The First Idol Anime was Actually About State Power

Super Dimension Fortress Macross is about three things: giant robots, beautiful idols, and melodramatic love triangles. Actually, though, it’s about one thing: state power. The word used most throughout the series is culture, that one special resource which enables the human race to stand even a sliver of a chance against the alien Zentradi, a group whose history of being genetically engineered has left them with no goal aside from constant warfare. Lynn Minmay, the first idol in all of anime, delivers shocking blows to the Zentradi psyche through her songs, simultaneously popularizing her music in the real world. The romantic drama between her, Ichijo Hikaru, and Hayase Misa figures as one of the story’s central threads, introducing the concept of love to the Zentradi but also causing a good deal of strife during the war. That war, of course, is fought using the so-called Variable Fighters, wonderfully designed robots which can go from person to plane. All in all, it’s a pretty straightforward example of a real robot anime. But through its specific focuses, Macross conveys a clear message: hard power is necessary, vital, and ultimately moral, but it’s soft power that will always win the day, and as a result, it’s imperative that a benevolent state wields both. This isn’t just a reading which emerges from the narrative: it comes through in the base construction of the anime, particularly its movie reimagining, Do You Remember Love, and it’s an attitude able to emerge due to the unique conditions of early 80s Japan.

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Yuri 101: One Hundred Years of Girls’ Love

It’s hard to say exactly when the yuri genre was first conceived, but if you had to pick a date, then 1919 is a perfectly good one. In that year, yuri’s godmother, Yoshiya Nobuko, published Yaneura no Nishojo, arguably the first lesbian novel with a happy ending and one which set the groundwork for the century of development we’ve seen in the time since. Yuri would not have truly been born in the 70s without it. Our beloved genre has gone through so much in that time, and it would be remiss of someone such as me not to celebrate its anniversary.

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Let’s Talk About Sister Krone

Sister Krone’s design in The Promised Neverland is inundated with racist implications, calling to mind the image of black Americans popularized by minstrel shows. This is something a lot of people don’t like to hear, but it’s objectively true. A mere side-by-side of Sister Krone and, say, an old drawing of Aunt Jemima will confirm this to be the case: the massive lips, huge nose, stronger musculature, and general servant-like aesthetic all contribute to an image of that oh-so-pernicious depiction of black women, one that has not entirely faded from cultural consciousness. Throughout the show, the reasons to be afraid of her are not her quiet, unnerving cunning as in Isabella’s case, but her monstrous power, the sheer strength and speed she possesses in her massive body. And yet, she’s a great, sympathetic character, morally disgusting but no moreso than Isabella, grounded in a system of oppression that made her this way. Sure, she has a servant-like outfit, but so does Isabella—it’s clearly not intentional stereotyping. To simply call her racist and write her off would be a mistake and yet, it would be equally troublesome to ignore the racist implications. Discussing the way American racial issues affect a Japanese work isn’t something that’s easy to do, but we need to do it. So let’s dive right in to Sister Krone and the complexities of criticism.

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Crunchyroll, We Need to Talk

Look, Crunchyroll’s got some problems, we can all agree on that, right? A strange number of leftists feel the need to defend them, which I suppose is an understandable impulse given the kinds of people who most often pop up against them, though that doesn’t justify all the vaguely progressive people who somehow feel the need to die on the hill that is radical anti-piracy. Lies are frequently told about them and even my lovely wife has made a video rebuking some of the false claims CR faces, something I absolutely get it. It hurts to see misinformation even when it’s against someone you dislike and it only makes your side’s arguments look worse. But we can’t just correct these errors without an attempt to tackle the issues the company does have, because they’ve got a lot, and I’m tired of how little that’s been addressed. Companies aren’t our friends, they’re our enemies. You wouldn’t trust an international arms dealer just because they’re selling to you right now, would you? No, I don’t think you would. So listen, Crunchyroll, it’s time to talk.

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Yuri Visual Novel Review: Heart of the Woods

Heart of the Woods is a self-described “modern-day fairy tale”. With a little bit of trimming and the removal of sexual references, it could easily fit alongside any book that your mother read to you as a child. As a genre, the fairy tale occupies a special place and duplicating its unique qualities is not an easy task. While belief in supernatural beings is still common in our society, fairy tales play a special role as the remnant of a more local mysticality, a belief that magic could be found right outside your door. At the same time, while more medieval societies believed in the existence of dwarves, elves, and magic wholeheartedly, the contemporary fairy tale is a fable, containing a broader truth but couched in the knowledge that none of its events could actually take place. But while elves may not be real, they certainly stand in for something that is.

