the main girl but also the boys around her and the story construction was all catering to women 100% of the time. There was no point where it was like, they expected boys to be able to relate.
CAITLIN: Right! There is—there is no, like, “Fellas!” sort of moment.
LIANNE: No! Not at all! And even when you have things that would maybe be in Hollywood or something—if you have, like, “girl in the bath,” might be sort of the “Oh, let’s see this famous actress’s boobs!” Even when they did scenes like that in shoujo, you could tell it was because they were feeling vulnerable at the time.
They’re sitting in the bathtub, you know—or it’s supposed to be relatable. Or if anyone’s gonna get turned on, it’s gonna be women who are attracted to women. Like it was still marketed to women and girls.
LIANNE: So, like… to me, that kind of—being catered to on every level… was just awesome! [laughs] You know? At no point did I feel like I was not supposed to be in the front row
LIANNE: Like in the splash zone.
LIANNE: Like, this is all girls, you should be with all your girlfriends, and you should all get together and watch this together, and who cares if boys don’t want it.
So much of—especially Western media, which does not separate by gender quite as much as Japan does—so much of it is, like, they’re terrified of boys not wanting to watch. Um… and shoujo—
LIANNE: —shoujo does not give a fuck.
CAITLIN: That’s so true. I was just thinking that everything—even stuff that has a largely female cast, or female main characters, there’s always at least one moment where it’s like, “And here’s for the boys!”
LIANNE: Or it’s just like, male writers who—the women are just really unrealistic or unlikable. Like, from the top to the bottom, the creation of shoujo is just—
LIANNE: —there are men involved sometimes for sure. [crosstalk] Like there are male editors, there are male animators, there are male directors…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I think that—
LIANNE: …but it’s like they have to know how to play the game to even get in the door. And I know that Naoko Takeuchi, the mangaka of Sailor Moon has—way back in the day, I was reading interviews with her, and she said, “The manga’s gonna feel very different— Rather, the manga will feel different from the anime because the anime is mostly animated by men. Whereas the manga is… I drew that.”
Even though she had a famously—had a male editor, they’re—the uncompromising power of femininity in her manga is… It’s like an epic poem. I never thought Sailor Moon the manga was that much of a sentai show, not that much of a… you know, a superhero story. It kind of started that way and it went full-on existential artistry about, like, femininity and the various forms of femininity that are all valid.
And, you know, women getting it on with other women, and men wanting to dress like women, or men wanting to become women. Like every variation of feminine power you could possibly think of and it was all done in a really awesome, artsy kind of style.
Which at the time I was reading it as a teenager, I kind of didn’t get. [laughs] But as an adult, I’m very glad that she was 100% uncompromising on that. That every story she wanted to tell was about feminine power coded in a lot of different ways.
There was no one version of feminine power either, you know. Which most people know famously because of Sailor Jupiter, who is a tough girl. And then they expand it into the like 19,000 Sailors [laughs] of all different types.
CAITLIN: All right: my confession is that I have not actually seen very much Sailor Moon. [laughs] Most of what I know about it is from cultural osmosis.
ASHLEY: Also have to admit that I’ve watched, like… 30 episodes semi-recently though, so… there is that.
LIANNE: I mean, I think it stands up pretty well, but it’s not something that I return to a lot because it was more—it was really important when I was a teenager and growing into a woman to see that kind of material. And it—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh yeah.
LIANNE: [crosstalk] —it left a profound effect on me. But I don’t really go back to it because it was specifically a growth experience. And I know different people feel differently about that—some people, they are still [going] back and watch Sailor Moon when they’re having a bad day. And like, more power to ‘em.
But to me it was like—and that’s when I think people should be reading and watching Sailor Moon, when they’re not sure how to be a woman. Because it’s like, here’s the ten trillion ways that you’re already a woman and why it gives you magic.
CAITLIN: Yeah, um… yeah. Ashley do you have anything that’s like—that was particular to shoujo for you other than what we’ve already talked about?
ASHLEY: Yeah, I mean I think also the general prettiness of the art is not something that is typically done in Western animation.
ASHLEY: That I was like, “Oh!”
CAITLIN: All the flowers!
ASHLEY: All the flowers, like everybody…
ASHLEY: Everybody—not just hot dudes looking hot, but the girls look really pretty. Like, it was just…
ASHLEY: …great that way. Yeah, in terms of having dude options as well, as like… [laughs] Watching cartoons—I had a big struggle with femininity from, like… I played ice hockey, but only on all-male teams. I would get upset if people said I looked cute and stuff. I cried when my coach said I looked cute in a dress once ‘cause I did not wanna wear a dress and be different [laughs] and stuff.
ASHLEY: So like, those types of things. So then, that’s when I’m seven. So then watching shoujo anime and reading shoujo manga was helpful in being like, “This is not so bad.” I could identify—I was actually supposed to objectify those dudes in shoujo manga, in way? [laughs] Whereas, you know, otherwise watching cartoons, you’re doing it as a girl, but knowing that that story is not made for you.
