evolution

Shinka: How Anime’s Helping Along Evolution

The anime world is one that provides solace, entertainment, and enjoyment to millions of people around the globe.  To many, it’s a weird subculture that reveals just how committed humans can be to fictional realms and characters. What they tend to overlook however, is that like literature, sitcoms, movies, etc., it provides yet another escape from reality, if only for half an hour (the average length of most anime episodes). You get to see just about anything in anime (and hentai: anime porn), and as a person that has seen about 400 anime series/movies (I know, my life is awesome), I much prefer it to the largely depressing, discriminatory, and all around unsavory reality that we live in.

 

Shinka 1

 

Now I could go on about how amazing anime is, and how everyone on Earth should watch it, but a particular notion about anime viewers was drawn to my attention: we are hardly ever sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, or really discriminatory at all. I say this based upon the members of the anime community that I interact with, and while I have interacted with quite a lot, I can hardly speak for every anime watcher out there. What I will say is that if you do watch heavy amounts of anime, your chances of remaining averse to people that society loves to deem “abnormal” is going to be drastically reduced.

 

Why?

 

The first word that comes to mind is ‘androgyny’. The Japanese, and by extension, anime, is very androgynous in not just their dressing, but their character aesthetic design as well, and the behaviors of said characters.

 

 Shinka 2

This is Haku. He’s a guy. He’s hot. Admit it. 

 

We become attracted to the characters we admire on television, and anime is no different in that regard. I remember the first time I saw some of my friends drooling over anime girls, I was so confused. Like, the fuck? Next thing I know I find myself in love with Haruko Haruhara from Fooly Cooly. It just kind of hits you. But I digress.

 

It’s immensely difficult to maintain sexist views when you find yourself drawn to males/females that you initially thought were the opposite gender. You start subconsciously breaking down those barriers you had put up against them. If you find yourself attracted to an anime guy that you thought looked like a girl, you’re really just one step away from being attracted to males in real life that have the same attributes. Can you really be homophobic then?

Shinka

 

What’s even more fascinating is how these characters behave. Gender roles still exist in anime, but to a far lesser degree than in other forms of entertainment. Men cook, women are frequently breadwinners (it’s REALLY interesting to note that fatherless homes are a lot more frequent in anime than motherless ones, but that’s another discussion entirely), male friends are very openly comfortable with each other… it’s really ideal. So when you watch a lot of this happen, one has to wonder why on earth we so strictly adhere to those roles in reality, when they seem so easily negligible in anime.

 

Women are stronger than men.

 

Shinka 3

 

Scenario: You’re a sixteen year old boy, living a boring life, and nothing exciting ever happens in your town

 

PLOT TWIST: a magical girl bursts through your ceiling, fighting a creature from a different dimension which she obliterates with ease, and you fall in love at first sight with this super strong girl that’s going to change your life forever and make you her bitch.

 

I just described the introductions of probably hundreds of different anime.

 

To be fair, I’m not entirely sure that the roots of female power in anime are righteously rooted. It seems to be more of a fetishizing of the powerful girl, but it’s one that has worked out positively, in my opinion. If you’re an archaic misogynist you do not have a place in anime. Female characters are just as, if not more, popular than their male counterparts. We fucking love them. They wreck shit. They make men do dumb shit for them. They become student council presidents and take control of their entire school (I’m looking at you, Kill la Kill). There is just such an overwhelming amount of anime focusing on female empowerment, from the magical girl variants to the bad ass action ones that you’re just better off learning to love them as much as you should.

 

Cross Dressing/Futanari

 

There is a ton of anime content centralizing around cross dressing and transgender characters. Unfortunately, the latter is still purely restricted to hentai, which leads me to believe there is a large amount of aforementioned fetishizing involved, but I do hope it turns out useful in destroying the very negative stigmas usually associated with trans people. I’m waiting for an anime to actually feature an openly transgender main character, so I can advertise the hell out of it.

 

Cross dressing, however, has been very frequent in anime for many years now. As if the androgynous dressing wasn’t enough already, many anime feature plots where a man/woman is in a scenario where they are either forced to dress as the opposing gender, or they simply enjoy doing so. Now in these anime the initial reaction is always one of disgust, which mirrors society quite aptly. But the beautiful thing is, that these anime use their plot devices to make the cross dresser just as accepted as any other member of the anime.

