Friday, February 28, 2014

Hetalia and the Symbolic Unity of Stereotype

On the flipside of an all-female world, the web-comic turned web-anime Hetalia: Axis Powers (2009-current) presents a "world" of its own with, instead, an overwhelmingly male main cast... although it's anything but testosterone-fueled.

Following a premise of "anthropomorphize every country on the planet into a lovable bishonen to act out farcical renditions of historical events," the series thrives on the eye-candy of unusually pretty men.

Rather than having one token gender-bender to highlight, nearly every character has an air of androgyny to them, embedded into the artistic style.  Maybe it would be a stretch to say that the androgynous style can reflect some deeper level of unifying ambiguity, that it's somehow related to the overarching themes of world peace.  ...But sure, why not?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Touhou Project and the Single-Gender World

I believe that a society without gender distinctions is a powerful ideal.

Theoretically, the ideal of universal "androgyny" entails no gender.  Simply, if no one is assigned to either the male or the female category, individual expression becomes unlimited and undefined.  Anyone could express any mix of traits formerly delineated under those two categories, without being arranged into any sort of hierarchy.

...But technically, in a world of one gender  for example, a world identifying female only  you could similarly say that there are "no gender distinctions."

(fanart from

The provocative premise of a single-gender society comes up quite a bit in feminist science fiction.  It also comes up in... a Japanese shoot-'em-up PC game?  Sort of!  Albeit in a completely different context, the ongoing Touhou Project series (1996-current) comes pretty darn close to being an ideal, single-gender world.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jamie (Harvest Moon) and the Marriage of Opposites

Expanding the focus from strictly anime to animesque videogames may serve well for a wider perspective on androgyny.  In such an equally-"animated" medium, characterization occurs not only through visual design, action, and voice, but also through one last critical dimension of interactivity.  In this medium, the player's position necessarily affects the story's reality.

There are plenty of games with amazing androgynes to offer in this light of player-guided mutability, which inherently opens doors to exploring themes of ambiguous identity.  One example that doesn't get nearly enough attention is a particular console installment of a niche farming RPG, Harvest Moon: Magical Melody (2006).

Wait!  Don't tune out at the childish title and chibi style!  While admittedly targeting a young demographic, the game offers some genuinely valuable morals and genuinely unique implications about gender.

See that ambiguous figure... on the fence there?  That's Jamie.  Jamie is the aptly-unisex name of the single most important androgynous character in the history of androgynous characters, so listen up.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hideyoshi Kinoshita and the Custom Gender Field

There's an intellectual battle going on!  Let's see those warriors' profiles.

Name:  Hideyoshi
Gender:  Hideyoshi


From Baka and Test (2010) comes one of the teasingest traps to ever be set on the anime stage.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Crona (Soul Eater) and Dealing with Gender in Fiction

"...I don't know how to deal with this!!"

From the supernatural adventure Soul Eater (2008), this is Crona's compulsive catchphrase.

Well, when it comes to gender, I guess one way to deal with it is... don't.

Amidst all of anime's androgynes, here's one of very few who can be called truly, thoroughly ambiguous. Not only in looks, or in attitude, Crona really is effectively genderless: never revealed as either male or female.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jun Watarase and the Magical Transgender Dream

Jun Watarase is a supporting character in the anime Happiness! (2006).  Have you heard of it?  If not, maybe that's because it was overshadowed by another series released within the same time frame and with a coincidentally similar summary.

Happiness! can be described as a school comedy, featuring a girl named Haruhi and her friends in a prestigious but eccentric academy... (didn't we cover this already?) ...which includes a special division for gifted young mages to be taught the arts of magic (nope, this is new!).

Meet one of Haruhi's friends, Jun.  Jun is very popular among the male students at this half-magic school.  One look at that cute face and you'll surely see why!  ...But you can guess where this is going, can't you?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Kino's Journey and the Imprinted Identity

An understated gem among slice-of-life anime, Kino's Journey (2003) follows the travels of the titular protagonist through various bizarre and unique lands.  If you haven't seen it, you should see it.  Even if you aren't concerned with androgyny, you should see it.  But while we're here, let's talk about androgyny.

Aboard a sentient motorcycle named Hermes, Kino rides with no particular destination. The fearless, gun-toting traveler has only one rule:  Stay in each country for exactly three days and two nights, just long enough to experience its customs but not long enough to get too attached.  From a traditional country that imposes cruel coming-of-age rituals on its children, to a mechanical country that found a way for people to read each other's thoughts, the themes explored are outlandishly exaggerated yet hauntingly familiar, and they often raise strikingly philosophical questions about real human nature.

One more such philosophical question might be implicitly raised through the main character's own identity.  Until the fourth episode, there is no indication whatsoever – not through clothing, not through mannerisms, nor through discussion – of Kino's gender as either male or female.  That's because there's no need for it.  Kino doesn't particularly identify with either label.  Kino's singularly well-affirmed identity is that as a traveler, as nothing more than an (allegedly) impartial observer of the surrounding world....