Weekly Round-Up, 3-9 May 2023: Skip & Loafer Director Profile, Rebellious Fashion, and WataMote at 10

By: Anime Feminist May 9, 20230 Comments
Chibi Polka and his ghosts dazzled at the taste of orange juice

AniFem Round-Up

Higurashi, subversion of moe, and the birth of the modern yandere

Now known as a huge origin point for modern yandere, it’s often lost that the original Higurashi had a lot to say about moe archetypes, child abuse, and mental health.

Kiki’s Delivery Service: An empowering coming-of-age tale of self-discovery

More than 30 years later, Miyazaki’s film still speaks to generations of young women looking for their own voice and a supportive community.

What anime and manga feature nuanced explorations of mental health?

Whether that’s healing and sweet or raw and cathartic.

Beyond AniFem

The Low Profile Brilliance Of Kotomi Deai, Or How Became A Protegee Of Legendary Directors Became Skip And Loafer’s Inconspicuous Director (Sakuga Blog, kViN)

A career profile on the director’s work to-date.

For as much as you can already recognize Deai’s current output in her very first attempts at directing episodes, it’s clear that she picked up a lot of knowledge from her illustrious mentors; something she’s still very appreciative of. One of the pivotal projects for her career happened early as 2008, just a couple years into Deai’s directorial adventures. While we know her as a household name now, Sayo Yamamoto was in need of revitalizing a career that might have stalled way too early due to muddy industry politics at Madhouse. Much like Deai, though higher up the ladder, she joined Watanabe for Samurai Champloo and immediately caught the attention of the studio itself. As Yamamoto herself recalls, they asked her to direct a passion project of her own with no strings attached… while Samurai Champloo was still ongoing, such was the impression she had left on them. Years later and fueled by a breakup, she made the trip to Brazil that would inspire Michiko & Hatchin: a parenting series depicting relationships, locations, and cultures rarely ever seen in commercial anime. Very much following Watanabe’s lineage in that way, but with a rebel personality of its own.

Alongside Yamamoto, as the director with a hand in the most episodes behind her, was none other than a young Deai; she tagged in alongside her for the first episode, contributed storyboards, processed those of other directors, led episodes of her own, and even helped on the grand finale. Although her episodes were rarely the most extravagant showcases of animation, she did handle plenty of pivotal moments for the show. Her nonchalantly emotive storytelling rooted Yamamoto’s wild imagination into something very personal and real, making for some of the show’s greatest highlights. You don’t have to take my word for it, but rather just look at how Watanabe himself made her arguably his second in command for his next title Kids on the Slope. As his sole assistant, Deai would again have a direct hand across multiple episodes, starting with the premiere and including fan-favorite moments like episode #07.

Burning Bunnies and Kawaii Resistance: On LARME’s 10th Anniversary Video (Unseen Japan, Megan Rose)

Retrospective on the fashion brand and what makes it transgressive after it received severe backlash for making an anniversary video decrying harassment.

Part of Nakagori’s inspiration comes from her previous work as an editor for Koakuma Ageha (2005-2014). Ageha was an iconic magazine for hostesses and gyaru alike, and was known at the time for pushing the envelope of acceptable discourse in women’s magazines. Topics covered were often “sickly” (yami, やみ) in nature, exploring issues of trauma, abuse and addiction. For many young women, it was one of the only places they could be “real” with others like them.

In her interview with TV-Asahi for the 10th anniversary event and its fashion show, Nakagori describes herself as “more of a dystopian than utopian person.” Setting the show in Kabukichō was ideal, as to her it is a site where chaotic cultures are born.

For Nakagori, the world she created through LARME has always been shadowed by feelings of sadness and trauma. She wanted to create a space free of men that women could occupy. Toys for Nakagori have always played a key symbolic role in its pages, she explains.

Nakagori says she is particularly inspired by texts like The Poem of Wind and Trees (風と木の詩; 1976-1984) by Keiko Takemiya. This serial BL manga used flowery imagery to explore tragic themes of abuse of power at a time where society shamed women for their bodies and assaults. Nakagori is very familiar with how kawaii can be used to explore serious issues with femme audiences.

Episode 197: Stitch (Fansplaining)

Podcast interview (and transcript) with fandom studies expert Stitch.

In Episode 197, Flourish and Elizabeth welcome back Stitch, the media critic and fandom journalist who was one of their original “Race and Fandom” guests way back in 2016! Stitch discusses their career trajectory from omnivorous fan to independent blogger to writing the “Fan Service” column for Teen Vogue, where they’ve tackled everything from escapism to boys’ love fic to racism—and especially anti-Blackness—in fandom. They also talk about the specific dangers they and other Black commentators face in being vocal about these topics—and how the threats they’ve received will likely make their work unsustainable in the long term.

