Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kuranosuke Koibuchi and the Frame of Beauty

The story of Kuragehime (2014) takes a look into the apartment complex of five unmarried women who can be classified as otaku, unsociable adults with obsessive interests who are typically shunned by society.  These women, including the main heroine Tsukimi, are all designed to be conventionally unattractive.  They are considered, and even consider themselves, to be an entirely different species from the upper-class beauties known as the Stylish.

However, one day, Tsukimi has a fateful encounter with one of the Stylish-- a stunning "woman" who, on a whim, comes to her aid in a social situation.  It isn't until after the stranger stays the night in her room and removes his flowing wig that it is revealed to be Kuranosuke Koibuchi, the son of a powerful politician who just happens to be very interested in fashion and cross-dressing.  Under the alias "Kurako," he continues using his feminine persona to help himself as well as his new friends.  Through his genderbending, Kuranosuke stands as a strong testament to his own ideal about the transformative power of fashion to influence how a person is perceived.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Shuichi Nitori and the Non-Conforming Community

With a calm atmosphere, down-to-earth characters, and a genuinely honest tone, Hourou Musuko (2013) attempts a relatively realistic take on transgender issues (as opposed to something like this).  The series explores, primarily, the life of the main character Shuichi Nitori, who is introduced as a boy with a feminine appearance and feminine tastes.

Over the course of the series, and with the significant support of several friends and role models who also struggle with LGBT+ issues, Shuichi comes to terms with her identity as a transgender girl.  I'll use female pronouns to reflect this.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Aoi Hyodo and the Test of Manhood

For a series that can spark a 'cross-the-board range of opinions on gender, feminism, and androgyny, one needs to look no further than Kaichou wa Maid-Sama! (2005).

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama! (literally, The Class President is a Maid!) is exactly what it says on the tin:  By day, the heroine Misaki is the tough-as-nails president of her school's student council, to whom all the male students must bow down.  But after school, she's a mild-mannered cosplaying waitress in a maid cafe, who must who cater to her male customers' every whim.

Obviously, a strict framework of gender identity is very potent in this series... while at the same time there are ventures by many different characters to cross those lines, the acceptable limits of which are constantly tested.  One of Misaki's classmates, Aoi Hyodo, embodies this test perfectly.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Yuri Kamanosuke and the Rejected Role

The anime Brave 10 (2012) is a historical fantasy that follows a journey to unite a group of ten ninja warriors who represent different elemental powers.  As the show touches upon themes of light and dark, good and evil, the character to be discussed is a highly sadistic and twisted hero who may challenge this binary... and, of course, challenges other binaries as well.

The warrior of the wind, Yuri Kamanosuke, is introduced in the third episode, using his own androgyny to his manipulative advantage.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Husky (+Anima) and the Mismatched Facade

In the manga +Anima (2001-2005), what is meant by the titular term is a human who possesses the secondary traits of a particular animal, like the wings of a bird or the strength of a bear.  That sounds like a great premise for a superhero fantasy, but this series chooses to spin it a bit differently.  Unfortunately for the +Anima, being so "different" isn't necessarily a blessing within a prejudiced society.

The series's four main characters are all +Anima with different animal bases.  For example, Husky is a fish +Anima.  Part-human, part-fish.  So basically, a mermaid.  ...Except, in this case, not a "maid."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Romeo × Juliet and the Androgynous "Act"

Of all the characters in history to be rendered androgynous, the last you might expect is the theater's most famous leading lady, the very icon of romantic femininity: Juliet Capulet.

...Yet, there she is.

Romeo × Juliet (2007) is a fantasy-infused anime adaptation of the classic Shakespearean tragedy, and it involves Juliet cross-dressing as a vigilante hero, basically forced into witness protection after the rest of her family is murdered by the rivaling Montagues.  Granted, the anime is certainly taking some liberties with the original story.  But it's not entirely inappropriate, considering that classic Shakespeare is already some of the gender-bendingest stuff in the literary canon.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Robin Newman (Ace Attorney) and the Bipolar Gender

Well-known for its eccentric characters who spice up a normally mundane environment, Ace Attorney is a series of visual novel games about lawyers finding contradictions.  The most recent series installment, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies (2013) features a character who presents one big contradiction.

Robin Newman jumps wildly between two gendered extremes, caricaturizing them both  and, by what can be called the ideal relationship between fiction and reality, renders gender appropriately hilarious.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kohaku (Wish) and the Limitless Romance

CLAMP is a widely-respected all-female team of manga creators, whose artistic style is iconically androgynous and whose themes also work to blur gender lines.

Over at Quickand2thePointless: Adventures in Animeland, a fellow Blogger has already addressed their work in a post that's rich, insightful, and anything but pointless:  The review Lost in Translation: Androgyny in Clamp's RG Veda and Wish discusses the powerful messages implicit in CLAMP's use of gender ambiguity, and how the inability to maintain genderless address in English translation may hinder those messages.

Drawing on author Julie's line of thought, I'd like to particularly acknowledge the character of Kohaku, from the four-volume CLAMP manga Wish (1997).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pokémon and the Art of Gender Differences

"Are you a boy? Or a girl?"  Despite the professor's notoriously binary inquiry at the start of every game, the Pokémon series (1996-current) is very good at handling gender fairly  not only through the human characters, but also through the Pokémon themselves.

The friendly sort of franchise which uses its popularity to promote positive things, it also understatedly presents a positive atmosphere with regard to gender.  It captures gender diversity with an open attitude, from having fun with fluidity, to featuring gender differences that make a difference by not making a difference.

Thursday, March 6, 2014