Weekly Round-Up, 28 September – 4 October 2022: Ladies on Top, Women in FromSoftware Games, and NANA Retrospective

By: Anime Feminist October 4, 20220 Comments
a tanuki falling through the air

AniFem Round-Up

My Master Has No Tail – Episode 1

A cute-as-heck hobby anime with rakugo and tanuki.

Raven of the Inner Palace – Episode 1

Wobbly in places, but it’s so great to see the return of shoujo fantasy dramas.

Beast Tamer – Episode 1

The first unsalted potato of the season.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – Episodes 0-1

Do you want to see Revolutionary Girl Utena with a mecha hat?

Management of a Novice Alchemist – Episode 1

Designed to chill out to, it’s nice to see a heroine who starts out already having finished school.

Housing Complex C – Episode 1

Has a lot to say about xenophobia, but with only four episodes it’s unclear how well it will balance its insight with schlocky B-horror.

What’s your favorite Gundam series?

Tips for the newbies dazzled by the latest premiere.

Beyond AniFem

Elden Ring’s Malenia embodies FromSoftware’s problems with women (Polygon, Nico Deyo)

The optional boss is the latest in a long line of women written as alien, unknowable, and/or intrinsically tied to womanhood.

Quite a few of these archetypal FromSoft women are beloved by the fans, such as the Emerald Herald (Dark Souls 2), the Fire Keeper (Dark Souls 3), or more recently Ranni the Witch (Elden Ring). [Ed. note: Nico is being quite generous here, not listing Demon’s Souls’ Maiden in Black, Dark Souls’ infamously heaving giantess Gwynevere, Sekiro’s Emma, and the quite-literally-named The Doll from Bloodborne.] The broader gaming community usually reacts harshly toward female characters, which makes the Soulsborne community’s embrace of them feel positive on the surface. When that affection feels based on that empty, emotionless state, or reduces them to infantilized “waifus,” you realize that hostility and that fondness spring from the same deep sexist roots, twins intertwined.

To quote Matt Kim, in his piece “Why Are Female Characters in ‘Dark Souls’ Games Quiet and Alien?”:

While not exclusive to Japanese anime, this sort of archetype is one of the most popular types of characters in the medium. Stranger still is that these characters are actively fetishized for their outer-worldliness. Their lack of a broad emotional spectrum is part of their appeal. Additionally, these characters are typically more resilient than everyone else in their story — perhaps, because they are unburdened by emotions. Yet one could also argue that their lack of “emotions”, used here as an unfortunate euphemism for men’s conception of female shortcomings, makes it easier to believe they are capable of such great strengths.

However, once engaged in combat, she reveals her true, monstrous form.

FromSoft’s female characters who deviate from this quiet, doll-like appearance are still written with a lack of emotionality, which feels close to masculine stoicism. It’s a strange emptiness that informs every permutation of character that women embody in these games.

Ep 19 – NANA – Part 2 – This Baby Can Fit So Much Feminism In It (Anime is Lit)

Part two of a podcast discussion of the series, featuring our own Meru Clewis.

Part 2 of our NANA discussion, complete with spoilers. Our guest Meru (@pixelatedlenses) goes with us on a deep dive through the well-crafted storytelling and the inherent feminism woven into all its fibers. NANA candidly goes places few anime ever do, and we sift through the complexity of its portrayals of sexuality, race, gender, heteronormative expectations, friendships, and the characters’ own internal lives. We also discuss the narrative framing, highly effective symbolism, and allusions to the real life Sid Vicious, exploring how they enhance the ideas already present in the story.

Missing Voices that Matter (EventBrite)

Upcoming free talk on October 11th (must RSVP) about the history of female law professors in Japan.

In the U.S., we crossed a count of 100 women around 1970 and then accelerated to 516 women by 1979, while Japan’s count essentially flatlined. From 1958 in Japan, there were no new women entrants for about ten years and then the next uptick in Japan was just five women entering the field in the late 1960s through 1974. After a second near hiatus of about eight years, Japan then saw some modest growth to have a total of twenty-two women who had entered law teaching by 1988. Our next found data point is 402 women in 2004.

The profound scarcity of voices of women academics as leaders, teachers, and scholars in Japanʻs legal academy for several decades remains significantly detrimental for Japanʻs gender circumstances today. The story demonstrates how crucial womenʻs and other feminist voices are in addressing gender gaps and dismantling patriarchy in a society. In particular, having women and feminist allies in the legal academy is essential for feminism to advance in a society. Conversely, deficits regarding women and feminist allies in the legal academy will invariably impact the overall society’s gender circumstances for the worse. And so, just as feminist legal theorists would suggest, it seems essential to assess those circumstances in Japan with the idea that gender gap deficits in Japan’s legal academy must be at least a contributing factor to the nation’s profound and distressing gender gap situation more generally that continue to the present day.

