Weekly Round-Up, 6-12 September 2023: Japanese Neopronouns, Joseimuke Imprints, and Historical Shoujo

By: Anime Feminist September 12, 20230 Comments
Pride from Last Boss Queen pointing a broadsword toward the camera

AniFem Round-Up

Lilies In Transition: The state of trans representation in yuri

The small number of titles has started to grow recently and expand beyond magical transition to include more grounded depictions of trans identity.

My Fave Is Problematic: Stop!! Hibari-Kun!

The rom-com was incredibly ahead of its time in its depiction of a trans heroine; its depiction of sexual harassment and non-Japanese characters is considerably less so.

What was the first anime film you saw in theaters?

And if none, what would you pick?

Bonus Podcast (with Transcript) 2023 August: Sexy Stories with Adult Characters

This month, we talked about the sometimes frustrating work of finding sexy titles in anime and manga that focus on adult characters, and share some of our faves!

Beyond AniFem

Navigating Gendered Language and Inclusivity in 2023 (Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators)

Transcript of a discussion on language and pronouns with linguistics professor Claire Maree of Melbourne, trans rights activist and neuroscience researcher Tanomi in Okinawa, and moderator Emily Balistrieri in Osaka.

Tanomi: Okay, so my pronouns in English are he/him/his, and in Japanese I ask people to use the word kanodan (彼男), which is basically—so it’s not something that I was the first to come up with, it was sort of in existence since the nineteenth century actually, as I found out—it’s basically a neo-pronoun in Japanese that I’ve been advocating the use of.

And so it’s meant to be sort of symmetrical to kanojo (彼女) in the sense that kanojo means that woman and it corresponds to she/her in Japanese. Kanojo is a third-person singular pronoun for people of feminine gender.

Currently in modern Japanese we use the word kare (彼) for he and him, but kare itself didn’t actually, originally have a gender. If you’ve learned a bit of classical Japanese, you might have heard this, but the word kare or are [was] used to just talk about people and things of any gender in the third person. It had a really broad meaning as he/she/it/they. But starting in the late nineteenth century—well, really kind of starting in the early twentieth century, it slowly morphed into an exclusively masculine pronoun.

And so, I just wanted to propose the use of kanodan (彼男) to designate people of masculine gender because using this originally gender-neutral word, kare, for men, for people of masculine gender, comes from the assumption that males are the default gender. The male is the default gender, and only the female requires this extra mark. It’s a marked trait. Sorry, I don’t know the English term for it. But so only women are referred to as kanojo (彼女), whereas men are referred to as kare (彼).

So I wanted to propose . . . to make it symmetrical so that men are referred to with a word that specifically refers to their gender, just as women are also referred to in that way.

The history behind kanojo is also fascinating because it’s basically sort of like, by English standards, also a neo-pronoun. It really entered common usage only in the early twentieth century, and now it’s so widespread that we don’t even think about it anymore. We just take it for granted that women are referred to as kanojo whenever we use third-person pronouns in Japanese, which is not that often. But when we do, it’s taken for granted that it’s gendered.

But originally that was actually not the case, and it took like a few decades for people to accept the new set of pronouns. So my idea is to bring back kare as a gender neutral, they/them kind of third-person pronoun. And in order to do that, I feel that he/him has to have a specifically masculine pronoun.

I’ve been advocating, but it hasn’t really caught on. And I think there are still many discussions to be had about how to reintroduce gender-neutral third-person pronouns in Japanese. There are several ideas floating around. Using kare is one option. Kanoto or kano hito, written as that person (彼人), is another option. Again, these haven’t really caught on quite yet. But these are conversations that people are having more. I don’t really know how it’ll play out—but I feel like it’s okay to have several options in parallel, just as we’ve always had in Japanese for other pronouns. We have many options for first-person pronouns, all of which have their subtle gendering.

Many female election candidates face sexual harassment, verbal abuse in Japan: survey (The Mainichi, Hiroyuki Tanaka)

The group backing the politicians was started last August.

The group backed a total of 29 female candidates, including a lesbian, in their 20s and 30s in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Nagano and other prefectures in the April 2023 local elections, and 24 were elected. They surveyed 21 of them to find out what challenges they faced and what they felt during the campaign.

