Weekly Round-Up, 27 October – 2 November 2021: Japan’s Election, International Anime Collabs, and Konbini Zombies

By: Anime Feminist November 2, 20210 Comments
a boy in the foreground looking exaggeratedly shocked while a smiling, sparkling man passes by in a sky car

AniFem Round-Up

Finding Inner Magic: Depression in The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Lynzee Loveridge explores Chise’s character arc from suicidal depression toward self-worth and inner strength, and how it resonates despite the anime’s flawed ending.

From Princes to Pigeons: A Beginner’s Guide to Otome Games

With visual novels marketed to women finally getting a small foothold in the English-language market, Katie Randazzo offers a primer for those curious about the wide world of otome.

High Guardian Spice – Episode 1

A gentle, comfy magical girl coming of age series with some pleasantly overt LGBTQ+ representation.

Who’s your favorite lady mentor in anime and manga?

And why aren’t there more of them, for that matter.

Beyond AniFem

In Japan, Rural Voters Count More Than Those in Big Cities. It Shows. (The New York Times; Motoko Rich, Makiko Inoue and Hikari Hida)

Examination of the election demographics of Japan, both in how rural areas tend to lean conservative and how those same areas rely on politicians to provide public funds for local revitalization projects.

Because rural voters skew older and lean conservative, said Yusaku Horiuchi, a professor of government and Japanese studies at Dartmouth College, they tend to elect politicians — often from the L.D.P. — who maintain the status quo.

So, for example, although the bulk of the Japanese public favors changing a law that stipulates all married couples must share a surname, rural voters are more likely to support keeping the law as it is. “If the voter malapportionment is solved,” Mr. Horiuchi said, “urban voices will be heard.”

Advocates for rural areas say that if representation were allocated strictly by population, Japan’s remote areas might deteriorate further, an argument that some political scientists agree has merit.

Given the connection between representation and public funding, said Yuko Kasuya, a professor of comparative politics at Keio University in Tokyo, “one counterargument would be that, OK, you might have a very efficient, equal distribution of subsidies, but that would mean rural areas do not have roads, do not have shopping malls and do not have basic facilities.”

Japan’s Whiteness Problem, Part 2: The Propaganda Machine (Unseen Japan, Thalia Harris)

Discussing the US’s white supremacist influence on Japan during post-WWII occupation and its long-lasting consequences.

In my opinion, the Occupation-era media portrayal of Japan is an eerie precursor to how we speak about Japan now.  According to popular Western opinion, Japan is a picturesque land of pagodas, cherry blossoms, soft-spoken women, and adorable children. It’s definitely not a place, the consensus maintains, for unsavory discussions about colorism, whitewashing, or other “identity politics”.

This rhetoric is pervasive and feeds into Japan’s self-image. It slows the potential for empathy and understanding down to a crawl. Today, the finger-pointing between the US and Japan about which country is more racist only makes this discussion harder.

During Japan’s economic miracle in the 1980s, the country was a juggernaut. It ruled the roost in consumer electronics and car manufacturing. This added to Japan’s collective confidence in its seemingly homogeneous society, especially in opposition to the United States’ multicultural society.

The aforementioned hubris culminated in a controversial quote from September 22, 1986, from then-Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro :

In a highly developed information society and a highly educated society such as Japan, the people require politics that bravely faces problems. In the United States, because there are a considerable number of blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans, the (intellectual) level is lower.

FOCUS: Japan election pledges on LGBT rights boost legislation hopes (Kyodo News, Yuka Nakao)

This article, admittedly, takes on a more depressing tint with the knowledge that the LDP maintained its majority in the recent election.

Public understanding of sexual minorities is improving, according to a nationwide survey by a research group led by Kazuya Kawaguchi, a sociology professor at Hiroshima Shudo University. The number of those in favor of same-sex marriage increased to 64.8 percent in 2019 from 51.2 percent in 2015, the survey showed.

Among 1,051 candidates running in the House of Representatives election, 56 percent support same-sex marriage, said Marriage For All Japan, an organization campaigning to realize marriage equality.

The LDP says in its election pledges that it looks to raise awareness about sexual minorities. However, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also LDP leader, said his party has no plans to submit a bill on the matter next year and he is also reluctant to recognize same-sex marriage. He said during a lower house plenary session earlier in the month that the matter “concerns the very basis of the family” and requires “extremely careful consideration.”

Makiko Terahara, a 46-year-old lawyer and co-leader of Marriage For All Japan, said the scant progress made in establishing policies for the LGBT community in Japan reflects “deeply rooted” discrimination and the lack of diversity among lawmakers, judges and media reporters.