ASHLEY: And it’s cool to identify with the male character, but it’s so annoying that dudes would never identify with a female character in the same way. So it was just—it was just a very good transitional thing for me. It’s helped me realize, in my struggle for femininity, that it’s okay, to have feelings. Seriously!
CAITLIN: Mm. Yeah!
ASHLEY: Being beautiful is cool! That’s fine!
CAITLIN: We sort of talked about a lot of the best things about shoujo manga—and I do wanna throw in also, like, not just the way it is supportive of femininity and the female perspective, but also the emotionality of it.
Shoujo manga tends to be very emotionally driven and very focused on the characters thoughts and feelings and perspectives, and I feel like that has always been really important to me. From my early fandom days, I would write the introspective fanfiction or write really melodramatic stuff.
ASHLEY: [enthusiastically] Yes! Right!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Good stuff, you mean.
CAITLIN: Even when I was just into [laughs] when I was into Animorphs I would just write all these melodramatic scenarios. And it was just well before shoujo manga touched my life. [laughs]
LIANNE: Yeah. I used to joke with my friends that shounen is all about the goal; shoujo is about the journey. I think of so many shoujo series that they start with a premise that they ditch almost immediately in favor of something that was more fun. A really good example of that is High School Debut, which—
CAITLIN: Oh! I just started reading that!
ASHLEY: Oh, I love it! Yeah!
LIANNE: It is a delight. You’re going to love it. But Volume 1 is completely different from Volume 2 and on, because it was like, “Oh, this is this cool guy! He’s gonna teach me to be cool!” And then it’s like, “No actually, we’re all a bunch of giant dorks. Let’s just goof off and have fun and who cares.”
And there are quite a few shoujo like that that kind of spiral in the best sort of way. Anything by Yoshiki Nakamura is good. She does Skip Beat, but before she did Skip Beat—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Okay.
LIANNE: —she did Tokyo Crazy Paradise, which is the best! It’s like the best manga ever and it will never come over here because the art is too ugly and dated. But it was—she actually combined shoujo and shounen tropes in a way that’s very interesting and also completely batshit. I highly recommend her; I don’t know if you guys have read Skip Beat.
CAITLIN: Actually… I read quite a bit of Skip Beat. I actually ended up dropping it partially because it sort of got away from the central premise…
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Yes.
CAITLIN: …which was—that was interesting to me. I liked the angry heroine, I liked—who was motivated by—
CAITLIN: Revenge! And once that sort of started not being a thing as much anymore, I was like, [hesitant] “Mmmmmm…”
LIANNE: Yeah, all her stuff goes—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] …less interested.
LIANNE: [crosstalk] —totally off the rails. And I don’t think entirely by design, but it’s just the way she writes. And then she’ll do things like break the fourth wall; she’ll turn metaphors literal; she just kind of, whenever she feels like doing something weird, she’ll do it. That’s why I really like her as a mangaka because she’s constantly surprising me. You have to have a very high suspension of disbelief in her stuff because her premises are always just out-of-the-stratosphere weird.
I’m glad Skip Beat’s doing well because… that’s not something that I thought would be super marketable the way that she writes where she’s like, “I’m bored with this thing now. I’m gonna do this other wacky thing!” [laughs]
Yeah, I mean, the central conflict, it’s like, trying to get back at her ex-boyfriend? I mean, there was like thirteen volumes where he wasn’t even in it anymore ‘cause it really wasn’t even about him. It was about her trying to decide if she needed—if she had, if she was able to let go of hate in her heart. That [she] was kind of like, “Who cares about what happens to him? I need to live my life. Is this something I can let go?” And then as she’s peeling away the layers of crazy, it’s like, oh boy… there’s a lot of shit to unpack here.
ASHLEY: I will admit that I’ve only watched the anime of Skip Beat, but this does remind me of one of the things I love about shoujo manga: is the focus on female friendships in particular.
LIANNE: Oh yeah!
ASHLEY: Like, I really got into watching Skip Beat. I was like, “I don’t care about whatever this dumb romantic drama that’s happening!” [laughs] And I feel similarly about stuff like Kimi ni Todoke. I’m like, “Eh… whatever. [chuckling] Yeah, this romance is fine, but I am here for the three main females and their friendship.” Like, let’s be real here! [laughter]
That’s basically how I felt about watching Skip Beat. I liked watching them be like, initially, always rivals because they’re in a very competitive modelling/acting business, but then they always become friends. And I was like, “Yes. I’m here for this.”
