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

Part 1
Part 2

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.

Continue reading “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga and Anime Part 3 – Signs of Abuse”

Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga and Anime Part 2 – Tropes

Part 1

You only hurt the one you love…. (11)

One of the things people brought up as something that made them uncomfortable was age differences. It’s a very common fantasy for young women, which is why it’s so common in shoujo manga. “Oh, this hot teacher… he’s so attractive… What if he fell in love with me?” And people generally mentioned Sailor Moon, because Mamoru is in college and Usagi is in middle school; and this particular couple in Cardcaptor Sakura, because she’s in elementary school and he’s her teacher. [audience groans]

It is a common fantasy, but there’s an inherent power imbalance here, and all the time you see stories about young women who end up sleeping with their teachers and it’s what they thought they wanted – and this is not victim blaming, it is 100% on the adults to not do it with them – but since they see these fantasies, and they find themselves in these situations, they don’t have the tools to get away. Once again, I want to emphasize, it is never the victim’s fault. I don’t want to come across like I’m victim-blaming, ever.

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Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga and Anime Part 1 – Introdution

At this year’s Sakura Con, I had the amazing opportunity to present a panel on Abuse in Shoujo Manga and Anime to a completely full room. Starting today, I will be posting a transcript of the panel in four parts. Because of the more spontaneous, imperfect nature of speech, the my thoughts and grammar will be messier than usual.

You only hurt the one you love….

Hi everyone, my name is Caitlin Moore. I write for the blog, and thank you so much for coming to “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga and Anime”. I chose this panel because growing up, I read a lot of shoujo manga, and as I got older, I was reading and realized, a lot of these guys are just not good! They’re not good guys! I started thinking about exactly how relationships work and how people in relationships should treat each other. As I started getting older and getting into feminism, it only got more alarming to me.

You only hurt the one you love…. (1)

So, just a content warning: this panel will contain discussions of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, including sexual assault. If anyone thinks they need to leave for any reason, that’s fine, no judgment.

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Sakura Con 2016: Rie Matsumoto/Toshihiro Kawamoto Interview, Part 2


Q: This is a question for both of you. When you were growing up, what was your favorite manga or anime series, and as of right now, do you happen to have any manga or anime titles that you’re enjoying at the moment?

TK: I think if you compare director Matsumoto and me, there’s maybe a difference of two generations… or maybe just one. The generation gap is kind of like parent and child, almost, so I’m sure we were drawn to different things when we were young. In my generation, one of the works that sparked this animation trend was Spaceship Yamato, and also works that were created by Leiji Matsumoto. I was really inspired by those works. Right now, I need to look at other anime to learn what styles they’re using and what new process they’re using. The animation studios I’m interested in right now include Kyoto Animation and Studio Ghibli, so I see works from those so I can learn and incorporate what they do into my work.

RM: Since I was very small, I was really interested in Japanese fairy tales and there were anime versions of those shows on TV, so I would watch those a lot. I was also a fan of things with anthropomorphized animals. For example, there was one that took place in a zoo like with a penguin, and it was the humanized animals living out a human drama. I liked that sort of thing. Often I would meet these shows randomly, by accident when watching TV or something. When certain things are handled in live-action dramas or with human characters, they have a lot of heavy themes like divorce or losing family, but in those shows, since the characters were animals, it kind of softened it so kids were able to watch it, and it was kind of like practice for entering society and I feel that I learned a lot from those. Also, there were a lot of really quality shows at the time that I was in elementary and middle school, like Cowboy Bebop that Kawamoto-san had done.

Continue reading “Sakura Con 2016: Rie Matsumoto/Toshihiro Kawamoto Interview, Part 2”

Sakura Con 2016: Rie Matsumoto/Toshihiro Kawamoto Interview Part 1


At Sakura Con this year, I had the incredible fortune to participate in a round-table interview with Guests of Honor Toshihiro Kawamoto and Rie Matsumoto. Kawamoto earned his place in animation history as a founding member of Studio Bones and one of anime’s foremost character designers and animators, with credits including Cowboy Bebop, Ouran High School Host Club, and most recently, Blood Blockade Battlefront.

