Happy PRIDE month my pandas! We have made it to June once again and you know what that means right? RAINBOWS FOR DAAAAYYYYSSSS.
Well…until the end of the month that is!
I want to say before we get started with this post that I feel like this topic has been done a multitude of times before. This is merely my interpretation of how I feel about LGBTQAI+ representation in anime. A lot of the Yaoi/Yuri shows I enjoy have negative connotations within them, and I love them on their own terms, but I DO NOT condone any of the thematics within these shows in the real world. This usually entails mental/sexual abuse, very large age differences/gaps, stereotypes, or using being “gay” as a joke because the person is unsure about their sexuality/might be confused. As a person who is bi-sexual myself, this post is mainly to have an open and honest discussion about the good representation in anime and the bad representation.
Whew! Now that the disclaimer is out of the way let’s get to chatting!
LGBTQAI+ representation in anime/manga is utterly important and something we need to see more of in the industry. Sure, we have some great queer anime out there already but that isn’t enough. I want people to know that hetero-normative relationships aren’t the only relationships that matter. Representation matters. Queer people/relationships matter. You and your sexuality, whatever it may be, matters.
I think that’s why many people have pushed the idea of having more queer representation in anime/manga over the last few years. Sexuality is a vast spectrum that isn’t limited to just being straight or gay. What about representation for people who are asexual, pansexual, or people who don’t claim any sexuality at all? At the moment I cannot name one anime that has a character who is asexual or pansexual. I am sure there are anime out there that do have these type of characters, but for me personally, I can’t think of one right now.
Many of us struggle with our sexuality at a young age. Some really early on, while others start to identify more so in their teen years to early twenties. I think I realized I started liking both sexes when I was about 7, but I had no idea what that meant. Hell…I didn’t come out till just a few years ago, but deep down I always had this feeling I liked both guys and girls. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. This is why I believe queer representation in anime/manga matters. Scratch that! Why it should matter in ALL forms of media.
We learn by doing, seeing, feeling, hearing. That is just human nature in itself. Yes, anime/manga can have a deep impact/impression on a person’s facade/how they develop as a person, but it is also that person’s job to decipher wrong from right. This mainly applies to queer anime/manga that has poor representation of gay characters. Some anime/manga with controversial queer representation are Dakaichi (I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year), Netsuzou Trap, Citrus, Scum’s Wish, Super Lovers and Junjo Romantica. There are a few more, but we would be here all day if I decided to talk about them all. I picked these specific ones because many of the feature elements like sexual assault/abuse, gas-lighting, poor portrayal of female on female/male on male relationships, age gaps (where the relationship feels/is forced), and other bad relationship habits. I feel like for the most part you can watch these shows/read the manga and appreciate the content, but you have to realize these types of relationships are over exaggerated for cause and effect. THESE ARE NOT HEALTHY, STABLE RELATIONSHIPS AND SHOULD NEVER BE PRESENTED AS SUCH (in terms of adapting personal attributes/habits to reflect onto your own relationship(s) with others).
But no all queer representation in anime/manga is bad! We have some great series out there that do get the “gay” thing right. Some of these include Bloom into You, Sailor Moon, Yuri on Ice, Banana Fish, Doukyuusei, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Wandering Son, Miss Kobayahi’s Dragon Maid, Sweet Blue Flowers and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. Many of us want positive representation of queer characters because we want author’s/creator’s to go beyond normal “gay” tropes. We also want them to stop using people’s sexuality as a tool for sating their gay or lesbian fantasies. I actually touched base on the more “sexualized” side of yaoi/yuri anime/manga back in 2017. You can read that article here if you like (it also has information on the terms yaoi/yuri): https://kawaiipaperpandas.com/2017/08/13/senpai-satur-eh-sunday-oops-time-to-be-gay-for-a-day-just-kidding-im-gay-all-the-time-and-you-might-be-too-if-you-like-yaoiyuri/.
Another great point for queer representation being important in anime/manga is to normalize the idea that being gay is okay. We will never get past it if people don’t understand or see these type of people as individuals. It’s uber important to teach adults and kids to see queer relationships not as jokes, but as natural. Queer representation in anime/manga is already treated a little differently as is, now it’s time to normalize it in all aspects. There was a great article on Pride’s website titled, “We Need to Talk About the Way Queerness is Portrayed in Anime” that I think you all should read. You can do so here: https://www.pride.com/geek/2018/3/09/we-need-talk-about-way-queerness-portrayed-anime.
As the article states above, “deciding whether or not anime characters are queer is up to how the viewer defines queerness.” That is 100% correct my friends. My definition of queer isn’t going to be the same as Jane Doe’s or anyone else’s for that matter. You are the one who gets to decided what anime/manga represents your ideals and beliefs. That’s the wonderful thing about free will. You are allowed to pick and choose as you please, without anyone else telling you what you should or should not do. My level of gayness isn’t going to be seen as the same level of your gayness, and my idea of queer representation isn’t going to be the same as yours. This is all left up to the consumer to decide what they believe to be “gay enough.” But the choice is yours and yours alone! What type/level of queer representation you decide to watch/read is where you feel most comfortable.
I want to end this post on a positive note. Consume material you feel represents the best possible version of yourself. Even if that show/manga has opposing views to your own, use it as a learning experience. Treat everything you read/view as a tool for creating a better version of yourself. Learn from the mistakes within a series to your advantage. No one is perfect, nor will they ever be perfect. Many of these series, whether good or bad, will never be a hundred percent correct. Simple enjoy the material for what it’s worth. Remember to always do what makes YOU happy, not anyone else.
Disclaimer: All imagery and photos come from searching for them on the internet. I have no claim or right to them. If I find any links I will always post them (this usually entails fan art or any other work affiliated with an artist).