Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Are Guys Treated Badly by Anime – And If So, Is It a Problem?

[Doki] Tari Tari - 07 (1280x720 Hi10P AAC) [ADD3F144].mkv_snapshot_18.02_[2012.08.12_23.28.08] [HorribleSubs] Kokoro Connect - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.21_[2012.08.11_11.25.34]

Here’s a hint: yes, and yes.


Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while knows that the depiction of males – especially teenage males – in anime today is a sore point with me.  So this isn’t a new topic, but the recent prominence of Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect (two shows I like, by the way) on this site and elsewhere has brought the matter a little more front and center, on this site and elsewhere.  In fact someone on Animesuki mentioned that it seems as if it’s become a hot topic lately – and while I don’t know if that’s true, I’d like to think it is because I think it’s a subject that merits discussion.  And I've certainly done what I can to make people think about it, whether they want to or not…

Here’s what I see.  Setting aside shounen action series and sports, with some rare exceptions like Tsuritama and Ano Natsu de Matteiru teenaged males usually get lumped into four categories in anime: timid and neutered, oversexed idiots, irrelevant or nonexistent.  There are several defenses of the status quo I frequently see. One is, “It’s always been like that, and today is no different”.  Another is that “anime is intended for a mostly male audience, and guys only want to watch shows about girls”.  I don’t put much stock in either of those rationalizations.  The first is easy enough to dispel – just look at a list of releases from 2002, or even 2007.  There have always been shows with all-girl casts, and shows with idiotic male characters – but those shows being an overwhelming majority is a relatively recent phenomenon.  And to the second, well – that sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you only make shows with no guys, spineless guys or stupid guys, only people who want to watch shows with no guys, spineless guys or stupid guys will watch (and more to the point, buy) anime.

I don’t want to turn this into a detailed analysis of the causes of the problem, but obviously otaku culture as it exists in Japan is part of the issue.  The target audience for many Blu-rays is largely the same demographic that can ruin the career of an idol who admits to having a boyfriend, so there’s clearly something deeper going on here than simply a disinterest in male characters.  The fact that many of the more complex male characters in anime are either pre-teens or older father figures – and thus not sexually threatening – is probably not a coincidence.  But whatever the cause, that doesn’t justify the status quo – nor does that fact that gender bias against females is so prevalent in others mediums (and in anime too, as I’ll get to in a minute).  The way to combat unrealistic portrayals of women in other mediums is not with unrealistic portrayals of men in anime – in fact, that simply makes the problem much worse.

Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect have prompted an interesting discussion on this topic on Animsuki, and I’ve seen some arguments made by smart, reasonable people that disturb me even more than the rationalizations above.  One poster suggested that the male characters don’t need trauma or complex emotions or arcs devoted to them - as long as there are guys whose actions drive the plot, and as long as they function as avenues through which to explore the female characters, that’s all that’s needed.  And those who prefer gender-balanced casts should be satisfied with that.  Another said that if viewers want to watch shows about guys, they should just get a grip and watch shounens.

Needless to say, I strongly disagree.

Why is it acceptable for male characters to be explored only through the consequences of their actions? Or to have no traumas or complex emotional issues of their own (or arcs built around them)? Do males in real life not have these things? And why should we be satisfied with a medium where anime males exist only as avenues to explore the female characters?  I don't think I'm asking for an impossibly high standard here. In RL males and females both are emotionally complex, and I'd like to see anime be a place where they're both treated as such.  Wouldn’t anime be a better medium if that were the case?

One might reasonably ask why Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect should be the shows that lit the touch paper on this discussion, when they’re both good series, and there are so many more egregious examples of both males being portrayed as imbeciles and/or being emasculated entirely (not to mention the large subset of new series every season that have entirely female main casts).  And that’s a fair question – they’re neither the cause of this problem, or among the worst offenders.  But I think both of them, by their nature, need to be held to a higher standard than formula sex comedies and Okada-written shows where emasculation is price of admission.  In the case of KC, it’s pretty simple.  That ideal world I describe – the one where there are shows that feature both girls and boys as emotionally complex and interesting - well, it's obviously not going to be every series.  But if not an ensemble series built around exploring psychological traumas than where, for Jeebus' sake?  Shouldn’t a show like Kokoro Connect be the first in line to depict characters of both sexes in that way?

With Tari Tari, it’s a little different.  I don't want to make this series out to be more offensive than it is - there are certainly shows that are far more overtly misandrist than Tari Tari. But TT is an example of teenaged boys being treated badly in both senses – both by the writing, and by the girls.  I do think Taichi and Wien are generally treated quite shabbily by the girls – episode 7 is full of examples – and this is a much larger problem when the writing gives no indication that this behavior is wrong in any way. There's more a sort of general sense that guys are an inferior species, and thus being treated as such is just the natural order of things.  If anything, that's what really nettles me in Tari Tari. It's not so much that the guys are so much worse off here than in other anime, but that TT presents itself as an ensemble show that treats all the main cast as important and in practice, is anything but.

That’s why, while I like TT and KC and don’t want to be too hard on them, I think they make useful talking points to bring this discussion to the table.  Factor out the dumb harem comedies and generic sex farces, then take away the worst of the fujoshi shows that are essentially guilty of the exact same offenses in gender-reverse: they objectify and idealize the males and give us bland or neutered female leads.  Take out the series that aren’t even trying to tell a character-driven story, then the ones that are but just aren’t very good at it.  That leaves a pretty small pool of shows from which we might reasonably hope to see complex and interesting teenage characters of both sexes in any given season – shows that are character-driven and have the ambition to enlighten human relationships, and have writers competent enough to accomplish that.  That group is always going to be the minority in today’s market, and when one of those shows doesn’t do justice to their male characters we lose one of the very few realistic possibilities that exist.