LIANNE: Yeah, the female friendships in that one are really good. I happen to actually really like the love story in Skip Beat mostly because her actual love interest, Ren Tsuruga, is in my Top 5 Shoujo Heroes of all time. That dude is messed up. [laughs] They go into it over time, but it’s like—again, batshit insane, the levels of crazy that all of them are dealing with. Some of them are good crazy and some of them are like… whoa boy, I gotta fix this, I gotta get over this trauma.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah!
LIANNE: I gotta, you know, stop doing—and especially in that series, because they’re performers, it goes into why somebody would be an actor in a totally different way from most things. It’s not about being famous, it’s not about performing, it’s about, like… if you can’t find your own identity, sometimes it’s easier to take on somebody else’s.
Ren is so deep in his own shit that he doesn’t even know who he is anymore. And she doesn’t know which one is him ‘cause he keeps having all these personas and she’s like, “Which one is the real one?” It’s kind of hinted at, and he’s got an eating disorder that took this really weird format that I totally loved where if he hates something he’ll like, write it on a omurice and eat it, and he’s like, “Eat your FEAR!” [laughter] And it’s amazing! So…
CAITLIN: That—now you’re making me wanna read it again!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] I love it!
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] I’m waiting for it to finish! It’s so long!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely too long.
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] I’m waiting for the sixty volumes to end or whatever.
LIANNE: Yeah. She even said, that—you know, the author’s note, she’s apologizing. She’s like, “This arc is supposed to be a book and a half, and I’m on like, book eight and just… I’m really sorry, why are people still paying me to write this?” So…
CAITLIN: But people love it so she can do pretty much whatever she wants.
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] Yeah! No, I really want it to go on forever. Like, Skip Beat is the shoujo—is like, the shounen equivalent in shoujo, right, at this point?
LIANNE: [crosstalk] It is! Yeah!
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] Like that’s how I think of it. So I want it to go on forever.
CAITLIN: What is—
LIANNE: There’s like, tournament sections in it too, like who’s the better actor. It gets into the whole, everybody having a reaction shot and people trying to out-act each other in real time, and you’re like, “What the fuck?! This manga’s great! Why?!”
CAITLIN: Um… So that—yeah, you know what, actually, there was one thing in particular that made me drop Skip Beat, which was a personal issue for me. Just sort of something that I cannot really deal with in fiction and—they were, when Ren was first starting to be interested in Kyoko. He was feeling bad because she’s high school-aged and he’s an adult and like, a bunch of people were like, [breezily] “Oh, four years isn’t that much difference! If you don’t get her now, someone else is gonna come along and snatch her up!”
That just sort of…. ugh, kind of set off my creep meter. And I wasn’t—like I said, I was a little bit over it anyways, and that just sort of led me to putting it down and never picking it back up.
LIANNE: [understandingly] Yeah. I would say, in Skip Beat’s defense, there’s a lot of really creepy stuff that is shown. That’s one of them to be shown that that is the outside influences that they are feeling.
There’s even kind of an attempted rape and stuff that—well, sort of, that happens later, and they’re kind of addressing, “This is how it’s going to be dealt with in the press.” And she’s like, “Okay, I can decide how I’m gonna deal with it, and the press is kind of a separate issue.”
And not everything is handled super well. I thought Ren’s deliberations over her age were very realistic. It’s made clear over the course of the series that this is a real issue for him. He’s thinking ser—like, I fully believe that—‘cause I haven’t read the last couple of volumes; I’m a few volumes behind; I think I stopped somewhere in the thirties [laughs]—that once they get together, they’re basically gonna get married and have kids. They’ve done all of the stuff you do with somebody you’re going to marry. Like, the way that they’ve built their relationship.
One thing I also really like about it is that they show that he had a sexual history. I mean, he’s—what is he, twenty? He’s older, but he’s not that old; twenty or twenty-two or something. A lot of the time in shoujo, they’ll kind of be like, “Oh, he’s… You know, he’s never been with a girl!” and whatever. And it’s like, “He’s the hottest guy in Hollywood or whatever; of course he’s had sex with women.”
They kind of brush upon that and he also compares it to how different this situation is. That he’s like, “Well, you know, I’ve had relationships so I know what I’m getting into and she’s younger than me. And I know that this is different. How am I gonna handle this?”
And I really liked that. I mean, he acted more like an adult, the way that people in shoujo—a lot of the time adults do not act like adults, especially if they’re a love interest. But… I thought his whole thing was just really interesting. Like it was an actual kind of conflict, but also you could see how it would work, despite it being, you know…
CAITLIN: Right! And yeah, and shoujo manga is actually… I’m looking at my bookshelf, and looking at Fruits Basket right now as I say this. So, shoujo manga is not afraid to tackle difficult topics.
CAITLIN: Like, whether or not they succeed with it is another thing. ‘Cause I feel like when they do well with it, it’s really, really powerful. And I mean, shoujo is such a broad category, right? Like, there’s always going to be some good stuff and some bad stuff that handles certain things well; stuff that handles certain things poorly.
