A speculative fiction newbie and a blog.
In this section, my co-author and I explore cross-dressing in the theatre, specifically all-male kabuki and all-female Takarazuka Revue, how these productions queer our views of the gender binary, and how the main character of The Rose of Versailles disrupts tropes about women cross-dressing as men.
Gender bending is often cited as one of the defining themes of contemporary anime and manga, which are filled with examples of handsome women and beautiful men, not to mention cross-dressing characters who never fail to steal the spotlight. What is cross-dressing? How does it challenge and reinforce gender roles? What role has cross-dressing historically played in popular entertainment in Japan? Does a female character cross-dressing as a man mean something different than a male character cross-dressing as a woman? In this essay, we’re going to discuss ideas about gender, provide some terminology, and examine a few examples of how cross-dressing is used by characters in anime and manga as a means of exploring gender issues in contemporary Japanese society.
Sailor Moon isn’t just fighting aliens, but a world of adults who want to destroy everything beautiful in girls. In order to save the people she loves, she fights and gets hurt and breaks down and even completely fails at times. And when she can manage it, she tries to save the monsters, too.
If you grew up watching TV in the 1990s, there is no way you escaped seeing at least a few episodes of Sailor Moon. The Japanese anime series about teen girls named Sailor Senshi fighting bad guys from outer space, was a hallmark of girls’ after-school cartoons. It was many kids’ gateway to anime but, more importantly, Sailor Moon proved that children’s programming that centered on empowered young women had serious commercial power and popular appeal. It redefined and revived the “magical girl” genre in its native Japan and its overseas influence has shown up in girl-power shows like The Powerpuff Girls and, more recently, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Sailor Moon wasn’t my first taste of anime (it was Ranma ½, if you’re curious), but looking back I think it might have been the most important one. I was lucky enough to be able to watch all five seasons in their original Japanese with subtitles due to being in an anime club that would happily make you copies of fansubs for free as long as you provided the VHS tapes (did I just date myself?). Coming out this year is Sailor Moon Crystal, a reboot series that will closely follow the manga in both story and art. The first trailer was released the other day and the excitement from it got me thinking about why Sailor Moon has stuck with me for so long. Here are the reasons why I think it’s one of the best anime for women and girls to watch.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, however, fandom is more intense and better connected with itself than ever, for better or worse. But when Sailor Moon was first being aired in the early ’90s, the Internet was not the social networking powerhouse that it is now, which made for a wild and exciting time. Usenet groups, mailing lists, and chatrooms were big well into the early ’00s before they got overtaken by forums, which in turn got swallowed up by social blogging platforms like Livejournal and, later, Tumblr.
More striking, though, were the heavier content changes made to the show. In Japan, Sailor Moon was originally marketed to slightly older girls, but in North America it was aimed at much younger kids, so things that were deemed offensive or upsetting to children (EDIT: Japan also has much different cultural rules for what’s “child-appropriate,” which we should also point out) were cut.