Now, I’m realistic in my expectations.  I see what sells on Blu-ray every Monday and Thursday, and I know that anime is a business like any other.  But I also know that there are many recent examples of shows that treat the male cast as every bit as complicated and important as the girls that have done quite decently on Blu-ray or DVD – or even both.  Ano Natsu and Tsuritama are good examples, and AnoHana (an Okada composition no less, though with heavy input from Nagai Tatsuyuki, who also directed Ano Natsu) was a genuine blockbuster.  There’s a market for these shows – sometimes it’s a strongly female market and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it’s demographically dominated by males, too.  If you build series that are well-written and offer genuine insight into both boys and girls and the way they interact with each other, viewers (and buyers) will find them.

There’s another downside to this gender bias in anime, too, and I’ve already touched on it: the absence of complex and interesting (or any) teenaged males leads to the unrealistic portrayal of females.  Make no mistake, nobody wins here.  The same shows that depict males as idiotic sex-fiends or neutered and passive viewer avatars (when they’re present at all) tend to either idealize girls as impossibly moe, virtuous and pure - or merely objectify them as sexual objects.  To their credit this is not such a problem with Tari Tari or Kokoro Connect, and there are certainly other exceptions as there are to every rule.  But generally, the absence of realistic boys doesn’t lead to the presence of realistic girls – quite the opposite, in fact.  Girls tend to be more complex and realistically  balanced between positive traits and negative ones when there are boys who are similarly written.  I don’t think girls are well-served by being held up as impossibly cute and pure, and I know they’re not well-served by being depicted as buxom airheads or objects presented for the gratification of the audience.

That’s the crux of the issue for me – the demise of the male character doesn’t mean the rise of the well-written female character, but the opposite.  What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, and the marginalization of boys leads to the objectification and idealization of girls.  I believe men can write girls well and women can write boys well, but we’re in a situation where probably 90-95% of anime is written by men, and even a higher percentage directed by men – and surely, some of those men lack the skill to write about the female experience in an authentic way.  We desperately need more female writers and directors, absolutely – but more than anything, we need writers who give us realistic characters of both genders, not ones who try to sell discs by marginalizing, emasculating or ignoring boys and giving us preposterously idealized or oversexed parodies of girls.  There’s an old saying: “A rising tide lifts all boats”.  More shows with complex, realistic and interesting teenaged boys means more shows with complex, realistic and interesting teenaged girls – and vice-versa.  Accepting one problem doesn’t make the other go away, it makes it worse.

I don’t want good series with all-girl casts to go away (the bad ones, like all bad ones of any genre, are another story).  I don’t expect idiotic harem comedies and formulaic bad romances to disappear.  They’re always going to be a part of the anime landscape, just like shounen action and sports (two categories that occasionally offer very good characters, it should be said)  and kids’ shows written to sell merchandise.  But if we can get just a couple of character-driven series every season that focus on teenaged males like Tsuritama, and more than a couple than feature girls and boys both being respected and treated as equally important by the scripts, anime as a whole will be much better off.  Diversity is good for the medium, homogeneity is bad for it.  And shows that realistically explore the way girls and boys interact can shed light on the human condition and rise above the level of pure escapism, which is all too many shows aspire to.  There’s nothing wrong with escapism if it’s done well, but if that’s the limit of its reach anime is worse off for it.  If anime wants to offer a palette as diverse as the world it speaks to, it needs to show us all of the population and not just half of it.



152 comments:

  1. ...Which is why Uchuu Kyoudai is my favorite anime ongoing right now. Really, it's like Cowboy Bebop, where every character is interesting, regardless of gender. I'm happy that a few of them are appearing these days, and I hope it keeps improving.

    Can't comment much more on that subject though, you already made it pretty clear where you stand and I agree with you.




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  2. And why should we be satisfied with a medium where anime males exist only as avenues to explore the female characters?

    Because by god every other medium in existence does the exact opposite.

    Also I can't believe you manged to write this entire post without a single mention of the most deeply misogynistic currently airing series. Truly astounding.

    The treatment Taichi, Aoki, Taichi (why two?) and Wien suffer, while perhaps "undeserved" is nothing compared to how truly offensive shows like Gundam AGE are to their female characters.

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    1. The only surprise is that you weren't the first to respond.

      I wrote about a topic that I feel needs addressing - I heartily encourage you to do the same. My intention wasn't to discuss other mediums - it was to discuss anime. The truth of your assertion aside - that's another argument - it's a pretty weak argument for why we should be content with the current stare of affairs in anime. Especially since it serves girls just as badly as it does boys, just in a different way.

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    2. On the one hand, two guys in high school are brushed off by girls. Something that I can say happens all the goddamn time. Secondly, Taichi (KokoroCo edition) has a huge, MASSIVE case of "Male Protagonist" and its really irritating. Aoki hasn't been amazingly well served compared to the rest of the cast, but we got an episode and a half of Taichi "fixing" the girls, and the only good part is that it didn't work.

      And you can't discuss this without acknowledging the still deeply entrenched gender roles here. Gundam AGE is just unusually blatant about it, with precisely ZERO female characters who are of consequence past either giving birth to some other character or dying to further the character development of the male characters.

      Also, this line: "need to be held to a higher standard than formula sex comedies and Okada-written shows where emasculation is price of admission." The only reason anyone knows about Okada is precisely because she's female, and you cannot stand that she doesn't write male characters the way you think she should. I'm not even going to argue about the quality of her writing, since its so incredibly variable you can't pin it down, but the continual bashing of her is getting really old. No other anime writer has ever gotten this sort of notoriety, no matter their output.

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    3. I take pains to give credit to Okada for writing one of the better examples of what I'm hoping we see more of in AnoHana. It just so happens that it's inescapable in her recent writing that she loves emasculating men. Every series she's written since then has been full of terrible male characters, including the adaptations of properties that originally had great male characters. She's addicted to it.