But it’s like… like I’m looking at Fruits Basket. Fruits Basket and uh… Utena and Paradise Kiss, which is, I guess, josei, but… which is also a mixed bag in how well it handles things.
But, you know, just… What are some of shoujo’s weaknesses, broadly speaking as well? Like what are some things you see that recur across the sort of demographic frequently that it’s just like [crosstalk] “Uuuuuugh, no, please don’t do that anymore?”
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Do you wanna start Ashley?
ASHLEY: [laughter] Yeah…
CAITLIN: Ashley, you wanna go first? It’s your turn.
ASHLEY: I’m thinking, I’m trying to –we’ve discussed, briefly, age gap romances and, of course, you know, talking about how it handles difficult topics. Of course, there are some that do it well, but I’m thinking—like, recently, I’ve been reading Takane and Hana, which is like…
CAITLIN and LIANNE: [crosstalk] Oh!
ASHLEY: …silly, but the whole premise is that it’s a massive age gap. Like, he’s 26 or something and, like, rich and needs to marry somebody. And she’s, like, taking the place of her older sister because the older sister was like, “I have a boyfriend and I don’t wanna marry this rich dude! Whatever!” [laughs]
So then, the younger sister is like, in high school and they keep—it’s supposed to be silly, it’s gag. I’m like, “I laugh at this,” but I’m also like, “I hate this whole premise! I don’t know how to reconcile those feelings.”
ASHLEY: And it’s just like—yeah, sometimes, I’ll just read stuff and be like… I don’t know. I just… it takes it too far. It’s not given the gravity that it deserved, in a way, sort of thing. I think that’s what always bothers me in any type of fiction, is when something big happens but it’s not given the weight that it kind of deserved.
And as long as you—like, I think FY stumbles with much of its… you know, darker issues. But I think that, you know, at least Watase knows that they’re dark issues and that they’re hard and will portray it in a way that is nuanced. If not nuanced, at least, like, is serious, so I’m like, “Okay, I can forgive any stumbles or understand them in this context.”
CAITLIN: Right! I feel like Fushigi Yugi takes certain things seriously that other shoujo manga tend not to. Like, you know… one very fair criticism of it is [the] overuse of sexual assault.
LIANNE: Yeah, there’s a lot of it. A lot!
CAITLIN: There’s a lot of it! But it does… other than—I mean, there are two, sort of two kinds of sexual assault in Fushigi Yuugi. There’s the kind where Hotohori and/or Tamahome do not understand the concept of boundaries.
CAITLIN: But there’s also, you know, there’s also times where the—that whole arc where the Seiryu Warriors are like, “Okay, our plan is to assault Miyaka so that she cannot summon a god.”
CAITLIN: Right. That was really frustrating and exhausting. But at the same time, it did take the assault seriously because—and Tamahome is generally a pretty good boyfriend, because—what I’m getting to here, which is probably pretty predictable for anyone familiar with my work—is that a lot of shoujo manga has abusive boyfriends!
CAITLIN: And Lianne, I know you wrote a blog post about that, many years ago. [laughs]
LIANNE: Yeah, I figure it was like 2006 or something.
CAITLIN: And I’ve been doing an ongoing series on Heroine Problem taking a look at a broad sampling of shoujo manga and being like: “What are they romanticizing here? What are they forgiving here? What are they portraying as acceptable that, no, it is not acceptable?” And there’s a lot of just… like, a lot of touching without consent, a lot of verbal abuse.
I’m currently working my way through Boys Over Flowers—
[ASHLEY and LIANNE groan]
CAILTIN: —and that series is just a hot mess!
LIANNE: You gotta get out of some of this ‘90s stuff! I mean—
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] Yeah!
CAITLIN: I actually have very little ‘90s stuff in there. [crosstalk] I just—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] This was a big thing in the ‘90s.
CAITLIN: Like, Boys Over Flowers is the only ‘90s series that I’ve been looking at for an extended period. And I’m just getting started on Hana Kimi, which is actually a very lovely series.
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Yeah, no that’s…
CAITLIN: But like—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] That series is super tame!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah. I read Black Bird…
LIANNE: Oh yeah! That’s a shoujo smut, like…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, like—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] The ones that have sex tend have more edge, you know—there’s not a lot of sweet sex in these. They’re usually edgy.
CAITLIN: [enthusiastically] Which I wish there was!
LIANNE: Yeah… you know, I mean, I think—I would say, like… maybe, some otome games, but they do tend to wrap the bad routes and the sex routes together pretty closely. So it is tricky.
CAITLIN: Probably like—Horimiya is not shoujo but it does handle sex really, really well. Even kinky sex, like… I read Black Bird and I get it. It’s sort of, kind of a kink thing in a lot of ways: that this dangerous boyfriend who yells at her and they give themselves to each other so fully. Please don’t—
LIANNE: He’s also a literal monster.
