“It’s a Safer Space” – Interview with Jamie McGonnigal

Jamie McGonnigal is the first to admit that he’s not exactly a household name in anime dubbing, but he still sees himself as having an important mission: creating spaces at conventions where LGBTQ youth and adults can meet and be themselves. At his conventions, he hosts panels about queer culture and its intersection with anime and its fan community, seeking to educate and inform fans. Outside of conventions, he works as an activist and organizer for a variety of causes, especially ones that affect the LGBTQ community.

CM: What do you think the anime community in particular has to offer LGBT youth?

JM: So very much. The fact that they have positive, good portrayals of LGBTQ characters in anime is a huge step in the right direction. I think we could do better – I think we could have the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters as the lead characters. That would certainly be nice, have the stories revolve around them and make LGBTQ youth feel a little bit more included, like they can be the star.
I think that cons in particular are such accepting, great places for folks. I’m not very famous, I get it, but I can use the little bit of notoriety I have to come to cons and put on panels focused on It Gets Better and and they end up being kind of support groups. These folks who are often in the same area get to meet and realize, “Hey, there’s other people like me who are not only into anime but also LGBTQ.” They form communities. I still hear from people who I spoke to at cons ten years ago who have lifelong friends because of it because there’s something special they share outside of anime. So yeah, just the acceptingness of the community is wonderful.

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Otakon 2017: Interview with Stephanie Sheh

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This year at Otakon, I sat down with veteran voice actress and director Stephanie Sheh to talk about the current state of the industry, the rapidly-evolving world of anime dubbing, and what anime has to offer young women. Sheh has been working in the dubbing industry since debuting as Silky in I’m Gonna Be An Angel in 2001 and has played a number of significant roles including the title character of Eureka Seven, Yui Hirasawa in K-On, and the iconic Usagi Tsukino in Viz’s dub of Sailor Moon.

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CM: What are some changes you’ve seen in anime since you started? You’ve been in the dubbing game for a really long time. Have you noticed any major shifts in genres or character types?

SS: I think the main shift is moving toward the simultaneous type of dub release. The dub releases are much quicker after the Japanese. The other thing is streaming services totally changed the game. In the past, there was a much bigger audience, but that audience was at least paying for their stuff, and then bootlegging and all these free streaming services really changed the shape of the industry and we’ve had to change to adapt. On the dubbing front, you see Japanese companies be more involved, care about American audiences, give their say. Now, sometimes you need approval for casting, for scripts, for things like that. I think that that is… most of the time, a good thing.

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Sayo Yamamoto will save anime (for me)

Sayo Yamamoto saved anime for me.

This seems like an exaggeration and, frankly, it is. But The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, my first exposure to her, moved me so deeply with its pointed critique of how writers treat female characters that I promised that I would hop on a plane to any anime convention where she was a guest. Her complex, unconventional heroines energized and inspired my blogging and made me feel like that, just maybe, someone out there behind the scenes felt the same way about women in fiction that I did. My effusive love for it helped me connect to one of my Anime Feminist collaborators, Vrai Kaiser. Every season after that I would scan the directorial credits in hopes of seeing her name, but she wouldn’t direct another series for over five years, until Yuri on Ice premiered and completely left the anime community shook.

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Heroine Problem at the Conventions, 2017 Edition

I planned for last year to be my final Otakon. It would be bidding a fond farewell to Baltimore and the summers of college, taking a final chance to go to the aquarium, and just a final coda to my relationship with east coast conventions.

Then I had so much fun seeing my friends and hanging out with interesting people that I said, “Fuck that” and booked a hotel room for next year.

And then. And then! Anime Fest announced that Sayo Yamamoto and Mitsuro Kubo would be guests, and I had sworn to myself years ago that I would hop on a plane to any convention that had Yamamoto as a guest. And it was the weekend after Otakon. So my extended weekend turned into a week and a half.

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Otakon 2016 Cosplay Gallery

There was a ton of great cosplay at this year’s Otakon! The most popular property I noticed was Pokemon, as well as quite a bit of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. This year, I decided to take the time to interview a few cosplayers when I had a moment. As I write this article, I’m discovering that the quality of photos taken by my note-taking app are somewhat… sub-par, so apologies for that.

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Victoria as Anthy Himemiya from Revolutionary Girl Utena
“What made me want to cosplay as this character was growing up, I never knew how to come out of my shell and be myself. I had friends who said you’re beautiful and great, and that helped me a lot. I was drawn to Anthy because I think in that show, Utena really helped Anthy in that way and you know, that was like my life.”

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Otakon 2016 Report

I’ve been to Otakon three times before this year. During college, it was the yearly meeting point for my group of friends online. As I drifted apart from that group and lost the free time that being a college student on summer break brought, Otakon fell by the wayside. I had some great times in that Inner Harbor, but my time and money were demanded elsewhere. I figured I probably wouldn’t be back, but when they announced this would be the con’s last year in Baltimore – at least for the foreseeable future – I decided to make it work and have one last hurrah in the Charm City.

I’m so glad I did.

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Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga Part 4 – Conclusion

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Part 3

You only hurt the one you love…. (32)

Why does it matter? Why should we have these conversations? It’s not like a headstrong girl will go out and read a shoujo manga about a girl in a relationship with an abusive boy and instantly become a doormat. But it normalizes and romanticizes abusive behaviors and creates a culture of abuse. Once again, I want to emphasize, if a girl reads a manga and thinks that it’s okay to be treated like this and someone proceeds to, it’s not her fault. It is not her fault! This creates a culture of abuse that associates aggression and dominance with masculinity and sacrifice of the self for the sake of romance: “I love him, therefore I have to put up with this. He only treats me like this because he loves me.” These are very common cultural myths that need to be actively combatted and actively talked about and criticized, or else impressionable young readers – I started reading manga myself when I was about twelve years old, well before I had ever been in a relationship and while my personality was still forming. Luckily I was also reading things like Tamora Pierce, who writes about confident young women, though she has her own issues, like the age difference thing…

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Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga and Anime Part 3 – Signs of Abuse

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You only hurt the one you love…. (19)

Now we’re getting more into the actual, physical forms of abuse that are not just tropes in fiction. This is physical abuse – pulling hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting, anything that brings harm to your body. Damaging your property out of anger. Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol was a really weird one in Hana Yori Dango because he kidnaps her, drugs her, and she wakes up to being given a makeover, and that’s like, “Oh, he just doesn’t understand how to be nice to her, that’s why he did that. He was just trying to be nice!” He drugged her. He drugged her. The property tends to involve phones, because that is an avenue of communication with other people. If they’re communicating with other people, the guy will destroy the phone in a temper tantrum.

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