News on our new review database, perks, and some delays on international shipping.
Lilith Miao discusses plural representation in media and how Ciconia develops & humanizes its plural character instead of using their plurality as a device for horror or suspense.
Because sometimes we just need to forget the world is a trash fire.
Interview: Stars Align Director Kazuki Akane (Part 1) (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)
Akane discusses the process of making the show and its decision to tackle abuse and marginalization.
Getting back to the story, episode 8 includes a scene discussing LGBTQ+ and X-Gender. When did you become interested in this subject and why did you want to include it in the anime?
It was around five years ago. Homosexuality is a fairly common theme among Japanese manga and novels, particularly in Boys-Love works that are aimed at women. I knew that there was a genre for same-sex relationships, but as far as entertainment in general goes, I had my reservations about how it’s often portrayed. You see, in live-action television, love between men is treated as comedy. It’s a similar case overseas as well, like in America or Europe, and I couldn’t help but feel uneasy about it. I always thought there was something wrong about it.
In Stars Align, there’s a plot where the boys dress as girls so that they can gather intel on a rival school. When I was writing it, I heard that people who question their sexuality and gender exist. So I actually gathered information about it. Someone I know introduced me to a person who presents as male, but the family registry says he’s a woman. Through talking with him, I understood that this kind of plot shouldn’t be mere comedy. When he told me that he’d been questioning his gender ever since he was a child, it made me think about the struggle we all have to reconcile our identities and where we belong in the world.
The scene in the anime is not just about same-sex relationships but about finding our place in the world. It’s about all kinds of things. Gender identity is a part of that as well. Finding that purpose in your own being is something that everyone who participates in society has to do in some form or another. I wanted to make use of that in my story, or rather have it as one of the themes.
You don’t really see much of this kind of thing in anime, do you? I mentioned before that it’s presented as comedy, and I think that’s awfully insensitive. Questioning your gender is a perfectly valid thing to do. I think that anyone who has ever questioned their place or reason for being should be able to empathize in some way.
Japanese people have an old-fashioned way of thinking when it comes to these things, so there’s not yet a widespread understanding of LGBTQ+ and X-gender. There are Japanese words like “okama” and “onee”. I think we really ought to change the way we talk about such people. Young people should be able to understand, so I wanted to try putting this message into an anime. Even in Japan, young people have a better reaction regarding LGBTQ+ than older people do. Older people tend to panic. (laughs)
But, you know, I was really surprised by the amount of reaction the episode got from overseas on Twitter and so on. When episode 8 came out, there was a flood of reactions from people happy about the message about LGBTQ+ and empathizing with others.
Herbivore Men in Japan: A Step Toward Gender Equality? (Unseen Japan, Alan Cheng)
Looking at the rise of the phrase in the late 2000s to describe straight men who don’t pursue sex or romance and how it fits into discussions of gender equality.
Social historian Maekawa Naoya (前川 直哉) disagrees with the idea that herbivore men are a “victory” for feminism. Maekawa argues primarily that they’re not not totally free from gender roles. He cites an interview from Morioka’s 2009 book Herbivore Men Will Bring Your Last Love ( 『 最後の恋は草食系男子が持ってくる 』 ) as an example. One of Morioka’s interviewees said, “I’d like for both of us to be working. But if we had kids, I’d want my wife to take care of them.”
While herbivore men recognize and reject the oppressive nature of traditional male gender roles, they do not do the same for those gender roles imposed on women. Maekawa criticizes this as “having the best of both worlds.”
Sociologist Kumiko Endo agrees that traditional gender norms still persist even among those who self-identify as herbivore men. She conducted interviews with many single men and women in 2018 and observed the following:
From my male respondents’ perspective, what constitutes the ideal ‘suitable person’ was described as the following: ‘someone easy to talk to’, ‘someone like an older sister’ (culturally speaking, someone indulgent), and ‘someone who won’t negate me and who will validate me’. The general consensus could be summarized with one oft-cited adjective in describing the attractive female mate: the ‘comforting-type’ (iyashikei). The single men that I interviewed also emphasized that the ‘suitable’ woman would be positive and bright, but certainly ‘not voracious’ (gatsu gatsu shiteinai), because this ‘carnivorousness’ would imply a sense of aggression.
Kumiko Endo (2018): Singlehood in ‘precarious Japan’: examining new gender tropes and inter-gender communication in a culture of uncertainty, Japan Forum
In particular, Endo observes that, while single men (and women) in Japan are starting to defy their own gender norms, their expectations of the opposite gender are still dictated by traditional values. In other words, herbivore men alone won’t solve the furariiman problem.
Idolm@ster Voice Actor Shiki Aoki Comes Out as Transgender Man (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)
Discussion and summary of Aoki’s coming-out video (with link).
Aoki said that he does not plan to undergo hormone therapy for as long as he remains a voice actor because it would change his voice and he is attached to the characters that he currently plays. He did, however, express the hope that he’ll get to play more male roles in the future.
He also explained that sexual orientation and gender identity are entirely separate. He previously identified as bisexual but now identifies as pansexual. He mentioned that he has received approval from his agency to talk publicly about his gender identity and sexuality.
He described his journey grappling with his gender identity at length. He said that he was aware of conflict regarding his gender for a very long time, but struggled to articulate it. Even when he was a child, he was reluctant to play female roles and wanted to be a male actor. In middle school, he began experimenting with dressing as a man and referring to himself with a masculine pronoun. Around this time, he dated a girl for the first time, and because there wasn’t much awareness of “LGBT” in Japan, he thought that he was a lesbian, but it did not sound quite right to him.
