Weekly Round-Up, 8-14 December 2021: Nobumoto Keiko, Omegaverse Shoujo, and Anxiety in Komi-san

By: Anime Feminist December 14, 20210 Comments
a woman in a dolphin mascot costume shrugging sadly

AniFem Round-Up

Indie developer Foxglove Games on queer representation and their new visual novel Trouble Comes Twice

Katharine Mussellam interviews the devs on their in-development new game, which offers players two distinct queer characters to play as, twin siblings Jace and Hazel.

Daring to Speak its Name: Goodbye, My Rose Garden and the queer historical romance

Dee digs deep into how this spectacular historical yuri series pays homage to Victorian WLW literature while also rejecting the inevitability of a tragic ending.

What’s your favorite Nobumoto Keiko work?

In honor of the writer’s tragic early death.

Beyond AniFem

The Humanist Legacy Of Keiko Nobumoto (Anime News Network, Bella B)

A retrospective on the influential writer best known for Cowboy Bebop.

Nobumoto learned from the best in the business. In 1987, she graduated from Takao Koyama‘s Anime Scenario House, where she studied under the Time Bokan and Dragon Ball Z luminary. Later contributing to hits such as Sailor Moon and Galaxy Angel, a hallmark of Koyama’s writing is normalizing fantastical situations through deep characterization and dialogue. Likewise, the influence of Koyama’s character-driven, humanistic style of writing can be seen in many of Nobumoto’s works. Her scripts often depict the most far-flung scenarios imaginable, but rarely get lost in the narrative weeds due to her keen eye for grounded, human characters.

This is exemplified in 1994’s Macross Plus – Nobumoto’s first of many collaborations with Shinichiro Watanabe. Plus was a soft reset for the then decade-old mech series, both in terms of style and tone. Nobumoto’s script took hallmarks of the franchise and turned them on their head, instilling the “mecha meets idol” series with an anti-capitalist streak barely present in the original. Her Macross is also an explicitly feminist one, preoccupied with the ways capitalism commodifies women, as well as the reductive roles they’re often forced to play as men fight and kill in their name during wartime. It’s a sobering entry focused on a small-scale conflict, and one that set a tone series creator Shoji Kawamori would later build on with Macross Zero. Plus, it could be argued that Nobumoto predicted the rise of Vocaloids and Vtubers with malevolent hologram pop star Sharon Apple.

Two Japanese LGBTQ rights activists of different faiths find common ground (The Mainichi)

Mini-portraits of how these two activists carved space for themselves as Buddhist and Christian leaders respectively.

Nakamura, whose parents died before he came out, and Nishimura, whose parents affirm his sexual orientation, are not pushing their religion on anyone or trying to force people out of the proverbial “closet.”

They want Japanese people to adopt the love-thy-neighbor, do-no-harm mentality and be allies to the LGBTQ movement. They hope more people, young and old, loosen the shackles of traditional identities and embrace who they are on their terms.

Nakamura thinks people can be true to their religion and support progressive reforms such as LGBTQ rights. He has taken his students on a tour of a nearby mosque, and he is collaborating on a grief care project with a Shinto shrine in the neighborhood.

Nishimura also wants to imagine a new humanity beyond religion. He feels welcomed by the Buddhist community who try to live following Buddha’s timeless message of non-violence and compassion.

Holiday Review: BITE MAKER: THE KING’S OMEGA (Manga Test Drive, Megan D)

A combination of omegaverse and shoujo that brings out the worst of both genres.

Right from the start, it’s loaded with a lot of the shojo manga tropes that I can’t stand.  You’ve got the imperious asshole love interest who bullies the heroine into a relationship.  There’s also the weak-willed, wibbly heroine who is supposedly plain but in truth is secretly beautiful.  You’ve got a ridiculously posh private high school, completely with ludicrously overpowered student council that serves less to represent the students and more to cater to the love interest and a handful of others like him.  There’s multiple instances of attempted rape.  There’s a Childhood Best Friend who heelturns almost immediately to make the love interest look better.  All this from just the first volume!  Sugiyama was not exactly straining herself here with original ideas.

