It’s short but this season also had one of the best anime of the year.
The team picked their individual top five titles for the year past and compiled them into a list.
A fine but stiff production with an overstuffed cast.
Leaning into sports anime tropes but doing them very well.
Impressive sci-fi from a seasoned director.
This month’s resource post focuses on hotlines, counseling, safe houses, and planning guides for abuse survivors.
On the Lie of “Let People Like Things” (Teen Vogue, Stitch)
Unpacking the use of “let people like things” as a silencing tactic against both fan complaint and professional criticism.
What’s changed is the way that people react to criticism of their favorite fandom object. Fandom has a problem with criticism. The backlash to the second installment of this column is proof enough of that, but it goes beyond that. Across the past two years, pop culture journalists have been harassed for asking tough questions of celebrities or not giving them high enough reviews on their latest projects. Gamergate, a widespread racism and misogyny-fueled harassment campaign that literally changed the shape of pop culture criticism and politics, oriented itself around the lie that it was a fandom movement revolving around “ethics in video game journalism.” To many people, this was the birth of “Let People Like Things” culture, a position online where anything goes except for… criticism.
Think about the way fandom as a whole – regardless of what the fandom is even into – positions itself as marginalized by critique. “Women — especially young women — are consistently derided and dismissed for the celebrities and figures they find attractive, and conversely, celebrities have been derided and dismissed if they tend to draw a young, female audience,” Lena Barkin writes in “It’s OK to be horny for the villain.” “From Frank Sinatra to The Beatles to One Direction to BTS, young female fans have been targeted by pop-culture critics as the epicenter of some sort of national moral crisis, for what they love and how they love it. The modern era of media fandom has mixed in social judgment of queer people’s desires as well.”
But this quote, and the piece around it, presents liking villains as something special and worth protecting because women and queer people enjoy those things. I love a good villain as much as the next person, but conflating critique of villains and their fandoms with secretly hating women and queer people is… suspect. Note that Barkin’s clumsy hyping up of Rudolph Valentino’s Ahmed in 1921’s The Sheikh, a “period typical” racist performance, doesn’t just reframe the film as empowering and erotic. It’s also the only real engagement of race/racism in the piece, which says volumes considering much of the ongoing critique of villains in Western media and their fandoms revolves around their very tight focus on white male villains.
Ryunosuke’s Transition: Helen Chazan Reflects on Rumiko Takahashi’s URUSEI YATSURA (Solrad, Helen Chazan)
A personal reflection on how Takahashi’s play with gender roles became a space to see transness reflected in butch girl Ryunosuke.
It was probably never Rumiko Takahashi’s intention to create a gift to trans lesbians when she set out to create a long-running sci-fi comedy for Shonen Sunday, but that’s what Urusei Yatsura has been for me. I began reading about a year before I transitioned, and, in an odd way that I find difficult to talk about without exaggerating, I found through the manga a myriad of beautiful examples of how many different ways that a woman can be. The girls in Urusei Yatsura are powerful, cute, bitchy, playful; Lum is utterly unstoppable but she has interiority; everyone wears a million different great outfits and expresses anger, frustration, joy, and confusion in an endlessly moving cycle of comedic action.
In an essay recently translated by Jon Holt and Teppei Fukuda in The Comics Journal, critic Natsume Fusanosuke opines that “For Takahashi, gender is something like a softball which can be squeezed into the shape of gourd that has both a male end and a female end.” Urusei Yatsura, I feel, explores the female end of the gourd. The manga plays with a spectrum of expressions, emotions, tones, styles that girls can have, an almost psychedelic range that transcends what boy’s and girl’s comics had ever shown before. The gender trouble of Urusei Yatsura is one where butch and femme, cute and sexy, demure and aggressive endlessly transgress on each other in a bubbling cauldron of identity and possibility. A shy girl throws a desk, an alien goddess cozies up to a sleazy delinquent. As I set out on my own gender journey, I was (and still am) exploring my (trans) womanhood, but also declaring it. Like the girls in Urusei Yatsura, I am as proud as I am confused, uncertain, exploring, still growing, and changing. So it’s potent stuff for me in addition to great fun.
