Weekly Round-Up, 1-7 February 2023: Sexism Against Female Athletes, Updates to Sex Crime Laws, and AI Synthesizing Voice Actors

By: Anime Feminist February 7, 20230 Comments
chibi Marbas frozen in pain

AniFem Round-Up

Anime Feminist’s Top Picks for 2022

From romance to horror, seinen to shoujo, here are the stars that shone brightest from the past year.

2023 Winter Three-Episode Check-In

The big forerunner this season? Girls in fantasy shows!

Soaring Sky! Pretty Cure – Episode 1

An adorable premiere to a series with some exciting firsts for the franchise.

Chatty AF 178: Haibane Renmei Retrospective – Episodes 8-13

Chiaki, Vrai, and Cy return with the second half of Haibane Renmei to discuss its thematic inspirations, depictions of suicide in anime, and the impactful finale.

What’s the best PreCure for new fans?

Lend us your expertise, PreCure fans.

Beyond AniFem

‘Disrespectful to the Craft:’ Actors Say They’re Being Asked to Sign Away Their Voice to AI (Motherboard, Joseph Cox)

New technology is able to synthesize actors’ voices and can potentially be used without their permission.

Sarah Elmaleh, a voice actor and director who has worked on Fortnite and Halo Infinite, said she believed that consent in performing “must be ongoing.”

“What happens when we happily agree to a role, and, once in the booth, we see a particular line in the script that doesn’t feel right, and express unambiguous discomfort? What happens if the producer doesn’t comprehend or accept the seriousness of that objection? Normally, we are able to refuse to read the line, to prevent it from being used. This technology obviously circumvents that entirely,” she said.

Tim Friedlander, president and founder of the National Association of Voice Actors (NAVA), told Motherboard in an email that clauses in contracts that give a producer the right to synthesize an actor’s voice are now “very prevalent.” 

“The language can be confusing and ambiguous,” Friedlander said. “Many voice actors may have signed a contract without realizing language like this had been added. We are also finding clauses in contracts for non-synthetic voice jobs that give away the rights to use an actor’s voice for synthetic voice training or creation without any additional compensation or approval. Some actors are being told they cannot be hired without agreeing to these clauses.”

Cho said he hasn’t personally seen an increase in these sorts of clauses, but “I’ve heard from my peers that they’re becoming more and more common.”

Gundam: The Witch From Mercury Dub Casting Prompts Discussion Over Suletta Role (Anime News Network, Lynzee Loveridge)

Many have rightfully pointed out what a missed opportunity this is for the show.

Tarsha wrote, “It pains me to write this on a day that should be filled with nothing but celebration and admiration toward my peers. To feel as though there is a corporate flyer with a risk assessment eval stating how much one can get away with before receiving an inordinate amount of backlash. We can sit here and argue the merits of “right for the role” vs “auto cast because of ethnicity” but let’s also not pretend that the quality provided by minority actors is less than the quality of their peers. Inclusion gives us the ability to tell the stories of our backgrounds.” Tarsha went on to mention “character coding,” a term used when a story does not outright reference a character’s minority background but the context within the narrative points to the character’s minority status.

In the case of Witch From Mercury, viewers have shared that Suletta is Middle Eastern or North African-coded [MENA]. This interpretation is based on the anime’s “Prologue” episode, where Eri (presumed to be a young Suletta) and her parents are first introduced. Eri’s father is Nadim Samaya, a name that has Arabic, Hebrew, and Indian origins.

Multiple anime voice actors shared Tarsha’s Twitter thread. In a now-deleted Twitter thread posted yesterday, Anairis Quiñones (Sword Art Online The Movie – Progressive, Attack on Titan) wrote, “It’s very disappointing that, despite all the resources publicly available to find diverse talent, minority voice actors still cannot have the opportunity to represent themselves for an (extremely rare/groundbreaking!!) minority lead in anime. ESPECIALLY a MENA queer lead.” Quiñones has since temporarily deleted her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Anger and alarm over anti-LGBT views by sacked Kishida aide (The Asahi Shimbun)

Activists deal with this news in the midst of their ongoing push for marriage equality in Japan.

Arai went on to tell reporters Feb. 3 in off-the-record remarks that he loathed even looking at sexual minorities and indicated that all executive secretaries under Kishida were opposed to same-sex marriage, an issue that puts the prime minister in a bind as it again shines a light on his reluctance to sanction such partnerships on grounds they could fundamentally “change society.”