      Okada is Okada - she's not a stand-in for her entire gender. I would estimate that between 90-95% of anime are written by men, and an even higher percentage directed by them. The most obvious conclusion to draw from that is that we desperately need more female writers and directors, which we do. But as well, it seems to me that one of the reasons we have so many terrible gender characterizations in anime is that maybe, just maybe, a subset of that 90-95% would be able to write more authentically about the male experience, but instead the assembly line dictates that they ignore the male experience and instead write preposterously idealized or objectified females. I reject the notion that only men can write with sensitivity about men and boys and only women can do so about women and girls, but surely some of those men would be better off writing what they know.

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    4. You acknowledge that this is a very general problem yet for some reason Okada is "addicted" to it. Those poor men would write and direct better male characters if they were not constrained by the (male run and male targetted) industry, but Okada is able to just write whatever she wants and just chooses to write crappy male characters because she wants to and is "addicted to it".

      You are explicitly holding her to a different standard than men.

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    5. @Fencedude:

      "No other anime writer has ever gotten this sort of notoriety, no matter their output."

      Hiroyuki Yoshino of Mai-Hime, Code Geass R2, Fractal and Guilty Crown says hi.

      You claim people are being sexist, but the fact you're bringing gender into this is even more sexist. It has nothing to do with sexism. Do you forget Mari Okada is the Animation Kobe 2011 award winner in the individual category. She is the only second writer to ever get one, with the other one being Yousuke Kuroda of Onegai Teacher/Twins fame. The rest has been directors with big guns including Miyazaki, Anno and Watanabe. Seriously, Okada is no where near the level of these guys and it has nothing to do with her being a woman.

      Yes Anohana and Hanasaku Iroha were pretty decent, but she also wrote atrocities like the Black Rock Shooter anime and soon after Aquarion EVOL. If you wanted to ask my opinion then I would say Gen Orobuchi is more deserving for his involvement in Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero which frankly is better imo.

      I've seen you aggressively attack anyone who criticisms Okada on the ANN forums and frankly I'm getting sick of it that you're even bringing that to Enzo's blog now. Seriously quit it. If you're that popular of a writer and win a prestigious award to along with it when at least half the stuff you write are garbage, then you deserve all the criticism in the world. Just because other writers "emasculate" male characters in eyerolling ways doesn't excuse Okada for doing the same because those other writers didn't win a prestigious award.

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    6. , but she also wrote atrocities like the Black Rock Shooter anime and soon after Aquarion EVOL

      For one, BRS was great, and certainly doesn't suffer from Enzo's complaint (because, well, no male characters). As for EVOL, I can't speak for it because I didn't watch it.

      I've seen you aggressively attack anyone who criticisms Okada on the ANN forums and frankly I'm getting sick of it that you're even bringing that to Enzo's blog now.

      No, I have no issues with people criticizing her writing, I have issues with people using their dislike of her writing to make specific attacks on HER. No other anime writer has ever had people making offensive and sexist assumptions about their kinks and sexual preference.

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    7. I am a woman and I dislike Okada's writing too. Personally I don't like how she writes male or female characters. Does that make me sexist?

      My distaste for Okada's writing has nothing to do with her gender. Plenty of my favorite writers are women. Heck I got into anime/manga in the first place because of Rumiko Takahashi and my favorite manga is Fullmetal Alchemist also written by a woman.

      There might not be a lot of women in the anime industry (which is unfortunate) but there are tons of great female writers out there, Okada just is not one of them.



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    8. I am a woman and I dislike Okada's writing too. Personally I don't like how she writes male or female characters. Does that make me sexist?

      Have you suggested that the problem with her writing is that she needs to get laid? Or that she can't write a male character because she's a woman? Those are two allegations I've seen leveled at her, multiple times.

      Hell, I don't even like everything she's written, and I can totally see why people wouldn't like some of the stuff I do like. Its not the disliking of her work thats sexist, its how you frame and express that dislike.

      This concept should not be difficult to comprehend.

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    9. Have you suggested that the problem with her writing is that she needs to get laid? Or that she can't write a male character because she's a woman? Those are two allegations I've seen leveled at her, multiple times.

      Not by me, you haven't.

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    10. And I never said you did. Though cries of her "emasculating" male characters comes dangerously close to such things.

      But yes, compared to some people elsewhere, you have been the height of propriety regarding criticisms of Okada Mari. That is, sadly, not a very high height.

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    11. let's add some more to the fire shall we?

      "She secretly hates anime"

      "i blame her for darker than black season 2 seems like everyone else dislikes her 2 lol"

      "That Animation Kobe Award really inflated her ego imo"

      Oh my god what a terrible person she is!

      To be honest I hadn't even heard of Okada before watching the last Lupin series she did. I didn't even consider watching Black Rock Shooter, not because of any predjudices against staff working on it, but because the premise itself was weak to start with (Come on, the entire BRS thing is based off an artist's rip-off of a character which is in turn an anthropomorphised piece of software. Were you expecting it to be good?)

      As to the original topic, when you have 90% of anime forum users with avatars and signatures featuring either girls doing some sort of "cute" animation, as if the male species is never a viable option, the problem is pretty endemic.

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    12. As to the original topic, when you have 90% of anime forum users with avatars and signatures featuring either girls doing some sort of "cute" animation, as if the male species is never a viable option, the problem is pretty endemic.

      That seems highly irrelevant. Why should we feel obligated to use male avatars?

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  3. I didn't really notice before.. probably because I try to avoid shows with an all female cast on the front like the plaque (and consequently end up watching a lot of shounen :( )
    But I suppose the problem you mentioned is just an extension of the Kotaku problem they seem to have over there. The way I understand it, it's almost forbidden for female Idols to admit to being in a relationship, lest they're abandoned by their fans for being perceived as a slut, and even receive death threats.
    So I guess the neutered or hopeless male archetype is just a way to a) make sure the male audience doesn't feel threatened and b) the female characters don't enter any form of meaningful relationship beyond "BAKA!", and thus remain 'pure'.