Domestic violence cases in Japan reached new high in 2019 (The Japan Times)
A series of statistics covering DV reporting in 2019.
Among the investigated cases, 8,168, or about 90 percent, were assaults, including those that did not result in injuries. There were also three cases of murder and 110 cases of attempted murder, the report showed.
Among the consultations, about 80 percent of the alleged victims were women, and about 80 percent of the alleged assailants were men. But the number of male victims rose to 17,815, tripling from 5,971 in 2014.
Fire Emblem’s Manuela is a messy woman, and it’s inspirational (Polygon, Patricia Hernandez)
A dissection of Manuela’s character arc and the gendered reactions to her as an “unwanted” older woman.
“I spent many nights buttering up nobles in power,” Manuela says. “No matter how humiliating the task, I’d do it. Because I wanted to be a star.” Flayn gets it, though. She responds by telling Manuela that, sometimes, survival means doing things you don’t want to do. This is especially true for women in this world, who don’t have nearly as many choices as men.
But even if this weren’t true, I’d find it hard to judge Manuela. Part of that comes from playing through Three Houses, and knowing how grueling it is to have to kill former friends and allies to finish the game. We don’t really see this, but you have to imagine that as the healer of the academy, Manuela has to deal with the brunt of this reality. I’d drink, too. Plus, as much as the men want to belittle her search for love, given the heights she’s reached as an opera star and top professor, what else is there to strive for butintimacy? Jo March isn’t less than because she longs for a man in her life. She’s just human.
Finding Asexuality in the Archives (Slate, Michael Waters)
Including examples of documents referencing asexuality explicitly in the early 20th century.
Transvestia, written by and for the trans community, was not the only example of trans people openly identifying as asexual. In an October 1970 article on trans liberation, the Philadelphia newspaper Gay Dealer wrote that “Trans Lib”—short for transgender liberation—“includes transvestites, transsexuals, and hermaphrodites of any sexual manifestation and of all sexes—heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and asexual.” At one feminist conference in 1973, women and nonbinary people were asked to wear a label choosing one of several identities: “Straight, Lesbian, Gay, Butch, Femm, Asexual, Anti-sexual, ?, other, etc.” Asexual researchers recently located a photo from a similar conference in which Barnard College activists asked attendees to “choose your own label instead of having someone do it for you.” Among the listed options was “asexual.”
Some early discussions of asexuality cropped up accidentally. In 1971, the Village Voice published what it intended to be a parody article titled “Asexuals Have Problems Too!,” but in a flurry of letters to the newspaper, readers embraced what they assumed was a frank discussion of asexuality—suggesting a widespread curiosity about asexual identity. “Now I don’t know if I’m an asexual or not, but I know that when many of my friends are claiming to be staving off their primitive, lustful desires, I’m spending most of my time trying to reassure myself that I have them,” one anonymous reader told the paper. Soon after, queer zines began making occasional references to asexual identity—the beginnings of what would prove to be a profound link between zine-making and the asexual community.
A short interview with Nakamitsu Izumi, under-secretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs.
Nakamitsu, the highest-ranking Japanese at the United Nations, pointed out that the roles of men and women are modelled to the public in various ways including through popular media.
“On (Japanese) TV debate programs, men discuss difficult subjects while female announcers are on the set like ornaments. On TV dramas, too, you might see men holding a business meeting and women serving them tea,” she said.
As a result, Japanese children are conditioned to accept gender boundaries as a natural part of society, Nakamitsu said, adding that such norms have been internalized to a highly abnormal degree in the country.
Animal Crossing and Asperger’s: How One Gamer Found Solace in a Virtual Village (Fandom, Laura Dale)
How the game’s routine-based gameplay can help create soothing structure away from overstimulation.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf allowed me a space where it was okay for me to obsessively do the same tasks, day in and day out, without anyone judging me, or telling me that some of them were unnecessary.
I know I don’t strictly need to water every flower in the game every day, but doing so hurt nobody and brought my life a sense of control and structure — something I sorely needed. I could pop into the museum, the clothing shop, and the general store, with no pressure to purchase anything, just double and triple-checking that I had not missed something important.
Where in real life, I didn’t know what task I would be given each day upon arriving at work, I was always sure what would be expected of me when I logged into Animal Crossing. I didn’t always know what I would be eating for dinner, but I did know that I was roughly twelve days away from upgrading my in-game house.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Creator Shares Inspiration For Manga’s Racially Diverse Setting (Anime News Network, Kim Morrissy)
A short comment from the manga author’s Twitter.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! creator Sumito Ōwara shared his inspiration for the racially diverse setting of the school depicted in the manga. In a tweet posted on Monday, Ōwara wrote in English: “I was attending a public elementary school. There were Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Americans, Iranians, Brazilians, Egyptians and Nigerians. Those are normal. And there were various skin colors, religions, and various names.”
Ōwara went on: “I don’t know nationality by name, I don’t know nationality by skin color. Some Japanese have dark skin. Some Japanese have white skin. They were all unrelated to us, everyone was friends.” The message was translated through Google Translate.
TWEET: Commentary from a former idol on a video of a young idol candidate being shamed for her weight.
THREAD: List of free manga legally available until the end of March
Ah, that’s a good hit of nostalgia. Now, remember to vote if there’s an election near you, kids.