Weekly Round-Up, 21-27 June 2023: Pride Manga Roundtable, Final Fantasy XVI’s Grimdark Narrative, and Barefoot Gen’s 50th Anniversary

By: Anime Feminist June 27, 20230 Comments
chibi Elda freaking out

AniFem Round-Up

Working Out the Kinks: Deconstructing gendered expectations of sex in Ladies On Top

This steamy josei series pushes back against assumptions that women shouldn’t be sexually assertive, that men can’t have trauma, and wraps it in a sweet romance.

A Life Drawing Boys: Takemiya Keiko, the shoujo trailblazer and proto-BL artist

While Takemiya is one of the most influential manga artists of the 20th century, she and her work remain virtually unknown in English-language circles.

Chatty AF 187: Yuri Is My Job! Retrospective

Alex, Vrai, and Toni shine a spotlight on one of the best modern yuri available, its genre commentary, and its cast of lovable disaster girls.

What was your gateway yuri or BL series?

And does it hold up?

Bonus Podcast (with Transcript) 2023 June: Queer Foodie Manga

Cy, Vrai, and Alex dive into the blossoming subgenre combining LGBTQ+ romance and food, from What Did You Eat Yesterday? to She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat.

Beyond AniFem

The ‘JRPG’ label has always been othering (Polygon, Kazuma Hashimoto)

On the term’s origins and connected bigotry.

This year, a G4 review from 2006 about Baten Kaitos Origins, an RPG developed by Japanese studios tri-Crescendo (the Star Ocean series) and Monolith Soft (Xenoblade Chronicles), resurfaced in the wake of the discussion of the term JRPG on Twitter. While footage of the overall review was condensed, it featured fear-mongering and jokes about replacement theory (a baseless conspiracy theory stating that white people are being “replaced” by immigrants of color). In the footage, co-host Morgan Webb said, “While Japanese people may be technologically advanced and financially powerful, they’re already in decline.” The network’s review of Final Fantasy 12, while giving it a perfect score, featured the hallmark racism and homophobia that was in line with how most major North American publications talked about the series post-Final Fantasy 10. These offensive reviews particularly fixated on the idea that the series had “annoyingly girlish” protagonists in characters like Tidus or Vaan.

This sentiment was also shared in physical issues of Game Informer. In editor-run columns in the magazine, now-iconic Japanese protagonists like Cloud Strife, or even Sora from Kingdom Hearts, were torn down in deeply homophobic ways, with a focus on their more androgynous looks compared to the brusque Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. At the time, Japanese protagonists were viewed as “girlish” or “feminine,” and these designs were notably emasculated by the press in a similar way that both Chinese and Japanese men were emasculated in America in the 1800s and 1900s, respectively. This stereotyping was also not exclusive to Japanese RPGs, but found its way into the general perception of Japanese video games and their subsequent development.

ROUNDTABLE: Pride Month, Manga Edition (Women Write About Comics, Masha Zhdanova)

Staff recommendations and discussion of recent trends.

What I would ask instead is this: What types of “gay” representation and creative expression are present in BL and yuri manga?

Alenka: I am not sure I feel qualified to answer this question but I want to point folks to two very good, related resources: 1) The episode of Cathy G. Johnson and Remus Jackson’s podcast Drawing a Dialogue, “Boys Love Manga,” and 2) the academic panel referenced heavily in the episode, “Boys’ Love: The History and Transformation of BL in Asia,” on the Japan Foundation’s YouTube. Both discussions are really fascinating. I think I would call BL & yuri manga “queer” in a Western academic sense, both because it features queer relationships and sometimes queers the idea of what a typical relationship/relationship trajectory looks like in manga romance. Because queer relationships are not the norm — although queer relationships in BL and yuri manga often follow their own specific set of norms — characters in yuri/BL frequently have to ask themselves, why do I feel this way? How will I act on these feelings? What will I build with this person that I have feelings for? I think that particular path is very queer and one that I relate to having to follow. A couple series I’d name that feel distinctly queer in this way — that feature characters who deeply question themselves and find ways to pursue love outside of known norms — are Sasaki and Miyano and Bloom into You. Manly Appetites also comes to mind, because Otsu in particular has to learn to see himself differently in order to grow and begin a relationship with Minegishi.

Masha: I went to a panel at a con once about yuri manga where Erica Friedman was speaking, and she said “yuri is lesbianism without lesbian identification” (or something like that, it’s been a few years so I might be misremembering), but the gist was that in a yuri manga the girls kiss but don’t generally call themselves lesbians or identify as girls who like girls or part of the LGBT community. I feel like that’s changed a lot and very quickly, with stuff like How do We Relationship? where the protagonists are explicitly only interested in pursuing relationships with women and very sure of this, and autobio manga like The Girl That Can’t Get A Girlfriend about the author’s real relationship with another woman. I’ve also seen people say that like, BL isn’t inherently queer rep because it follows a set of tropes which aren’t reflective of anyone’s real life experiences, but I don’t think that really makes sense to me. I dunno, I guess it’s all kind of just… vibes… But also like who am I to say what’s authentic representation of something I’ve never personally experienced? I’m not Japanese, and neither are most of those cultural theorists on social media sites tweeting about what kind of manga “counts” as “representation.”

‘BAREFOOT GEN’ TURNS 50: A-bomb manga masterpiece born out of anger at mother’s death (The Asahi Shimbun, Yuhei Kyono)

Part one of a three-part series on the influential anti-war manga. Includes graphic descriptions of civilian casualties.

As he saw the tiny bone particles at the crematorium, Nakazawa thought about his mother, who raised her three remaining children despite her life ruined by the atomic bombing.

On the train ride back to Tokyo, he made up his mind to tackle the atomic bombing head-on as a cartoonist.