Matsumoto is one of anime’s rising star directors. In an industry dominated by older men, she has directed three major works at the age of 30, including a Pretty Cure film and smash hit Blood Blockade Battlefront.

Rie Matsumoto: I am Rie Matsumoto and I’m a director.

Toshihiro Kawamoto:  Hi everyone, my name is Kawamoto. I’m from Studio Bones and my roles are character designer and animator. Today, I am here with the director to promote Kekkai Sensen together.

Continue reading “Sakura Con 2016: Rie Matsumoto/Toshihiro Kawamoto Interview Part 1”

Sakura Con 2016 report

This year, I was more excited for Sakura Con than I have been for a convention in a long time. I had friends coming in from out of town, was doing three panels, and looking forward to seeing Rie Matsumoto, one of the most talented directors working in anime. Sure, I was broke, but that’s been the case at conventions for the last… five years? Ten years? Since I moved back to the US, for sure. It’s hard out there for a preschool teacher/blogger. But that doesn’t really matter – I’m not much of a Collector of Things. I’m happy keeping my convention budget to the con membership.

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Sakura Con 2014: Objectification in Anime: Agency, Nudity, and What It All Means

“A lot of times we don’t pay close attention to what’s going on in shows we’re watching just for entertainment. This can make it hard to have a productive discussion with people who try to point out that anime is misogynist or that it objectifies women. In this panel we’ll take a look at what objectification is really all about and whether anime really all boils down to just that.”

Read that panel description. Sounds pretty good, right? Come back up and read it again at the end of the article and see how your perceptions change.

Picture this: a man wears a backwards baseball cap, reflective aviator sunglasses, a matted ponytail to the middle of his back, a silkscreen button down shirt, and cuffed skinny jeans. He has just come from presenting a panel on harem anime in front of an audience that laughs uproariously at nosebleed jokes and cheers at panty shots. In a different room, in front of a different audience, he prepares to deliver another presentation. This audience is mostly women, here to listen to someone discuss objectification.

Well then. Can you guess how it went?

He kicked off the panel by defining “objectification” as characters without agency who are acted upon instead of acting themselves and saying that it is “less straightforward than it seems”. While I agree with the last point, and the definition is a good starting place, it is far from the whole story and, as you will see, he went with a definition of objectification that is vastly different from what social philosophers and and feminists use, which relies on the viewer’s point of view, not between the characters.

To illustrate his point, he showed a clip from the anime Dakara Boku wa H ga Dekinai. The clip, clearly R-rated in a panel that was ostensibly PG-13, had a pair of maids licking and massaging an unwilling male recipient. His point in showing it, he claimed, was to show that objectification can go both ways. Next was a clip from the show Senran Kagura about women who gain power by forming contracts with the male main character and occasionally even refer to him as a “magic battery”. While I agree the former clip, featuring a nonconsenting male character in a sexual situation, was upsetting and should absolutely be considered rape, I contest that these can be considered “objectifying”. After all, these are series made for men, by men. When the term “objectification” is used, it usually refers to the viewer’s relationship with the characters, not the characters’ relationships with each other. Since the male viewers are supposed to identify with the main character, they are being subjectified. But you all knew that, right? Let’s move on.

