Weekly Round-Up, 26 July – 1 August 2023: “Open to Interpretation,” Josei Marketing, and Hello Kitty

By: Anime Feminist August 1, 20230 Comments
Tsugaru carrying Aya's head in a birdcage. while mirror images of Shizuku aim an old-fashioned musket

AniFem Round-Up

The Problem with Problematic Creators

Musing on how one finds the often very personal line when the harm a creator does outweighs the good of their art.

Navigating patriarchal institutions and personal power in Ōoku

A look at the award-winning josei manga behind the recent anime.

What are your best and worst convention experiences?

Stay safe out there during con season.

Beyond AniFem

Kadokawa and Bandai Namco Attempt to Walk Back Lesbian Marriage in Edited ‘Gundam: The Witch from Mercury’ Interview (Tumblr, YuriMother)

Bandai edited an interview between its print and online release to remove the word “marriage” from discussion of Miorine and Suletta’s relationship and absurdly pronounced their relationship “up to interpretation.”

In a statement released on the Witch From Gundam website and Twitter account, Bandai Namco apologized and explained the situation in their statement, saying, “In the article, there was a statement based on the speculation of the Gundam Ace editor, and despite requesting revisions during proofreading, the corrections to the passage were not reflected in the July 26 release.”

Kadokawa, which publishes Gundam Ace, released a similar statement that likewise attributed the discrepancy to an editor’s speculation, along with management and proofreading errors. Translated copies of both statements are available below.

The relationship between Miorine and Suletta garnered praise for its LGBTQ+ representation. A scene from the first episode where the two become engaged after Suletta wins Miorine’s hand in a duel went viral online in 2022. Their relationship became a central part of the narrative, and they remained engaged for the majority of the anime’s two-season run, which concluded on July 2.

Josei Beat (That Manga Beat)

Analysis of shojosei marketing in the US and some josei recommendations.

I’m writing an essay about how publishers market and think about shoujo (and josei) in the U.S., and spoiler alert—it’s

(Mostly) m/f romance written (mostly) by women for a female audience

Female-led stories focusing on relationships and emotions written mostly by women in the genres of drama, slice-of-life, comedy, and fantasy

A “genre”

Not everything is or can be a “shoujo” or “josei” from a U.S. publisher’s p.o.v. Like it (or not), “shoujo” is practically synonymous with “romance” in the U.S. (and related markets). That’s the bad news. The good news is we’re in a circa 00s shoujo boom again. (Some players have returned too.) It’s just not brought to you by 1-3 companies or 1 imprint anymore. It’s spread out among multiple publishers and imprints, and the titles will not all be called “shoujo” or “josei.” That’s just in physical books. I’ve long lost the plot and point of that essay other than “Look at all of this shit!” and have fallen into a deep, dark hole. (Send help.)

Kaori Ozaki’s ‘Love Letter’: A Manga One Shot You Should Read (Black Nerd Problems, Carrie McClain)

One-shot by the artist of The Gods Lie.

Love Letter doesn’t ask you, the reader, for judgment or even sympathy for Asako, the wayward mother. You can cast it on the page when you look upon her, but it won’t reach her. Instead, I believe Kaori Ozaki’s brilliant one shot focuses on the pure, uncompromising love that children have for their mothers that transcends all misunderstandings and shortcomings. Our darling little soul was born into a world and left too quickly as a young child to truly understand how he was wronged and how the world truly works. Never to make light of abusive persons or parents who neglect and leave children to harm, this manga one shot makes me think of the weight of a child’s words and feelings and why they are important. I leave reading Love Letter with a bittersweet taste each time I reread it. I don’t believe that there is any right or wrong way to feel in your interpretation of the one shot and why you feel that way. I feel as moved by the child ‘s heart as I do feel angry for him on his behalf.

