Weekly Round-Up, 17-23 April 2024: North Korean Animators, Ice Adolescence Cancelled, and 30 Years of Tokyo Pride

By: Anime Feminist April 23, 20240 Comments
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AniFem Round-Up

2024 Spring Premiere Digest

All our spring premiere reviews in one place, plus some updated content warnings for shows with multiple episodes out.

Anime Feminist Recommendations of Winter 2024

We had a warm winter of romance—whether it involved middle school students, office workers, or giant robots.

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Beyond AniFem

Palestinian Relief Bundle (Itch.io)

The bundle is eight dollars and will be on sale until 4/5.

Palestinians are being persecuted from their homes in an ongoing genocide. Due to the armed actions of Israel, they lack access to essentials such as food, water, electricity and medical care. 

In response to this crisis, all proceeds from the Palestinian Relief indie bundle will be donated to the PCRF (Palestine Children’s Relief Fund). PCRF describes itself as “the primary humanitarian organization in Palestine, delivering crucial and life-saving medical relief where it is needed most”. By donating to the PCRF, Palestinians will have better access to medical relief, food and water. 

Want more TTRPGs? You can donate $15 to TTRPGs for Palestine to get 180+ TTRPGs.

Yuri!!! on Ice: Ice Adolescence Film Canceled (Anime News Network, Egan Loo)

While it may not be a surprise after seven years, it’s still deeply disappointing.

The official website for Yuri!!! on Ice the Movie: Ice Adolescence (Yuri!!! on Ice Gekijō-ban: Ice Adolescence), the anime film in the Yuri!!! on Ice franchise, confirmed on Friday that production on the film has been canceled. The film’s production committee and the anime studio MAPPA explained that the committee and staff decided on this cancelation after internal discussions due to “various circumstances.”

The staff had announced the film in April 2017. The original 12-episode television anime series premiered in Japan in October 2016, and Crunchyroll streamed the series as it aired. Funimation also streamed an English broadcast dub, and later released the series on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in February 2018.

The staff announced in September 2019 that they had delayed the film from its 2019 opening date. The announcement at that time noted that the film was delayed “in order to substantially scale up the content more than originally planned.”

Tokyo Rainbow Pride celebrates 30th anniversary with huge crowd (The Asahi Shimbun, Takuro Negishi)

This event’s slogan this year was “don’t give up until we make change.”

This year, Keizai Doyukai (the Japan Association of Corporate Executives), a major business lobby, also participated in the event for the first time.

“I’m so happy that my company has recognized that I belong here,” said a lesbian in her 50s who works for a company that started sponsoring the pride parade this year.

Back in her younger days, whenever colleagues would ask, “Do you have a boyfriend?” or suggest, “Let’s go on a group date,” she felt disheartened.

Pretending to have a boyfriend was stressful and made it difficult to maintain a comfortable social life at work.

Even now, she has only come out to a very limited number of her coworkers. But perhaps with the sponsorship, the atmosphere in her office will change.

“I hope to eventually come out to more of my colleagues,” she said.

Corporate participation began to increase in the 2010s, according to Tokyo Rainbow Pride, which has organized the event of the same name since 2012.

Initially, foreign-affiliated companies were the main corporate participants. In 2014, beverage maker Cheerio Corp. became the first Japanese company to sponsor the event.

The Amazing Overlooked Women in the Anime Industry (Anime Herald, Kumojackedup)

Highlighting four up-and-coming women in the industry.

Eri Kinoshita’s first-year work, Fair Winds, has a young girl trying to come to terms with her parents’ divorce by comparing their current relationship to cats and dogs. The adorable drawings contrasted with the short’s clinical nature to make for a cute, but off-kilter watch. Divorce from the child’s perspective should be an emotionally charged subject, but our protagonist comes to terms with it in a blunt, childlike manner: Cats and dogs simply just can’t get along. However, as long as her parents are happy, then she’s happy, her childlike logic arriving at a mature conclusion.

Her second-year work is what truly grabbed my attention, The Question, which has a young girl ask: Are victims of bullying partially to blame? The surface-level answer is obvious and is echoed among other faculty, students, and most likely the viewer as well. Everyone answers no, except for our protagonist. The initial black-and-white perception of bullying is challenged as the film progresses, as we find out that the main character herself was no better—and her “bullies” were the result of a fallout of a one-sided friendship inevitably imploding. Both parties are old enough to know that they were being wronged, but still too young to try and work out a proper reconciliation.

Wonderful Precure! Episodes 1-12 Anime Review (Anime News Network, Rebecca Silverman)

In keeping with franchise patterns, this is a much more laid-back and low-stakes season.

Appropriately for a series appearing shortly after the franchise’s twentieth anniversary, Wonderful Precure! feels like a throwback to the days when a duo of magical girls was more common than a team. I mentioned Maho Girls Precure! earlier, and this follows that formula more than it does the four series that directly precede it: for most of this first course, there are only two Cures, even though the opening theme teases two more. Friendy and Wonderful are a tight-knit team, able to understand each other even when emotions like jealousy get in the way. Cure Nyammy and her very different approach to fighting feels like a throwback to the days of Sailor Moon when Uranus and Neptune first came in and proclaimed themselves uninterested in cooperating with the main team. It feels like the series may be setting up for two relatively separate teams, which would be an exciting angle, especially given the strong themes of friendship embraced by the Pretty Cure franchise. But it would also be appropriate, given that part of Iroha and Komugi’s strength is their bond as human and dog, and we have seen how much Mayu depends on her cat Yuki as a way of coping with her crippling anxiety.