Not depicted: The poor men being objectified by these vicious women

Next he made the claim that nudity isn’t inherently objectifying, but can be when used to draw in an audience. That’s true! There’s plenty of potential contexts in which nudity is not objectifying or sexual. People are naked sometimes. It happens. Of course, his go-to example of objectifying nudity was Free! Not, you know, one of literally hundreds of titty anime. He had to go for the one show made to show off the male body for a female audience. He claimed that large breasts being fetishized is a “slippery topic” and “anime that fetishize things, fetishize things both ways”. He didn’t name the show, but he showed a clip from a show where two girls were introducing the male protagonist to their hot mothers – one dressed in a kimono and very traditionally feminine, and one who immediately pressed his face into her breasts and told him he could “forcibly molest” her daughter. While it’s true that a wide variety of female traits are fetishized, they tend to all fall along the same stereotypes, as seen in the clip he presented, and present all women as sexual objects. Not to mention the incredible grossness levels inherent in what was going on there. Seriously, “forcibly molest her”? You couldn’t find anything that didn’t involve a mother telling a boy to rape her daughter? What the shit dude. He brushed off any concerns saying there was an “overstated assumption” that people who watch things will start acting like that and they indicate a level of “social permissiveness”. Which. No. No. That’s not what we’re worried about. It’s more insidious than that. It’s a much more subtle, creeping effect that does, yes, include growing levels of social permissiveness and men who do not see women as people because of their continuous consumption of media like this. It’s why an idol singer who was caught having a boyfriend – not having sex, not doing anything illegal, simply being in a monogamous relationship – shaved her head in penance and filmed herself crying and apologizing for ten minutes.

At this point, an audience member piped up that male and female nudity are NOT equivalent, and that buff male characters are usually a male power fantasy rather than made for women to look at. This comment was brushed off by the presenter, but applauded by the audience.

He had some statistics for us! A quarter of Japanese men and almost half of Japanese women are uninterested in sex. For most Japanese women, career or children is a binary choice. For the population that doesn’t apply to, he blamed the very vague concept of “rigid social structures”. This leads to certain segments of the population withdrawing, consuming anime and manga instead of socializing, and objectification of women and in a “much more harmful form…robbing self-insert male characters of agency.” By this point, the audience had grown noticeably hostile. The woman next to me was taking notes on points to refute and follow up on once she got the chance; I could hear others around me whispering to one another in confusion and anger.

So, what started the blatant catering to otaku? According to the man sitting in front of us, it was Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was the first successful niche anime, proving that otaku have deep enough to pockets to be a viable market, despite being a relatively small segment of the population. Its themes of alienation appealed to those who felt isolated; its success caused most anime made from there on to fall into two categories: anime about feeling alienation, and anime made to provide escapism to those who feel that way. Or rather, you know, menwho feel that way. But he didn’t make that distinction, probably because it would be sexist of him to differentiate. Or some shit like that.

Being blamed for this makes Shinji feel isolated and depressed
Being blamed for this makes Shinji feel isolated and depressed

“Male gaze is a slippery topic,” he said, and lately, there’s been the “stronger presence of female gaze”. After all, Free! exists, and Comiket has an entire day (out of three!) devoted to yaoi. So, of course, the female gaze is the much greater threat. Of course, to those of us who have an understanding of gender in the media at all – I almost said “beyond a basic level” but even that is enough to grasp it- male gaze isn’t a slippery topic. It’s actually an incredibly straightforward topic. The concept is almost 40 years old, well-documented, and one of the most important ideas in feminist media studies. The mere existence of the female gaze is a much more slippery topic and not universally accepted. Women creating content that appeals to themselves and self-publishing on a small scale is not even close to the way major media companies create series that pander to the male gaze. Not. Even. A. Tiny. Bit. Close.

Trust me, we're not objectifying you the way we do these guys
Trust me, we’re not objectifying you the way we do these guys

To illustrate the male gaze, he showed a clip from the Macross Frontier movie showing the idol singer Sheryl performing in a skimpy outfit. That’s it. That was the only thing even a tiny bit male-gaze-y about the clip. The camera didn’t linger over her body. There were no awkward camera angles meant to show off her anatomy. She wore the same kind of outfit that real-life pop singers perform in by choice all the time – Beyonce would have considered it conservative.


