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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It’s part 2 of round 5 of SSS. In part 1, we saw that Black Bird and Sadist stuck with what they started in chapter 4. Tonari goes the same route and fails for the third time, which means it’s time for it to get kicked off this feature. Meanwhile, Hot Gimmick toys around with the idea of a more assertive Hatsumi, but ultimately doesn’t commit to giving her any character growth. Nonetheless, it results in a much more toned down chapter. From part 1,  Sadist also was quite tame (but incredibly boring) and only got a C+. Black Bird did manage a B- though; thanks to the super creepy behaviour from the rival love interest!

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

Tonari really seems to want to push this taming animal thing on the volume covers, huh.

Tonari really seems to want to push this taming animal thing on the volume covers, huh.

 

  • Chapter 5 is the start of volume 2 of Tonari, and in keeping with the trend started in volume 1, volume 2’s cover features Haru on a leash. Whip him into shape good, Shizuku! (more…)
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…)

I think now is a good time to publish all the stats on bad story elements I’ve been collecting while doing the Substandard Shoujo Spectacle feature. The story elements have, once again, been organized from most prevalent to least prevalent for easy ranking/comparing (and for elements with the same number of instances, it is alphabetical). Any new element is also in italics. There is also now a total next to how many instances have occurred since the last update (back when the feature started), so you can compared how many times something has occurred in total and just these last 3 chapters. I hope everyone finds this as interesting as I have.

Story Elements Breakdown:

Verbal Abuse/Name Calling {Any instance where the heroine is called stupid, ugly, bitch, etc. by her potential love interest}

– 16 instances; 6 manga // Total-to-Date: 18 instances in 6/7 manga
– Found in: Black Bird [chap.3], Suki Shite Sadist [chap.2, chap.3, chap.4], Hot Gimmick [chap.3 (x2), chap.4], Hadashi de Bara wo Fume [chap.3 (x2), chap.4], The Beautiful Skies of Houou High [chap.2], & The Devil Within [chap.2 (x2), chap.3, chap.4 (x2)]

Heroine must be Saved {Heroine is rescued from whatever distressed situation she is in by a man}

– 5 instances; 3 manga // Total-to-Date: 11 instances in 5/7 manga
– Found in: Black Bird [chap.2, chap.3, chap.4], Hadashi de Bara wo Fume [chap.3], & The Devil Within [chap.2] (more…)

I recently found this link on MAL (from an anti-moe club) to an article about moe (I recommend reading it, it is quite insightful) and the article inspired me to finally write the post I’ve been meaning to write. Now I know that “moe” isn’t suppose to be a particular character trope or a specific something. It’s a feeling. I get it. I really do. And for the longest time, I had trouble making a case that the roots of moe come from a very specific type of moe. Thankfully, the article is written by someone who has the knowledge I was lacking and they laid out the claim I was desperately trying to make, but had no real historical proof to back it up. So here it is, what I always suspected but didn’t have any idea where I could research such a suspicion to back it up:

Today, while hardcore lolicon (and its young-boy equivalent, shota) still exists, the biggest descendant of lolicon has a new name, moe (“mo-eh”) . . . The word moe actually comes from a kanji meaning “to sprout.” “My vegetable love should grow,” to misuse a quote from Andrew Marvell—a slow budding affection, like a tender young plant. Or like an underage girl, unfortunately. The moe which makes me periodically ashamed to read manga in public, and which has caused a raging debate in the Otaku USA letter column, is a particular kind of moe which has its roots in the Japanese love of cuteness, domesticity and—one element among many—the lingering lolicon trend. It’s the moe of stories like Azumanga Daioh and Strawberry Marshmallow and Tori Koro and Yotsuba&!, in which adorable girls do adorable things.

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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…)

I stumbled across a blog called Moe Sucks and it is a delightful blog. Don’t let the name fool you, the blog isn’t about mindless hate, but actually about the blogger poking fun at all the bad sorts of tropes that routinely make their way into anime. The writing is witty and clean and I always enjoy reading the posts. One of my favourite features from this blog is called Harem Hill, where E Minor (blogger of Moe Sucks) takes the worst of the worst harem anime and just pokes fun at all the shit that goes on in each episode by awarding points to determine the worst of the worst. It got me thinking, wouldn’t it be interesting to do that with shoujo? I’m mostly a shoujo sort of person (even though I do watch and read pretty much everything) and instead of just being disappointed about all the bad stuff that happens in shoujo, wouldn’t it be an interesting experiment to try to have fun with these awful stories and at the same time keep pointing out that these aren’t just single instances but actually pervasive problems in the medium? Well that’s what this new feature is going to be about. I’m going to take a handful of shoujo manga that have a certain kind of reputation and go through each one, chapter by chapter, pointing out anything that catches my eye and just poke fun at it. I hope in this way I can improve my knowledge of problematic tropes in shoujo while still keeping a sense of optimism. Anyway here are the possible candidates for this new feature: (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…)