LGBTQ Representation in Anime & Manga (Long Intro Warning)


#1

So, one of the things I do struggle a little bit when watching Anime and reading Manga is the lack of decent representation of LGBT characters. Many times, when there is representation of LGBT characters in this area, it’s often played up Stereotypes, sometimes going to point of offensiveness and only meant to be treated like a joke, without any sort of redeeming value to the character. Often they’re used for cheap laughs, abused, and become the but of everyone’s joke.

This in particular made me struggle to find LGBT representation during my Teen years to identify with (as I struggled with my sexuality a bit), as I grew up with a lot of Anime and Manga.

However, having said that, there are some good Queer representation over the years in anime.

  • Sailor Moon was rather revolutionary in this manner, given the time period, While there is some, admittedly, tropes about the relationships of the characters, the presented gay characters (Kunzite and Zoisite in the original anime and Uranus & Neptune for all versions) are generally treated rather well and mostly show positive natures of the relationships. However, I’ll admit Fish Eye’s character has a number of issues in general (and the English version I feel made the situation worse, back when Cloverway localized that particular season), though I would argue it wasn’t the author’s intention to offend or misrepresent.

  • Yuri On Ice was probably the one anime in most recent years that I feel represented gay characters extremely positively, as well as showing many different types of personalities out there, not restricted or held back by stereotypes often associated with the characters. While not problem free, it was absolutely the right step towards the right direction. It’s also one of the few anime out there that reached outside of the niche audience without being a popular series like Pokemon or Dragon Ball.

  • Wandering Son’s dealing with Transgender and Gender Identities issues is handled, honestly, really, really well. While I need to finish this series, having watch the first several episodes of the anime, it shows the prejudices that Japan typically has towards people going outside of the box of normal (though, sadly, Japan is not the only country where we deal with this sort of issue). I feel both characters are handled very well, including their struggles with their gender identities. I’m unsure if the anime adapted all of the manga material, but it’s something I absolutely recommend.

There’s also some manga (including indie ones) that has been published in recent times (My Brother’s Husband, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, etc.), but many of these never see fit to be adapted in animated format, sadly.

Now, having said that, there are some characters out there that, who I feel might be on the borderline offensive list, they do have some positive qualities to them and I enjoy them immensely despite these issues. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the over abundance of these tropes and characterizations represented in anime, I’d probably be a little more lenient to them.

Still, one of these particular characters’ I’d mention is Leeron from Gurren Lagann, who is honestly one of my favorite characters in the series. He’s quirky, rather eccentric, and depending on which version you’re watching, borderline offensive or relatively normal sounding (they played up his accent a bit on the English dub, which isn’t really as strongly present in the Japanese version, though ADV’s unfinished dub with Leeron is… Absolutely offensive how it’s presented and just sounds bad). While yes, he is sometimes played off for laughs and has some offensive qualities to his character, he generally can pull his own weight, is generally treated respectfully by his crew mates, and honestly shows concern and caring side to him (in particular to Rossiu) regarding the rest of his mates.

Now, the above is not a complete list of LGBTQ representation in anime and the issues that Japanese media has with representation, but I thought it’d be worth creating a discussion topic on this.

If anyone has any thing to add to this, both the positives and negatives they’ve witnessed, watched, and read over the years, would absolutely love to hear it! Always wanting to learn more about Queer representation in the media in Japan, both the good and bad.


#2

Revolutionary Girl Utena is what first comes to mind as an example of good representation. Not that there isn’t any gender-related tension or conflict between the characters, because such things are certainly present (including some rather harsh situations for individuals who classify as LGBT), but I would argue the overall message was still positive in this respect.


#3

it’s funny, like most of the reason I started reading manga at all as a teen was because it was giving me gay characters where other media wasn’t.
Oh, wait, you said “decent” representation? Oh yeah they were mostly awful, in hindsight. But you know, you take what you can get, especially at that age, right.

Anyway last year we rewatched Cardcaptor Sakura which is a) an absolute joy and b) so much gayer than I remembered (ofc they hacked that all out for the dub).
Samurai Flamenco is only from 2014 but I had never heard of it - stumbled on it on Netflix. It’s about a guy becoming a superhero despite having no special skills or powers. Kinda Kick-Ass-ish (…for like seven episodes). There’s two girls with an incredibly unhealthy relationship and I love them. (Final arc spoilers) also samumenco falls in love with his cop buddy.
Also, hey, if you like being sad I really enjoyed (not ‘enjoyed’ but) Iron Blooded Orphans. My first (and only) gundam (so far). All these boys are very sad and okay only one of them is definitely gay, but hey I was expecting everything to remain subtext forever, so, one is better than none.