From India: Anime is Here to Stay (Anime Herald, Neil Dias)

A history of anime’s history on Indian TV from the 90s to today.

In the past, exposure to animated television, or indeed any kind of television, was very rare among the previous generation, because private companies had only been broadcasting since 1992. Taking this into account, anime got off to a relatively good start in India. The selection of programmes that were accessible was nothing to write home about—we had to watch what was on and pray for a well-timed rerun in case we missed something. However, I will once more repeat, anime got off to a good start in India, being viewed primarily as something very niche and underground, something unlike the generic animated series that were popular among younger kids.

Once the digital development here picked up, and computers grew more commonplace, it wasn’t uncommon to see zip drives with entire seasons being shared. Indeed, having the entirety of Dragon Ball Z on your computer was something to brag about. Towards the end of the 2000s, the anime movement was beginning to gather steam, and the future looked bright.

Then came a drop. The overall animated show scene in India changed, and suddenly there was saturation caused by poorly animated spinoffs. This was also the time when anime targeted towards a younger audience (say, Doraemon) started running for almost the entire day on channels other than Animax and Cartoon Network, those who had decided to capitalise on animation’s audience potential. Suddenly, anime was seen as something that ruined a child’s life, something that was an addiction—something that grew and grew and grew like a cancerous growth.

Becoming Best Friends With Streets of Rage’s Adam Hunter (GameByte, Gabriel Leão)

Spotlighting the SOR character and his place in the history of Black videogame characters.

The game Streets of Rage has always depicted police corruption and, in its fourth instalment, the player can clobber some dirty cops. As I interviewed its developers for Brazilian and American media, I found that the game’s main goal is to entertain people and the themes touched on it just coincided with the turmoil going around the globe, games take years to develop from the brainstorming to its release, including character creation.

Aside from being a person with a steady job, Hunter is also a family man, who looks after his kid brother Eddie “Skate” Hunter and his daughter Cherry, and is not shy to jump on fire to protect them while also being a trustworthy friend. A positive portrayal of a Black character with family bonds who is also an ethical cop.

As a journalist, I have covered boxing and I’ve always found this art is portrayed one-dimensionally in games. The majority of boxers follow the slow-heavy hitter stereotype coming after Street Fighter’s Balrog (Mike Bison in Japan), a likeable villain, still a Bizarro world pastiche of Mike Tyson, a boxer with more technical skills than meets the eye of the casual fan.

Tokyo TV station skips ugly controversy over Princess Mako’s marriage, shows Blade instead (SoraNews24, Casey Baseel)

The showing of this classic vampire film will overlap with a long and persistent rumor mill regarding the princess’s relationship decisions.

Many non-Japanese-language reports make mention of Komuro being a “commoner,” but for members of Japan’s imperial family in the modern era, marrying a commoner is their only option, as Japan has no other remaining families of official aristocratic status. However, under Japan’s Imperial House Law, a female member of the imperial household is considered to leave the royal family and enter her husband’s upon marriage, thus losing her own royal status. But while Mako marrying a commoner was a foregone conclusion, whenever a member of the imperial family announces marriage plans there’s an intense scrutiny, generally from members of Japan’s far right wing, of their partner’s perceived worthiness to be associated in any way with the emperor’s family.

The major criticism of Komuro stems from a financial dispute between his mother and her former fiancé, in which the fiancé claims he was never repaid a loan he made to her of four million yen (approximately US$35,000). The mother claims the money was given to her as a gift, but Komuro has since issued a detailed document outlining a process to pay the money back. Komuro previously sporting a non-traditional ponytail (which he cut before meeting with the emperor and empress) also irritated his critics, and odds are Mako’s intention to leave Japan and relocate to the U.S. aren’t sitting well with hardline traditionalists either.

With the grumbling still persisting four years after their getting engaged, Mako and Komuro forwent any publicized royal wedding, and an announcement was made that they would simply be turning in their marriage registration form on Tuesday morning, then holding a press conference to address the situation that afternoon at a hotel in Tokyo. Naturally, camera crews from just about every TV broadcaster in the city showed up, with one exception. Instead of broadcasting the press conference live, like pretty much of all of their competitors were doing, TV Tokyo chose to continue with its plans to show Blade.

UK-Japan Comedy-Horror ‘Konbini Zombies’ In The Works At 108 Media (Deadline, Tom Grater)

The film aims to start shooting in April 2022.

“I’m really passionate about telling universal narratives and elevating underrepresented voices. I aim to deliver a bold and unique project that inspires audiences to see Japan from a new perspective,” commented [director] Akandé. “108 Media shares this vision of amplifying strong diverse content with me, and with their wealth of experience and knowledge within the industry, they will help enrich and elevate this exciting and unique project.”

