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Why House of Five Leaves and Hakuouki? Anime and History

NPR recently profiled a growing group of female otaku-- rekijo, or history women.

 House of Five Leaves takes place in old Edo, now known as Tokyo
 House of Five Leaves takes place in old Edo, now known as Tokyo
I was running through a list of links to potential things I might write up, when I came across-- again --a piece at NPR about a new trend of otaku in Japan. These women are known as reki-jo, short for rekishi (history) and kanojo (girl).

But I didn't really put two and two together until after watching House of Five Leaves yesterday. It should be no surprise that most of the more female-focused/friendly series are historical in nature, given the rise of the history girl. The NPR article actually suggests that the rise of rekijo is actually signalling a rise of female otaku-- not necessarily anime and manga geek-type otaku, mind, but just as there are military otaku and train otaku, we now have a group of female history otaku-- and they're organizing.

But I'm not sure it's just women who are into history. Of the series I profiled this season, nine have historical ties, albeit some looser than others:
 Senkou no Night Raid is set in 1931 Shanghai, a period of great tension between China and Japan
 Senkou no Night Raid is set in 1931 Shanghai, a period of great tension between China and Japan

This is a huge jump over the previous season, winter (3 of 15), the season before that (fall, 2 of 34), or even last spring (2 of 30). So, is this a sign that people's overall interest in history is rising, or is it an attempt by anime makers to reach more of a female audience? 

I also wonder about the similarities to women outside of Japan. I tend to think of historical fiction fans as more women than men as well...although there's also a lot of historical fiction out there that's more or less just romance novels, so I'm not sure if it's the history that draws women or not.

What do you think? Are you into history and/or historical fiction? I think that no matter what, this'll be an interesting trend to watch.    
metalsnakezeroon April 16, 2010 at 9:43 a.m.
This is interesting and it may explain why there some many anime set in historical times. Using historical fiction in shows can make for a believable setting if done right.
giaon April 16, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.
@metalsnakezero: True enough. I can't think of many American cartoons based in history, but I can think of some live-action TV shows-- like the popular miniseries about the Tudors, and even more movies-- The Gladiator, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, O Brother Where Art Thou...
Dream moderator on April 16, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.
Beats the moe, heavy fan service, and romantic comedy titles that have been tossed around as of late, though Night Raid's use of superpowered agents concerns me and Rainbow's a bit melodramatic from what I've seen of them thus far.
darkcyderon April 16, 2010 at 11:04 a.m.
@gia:   There have been a few American cartoons that do that, off the top of my head the only one I can think of was Time Squad which was an amazing show.
giaon April 16, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.
@darkcyder: I was trying to think of shows that were just plain "set" in a historical era, but if you include time travel, there was also the awesome Carmen Sandiego cartoon.
MoonStormon April 16, 2010 at 11:10 a.m.
This is exactly why I like Taishou Yakyuu Musume. I like history that take place in times of transfer for a culture. It one reasion I'm looking forward to Senkou no Night Raid. I also like that Baccano took place during prohibition. Now if we could only get  some history WWII anime and no Strike Witch dose not count.  
sunfloweron April 16, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.
They said in the article that women were drawn to history and men were drawn to other things in anime.  There are a lot of women who like novels based upon certain historical periods because they're seen as romantic and exotic and just plain interesting, like the Regency Era in England or Egypt in the early 1900's or Scotland during the 18th c.  Romances from those periods/places are hot commodities. I would bet that any historical anime this season is trying to aim at women as a major part of the audience.  Maybe they want men and women, but they definitely want women.   I mean, look at those series and note the number of good-looking male characters...
Karkarovon April 16, 2010 at 1:14 p.m.
Well American TV wise the ultimate historical drama for an "otaku" if we have to use that word would be "Shogun" without a doubt.  It even has actual Japanese actors speaking actual Japanese even if it obviously flubs certain parts of the real history.  I find it hard to say Koihime Musou is a historical drama though, yes it is based on the three kingdoms war of China but there are others shows (like a Chinese one that was just converted to Japanese this last season for airing in Japan....) that actually take a serious historical look at these events.  Koihime Musou though goes well out of it's way to focus on over the top alterations that barely resemble what really happened, for example every important historical figure is changed to be female, most of their names are altered though some resemble the real names a bit better than others, and it's ludicrous amounts of fan service is definitely NOT targeting the female audience.

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