Forgotten Realms: The Isekai Boom of the 90’s

There’s no denying it: isekai is the genre of the moment in Japanese nerd culture. The loanword identifying the genre literally means “different world”, and it features a protagonist from our own world suddenly finding themselves trapped in an alternate world, usually one dominated by Western fantasy tropes. The trend reached the US in the early 2010’s with Sword Art Online, with its protagonist Kirito trapped in an MMORPG. Isekai are generally adaptation of light novels, where they are so prominent that last summer, a short story contest banned entries featuring alternate worlds. Like most light novel anime, they’re usually aimed at young men already immersed in the genre, and their protagonists tend to have a degree of self-awareness about their situation.

Despite their recent surge of popularity, isekai series have been around for quite a while. Recently, I stumbled on an article that claimed that the genre barely existed until a 1983 children’s show called Manga Aesop Monogatari and the anime adaptation of Inuyasha, which began in the year 2000. This article is, to put it bluntly, dead wrong. One of the earliest examples of the genre is Crest of the Royal Family, a 1976 shoujo manga that is still running to this day. Inuyasha may have been a breakout hit, but isekai anime and manga thrived during the 90’s. US fans didn’t have a name for it at the time – we generally referred to it as “‘trapped in another world’ anime”. The main difference between isekai then and isekai now is the intended audience – 25 years ago, it was a staple of the shoujo demographic, rather than today’s escapist playgrounds for young men. Ordinary young women were pulled into alternate worlds where attractive young men told them they had a special destiny to fulfill. They went on grand adventures and usually – though not always – fell in love along the way.

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Interviews with Monster Girls: Succubus-san is Guilty until Proven Innocent

Content Warnings: Ace erasure, sexual assault, victim blaming

When Interviews with Monster Girls premiered two months ago, it surprised many fans by treating its subject, demi-humans, as an allegory for disability rather than fetishistized harem material. The first episode treated the concept with unusual sensitivity for the genre, highlighting how the girls’ unique needs must be accommodated to ensure equality, rather than treating everyone exactly the same way. Since then, the series has made a number of missteps, despite what I can only assume are the best of intentions, but its well-meaning sincerity generally makes up for it.

The seventh episode, “Succubus-san is Inquisitive,” features Sakie Satou, a succubus trying to live in the mainstream as a teacher despite how she involuntarily arouses men simply by existing, and Detective Ugaki, the police officer who has been tracking her for most of her life. Because of the poorly-handled inclusion of real-life issues such as covert photography and train molestation, this is easily the most awkward and uncomfortable episode yet.

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Fushigi Yugi: Enemies Unseen/Looking for Yui

Episodes 7/8

Episode 9: Enemies Unseen

Last time on Fushigi Yugi: Miaka jumped back in the book in order to make out with Tamahome rescue Yui, and finds that relations between Kutou and Konan have gone sour, while her best friend is nowhere to be found. HMMM I WONDER WHERE SHE COULD BE????????

The episode opens just after the touching reunion between Miaka and Tamahome, when lights flash from the trees and a pair of hands reach out of the woods and pull her… somewhere? There’s literally no background drawn so it looks like she’s in another dimension. She bites the hand of her supposed attacker, hard, proving once again that she does have some fight in her when convenient. Her abductor, a fox-faced, goofy-voiced man informs her that she was under attack – in the English version he snarks that he should have asked before rescuing her, while in the Japanese version he just says he doesn’t blame her. Why is the dub so mean? He disappears into his hat, and despite all the strange things Miaka has seen, she’s confused.

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[Link] Chatty AF

Hey guys!

This week, Anime Feminist kicked of the first episode of our podcast, Chatty AF! (Autoplay warning) In this episode, we discuss the current season of anime thus far: what we’re watching, why we’re watching it, and how we feel about their representations of women. Participating are editor-in-chief AmeliaLauren Orsini, Peter Fobian, and yours truly.

It was a lot of fun to record, and I hope you enjoy listening to it! Please leave any feedback here or at Anime Feminist.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Sukeroku Hen 1-5: The Why and What of “Wa”

Thank you to Michelle for your help in researching female rakugoka!

About a year ago, I wrote about Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’s Konatsu. A young woman born into the all-male performing art of rakugo, she was cursed to be an outsider in the only world she knew. Her bitterness was further fueled by her toxic relationship with Yakumo, her emotionally distant foster father whom she believed killed her biological father. However, the show’s first season focused on Konatsu’s father and Yakumo, so we didn’t get to see how Konatsu’s arc would play out. The show’s sequel, Sukeroku-hen, is running this season. It brings the focus back to Konatsu, her hapless husband Yotaro, their son Shinnosuke, and the bitter, elderly Yakumo. The Konatsu of the second season, thus far, is recognizable, but a major shift in her attitude makes me wonder where the show is going.

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My Tsundere Life

Growing up, I wasn’t an angry adolescent so much as a frustrated one. I always had a temper, compounded by the social immaturity and drop in grades that came with undiagnosed ADHD. I felt betrayed by the way my body was changing. Nothing in my life felt quite right. The media I consumed growing up – Clarissa Explains It All, Animorphs, horse novels, a huge variety of Disney movies, and so on – showed me how to be a kind girl, a smart girl, an empathetic girl, even a tough girl – but there seemed to be nothing out there for a weird, awkward, temperamental girl. I felt like I was wandering through life without a guidebook, until one day I discovered Ranma ½.

