Weekly Round-Up, 1-7 September 2021: Yamada Naoko Leaving KyoAni, Olympia Soiree, and Shortcomings of “Cool Japan”

By: Anime Feminist September 7, 20210 Comments
A stained glass wall with an obelisk in the background and a howling wolf silhouette in the foreground, observed by two human figures

AniFem Round-Up

Queer Subtext and Representation in Kamen Rider

Nerissa Mercer traces the long tradition of homoeroticism in the flagship tokusatsu franchise and its comparatively short and bumpy record of overt representation.

The Dead Mothers of Shounen

Alex R. asks why, when so many adventuring heroes are inspired by their dads, moms are still only allowed to be tragic backstory footnotes–barring one or two very recent exceptions.

What’s your favorite live-action manga adaptation?

The missteps of the medium can mean the good stuff doesn’t always get attention.

Beyond AniFem

Naoko Yamada’s Departure From Kyoto Animation And Science Saru’s Painful Reinvention: End Of An Era, Start Of An Era? (Sakuga Blog, kViN)

Speculation on Yamada’s future project and what’s next for KyoAni in the wake of the influential director’s departure.

Leaving aside the existing connections, Science Saru simply happens to be a natural creative fit for someone like Yamada. She’s about as experimental of a director as you can find in the commercial anime industry, a film dork who never lost her essence even as she began putting out massive hits; which is to say, exactly the kind of director that a rather alternative studio like Science Saru would gladly welcome. There’s also the labor factor: being used to KyoAni’s more favorable conditions, it’d be harder for Yamada to adapt to your standard anime workplace, whereas Science Saru’s efficiency and attempt to keep a healthy work-life balance is something she should feel more comfortable with… is the sentence I’d like to type. But that’s not the reality of working at Science Saru anymore, at least not for the people in the trenches. Anytime we’ve praised their model on a conceptual level, Saru animators have approached privately to point out that, at least when things get busy, all of that goes out the window immediately.

And, as it turns out, things have been getting very busy all the time as of late. Science Saru’s success has allowed the studio to put out one project after the other, with overlapping productions essentially all the time, and that’s precisely when things get very ugly for their employees. Things had been brewing for many months before someone decided to go public with their grievances; complaints I never hesitated to believe, because they were first pointed out to me by other Science Saru employees as means of corroboration. It goes without saying that the studio reacting to a frankly watered down version of what goes behind the scenes by pointing out they could sue those who speak out is disgusting, about the worst sign of good faith towards their employees in the future, but I’d like to talk about exactly where these labor issues come from.

Olympia Soiree Otome Review – Kiss the Rainbow (Blerdy Otome, Naja)

Detailed discussion of the game and each of its routes.

Some routes deal with these topics better than others, tackling the island’s biases in ways specific to that route’s love interest that often foil one another. Riku’s route deals with someone of privilege addressing his personal bias, while Kuroba’s and Yosuga’s routes delve into the perspectives of members of the marginalized color classes on the island and the hardships they face because of their status. Tokisada’s route gives an outsider perspective on the class politics on the island, while Akaza’s route deals with someone from within one of the upper color classes using their privilege to actively dismantle the system.

I’m always wary of how fantasy media deals with class/race politics, because there is an inevitable sanitization process that undermines any underlying message the writers are attempting to get across, BUT, I was genuinely surprised at how well it was handled in most of the routes in the game. The internalized bias and discrimination is given the appropriate weight and at no point did I feel like the class system was presented as the gold standard of living on the island–in fact, clinging to the old norms is quite literally making the island weaker. Olympia Soiree is a testament to the power of change and how each person, no matter where they fall within the social structure can do their part to make things better for others. However, my biggest issue with Olympia Soiree is that it tries to do too much at once and never full commits to any of its many themes and storylines.

5th pandemic wave triggers a run on steroids, anticoagulants (The Asahi Shimbun, Fumi Yada and Takahiro Takenouchi)

Several medications used to treat Covid for patients at home are in short supply.

Some products like Heparin, a drug to prevent blood clots, are in short supply, too.

Heparin is typically prescribed to women who suffer recurrent pregnancy loss. An estimated 1.4 million women in Japan are believed to suffer from this condition.

Pregnant women at high risk of developing blood clots are of particular concern as they need to inject heparin calcium twice daily at home.

Because of the pandemic, the drug is increasingly being used to treat COVID-19 patients to prevent their symptoms from turning severe quickly.

Tales of Arise producer Yusuke Tomizawa describes Tales series as ‘non-discriminatory’ (Gayming Magazine, Aimee Hart)

It’s a very 2010-level statement, but it isn’t nothing.

Tomizawa-san couldn’t comment on the “[queer] themes of Berseria,” however he didn’t shy away from talking more about the Tales series and how it handles relationships as a whole.

“The Tales series has always featured parties of male characters, female characters, and the relationships between them are really important,“ Tomizawa-san told TheGamer’s Jade King. Fans who have played previous Tales games will know that as much as the game has combat and thrilling stories, one of the key things that make it stand out from the crowd are the ‘skits’ between characters. These help the characters get to know one another even outside of the main storyline, and also allows fans to know which characters get on with one another, which don’t, etc.

Because of these skits, as well as some features such as Tales of Symphonia’s relationship meter – which allowed Lloyd to form close relationships with everyone in his group – the fandom around the Tales series has often made the series their own personal playground on how they view the characters and their relationships with one another. Fandom – queer fandom especially – isn’t anything new, but it’s nice to see it surround a beloved JRPG series like Tales.

