Well okay, it’s not all of them, but saying “most” or “some” just isn’t as catchy a title.
Whilst shifting through all the complaints I’ve been hearing recently regarding the female exploitation in stuff like Kill la Kill, Kyoukai no Kanata, and Monogata… – actually I think everyone has accepted that last one by now considering that despite having as many fans as it always had, it’s become surprisingly easy to avoid – as well as looking at the whole Samurai Flamenco debacle involved with a girl stomping people in the nuts, I’ve come to realize something: most of my favorite anime are sexist as shit.
Yes, there are anime I like that have strong female leads, but for the most part they fall under the “not sexist” category when they’re not setting feminism back by 50 years. Now, I think anime as an entire medium is sexist for reasons I am not qualified to explain, but some anime really like to showcase it in some “not so subtle” ways. That very sexism has bothered me too at points (I couldn’t stand the Rurouni Kenshin manga for example, and do I need to bring up Sword Art Online?), but I’m pretty sure that when I wrote about Mnemosyne, one of the things I praised was how misogynistic it was. That’s not to say I support misogyny of course. I’m not that evil. But if it’s required to tell/enhance the story, and if you actually are aware of what you’re doing, then I say go for it. Mnemosyne wouldn’t have been nearly as great without its abuse towards women (although did you really need to show that many sex scenes of the little girl?). Same thing as violence, sex, drugs, and all that other stuff in some pretty good flicks.
And it’s not just Mnemosyne of course. Most of the stuff I dig is really mean to certain genders and all that. In fact, let’s take a look at some of them.
For example, I present to you the ultraviolent movie, Ninja Scroll, and its main hero duo of Jubei and Kagero. The movie is basically about how Jubei is blackmailed into doing a job for a creepy old man and Kagero helps him out at times whilst getting into that old love/hate relationship with him. Whilst not nearly as crap as the ninja girl from the first Ninja Gaiden game (seriously, what the fuck did she do in that thing?) because she actually does pull her weight at certain points and even saves Jubei in one scene, there are many points in the movie where she has to be saved by him because he’s the “man” and all that stuff. First time we meet her, she couldn’t defeat a stone man who nearly got to have her way with her before Jubei sliced him in half. But of course, as I said before, she pulls her own weight at points, so she’s not entirely useless or anything.
But in the end – spoilers by the way- Kagero becomes pretty damn weak to the point that she kinda renders her strong female lead status void. When she learns that Jubei is dying of poison and the only way to cure him is to have sex with her (not gonna bother explaining this), she pretty much does what you’d think. And then when Jubei refuses to take her, she basically goes and gets herself mortally wounded, cures Jubei of his poison with a kiss (turns out that the sex was a lie), and dies in order to get him angry for the final battle. Add in the lustful way angles the show can treat her and such and…yeah this movie is not kind to any woman, let alone its main one. Still, I love it greatly. Because when you take into account the era, the situation, and the fact that it’s a really great movie, the stuff I mentioned above is pretty much a necessary evil to be what it is.
Next we have Air Master, which I guarantee will cause any feminist who sees the thing to riot. Yes the main character is a really tall and strong female who wins fights practically all the time and shit, so it’s not like we don’t get a healthy dose of females sticking it to the man in really creative ways. On the other hand, this show has Julietta. And the comedy mindset that you can have the guy attempt to rape a girl and have it be “oh so hilarious when he fails”. Specifically that scene in Episode 5 where Maki just loses all her will because “he’s that intimidating” – which he is – and that sleazeball fighter basically rips her clothes off in a manner that’s clearly meant to be a joke, but looks disturbing. Especially when you account for the fact that the art to Air Master is fucking ugly.
The thing about Julietta is that maybe the rapey stuff that is associated with him would be tolerable if he got his just desserts in the end or something. And indeed, he gets beaten up by Maki an episode or two later. What happens to him after that? Why, he becomes best friends with Maki’s father – a guy he assaulted and nearly killed when Papa said “no you can’t go near my daughter” – and continues to pursue Maki in more “humorous” ways whilst assaulting anyone who so much as looks as him funny. Including women, although this isn’t often the case. It’s basically one of those “defeat equals friendship” things from most shonen anime, except it applies to a creepy guy who hasn’t really changed his stalkerish or sex offender nature. Air Master is still one of my favorite anime ever of course, but I can’t blame people for not digging it due to its many many flaws. Julietta’s existence being one of them.
So far, so “sexism against women in order to further the show’s ends”. Let’s take a look at the opposite side of the spectrum with Urusei Yatsura’s fifth movie, The Final Chapter. Rumiko Takahashi anime by themselves are pretty cruel to the male race because “girls attacking boys is funny”, and Urusei Yatsura is not much different, although it never gets to the levels that Ranma did at times. But The Final Chapter, which acts as the finale of the series, is pretty unfair to either of the men involved in relationships there. Particularly that new guy, who is supposed to be the bad guy (the dark-skinned, blonde dude in the picture above), since Ataru brings most of his problems on himself.
You see, the main bad dude wants to marry Lum because of arranged marriage shit, but he’s being pursued by his childhood friend (the dark-skinned, white-haired girl in the picture above). Why doesn’t he ignore Lum and marry the girl he’s more familiar with, you may ask? Well, it turns out that they were good playmates at first, but when the dude casually brought up his arranged marriage as a child to his friend, she immediately (and I do mean immediately) started abusing him out of jealousy. And since this is the Urusei Yatsura universe, the abuse involves rocket launchers and feeding the guy to the sharks, all in the name of love. And the thing is, we’re supposed to take this romance seriously too (mostly in the second half of the movie), so you can’t just dismiss it as “oh they’re being so funny”. Oh, and did I mention that around the movie’s closing, the two basically get together because they love each other in the end and all despite the years of psychological abuse? Hahahaha, wait.
Still a pretty great finale movie for my favorite anime comedy, and I’ll talk about why I think that way sometime, but…
So yeah, a bunch of my favorite anime are sexist. And let’s be honest, a bunch of your favorites are in the same vein (do I need to bring up Death Note or what some Berserk detractors have brought up regarding Casca?). Does that mean we should suddenly hate them? Of course not! It may differ from person to person, but I wouldn’t be a fan of the exploitation genre if I couldn’t deal with a little misogyny, a fan of Takahashi comedies if I couldn’t handle “female sending males to hospital” slapstick, nor a fan of noir stuff if I couldn’t handle a little sleaze. In my opinion, it’s all about “showing” the sexism rather than “exploiting” the sexism. And I can handle the latter a bit if it’s used for something I care about. For example, I could have handled Girls’ Bravo’s constant abuse of Yukinari and clothes-ripping off females if it had better animation, voice-acting, writing, humor, charm…