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Kaguya-sama: A Marxist Analysis

Kaguya-sama is a series that’s deeply concerned with conflict, in all of its forms. As the opening narration describes, even romance, that oh-so-sacred space where human beings can directly connect with one another, is ultimately a battleground, a place of division where the strong conquer and the weak submit. This is a very intriguing hook for a romantic comedy, a genre which typically shunts its power dynamics off to the side, barring those cases where they’re used to fulfill the fetishistic desires of their audiences. To pose a romantic relationship as one that bears significant similarities to that of a master and slave or a boss and worker is a strong statement on the way in which all aspects of society, including those that tend to be regarded as pure, are mediated by the general social dynamics which are always present. The satirical nature of this statement does little to temper the implications which are present; in fact, it only reinforces them, bringing the work to its fullest conclusion. What’s key to understand is that the show does not portray the leads’ error as being their belief that there are tensions in a relationship, ones indicative of hierarchy and class. Rather, it posits that conflict is the incorrect way to resolve these contradictions. Minor spoilers for the manga, though nothing that would ruin the story for you.

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My Complex Feelings on 2018’s Perfect Film

Liz and the Blue Bird is a fantastic movie. On a purely technical level, it may be the most impressive work I’ve ever seen and it’s certainly one of the most emotionally resonant ones I’ve witnessed. Many people, my girlfriend included, have already declared it as the best anime ever made and I truly understand how they can do so. But… I can’t. I love this film but I’m incapable of fully embracing it in quite the same way that others do. Its connection to Hibike Euphonium, a series which I’ve come to view as one of the most disappointing that I’ve ever seen, is something that poisons my enjoyment of Liz. That I still believe it’s a 10/10 movie is a testament to how good it is. Yet, it could have been my favorite film of all time if it were a standalone work and I’m sad that I have to say that.

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A Magical Escape from Crushing Capitalist Adulthood – Ojamajo Doremi

Elementary school was a happy time. It was a period where I knew and liked just about everyone in my classes, something that would not remain true as I moved beyond primary education. I experienced so many things that I simply haven’t been able to in the time since. The straightforward joy of running around under the hot sun, sweat dripping down my neck as I desperately tried to avoid whoever was “it” in our daily games of freeze tag. The cooler, air-conditioned fun of spending recess indoors, playing Pokemon Crystal through an online emulator because my teacher was nice enough to let me, though we weren’t allowed to play Runescape. Sneaking into an unoccupied house so that we could play our gameboys for longer than our parents would allow us on a nice spring day. Life back then didn’t feel as it does now. Politics existed, I could certainly feel the effects of racism, but there was an intangible sense of connection between my peers that hasn’t existed since, fading as the hegemony of capitalism became more noticeable and routine to my growing mind.

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The ACTUAL Problem with Anime Subtitles

Have you heard the story of what happened during Yuri on Ice’s run? Early in the show, Victor asks Yuuri if he has a girlfriend, using the Japanese word for woman, “onna”, which is a natural way of trying to figure out his proclivities, if you know what I mean. From here on, when referring to potential or past lovers of Yuuri’s, Victor is sure to use the gender-neutral term “koibito”. Yet, the subs, at least in the initial airing, gendered this term, continuing to use girlfriend. In an ordinary show, this would be a frustrating decision, but a harmless one. In this series, one that consciously portrays gay characters throughout its run, a mistake like this is glaring, hurting the subtle romantic back-and-forth that takes up much of the show’s first half. While we can talk all day about how lover isn’t a perfect term, or how partner or SO convey nuances not contained in “koibito”, it can’t be argued that in this case, girlfriend was the wrong translation, one that’s actually managed to reach the ears of many anime fans due to the show’s high-profile nature as a queer work. Yet, Yuri on Ice is far from the only instance of this happening. Anime translations regularly remove gender neutrality present in the Japanese script. While it’s fine to add a gendered pronoun to a sentence that initially lacked one when we know the characters’ gender for certain, it frequently creates large issues in regards to queer characters. Subtitles are often, unconsciously to be sure, a tool of cisheteronormativity, entirely confusing viewers as to how scenes should be read. I can certainly imagine some watchers being perplexed as to why Victor, one of the gayest men alive, would assume the guy who clearly crushes on him has a girlfriend, even after being told that he doesn’t. This, indeed, is the actual problem with anime subtitles.

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