Anime Producers Explain The Ups and Downs of Overseas Collaboration (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)

Notes from a seminar about creating anime with international collaborators.

Despite the difficulties and failed deals, Hirasawa said he is satisfied with his dealings because they establish precedents for overseas collaborations. As examples of successful partnerships, he highlighted Arch’s investment in Yostar Pictures, an animation studio founded by the Chinese game company Yostar. When a Yostar producer said he wanted to make anime-style PVs to promote the games, Hirasawa advised him that because most Japanese studios are based around a film or TV show production pipeline, he would need to establish a studio from the ground up that specializes in PV work. From there, he introduced the producer to various other creators and producers. The idea behind Yostar was to establish it from the start as a studio with a digital production workflow.

Another positive example he highlighted is The Journey, a Japanese-Saudi Arabia co-production. This deal came about because Toei Animation has always had a strong relationship with the Saudi Arabia-based company Manga Productions. The “Saudi-Japan Vision 2030” agreement between Japan and Saudi Arabia gave Toei the opportunity to pursue business relations in earnest, but because the studio was too busy to immediately work on the project, they turned to Arch to help establish a new studio based in Japan. The idea was to get Saudi Arabian talent to learn Japanese techniques and create their own titles. It was also a good opportunity for the Japanese side to learn more about the world of Islam and Saudi Arabian culture.

For their part, Fanworks started getting involved in overseas collaborations in 2015 with the Aggretsuko series. Takayama said that the appeal of anime is ubiquitous, so a big reason for collaborating is to be able to share the anime with as many people overseas as possible. On the other hand, he pointed out how different cultures react differently to certain content, and said this created a constant push-and-pull between the Japanese creators and overseas audiences. This would lead the creative side to ask themselves whether the traditional ways in Japan were in need of updating, or whether they were fine as is. However, Takayama also said that being exposed to these different viewpoints also made avenues to create something entirely new.

How The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles portrays the immigrant experience (Eurogamer, Alan Wen)

How the characters and the game’s translation choices feed into its cross-cultural story.

That said, this imbalance is present even when the game is in Japan, such as in Ryunosuke’s first trial where an English witness initially refuses to ‘condescend’ to speak in Japanese – the kind of behaviour you might associate with Brits abroad (or people from other Anglophonic countries). But it’s felt far more strongly once you arrive in London to find how brazenly xenophobic people are towards both Ryunosuke and the “Nipponese”, which his prosecuting opponent, Barok Von Zieks, throws about with as much contempt as a slur.

When Ryunosuke finds himself defending fellow Japanese, Natsume Soseki (based on the real-life moustachioed Meiji-era novelist), it’s almost shocking how much the defendant is singled out simply because he is Japanese, such as when one juror accentuates his “sallow complexion and short stature” as a sign of his guilt. You’d probably call it overbearing and exploitative if it wasn’t for the fact this is a game made by Japanese developers, and the original Japanese text is reportedly even more overtly racist.

The prejudice and discrimination were certainly real at the time, when Western countries played up ‘Yellow Peril’ to stoke hate against Asian immigrants, even as they were happy to exploit them with unskilled low-paid jobs. Ironically, the lengthy wait for Great Ace Attorney’s localisation means its depiction of anti-Japanese sentiment hits a rawer nerve in 2021, when we’ve seen a spike in Asian hate crimes in the wake of the pandemic, from racial slurs to physical assault.

It’s not just open hostility that’s captured but also the microaggressions, some of which might come off comical but still have the sting of reality when white people, whether wilfully or unintentionally, get foreign names wrong. That extends to when Ryunosuke and his judicial assistant Susato encounter Sholmes’ precocious assistant Iris, who immediately calls them ‘Runo’ and ‘Susie’ instead. While it’s true that she does give diminutives to her nearest and dearest, such as ‘Hurley’ for Sholmes, it still reflects the reality of how ethnic-sounding names are often anglicized for the benefit of Westerners.

TWEET: Notice of an upcoming trans rights protest taking place in Tokyo on 11/20.

AniFem Community

Seeing all these cool ladies has healed and revitalized us.

I think pretty much all of the female mentors in Chihayafuru (the anime -- I haven't read the manga) are excellent, firstly because they are all interesting, well-written characters, and secondly because each one shows a different way to fulfil the mentor role. My personal favourite is Midori Sakurazawa. I really enjoy how analytical and down-to-earth she is; how she applies those traits to being a club advisor and more broadly to how she understands competitive karuta and its players.

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