Meanwhile, in many harem anime, the male character is in fact punished for gazing on a woman, regardless of his intent. To illustrate this, he showed clips from Love Hina – specifically, the scene in the beginning where Keitaro stumbles on Naru in the bath and she mistakes him for her female roommate Kitsune and, when she realizes her mistake, freaks out and drags him around by the penis – and Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, the content of which I cannot be arsed to remember other than that it was trash of the same caliber as everything else he showed. “The self-insert male lead averts his gaze and/or is punished, subverting notion of women as sex objects is a kind of ‘training’ for male viewers,” he claimed. Rather, masochist male characters are further objectifying to men. Which, again, is a trash assertion. It doesn’t change that there is a naked woman displayed for the pleasure of male viewers on the screen. Her anger is a sign of her lack of consent, which for many only sweetens the pot. In Japan, phone cameras by law have to make a sound when you take a picture because there was such an epidemic of covert upskirt photography. Clearly, these men don’t fear violent retaliation for their illicit gaze. Furthermore, the girls are usually tsundere and over time end up falling for the male protagonist – the violence is only a symptom of their reluctant feelings. Yes, the downplaying of female-on-male violence is a problem and can reach disturbing levels; I remember a moment in Love Hina later in the series when Keitaro starts crying and apologizing for accidentally seeing another girl naked, and is surprised when the punch never comes. That’s really awful and reflective of real life abuse! But to claim that it is objectification of men, and that men are more objectified than women is wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

“My masochism has singlehandedly led to all men in Japan AND the panelist being oppressed!”
“My masochism has singlehandedly led to all men in Japan AND the panelist being oppressed!”

Finally, finally, he got to moe and lolicon anime. Moe and lolicon are more about fetishism of youth and purity and power relationships between the viewer and the characters, which was probably the first and only correct assertion he made in that entire hour and a half. He showed an extended coffee-making sequence from Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and said, “As you can see, that totally subverts the male otaku view of women.”

“How is that subversive?” an audience member called out.

“Show a me a woman that acts that way.”

“That’s not what subversion means!”

He shrugged and continued on. It was clear: he knew the audience was hostile. He knew we weren’t buying his bullshit. He had shut down.

Row row fight the powah
Row row fight the powah

He showed a couple more moeshit clips without really saying anything, and then the panel moderator opened the floor to questions. I stood up and walked straight to the mic. This isn’t an exact transcript of what I said, but all the sentiments are the same and I’ve done my best to come as close as I can.

“You clearly had an agenda when you wrote this presentation, and now you’re standing in front of a room full of women and saying, ‘Silly feminists, men have it way worse!’ You obviously didn’t talk to a single woman or take any woman’s experience or views into account when you made this. Every time there was something that was against your point, you dismissed it as an inexplicable cultural difference or a ‘slippery topic’. How dare you say this to a room full of women? I’m sorry, but that’s crap.”

Cue the THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE from the audience. One of the people standing in line for the mic told me I was his heroine. It was incredible. His response was that he was very sorry I was offended, and he was a bit hurt that I felt the need to stay and say all that to him instead of leaving and complaining to con staff after I decided I was upset. He just wanted to present an alternate viewpoint instead of the same boring information everyone was expecting! He didn’t specify objectification of women in the panel title, so it wasn’t misleading! After that, a few people in line prefaced their remarks with, “Well I liked the panel and I learned a lot!” but a number of others disputed various points he made throughout the panel.

After the panel let out, riding high on the endorphins and adrenaline, I headed down to Con Ops to make sure he wasn’t leading any other panels I was planning to attend so I didn’t get another nasty surprise. They told me they’d already gotten a number of complaints about him, and another attendee – the one who had challenged him on his use of the word “subvert” – was already talking to the panel coordinator. The panel coordinator, who does the same job for Geek Girl Con, apologized for what we had gone through, and assured us he would be blacklisted from hosting panels at Sakura Con for violating the panel’s age rating in addition to a blatantly misleading panel description. But in hindsight, I’m not sure the description was really misleading. Read it again:

“A lot of times we don’t pay close attention to what’s going on in shows we’re watching just for entertainment. This can make it hard to have a productive discussion with people who try to point out that anime is misogynist or that it objectifies women. In this panel we’ll take a look at what objectification is really all about and whether anime really all boils down to just that.”

There’s definitely a combative, defiant tone to it. That people who call anime misogynistic are irrational and wrong and the enemy. In the end, there’s really only one thing to say about guys like him:

Fuck that guy.