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


  1. I was half expecting Haruhi to be an example used here, from Ouran High School Host Club. She was raised in a home where she could identify freely as any gender she wanted.

    1. Of course! Haruhi was my first article, and the most iconic inspiration to be pursuing this theme at all. If I had to put her on this chart, she would be neutral female. Along with the current representative Kino, Haruhi has that unique type of attitude that I think is truly ideal. And her family upbringing is definitely a great factor in that, which I didn't talk about.