You’re all about to get more Sam Weller in your lives. Remember, this is all just MY opinion. I don’t presume to speak for anyone but me. My hope is to spur some healthy discussion for our Vicers!
I’ve wanted to talk about the way that anime has affected me for a while now - - what it’s telling me about culture and characters and otherwise. I wanted a chance to talk about anime beyond its entertainment value and try to analyze - - in my amateurish way - - how it's changed my opinion as I’ve gotten older.
So I figured I’d start with the ladies of anime.
It’s important to note that I enjoy the entertainment value of sex in anime (if the harem episode of the Vice Pit is any indication). I’ve admitted to friends (not family) how “hot” certain characters are, and how that has greatly improved my enjoyment of a show. Sex sells, and by all means, I was buying.
So for these reasons, I was initially really excited about a show I watched recently: HIGH SCHOOL OF THE DEAD
I made the wrong call on this show, and I’m sorry about it. But let’s start from the beginning...
On that Vice Pit episode, I talked about how my friends and I would gleefully watch the adventures of the sword and gun toting (possibly back-pain suffering) protagonists of HOTD. Short skirts, inventive camera angles, and a great deal of over-the-top cheesecake and blood kept these girls safely within the realm of self-aware grindhouse parody.
Sure, they were sixteen-year-old's with impossible cup sizes... but it was funny, and ridiculous. The tone of the piece in places made it okay to laugh at their peril. In other words, I didn’t take it too seriously. Just like I had done with most sexy high school anime girl shows in the past. The action against zombies was the centerpiece, and while their mammaries bounced with abandon, characters like sword-swinging Saeko kicked ass as much as they showed it. It was okay for them to sexy as long as they had a Xena: Warrior Princess swagger!
But then the fun stopped for me about midway through the series. I considered how many times these women are yelled at, slapped, and in Saeko’s case, literally had their breasts twisted and mangled in a complete out-of-character shift by the main character, Takashi. There was a lot of it.
My jaw dropped. I could not believe how brazen and blatant Takashi’s misogyny became. Episode to episode, his motivation shifted from friendly to violent for no reason other than to have him beat on a woman. When Takashi’s friend Saya is lifted up by him in one heated scene, the camera angle switches so you can possibly mistake his action as him choking her...
Why the sudden shift in tone? Why did this show have to show this kind of violence towards women?
Takashi ostensibly does these outlandish actions to “snap the women out of it” and force them into action. Of course, he chooses to inflict violence instead of inflicting a cognitive discussion. More hurtful is the idea that Takashi is the character the audience is supposed to identify with as the leader and “hero” of the whole story. Blegh.
I stated that this show was “under-appreciated” in the past (this was before I finished the show) and I now wish to recant that statement. What this show actually is.... is misogynist and offensive. It's insulting not just to women, but also to me as a viewer.
But this sort of violent, “Hey women! Shut up!" attitude has been around for YEARS in certain places of anime. The scenes with Saeko and Takashi unfortunately brought to mind something similar that happened in FIST OF THE NORTH STAR; an equally macho show that was once one of my absolutely favorites as a fledgling anime fan.
In this clip, Rei attempts to pull Mamiya - - who has been shown to be a warrior in her own right - - away from an oncoming battle simply because she is a woman. And when words fail to sway her, he takes more direct action...
Setting aside the misguided YouTube comments that extol Rei’s “gentlemanly virtues” I couldn’t view this clip as just “how things were animated back then." Too much of what I find potentially offensive in classic anime still exists to this day, and it troubles me.
After watching HOTD with my friends (and my girlfriend) I came to feel embarrassed - - like all I'd done was reinforce the sterotype that anime is all big-breasted women jumping around and getting violated. I had done a disservice to myself and anime in general!
But how is it I’m only just now feeling a little sick about it? Haven’t bad representations of women always been around in anime? I had to seek out the truth. I had to find out if my attitudes towards women were just ignored in the past in the anime I liked, or if I wasn’t even aware of what was wrong in the first place. So I’m going to dedicate at least two more columns to this topic. I'll try to figure out if I’ve been a little sexist in ways I might not have noticed before by going back through some of the anime of my past.
As I make this journey, I encourage all who read this to make one of their own. Come to your conclusions, disagree with me, discuss among yourselves... however you want to express it.
Thanks for reading, and remember, it’s just MY opinion. Ganbatte.
NEXT WEEK: CUTEY HONEY, OR THE HENTAI EFFECT
Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow @cravesam