Gay people were equally aghast that a high-ranking government official would express such utter contempt for sexual minorities.

“I was shocked by the indefensible, discriminatory comments coming straight from the administration’s inner circle,” said Soshi Matsuoka, a 28-year-old man who proudly identifies as gay and represents Fair, an organization that disseminates information concerning sexual minorities.

Matsuoka said the Kishida administration would not be able to draw the curtain on the issue simply with Arai’s dismissal.

Is Love the Answer? Review (Anime News Network, Rebecca Silverman)

A single-volume manga about a teenager on the ace spectrum.

Also important is the fact that Chika is given the terminology that she’s been lacking to describe herself. As you may know, having a word that explains things can sometimes be both comforting and freeing, and when Chika is told by her professor that it sounds like she falls somewhere on the asexual spectrum, Chika has that moment. She begins intensely researching the subject of human sexuality and asexuality in particular, striving to understand not just herself, but what the world is like for other people as well. Her experience with being so fully on the outside has made her want to ensure that she does not do that to someone else; although she never expressly states this, we can see it in the way that she strives to understand everyone around her. The story also delves a little bit into gender identity, with Chika realizing that she doesn’t so much identify as a woman as assuming she was a woman because she was born with a female body, when she may in fact feel somewhere more in the agender region. What’s important is that the book stresses that all of these are broad spectrums: there is no one right way to be queer or heteronormative. While this may make elements of the book feel inconclusive, it’s a really important message to stress, because feeling like the alien or the ghost looking in on the rest of the world is nothing that anyone should have to experience.

Is Love the Answer? is a book that looks to start the conversation. It doesn’t offer any clear-cut answers, nor does it settle all of its characters into a comfortable happily ever after. But what it does do is teach the questions to ask and stress that it’s okay if you don’t come up with a definitive answer, now or ever. There is no such thing that’s “normal.” There’s only who you are, and whoever that is, it’s perfectly fine.

Honey and Clover, Then and Now (Anime News Network, Caitlin Moore)

Looking back on the josei series after ten years.

All that was over a decade ago; now I’m in my mid-30s, married, and working full time. When I decided to rewatch Honey and Clover, I had no idea how it would still feel like it was addressing me directly, but in a completely different way. One of its most ingrained qualities, which I had never noticed before or perhaps just forgot, is that it carries in its heart a deep sense of nostalgia. Takemoto frequently pauses to reflect on how someday, his college years and relationships will all pass into memory.

What’s more, he’s right. It seems obvious, since for most people college is only four years, but it’s hard to truly internalize that as you’re experiencing it. To me, and to many others, for those four years, college was everything. It was my whole life. While there were plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, with messy breakups and rushed essays and bad hangovers, I could not conceive of a better way to live.

Manga artist wants Japanese teachers to feel, for two seconds, how dumb their girls’ dress code is (SoraNews24, Casey Baseel)

The tweet has accumulated significant support from commentors, though some note not all schools are as restrictive in their dress codes.

With its scientific references and in-jokes, Moyashimon is considered a treat for the intellectual anime/manga fan. Right now, though, it’s Ishikawa’s comments on school uniform dress codes, and their unfair treatment of female students, that the Japanese Internet is seeing shining intelligence in.

Ishikawa, who has a high school-age daughter of his own, recently tweeted his thoughts about the school rules she has to deal with.

“I used to think high school girls were really tough, what with how they walk around with bare legs [in the winter], but the rules at the school my daughter attends include that the only leg coverings they’re allowed to wear [other than their skirt] are the socks specified by the school. If they wear anything more than that, they get yelled at by the teachers, who are all bundled up in tights, [Uniqlo] Heat-Tech, and other lined inner wear. If those adults had to walk around outside for even two seconds wearing just a pleated skirt and socks, they’d be completely wrecked! Why don’t men understand?”

Grooming among acts punishable under revisions on sex crimes (The Asahi Shimbun, Kosuke Tauchi)

The latest draft encompasses abusing status and acting with the “absence of consent” and lengthens the statute of limitations.

One improvement over the October draft is to extend the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution for forcible sexual intercourse from 10 years to 15 years.

For an indecent assault, the statute of limitations is to be extended from seven years to 12 years.

If a victim is under the age of 18 when a sex crime is committed, the statute of limitations will be further extended, adding the period until when they reach the age 18. This is intended to give minors time to realize and recognize that were sexually abused.

