Weekly Round-Up, 13-19 October 2021: Butch Yuri, TMS’s First Female Producer, and Belladonna of Sadness

By: Anime Feminist October 19, 20210 Comments
Biwa from Heike Story surrounded by white flowers

AniFem Round-Up

Deep Insanity THE LOST CHILD – Episode 1

There’s some interesting worldbuilding ideas buried deep down in there but boy does it look BAD.

Ranking of Kings – Episode 1

A beautiful retro-style fantasy series about a Deaf prince fighting to become king despite not being considered “manly” enough.

Lupin the 3rd: Part 6 – Episode 1

A lot of the setup is too early to call, but things like its reimagining of Sherlock Holmes make for a pleasant surprise.

What’s your favorite spooky anime for Halloween?

Not necessarily something ultra scary, but with the good seasonal vibes.

Beyond AniFem

TMS Entertainment’s 1st Female Producer Explains How the Anime Industry Can Improve For Women (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)

Producer Fujiyoshi Minako talks about industry conditions and the female character writing in the Megalobox anime.

Fujiyoshi highlighted the common difficulties for women who struggle to re-enter the workplace after childbirth, saying that if a vacancy arises from their initial departure, it would be filled by a different person before they can come back. She said she hopes that it would be great for workplaces to create an environment where women can easily return to their original positions after childbirth. “If I had gotten married or had kids in my twenties or thirties, this interview right now about me as a producer would not even be a possibility.”

Fujiyoshi also commented on her work on the Megalobox anime, the project on which she made her debut as a producer. For Megalobox 2: Nomad, she mentioned that although it is common in the industry for the script meetings to involve large groups of people, the only people who were involved in those meetings for this anime were the director, the two screenwriters, and herself. Because of this arrangement, she was able to provide input on writing the female characters to the other members of the team, highlighting the individuality of Mara, Shirato, and Oicho.

“The director and screenwriters were all male, so they would try to depict women in a way men see as ideal, through character lines and actions. However, as a woman myself, I thought, ‘I don’t like this kind of woman,’ and had a lot of different opinions, so I recall expressing my opinions a lot when it came to female characters.”

Global Fandom: Rukmini Pande (India) (Confessions of an Aca-Fan)

Pande shares an overview of her studies into race/ism as a fandom academic.

One of my primary arguments remains that issues of race/ism, particularly around Black characters, interrupt broadly held assumptions about media fandom spaces as uniformly politically progressive, offering a special refuge to fans from marginalized identities. These arguments remain relevant as we see an increasing polarization in fandom spaces around issues of racist fanwork, micro and macro-aggressions against vocal fans of color (especially Black fans) who identify problems in fandom spaces, and a concerted push to undermine any critiques of the same which seek to identify the workings of systemic racism, rather than individual issues by “bad” actors. This has also been pointed out by acafans such as Stitch in their detailed rundown here[5]

My work has also held up the hope for solidarity and coalition building around the category of “fan of color” in fandom spaces, pointing to a longer legacy of similar work lead by critical fans around events such as RaceFail ’09[6]. I continue to believe in the power and vital importance of such coalition building but want to reiterate that identifying and dismantling structural white supremacy is extremely difficult work and requires sustained effort. It does not begin or end with the personal identity of individuals. The power of whiteness operates in many ways including the co-option of marginalized voices and identities. Further, it is vital to understand the increasing role of majoritarian political ideologies (often rooted in ethno-nationalism) in the global mediascape. Fan communities, themselves more transnational and transcultural than ever before, have always been and continue to be profoundly influenced by these dynamics. 

Fandom spaces and communities have been demonstrably proven to be powerful arenas for civic participation ranging from pushing for changes in specific media properties, to broader socio-political mobilization. While initially optimistic about the progressive potential of such activity, recent scholarship has also taken into account the reactionary elements in these spaces. This is an extremely important step. 

Japan’s top yuri manga artists gather to create the ultimate butch anthology (Gayming Magazine, Aimee Hart)

The Kickstarter has reached it goal but is still currently accepting pledges.

The anthology – titled Boyish² – describes itself as “the ultimate butch x butch yuri manga anthology” where the women involved in the manga are not the typical feminine characters you’ll find in most other yuri manga. Instead they sport a more ‘butch’ look, with features you’d typically expect on more masculine characters such as short hair, and a ‘boyish’ look of shirts, ties, and blazers.

The Kickstarter for the project is to help translate the butch yuri anthology into English, making it widely available to fans outside of Japan.

“10 Japanese manga authors have come together and written approximately 220 pages of quality butch x butch yuri manga,” the Kickstarter’s page states. “We need your help bringing this special anthology to English speaking audiences!”

