Abuse in Shoujo by the Numbers: Week 6

Previously

It’s only really assault if he’s a bad guy

This week, Black Bird and Black Rose Alice have a common thread, other than the word “black” in their titles: the presence of a villain.

In Black Bird, Misao is assaulted by Sho’s older brother, who acts with the intention of raping then murdering her to gain leadership of his clan; in Black Rose Alice, Alice’s former student and victim lover finds her and turns into a full-blown stalker after become obsessed with finding the connection between his dead rapist girlfriend and this mysterious foreigner. Their actions aren’t too far off from the romantic leads, but since they intend to harm rather than show their “passion”, they’re shown in a negative light. Sho specifically comments that, despite his sense of competition with Kyo, he was never able to fall in love with Misao. So while both seek to control Misao, Sho’s lack of love makes him inexcusable.

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Abuse in Shoujo by the Numbers: Week 5

Previously

This week:
Black Bird vol. 5
Black Rose Alice vol. 4
Boys Over Flowers vol. 3
Cactus’s Secret vol. 2
Blank Slate vol. 1

Bringing “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo” to a wider audience

Whew… it’s been a whirlwind few weeks. Rather than updating the site, I was focused on updating my panels, preparing for interviews, and attending Otakon and Anime Fest. The lead up to the con was unbelievably stressful and more than a bit overwhelming, but the cons were deeply rewarding as I spent time with great friends I only see a few times a year, met my idols, and yet again presented on topics I’m passionate about.

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Abusive Relationships in Shoujo Manga by the Number: Week 4

Previously

On last week’s post, Alex commented,

Why do you plan to talk about why exactly it seems a genre of manga dominated by female authors contains so much abuse? It’s kind of fascinating to me that women would write characters who seem to DESIRE to be in these sorts of relationships, and I’d be interested in some insights.

This is honestly something I had to do a lot of outside research for because frankly, I don’t get it. My favorite pilot in Gundam Wing was Quatre – “bad boys” have never done it for me. Of course, it would be really assholish to study this phenomenon without trying to understand the “why” as well as the “what”. I’ve found there’s a few reasons:

  • It’s more interesting

Say what you will about series like Hot Gimmick and Black Bird – they really draw you in. As Tolstoy said,  “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” It’s hard, though not impossible, to write a healthy romance in an interesting, engaging way, whereas even I have to admit that a lot of these melodramas are page-turners, while series about genuine, loving relationships are often hit or miss and even the best ones can get dull if drawn out too long – Kimi ni Todoke, I’m looking at you.

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Abuse in Shoujo by the Numbers Week 3

Previously

Sorry this update is a week late – it’s con season, and panels and interviews means I have a ton of prep work to do. I’ll be presenting my Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga panel at both Otakon and AnimeFest, so come over and say hi if you’re there!

I accidentally rebooted my computer and I hadn’t saved my spreadsheet for quite a while and I lost so! Much! Data!

This week:
Beauty is the Beast vol. 4
Black Bird vol. 3
Black Rose Alice vol. 2
Boys Over Flowers vol. 1

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Abuse in Shoujo by the Numbers Week 2

Hey Caitlin.

Yes?

Why are you such a misogynist?

Wait what?

Why do you hate stories written by women?

I don’t –

Why do you think women and girls are too stupid to tell reality from fantasy?

Why would you think –

That’s the only thing I can assume from this blog!

*sigh* Okay.

Apparently my continued pursuit of this topic, along with my lack of more positive coverage of shoujo, has given some people the deeply mistaken impression that I am suspicious or disdainful of it and that I only read shoujo manga with this aspect in mind. In retrospect, I can see where that impression comes from. This has become something of a passion project for me. It’s a topic I consider deeply important, so it’s only natural that I give it a lot of focus. However, because of a number of factors, I haven’t written as much as I wanted to on other, more positive aspects of the demographic. In order to combat this perception, I’m going to include in these posts short essays about shoujo manga and my relationship with it that I hope will clarify things.