Japan moves to criminalize exploitative photo voyeurism (The Mainichi)

Previous penalties were measured by individual municipalities’ standards. Includes extensive discussion of sexual harassment.

Along with legislation related to “photography crime” prohibiting surreptitious pictures of a person in postures that might be construed as sexual in nature, supplying or disseminating sexually explicit images or video are also included as punishable offenses.

Such voyeurism cases have occurred more frequently in recent years, with a corresponding uptick in arrests made. Under the new law, violators would face imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 3 million yen ($22,000).

The new regulation, however, does not include photography of athletes in sporting attire at competitions, except in cases when an infrared camera that can see through clothing is used. It would prohibit the taking of such photos of athletes in training, though.

According to the National Police Agency, the number of arrests for surreptitious photography reached 5,019 cases in 2021, roughly three times the 2010 figure.

One major cause for the increase was the spread of smartphones but perpetrators say that no matter how they do it, they treat it like a game which allows them to find satisfaction with little regard for guilt or risk.

From Introvert Cringe to Yuri Harem—Watamote Turns 10 (Anime News Network, Norbert Daniels Jr.)

Checking in on the still-running manga a decade later.

Reading the manga beyond the anime, it immediately shifts away from everything that made it such an intimidating series to get through. The seeds of personal improvement that Tomoko sowed at the beginning of the series begin to sprout. She becomes frenemies with her schoolmate Kotomi Komiyama, a baseball otaku who has a lot of the same rough edges as Tomoko. And one by one, the cast grows. There have even been hints of romantic interest between Tomoko and her female friends. You’ll hear fans claim the story’s been transformed into a yuri harem manga.

The old Tomoko was a loner. New Tomoko has a friend roster in the double digits. Old Tomoko was apathetic about school. New Tomoko attends regular group study sessions and even went to a summer college prep camp with several friends. Old Tomoko revealed herself as a pathetic loser to her little cousin, who formerly looked up to her. New Tomoko has regained all that respect and more.

WataMote is no longer about mining cringe humor from social anxiety. It has become a journey of opening yourself up to the world and being transformed as a person, bit by bit. The story started with Tomoko in her first year of high school, and now she’s in her senior year. She’s had plenty of opportunities to stop and reflect on how different her life has become. My favorite moment is when she looks at her calendar and realizes she’s gone from the girl who spends her entire school breaks cooped up in her room to someone with so many social engagements she hardly has time to be alone.

Final Fantasy XVI Banned In Saudi Arabia (Kotaku, Isaiah Colbert)

This has led to extensive speculation as to whether the game includes queer characters.

According to FFXVI’s ERSB rating summary, the game will include:

…a character caressing and straddling a man in bed; references to prostitution—sexual moaning sounds in a brothel; dialogue such as, “I’d be happy to show you…provided I can afford it” and “…thank you for your service. My chamber is just upstairs.” Some characters are depicted with partially exposed breasts and buttocks. The words “f**k” and “sh*t” are heard in the game.

If Square Enix refused to compromise on a scene where, let’s say, a dude gives his best bro a supportive thigh massage before assuming the position of a service top, we might have an early game of the year contender on our hands, folks. My delusional wishes aside, the rest of FFXVI’s rating summary is filled with the usual affair of fantasy violence against trolls and orcs with lightning and fireballs and the occasional slit throat of a guard by a knife who probably deserved it. We’ll just have to wait to hear what exactly is causing a problem for the game’s Saudi Arabian release.

Answerma: Why is Yuri Anime So Popular Now? (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)

Theories on the recent renaissance of yuri titles.

Because of that diverse path of evolution, “yuri” is a vague and inclusive category which can include explicit LGBTQ+ themes, but isn’t exclusively defined by it. The narratives don’t even need to be romantic; there are plenty of yuri fans and creators who would argue that yuri also encompasses any strong feelings like friendship, affection, respect, or jealousy. This vagueness is what allows non-romance titles like Puella Magi Madoka Magica to top yuri anime popularity polls. In other words, despite having a niche core audience, it may be relatively easy to sell yuri anime to people who do not necessarily call themselves yuri fans.

What’s interesting to note is that, for all the popularity of yuri anime lately, the yuri manga market is actually considerably smaller than the BL market—one estimate puts it at one-quarter the size of the BL manga market. The manga and anime markets are not the same thing; manga is cheaper to produce and can serve devoted niche audiences with little risk. Yet considering the relative sparseness of BL anime, it would be very difficult to say that rising awareness of the LGBTQ+ community is the sole or even the main factor behind the popularity of yuri anime. The differences between BL, a genre that is mainly defined by romance narratives, and yuri, which is vaguer (and therefore more adaptable to different audiences), may help explain the discrepancy, although it is worth keeping in mind that anime aimed at female audiences tend to get the short end of the stick in general.