Japan’s 1st female Chief Cabinet Secretary Moriyama dies (The Mainichi)

Moriyama was Japan’s first and so far only female chief Cabinet secretary.

Moriyama, a graduate of the University of Tokyo who died of natural causes last Thursday, was first elected to the House of Councillors in 1980 after working as a bureau chief at the then Labor Ministry. She switched to the House of Representatives in 1996, serving three terms in the upper house and four in the lower house.

She was known for dedicating her efforts to equal employment opportunities for men and women while working at the Labor Ministry and regarded as a trailblazer for female career bureaucrats in Japan.

“She was a lawmaker with a sharp mind and good decision-making ability. I can still remember times when she was tackling numerous issues, even when she was not chief Cabinet secretary,” said former lower house speaker Tadamori Oshima.

BLog: Black or White Vol. 1 (MJ Lyons Writes)

Review and discussion of the recent SuBLime manga.

We don’t often think of manga in terms of its realism, but as a romantic drama Black or White may be one of the more… straightforward romance stories in recent memory. As an example, one of the more endearing (and strangely sexy) scenes happens when Shin goes to his closest friend for advice. Hanazaki is a member of an idol band, his image as equally curated as any other Japanese star, but when they met at a talent agency mixer he immediately clocked Shin as gay. Wanting to go further but unsure how to get there, Hanazaki proceeds to give him the most in depth preparation guide to anal (minus douching) in the pages of manga–I’m reminded of another SuBLime title, Escape Journey, I’m always pleasantly surprised when guy-on-guy sex isn’t depicted like jumping into a pool… with nary a drop of lube in sight… *shudder*

The story is equally realistic in the depiction of Japanese celebrity culture, the uncomfortable reality of image above all, where presumed heterosexuality and heterosexism trumps even homophobia–the two don’t have to confront homophobia in their careers, their relationship is so private and insular their sexuality is never even questioned. Even the people who support Shige and Shin’s relationship know it can’t exist publicly. The two accept this without question, which is probably realistic but kind of sad and disappointing.

Reconciling population and social expectations in Japan (East Asia Forum, Chelsea Szendi Schieder)

How the economic anxieties behind the birth rate question might be solved by reconsidering what an acceptable family unit looks like.

Some government initiatives have attempted to harness individual dissatisfaction with existing social pressures to revitalise rural regions hit hard by Japan’s demographic implosion. This requires a shift in mainstream concepts of success away from demanding jobs in urban areas considered prestigious. But policies that emphasise individual actions as solutions obscure the government’s responsibility for creating such a profound socioeconomic gap between outer regions and urban centres.

The government could do more to shift the understanding of what constitutes responsibilities within a family, and the definition of family itself. The June 2021 Japanese Supreme Court decision upholding a law that forces married couples to share a surname — a law no other country has — is generally unpopular. Public opinion in favour of same-sex marriage also differs from the government’s stance. While same-sex partnerships are recognised in some areas, adoption is still out of the question for same-sex couples. Japan still only allows for one kind of family.

The demographic crisis presents a provocative challenge to definitions of a healthy society and economy, that enjoys both demographic and economic growth. ‘De-growth’ may be the best option to mitigate the ecological cost of decades of rapid growth. Some observers in Japan have attempted to adopt a positive view of demographic decline, particularly in rural areas. Still, it is difficult to know how many shrinking regions can replicate the few celebrated success stories of rural rejuvenation. Along with urban to rural migration, Japan will also need to grapple with immigration. Many pronatalist arguments have framed increased immigration as an impossibility because of its unpopularity, but opinion polls show that the Japanese population is not categorically opposed to immigration or immigrants. Immigration can alleviate short-term labour shortages, and to be sustainable will require clear communication and support.

Japanese Products Pitched as “Recommended for Women” a Turn-Off for Some (Nippon.com)

Chart analysis of data surveying 1000 women.

The most common feeling respondents had when they saw advertising that phrased itself as “recommended for women,” at 46.6%, was they were “uncertain why it had to use the word “women.” Meanwhile, 44.8% were “uncomfortable about generalizing individual characteristics” and 39.5% felt it was strange to make assumptions.

Japan ruling party sees separate surnames premature for legislation (The Mainichi)

In a recent debate, LDP leaders kept to their usual conservative party line.

Kishida said his party has no plan to submit bills anytime soon for promoting the understanding of sexual minorities and allowing couples to have separate surnames after marriage.

“I think it is very important to carefully consider how much people’s understanding has advanced regarding this issue,” Kishida said when the debate moderator asked each of the nine party leaders about the issue.

For the ruling party, the matter remains a sensitive issue. The LDP approved a cross-party bill earlier in the year to promote greater awareness among the public of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. But it later waived submitting the bill to the parliament, facing backlash from conservative party members.

