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

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Naoto Shirogane and the Androgynous "Escape"

> The concept of androgyny can inspire progressive thinking about gender equality.
> The aesthetic of androgyny, in reality, doesn't always represent progressive purposes.

Both of the above are true.  When looking toward Japanese pop culture for ideals, it's important to note that Japanese culture itself does not necessarily reflect these ideals.

Persona 4 (2012) is a game that addresses many issues of gender and sexuality in Japanese society, in the rare direct terms of characters' personal psychological consciousness.  Rooted in motifs of Jungian psychology, the mystery-fantasy RPG features an interesting spread of characters who have each their own "shadows," parts of themselves they don't want to face.  One among the cast is the androgynous young detective, Naoto Shirogane.

The ideal of androgyny has to do with transcending cultural expectations in a way that fosters individual identity over categorical norms.  The reasons for Naoto's cross-dressing, however, couldn't be any more to the contrary.