I think of motherhood in Love Letter and the flawed, tragic example of Asako and what led to her child’s death. It feels incredibly ironic and even poetic in the darkest way that the mistakes of a mother also birthed her salvation. While difficult to read, Kaori Ozaki’s manga focuses on the redemptive manner in how love can save us. Ozaki’s manga emphasizes how grief, along with guilt, can sit with us, long after those we loved or failed are gone. This one shot quietly builds up this relationship of mother and child and how it transcends human logic and even that known above. I am always left immensely impressed by the mangaka’s decision to illustrate choice and where it takes different people at different stages of their lives. There is a sincere dedication to another here on these pages: a literal love letter for someone who certainly needs it, whether or not we, the readers, feel deserves it.

Kowloon Generic Romance – A Perspective from a Cantonese-Speaking Person (Drop Into Manga)

The series’ relationship to Hong Kong and the role of nostalgia.

I’m nostalgic about many things – especially things from the 1990s’. But when it comes to anime and manga nostalgia, I remembered that I got into anime due to Hong Kong culture. I watched Cantonese dubbed episodes of Dragon Ball Z.  That’s how it all began for me. Chinatown was my source of video games in the late ‘90s as a teen and everyone selling them spoke Cantonese. It was also a source for Chinese-translated manga when English-translated manga was about to hit its boom. Reading Kowloon Generic Romance made me think about those days of discovering fandom in the Cantonese Chinese community. 

It also makes me wonder about my place in the Chinese hierarchy in the future. I already struggle with thoughts about belonging and now with so many Chinese speaking Mandarin as their main dialect, I feel like I’m being phased out. Maybe I’m Reiko Kujirai herself. 

I do know that a lot of propaganda use nostalgia for nefarious purposes due to its emotional nature. But I don’t think nostalgia has left me in despair. Some traditions definitely need to pass on to newer generations. Yet I never found myself trying to chase the past to a huge extent. Maybe that’s it. Let nostalgia come naturally. Be like the citizens of Kowloon/Hong Kong and don’t let an entire outside institution define nostalgia for you.

Japan to open hotline for male sex victims amid Johnny’s abuse claims (The Mainichi)

The meetings to respond to the wave of survivors coming forward were convened in June.

The temporary helpline will be established specifically for men and boys, as the government believes male sex victims could often be reluctant to bring forward their cases amid a lack of understanding over the issue among the public.

The government will also offer a consultation service with lawyers with expertise in issues arising in the arts and entertainment sectors.

The emergency measures, which are intended to prevent sex abuse of minors and young adults, were decided at a meeting of relevant ministries and agencies.

Masanobu Ogura, the meeting’s chairman and minister in charge of policies related to children, said that “child sexual abuse can easily go undetected and leave people suffering long-term trauma.”

“We will put measures into action, starting from those we can apply immediately,” he said.

These Children of Japanese Immigrants Live Under Threat of Deportation (Unseen Japan, Himari Semans)

Karihomen or “provisional release” prohibits immigrants from working and must be renewed monthly.

Eunice’s father was held in an immigration detention center for ten months. ISA granted him karihomen status, which by law extended to his spouse and offspring.

After Eunice’s father was granted provisional release, her family hoped to reclaim their residency status. But that’s no easy feat in Japan.

More than 15 years have passed since Eunice’s family was slapped with karihomen status. That imposes significant restrictions such as prohibiting labor, movement between prefectures without permission, and resident registration. Without resident registration, individuals are left without access to health care, public schooling, and public housing.

Eunice and her sister are the only two out of her family of five who were able to obtain zairyu-tokubetsu-kyoka (在留特別許可), or Special Permission to Stay issued by the Minister of Justice in the spring of 2023. Her parents and younger brother are still on karihomen status.

‘Foreigners are disgusting’: Osaka school rapped over response to student’s bullying (The Mainichi, Tatsuki Noda)

Article includes descriptions of racist bullying and suicidal thoughts.

In a draft submission for a collection of students’ thoughts about graduation, the student wrote in December 2020, “There were days I wanted to die.” A teacher placed a large X over this, and told him to rewrite it. After hearing from the child’s parent, the homeroom teacher reportedly apologized.