Under the current criminal code, the age of consent for sexual acts is 13, and all sexual actvity involving children below the age of 13, whether with consent or not, are punishable.

The draft raises the threshold to “children below the age of 16.”

2022 Writing Wrap Up (NonFic) (Stitch’s Media Mix)

A collection of articles about fandom, particularly queerness and race in fandom, written over the past year.

A thing I’ve spent about a decade being annoyed about is the way that fandom is constantly positioned as something that’s only for queer fans of color if we toe the line? If we don’t talk about racism. If we like the same white blorbos. If we don’t remind white fans that we’re here too. The things that we’re expected to care about and prioritize above ourselves as fans of color in fandom… I have never been able to stand it. I hate it in fact.

I loved this piece because I got to talk about how fandom excludes us and tries to control us. I got to talk about how, no matter what position you take up in fandom, queer white fandom generally sees us as pawns, not people of color. Individuals and smaller groups within the spaces differ, but after years of analyzing and existing in these spaces? The general theme is that fans of color are weaponized against each other and within fandoms to provide a handy attack point to tear down other fandoms and people.

We deserve better than what fandom consistently gives us and we should never be expected to put “peaceful” fandom above our right to exist in fandom sans racism.

Strong not sweet: Keirin pushing new image for female cyclists (The Asahi Shimbun, Daichi Itakura)

The athletes had previously been expected to act as idols in addition to competing.

Yumika Noguchi, a member of the Oita prefectural chapter of the Japan Professional Cyclist Union, was among the first group of racers to compete in Girls Keirin.

“I really hated the way we were treated like pop idols,” Noguchi, 30, said of the early years. “That was, quite frankly, a pain in the neck.”

She spent so much time training to succeed in a world where those who perform poorly are simply shown the door.

When she finally debuted, however, she found she had duties off the tracks.

For example, Noguchi and other female competitors were deployed to entrances of velodromes to greet visitors and call out, at the top of their voices: “We need your support.”

During a talk show, Noguchi was asked to discuss her private life, including what she did on her days off. Male audience members cheered after her responses, saying, “How sweet.”

A male keirin cyclist once told her, “You are mistaking yourself as a pop idol.”

Noguchi never had any intention of doing such a thing.

“I want to be strong, not ‘sweet,’” she said she thought at the time.

TWEET: Clip of a redub of Tenchi Muyo that edited out a stereotypical gay voice.

AniFem Community

Hopefully we’ll get the rest of the franchise licensed someday.

I would recommend my very favorite, Kira Kira Pretty Cure A La Mode. It’s very sweet and cute with good takes on mental health. Also, Go! Princess Pretty Cure is really excellent and a true classic, and encourages its viewers not to give up hope.
In hopes they'll get licensed someday soon, I'll talk about Fresh Precure and Heartcatch Precure!  Heartcatch was an entry point for a lot of fans because it has a really distinctive and expressive animation style and has a lot of fun concepts out the gate- retired magical girl grandma, angsty older girl who's active before the protagonist but has quit being a magical girl for tragic reasons, a protagonist who's actually very shy and struggling socially (unusual for the genre when most mcs are social butterflies). It also has an ending that's darker than a lot of other Precure which fans love (though I personally think the ending's slight letdown in some areas).  Fresh is just my favorite overall story and cast. It's older and the animation's pretty lacking, but it has a great magical girl redemption arc (with a LOT, and I mean a LOT, of queer subtext) and a genuinely kind of affecting Orwellian dystopia for the villains, a lot of good jokes, and good balance with the magical girl team, and it pulled off a solid finale, which Precure can struggle with.  Of what's available now, I haven't watched the full series of a lot of the recent ones, but Kira Kira is cute with cute characters, including some sweet redemption arcs! It also owes a lot of its concept to Tokyo Mew Mew and has a butch takarazuka dog girl and femme cat girl who are basically Haruka and Michiru from Sailor Moon 2.0, so if you likes those series...It's got an eh finale and has a LOT less physical combat than every other Precure, but it could work okay as an intro!  Pretty much all Precure is just as fine for younger audiences as it is for older, but Smile Precure is a very simple, bubbly story that works great for really young kids. It's just a shame the only dub of it is Americanized and heavily censored (despite it not having any age inappropriate content. Like an episode that simply explores grief in a tasteful way was cut.)

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