With multiple answer options available, the women were asked what they had experienced between the time they decided to run for office and the campaign period. Fifteen respondents said that they had encountered insulting attitudes or comments based on their gender.

One candidate said she was photographed with an unknown man on the street without her permission. Another candidate handing out her business card to a passerby was asked, “Can I call you when I want to go on a date?” In another case, a candidate was told, “Cute girl, you can actually think about politics.”

In addition, 15 respondents faced “defamation and harassment on social media and in emails,” 11 experienced “sexual or violent verbal harassment (including jeering),” 10 “criticism and slander about private matters such as age, marital status, childbirth and child-rearing,” and 9 had to deal with “excessive physical proximity, such as touching the body or getting closer than necessary.”

Why Do Works from this Acclaimed Mangaka Remain Unpublished in America? (Game Rant, Kevin T. Rodriguez)

Overview of Ikeda Ryoko’s career, influence, and works in English translation.

As a largely self-made woman, Ikeda is very protective of her works, and doesn’t let anyone have them without her approving of how her works will be presented. While The Rose of Versailles is considered enough of a classic that both the anime and manga were brought over to the states, they were costly licenses and the series never caught on in a way to justify those expenses. Seven Seas Entertainment made an attempt to develop a relationship with Ikeda, yet the results were not as hoped.

They acquired Claudine…! for release in America (since it was a one volume series, it sounded like a good launching pad), yet the process of bringing it over was reportedly a challenging one, and Ikeda’s hands-on work ethic made the contract negotiations take longer than what would normally happen. Unsurprisingly, Claudine…! wasn’t exactly a New York Times best-selling title, and considering how difficult it was to get this single-volume book licensed for not much reward, Ikdea gained a reputation of being more trouble to work with than was worth it.

So while manga fans would love if many of her other works were licensed and translated, it appears the authors’ reputation precedes her and the couple of things we did get were not big enough moneymakers to encourage other publishers to attempt to get more. Which is a shame, because as far as manga artists go, the works of Riyoko Ikeda are especially iconic and import to read in understanding manga as an art form.

Johnny’s talent agency admits sexual abuse by founder, head resigns (The Mainichi)

Longtime TV personality Higashiyama Noriyuki will take over as president.

Fujishima’s late mother Mary Yasuko Fujishima, Kitagawa’s older sister, was cited in the report as a major factor in the long-term cover-up of sexual abuse at the firm.

Fujishima, who currently holds 100 percent of the company’s shares, acknowledged the drawbacks of family-run management and expressed her intention to discuss her ownership stake with the new management.

But Higashiyama said there were currently no plans to change the firm’s name, arguing that rather than representing the late founder, it “more importantly expresses the energy and pride that talents have cultivated over the years.”

Shimon Ishimaru, a former agency member who currently serves as deputy head of an association of Kitagawa’s alleged victims, said “It is gratifying to see the sexual abuse acknowledged, and the path to apology and redress opened.”

But some other victims were less optimistic, with Yasunobu Shiga, a former member of the idol group Ninja, criticizing organizational changes as “superficial.”

“The name ‘Johnny’s’ should not even exist given the extent of sexual abuse that occurred,” he said.

Notes toward a unified theory of yuri (Cohost, Frank Hecker)

Timeline grouping the history of yuri into eras, with a reading list.

Additional comments: In the postwar period, S literature was first replaced entirely by shōjo manga, and then shōjo manga were revolutionized by the first generation of mangaka who had grown up reading them. S works featuring relationships between girls and young women were succeeded by BL works, with early proto-BL works (e.g., The Heart of Thomas) featuring similar themes of doomed love within a restricted school environment. Works in this period thought of as yuri or proto-yuri are either similar to S and proto-BL works in their themes of doomed love (e.g., Shiroi Heya no Futari), feature themes of gender nonconformity and transformation that look forward to the next group of works (Rose of Versailles), or both (Dear Brother, Claudine).

27% of voice actors in Japan may quit due to ‘hellish choice’ with new invoice system: poll (The Mainichi, Yusuke Kato)

77% of the responses believed they would lose income under the new system.

Regarding the benefits of introducing the new system, the national government claims that it will enable companies to accurately calculate consumption tax payments and help prevent fraud and errors related to the tax. As a measure to reduce the burden of the system, a “transitional measure” will also be implemented until the end of September 2029 that will allow companies that have transactions with tax-exempt businesses to deduct a portion of the consumption tax.