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Confronting Biases in My Hero Academia

In the months since I’ve started watching it, My Hero Academia has quickly become my favorite battle shonen series. It’s not particularly mold-breaking; it uses the same genre tropes as most other series of its ilk. Its main strength is that it brings the genre’s strengths to the forefront, with a supremely likable ensemble cast and exciting battles, while leaving behind many of the genre’s typical weaknesses. One of battle shonen’s greatest struggles has long been how to incorporate its female characters, and My Hero Academia handles the situation with rare grace and aplomb. However, no work of art is free of biases, and while My Hero Academia avoids many issues associated with the genre, there are still many sexist biases deeply encoded in the series.

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Abusive Relationships in Shoujo by the Numbers: Introduction and Week One

The response to my “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo” panel has been consistently overwhelming. The transcripts from my Sakura Con 2016 get new pageviews every day, and every time I present it, I get people approaching me afterward telling me how meaningful they found it. I’m incredibly proud to have put together something that touches people’s lives and resonates with their experiences so strongly.

Many of the series I used in my presentation are older, because those were the ones that made me take notice of this issue years ago. However, I’m not sure how relevant this is to current audiences – how many people sitting and listening are familiar with Boys Over Flowers or Hot Gimmick? New volumes of shoujo manga come out every week, thanks to the hardworking localizers at companies like Viz, Seven Seas, and many others. I curate my reading list pretty carefully, so for years I’ve made a point of looking for series with healthy relationships, or series that are aware of the abusive dynamics they contain. Starting work on this project forced me to engage with series I actively avoided, but what about the ones I just never heard of?

So I started wondering, how do the numbers break down? How many of the series that make it to US shores really do romanticize abuse, and how many don’t? In search of these answers, I’ve started a new side project: “Abusive Relationships in Shoujo by the Numbers.”

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Updated Recommendations

Over the past few days, I’ve been updating the “Recommendations” page with movies and shows I’ve watched in the past few months. These are the new entries:

Only Yesterday

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Twenty-seven-year-old Taeko Okajima dreams of the countryside. Despite being born and raised in Tokyo, she has always longed for a small hometown to return to like her classmates’ families. Now, she’s taking a trip to Yamagata to help with the safflower harvest and experience rural life for herself. While on the train, she begins to remember her childhood, and the memories continue flow as she settles into her temporary home.

For many years, Only Yesterday sat in licensing hell, held by a Disney that was mainly interested in the marketability of Hayao Miyazaki’s fantastical, family-friendly worlds while Isao Takahata’s more grounded stories remained in limbo. Now GKids possesses the license, and they have thankfully put in the effort to bring these movies the attention they deserve, including dubs and theatrical releases. Only Yesterday depicts a young woman who feels alienated and dissatisfied with city life, and as the movie examines her adolescence, it becomes clear that she has never truly felt at home. Taeko felt misunderstood by her sisters and stifled by her loving but overly stern father. The bumps and bruises of adolescence, both physical and psychological, are depicted with a sort of softness that doesn’t reduce them but makes them feel more relatable as Taeko reflects on the experiences that made her the woman she is today. Country life is quite romanticized when compared to the disconnect Taeko feels with her city origins, but viewed as a personal journey rather than an indictment of urban lifestyles, it makes for a beautiful, satisfying story.

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How to Read Manga Legally: A Guide

It’s common wisdom that there’s never been a better time to be an anime fan. More anime than you could watch in a lifetime is legally available streaming online for free; for only a small monthly subscription, you can access another lifetime’s worth only hours after it airs in Japan. Gone are the days of paying $30 for a two-episode VHS, of gathering around a fuzzy fansub VHS at anime club, of tolerating nonsensical edits and low-quality dubbing to watch a show on TV. For people who have been into the hobby for fifteen years or more, it’s an age of miracles.

But if you’re a manga fan? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still much better than it used to be – manga volumes are inexpensive and plentiful, with a wide variety of series being released. However, compared to the land of milk and honey that anime fans inhabit, it can feel a bit frustrating. Many fans end up turning to scanlations, scanned versions of manga volumes available for free online, using either amateur translations or sometimes outright pirating the official English releases. It’s not hard to see why this is popular or commonplace – manga is almost never free and convenient the way anime is, and fans weaned on online streaming are used to instant gratification. Many fans don’t even realize that these sites are illegal, since they’re often among the first results when you plug a title into a search engine.

Manga fans, there is a better way!

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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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