CAITLIN: —romanticize. Yeah! Like, please don’t romanticize co-dependence, please! In addition to romanticizing everything else!
I’m also gonna be starting Hot Gimmick and Honey Hunt soon.
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Nooo! Don’t—
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] Hot Gimmick is the worst!
[Unintelligible crosstalk; laughter]
CAITLIN: Listen: I’ve read Hot Gimmick. I also hate how easy to read they are!
LIANNE: Oh, she’s an amazing mangaka! Like—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh my gosh!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] —so much of what she does is amazing and morally reprehensible.
CAITLIN: When I check out each week’s books from the library, the first one I read is Boys Over Flowers because I can’t stop myself, but I hate it the whole time. So like, that’s always been a big sticking point with me, with shoujo manga. That and also um… [brief pause] They always marry their first love.
ASHLEY: Mm, yeah. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: They always get married—
LIANNE: [unintelligible beneath crosstalk] on the kiss then.
CAITLIN: That is honestly one of the lessons that I took away from shoujo manga that I shouldn’t is that, like, if you marry your best love, your first love, then that’s the most romantic thing ever, because… And I’ve brought this up on this podcast before. I stayed in my first relationship for way, way longer than I should have because, “No, I love him! He’s my first love!”
ASHLEY: Oh boy.
CAITLIN: “We’re gonna make it last forever!” No, it didn’t.
LIANNE: Yeah, that’s kind of tricky. Like, I—when we talk about stuff that annoys us about shoujo, mine is kind of a broader thing that ties into a lot of these things. It’s the way that the story acknowledges the patriarchy.
This is something that’s very common, not just in shoujo, but [also] in josei. It takes a lot of different forms, but it’s like… It’s when you have a girl. Let’s say a teen girl who’s really good at things and, you know, the people around her respect her. And her boyfriend—you know, she gets along with her boyfriend, whatever. Something will happen and they’re like, “You’re a girl after all!” And you hear even that line a lot.
LIANNE: So it’s either when, like, you let your guard down is another common thing. [crosstalk] Where it’s like, a boy will push her on the bed or something.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh my God! I hate that so much!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Or debate whether he’s gonna sexually assault her in her sleep. And that’s supposed to be romantic.
It’s also like, um… Josei—I actually have a lot of difficulty reading a lot of josei because they’re so depressing to me because [of] the way they directly acknowledge the patriarchy in a lot of those? ‘Cause a lot of them have to do with office politics or something. A lot of them are about the compromises you make to succeed and find happiness despite the patriarchy. Very few of them are about overcoming the patriarchy. I’m seeing more now—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Right.
ASHLEY: —especially the series that are about otaku and fujoshi that are a little bit like, “Uh, I never played by the system’s rules anyways, so it’s fine, who cares?” And those are really fun.
CAITLIN: [singsong] Wotakoi!
LIANNE: But they start with the premise that you are already a fallen woman, so what does it matter? And like, the various things that they… They will undercut a woman’s confidence by reminding her that she will still never have the status of a man, or she will still never truly be safe around men?
LIANNE: That always really bothered me. And—
LIANNE: —there are very few shoujo who truly overcome that. And the ones that do—or at least do it most of the time—are the ones that I ended up going back to over and over. My favorite—well, one of my favorite shoujo; it’s very hard to boil it down to favorites—Basara is my go-to shoujo.
CAITLIN: [enthusiastically] Oh yes!
LIANNE: Because every volume—now, granted, Basara was everybody in Japan’s go-to shoujo for the entire ‘90s. So it’s—like, there was a lot riding on that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That and Banana Fish, right?
LIANNE: Yeah, it’s considered one of the greatest ones. But every volume of that made me wanna go out and be a better person and do more for the world. Because it’s about… And the fact that, you know— For anyone who doesn’t know the premise of Basara, it’s like a post-apocalyptic Japan. It’s kind of a desert fantasy—or rather a desert sci-fi, I guess. There’s no actual magic in it from what I can remember. [laughing] I think sometimes miracles happen, but—
CAITLIN: Destined warriors!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Yeah, there’s a little bit of mysticism in it.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Prophecies!
LIANNE: But… there’s a pair of male and female twins. The boy is said to be the Boy of Destiny who is gonna rise up and defeat the evil king. And then he is killed in a raid. And then his twin sister cuts her hair and is like, “No! I’m the Boy of Destiny!” and basically decides to live as him and lead the peasants to revolution against the king. Whom, by the way, she meets later in a hot spring with her clothes off by accident. Bumps into him, doesn’t know who he is, he doesn’t know who she is. They kind of meet and connect—and they sort of have sexual tension and they split.
