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Youth and Sexuality in Anime and Manga
In what has been an issue of contention in both Japan and the western world, the matter of sexualisation of young girls in the mediums of anime and manga is coming to the fore more than any time before. Especially in the light of new child pornography laws which were implemented last year, banning outright the possession of any pornographic material with underage youths involved. Many have wondered as to why anime and manga were excluded from such sweeping legislation. Over the past decades both mediums have expanded tremendously in a multitude of avenues. This would also include a vast increase in the number of titles in with youth are overly sexualised and/or placed in borderline pornographic situations.
Do anime and manga differ from other mediums due to their animated or illustrated means and thus should be excluded from notions of juvenile pornography? And if so why? The core issue to address in all of this is whether or not there is a significant set reasons to justify the exclusion of anime and manga from such notions. What aspects of the cultures of Japan, anime and manga have to play in all of this if any?
Yuri Kuma Arashi and The Consequences of Social Labels
When Yuri Kuma Arashi first aired, it at first seemed to starkly deviate from what most Ikuhara fans had been expecting. The series was blatant, flashy and lesbian sexuality was presented in full force. The series quickly became a polarizing topic within the community. On one hand, the series was typically Ikuhara, all the ideas and themes that he had presented in the past appeared in full. On the other hand, Yuri Kuma Arashi was loud, the sexuality was blatant, and the series did not run as long as any of his previous works. The result of which was the adverse reaction many fans had towards the series labelling it pretentious fan service. While on the other hand, many Ikuhara fans were left feeling disenchanted by this latest title.
While it is true that Yuri Kuma Arashi deviates from Ikuhara’s previous works, the shift is only skin deep. At its core, the series remains fundamentally Ikuhara. One of the core themes Yuri Kuma Arashi tackles is the issue of social labelling and its consequences. Labels are prominently used in the series to demonstrate that they are a product of misunderstanding, ignorance and fear of other societies and cultures. However, the belief and further application of said labels perpetuate the same sentiments in a cycle which continues discord between two different societies. Yuri Kuma Arashi’s message demonstrates this idea through the use of the example of the conflict between bears and humans. The series acts as a deterrent to the ignorance and fear which begin the cycle and instead suggests love, compassion and an open ear are the solution.
Of Wolf, Spice and Everything Nice
The Spice and Wolf franchise is highly regarded within the community, and for good reason. The premise, characters and the adventures they experience were all fresh ideas when the light novel premiered in 2006 and when the anime series first began airing in 2007. Now with the series being nearly a decade old, it still attracts a large and growing fan base despite the fact that the series’ first aired nearly a so long ago. The question as to why this series is so popular to this day is the point of this review. We must ask ourselves which aspects of the series keep endearing fans after nearly a decade. Why is the tale of a merchant and wolf deity travelling through a medieval landscape so endearing to the viewer? Is it the romance? The Economics? Or is it the well-constructed world of the series?
The reasons are many fold. Our protagonists, Holo and Lawrence, are both well-constructed characters that we can not only associate with, but also feel empathy for. The world of Spice and Wolf is filled with depth, has an important impact on the story and is highly relatable to the viewer. And of course, the relationship between Holo and Lawrence forms not only the key pillar of the series, but its main attraction. The relationship between the two protagonists is well-developed, believable and their interactions are incredibly witty and well written. Overall, Spice and Wolf is an incredibly distinctive series in relation to the rest of the anime industry and still stands as a popular gem due to its uniqueness and well-presented characters and world.
The Odd Relationship Between Sex, Youth and Japan’s Schoolgirl Culture
Josei Kosei (High School Girl) culture has been a powerful cultural trend in Japan for decades now. However, recent attention the trend has been receiving is revealing a darker under belly of JK culture and related business that were previously hidden underneath the thin veneer of innocence, cuteness and untouched beauty. Recent crack downs and a rise in awareness are revealing an industry which has been used as a front for under aged prostitution, sex trafficking the abuse of young women. However, we must ask ourselves as to why this trend was allowed to develop and go on at a nearly neglected by the collective Japanese awareness for so long.
The answer is that josei kosei is part of a bigger trend of the sexualisation of youth, especially young girls, in Japanese pop culture. There are many factors which contribute to this issue, amongst which is the otaku community and the anime industry. In anime, manga and related video games within the realm of otaku culture, young girls are made out to represent a youth, innocence and cuteness, but are paradoxically sexualized to a demeaning degree. Animated or not, an increasing level of indecency towards women has become an accepted norm in otaku culture. As a community, we have to come together and ask ourselves some difficult questions in order to find the answers as to how otaku culture came to this point and what direction we would like to go in the future in regards to this matter.
Shin Sekai Yori and the Broken Dream of Perfection
Is there a difference between utopia and dystopia? The two concepts have gained tremendous popularity over the past century as a key thematic element in the both written and filmed mediums. However, both models seem to be much closer connected than one would initially think. On one hand, utopia requires a significant amount of sacrifice on both the humane and societal fronts in order to retain an apparent form of cohesion. While on the other hand, dystopias a noted for the lack of humanity and freedoms in order to keep society in line. We must ask ourselves, do the ends justify the means, or they even matter at all when we differentiate the two?
In Shin Sekai Yori we are presented with the community of Kamisu 66 which may at first seem to be the idyllic version of a utopia, but the sacrifices required to retain the community’s cohesion strips us of any such notions. A culture of fear, restricted access to knowledge and brutal slavery all tarnish the notions that Kamisu 66 is the utopia that it first appears to be. Instead, we witness that the sacrifices required to keep the appearances of a utopian dream far outweigh the ends of such a vision.
In the end, the case of Shin Sekai Yori demonstrates that the line between utopia and dystopia is blurred to the point where to differentiate the two becomes a matter of perspective. And that ultimately, the utopian dream is simply unachievable due to simple human nature and all the needs it entails.
On Love, Reality and Fiction
In an age where we are continually redefining our sexual identity, genders and relationships with one another an interesting notion for love of the fictional has arisen over the past decades. The flag bearers for this relationship have long since been the otaku fandom. A sub-culture which enables any particular individual to outwardly exclaim their affection for fictional characters has provided a space in which one can essentially ‘practice’ their love for what is considered fictional or ‘unreal’. While this notion may seem absurd to many, it has been prevalent enough to attract serious academic attention. And why would it not? The questions this issue engenders provide us with a significant opportunity to re-examine our relationship with media in the 21st century. Furthermore, the issue forces us to take a look at how we internalize fiction and the impact it has on the perception of our daily lives.
In order to enable a discussion on this issue, we need to rethink a number of ideas, including our relationships with both fiction and media. Firstly, what kind of impact does fiction have on our psyche and imagination? Can fiction colour our perceptions of reality? And if so, what are the implications for the idea of a division between what is real and fictive, if we all perceive the world through different perceptions, or in other words, our personal fictions? There are also the examples provided to us by the practice and belief in collective fictions (i.e. religions) which also provide important questions. What significance does it mean to act upon one’s personal fiction and practice it in the realm of reality? What if this practice is wide spread and collectively acted upon? Are fiction and reality not only existing within one realm, but also being accepted as such? Furthermore, what role does the media have to play in all of this, especially in regards to anime and manga? Both mediums have a long documented history of actively constructing characters in order in order to engender an emotional response from the viewer. The best example of this would be the moé phenomenon which has been prevalent in both mediums in the past decade. Can ‘real’ emotions which originate from a fictional space be considered any less valid? And if not, does this not confirm a possibility of affection for a characters within a fictional realm?