    Neutered and non-threatening guys also seem to be pretty popular with female audiences, which I find to be pretty understandable, considering that it's probably a good way to avoid the aforementioned psychos.

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  4. I think this opinion article would have more merit if it talked about the shows after they were finished airing. That, or if you chose other examples of finished works.

    In TT, apart from ep7 where the girls curse the boys, I don't think the boys were treated badly at all. I do agree that they haven't been explored in depth as the girls have been yet, but we still don't know if they won't. And I would say the same goes for KC. If I may, I would say that the boys in the said titles are not treated equally as opposed to be treated badly. (Of course some may equate that)

    When you're talking about bad treatment, Ben-to comes to mind where the MC is constantly abused by this lesbian, and ZnT where the MC is whipped for the majority of the first two and half seasons.

    Also, this topic goes both ways since girls are treated badly as well in anime. Just putting that out there even if its irrelevant to the topic.

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    1. Ben-To has it both ways, not only does she abuse him, later in the novels he basically un-lesbians her. Which is spectacularly offensive as well.

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    2. Damn really? That's a whole another ballgame. I dropped it after four episodes so I didn't know that. Like WTF?

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    3. Yeah, the anime doesn't get to that point, but basically she makes out with him once and straightens right out.

      Ben-To suffers from bad gender politics all around.

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    4. Well you know Vanth, I did quite clearly speak to why I think this kind of gender fantasyland is equally as bad for girls as it is for boys. So I neither think it's "irrelevant" or that it's necessary for you to bring it up, since I already did so.

      I don't want to turn this into a laundry list of first-degree offenders or it would go on forever. Ben-To and ZnT are certainly two highly offensive examples.

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    5. "I think this opinion article would have more merit if it talked about the shows after they were finished airing"

      "I dropped [Ben-to] after four episodes so I didn't know that"

      LOL great job making a point only to contradict yourself! Plus, I don't see it so much as MC constantly abused by a lesbian, but rather slapstick where a woman beats up a pervert. No one complains when Ichiko beats up Bobby in Binbougami Ga! only because the perverseness is blatant. Ume had the added level of personal resentment towards Saito, so now it's offensive? I don't see it that way, but I can understand the feeling. Male characters in TT are more bullied than beaten up, and I actually find that more offensive (especially since all the characters in TT treat it as normal).

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    6. Well, I never took Ben-to to be very political, so I wouldn't say that it suffered from it. And the homosexual exorcism is the Mangaka's idea, is it not?

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  5. Wakana's father (Tari Tari) and Daikichi from Usagi Drop are the last male characters that come to mind who didn't fall into one of the above-mentioned categories. But then I feel it is asking too much to have realistic and full depiction be the norm. Anime seems to have decided a while ago, strong male leads were unrelatable and that it is more interesting to compound ineffectual qualities in their male characters. Doing the former I don't think is the issue, it's how they've always chosen to do it that seems to have brought us to where we are with most male characters. Pazu and Kouki have gone shounen and unfortunately they won't be back.

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    1. I have no illusions that it's going to be the norm, but I don't think it's wrong to suggest that it should be - or to hope that it might at least be a slightly less rare exception.

      It's not as if there are no other good representations of males - though I'm more focused on teens here, and both the examples you cite are adults. Indeed, I could point out Kotetsu Kabaragi from T & B, Mutta from Uchuu Kyoudai... Again though, adult males, non-threatening mentor figures. There are boys that are complex, sympathetic and fascinating - the Tsuritama cast, Taichi and Arata from Chihayafuru - but they're as rare as the white buffalo. I have no hope that they'll become the majority, but they don't need to be as rare as they are.

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    2. They need to focus less on teens (in general). Too much anime takes place in a school setting as it is.

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    3. Unsure about what constitutes non-threatening here or from what standpoint. I can see Keisuke Sakai (Wakana's father) fitting this model, but not Daikichi.

      I did forget that Oreki (teen) from Hyouka is actually a very good male lead in a slice of life series. After all, he can trace his offhand lineage to Kyon (The Melancholy of S. Haruhi). Other than Oreki, I'd be hard pressed to name another, but it should be said, I'm not really watching a large portion to what's offered this summer.

      And yes, it'd be great if anime did focus less on teens in general. The focus on teen inner life has the bizarre quality of that Madoka assertion regarding girls and the emotional power they're capable of generating. All other life is less sentient, more wooden block.

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  6. It too also irks me that Tari Tari and Kokoro are really good shows but they really need to focus on the male characters. Honestly, I'm sick of the K-ON approach: pretend men don't exist and OMG CUTE GIRLS DOING CUTE THINGS SO KAWAII~. If you're going to have male main characters and not do ANYTHING with them then you might as well not have had them in the first place.

    It's also a matter of hypocrisy: an all guys show doesn't necessarily mean OH TEH GAAAY EW DO NOT WANT (though KimiBoku or Oofuri pushes the boundaries on that..), seriously Tsuritama is the perfect example of this. Nothing was ever implied with Haru, Yuki, Akira and Natsuki just a tale of friendship with a bit of a twist. For some reason I'm reminded of Nazo no Kanojo X when I talk about Tsuritama: they both are essentially normal stories (friendship in Tsuri, high school romance in NazoKano) but with one thing that makes them stand out (alien fish versus saliva), and I felt that NazoKano did a great job with Tsubaki: he's plain but we guys can relate to him. Can we relate to Aoki, Taichi (Tari Tari) or Wien? Would be nice, had these two shows have some development on them. Heck, for TT I'll take Wien development and no Taichi development and be a happy camper. Honestly, all I want is to have male characters get their fair share of attention and what really infuriates me is when you have these main male MC's and do nothing with them while spending a lavish amount of time on the females, who may or may not be well suited for such lavish airtime.