Then you have to deal with the omegaverse content that has been slathered on top of it all.  I barely know where to begin with it all.  Do I complain about how its attempt to relabel the alpha/beta/omega roles as ‘genders’ does not work because that’s not how gender works?  Especially since so much emphasis is put on these roles being defined by genetics and sex characteristics?  After all, the only definition we get for omegas are ‘able to bear an alpha’s child,’ which would imply that all alphas are male and all omegas are female?  I’m a cis woman and as such not an expert on gender, but I know enough about the concept to know that this is a lot of heteronormative BULLSHIT.

Oh, speaking of babies, let’s talk about all the focus on sex and pregnancy.  I’ve frequently talked about how I wished that more shojo manga was in touch with its sexuality, but reading this feels like getting that wish from the monkey’s paw.  Horniness here is an involuntary state, something that happens violently and sometimes against one’s will, regardless of what role they fall into.  Even then, it’s all couched not in talk of desire or pleasure, but of pregnancy.  The first page is literally just an image of Nobunaga with the declaration “You’re going to have my baby.”  When girls lose their minds over him, they don’t cry out some variation of “do me now,” but instead “I want to have your children.”  Based on some of the comments Nobunaga and his fellow alphas make, omegas are meant less to be romantic partners and more like a pet to be bred.  I knew that this emphasis on baby-making was a thing in the hetero takes on omegaverse, but it is awkward as hell to see this kind of talk coming from literal goddamn high schoolers.

Revisiting Japan’s Restoration: New Approaches to the Study of the Meiji Transformation (Routledge)

Upcoming academic text collecting writing from historians seeking new ways to research and assess the Meiji Restoration.

On a scale probably never before seen in the study of the Restoration outside Japan, the short chapters in this volume reveal unique aspects of the transformative event and process not previously explored in previous research. They do this in three core ways: through selecting and deploying different time frames in their historical analysis; by creative experimentation with different spatial units through which to ascertain historical experience; and by innovative selection of unique and highly original topics for analysis. The volume offers students and teachers of Japanese history, modern history, and East Asian studies an important resource for coming to grips with the multifaceted nature of Japan’s nineteenth-century transformation.

The volume will also have broader appeal to scholars working in fields such as early modern/modern world history, global history, Asian modernities, gender studies, economic history, and postcolonial studies.

‘Dear Japanese government, please let us see our mother’ (TRT World, Priyanka Borpujari)

Japan’s ongoing travel ban has left many foreign nationals trapped in limbo and increasingly dire financial straits.

There are other numerous instances of lives in a limbo, and grief in abstract suspension. An Australian man and his newborn faced the possibility of being separated from his wife and older child, when he and the newborn were not given a visa; his older child and his wife—a Zainichi, or Japan-born Korean—needed to return to Japan before the end of 2021 lest they would lose their permanent resident status in Japan. A British woman living in Tokyo—whose father passed away in 2020—has not been able to spend time with her family in the UK. When her father died, Japan had closed borders for all of its foreign residents, regardless of their residency status. More than a year later, her family in the UK was hoping she would be able to join in for his memorial in December 2021. But with the new travel ban, she had to cancel her flights, lest she and her husband are unable to return to their jobs in Japan.  

The Australian man and the newborn were finally granted a visa to travel to Japan as a family. The British woman continues to grieve from a distance. But such stories garner nothing more than a few words of sympathy from Japanese nationals. A survey conducted by the Yomiuri newspaper found 89 percent of respondents supported the ban

“These measures by the Japanese government, and the views of the majority of Japanese citizens, reveal their racism, passive aggression and xenophobic nature. I feel we have to urgently stand up and make the multiple damages visible that their attitudes inflict,” said filmmaker and Japanese citizen Takashi Arai, whose wife, a German national, was able to briefly enter Japan on a short-term visa, before she had to return to Germany. She was due to enter Japan on December 4. But two days prior, the Japanese government had suspended the validity of previously-issued visas without any prior notice. 