Documents found on a North Korean server suggest US studios may have unknowingly outsourced animation work (CNN, Sean Lyngaas)

There have also been reports of North Korean animators working on anime projects. This is additionally concerning given reports about North Koreans being trafficked into forced labor.

“It looks very much like this is all working-level editing files for these animations,” Williams said.

“The North Koreans have a lot of software companies set up in China that act as kind of fronts and will send information, send work back to Pyongyang, where the work is done,” Williams told CNN.

The think tank found no evidence to suggest the American companies were aware of the activity, he added. Because the editing comments on the files were written in Chinese, “it is likely that the contracting arrangement was several steps downstream from the major producers,” the Stimson Center’s 38 North project, which focuses on North Korea, says in a report published Monday.

The North Korean regime has long been enamored with movie studios and animation as a vehicle for propaganda and a source of revenue, according to experts. North Korea was more advanced in animation than South Korea for several years after the Korean Peninsula was split following World War II.

North Korea’s main animation studio is Pyongyang-based SEK Studio, which was founded in the 1950s and has contracted with a range of foreign companies over the years. The US Treasury Department sanctioned SEK Studio in 2021 for being connected to the North Korean regime.

“Seemingly fueled by the desire for unreasonably low-cost labor, foreign media companies continue to subcontract animation work to SEK Studio,” the Treasury Department said in a statement announcing the sanctions. The studio uses “animation workers” in North Korea and China, the department said.

Families of late ‘comfort women’ suing Japan gov’t, 1st case in China (The Mainichi)

The families of 18 women forced into sex work by the Japanese military are putting forward the suit.

The suit was filed earlier this month with a high court in Shanxi Province, a lawyer for the families of the deceased women said Monday. The plaintiffs have asked that 2 million yuan ($276,000) be paid for each former comfort woman.

Similar damages suits filed by former Chinese comfort women in Japan have all been turned down. However, the families took the action following a South Korean court ruling last year in favor of a group of former comfort women, according to the lawyer.

The court is expected to decide in about a month whether to accept the suit.

The lawyer said the plaintiffs aim to receive “sincere apologies” from the Japanese government.

A series of lawsuits filed by former Chinese comfort women in the 1990s and 2000s were rejected, with Japan’s Supreme Court saying in 2007 that individual rights to seek damages were abandoned under the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique.

Stellar Blade and the Male Gaze (Inverse, Issy Van Der Velde)

The creator’s name-dropping of Yoko Taro as an inspiration has generated a lot of buzz for the game.

There’s also a peculiar type of Orientalism surrounding Stellar Blade. Some are holding up Stellar Blade as an antidote to woke Western games, and many people commented they’d be purchasing a Japanese version of Stellar Blade to secure access to the region-exclusive Japanese dub, despite it being a Korean game with a Korean dub.

“Is it because that’s difficult to get hold of, so you’re a bigger gamer or fan if you can demonstrate that you’ve gone the extra length to get that version?” Denny asks. “Is it because there’s particular respect for the Japanese voice cast? That might be part of these generous readings. Or is it because actually, Korean femininity doesn’t have the connotations for a Western colonial imagination that Japanese femininity does? It’s almost like in order to fulfill the fantasy of puppeteering this attractive woman and putting her in certain outfits and placing the camera just right, she needs to be Japanese.”

Based on the social media responses to news about Eve’s body and outfits, clips of the way her bum and thighs jiggle as she climbs ladders — all this amid the pushback against games that feature diverse characters and bodies — a lot of straight men seem to be assuming themselves as the rightful target audience of not just Stellar Blade, but video games in general.

Statistics show this just isn’t true. As of 2023, around 50 percent of people who play games are women. Shift Up assuming an audience of men and leaning into the male gaze so explicitly is, in essence, a marketing move that purposely others a huge number of potential players.

VIDEO: A Sign of Affection, disability in Japan, and other similar manga.

VIDEO: Our Alex discusses LGBTQIA+ anime on the Gateway to Anime podcast.

AniFem Community

Sadly, we could probably do this all day.

The entire cast of Wonder Egg Priority deserved so much better, both in and out of the show's fiction.
I feel like this could be said for 9 out of 10 shounen jump heroines. Way too many heroines in shounen manga get sidelined for the male leads. And it gets gets extremely frustrating to see a heroine get built up as a big deal only for her to be sidelined almost immediately after.  Though I have to specify Izumi from Digimon Frontiers as a especially egregious example of heroine sidelining. In every other Digimon season the female characters get their own moment to shine. Not Izumi from Digimon Frontiers. Nope when she gets her powers she is immediately defeated and rescued by her male team mates. That pissed me off so much that I stopped watching Digimon Frontiers for that reason alone.
Éléonore Saiga from Karakuri Circus.  I'm still sour over how she went from a fun, quirky oddball who was really cool in fight scenes to the story feeling that it needed to keep coming up with excuses to damsel her into the sidelines.

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