Friday, January 31, 2014

Haruhi Fujioka and the Gender "Trap"

It would be a travesty not to kick things off here with perhaps the most celebrated androgyne in recent anime history, Haruhi Fujioka of Ouran High School Host Club (2006).  Anime fans are likely to be familiar with the premise of this popular series, but have a summary just in case:

A frumpily-dressed new student named Haruhi stumbles into a clubroom full of handsome upperclassmen, and breaks an expensive vase.  Unable to pay for the damage, Haruhi is forced to earn money by joining their club, which is essentially a PG-rated escort service.  He must spruce up his appearance and entertain the school's female population on dates until he has cleared his heavy debt.

SPOILER:  The twist is, he isn't a "he."

Males and females alike proceed to fall in love with her.  I mean, can you blame them?

As per the jargon of the gender-bending genre, a "trap" usually refers to a male character who appears so feminine as to trick others into believing that he is female.  Haruhi, then, might be considered a "reverse trap": a female superficially mistaken for a male.

Yet Haruhi stands out for being, not only superficially androgynous, but also androgynous of mind.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Androgyny in Animation: "Are you a boy? Or a girl?"

Let's ask a better question, and it's hardly rhetorical:  "Why does it matter?"

Standards of gender presentation differ between cultures and between mediums.  The androgynous style, blending both masculine (andro-) and feminine (-gyn) elements, is all but too common throughout Japanese animated media.

The anime world abounds with cross-dressers and bishonen ("pretty boys").  As a fan, you probably either revel in that ambiguity or drown in the frustration of desperately seeking answers to that titular question.

If you ask me, androgyny is a gorgeous aesthetic.  However, it isn't just an aesthetic.  Some characters build an entire plot around their mysterious gender identity.  Even more intriguingly, some characters never reveal an "answer" to the mystery at all.

Hideyoshi Kinoshita (Baka and Test) Kino (Kino's Journey) Crona (Soul Eater)

Androgynous characters show us just how strange and fluid is that abstract thing called gender which so many of us take for black-and-white.  As you begin to look more carefully at all sorts of animated androgynes, you can see that there are more than simply "boys and girls," and even more than "pretty boys and tomboy girls."  Once you realize that gender is so impossibly elusive, you might need to rethink the way you look at gender altogether.  Stay tuned for a closer look at some of the characters who can challenge you to ask different, deeper questions!

Please feel free to ask those questions, or to share your answers, in the comments below.  You can also contact the blogger with opinions or ideas for future character features at