    Though about your comment on the anime is business: I do agree that Ano Natsu had really nice main characters (ironically Kaito and Taichi from Tari Tari have the same seiyuu), but when the show hits the Blu-ray release: It's nothing but Ichika, Kanna, Mio, Remon, Kanna and Mio and the last volume will probably feature the rest of them, none of which feature Kaito or Tetsurou except on the standard (read: less important) release and not featured on the Taraku Uon illustrated cover. It is a business to feature the cute girls and leave the guys out and while I can understand and (grudgingly) respect that, it's the issue of are guys treated badly in the anime itself and the answer is usually yes.

    Sorry for the long post but I was going to write a post like this but you said exactly what I wanted to say in a shorter post and more structured.

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    1. webkid, yeah, the disparity on BD covers and promo art is pretty striking and rather silly, and indicative of where the money lies. But I'd like to think the folks buying Ano Natsu are doing so mostly because of the content. I'd take a show with deceptive covers but strong male and female cast over the opposite any day.

      NazoKano is a great example of a story that served both sexes well, I agree, and I thought of it when I commented about males writing an authentic male experience. Tsubaki does work extremely well as a realistic male lead, and that show feels totally authentic despite its fantastical elements. And that's despite it being told very much from a male perspective - the girl is basically so exotic to the boy that she's presented as an alien (or giant robot, in the mangaka's own words). It's a very honest and funny series about the experience of being a boy discovering love, and it has a boy's-eye view of girls that's neither demeaning or worshipful.

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    2. Why should the gay male experience be excluded from an anime about guys? It is an authentic male experience, isn't it? And one that really isn't present much in anime.

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    3. Because that doesn't fit Enzo's definition of manliness.

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    4. I would love to see the gay male experience given serious consideration in anime, and never suggested otherwise. I've said so in my blog posts many times. If nothing else, it would be hilarious to watch the closed-minded otaku who squee every time yuri is hinted at but piss themselves every time two guys have a conversation have their heads explode like "Scanners".


      You know, Fence, instead of turning what I hoped would be a serious debate into your own personal pissing contest and flaming me on Twitter, why don't you make a post on this subject using your own bully pulpit and let people take potshots at you for a change? You seem completely incapable of having a debate without making it nasty and personal.

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    5. @Enzo

      Just ban this guy. All he does is deliberately provoke, flame and bully people if your view on a matter is different to his. He is impossible to have a serious discussion with and all he does is cause a shitstorm. His assholeness here is one tenth on what hes like on ANN. He would be banned many times already if he was on Animesuki.

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    6. webkid was the one who said " OH TEH GAAAY EW DO NOT WANT (though KimiBoku or Oofuri pushes the boundaries on that..)"

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    7. Was referring to Fencedude. Should have mentioned.

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  7. Na I disagree. You are just obsessing that guys just don't take as much lime light.

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  8. Transformers, Avengers, Iron Man 2, Thor, Twit light and GI Joe.

    The above a recent Hollywood blockbusters than in my opinion are sexist. While the well documented rise of Moe has made most outsiders believe that anime is just a medium for portraying unrealistically cute cartoon girls, I think that all mediums, particularly on-screen form, are sexist in different ways.

    In the above list the three superhero ones, treat woman as nothing more than a sexual object(Black Widow hardly had any meaningful lies but damn was she good on the eyes) or a love comfort. Transformers and GI Joe try to make sexed woman important when they're anything but. Twit light is the reverse in that woman are hysterically emotional and men have no sex drive until she says she's ready.

    When Avatar came out, James Cameron won less Oscars than his ex-wife who made a wonderful film in Broken Locker, but her movie made a mere fraction of his. The general public don't want a movie about feelings about both men and women. They don't want to watch people who aren't sexy. They don't pay to go watch real life.

    What they want is action, sex and audacious plans working, despite it constantly being called impossible. And that is prevalent across all screen mediums. There are rare exceptions that are both critical and commercial hits but most people want to be entertained not lectured.

    We watch movies, animes, TV series because there isn't enough in our life to keep us entertained. I only started watching massive amounts of anime after I graduated from the various school teams. So men who aren't men and women who aren't women are going to keep on coming because that is simply what keeps the company alive. We, the minority have to just hope that something that we can enjoy without pointing out mistakes comes along or dumb ourselves enough to enjoy most shows.

    That's democracy, the majority wins.

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    1. 1. black widow contributed positively to the Avengers
      2. Transformers was directed by Micheal Bay, so of course it's sexist.
      3. James Cameron can't write decent dialogue or believable characters, especially villans (Avatar and Titanic. They were cartoonishly evil)
      4. James Cameron's ex-wife's film was called the "Hurt Locker", which makes you kind of sexist for not knowing it and still using it to prove a point on sexism.

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  9. I agree with a lot of your individual points about male characters being pretty lousy and the mostly stupid things people told in response (amounting to "tough luck, like it or go watch Naruto").

    Anime has a serious male character and particularly male lead problem. 99% of them are terrible. Unfortunately, you choose to ignore the actual reason and brush it aside aside in the second paragraph, because if you accept that this is a result of it being made largely by men and for men, then you couldn't complain about misandry.

    We have crappy male leads because they are rarely much more than an audience insert vehicle. Many of these shows are blatant male wish fulfillment, surrounding the male audience avatar with a bunch of cute girls for them to fantasize about. Thus, the male target audience is not interested in their characterization and development,the creators of both the original novels/manga anime know this, and so they rare bother putting the effort into them.

    This is a problem in part for the reasons you mentioned. Almost every male lead is, at best, a slight variation of a small handful of types and they all blend together very quickly. Most of them barely have a personality at all and you simply can't get a good and interesting relationship and story out of that.