Hustling Souls — Hard games and neoliberal catharsis (Ko-Fi, alex.)

Proposing the difference between Soulslikes and other hard games is a false paradigm of meritocracy.

Extreme challenges are a mechanic not a genre. If you are intent on challenging your players as brutally as possible, it is important to be unambiguous that the story you are telling is about overcoming hardships, not simply living through them. That these hardships are unique to and just as unique as the individual trying to overcome them. That we all have different forms and types of challenges, some of them very visible, most of them completely invisible. That it is neither good nor bad to fail or triumph, but that every one of us has the strength and courage in themselves to overcome whatever struggle it is we are fighting with. That when we reach the summit one day, what awaits us is a world of more opportunities (and new challenges), not a place where we can rest and wait for our eventual and necessary demise. For these are the stories that foster hope in us that tomorrow might be a better day and that we can do this. Because we can.

It is equally important to recognise that when a video game is adamantly ambiguous as to its story’s core# and unwavering in its ignorant stance on inclusivity, it might quite likely be because the game does not want to foster hope but simply relish in despair. Reinforce and reproduce instead of teaching patience as a tool for overcoming. There is no moral argument here. The existence and enjoyment of FromSoftware’s Souls-games is not morally reprehensible just as it isn’t a badge of normative excellence. If people can find an analogue between their own life’s hardships and overcoming excruciatingly difficult challenges in a video game, so as to be able to look back and say: “I did this, I got here. And I got here by the strength I have in myself and the support system I have built around myself”. Who can claim these works of art should not exist?

Ainu Ancestral Remains, Long Held in Australia, Returned (Unseen Japan, Noah Oskow)

The remains, promised in 2017, arrived back home this year.

Between 1911 and 1936, Japanese researchers sent Ainu remains to Australia for anthropological research purposes. Now, four such sets have at last been returned to Japan, and to the larger Ainu community from which they were removed. These include a singular skull taken in 1921 from the area of what is now Kyowa Town in central Hokkaido; another skull was taken from Sakhalin Island in 1936, and exchanged for Aboriginal remains supplied by an Australian museum.

A Long-Awaited Ceremony

The Ainu delegation to Melbourne Museum for the handoff ceremony Saturday included Okawa Masaru, the executive director of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido, as well as Tazawa Mamoru of the Enchiw (Sakhalin Ainu) Bereaved Families Association. Officials from both the Japanese and Australian governments were additionally present. The handoff itself was presided over by the deputy president of the Museums Board of Victoria, Tim Goodwin.

The Ainu delegation held a Kamuynomi, a traditional ritual to offer thanks to the kamuy – the spiritual, divine beings within the Ainu cosmology. Australian Aboriginal people were also present at the event, and offered up their own prayers for the repose of the Ainu deceased whose remains were at last being returned to the home of their ancestors.

Following the Kamuynomi, Mr. Goodwin was contrite, expressing regret for the harm done by the Australian museums in question. “We apologize for the distress their removal has caused your communities and sincerely hope that their return will help in repairing the damage caused.”

Tazawa Mamoru of the Enchiw Bereaved Families Association, well aware that there were yet Australian indigenous remains being held in Japan, said the following: “I pray that the remains of the Aboriginal people will also be swiftly returned from Japan.” [2]

SWET Talk Shop via Zoom: Navigating Gendered Language and Inclusivity in 2023 (Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators)

Registration for a free upcoming talk on Saturday, May 13th (JST) by Professor in Japanese at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, and community organizer and PhD candidate Tanomi.

Linguistic practices are evolving quickly as transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people around the world fight for rights and basic respect. What does good gender-inclusive English look like? What is gendered language like in Japanese? These are some of the questions we will discuss, tapping into the expertise of Professor Claire Maree, researcher and specialist in everyday language practices relating to gender and sexuality, and Japanese trans rights activist and neuroscience researcher Tanomi. We will share specific models to refer to and experiences to consider.

AniFem Community

Always nice to see new titles crop up among the standards.

"My secret with the girl next door" does a real good job depicting what it's like to be with someone with ptsd. The protagonist is a women with previous trauma from a stalker. And the story does a realistic job of depicting how ptsd can effect a relationship and how certain things that may seem normal or harmless to a person without ptsd can be triggering. Speaking from my own perspective as someone with ptsd I found the story very relatable and validating.
My Brain is Different. It's a biographical manga that compiles the stories of various neurodivergent people each of whom have or have family with various developmental disorders and how they've come to live and cope with those disorders. It does have some stories that in which mental and physical abuse is prevalent so anyone that decides to check it out should keep that in mind.

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