Weekly Round-Up, 19-25 April 2023: The Apothecary Diaries, Sailor Moon Manga Chat, and Shinkai Makoto Interview

By: Anime Feminist April 25, 20230 Comments
Mitsuki drinking boba tea

AniFem Round-Up

Love, Power, and Safety in The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Jessica Engelbrecht examines how the series’ strong character writing complicates the fraught premise for its probable central romance.

Idols Gone Viral: How Hololive VTubers both subvert and reinforce expectations of idol femininity

An introductory look at how VTuber spaces allow for weirdness and vulgarity in some ways, while corporate image demands still persist in others.

Sacrificial Princess & the King of Beasts – Episode 1

Rushes through a checklist of upsetting tropes early on in maybe the tamest and most toothless way possible.

What was your favorite Winter 2023 anime?

Tell us your faves before we reveal ours.

Bonus Podcast (with Transcript) 2023 April: Made in Abyss Season 2 and Abuse Survivor Narratives

Toni has a mini-essay ready about how the series finally makes good on its child suffering to grapple with anger, justice, and abuse survivor narratives.

Beyond AniFem

REVIEW: A Dialogue on Body Positivity in Embrace Your Size Manga (Women Write About Comics, Paulina Przystupa)

Two-person discussion on the manga’s strengths and weaknesses.

Katie: That is definitely a valid critique that should be discussed and done better in the future. I felt like any one chapter could have been a whole manga in and of itself (which I would have loved to see). I actually hope that hara expands on Embrace Your Size by going more in depth on specific parts of the manga in the future. However, I think Embrace Your Size hits differently for me. Part of it could be the lack of expectations I discussed earlier; part of it could be that I was just really excited to see a manga with people who look like me and that share my lived experience. I noticed the format and wanted more, but I didn’t mind so much. Yes, the steps hara talks about can feel like platitudes, but sometimes those platitudes are what you need to build the confidence to allow yourself to start on that healing journey. Those platitudes can get you through rough patches along the healing journey. I think the title of Chapter 4 sums it up pretty well: “What Gave Me Courage.” Whatever gives you the courage to take the steps towards accepting yourself and maybe even loving yourself. I also really loved that hara didn’t shy away from how difficult it can be. Even seeing the body positive fashion magazine didn’t instantly heal her. It truly is a journey with all the implied victories and setbacks.

Black people of Japan, we need to talk. (The Japan Times, Baye McNeil)

Report on a recent five-person panel at the “Let’s Talk About It: Mental Health” event.

“Passive aggression is much more prevalent in Japan. It’s a way of life,” Glass remarked at the event. “So when incidents occur, there’s a lot of discounting and dismissal of our expressions and feelings even more than in the U.S. Even by other Black people.

“Black Americans want to escape and forget that pain of being a Black American. So we lie to ourselves and say things like, ‘Oh, Japanese don’t see us as Black.’ But of course they see you as Black!… Because of the pain, we want to escape the truth. So some come here in an effort to assimilate, to try to run from us, to separate from us, from the pain of being Black. I’ve seen this in my short time here.”

That last point really got me thinking. I, too, have seen this pathology here (and back in the U.S., as well). People who — at least publicly — go way out of their way to distance themselves from anything that could be construed or even misconstrued as “self-victimization” or stereotypically “Black.” “Black” is a social construct, anyway, so why subscribe to any of it? I get it. And I see the benefits of this approach to life. Even when it’s a charade, it’s often rewarded, so I’ve always viewed it as a choice.

Glass then told the room that this is the reason why the panel was so important and why we need events like Let’s Talk About It.

“We need a space where we can validate one another’s experience — pain and, yes, anger,” she said. “Because it’s real. People need to know: It’s not just you. You are not alone.”

Audio-only film about foreigners aims to open eyes to their presence in Japan (The Mainichi)

The film follows the conversations of 15 Vietnamese, French, and American students.

The director also wants Japan to be more welcoming to foreign residents, and says that while the government touts the slogan of “multicultural community building,” many people just pay lip service to “diversity and inclusion” as mere concepts.

