When my recent article on Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s less than stellar treatment of women was published, I received some negative feedback on Twitter from trolls and men who happened to read my piece. Even though part of me expected it, it didn’t mean the comments weren’t annoying. One comment repeated among them was, “This anime is targeted at young men, so what’s the problem?”
First, let me tell you what’s wrong with that comment. It implies that women don’t like or watch anime aimed at boys and young men and only watch the cute, high school shoujo romances or the mature young adult josei romances that are aimed at girls and women. Not only is this statement untrue, but it’s really old and tired.
While shounen and seinen anime aren’t the only anime genres I like, I am one of many women who enjoy them despite their problematic aspects. The shounen genre consists of anime and manga aimed at pre-teen and teenage boys and seinen has anime and manga for adult men. The shounen and seinen genres (as well as their female counterparts) also contain other genres. One of my favorite shounen anime series, Fairy Tail, features fantasy and comedy. If Fairy Tail can appeal to my love of fantasy, then it doesn’t matter that the show targets men.
Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! were my first shounen anime manga franchises. From there, I dabbled in Naruto and Bleach and then just started watching shounen and seinen anime that either matched my interests or piqued it. Besides the original Fairy Tail anime, my favorite shounen and seinen anime series and are Cowboy Bebop and BECK. Out of all of these series, Fairy Tail is the only one that I’ve found problematic.
Fairy Tail is rife with fan service, and the character Natsu gets too much attention, even though Lucy is supposed to be the main character. However, none of this stopped me from enjoying the anime and picking up the manga from where the anime left off.
I still enjoy Fairy Tail because I admire the familial bond between the Fairy Tail guild members and love certain characters, their abilities, and the anime’s beautiful and kick-ass Celtic-rock soundtrack. Overall, reading and watching Fairy Tail has been fun, and the Fairy Tail guild has a special place in my heart.
Even though shounen and seinen manga and anime may be targeted toward men and some of most well-known are created by men, that doesn’t mean women won’t be interested. In fact, some of the most well-known manga and anime franchises aimed at men are created by women. Some examples include Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi and Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa.
Recently, I started reading Full Metal Alchemist, and I’m really impressed so far. In the twenty-five chapters I’ve read, I’ve seen great and diverse female and male characters and zero fan service. My favorite characters so far are Edward, Winry, Envy, Sheska, Paninya, and Izumi Curtis.
One female manga writer doesn’t make women better manga and anime creators than men. However, it does show that for women who enjoy manga and anime aimed at men, there’s a better chance to see positive representation of women if it is created or directed by a woman.
It’s also important to realize that I stated there is a better chance and not an absolute chance. Just as it’s possible for men to create complex and powerful women and men, it is possible for women to create flat and terrible women and men. Nonetheless, no matter what the quality or gender of a character, these things impact how we view others in real life.
Statements like the one mentioned earlier reinforce gender stereotypes and occur because some people are too focused on a target demographic to realize that people are more than just gender stereotypes. There are girls who want romance and girls who want to be Pokémon Masters, guild wizards, or duelists. Some girls even want both. It’s ironic that we have a variety of anime but can’t acknowledge a variety of anime fans.
Latonya Pennington is a contributing writer for Black Girl Nerds and Afropunk. In the past, she has also done pieces for Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, and Buzzfeed. She lives somewhere in the southern United States and spends way too much time listening to music, watching shows online, and reading. Find her on Twitter.
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