Magical girl anime and manga have been around for what seems like forever and have meshed with several other genres outside of their shoujo roots. Recently—for seemingly no reason—I was reminded of Magic Knight Rayearth, a magical girl series that combines the transformations and magic we all know and love with the sort of impending doom one might get from a Final Fantasy game, with a dose of giant robot anime on the side. The three protagonists—Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu—journey to a land called Cephiro to become the Magic Knights to save its Pillar (aka: Princess/Priestess) and learn how to harness their magic and mechas along the way, but the functionality of Cephiro’s magic is more explored through the series’s side characters (which makes sense, since the three heroes are from Earth and not Cephiro). While for the most part the magic is your typical elemental/summoning fare and the series utilizes several genre and character tropes, Rayearth does manage to surpass the limitations of some of these tropes. In the case of the character Presea, an older woman in a series focused on younger women, I found this to be especially true. Through both her character and her personal magics, Presea manages to become her own person rather than a character defined by her presumed role in patriarchal tropes.
When I was a child, I hated the color pink. In fact, I hated anything stereotypically “girly” because I didn’t want to be lumped in with “those girls” when most of my friends were boys. As I’ve grown, I’ve also come to re-embrace many of the girly things that I denied myself in the past, pink being one of them. And, readers, I don’t think there’s anything more pink, cute, and fluffy than the webcomic Princess Love♥Pon, and I love it.
I enjoy watching anime and analyzing it in terms of social issues and subtextual narrative content (ie: motifs, metaphors, and so forth). However, I and many other fans of the genre have an issue with the former of the two: we are not the audience. We are an audience, but many of us are not Japanese or East Asian, and thus lack a full understanding of how certain tropes affect the viewers of the intended audience. We can analyze, but only from a perspective that we have been brought up with: in my case, Western perceptions on gender and sexuality. These nurtured perceptions aren’t necessarily the best when coming to analyzing shoujo manga and anime, especially when it’s not really the American audience this genre is affecting at large. So when I decided that I wanted to take a look at Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun‘s Yuu Kashima, I figured it was time to look at things from a different angle. While I’ve thought of Kashima’s character as laudable because she seems unconcerned with typical gender roles and expresses her gender identity through non-sterotypical ways, when looking at her actions from the angle of the cultural trope she fills, her character becomes a little less praise-worthy.
Back in July, I finished my series of posts on Aya Kanno’s shoujo manga Otomen. Or, I thought I did. Now that the series has reached its conclusion, I have some thoughts on the final volume. If you recall, my previous issues with Otomen could be boiled down to the not-so groundbreaking dismantling of gender roles, the inner workings of Asuka’s abuse, and how LGBTQ+ issues were handled among the characters. And as much as my little shoujo-adoring heart loved the happy-sappy, undeniably predictable marriage ending, the question remains: were any of these problems elaborated on or improved? I’m sorry to say that they weren’t. Not to the extent I would have hoped for.
Let’s face it: finding media of any sort that’s ready to delve into fat acceptance is few, far, and in between, especially when it comes to heavier girls and women. As we here at LGG&F are all about body positivity no matter one’s size or looks, I feel it’s important to share when we come across pieces of media that may focus on addressing on some of these issues. Or, if not addressing these issues head on, at least acknowledging that they do exist and that these standards we force on people in the name of beauty are ultimately harmful. Additionally, it’s good to point out that while body acceptance might be a topic or a theme in said media, that it may not necessarily be tackled in the best way. This is the case with the manga Pochamani.
While we’ve already looked at this cute shoujo series once before, I wanted to look at it a bit more in-depth concerning the issues it covers now that I’ve read it for myself. And while I still had my disappointments, I discovered that there was more beneath the surface than I was originally expecting.
By now, dear audience, you’re probably a little Otomen-ed out and are wondering when I’m going to stop talking about this series. Fear not; this is the last one (unless something ridiculous happens in the last volume, which I highly doubt)! You made it! Give yourself a pat on the back.