What Penguindrum Can Teach Us About Extremism (Anime News Network, Vinicius Marino Carvalho)
A spoiler-heavy analysis of Ikuhara’s 2011 series.
Like most allegories, Penguindrum uses the Tokyo gas attacks as a mere starting point to a much bigger story. Yet, the best allegories are ones that only get better the more we know about the original event.
On March 20th, 1995 Aum terrorists brought bags of the nerve-agent sarin to several lines of the Tokyo subway. The plan was to puncture them with the tips of their umbrellas, then escape the scene. Not all of them, however, followed the instructions to the letter.
On the Marunouchi line, Ken’ichi Hirose, the man in charge of releasing the gas, was spotted by a schoolgirl. He managed to flee the train car and board another train, but the setback left him distraught. When he finally pierced the bag, he ended up poisoning himself as well.
Thanks to the intervention of another cultist, a senior medical doctor named Ikuo Hayashi, he survived. Dr. Hayashi himself carried on a separate attack on another line. He, too, might have wavered: of the two sarin bags he was supposed to puncture, one was found intact after the incident.
Penguindrum, too, features a doctor – Sanetoshi Watase – and a schoolgirl – Momoka Oginome. Just like her possible real-life inspiration, Momoka foils the terrorist’s plan, but not without a price. They are trapped in a curse, forced to confront each other by manipulating the lives of others. Like Old Gods fighting a proxy war through the hands of mortals, they exploit the inner conflicts of those affected by the incident, nudging them to either destroy the world or keep it on its tracks.
Yoshinaga Fumi: Those Gallant Girls’ Comics of Hers (The Comics Journal, Natsume Fusanosuke)
Translation of a 2005 article by a seminal shoujo-focused academic on Yoshinaga’s skillful use of manga genre conventions.
Although some might simply describe her manga humor as dry and unfunny, Natsume goes on to consider how “gallant” or “graceful” (isagiyoi) Yoshinaga makes girls’ comics that defy gendered stereotypes by having female characters who often behave in extremely rational ways—and, vice-versa, male characters who defy type by acting irrationally and fully revealing their feelings. Such characters abound in Yoshinaga’s masterwork series, Ōoku, which had the last installment of its 19-volume series appear in the December 28, 2020 issue of the monthly magazine Melody (February 2021 cover date). Dr. Hikari Hori, writing in 2012 about the beginning of the series, went further than Natsume does, arguing that Yoshinaga’s manga “overturns and interrogates popular gender discourses” and “demonstrates the potential of feminist authorship in the practice of deconstructive storytelling” (“Views from Elsewhere: Female Shoguns in Yoshinaga Fumi’s Ōoku and Their Precursors in Japanese Popular Culture”). And yet, what Natsume does in this essay is to concretely isolate those Yoshinaga traits, or, the “expression and grammar” that he sees in her works—placing her style in his larger theoretical approach of “formal expression” (hyōgen-ron). Seemingly contradictory, Yoshinaga blends a shōjo manga panel configuration style with a “gallant” and “dry” sense of pathos, thereby allowing her to create a new kind of feminist and critical commentary on gender in her comics.
VIDEO: Discussion of the accessibility features in the newest Pokemon game.
VIDEO: Long-form breakdown of High Guardian Spice’s strengths, weaknesses, and the disproportionate backlash to its existence.
VIDEO: Recovered 1998 interview with Utena manga creator Saito Chiho.
THREAD: Longtime otome game translator discusses her approach to conveying the intent of romance across the barrier of cultural expectation.
THREAD: Seven Seas announces new imprint specifically dedicated to bringing over steamy romances aimed at female audiences.
THREAD: The reposting of an article that explains a great deal of why everyone was recently gleefully dunking on Tokyopop for their 25th anniversary.
…Actually as a team that all lived through the 00s manga bubble we got a real kick out of those dunks, so here’s some of our favorites.