Saying he felt embarrassed that not one of his students had been invited to a Japanese home in Takahashi, which has a population of roughly 30,000 people, he said he hopes that his film will be like a “seed,” helping communication between Japanese and foreigners.

“Everyone will take away a different message from the film,” Habu said. “I hope people will talk about their thoughts among themselves and create new communities.”

The director also plans to show the film across Japan, possibly at mini-theaters and cafes, and overseas. He said that a small showing in February at a Boston church in the United States received some praise. The screening included a translation for the audience since the “base” language is Japanese.

Habu hopes to return to the United States for his next project and make a similar film as an Asian living in a predominately white country.

Manga You Should Be Reading: ‘The Apothecary Diaries’ (Black Nerd Problems, Carrie McClain)

Spoiler-free discussion of the first six volumes.

The Apothecary Diaries is a manga that speaks to the ways that girls and women made a way for themselves in a time and place that may have not always cared much for them. From young women in the pleasure districts who wished for their freedom one day to concubines in the palace who lost their babies and fell from the emperor’s thoughts, I loved that the more I read the more layered the stories became. The cast of supporting characters grows and grows and readers will start to see how lives are impacted by small and big news. They all do their best to survive given their circumstances.

I think of the young palace maids being illiterate solely dependent on trying to recognize correct signage on visuals alone or by asking those they trusted not to ridicule them. Or the ladies in waiting assigned to a beloved consort for years and seeing a new maidservant enter her service made them feel their position was in jeopardy. There are layers to the many characters, most of them women, and all the ways their places in society at every level were fragile and worth fighting for. On that note, Maomao’s complicated backstory and family lineage is absolutely worth reading and becoming emotionally invested in, several volumes in. It is masterful as piece by piece is revealed

Is there a curse targeting the heirs of the emperor or is there a scientific reason why the babies and their mothers are falling ill? Is there really a ghost out dancing at midnight scarring all who see her or is there a crafty young woman out there attempting to change public opinion of her to better her fate? The Apothecary Diaries pulls some fantastic “cases” with Maomao at the heart of them with her sharp mind and detective work, often doing overtime.

Group for troubled young women in Japan sues local legislator over allegations on YouTube (The Mainichi, Koji Endo)

The YouTube video alleged that Colabo was “illicitly receiving outsourcing fees.”

According to the lawsuit, Colabo is commissioned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Kawasaki Municipal Government and other bodies to conduct work to protect women who have been sexually or otherwise abused. Asano, meanwhile, posted videos on YouTube on 19 occasions between December 2022 and February 2023 under the title “Colabo investigative report.” He reportedly claimed three women that Colabo temporarily took into protective custody at the request of the Kawasaki Municipal Government were also counted under the number requested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and that Colabo received duplicate commission fees.

Colabo maintains that the three under the Kawasaki Municipal Government request were not counted under the Tokyo figures, and that Asano’s remarks differ from the facts.

Indie Spotlight: Red Rebellion (Blerdy Otome, Naja)

The studio recently published a Kitckstarter for the game.

Key Features

Multiple Girl x Girl Couples, Main Couple Focused

Multiple Choices and Hours of Playtime

Multiple Character Outfits affect choices

Two Endings

Beautifully Illustrated CGs (Two Styles) and BGs

Original Medieval Soundtrack

Historical Terms Glossary

Director Makoto Shinkai On The Anime Artistry Of Suzume – Exclusive Interview (Looper, Reuben Baron)

Interview about the film’s production and influences.

I have read that you initially intended “Suzume” to be a story about two women but were told by the producers to change one of the romantic leads to a man. Will you still try to tell more direct LGBTQ+ stories in the future?

I’m very impressed that you know about that because I think I’ve only talked about that in interviews in Japan. At first, I wanted to turn this story into a movie about Suzume and another girl journeying. Why I even wanted to go in that direction in the first place is because I personally felt a little bit tired of telling the very traditional romance story. I felt that in “Your Name,” I [did] everything that I possibly could in terms of “boy meets girl” and “will they, won’t they, will they meet.” That element of romance is very relatable to the masses, which is why it was a subject matter that resonated with a large audience.