“Whether you think of those relationships as friendship or romance is completely up to you, but I’ve always thought of the Tales series as very non-discriminatory,” Tomizawa-san said. “In terms of whether those queer themes are in Tales of Arise, I think I’ll leave it for people to play and make up their own minds.”

Skills program could be lifeline for stranded foreign trainees (The Asahi Shimbun, Mari Fujisaki)

The summer program included 22 applicants and offered lessons on “business language skills and Japanese culture.”

The camp is supervised by the Japan Platform for Migrant Workers toward Responsible and Inclusive Society (JP-MIRAI), a public-private partnership introduced last fall. The JICA and the Global Alliance for Sustainable Supply Chain, a group tackling business and human rights issues, jointly serve as JP-MIRAI’s office.

Since the JICA’s core objective is aiding developing countries, some argue that such projects in Japan fall outside the scope of its activity and are opposed to the efforts.

But at the same time, there are calls for the government-affiliated body to extend its support within Japan because domestic support is currently largely provided by the private sector.

And this is not the first time it has helped out like this.

JICA temporarily assisted Japanese-Brazilians deprived of their jobs in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Phantom Pains: The Forever War Both Inside and Out (In the Lobby)

Ruminations on MGSV and the author’s experiences with disordered eating.

People were bothered that, likely due to Konami and Hideo Kojima’s working relationship falling apart, The Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain didn’t have a real ending—or an ending in the sense we’ve come to understand it. There isn’t a final cutscene that wraps a neat bow over everything. This never bothered me. To me, the game’s ending or lack thereof is horrifically honest. Punished Snake spends the majority of the game in both Africa and Afghanistan, he’s not attached to the United States anymore, but he is still an American having a hand in destabilizing regions that are still in various states of conflict today largely due to American (and western) imperialism. Why should his battle end? It doesn’t. There are still missions to accept, foreign bodies to sneak by, shoot, or kidnap to join your own nation-less army. Such is the way things go. War isn’t clean, it never was, and no amount of jingoistic propaganda will convince us otherwise, especially in a post-Korean War America. I liked, or rather was disturbed by, the dirtiness and knottiness of the last few hours of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Punished Snake can escape conflict or help usher in a better world, all he can do is fight. In a way, I related to this.

‘We cannot leave things to others’: Woman devotes years to helping A-bomb survivors (Pt. 1) (The Asahi Shimbun, Chinatsu Ide)

Part one of a two-part article series profiling an activist for hibakusha (A-bomb survivors).

Seventy-six years have passed since the atomic bombings, and the average age of hibakusha in Ishikawa Prefecture has reached 85, with the number of them decreasing significantly. After much deliberation, Nishimoto decided to close the prefecture’s A-bomb survivor’s organization.

Looking back on her life in which she devoted herself to the campaign to support A-bomb survivors, the 80-year-old woman said, “It was not an ordinary thing. I couldn’t have done it half-heartedly.” Still, it was anger that drove her. “It is unacceptable for any human being to suddenly have their family taken away from them one day.”

More than anything else, Nishimoto did not want to see another A-bomb survivor like herself or any other hibakusha suffer from prejudice. That was her only thought.

However, Nishimoto has some regrets too. In January of this year, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into effect, but Japan, which depends on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, has not ratified it. She feels that this is where “the seeds of danger lie.”

Nishimoto intensified her words, “We cannot leave things to others. We must do our best ourselves. If we don’t get stronger, nuclear weapons will never be eliminated.”

In a Struggling Anime Workplace, “Cool Japan” Feels Like a Joke (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)

Assessing the failures and possible future successes of the “Cool Japan” fund, which was founded to encourage inbound tourism to Japan.

“So far, the national and local governments don’t have any effective strategies (for dealing with the issue of underpaid animators),” says Jun Sugawara, who runs the Animator Dormitory Project. His opinion on the Cool Japan Fund is blunt and forthright: “Cool Japan is a meaningless and irrelevant policy.”

In many ways, the Cool Japan policy culminated with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. In the leadup to the event, government officials eagerly spoke of their plans to showcase anime on the world stage. Various government-funded projects, such as Kadokawa‘s museum and hotel facilities in Saitama, were explicitly created in anticipation of the Olympics. The idea was to use anime brands to encourage international tourists to venture outside Tokyo and to see more of what Japan’s culture has to offer.

Nobody at the time could have predicted the events of 2020, of course. But the purpose of the Cool Japan Fund wasn’t to place all of Japan’s eggs into the Olympic basket—it was to lay a strong foundation for Japan’s future growth. In that case, regardless of how the Olympics actually turned out, Cool Japan should have seen dividends. Yet in 2017, Nikkei reported that most of the investments that year underperformed.

In the wake of the Olympics, it’s worth looking back on some of the major anime-related initiatives of Cool Japan and their impact.

TWEET: Info regarding transphobia by the current Tsukihime translation project (Slur warning).

THREAD: Deep dive into the career history of politician Takaichi Sanae, a longtime Abe supporter.

AniFem Community

Since dramas are often less carefully archived than anime they tend to get forgotten; here’s to the good ones.

I've never read the manga, but I enjoyed Alice in Borderland. I don't know how it compares to the source material, but I think it's a solid thriller in its own right. Each of the "games" are thoughtfully crafted and executed. The production has some polish. It didn't have the cheap, campy, costume-y feeling other adaptions do.  Arisu's story is front and center, but the supporting ladies still shine, each as complex and interesting as our protagonist. Usagi specializes in games that focus on physical strength and hasn't been inevitably surpassed by Arisu. Yet at least. But I'm hopeful this will remain the case. Kunia's portrayal, in particular, was handled with care.  Looking forward to season 2!

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