Edit: Due to my lack of free time, this has been sitting in my drafts for a rather long time. I’ve been slowly writing and editing it here and there, which is why this post is about a movie that is no longer airing in theatres. ^__^;; Also my usual spoiler warning!

Mecha feature prominently in promotional posters for Pacific Rim

Mecha feature prominently in promotional posters for Pacific Rim

This poor post has been sitting here forever, so I wanted to at least get it out into the wild now. It’s a bit different from what I usually write about (anime, manga, and games), but since it is a movie inspired by mecha anime in part, I thought it would be good to talk about it. I will start with saying that I went to see it in 3D and it was really gorgeous in 3D. I can’t imagine watching it in regular 2D now. Also yes, this will be a post that deals with my problems with the movie (since all I’ve seen is praise), but that is not to say I disliked the movie. On the contrary, I believe it was a pretty well thought out movie that suffers from the same kinds of problems I see constantly in Hollywood movies. Perhaps because everyone was praising it so much, I dared to hope it wouldn’t fall prey to the same sorts of problems I see in practically every blockbuster movie, but alas, I guess when you’re dealing with such a huge amount of money and already taking some risks, you fall back on the general Hollywood formula to be safe. (more…)

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So I was reading older blog posts that I have neglected due to being super busy and I came across one about a Mayu Shinjou manga called Demon Love Spell that mentioned that the heroine was actually competent. Making a comment stating my shock given my experience with Shinjou’s manga, the author brought up another manga, Ai Ore. Curious, I checked out the MAL profile which stated that it was about a boy-ish looking girl in a band and a very girl-ish looking guy. Well with a premise like that, how could I not take a peek at this manga? I’m a terribly curious person after all. I’ve tried many manga and anime just because I heard horrible things about them and given Ms.Shinjou’s track record, I could not believe she would be capable of writing a manga that wasn’t horrible.

Guess who is the guy and who is the girl.

Typical sexy cover for a Mayu Shinjou manga, but not so typical is the gender of each character on the cover.

But she did! I never thought I would be saying this, but I actually enjoyed a Mayu Shinjou manga! It’s definitely far from perfect, but I did like how the heroine, Mizuki, did actually look like a guy; and Akira, the hero, looked like a girl. Now outside their appearances, Mizuki wasn’t very masculine. She was super innocent and naive about love, and she definitely had the Mayu Shinjou touch even if she’s a bit more interesting than most of Shinjou’s heroines. Although what makes her interesting is that even if at her core she is very feminine, and even quite passive, like the typical Mayu Shinjou heroine; Shinjou actually wrote the story and Mizuki in a way that allowed her to have assertive moments and a life beyond just her man. The stark contrast between her outer appearance and her inner self was also another aspect of what I found so compelling about Mizuki. I’m always happy to see manga questioning appearance/gender assumptions. This is true for Akira too. He’s tough and cool even if he’s short and very girl-like.

But I think the most shocking aspect of Ai Ore is that Akira is actually a kind person. He does actually love Mizuki and is very considerate of her; often asking her opinion and backing off when she feels uncomfortable. Not to mention the manga actually makes it a point through Akira’s own words, to show that one’s outer gendered appearance is meaningless. What matters is what gender you feel you are. Mizuki stumbles with this more, but ultimately she arrives at the same conclusion. She lets go of her insecurity caused by the stares and comments she and Akira garner walking hand in hand. These comments are basically people trying to decide what gender she and Akira are, and in turn whether they are a gay couple. It was a rather nice message and one I did not think I would find in a Mayu Shinjou manga. I mean Shinjou tends to write the most traditionally masculine guys and feminine ladies, on top of quite problematic things. It was definitely a pleasant surprise. (more…)

Strength Does Not Matter! The Beautiful Warrior, Shutumon

That’s the title of episode 16 of Digimon Frontier. There are two things going on here: first the title is suggesting that strength is unimportant and the second that Shutumon is beautiful. It’s not hard to realize what the implicit meaning here is: for girls, their strength is irrelevant, what is key is their beauty. And paired up with episode 15 where the enemy digimon gains her new evolution with lots of strength but at the price of being hideous, well, these two episodes are quite loaded with gender norms and tropes are old as human civilization.

It’s actually been a while since an anime (or manga) that I’ve seen has been so overt with expectations of beauty for women versus men. It’s not at all subtle in the least; there is only 1 female enemy digimon and it is only in her case that the question of appearance is ever raised. The other digimon are all male and are not particularly aesthetically pleasing. One is a mix between a gnome and dwarf, another is an inhuman lizard-like digimon and another a metallic humanoid. None really scream bishounen in the least and when they evolve into beast form, never is there any talk about their new appearance. In contrast, the animators of Digimon Frontier felt the need to make the single female enemy digimon not only cute and resembling a young girl, but also made her into a sort of idol in the digital world. Furthermore, they gave her a vain personality. In other words, they created her in a way that put appearance at the forefront of her character.

ranamon as an idol

Ranamon is an idol in the digital world.

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“Mini Mendacious Moments” is a feature about small moments (a page, an opening sequence, a character design, or something a character said) in manga, anime, or games that simply makes me pause and just wonder why something so silly, bad, demeaning, or pertaining to a double standard was even mentioned or briefly touched upon. Being such a small and blatant moment, in-dept analysis will not be given, rather, this is more for snarky me to share my snarky commentary.

We all know the silliness of the female wardrobe in the gaming industry. There are so many stupid design choices and double standards that it isn’t hard to find something to talk about, especially if one likes to keep up to date with all the newest games that are coming out and is constantly flooded with these “interesting” design choices. Nevertheless, there is one design choice that I loath quite a bit (maybe not the most but definitely in my top 5 worst female design choices) and that I not so recently came across an example of it on an article about a game called Dungeon Fighter Online. Yes, I refer none other than to the infamous Inner Thigh Cut-Off Pants (my name for them) that this game’s lone female character wears:

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First volume of Limited Lovers: Nothing to suggest it has anything to do with a young girl in a wheelchair.