And there’s the two storylines that go forward. Like the two of them—he’ll put on his armor and be standing on his castle, and she’ll put on her boy clothes and be with the peasants. They’ll be screaming at each other, willing to die to kill each other, and then when they have their days off, they keep bumping into each other in their other forms and being like, “Oh, it’s my secret boyfriend who goes by this name or whatever!” without knowing who they actually are. It’s so amazing!
CAITLIN: It’s so good!
LIANNE: And the way that her femininity is shown as to be strength; specifically feminine traits. Things like empathy! They say one of the reasons that she’s basically—it’s a long series, like 25 volumes. She goes around the world and is gathering these people to join her force to overcome the various kings—there’s actually four kings, and she is [in] really weird relationships with a couple of them.
But they said one of the reasons people will go and die for her in battle is because every time she rides out, she cries because she’s thinking of all the people who aren’t gonna come back. And they’re like, “That’s the reason why I follow her!” And most people don’t know she’s a woman. Some people do; like her inner circle does. But just the fact that you’d be sad enough to cry is shown as your greatest strength as a warrior.
CAITLIN: Right! [crosstalk] And, uh—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] They do really great things with her period in it! [laughs] It’s just like, there’s all kinds of great stuff! Yeah.
CAITLIN: Another thing I really liked about—specifically talking about how shoujo manga handles the patriarchy in Basara is that everyone assumed that her brother was the Boy of Destiny ‘cause the prophet looked at them as: this is the Child of Destiny. Everyone’s like, [grumbing] “It’s gotta be the boy!” But no! It was her the whole time, but no one thought of that ‘cause she’s the girl. Um… yeah, God, Basara’s so good!
LIANNE: It’s so good!
But yeah, you know… going back to talking about how they discussed how girls should be, “Oh, you’re a girl after all!” Like, a couple of different series came to mind. One was the manga version of Kare Kano.
LIANNE: [pained] Oh, God! Oooooooh, God. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: Which has a lot of issues. But one that got me before things really, really start going to shit was Tonomi and… I wanna say Tsubaki. She had bullied him as a child ‘cause he was fat and weak-willed, and he came back hot. [wry laughter]
LIANNE: [crosstalk] He was, like, huge.
CAITLIN: I’m gonna make her hot and tall, um… [laughs] He’s like, “I’m gonna get my revenge on her by making her fall in love with me!” and then breaking her heart or whatever.
She’s—you know, she’s an athlete, but there’s a lot of emphasis putting on when he’s starting to fall in love with her for real. He’s like, “She’s so frail and small!” That’s like…
LIANNE: [groaning] Oh God… oh God, Kare Kano.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] “Oh, she’s…” Yeah, or um… what was the other example I had in mind? Oh! Blue Spring Ride!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Oh, that one I haven’t read actually.
ASHLEY: I haven’t read it, yeah…
CAITLIN: It just got licensed by Shojo Beat. I haven’t read it, but I’ve seen the anime—most of the anime. I didn’t—that has one of those pushing her down, “Oh, you shouldn’t let your guard down!” scenes as well.
But like, her whole thing is that when she was in middle school, the girls hated her because all the boys thought she was cute. So, when she gets to high school she decides she’s going to act all masculine so that the boys won’t like her and the girls will think she’s cute. Their version of her being masculine is she eats a lot. [laughs] And her bag is kind of messy, and by “kind of messy,” she—I mean, she stuffs her sweater in there without folding it.
ASHLEY: [deadpan] Wow.
CAITLIN: And, I’m just like—
LIANNE: You rebel!
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] What a rebel, yeah!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, right? But that’s not feminine, so that makes her repulsive to the boys!
ASHLEY: [deadpan] Oh, cool! [laughter]
LIANNE: You know, another example of a shoujo that actually handles that quite well, weirdly, is Ouran High School Host Club. Which is constantly trying to impose that stuff on Haruhi, and it goes right over her head and she’s like, “Why would you think I would subscribe to the patriarchy? My father makes his money in a drag club, and I make my money also in a drag club!”
Like, they constantly kind of—they flirt with that idea and no one accepts it and they just kind of move on. It’s played up for a joke. I love that series. It is just a delight.
CAITLIN: Ashley, do you have any particular pet peeves you wanna add?
ASHLEY: [sighs] Ah… Actually in thinking about it, since I started a shoujo manga podcast to try to, like, celebrate shoujo and get away from, like… focusing on its bad parts, I kind of struggle to view it. I tried really hard to like everything that I’ve done on that podcast, but Hot Gimmick is the one shoujo manga where I was like, “This, I can’t do! [crosstalk] No, I hate you!”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s just so mean! It’s just so—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Unbelievably mean!
CAITLIN: It’s just so mean!
LIANNE: Your choices are, like—being stuck between a rock and a hard place, except they’re both rapists. Like, one of them is a—
CAITLIN: [horrified laughter] Jesus!
LIANNE: —third-party rapist who hires somebody to rape you. The other guy? He’ll rape ‘em yourself. It’s literally—the thought that she’ll not get with either of these men doesn’t even cross her mind.