#4

Girls Und Panzer Ribbon Warrior has a lesbian who is also a furry.


#5

Leeron is a good one to bring up. I bristled at him when he was first introduced and there was the usual “gay guy hits on straight guy” gag between him and Kamina, but I was also watching it while trying to figure out my own feelings re: men. Still don’t think he’s great, of course, but he does end up as a full character and I was able to cheer him on with the rest.

My Lesbian Experience WIth Loneliness is so wonderful (my copy of the manga even smells like strawberries!) . Beyond being a great piece of writing, it’s nice to see a work that doesn’t follow the usual yuri paths/conventions. Obviously that’s because it’s autobiographical…but it’s still nice.

A manga I’ve recently fallen for with something like representation is Land of the Lustrous. Sentient human-like gems who fight off invaders from the moon who want to break them up for decoration. With one exception, the whole gem society appears female, though how individuals present differs and at least one gem seems to have neutral pronouns? There isn’t any body diversity (everyone is super skinny) and there is definitely influence from yuri tropes, but because the characters are well realized I think the relationships are good.


#6

I came here to suggest My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness and heck, it’s already been mentioned twice! Just going to add my voice to those saying that it’s wonderful and something everyone should read.

Leeron is one of the aspects of TTGL I’ve thought back on that’s helped me come to the conclusion that the series (spoilers) doesn’t really find it’s true voice until Kamina dies, which I think is intentional. Kamina isn’t the best person, and I believe that’s really supposed to come through in his and Leeron’s relationship, which we only really see through the “trying too hard to be macho” Kamina, and Simon, who at that point is trying to emulate Kamina as closely as he can. That’s not to say I think he’s a good representation of a gay/trans character, but after what I mentioned in that spoiler tag happens his character is free to develop beyond a kind of shitty, tropey gag, which I think is indicative of the entire series past that point.


#7

You’re right that Kamina and Leeron’s interactions does show Kamina’s weakness by poking at his manly facade, but I read it more as a joke where Kamina gives the right response–he has the “societally correct” answer.


#8

Kunihiko Ikuhara, the director of Utena, is in one of the few people who makes anime with stories and characters that explore lgbt and gender issues. He’s famous for Utena which is a show fundamentally about female empowerment, women breaking free of gender expectations, and relationships and love that goes outside the bounds of patriarchal views of society.

His work on Sailor Moon R, Mawaru Penguindrum, and especially Yurikuma Arashi all also have touches of this or are almost entirely an exploration of these themes too.

I wish there were more people making anime like this out there.


#9

I completely forgot my favorite! Their Story (Tamen De Gushi) by Tan Jiu is an excellent slice of life manga where pretty much all the romantic relationships are queer. It actually has good body and character type diversity, wonderful art, and is very sweet and funny.

It’s a Chinese comic, so I don’t know if it counts as manga or not, but it is a sweet picture of highschool relationships with depth. A lesbian friend introduced me to it, and we were sending screenshots back and forth for days afterward. Cannot recommend enough.


#10

I do agree with that. The pair’s interactions are set up for the audience to laugh at Leeron’s advances and set a pretty bad tone early on. Doesn’t help that generally TTGL as a series is straight as an arrow and Leeron is the show’s only attempt at explicitly representing an LGBT character.

It was only in my latest run-though of the series (first time I’d watched it since High School) that I started to view Kamina as kind of a terrible person, and could appreciate what they were at least trying to do with Leeron.


#11

What I’ve heard about Land of the Lustrous is that the cast is actually genderless, hence the official subtitles for the anime using the singular they.


#12

Even while watching that show as a kid, probably not even 10 years old I could totally see that syaoran had a crush on on yukito, and I didn’t really understand it haha. Did he have a crush on both him and sakura at the same time? hmm.


#13

Current mood: watching the Stammi Vicino pair skate six thousand times as a sort of magical ritual to sublimate my entire self into a vapor of protosentient emotion in another world

The recent Princess Principal is a weird thing to me. On one hand there’s always this everpresent discomfort of knowing the prickle of male gaze, and on the other, the actual f/f romance itself is 1) pretty undeniable (don’t fucking tell me that you go around addressing your platonic friends as “my turtledove” when you think you’re about to sacrifice yourself so that they can live) 2) not fanservicey at all and 3) an emotional core of the plot.