Personally, because I’ve done that so many times, I pivoted. I wanted to pivot to a more sisterhood type of romantic story, but I had to change that because my producer said, “You may be tired of these romantic stories, but your audience loves it.” So in order to not make it too much of a romance, I decided to make her primary interest a chair.

Israeli couple become 1st foreigners to hold same-sex wedding at temple near Tokyo (The Mainichi, Takashi Nakamura)

The couple have been together for 30 years.

Saimyoji temple in Kawagoe, which held the “LGBTQ wedding,” has apparently received a number of inquiries about same-sex weddings from abroad, and multiple other ceremonies have been booked. The temple hopes to “contribute to a society that embraces diversity and at the same time become a new base for inbound visitors to Kawagoe as an international hub for same-sex weddings.”

The Israeli male couple who recently held the wedding are editor Reiss Yoav, 58, and ophthalmologist Yoram Maryon, 68. Dressed in crested hakama, or formal men’s divided skirts, the couple received blessings from those in attendance and faced the statue of the Amida Buddha, the main deity of the temple, as they embarked on a new chapter in their life. In lieu of wedding rings, the couple received rainbow-colored prayer beads, which symbolize LGBTQ and other sexual minorities, from deputy head priest Myokan Senda, and said their vows in front of the Buddha.

Sailor Moon Pt. 1 (with Anne LaRose, creator of Shojo Power) (Shojo & Tell)

Podcast discussion of the first half of the manga.

It’s our 100th main episode(!!), so we finally suck it up and cover one of the biggest shojo series of all time: SAILOR MOON. To start off, Shojo & Tell host Ashley makes a shocking confession, which Anne LaRose, who runs the site Shojo Power dedicated to analyzing SAILOR MOON, takes in stride. From there, Ashley and Anne respond to listener feedback on what makes SAILOR MOON so beloved, rank their favorite Sailor Guardians, and explore how Takeuchi’s series altered the course of magical girl stories. The story arcs discussed are the Dark Kingdom and Black Moon.

Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade held in Shibuya to celebrate sexual diversity (The Mainichi, Hiroyuki Tanaka)

Includes video footage of the march.

Some 10,000 people participated in the parade according to the nonprofit organization that hosted it. Joint representative director Fumino Sugiyama, 41, said, “The fact that rules remain unchanged even though this many people are showing support is making it difficult for the people concerned to lead their lives.”

Sugiyama also reflected on discriminatory remarks against sexual minorities by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s former secretary in February this year, saying, “LGBTQ issues gathered the greatest attention they have ever received, and it was an opportunity for everyone to think about them.” Touching on the Group of Seven (G-7) leaders’ summit in May, Sugiyama said, “Japan is the only participating country that has no marriage equality or anti-discrimination law. I want it to push forward change so that it will not disgrace itself to the world as the host country.”

Parades by sexual minorities have been held in Japan since the 1990s.

AniFem Community

There are plenty of rough gems to pick from this go round.

I only watched three shows this season. I did start with more, but many I dropped.  The one stand out to me is "Soaring Sky! Pretty Cure." It's ongoing with many episodes to go, but I'm still keeping up week by week. Everything about it is a lot of fun and I recommend. I really like the lessons they are teaching kids about kindness and I love all the characters. The characters are oozing with personality.  The next stand out was "The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady." I really enjoyed it and watched it week to week. I liked the main characters and the animation was super pretty. The anime ended in a good spot too, given that there's much more light novel story to go.  The other show I was watching, the second season of "BOFURI," I found bland compared to the first season. I still kept up with it and finished it, but I wouldn't rate it highly.
UniteUp! It was affected by the Aniplex show delays, which didn't help matters, though they did make the best of it by showing us some cool behind the scenes stuff during that period. I know Cy spoke really effusively about it and I totally agree. It's an idol show but not a typical one - I think it's a bit more realistic than the Love Lives of the world - and even though the pretty idol boys are all color coded, they all have good backstories and motivations. The songs sound good, the concert sequences look good and I love all the family/friend/support characters surrounding Akira. It's a show that didn't get much hype, as far as I could see, but I enjoyed it a whole lot!

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