ASHLEY: I know! So like, whatever’s going on in Hot Gimmick is definitely… I can’t. Whatever—that level. But otherwise, the stuff with, like—I really like series like Ouran, and Maid-sama’s actually my favorite series.
CAITLIN: Oh, geez.
ASHLEY: I wouldn’t try to objectively say that that’s a good series, right? [laughs] But like…
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Hey, like what you like!
ASHLEY: I enjoy the series that deal with girls who are more masculine and [are] struggling with femininity and ones that are also about social class. So Ouran and Maid-sama definitely check those boxes for me.
LIANNE: And Princess Jellyfish, I hope.
ASHLEY: [crosstalk] I haven’t read Princess Jellyfish.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, I love Princess Jellyfish!
LIANNE: Oh, you love it!
CAITLIN: Oh my gosh! [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s so good!
LIANNE: [crosstalk] If those are the two things you like, for sure!
ASHLEY: I gotta go now!
LIANNE: Yeah, gender presentation and class is a really good way to actually wrap up. Well, that plus, like, being a weird otaku, but… Yeah, you’ll love it.
CAITLIN: It’s great!
ASHLEY: Maid-sama has the scene—you guys keep bringing up the scene of like, “But you’re a girl anyway!” I can remember that exact scene in Maid-sama, and I think it maybe kind of subverts it, because the next scene is, you know, some… The point of Maid-sama is she works at a maid cafe, so her main love interest Usui is like, “You know, you have to be careful around these weird otaku who come here. They’ll, like, wanna rape you” and whatever. And Misaki is of course, like, “I’m a badass. It’s fine Usui, hop off!” or whatever, like… [laugs]
So, there is a scene where two otaku do try to rape her. They like, tie her up, um…
ASHLEY: …and Usui, like, senses it, so he jumps in through the window when she’s already broken out of the chair and fought them and he’s just like, “Oh. Well now I just broke your shop’s window for no good reason I guess. Cool… Bye.”
ASHLEY: In that way, it’s like—I just feel that so many shoujo manga have the best and the worst of everything… [laughs]
ASHLEY: …almost. [laughter]
LIANNE: That’s a good way to put it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, nothing’s perfect.
LIANNE: I think almost all of them address that point, like, “Oh, you’re just a girl.” It’s kind of how you handle it.
LIANNE: Some series handle it really well We’ve talked about a couple good examples. Some of them handle it okay. Some of them handle it badly, but it’s like… the rest of the series counteracts that so it like, kinda balances out. I would say Skip Beat is a little bit of more in that category. The few times the patriarchy comes up, and stuff—it’s annoying.
The same thing with Tokyo Crazy Paradise, which is a fuckin’ amazing series that she did. It got kind of cop-outty by the end when it was literally about a girl dressed as a boy as a bodyguard for her classmate who’s a yakuza leader, whose father killed her fa— No! It was they’re both—her father, a cop, his father, a yakuza, both got killed in the same something, so she ended up being his bodyguard for money, and it’s… it’s amazing.
But, yeah, there—she’s not super good at handling that stuff. So the ones that embody the patriarchy and are constantly undermining itself, those are those ones that…
LIANNE: They really bother me. On a fundamental level, I hate what they’re telling girls. I hate that they’re ruining a feminine fantasy by reminding you of that.
And, personally—I know a lot of other girls have done this—that’s part of the reason I started reading Boys’ Love was because I couldn’t take it anymore. Boys’ Love—Boys’ Love sidesteps that entire issue because there are not female characters in it, for the most part.
I couldn’t take any more female characters being “knocked down a peg,” quote-unquote, by the story itself for no good reason, just because they’re like— This is supposed to be my fantasy, right? I don’t wanna hear about “even the men you like the most might rape you”! Like that’s not what I’m here for!
ASHLEY: Yeah! [wry laughter]
LIANNE: And I’m not even talking about the stuff where you have, like, guys who are too aggressive and stuff. Those can be edgy and they’re not for everybody, but it’s different from saying, “Oh, because you’re a girl, this happened to you.” And not because of the relationship we have, the kind of person he is, or who you are, or whatever. It’s that stupid “Because you’re a girl” line that really killed me. Because it—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Right!
LIANNE: —it took it outside of the relationship and made an issue with your entire identity as a person in this world is now, “Don’t get too uppity!” you know? And it just bugged me.
Boys’ Love has… tons of its own issues, if you wanna talk about sexual assault. [laughs] But Boys’ Love also will talk about, you know—Junjou Romantica is a really good example of something that’s considered pretty mainstream-y despite being not very good. Junjou Romantica still became the kind of banner series for a while because it got so many anime episodes, which is really rare in Boys’ Love.