    But there's another problem. A distinctly misogynist problem. In addition to being a bland, cardboard cutout of a character, the male lead is, by default, the hero. And the show will make sure he gets to be the hero. All those Episodes 3 and 4 of Kokoro Connect is a prime example of this, in which Taichi has to help all of the girls with their issues. Oda Nobuna no Yabou has been particularly offensive with this. 'Male lead fixes the girls' problems for them' is pretty much a constant of anime, regardless of the particular genre or sub-genre.

    For all your complaints about how bad males have it, males are still the default for main characters. This year has been relatively good, with about five shows in which there was no male lead and was not some 4-koma(-ish) "cute girls just do cute things" show(i.e. K-On, Acchi Kocchi, Yuru Yuri) and maybe, on rare occasions, a slightly more serious "high school life" show like Kuragehime. Action and plot oriented shows having a female main/lead/viewpoint character is fairly rare, though this year has been pretty good, especially Winter. But in the three years prior, each season had about one such show (and some had zero) with maybe, at best, 2-3 more that fell in that other 4-koma/slice-of-life category, or was a reverse harem or otherwise shoujo show. Then you'd have about 20 shows with male leads.

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    1. "And why should we be satisfied with a medium where anime males exist only as avenues to explore the female characters?"

      So I would turn this around and ask... should we be satisfied with a medium where anime females are almost entirely explored through the male characters?

      "The same shows that depict males as idiotic sex-fiends or neutered and passive viewer avatars when they’re present at all tend to either objectify girls as impossibly moe, virtuous and pure - or merely objectify them as sexual objects. "

      This is false, in several ways. First, you present this as if there are only two bad ways to present female character's negatively. There are other ways and they are done all the time, regardless of how the show presents its male characters. Gundam AGE is a prime example of a show that is horribly misogynist but not in either of the ways you mentioned (though in the case of some characters, it would lean towards the first one.) And one of the few shows that IS presenting and developing interesting male characters has a pure moe waifu. I loved Hyouka's festival arc and Houtarou and Satoshi are among the few male characters I like, but Eru is precisely what you described. "Impossibly moe, virtuous and pure" sounds like a pretty apt description of her. She's pretty much the epitome of "moe-blob waifu". You can also have well developed, interesting male characters while the females are just fanservice objects. Or are just there to be the token girlfriend/love interest/hostage.

      "But I also know that there are many recent examples of shows that treat the male cast as every bit as complicated and important as the girls that have done quite decently on Blu-ray or DVD – or even both."

      Some certainly have... and at least as many have bombed while at least as many with the poor male characters have done far better. I think you'd have a hard time showing any correlation between the quality of the male characters and sales.

      "There have always been shows with all-girl casts, and shows with idiotic male characters – but those shows being an overwhelming majority is a relatively recent phenomenon."

      Shows will all-girl (even just primary) casts are in the distinct minority. You can find maybe about 3 a season. The vast majority of shows have at least a major male character as one of the main characters, and most of them have a male lead/viewpoint character. And yes, I agree that the majority of them are terrible.

      If you wanted to just argue that female characters make up the overwhelming majority of major/primary cast members, then you'd have a point. And I'd point out that that's pretty much a complete reversal (just in terms of sex division in raw numbers, not in how both are portrayed) from the anime character population from the beginning of anime until about the late 90s.

      I also don't think most male characters were much better in previous eras of anime, they just used different character types. They were just as poorly written and developed, but they were more of the power-fantasy variety (i.e. hot-blooded mecha pilots and generic shonen jump heroes), though I relate to them just as poorly as the harem male cardboard cutout.



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    2. Agreed. The anime industry is as guilty of Mary Sue (Gary Stu) as Twilight is.

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  10. Enzo's starting to push out editorials, eh? Editorials are fun to read---I'm happy you're trying this kind of blogging out. ^_^

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  11. When you find yourself thinking that anime is *misandrist*, Genzo, you've seriously missed almost 80% of the fanservicey crap that exists merely objectify women, and put them in their place.

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    1. I really like your stuff Enzo, and I agree that the treatment of the guys in Tari Tari/KC is shitty, but gotta agree with this post.

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    2. You're completely missing my point if that's what you think. Yes, those crappy fanservice shows are crap - they do a disservice to both genders. That's the whole point - they're two different symptoms of the same disease.

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  12. WTF. You're gender discriminating.

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  13. I remember in the 90's, we had badass male protaganist like Vash, Spike, Gene Starwin and even vegita. Now they're wimpy and are just in a anime to put female protaganists over.

    I think the only good anime Main male Character is Akatsuki from Hagure Yuusha no Estetica. If all animes had Akatsuki as a MC all anime's would be so much better

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    1. Those are shounen shows.

      "Setting aside shounen action series and sports,..."

      Learn to read

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    2. Are you fricking kidding me?

      A guy who goes around molesting the female cast in his show is a good character? Now you'll tell me that Humbert Humbert was actually a nice person and Dolores was a cheating whore.

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    3. Yeah, I think it's a little much to call a guy who goes around sexually harassing the entire cast a good example of a male protagonist.

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    4. It's either that or a MC who constantly gets beaten up by all the girls, which is way more normal. At least Hagure went for originality.

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    5. So it's one extreme or the other? Screw that, they're both horrible archetypes. =/

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    6. Are you serious? We just had Okarin like a year ago. Even Ararararagi is pretty badass.

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    7. Rintaro wasn't bad. Although Kurisu was a bitch to him without any provocation (Tsundere archetypes need to die!)

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    8. Well in all honesty I think she had plenty of reason for treating him as she did. I mean yes she could've toned it down a bit, but it wasn't uncalled for or anything considering how Okabe acts. xD

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    9. Yes but he was doing that to get back at her for how she treated him when they first met.