On the other hand, groups of actors and manga artists have voiced their opposition to the system, saying that after it is introduced, if tax-exempt businesses do not issue invoices, the tax burden on the taxable companies they do business with will increase, and they “risk having their work reduced.” The survey on the voice actors also revealed that some respondents are under pressure from their agencies and other business partners, who told them, “We will not work with you in the future if you do not issue invoices,” or, “We will cut the remuneration if you do not issue invoices.”

Kaida explained that, except for a few popular voice actors, many spend a large amount of money on lessons and other endeavors, and earn their living through part-time jobs. And if their income drops, they will not be able to maintain their livelihoods. She added, “They will be forced to make a ‘hellish choice’: If they issue invoices, they will be taxed and their income will decrease, and if they do not issue invoices, their work will be reduced. If many voice actors go out of business, Japan’s animation culture will be destroyed.”

Rise of the Shojo Imprints (That Manga Hunter)

Overview of the current English imprint labels offering joseimuke.

Romance manga is a very popular genre, especially with a female audience. So, if you’re looking for romance manga, all of these imprints will suit your needs. However, if you’re craving a “one-stop shop” romance brand with m/f, same-sex, and lgbtq+ stories, then LoveLove will suit your needs. If you’re looking for a mature-only romance brand, then Steamship should be your go-to. However, if you’re looking for shojo besides romance or just shojo in general, then Shojo Beat is the obvious #1 choice followed by the up-and-coming Inklore. While Inlore and LoveLove aren’t technically shojo/josei imprints by the publisher’s own admission (in contrast to Shojo Beat and Steamship), these imprints will reach a largely female demographic by picking up popular online comics for physical distribution and/or placing m/f romance in the catalog. Shojo Beat and Steamship are technically the only shojo/josei imprints right now.

Will shojo/josei ever escape the romance-only allegations or the non-romance-manga-is-an-exception allegations? Sadly, no. The PR and marketing is just too strong. We have close to three decades of “shojo = romance” (and magical girls among other things) to turn back now. It will probably take a general shojo/josei imprint that focuses on anything but romance to break through the cycle, probably. Is there anything we can do about it? Besides offering up recs and gushing about our favorite “non-romance” shojo/josei manga to fans, probably not, but we can still try. Will we ever get more “non-romance” shojo and josei? Yes, we will, and yes we have. We’ve been getting them for a long time, and we’re getting them right now. Like today. They’re just not called or marketed as “shojo” or “josei.” (More on that topic at 6.)

Japan court denies spousal benefits to same-sex couple (The Mainichi)

The complainant attempted to argue based on the precedent of partnership certificates issued in other parts of Japan.

Sasaki, 54, who had argued that the denial of benefits violated the guarantee of equality under the Constitution, criticized the court’s decision as “a formality for form’s sake.” She also stated that she would not appeal the ruling, explaining, “I have fought it out.”

According to the complaint, Sasaki applied for spousal benefits and an increase in special benefits for employees working in cold regions in July 2018 and April 2019 when she was working for the prefectural government, utilizing the Sapporo city government’s program recognizing same-sex partnerships.

However, the Hokkaido government and a mutual aid association for prefectural employees rejected the applications, saying such benefits are limited to heterosexual couples who are married or are in a de facto marital relationship.

Sasaki, who left work in June 2019 and filed the lawsuit in June 2021, called their response “discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is beyond a person’s control.”

VIDEO: On the need for more historical shoujo anime.

TWEET: News that Tokyo Lab intends to destroy film materials unclaimed by rights holders.

AniFem Community

Most of us are still waiting on Angel’s Egg, though.

Unless you wanna count Yu-Gi-Oh: Pyramid of Light as a child, the first (and only) anime movie I have seen in theaters was Your Name.  This is not because I don't want to see other movies, it's because it's the only one that was successful enough for any of the theaters around here to actually bother showing it. We get no anime movies here, and it sucks.
I think it was Princess Mononoke during its general release in US theaters. I remember there was a sign taped to the inside of the box office window warning people that even though it was a cartoon, it wasn't appropriate for kids.
My well meaning parents took me to see X (based on the much-longer-than-a-film, fairly dark manga by clamp) at the local art house theater in the mid/late 90s when I wasa teen  That was an experience for all of us...

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