The third-party committee ruled that while bullying had taken place, it did not rise to the level of a serious situation. On one hand, it was pointed out that the school “tried to pass off the parent’s request and lacked a systematic approach to handling the situation.” The report criticized the school for failing to respond to the case sincerely, causing the student psychological harm over a long period.

City education board superintendent Katsuya Tada commented, “It is true that the school’s inappropriate response caused distress to the child, and we apologize for that.”

Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts Pt. 1 (with Mackenzie of Mac Loves Manga) (Shojo & Tell)

Podcast discussion of the first half of the series.

Sariphi goes from ritual sacrifice to acting queen consort in the span of only a few volumes. The real problem? She’s a human living among beastkind, hiding the secret of the part-human beast king while trying to win over the hearts and minds of people who look nothing like her. Tomofuji’s series pushes boundaries, and Mackenzie from Mac Loves Manga is here to fully break them down. Mackenzie joins Shojo and Tell host Ashley to discuss the political intrigue of this series, how refreshing Sari is as a heroine, how endearing the tsundere boys Anubis and Lanteveldt are, and, as is only natural, make inevitable comparisons to BEASTARS and ZOOTOPIA.

Hello Kitty: Gender Rescue (Paste, Madeline Blondeau)

On the especially powerful gender essentialism pervading the 2000s.

Wanting to have Sanrio stuff, as it turned out, was a little fruity. And even if I thought the game was fun, I’d only be “deluding myself”—a phrase that holds weight considering my family’s history of mental illness. These barbs from not only X-Play, but their contemporaries in that era of gaming press, made me feel a deep sense of shame for what I wanted. How I wanted to play, the ways I wanted to present myself, the type of things I wanted to own—they were wrong. When you’re an impressionable 11-year-old, this sort of hyperbole gets etched into you in ways that can take years to chisel out.

But chisel them out I did—into a path out of traditional masculinity. My mom gave me my first two Sanrio goods three years later: a Hello Kitty notebook and Kuromi coffee tumbler. Dad was baffled, but I used them all the time. Through high school, into college, I caught constant shit for liking Sanrio as much as I did. You know how teenage boys in the aughts were. (Maybe you don’t—lucky.) But like a good brat, oppression only made me want to resist harder. More notebooks. More cups. Then plushes. Dolls. Anything and everything you could put a Hello Kitty on, I did. My mom supported me the entire time. Until I found people who didn’t make fun of me for it and surrounded myself with them.

In that safety, I eventually found myself. Sanrio always spoke more to me than Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, or Bratz because of that agender cuteness. It took almost half a decade on hormones to realize I didn’t want to be a woman. That “womanhood” is as alien to me as “manhood” is. Gender is not only a spectrum, but an aesthetic ideal. Ways that we give, take away, hide, reveal our truest selves. These selves are built around the divine masculine, feminine, or a mixture/rejection of the two. Over 450 creatures fill out Sanrio’s roster, and each brings some sort of challenge to the gender binary. Can a cloud of flour be a girl? Can an egg be a little guy? Can something be a cat and a person at once? Why not! There are no absolutes, only the claims we stake for ourselves. This is as true of mascots as it is us.

VIDEO: How the Student Movement of the 1960s influenced shoujo and yuri.

AniFem Community

It’s always nice to hear about folks coming together over anime (and, sometimes, trash fires).

Is it the most high brow or enriching panel I've ever seen at an anime convention? Absolutely not. But the most memorable panel I've ever been to is Evan Minto's Anime Burger Time panel, where he showcases a bunch of clips of anime characters eating burgers. I love seeing people talk about their incredibly niche interests.
Best: Gathering of The Gargoyles 2006, I volunteered, hung out with the artists in AA, & ended up at a Blue Mug in a hotel suite where KEITH DAVID SANG for us.  Worst: Anime Conji 2011 where I quit con staff because of a VA stalking me & a secret loss prevention officer with a concealed handgun.
Meeting Ryka Aoki at WisCon this year was one of my best!  As for my worst: Anthrocon 2022, when the convention center staff decided 15 minutes after closing ceremonies, as everyone was rounding their stuff up to leave, was apparently a good time to call the cops.

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