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  14. I think there's a bit of confirmation bias involved here. We have two shows this season that have this issue, and it's a huge problem, but there are also shows from this season that you hold up as examples of not having this problem, as well as multiple examples of shows from last season and the season before that. Yet it's being presented as an inexorable trend.

    A similar trend has been noted in US commercials for the past two-and-a-half decades. Fathers have been dopes, morons, useless. Yet this trend has been reversing in the past couple years, as fathers become more decision makers and role models. It's a cyclical process, and I have no doubt it will come around to a more balanced state.

    I don't know enough about Japanese culture at the moment to know where it is relative to US culture, but it wouldn't surprise me to hear that it's a decade or so behind as far as feminist issues. And that would put it right in the trough of the same "weak-male" portrayals that we'd seen here. But I think that, too, is cyclical, and will eventually balance out, as we've seen in the shows you point out from recent seasons.

    Are there going to be shows with poor treatment of both genders? Sure. But holding up two current shows against multiple other current and recent shows seems like handwaving away the data you don't like.

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    1. @Highway- I agree with your points completely. It's sad Enzo doesn't understand it.

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    2. I understand it perfectly. I just happen to think it's wrong.

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    3. That's like totally your opinion.

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  15. but there are also shows from this season that you hold up as examples of not having this problem...

    I'm confused by this charge, as I don't think I talked about any other shows that premièred this season - can you elaborate? I'm also hard-pressed, frankly, to think of any character-driven summer shows that feature strong and realistic male characters - teenaged ones, anyway. Hazuki from Natsuyuki Rendezvous is probably the closest, but he's 23 (and interestingly seems to be much-hated by many viewers, IMHO largely because he doesn't have any "male lead" check marks).

    There are a couple of carryovers that might count - Hyouka has pretty good male characters - but the fact that an exception exists doesn't disprove the existence of a trend. There are always going to be exceptions.

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    1. I was talking about the carryovers, like Space Brothers. Thinking about it, I also think that the male characters in Oda Nobuna hold their own pretty well. The problem is that your 'trend' is exemplified by two shows in order to show it's worse now. Yet, there are at least two current shows that are mentioned counter to this. And then more shows from immediately previous seasons. I think that's a little overextrapolating about the direness of the trend.

      I also think it's in the realm of confirmation bias to exclude shounen and sports shows from discussion. It's somewhat like saying that sports shows are misogynist because they don't have many strong female leads.

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    2. Oda Nobuna's got a serious "mansplaining" issue with regards to Saru and Nobuna.

      She can't get anything done till Modern Japanese Male explains it to her.

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    3. Surprisingly, Fence and I agree on Oda Nobuna (see my comments on why I dropped it). In addition to a loli-fixation that borders on Ro-Kyu-Bu levels of ickiness, I find it to be one of the most subtly chauvinistic series in quite a while.

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    4. But isn't part of the complaint here that males are getting the short end of the stick because of overt female chauvinism in shows like Tari Tari? I agree that two wrongs don't make a right, but it also refutes the point that males are singled out for poor treatment as a trend.

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    5. It doesn't refute it in the slightest. As I quite clearly said, I think both genders are ill-served by this skewed worldview. And how does the existence of shows that present females badly suggest that the treatment of boys isn't getting worse? At the least they're independent questions, and I'd argue there's even a direct relationship.

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    6. The male gender can also stand to take a bit of abuse.

      I find it hard to get upset that some male characters get treated less than amazingly when we have a mainstream, primetime, newest-installment-in-30-year-old-franchise show that quite literally treats women as disposable objects.

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    7. My golly you just want to feel macho.

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    8. Thank God for AGE, Fence, because that's your justification for about 98% of your arguments no matter the subject.

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    9. And yet you have never substantially engaged on it. Not once.

      Oh god the horror that Konatsu, Sawa and Wakana were a bit snippy to Taichi and Wien, but absolutely Not. One. Word. about how no fewer than THREE female characters have been KILLED solely to advance Kio's character development.

      But yes, a couple of high school guys being minorly inconvenienced is a goddamn tragedy.

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    10. Thank God for AGE, because its a good litmus test for whether people care about how female characters are portrayed remotely as much as they pretend to.

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    11. It's not my job to defend AGE, and it doesn't do anything to refute my point. In fact I've ripped AGE many new ones over the course of its run when it deserved it - I just don't happen to be obsessed with it. It's a prime example of a series that doesn't do characters well, period. And it seems not to be trying to.

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    12. No, in fact you haven't. In fact you have managed to cover almost every one of AGE's flaws except this one.

      And you can't seriously expect us to take your opinions on this topic seriously if you don't even pretend to acknowledge the other side of the issue.

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    13. Dude, what's your obsession with AGE? It's like you love that series. Is it really GE's fault that AGE's flaws are so numerous?
      And LOL did you just accuse GE of being a misogynist? It is what you're implying "because he can't see how women are being mistreated, he can't comment on how men are being mistreated." Honestly, who decided that rule?
      Have I complained about the inherent absence of human logic since the beginning of Guilty Crown since the start of episode 1 (something a lot of people seem to neglect. I mean, c'mon! who doesn't set up a perimeter to search for a stolen item right after arresting someone? but i digress..)? Of course I have. In fact, I was shocked at how no one seemed to notice this flaw since the beginning. they kept saying how great the first episode was. Did I harp on about it ages after the series went off the air? Hell, no! I moved on. I got past it. I disagreed with GE about kiritsugu in F/Z, but i don't hound him on the subject. I don't spam him on twitter. learn to let go of your anger, my friend. if you keep this up for too long, no one's going to listen to you anymore. they'll just think Fence is nerdraging and ignore all your feedback.