Having tackled the issues of Aya Kanno’s dichotomy concerning gender roles and the confused tone of the series, it’s about time to look at one of the more obvious points of contention: LGBTQ+ representation. It saddens me to say this, too, because starting out I really thought this series was going to be progressive in that sense. However, much like most media here in the States, a lot of the queer plot points are left to subtext and essentially ignored in favor of giving everyone heterosexual relationships. The most offensive example of this blatant refusal to address this issue shows up in discussions of Asuka’s dad, Hiromi. Continue reading →
As much as I love shoujo manga, it’s not a medium that lends itself very well to breaking down societal norms. Shoujo has a strict structure to it that’s difficult to break out of while still remaining true to the essence of what shoujo is: comics that focus on love and tender emotions. When I found Otomen a couple years ago, I had to admit I was excited to see what could possibly be done with the premise of a high school boy who had stereotypically feminine interests dating a girl who had stereotypically masculine interests. Granted, it’s not a new idea, but at its start Otomen really did seem progressive—surprisingly little relationship drama, a main couple that outwardly and strongly supported each other, a supporting cast that, for the most part, didn’t seek to undermine the romance, and a message about breaking down gender roles. Sounds great, right? But as I finally prodded myself to finish reading it Saturday night, something began sitting strangely with me. Maybe, just maybe, the series isn’t as progressive as I thought, and maybe this shoujo is actually detrimental to its intended audience.
Sometimes when you read something very problematic, it’s difficult to figure out which angle to approach it from first. That’s the problem I’ve been having for almost two months. Back in January I wrote my introductory post to the shoujo manga Sensual Phrase, and I briefly mentioned that the series was inundated with issues. Well, it’s time to get into one of them.
While I don’t love Aine as a protagonist/heroine, I do admit that she’s an important shoujo heroine overall and that her character arc… existed. I want to say it was “good” or “meaningful”, I really do. Writing it off completely would be doing it an injustice—she does learn how to be comfortable with herself, and that’s one of the most important things in life for anyone—but it’s not satisfying in the way you’d want it to be, especially after all the suffering she goes through. In fact, it’s almost illogical that she does come to be comfortable with herself. I say illogical because for large portions of Sensual Phrase, it doesn’t feel like the story is even about her.
In fact, it could be argued that while she is the quote-unquote lead of the story, Aine really is just a tool to be used by the men of the series. Any arc of the story that seems targeted towards exploring Aine’s growth inevitably ends up turning into motivations for the men in the story while leaving Aine with barely any character progression for herself. To go along with that, when the audience gets a look at Aine’s inner thoughts, we barely get any reactions from her about the situation; instead, we see her worry about what the men around her will do or what would benefit said men. This isn’t to say that these sorts of actions can’t give way to good character development, but when this is the only focus, it starts to lose meaning and the character becomes nothing more than a prop.
Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault under the cut.
There comes a time in every young manga reader’s life when they start wanting to read comics of a more mature vein than many of the mainstream choices presented. Well, all right. Admittedly the market for manga over the past decade has increased in quantity as well as content, so it’s completely unfair for me to say that the manga that you can pick up from Barnes and Noble are baby comics for babies. The market has matured with its audience and I’m truly glad for that fact. However, back in my day—pretend I’m waving my cane at you—the choices on the shelf were much more ‘safe’ or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, completely pornographic (i.e.: the ones in the plastic wrap). This is the story of the manga that leveled me up, so to speak. And, for better or worse, that manga was Sensual Phrase.
If you’ve never heard of the manga, don’t feel bad: even while it was for sale barely anyone touched it. For kids coming out of the Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors kick, seeing this manga touted as a ‘shoujo’ but then being rated mature—and even having some of the volumes plastic wrapped—presented a very confusing image. Even now while I do admit it’s a shoujo, it’s a very un-shoujo shoujo: it’s more Hot Gimmick than Kitchen Princess. That is to say it deals more with darker themes than the basic love stories of shoujo past. This isn’t always a good thing, but I’ll get to that later.
I’m moving out of my school apartment shortly, and I don’t have any manga lying around because I’ve already sent them all home and out of the way. So this week, I took a page out of Lady Bacula’s book, went to a random manga-hosting website, and hit the ‘surprise me’ button.