As I was going through some CDs I’d made back in my high school days, I was forced to face something: I’d really liked Inuyasha. Like, a lot. So much that I had two CDs filled with the title and ending tracks (yes, I still know the words to Fukai Mori by heart) and several versions of Inuyasha’s Lullaby. So I was feeling a little nostalgic for the series, and seeking out Inuyasha fic this week really wasn’t any surprise to me. What was a surprise, however, was how few F/F fics there were for the series. I’m pretty sure that the Kagome/Thorin Oakenshield ship had more fics than any F/F ship, canon characters or not. Upon giving up my original search—sorry, Femslash February!—I did manage to find a really wonderful ficlet that further explored my favorite female character, Sango, after the events of the series.
Throughout the first fifty-some volumes of Inuyasha, the demon huntress Sango was always portrayed as a strong woman who had lost much, but didn’t allow her losses to consume her. However, the ending of the manga always rubbed me the wrong way. Though Sango was driven by wanting to put an end to the creature who had destroyed her village and family, and she did help achieve this, I never got the impression that just because she had achieved her goal, she would put down her metaphorical torch indefinitely. Yet the series’ end had her settling down with her love interest, Miroku, and popping out babies like it was no one’s business. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it seemed like too much of a shift in character and agency and too much of a rushed out “and they lived happily ever after” epilogue. I didn’t trudge through so many volumes for this! While today’s fic doesn’t change the outcome, what it does offer is a closer look at Sango’s mindset and character development as she enters this new part of her life—something the series should have done in the first place.
From an historical viewpoint, just about every culture on the planet has idealized males as dominate figures, while dismissing females as the lesser sex. Japan is certainly no exception to this way of thinking. Though in recent years, while the gap between both genders has slimmed, it is still there, and the Japanese reflect this ideology in their manga and anime. Manga has been around for quite some time, and anime first appeared in the last century to represent manga on the television screen. While manga has an incredibly wide fan base that continues to grow each year, it normally targets either boys or girls. Manga for boys is called shounen, and for girls it’s shoujo.
Both may display similar characteristics regarding gender roles, but they are quite dissimilar in their portrayal, and normally cater to different genres. Shoujo, for instance, tends to center more on romance and finding true love, while shounen, even though it may also have romance, focuses more on action and adventure. This is not to say that shoujo has neither action nor adventure; those are just not the main focus in a typical shoujo.
So what I’m going to talk about today are two different shounen, Kisimoto Masasi’s Naruto and Takahasi Rumiko’s InuYasha. I also hope to explain why they are both shounen and not shoujo. Obviously, Naruto is a shounen, but there are some discrepancies about what category InuYasha falls under. And you’re going to have to brace yourselves, but I’m also going to be discussing gender roles.