From their first appearance disguised as a young woman to their dangly earrings and lilting English dub performance, Orochimaru carries many of the unfortunate hallmarks of a queer-coded antagonist, one whose most terrifying power includes the ability to inhabit the bodies of others in a bid for eternal life. Their portrayal, already mired in queerphobia, is complicated by the franchise’s later decision to portray Orochimaru as a character with a non-binary gender identity, the first canonically LGBTQ+ character in the franchise.
Although marketed toward boys, at least one third of Weekly Shonen Jump’s readers are now female. Despite this, Shonen Jump’s female characters remain over-sexualized, helpless, or useless beyond serving a role as the main character’s love interest. The manga and anime world has not yet caught up with the times by creating female characters that are both realistic and sympathetic to their real-world counterparts, and as prominent and important as their male costars. If one in three readers are female, why are female characters still relegated to the sidelines?