All other party leaders, including Natsuo Yamaguchi of the LDP’s junior coalition ally Komeito, responded that they plan to submit such bills in a regular parliamentary session next year when asked the same question.

On “Dark Fic,” Morality, and Why Critical Thinking Is Vital (Teen Vogue, Stitch)

Discussing the draw of dark fic and approaches to engaging critically with it.

Sometimes, fans use different types of dark fic to deal with trauma and fear. In fandom, some people share their traumatic experiences to explain their interests, while others keep it more private. (No one, by the way, should ever be expected to reveal past trauma in order to validate their interest in or criticism of specific fandom content.) It’s also normal for people who’ve dealt with trauma like sexual violence or childhood abuse to unpack their pasts in fantasy like roleplaying or fan fiction/erotica. It doesn’t actually mean that they’re condoning sexual violence or abuse, but that they’ve found fantasy as a safe space to engage with something that left a mark on their memory.

There are very few forms of dark fic that have managed to escape criticism. Some criticism comes in good faith, pointing at stories that eroticize the Holocaust (which also happens in mainstream romance publishing) or that use natural disasters as a backdrop for their pairing. Or the pieces of media where the “darkness” involves characters of color being subjected to horrible racism. Other people, meanwhile, deliver criticism in bad faith, layering their trauma onto characters and celebrities in a way that winds up leading to harassment of other fans and creators.

Rather than judging a fandom content creator based solely on the “darkness” or “lightness” of their content, let’s introduce nuance to the situation. How do they handle requests to tag content? How do they treat other fans in and out of their direct fandom circle? How do they treat marginalized characters (eg. disabled characters, characters of color, or trans characters) in their fic? How do they treat those fans in general? We only know so much about the people we come into contact with as a result of the internet and fandom, and the judgements we make on fan content alone usually don’t tell us the entire truth about a person.

The Psychosexual World of Belladonna of Sadness (Anime News Network, Nicholas Dupree & Monique Thomas)

Discussion of the surreal 1970s quasi rape-revenge film.

Nick: Full stop, Belladonna is one of my all-time favorite anime films, and anime in general. It’s a weird, trippy, psychosexual fever dream that infamously had a majorly troubled production that mixes bouts of stunning animation with stretches of borderline animatics. It has one of the grooviest soundtracks in anime history. It comes with roughly 1,400 different content warnings including on-screen rape, torture, graphic violence, and whatever the hell you call a rabbit popping out of a man’s anus.
It rules, is what I’m saying.

Nicky: It’s certainly got everything. It’s hard to imagine that this is what came out of the last gasp of Mushi Pro if you know all about the shit they had to go through before collapsing completely. Even if you don’t like this film (that I also adore), you have to acknowledge what it means for anime history. It’s got a lot of great hands on it. This movie first premiered at the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival in 1973. It was originally distributed by Nippon Herald Films after the splash made by another arthouse animated film Yellow Submarine, but never reached a wide-level of release or praise cuz that’s what happens when you’re too cool for the times. Now, It’s since been picked up by Cinelicious Pics and you can find it on multiple platforms.

Nick: It’s also a loose sorta-adaptation of the 19th century book La Sorcière, itself radically ahead of its time. It’s a re-examination of the purported history of witchcraft that positioned witches as an anti-feudalist reclamation of pre-Christian practices that actively subverted the power of church and nobility. AND it’s allegedly one of the works that inspired Kunihiko Ikuhara back in the day, so the film has its reach in the past, present, and future.

Nicky: It also has a ton of influences from other cool western fine art movements like Gustav Klimt and the like. Kuni Fukai handled the art direction and many of the films most gorgeous illustrations. It’s a little inaccurate to describe many of the weird eclectic images in Belladonna of Sadness as “animated” per say, but in the same way it’s not really a film you watch with your eyes. You sit down and just experience the fable of a lowly peasant girl trying to thrive in a patriarchal society that’s out to get her and all the sound and fury that comes with it.

AniFem Community

Truly, this is the best time of the year.

I just found out about Theatre of Darkness: Yamishibai and I've been watching them nonstop. The short format is perfect for horror and I love the creative use of the limited picture book style animation; it's probably for budget reasons but really helps sell the atmosphere. The stories can be pretty hit or miss (the earlier seasons are definitely better), but even the bad ones still have that Japanese horror charm to them. I kind of wish Junji Ito Collection had been more similar to Yamishibai; I feel like its style suits Ito so much better than the more conventional kind of anime they went with. Even though none of the stories are actually Ito adaptations, they feel a lot closer to the spirit of his work than the actual animated adaptations

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