I stumbled on an ad for it in the back of a Pokemon manga when I was twelve years old. An acquaintance at school lent me a VHS of the second movie and I was hooked. I had no allowance, so each $30 VHS or $15 manga volume was hard-earned, but I devoured as much information as I could about it via pre-Wikipedia fanpages on the internet. Here was a series where girls were strong and tough and fought, even if they were never on a level with the guys. The female cast was huge, a far cry from the token female friends that dominated American animation. Though she wasn’t my favorite (that honor goes to okonomiyaki chef Ukyo Kuonji), I developed a particular affection for Akane Tendo, whose hot temper and disgust with men closely matched my own.

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Spirited Away by Princess Mononoke

One of the interesting things about getting older is remembering a time before something. Not just before it entered your personal radar, or before even “I liked it before it was popular” – before it existed. There’s a lot of “befores” in anime that I don’t remember: before Akira, before My Neighbor Totoro, before Dragonball. One that I do recall is before Spirited Away.

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I was fifteen years old when Spirited Away came out in the US, already an anime and Ghibli fan for years by then. I wish I could say it deeply affected me, that every moment remained burned upon my brain, but it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but my most vivid memory of it at the time is cheering for it as I watched the Oscars in my little brother’s hospital room. I do remember the anticipation, though. At the time, Miyazaki was a name known mostly to animation and film buffs stateside. Spirited Away initially came out in a limited release on only 151 screens, but Oscar buzz and international acclaim brought it out to the mainstream, and winning the second-ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival cemented its place in film history. Many of the people who grew up watching it are adults now – myself included. Some of them are working in animation, leading to visual references in shows like Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, The Simpsons, and many others. It regularly ranks highly on lists of anime, of animated films, even of films in general. It’s a huge, influential movie, and much of its imagery has come to be instantly recognizable.

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The Women of Yuri on Ice

When Yuri!! on Ice was announced, fans took notice. Director Sayo Yamamoto has amassed something of a cult following among feminist anime fans in the US for her full-length series Michiko and Hatchin and The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, which explicitly challenged the roles of women in popular fiction. She’d also directed the beautiful figure skating short “Endless Night” for Animator Expo, so it wasn’t exactly a shock when it was announced she’d direct a TV series with a similar concept. The big question was, when she’s primarily told stories about women and for women, what would a series featuring men be like coming from her?

The answer, it turns out, is something just as beautiful and subversive as her previous works. Much digital ink has been spilled about the beauty of the relationship between Yuri and Victor and about how revolutionary it is for both Yuris to make feminine expression integral parts of their routines. This is absolutely true, and I don’t have much to add to that conversation. I was, however, struck by how the secondary cast came across as well-rounded humans with lives of their own, even with limited screen time. In shows focused around male characters, the female cast tends to suffer, reduced to satellite characters with little purpose in life except their relationship to the male protagonists. Yamamoto and co-creator Mitsurou Kubo, however, fill Yuri’s universe with intelligent, capable women instrumental in shaping his life and his story, and the show is much stronger for it.

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Sexual Assault and Subversiveness in Kiss Him, Not Me

Summary: Obese otaku Kae Serinuma loves one thing above all else: witnessing intense bonds between men. Whether it’s fictional boys of anime or her handsome male classmates, she lives for the moment where they share a significant glance or touch. When her favorite anime character dies, Kae locks herself in her room for two weeks without food. When she emerges and returns to school, she’s lost all the extra weight. Suddenly, the boys that wouldn’t give her the time of day want nothing more than her attention, but she’d rather they pay more attention to each other!

Content warnings: weight loss/gain, strong trigger warning for sexual assault

 

My expectations going into Kiss Him, Not Me were low, to say the least. Despite my own fondness for seeing boys kiss, I view fujoshi culture with an extremely critical eye. That is, after all, the reason garbage like Super Lovers and Junjou Romantica keeps getting made. I’m also not a fan of shipping real people or the idea that a girl only needs to lose weight to be lovable. When I actually gave the series a try, I was surprised to find it actually has something of a subversive bent, taking shots at romantic shoujo tropes without turning into outright parody. It’s a romantic comedy with very little romance; it’s a harem show where the heroine has more interest in the unattainability of fictional characters. However, that subversiveness is inconsistent and regularly mixed in with the typical shoujo cliches, making it hard to take the message seriously.

The premise of the show alone raises eyebrows. Manga about some kind of personal transformation are fairly common, such as Blue Spring Ride and High School Debut, and almost always revolve around the idea that daintiness and prettiness are more feminine and thus desirable. Kae, however, has absolutely zero interest in changing. The weight loss was purely accidental and she was plenty happy how she was. Her love of anime and BL still dictates most of her actions, and she doesn’t much care whether or not her harem decides to join her at things like Comiket or picking up the latest character goods at Animate. Kae’s ability to stay true to herself is remarkable, as is the boys’ willingness to accept her for who she is. It’s easy for a manga to convey the message to be yourself, but Kiss Him, Not Me dares readers to embrace their socially unacceptable qualities.

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Looking Forward, Looking Back

Whew. This year was one hell of a ride, wasn’t it?

I know it’s been a rough, heartbreaking year for almost all of you – we lost some true visionaries who dared to live differently and never apologized for being themselves. My country, the US, took a lot of steps backward that will doubtless affect the entire world, and a lot of other countries are headed in similar directions. I’m afraid we have all been cursed to live in interesting times.

 

Heroine Problem in 2016

It’s been an extremely busy year here at Heroine Problem headquarters. In terms of my personal life, the school where I was working at closed down suddenly, forcing me to find a new job. I was lucky enough to get hired for my first-ever lead teacher job in a toddler class at a fairly prestigious preschool. It has good benefits, low ratios, and the best wage I’ve ever made, but the learning curve has been extremely steep for me as I work on my CDA and learn to take charge and run the classroom as my own. It’s been a difficult few months learning to re-balance my life, and I’m not quite there yet.

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