This talk aims to explore not only how, but why the two paths diverged so significantly. With time allowing, some effort will be made to draw upon Canada’s circumstances to add another historical sequence into the telling here.

Japan high school teacher’s slap dislocates female student’s jaw (The Mainichi, Nana Kita)

The girl, whose alleged crime was forgetting to bring a jersey to practice, currently has difficulty working her jaw.

According to the school, the teacher flew into a rage after hearing from the student’s mother on the day of a regional softball meet on Sept. 24 that the student had forgotten to bring a jersey. He apparently told her mother that he would hit the student, and then slapped the teen in the cheek in front of other club members. He also hurled abusive words at her, including, “Go home,” and, “We don’t need you.”

The following day, the teacher continued to lambast the student, saying, “Are you seriously regretting what you did?” and kicked her in the buttocks and hit her head. The girl has since reportedly been unable to attend school due to mental shock.

The physical punishment came to light after a guardian of the student demanded a meeting with the teacher and the teacher reported his own actions to the school on Oct. 26. He has since been instructed to stay at home. The school quoted him as saying, “This was undoubtedly my fault. I’m really sorry.”

After questioning other club members, the school reportedly found that the teacher had repeatedly subjected the student to harsh guidance. In an Oct. 1 meeting with parents, one of the attendees apparently commented, “My daughter was shocked to hear the teacher saying things that seemed to demean his own school’s students.”

Ladies on Top Vol. 1 Review (Anime News Network, Rebecca Silverman)

Not very raunchy yet but does a lot of emotional table-setting for the main couple.

Shinomiya, meanwhile, suffers from erectile dysfunction brought on by past trauma and anxiety. He’s always been taught that he’s supposed to be the one who makes love to rather than the more passive partner, and he’s tried his best to live up to that role and all its expectations. But it’s never actually worked for him, and when a past girlfriend told him that he was boring in bed and actually sucked at sex, his confidence was utterly shattered. He’s terrified that he’s going to mess things up with Mizuki, who he likes and to whom he is attracted, and that fear translates to him being far too anxious in bed to actually do anything. When Mizuki tries to help (and fulfill her own preferences) and take the lead, Shinomiya isn’t sure he’s allowed to like it – and that makes her think that maybe she’s doing something very wrong.

The truth of the matter (which she realizes later in the volume) is that the only thing she’s doing wrong is not asking him if he’s okay with her taking the lead, and that’s not even a question he’s able to answer by the end of the book. Shinomiya’s so indoctrinated in the idea of male sexual aggression that he’s barely able to express that he has an interest in letting the woman take charge, even though we know that he’s looked up pegging on the internet more than once. He seems to feel that that’s not something he should want as a straight man. This brings us to the heart of the matter with this book – and hopefully the rest of the series – that there’s no right or wrong way to be (hetero)sexual. I use the parentheses because while there’s no wrong way to be sexual, full stop, the idea is much more frequently explored in queer titles. It’s unarguably important there, but the conversation needs to encompass every orientation, including straight, because unhealthy and harmful ideas about sex and sexuality do no one any good.

The Problem With the Internet’s Obsession With Queerbaiting (Them, James Factora)

The origin of the term and how it’s mutated from its initial meaning and begun to encompass real humans.

As with terms like “gaslighting,” “love bombing,” and “gatekeeping,” “queerbaiting” was a once-useful phrase that has become so overused that it’s nearly lost any kind of coherent meaning. Queerbaiting was once chiefly used to refer to fictional characters, and applied to films, TV shows, and other media that led audiences on to believe someone was queer. Today, it’s increasingly being used to refer to real people, mostly celebrities, who look or act queer without explicitly saying or coming out as queer.

Take some of the aforementioned examples. When Kit Connor was accused of queerbaiting for merely holding hands with Heartstopper costar Maia Reficco, he subsequently deleted his Twitter wholesale. Harry Styles, throughout his solo career, has been accused of supposedly capitalizing upon queer aesthetics for wearing “women’s” clothing and refusing to clarify his sexuality, with the latest round of ire sparked by an August interview in which he said his sexuality “didn’t matter.”

It’s something we’ve seen from all stripes of public figures: When Love, Simon author Becky Albertalli came out as bisexual in 2020, she noted that she felt like she was forced to do so because of the way she was accused of capitalizing off of queer stories as a straight person. When Normani released a music video in which she and Cardi B sensually embraced, it inspired queerbaiting accusations — ignoring that the rapper is outspokenly bisexual. Even My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way has been accused of queerbaiting, despite stating publicly that they “always identified a fair amount with the female gender” and that they use both he and they pronouns.

In a lot of cases, people who are being accused of “queerbaiting” simply haven’t defined their sexualities in concrete terms for the public. While it might be frustrating to see celebrities whom we assume (key word being “assume”) to be cis and straight adopt queer aesthetics and practices, no public figure owes us any information about their sexuality. In the end, queerbaiting accusations strip public figures of their humanity and complexity and turn them into characters for our consumption.