 

 Shinka 4

Ranma 1/2, one of the most popular comedy/action anime ever released, features a protagonist that changes between a male and a female.

The majority of these anime take place in school settings, where, say, a boy/girl “accidentally” gets into an all-boys/girls school, and is ergo forced to dress as a boy/girl to not get caught (it wouldn’t be anime if they did the sensible thing and just transferred schools, now would it?) They almost always play out the same way: guy/girl starts cross dressing, and is exposed to the various stigmas members of that gender face, which changes their opinion of said gender, and they slowly start enjoying the cross dressing. The climax occurs when the class/school find out about the cross dresser, and they are usually subjected to initial bullying. In the resolution though, the classmates/school members eventually realize they were all changed by the cross dresser(s), and accept that they are just as normal as anyone else.

 

I think that the effect that anime has on breaking down these discriminatory notions is much needed. The messages conveyed of acceptable differential norms are ones that needs to be widespread in our world, in our cultures, and become rooted in our humanity. We cannot continue being so wary of change and difference, and continue to subject the people that are different to negative labels.

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, go watch some anime and become a better person.

 

-Charles

 

**Charles says “Coming up with bios is difficult” so there’s that.

Find him on Twitter or read his work here.

You, Yourself and You

“Life’s all about progression and transformation” I said as I passed the beer bottle over to a friend, wondering whether in this very moment, I was progressing.   Which led me to wonder if one has to be progressing all the time, and if you weren’t, were you falling back?

 

If Life’s taught me anything, it’s that it goes hand in hand with Loss.  Sometimes you push things out of your Life, and other times, they just go.  Friends come and go, dreams come and go, thoughts come and go.  I always marvel at how, despite the fact that we know change is the only constant in Life, we can’t seem to embrace it and go with it.  We’re always looking for some sort of stability.  We keep clothes that will never fit us, buy brands we’re used to, regardless of whether or not they do what they’re supposed to, and keep relationships that no longer do anything for us.

 

Eliminate things that no longer evolve you. — Erykah badu

 

I’ve been observing my relationships with people in my Life and wondering whether I truly need them there, trying to figure out if I need what they bring to the table. Birds of a feather flock together and as I observe some of them I realize, they simply don’t know how to Live, how to take responsibility for their lives, how to stand alone. How to exist as a lone being, and for me, that’s a necessity.

I believe in the importance of individuality, independence. You need to know how to be alone, how to think for yourself, how to grow on your own, what to take in and put out to keep growing.  Stagnancy is a trap, it’s a cage you don’t even know you’re in sometimes.  I know.

I’ve spent close to a year, maybe slightly more, at home, terrified of growing up. Of making any decisions, of living, because I was afraid I’d mess up.  As each day passed, I seemed to find more and more reasons as to why I should simply wait to die.  The possible shame of making a “wrong” life decision [which in this case, was about my academic life] weighed on me before I even bothered to CONSIDER what I’d do.

To many, that was a year wasted. I could’ve done so much in that time, right?

Gotten an online diploma maybe.  Found a job. Hell, gotten married.

But no, none of that.

I cried, I read, I thought, and I repeated all of this. And to quote Anais Nin “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I got sick of seeing my face in the morning with the same uncertain look. I spent hours upon hours arguing with myself about what We want to do, who we want to be, and eventually, I put myself together.  Now, I appreciate all the uncertainty, all the time I felt I was wasting. I grew.

 

For many of us, it takes a lot before we can let go.  We don’t know when to, nor how to. We don’t know when a situation has run it’s course and even when it begins to hurt, we tell ourselves it’s a test to see whether we’re truly committed. Sometimes, that’s simply Life showing you that it’s done now. Some things, I dare say, most things, aren’t worth fighting for, especially if you aren’t even sure you want them.

In Setswana, there’s a saying that goes “Se nkganang se nthola morwalo”, which basically means, whatever repels me only relieves me of a burden.  Words to live by, don’t you think?

 

Most people will never be too ashamed to pass their burdens on to you.  Nor to bring, or keep, you down. A lot of people wouldn’t care if your mental maturity never goes past this point.  But you know, that’s them. It’s up to you to see to it that you become More.  And that will be your responsibility to yourself for as long as you’re here.

 

Who are you? What do you want? Do the people in your Life want the same for you? Will they help you become who you want to be? Are they people you’d like to be like?

You need to ask yourself.

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