First volume of Limited Lovers: Nothing to suggest it has anything to do with a young girl in a wheelchair.

Limited Lovers was brought to my attention when someone told me about how Karin, the heroine, strives for her dream even through she lost the use of her legs and is now reliant on a wheelchair. With a premise like that alone, I was pretty intrigued about this 3 volume manga. You don’t see much diversity in manga. It’s definitely there, but the majority of stories don’t deal with people who have specific health issues, a different sexuality, or gender identity. Retrospectively, the title should have been somewhat of a warning sign. Limited Lovers doesn’t conjure the best implications and images (even if it was probably unintentional going by the ending), but having been told Karin would be striving for a dream against prejudice about her being in a wheelchair, I didn’t pay this much heed. (more…)

Major spoilers for the manga Basara by Yumi Tamura ahead. Also like the title suggests, I will be discussing rape in the manga pretty extensively.

I was avoiding talking about Basara on Shoujo Spotlight since I feel like all I do is rave about this manga, but considering how many anime and manga I’ve come across with questionable rape themes or scenarios, well, I just could not leave this topic alone much longer. I’ve already written about how the framing of rape has been problematic before, but I’ve never really written about good use of rape in a story. And since Basara is currently the only shoujo I have read that I feel does the topic justice, it was unavoidable that I must once again sing the praises of this manga. Strikingly, Basara actually has three rape victims that play pretty integral roles in its plot while not being centre focus, and what’s more, one is male and two are female. However, I think the biggest indicator of why Basara doesn’t trivialize rape is because it doesn’t use it like other shoujo manga do.

sarasa_&_tatara

Gender plays a key role in Basara, but rape is never played as a means to enforce Sarasa’s vulnerability as a woman.

As I pointed out in my impression of Fushig Yugi 10, rape plays an almost dramatic role in the series. It is there to raise the tension: Miaka can only summon Suzaku if she is a virgin, so her enemies try to prevent her from doing that by attempting to rape her, twice. Furthermore, it adds another moment of drama for our heroine since it causes her to feel unworthy of being with her true love when she believes she really has been raped. Likewise in Black Bird, rape is also being used for tension: Misao, our heroine, has to constantly watch her back because demons want to either rape or kill her. It’s also being used to paint the sole demon not willing to do that to Misao as romantic and to use that constant threat of rape as a mean to bring them together. Even Boys Over Flowers, as much as I like it, plays into this when Tsukasa sends some guys to rape (well ok just scare her by threatening to do so) Tsukushi in the very first volume. So yes, rape as tension/drama is a pretty regular occurrence in shoujo manga. However, I think this is a pretty basic and tasteless way to include such a touchy subject in a story. Most women are more than aware that rape is this ever present threat. We’ve been brought up in a culture that makes it pretty clear to us, so I feel like these instances don’t really add anything and just reinforce the “rape = bad” idea. Yes rape is awful, but so what? If that’s all you want to express, I feel it’s pretty pointless and in fact tasteless, because it uses a common problem for women to add some oomph to the story. Rape shouldn’t just be some vehicle to spice up your story precisely because it is such a problem. It shows a lack of empathy if all you think rape is worth is some drama. (more…)

It’s been a while since I’ve singled out a particular chapter of a long running manga and wrote a post about it, but this chapter bugs me on a number of levels. It was very painful to read this chapter because I’m a pretty big One Piece fan and I always liked Zoro, yet this chapter felt like all the bad things sticking out from time to time about the series finally came together in this one chapter. Sigh. Ok, here we go:

So the basic gist of this chapter is that Tashigi stays back with Zoro to fight Monet because she doesn’t believe Zoro can cut a woman. This is all fine and well especially since she looks down on him for this view, but that’s all going to be undermined by the fact that Tashigi can’t handle Monet on her own and Zoro has to step in to help her out (and to tell her off for talking big but not delivering). While he does admit to disliking slicing certain things (aka women), he still proceeds to cut Monet in half. Now this would have been a good subversion to the can’t hurt a women thing shounen works like to employ, but alas Zoro purposely doesn’t use haki so Monet survives the blow and Tashigi is the one to deliver the finishing blow. She calls him out on it next chapter, but Zoro refuses to admit he didn’t want to kill Monet because of her gender. He even starts talking down to Tashigi because she’s so weak. (more…)

So building on what I wrote at the end of the last Mini Mendacious Moment, I wanted to show case just how the Designated Girl Fight works in action; and one of the clearest examples of this silly trope is found in One Piece. I love this manga to bits as it’s genuinely interesting with quirky characters and a really well developed world, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the author needs to constantly invoke this trope in each brawl. Robin, the other female crew members, fairs a bit better, but Nami has this constantly, almost religiously, applied to her and when there is no female opponent for her to face, expect her to need rescuing or do support work.

Early in the manga, Nami is portrayed as one of the weakest members (along with Usopp). As such, she rarely fights and when she does, it’s usually against no name mooks. When she is first introduced, Luffy ends up saving her twice. First against a group of mooks and then against Buggy.


Nami is saved from Buggy by Luffy in her earliest appearance

This would be perfectly fine, especially since the male Usopp is likewise painted as of “normal strength” and rarely engaging enemies early on and winning. It would have been a case of Nami just not being a fighter, except once the full crew brawls start up in the Alabrasta arc, everyone including Nami and Ussop join the fighting. Yet unlike Usopp, Nami is always stuck fighting female villains or mooks. (more…)