‘Get out of the dorm’: Cold treatment of Vietnamese intern in Japan reveals support woes (The Mainichi, Hanami Matsumuro and Yudai Hiraka)

The technical intern program continues to draw fire for its exploitation of foreign workers.

The foreign technical intern program, which began in 1993, has been criticized as “slave labor” for subjecting trainees to low-paid manual labor, contrary to its purported ideal of contributing to the international community by sharing Japanese technology with developing countries. As of the end of 2021, there were around 276,000 technical interns in Japan. Individuals in 86 job types, including construction, food manufacturing, needlework and farming, can be employed for up to five years under the system. Supervising organizations, which accept trainees selected from bodies in each country, receive fees from companies where trainees work and are obligated to audit those companies and respond to consultations with trainees.

Following numerous cases of unpaid wages, assault, harassment and other issues, the Japanese government established the OTIT in 2017 to reinforce guidance of companies and supervising organizations. Trainees are eligible to directly contact consultation counters established by the OTIT. However, a staff member of POSSE, a Tokyo nonprofit that tackles labor and poverty issues among young people, pointed out, “There are many cases that go unreported even when the OTIT fails to respond to trainees’ inquiries. The Miyagi case is just the tip of the iceberg.”

According to the OTIT’s business plan for fiscal 2022, contract employees account for about 60% of staff members, and tasks of taking phone calls in foreign languages have also been commissioned to external bodies. Ippei Torii, 69, representative director of the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ), commented that while there are OTIT employees “who work hard individually,” the organization “completely faces a shortage of staff.” Torii has suggested that the supervision of companies accepting foreign trainees, assistance for trainees seeking job changes, and other measures be taken in cooperation with labor standards inspection offices and public employment security offices.

How to Ease Your Big Burly, Hairy, Glistening, Beer Swillin’, Iron Pumpin’ DUDE Self Into the Wonderful World of Shojo & Josei Manga (Yatta-tachi, Bill Curtis)

Title suggestions depending on what broad genre umbrellas you’re into already, including where to get them.

Chihaya Ayase is constantly living in her beautiful fashion model sister’s shadow. It doesn’t help that she’s kind of an odd duck compared to her normie family. Chihaya is super into karuta, a game that’s sort of like full-contact Memory with a classical literature theme. As a kid, Chihaya was inspired to take karuta up by a transfer student, Arata Wataya. Arata eventually moved away, and now in high school Chihaya is trying to put a karuta club together so she can go to competitions and hopefully meet him again.

Chihayafuru’s primary focus is its interpersonal relationships and how the characters grow through playing karuta, but it also goes out of its way to make a game that seems like it could be dull as hell into something exciting. Characters literally dive to slap the cards away from each other. Suetsugu also goes into great detail about the potential for mind games as part of your play strategy.

TWEET: Interview with Kyle McCarley about his call for dub unionization at Crunchyroll.

THREAD: Japanese-language articles about the potential danger around new invoice laws that might make freelancers’ personal information vulnerable online.

AniFem Community

Y’all are making us sad that Turn-A Gundam isn’t on streaming.

I watched the original back in high school, coming home and crashing into bed to watch it on an iPod Touch. It was a very foundational anime for me, not my first mecha (Evangelion was my gateway drug) but I understand the importance it had on later shows and found it held up really well on its own. I related to Amuro as a nerdy military brat and Char's still one of my favorite anime villains. I tried Wing and 00 and didn't really click with either like the original.  My enthusiasm fizzled out a bit during Zeta, which has some fantastic concepts but can be a bit of a tough watch. I think it has some of the highest highs of the franchise but it can be a bit of a slog and the misogyny is really dialed up from the casual sexism of the original series.  Turn A felt like Tomino's "I'm Sorry, Women" apology note, noticeably less oppressive in tone than his prior work, with a focus on nonviolent problem solving and a lot of important female characters. I believe he credits a lot of his personal growth around the time to the women around him and I think it shows with how his portrayal of women had shifted so much from Zeta/Victory.  I could honestly talk all day about Gundam, and am really excited for Witch from Mercury, but I gotta run before I'm late for work~
I started watching Gundam in release order, so my first series was the originalMobile Suit Gundam (First Gundam). My favorite Gundam series so far is Turn A .  As a starting point I'd recommend First Gundam. But for those looking for something shorter that does a good job representing the series, I'd recommend the OVA 0080: War in the Pocket.  Among all the Gundam series I've watched, I think the one that does the best with its female cast is Turn A. Sochie, Diana, and Kihel are all fantastic characters, even though they don't get to participate in as many action scenes as the men. As for the series that treats its women the worst, it pains me to say that it's probablyVictory Gundam. It's a series I really like, but its notorious for introducing several women only to immediately have them killed off.

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