This season had plenty of shows we liked, but only a handful that stood head and shoulders above the rest.
It’s a lovely season for surprises, mess, and surprisingly compelling mess.
From global anime to stories adapting foreign works.
Bonus manga and movie faves from the staff.
Tamura Toshiko: The ‘New Woman’ Feminist in Early Modern Japan (Unseen Japan, Alyssa Pearl Fusek)
A biography of Tamura’s powerful and influential writing career.
While acting, she honed her writing skills by contributing essays to various theater and art magazines. Just as A Doll’s House was one catalyst for the New Woman phenomenon, it also paralleled a reckoning in the form of the Shingeki (新劇) movement. Shingeki adherents sought to incorporate Western-style techniques and focus more on stories imbued with social commentary and logical plots instead of the aesthetically traditional production typical of kabuki.
At the time, several feminists and women writers struggled to explain a woman’s place in a modernizing theater. Tamura, with her upbringing and education, didn’t shy away from contributing to these discussions. Indeed, doing so seemed to have sparked her deeper interest in women’s issues. Of particular concern to her was where women stood in relation to onnagata (女形), the male actors playing female roles in kabuki. Should these actresses supplant onnagata completely based on the merit of their own gender, or merge in a symbiosis founded on traditional and modern values? Tamura believed that “breaking down the conventional ways of onnagata and making progressive plays should be the mission of modern actresses” .
Since she called for women to actively participate in modernizing the theater world, it only made sense she contribute as well beyond simple critiquing. Tamura wrote her own spin on A Doll’s House with her play Slave (奴隷; Dorei). Slave follows successful writer and New Woman ideal Fujiko and her unemployed partner Shinnosuke, a mirror to Tamura’s own fraught marriage. Both attempt to adhere to societal norms while asserting autonomy as their true authentic selves . While Nora flees her home and its conventions, Fujiko takes ownership of the home and accepts Shinnosuke as her “slave” to do her bidding.
N LITE’s ‘Afro-Anime’ Film MFINDA Reveals More Staff, Preview at Annecy (Anime News Network, Alex Mateo)
The preview event will take place this June.
Christiano Malik Terry, founder of N LITE, also leads N LITE Japan with Shin Koyamada (The Last Samurai, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior) and Shigeru Igari (former CEO of Atlus). N LITE is producing MFINDA in Japan. Donald H. Hewitt (Spirited Away‘s English screenplay) and MFINDA creator Patience Lekien are writing the screenplay. The production credits Lekien and Terry with the story.
N LITE aims to bring black and indigenous stories in partnership with global creators. AFRIME, or afro-anime, is its hand-drawn 2D animation. The company plans to produce AFRIME films and television series. N LITE Japan is working on upcoming projects based on anime and manga IP.
Asexuality in Yuri: The New “By Your Side” (YuriMother, Nicki Bauman)
Preview of a Patreon article on several series with asexual characters.
Finally, Renmei’s 2021 series Lilies and Voices Born Upon the Wind (Yuri to Koe to Kazematoi) also presents a look into an asexual Yuri relationship, but without the romantic relationship of Doughnuts Under a Cresent Moon or Catch These Hands. Also, unlike those two titles, this manga notably openly discusses asexuality and LGBTQ+ identity using explicit terminology. Additionally, although lesbian attraction and the relationship between two women is at the story’s core, its exploration of asexuality often takes an even more central role than in previous examples.
At the start of the series, the main character Matoi identifies as asexual, describing it as a lack of romantic and sexual feelings, which, as a reminder, is a common definition in Japanese LGBTQ circles. According to her, “That describes me perfectly,” and the character even clarifies other aspects of their identity, like that she is not a lesbian and is cisgender. Renmei does this to affirm to the audience that Matoi truly believes she is asexual and that the description resonates with her. Although by the end of the series, Matoi’s identity evolves, the author wanted to make it clear that she is not a closed lesbian or in self-denial in any way. Thus the series set the boundaries for exploring her evolving identity within the umbrella of asexuality.
‘Breeding ground of abuse’: 13 Nagoya Prison guards face prosecution over abuse of inmates (The Mainichi, Kenichiro Fuji)
This article includes graphic descriptions of abuse against prisoners.
Now, the prison is once again a place where human rights have been ignored. Former inmates and others with first-hand knowledge told the Mainichi Shimbun that nothing has changed at Nagoya Prison, which houses over 1,200 inmates considered high risk for reoffending. Around 40% of these are former members of organized crime syndicates.