Are Video Games an Ethical Pastime? Activision, etc. (Gold Machine, Drew Cook)

Meditations on the ethics of giving money to an industry overrun with toxic work conditions and abuse (a familiar dilemma for anime fans).

The political sphere often collides or overlaps with that of the ethical. Without getting overly technical, the first is concerned with groups of people (or perhaps with power), while the other is primarily felt as the burden of freedom. Neither is separate from the other. And yet, sometimes one has to differentiate between the two. Usually, whenever a conversation about the ethics of purchasing problematic goods (a video game console or an iffy film from an iffy director), some Very Online and Intelligent Internet Person will post:

There is no ethical consumption under capitalism.

Which is usually just nihilism, a sort of talisman bearing the inscription: “keep ethical discussion out of my video games.” It would be more correct to say that, so far as an individual goes, “there is no politically impactful consumption under capitalism.” That is, a well-meaning person could swear off video games altogether, and yet the conflict metals industry would roll on unabated. There is no politically impactful purchasing decision to be made on the personal level, and, yes, that is a consequence of capitalism. Political efficacy requires organization, coordination, and communication.

This is not so in the ethical sphere. The ethical act is the act of disclosing who one is, sometimes to oneself, sometimes to others. “I do not care if it matters or not, I will not buy this game console.” That is an ethical decision. Likewise, buying that game console is an ethical decision. Personal choices are ethical choices. An ethical decision is the moment in which a person decides how to use whatever freedom they might have.

I continue to buy home electronics. That is a decision I’ve made. It’s based on a number of factors that basically boil down to “they make life more enjoyable/bearable to me.” I could have opted out of some seriously harm-causing processes occurring globally, but I did not. And we’re almost certainly alike in that, pecking away on our screens and keyboards, our words carried over cables and fired across towers and bouncing off of who knows what, a mesh of wire and glass that is not much older than this century.

I should hope that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to have standards. We can still hope that people who own phones will behave decently.

“Concerning the Management of Women Traveling to China” (Grassroots Operations of the Japanese Empire)

Primary text often used to deflect the legitimacy of abuses against comfort women with contextualizing intro by professor Amy Stanley.

This issue illuminates the limitations of the Home Ministry’s guidance. They could direct local police to “strictly crack down upon” recruiters who mentioned the military, especially if they were advertising widely, but they could not remove the military from the business, nor could they monitor private conversations between recruiters and individual women. As a result, the document was oriented toward regulating public information rather than the actual behavior of the recruiters. As historian Nagai Kazu argues, “What the notice established as a target for regulation was not the illegal recruitment methods of the traffickers (gyōsha), but their telling the truth [about their activities]. To put it another way, the target was their advertising and their telling people that the army had established the comfort stations and was doing the recruiting.”[3]

As a result, one can interpret the first article’s “for the time being, we will tacitly permit this” as an acknowledgement that the guidance itself was not going to be adequate to solve the problems mentioned in the header text. Due to the use of a debt indenture system and the continued involvement of the military, the Home Ministry likely knew that the League would still have a good case that Japan was contravening the treaty.

There is no evidence that this directive was transmitted to the colonies. Judging from the vocabulary used in the document (naichi), the institutions named at the head of the memo, and the cases preceding the order, which were all in Japan, Yoshimi Yoshiaki has concluded that the Home Ministry did not circulate this guidance to colonial officials. Nagai Kazu, who has also analyzed this document, thinks that the Home Ministry should have sent this directive to Korea and Taiwan, as the concerns raised in the header text would have applied there as well, and points out that there are other examples of similar directives being transmitted. However, he too concludes that that there is no evidence that the same directive was ever sent, much less implemented, in the colonies.

VIDEO: Essay on the handling of social anxiety in Komi Can’t Communicate.

VIDEO: Mini-documentary with English closed captions about a queer couple and their life in Hiroshima.

TWEET: Donation drive for The North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources.

AniFem Community

Rest in peace, Ms. Nobumoto.

Also Tokyo Godfathers, while I'm not certain where all the credit should be attributed for any given moment, I really enjoy the whole sequence leading up to being invited to a mafia wedding.

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