“On her behalf, I will avenge the deaths of my father, elder sister, younger brother and a sister who died just four months after her birth,” Nakazawa wrote about his determination at the age of 27 in his autobiography “Hadashi no Gen Watashi no Isho” (Barefoot Gen, My Will).

“I will thoroughly bring to account those responsible for the war and the atomic bombing, whether they are the Japanese government authorities or the U.S. government authorities,” he thought. “Through manga, I will fight them to the last stand.”

His wife, Misayo, remembers that Nakazawa did not utter a word that day.

The Post-Roe Re-Examination of P.T.’s Lisa (Videodame, Alina Kim)

Examining the short game through the lens of domestic violence.

To offer P.T. some credit, its gameplay does glimpse into this terror of domestic violence — after all, much like the real-life counterparts, toxic masculinity led Lisa’s partner to engage in murder. However, in its decision to center Lisa’s corpse as the antagonist, it more so sensationalizes the consequences of her torture than critically examines what abuse looks like. In light of the war on reproductive rights waged by incels, right-wing evangelicals, far-right extremists, and conservative politicians, this displacement of her husband’s villainy stings even sharper.

It’s important to note, though, that P.T. was produced by a Japanese company, and thereby any post-Roe analysis is translated cross-culturally. I’d argue, nevertheless, that the Silent Hill franchise was never one to flinch away from attempting to address reproductive rights. (Silent Hill 3, for one, contemplates women’s right to abort God.) Neither does this negate its relevance to the issue of spectacle, sexual violence, and hunting down of women victims, in which we all are arguably entangled in a patriarchal world. Nor the reality that American fanbases enthusiastically engage with international video games as cultural digests.

That alone is compelling enough for us to revisit and criticize Lisa’s monstrosity, lest we find ourselves imprisoned in a political death loop: doomed to relive, but never reimagine, the same atrocity time and time again.

Foreign Residents Decry Japan’s “Legal Worker” Campaign as Harassment (Unseen Japan, Jay Allen)

The recent push is utilizing cute mascots to incentivize outing and harassing undocumented workers (referred to here as “illegal immigrants”).

In ISA’s promotional materials, the images it tends to use for “foreigners” are white people.

But as our own Noah Oskow pointed out on Twitter, white immigrants aren’t even close to being the majority of immigrants to Japan. Per ISA’s own numbers, the majority of Japanese immigrants come from majority non-white Asian countries. Over 50% come from China, Korea, and Vietnam combined. The Phillippines, Brazil (which has long historic and complicated ties with Japan), and Nepal round out the top six spots.

The country potentially shipping the largest population of white people is the United States – and only 2% of immigrants to Japan come from America. Also, needless to say, not every immigrant from the States is white. “White person == immigrant” is a stereotype that speaks more to Japan’s “whiteness problem” than to any reality regarding immigration.

After the Rain and Kowloon Generic Romance Manga Artist Jun Mayuzuki (Anime News Network, Christopher Farris)

Interview with the artist on her process and inspirations.

MAYUZUKI: I decided on having a woman in her 30s early on, and I feel like the reason might be because of my tendency to draw manga like I write diaries. In After the Rain, we had this teenage character, and it’s not fun to do the same thing over again, so the characters in Kowloon Generic Romance are in their 30s.

If we look at Akira being 17 in After the Rain, then the next progressive step after that would have been to draw someone in their 20s, but I wanted to go further. It came at a time when there were no older adult female characters being prominently featured in young magazines. I thought having someone in their 30s is a good character setting for my next work, and 32 is just an age that I like. I like the sound of it. I like 32. It might seem kind of random, but I wanted to draw an adult woman. It’s not actually Reiko who fits that bill. It’s Kujirai B. She’s the one that I really felt like I wanted to draw.

OKUMA-SAN: Mayuzuki-sensei is really good at showing the appeal of older characters, both men and women. It might be because she’s just really good at observing them in that positive light and then putting that in her works.

MAYUZUKI: Yeah, maybe that is what it is. I do feel like older people just have more attractiveness to them. If I had to summarize the reason for having these older characters in my works in one word, it’s my personal preference.

After the Rain and Kowloon Generic Romance are both stories of romance in some way. Has romance always been a favorite storytelling convention of yours? If you were to do a non-romantic story next, what do you think it would be?

MAYUZUKI: It’s not that I especially love romance as a genre or as a material. As far as I’m concerned, there are not many romantic elements in After the Rain from my perspective, which is why I tried to pour that into Kowloon Generic Romance. I put it in the title as well – ‘Generic Romance.’ It’s not like it’s my favorite thing that I have special, strong feelings about.

Larger than Life—Body Diversity in Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (Ogiue Maniax)

Brief spotlight on three of the well-developed, sympathetic fat character in GWitch.

Fatphobia is still prevalent in Japanese culture. While there will be the occasional piece of media that pushes against it (sometimes in flawed, yet well-meaning ways), Japan is still predominantly a place where “thin” is in. That’s what makes the presence of fat characters in Gundam: The Witch from Mercury noteworthy; it features multiple characters who are portrayed not as comic relief or even fetishes, but as just cool and admirable in their own right.

VIDEO: Starter shoujo manga across eight major stylistic archetypes.

VIDEO: FFXVI’s grimdark narrative and how unappealing it is as a marginalized player to play a game filled with relentless bigotry one is expected to acquiesce to.

THREAD: Hanamonogatari (AKA “old woman yuri”) artist despairs at the early cancellation and lack of licensing interest in her work. Remember that pirating indie work has a significantly greater impact than mass-market Shonen Jump titles.

AniFem Community

Y’all brought us a nice spread of genuine quality and nostalgic trash.

Gateway Yuri series for me was Mai-HiME, and I haven't gone back to it, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't hold up.

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