That had one of the couples—one of the fundamental arguments was like, “I refuse to give up my job for my relationship” and it was almost not even a question of, like, “Of course I’m not just gonna give you up for my career!” Or, “Of course I can’t just drop my job for these things! We have to balance work and life!”
And that almost never was addressed in the same way in kosei. And Junjou’s not even that good of a series. But it was like the assumptions there—that you would quit your job once you got married, that you would take a certain role. Even uke/seme dynamics being sort of a separate thing, it was like, “Of course you have your own life and your own responsibilities and your own kind of expectations! You live outside of this other man.” I just kind of needed to read that. [laughs] You know?
CAITLIN: Have you read Fumi Yoshinaga’s work?
LIANNE: I’ve read so much of Fumi Yoshinaga’s work!
CAITLIN: Okay! [laughs] I mean, I figured, but I… I think—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] Obsessively read.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I haven’t read her early stuff, but like—because I think she’s very aware of all the sort of gender stuff, and uh… Ooku is a josei that does a lot of interesting things about the patriarchy and how flimsy of a setup it is. I’ve read her, uh… quote-unquote “not autobiographical” manga—
LIANNE: [crosstalk] About eating?
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it has a scene where she actually apologizes to her gay friend, like, “I wrote all those terrible books! I’m so sorry!” And he’s like, “It’s okay. I’m over it.”
LIANNE: Especially because he’s like, “I’m a gay man, if I got offended by every bad representation of me, I’d never get out of bed.” And she just looks horrified being complicit in this. [laughs]
I think he even said, “I assumed you were basing it—” or, like, “I’d inspired you or something?” And she’s like, “Oh my God! I didn’t even know you were gay! I’m so sorry, please! Don’t think that I was trying to represent, like, anything!” [laughs]
Personally, to me, I know a lot of people have difficulty reading Gerard & Jacques, which has a very brutal opening scene. I love that comic so much. I think it’s like—I just, I think it’s so well constructed. It’s kind of like, uh… it feels like a Shakespearean tragedy to me despite being really trashy at its core.
It also didn’t let the uke have any power at any point in the story. There was a really great part where he could have had power and he just didn’t, which kind of annoyed me. But I really like that one.
Obviously, Antique Bakery is a work of art and you should 100% watch the Korean live-action movie off of it, which is, like, also brilliant and it extended things in a really beautiful way.
Ooku is… The thing that I like the most about Ooku— It’s too long. It’s too long.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It is sort of running out of steam.
LIANNE: [crosstalk] I heard originally it was supposed to be twenty volumes.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It feels like it’s coming towards a conclusion though.
LIANNE: Yeah, I mean, I assume so at this point. But one thing I… I loved volume 2 of that a lot because it was about the beginning of when the patriarchy failed because all the men were dying, and they’re like, “Okay, we can’t have patriarchy. I guess we’re gonna have a matriarchy.” And everybody lost their shit, like, simultaneously. Nobody knew how to handle it.
LIANNE: Everybody is like, raping and killing each other, becasue like… the subversion of what they’ve always known to be true, even if maybe a lot of them had not fought this hard about it, they were like, “What do you mean we have to have a female Shogun? Let’s just go to war constantly with each!” [laughs] Just all kinds of things there. That is a really powerful and difficult read, volume 2. But I loved it.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I love What Did You Eat Yesterday? too.
LIANNE: Yeah. That one—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Sorry, I interrupted you.
LIANNE: No, no, no, that’s okay. The only thing I wanted to say about Ooku is that is a crystal-clear example of an actual subversion of the patriarchy.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yes.
LIANNE: Because people don’t understand what the patriarchy is. They think that if you swap out women with men, that you’ll like… get it. But she actually did that: she swapped out women for men, turning the matriarchy into—the patriarchy into the matriarchy, and represented the way the patriarchy actually is.
So that men were valued, men were the sex class, but they get to—they can do things outside of that. But they never actually had power, no matter how much they were valued for anything, even the sexual power they had over women. It never gave them actual power. And they kind of—some of them knew that, some of them didn’t; but there was that glass ceiling that they always hit.
LIANNE: I can’t… I can’t think of a single time where somebody has actually done that correctly, so… I think Ooku —the brilliance of Ooku is you hand it to somebody who doesn’t get what the patriarchy is, and it’s like, “Okay, this is told—a lot of them, the stories are told through the man’s point of view. This is what it would actually be like if you were actually in women’s positions right now.” So—
LIANNE: —I think it’s a valuable educational tool this way. I just wish it wasn’t a trillion volumes long going through, like, 18 different generations of Shogun.
PETER: Hello everyone, this is the Podcast Editor, Peter. This episode ran a bit long—about two hours and change. So I am gonna stop it here at a natural breaking point. But I guess that means I get to do the closing this time.
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We’re gonna get the second half of the episode to you next week—just over an hour, from the looks of it. So thanks to Caitlin, Ashley, and Lianne and to all of you for listening.