A middle-aged man who was an inmate after the incidents in the early 2000s told the Mainichi Shimbun that guards pushed him into a cell as they blamed his poor attitude toward other inmates. Although he insisted he did not violate any rules, a senior prison officer in a one-sided argument shouted, “Are you saying everyone aside from you is lying?” and did not take him seriously.
“Even though it was right after (the abuse incidents), I thought, ‘nothing has changed’,” he recalled. Regarding the latest incidents, the man said, “In the end, it means the same kind of environment still remained at that place after all.”
Top court to take up bathroom ban on transgender employee (The Asahi Shimbun)
The courts initially ruled in the woman’s favor but later reversed the decision.
The hearing, which was set on April 25, is a requirement for the Supreme Court to review the legality of a lower court ruling that the ban is not illegal.
It will be the first time for the Supreme Court to rule on how workplaces treat sexual minorities.
The plaintiff is an economic ministry employee, who is registered as a male in the family registry but lives as a female due to gender dysphoria.
She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria around 1999 and she later informed the ministry about her condition.
Due to a health reason, she has not undergone sex reassignment surgery.
Documentary reflects disabled man’s death after being seized by police in Japan (The Mainichi, Megumi Nokura)
The 30-minute documentary was released on YouTube.
As a lesson learned from the incident, the association has called for the Police Duties Execution Act, stipulating custody of people who could injure themselves or others due to being mentally deranged or intoxicated, to be revised to remove the phrase “mentally deranged,” and to require duty of care for police officers to respond according to the characteristics of people with disabilities. This is also mentioned in the film.
In September 2022, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarded phrases such as “mental derangement” and “insanity” in Japanese laws as derogatory and advised for the abolition of such derogatory terms.
Tamano Tsujikawa, lawyer and secretary general of the association, said, “Yasunaga wouldn’t have died if even one police officer on the scene had been aware of his disability. Although things like this shouldn’t happen, there are many cases where victims are left with trauma even if they don’t die. We would like to use Yasunaga’s death as a lesson for the future.”
Fire!: Mizuno Eiko (Brain vs. Book)
The title remains one of the top-sought licensing requests for classic shoujo fans.
Fire is a legend. If you start getting into the history of shojo or just reading older shojo, you will come across people talking about Fire. You don’t even have to focus on shojo; if you go back in manga history in any genre, you will eventually run into Fire. You will read passionate praise of Mizuno and her groundbreaking masterwork, you will learn that she once apprenticed to the mighty Tezuka himself, you will find out that she was the only woman to live in the famed Tokiwa house of manga artists in the sixties—you will be told that she was the cool girl, the one who could keep up with the boys.
You will not, however, be able to read Fire. Or so it was for the fifty years since Fire was completed in 1971 until this very year when Bungeishunju at last brought the series back into print. Two weeks after I was finally able to get the original Sun Comics series off of Yahoo Auctions…
Soaring Sky! Pretty Cure: Episodes 1 – 12 (Anime News Network, Rebecca Silverman)
Check-in on the first cour of the latest PreCure series.
As the twentieth-anniversary series of the Pretty Cure franchise, taking this approach is a great choice, as it serves as a reminder of the genre’s power. The fact that we also have the first official boy Cure and will get a young adult Cure later in the series also speaks to the staying power of both Pretty Cure, in general, and the magical girl genre as a whole. Cure Wing appears three-quarters of the way through this set of episodes, and it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that Black Pepper (and other male helpers) cleared the way for Cure Wing’s arrival. He’s immediately an essential part of the team rather than an addition to it. It’s also interesting to note that his regular form is unusual: he’s a Skylandian bird that can transform into a human. Again, this feels like a nod to the boy helpers we’ve seen in earlier iterations of the franchise, specifically Cure Parfait’s brother in Kira Kira Pretty Cure a la Mode, who had brief moments to shine but ultimately wasn’t truly part of the team. (Of course, there are earlier examples; I’m using this one because it has an official English release.) In terms of gender roles and outdated norms, it’s also important to see Tsubasa become Cure Wing because it emphasizes that magical girls’ gentler, magic-based powers are not exclusive to girls. Boys can be fighters without having to punch people in the face or undergo physical training arcs. (In fact, it’s Sora who does that in episode twelve, and that’s because it’s something she actively wants to do rather than because it’s strictly necessary.) When the fourth Cure arrives, it will remind us that we don’t need to grow out of things we enjoy, a message we don’t hear often enough.
VIDEO: Recent changes and hopeful news in the world of shojosei anime.
TWEET: Otakon has recently announced that GamerGate supporter Ollie Barder will be one of its guests.
Very cool to see some older shows getting shoutouts on this one.