Friday, January 30, 2009

A rose by any other name... Recognizing Red Flags part I

My mom suggested that I write an article for parents of anime-watchers about things to watch out for, I'll call them red flags. When I was first learning how to find the anime I wanted, I had to learn all this. Even knowing the terms (that I will give you), you need to research every anime title your children are watching. You don't want for you or them to be surprised by content later in the show.
When anime is licenced, the suggested age levels are indicated on the back of the DVD case. Even so, this isn't going to give you a nearly clear enough idea of the content. As you may have guess, I've researched hundreds of anime titles for my own viewing and if you were to send me a question about one, I could give you an accurate idea of what you'll find there.
However, I'm going to give you some advice about red flags you'll want to know. Below are some red flag vocabulary:

Lolicon and Shotacon

Lolicon: genre in which girls below the age of consent become objects of affection to either ohter characters or the audience.
Examples: Ichigo Mashimaro, Komodo no Jikan, Koi Kaze, Rizelmine

Because of the Japanese's attractions to cuteness, the balance between sexual cuteness and childish cuteness dangerously wavers. While Americans see wild or daring characters as sexually arousing, the Japanese see quiet, shy characters as sexually arousing. The entire world recognizes the childlike qualities of Asian woman; the trouble comes in when the attraction for childlike woman become attraction for children. This is a huge issue for Japan and thus for anime/manga as well.
Many anime will feature young girls as a part of the female cast (ex. Chiyo-chan from Azumanga Daioh and Hitsugi from Hyakko.)

Shotacon: genre in which boys below the age of consent become objects of affection to either other characters or the audience.

There are much fewer shotacon anime/manga than lolicon; and, there are more shotacon manga than anime. Cute little boy characters can be found in countless anime/manga (ex. Hunny from Ouran High School Host Club and Shin from Pretear) and you can bet all the girls in the show go gaga for them.
Examples of mainstream anime/manga with shotacon elements.: the works of Sugisaki Yukiru: DNAngel, Lagoon Engine
Shojo-ai and Yuri
Shojo-ai: genre depicting intimate/romantic relationships between girls; literally "girls' love"
Yuri: genre depicting intimate/romantic relationships between women.
Examples: Kannazuki no Miko, Candy Boy, Blue Drop, Kashimashi
Just because a show isn't actually yuri or shojo-ai in genre, it doesn't mean there are no elements in the show. For instance, in Shigofumi: Stories of the Last Letter, episode four shows two girls in a relationship. It has recently become a popular joke in anime to have a bi-sexual character (ex. Nene from Hyakko) or a character that isn't homosexual, but has a semierotic attraction to others of the same sex (ex. Nobue form Ichigo Mashimaro.) Then, there are show in which there is some question as to whether the relationships between two female characters could "advance into" romantic love.
Examples of this are: R.O.D. and Bee Train shows such as Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja.

Shounen-ai and Yaoi

Shounen-ai: genre depicting intimate/romantic relationships between two boys; literally, "boys' love"
Yaoi: genre depicting intimate/romantic relationships between two men.
Examples: Loveless, Antique Bakery, Kyo Kara Maoh!, Junjo Romantica
"Pairing" is a hugely popular activity for yaoi and shounen-ai fans. They create their own doujinshi (unofficial manga) featuring characters they want to be together. These fans are usually girls or women; most shounen-ai and yaoi titles aren't written for men, but for female readers. It's a common gag in anime to have a yaoi fangirl, or Fujoshi, (ex. Harumi from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.) Flamboyant gay men are used as comical relief in many anime (ex. Leron in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Hana in Tokyo Godfathers.) As I mentioned above, there are shows in which shounen-ai and yaoi elements are present despite it not being in that genre. Or, shows in which the relationship is ambiguous.
Examples of this are: Ookiku Furikabutte

Examples: Maria Holic, W Juliet, Hana-Kimi, Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru, Princess Princess
This genre is very popular; the idea of characters looking or dressing as if they are of another gender. There's also Gender Swap where characters try to "be" of the opposite gender (ex. Jun in Happiness! and "Seiko" in Lovely Complex.) Crossdressing may show up as a character's only means of abtaining a goal (Shion no Ou.) Or, the character may have to choice (Ranma in Ranma 1/2) - but, of course, the author is in control.

I will continue providing advice on red flags in installments.

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