The Great Feminist Manga and Anime List: Simoun
The premise of Simoun is that it takes place in a world where everyone is born with breasts and a vagina, and everyone is basically identified as female by society until they are seventeen. Once someone hits that age, they are able to go to a magical spring to choose their sex. At least, in the land of Simulacrum., they are. One other land (Argentum) uses surgery because they don’t have a spring. The spring isn’t the only thing Simulacrum possesses that other nations want. They also possess mysterious aircraft called Simoun, thought to be chariots of the gods. The Simoun can outfly everything else, and also draw shining trails in the sky called “Ri Maajon”. These designs are usually used in prayer rituals, but also can destroy enemy airships in war. As a result, other countries wage war against Simulacrum to capture the Simoun.
Only priestesses who haven’t yet gone to the spring and chosen their sex can fly the Simoun, and they have to do so in pairs. As a result, these supposedly sacred young people get dragged into the war and into using what are supposed to be sacred vessels as weapons.
Obviously, the premise itself is heavily tied to concept of gender, and the very concept deconstructs the idea that ones gender identity must be tied to the sex they were born with In a very sci-fi sort of way, the system in place in Simulacrum can relate to some of the stuff trans people deal with. The process of the Spring is similar to transitioning in that it all doesn’t happen instantaneously. The breasts slowly shrink, the voice slowly deepens, and the adjustment of the body is gradual. To drive this point in, the series has an all-female voice cast, so even the adult men clearly all originally had higher voices that just went a little deeper. Also, people can not really be interested in changing sex regardless of gender identity, in the same way that a person who is transgendered may not want a surgery even if they can do it, so apparently to incentivize the change, more career options are available for men in this society.
A lot of the characters in the series are uncomfortable about the idea of permanently choosing a sex, meaning they clearly don’t identify completely with either a male or female gender identity. Their feelings are not derided or invalidated, but explored. It is clear that society disapproves of those who don’t want to choose, and some characters struggle to escape that. One girl finds herself very unhappy after choosing her sex, presumably because she thought something inside her would change with that decision, and it didn’t, and she found this wasn’t to her liking. The social constructions of gender aren’t heavily discussed beyond these struggles being presented, though there is a very nice discussion that questions the idea of wanting to become a man to protect someone else or “be strong”. A lot of the development is wrapped up in the idea you shouldn’t choose your sex based on what you want to be for other people, but what you want to be for yourself. Which is a pretty great message.
The Great Feminist Manga and Anime List: Angel Beats!
Angel Beats! intrigued me with it’s premise- basically a boy named Otonashi wakes up with no memory of anything other than his last name. A girl with a sniper rifle named Yuri lets him know that he’s dead. They’re in a sort of limbo for dead Japanese high school students that takes the form of a boarding school. A God is nowhere to be seen, but a girl dubbed Angel seems to enforce the rules of the school. Basically, if long as students behave and go to class like normal kids, they’ll disappear, and no one know what happens to them after that. Yuri is not ready to accept this. She refuses to disappear quietly into the unknown. She seeks to lead a rebellion against the God that gave them all such tragic and short lives, and she’s gathered an organization of likeminded students to fight Angel and then, presumably, her boss. She asks Otonashi to join her, but unable to remember anything, he’s unsure of which side to choose…
It’s an exciting premise, but the most interesting thing about Angel Beats! from a feminist perspective is the casual reversal of gender roles with the male and female lead of the show.
The fact is that Otonashi is a sensitive, emotional, bighearted and loving person. He’s not an action guy and not very good at physical fighting. In the beginning, he misses when he fires a gun, causing him to explain “agh! I suck!” and though he improves marginally as the show goes on, he never becomes a real action guy, tending to fall behind and be protected by the others when it comes to physical fighting. But his real value lies in his sensitive soul. Otonashi’s strength bought up again and again is his open emotion and empathy for those around them. The fact that he’s very compassionate and reaches out to understand and connect with those around him is what drives his character. He actually once saves the day by hugging another boy and yelling at him that he loves him. And that’s what saves the day when no amount of physical force could. Otonashi’s sensitive heart opens the eyes of others and ultimately brings change and understanding to other characters. He also cries a lot, and openly. Obviously, this is all very unusual to see in a male protagonist- he exibits traits that are typically thought of as feminine- hugging and crying to solve his problems while being bad at physical fighting, choosing pacifism, understanding and compassion over violence- and what’s more, these traits are shown to be good for a man to have by the narrative, and highly valued. This narrative shows traditionally feminine traits as powerful, and that a man who has the traits is strong rather than weakened. He also treats the women around him with respect and admiration and isn’t afraid to openly rely on their strength and praise them for it, which is great.
wow this reminds me I should get back to the review
I want to do Michiko e Hatchin but it’s been a while since I saw it! I still have it so I think I should rewatch it first.
Utena will take a while because there’s way too much to cover
and how am I supposed to talk about it without spoiling the ending
I guess I could do Rose of Versailles…
why don’t i let the people vote. What do you want me to do? If you care?