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    14. Just stfu fence. No one here gives a shit about AGE because to be Frank its not a good show. Who gives a damn about complaining about bad elements in a already bad show. Although I don't agree with Enzo's notion if the severity of male character treatment as he implies that's his opinion and he presented it constructively unlike you who is just being an ass just because his opinion is not the same as yours.

      Enzo likes Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect a lot and both are great shows. However hes upset that male characters are getting shafted. Legitimate criticism. Simple as that.

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  16. There is a bit of Genre at work here. Certain anime genres have traditionally been dominated by male characters, like shounen and sports like you said. In fact, there are many good examples of male emotional development in sports shows - The Big Windup, for example.

    On the other hand, the Slice-of-life genre is dominated by girls ever since it started. The slice-of-life derived light drama shows are also focused on girls, Hanasaku and Tari Tari both being in this category. Before these shows showed up, there was probably an argument that girls were treated badly since they were either stereotypes or sex objects in a lot of shows. Perhaps it is because more SOL-type shows have started to show up does anime seem to have a gender-imbalance issues in the other direction.

    However, I don't really think the main stream shows have really suffered from this problem. Kirito is probably better developed in SAO than any of the female characters, and he doesn't fall into any of the "4 big" categories. Fate/Zero doesn't have this problem, neither did Sankarea. In fact, we had the manly trifecta of Tsuritama - Space Bros - and Sakamachi just last season. Even Nazo no Kanojo was much more about Tsubaki than anything else.

    Most of the major shows in the previous few seasons (Guilty Crown, Penguindrum, Ano Natsu, Ano Hana) have all focused at least equally on the male-side. Madoka Magica is different, but that's probably the exception. This is also a year after Okarin, arguably one of the best male characters ever in anime.

    The last couple of seasons has seen some shows like Rinne and Symphogear that featured al-girl casts that doesn't fit into the SOL-type genre. I recall people finding this development refreshing, not sexist.

    Long story short, I don't really think there has been any kind of a clear shift in gender balance in anime recently, and I certainly don't think males are being treated badly.

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    1. Did you just reference SAO as "character development"? That wouldn't be too hard, considering no characters had much development. These are isolated side-stories. So far no one's made the effort connect character behavior in between episodes to create the illusion of development.

      Did you also just reference Guilty Crown as an example of gender equality? GC is probably one of the best examples of misogynistic undertones in an anime series. It doesn't matter about screen time. Female characters were threatened rape until the man comes to save them.

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    2. I wouldn't hold Guilty Crown up to any standard except "insulting to everyone". Which it pretty much was.

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  17. This is so biased because you're male. Just because the girl gets more screen time than the guy, don't forget it goes the other way too. There are much more animes that cast them aside and show abuse. Fine, the guys in might seem like they are being abused but that's because it's in the heat of the moment. #feminism

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    1. Heat of the moment doesn't justify abuse either. Feminism or no feminism.

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  18. Great post. I've always thought that the reason for this is because, well, the stereotypical Japanese male otaku, who is late-night anime's primary target audience, is most interested in seeing female characters with the trope personalities they like. Hence, all the merchandise such as figures and other goods feature the female characters much more often than the males. So the anime that target the male otaku have the incentive to give their attention to creating likable female characters while using the males for the reasons you mentioned. I agree that this doesn't make for good story telling, and while I enjoy a lot of anime that follows this formula, I would like to see more emphasis on characterization for males besides in shonen anime (with actually has the opposite problem due to target audience - in shonen anime the female characters are often down-played in favor of the males). Shows that present genuinely interesting male teenage characters, like in Sakamich no Apollon and AnoHana, are few and far between, but hopefully we'll see more.

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    1. Yes. Japanese "fans"(although I am loathe to call them such) are the source of the problem. Change them you change the market.

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    2. It's not about good story for them. It's about them getting their jollies off with the assistance of ♀ eye candy.

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  19. Wow this editorialhas a ton of comments!

    So first to all of the people saying "Why can't anime favor girls? Other mediums favor guys or are sexist toward girls?"(or that general feeling) your point is moot, just because other mediums are sexist toward girls anime should be sexist towards guys? That is horrible logic. "If John steals that car why can't I?" is what your pretty much saying

    I agree heartily with Enzo in that a lot of shows males either fit into his stereotypes or are conduits that highlight the girls(small roles). It's a shame that the majority of people keeping the anime industry alive have such power over what kind of programming/content that gets shown. Don't get me wrong I like the all girl shows too but I'd like to have more options. I think the reason why otaku have such power is the size of the anime industry itself in recent years. When anime was booming in the 90s and early 2000s ,while not mainstream, other audiences definitely had more of an impact of what kind of content studios and producers were willing to make.

    It's not like they aren't trying though I mean there are some programs recently that I was surprised when I found out tehy were getting an anime adaptation like

    1. Level E
    2. Jojo's Bizarre Adventure reboot

    The art style alone on those made me take notice. There are other shows too which have interesting male characters but also highlight females like TWGOK

    The most we as anime viewers/supporters can do is watch/buy shows that aren't the run of the mill typical ones to let producers in Japan take notice and be a lot more willing to take chances on perhaps a show that doesn't have the typical tropes of today's industry.

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  20. Honest question: what do you mean by "emasculation"? Do you believe there is a standard of maleness that all male characters should be judged by?

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    1. Well, let's put it this way - you don't see Esthetica blogged here. It's fine if that's your thing, but I'm not looking for that sort of thing as some kind of beacon of ideal maleness.

      The best example of emasculation in recent anime - and I apologize for belaboring the point, but it is - Hanasaku Iroha. It's humiliating the males and making them out to be ineffectual and stupid. That kind of thing is offensive when it happens to males, and it's offensive when it happens to females. Rinne no Lagrange was cited by a commenter and I saw some signs of that in S1, but I'm not following S2 so I can't speak to that. Ben-To is certainly another prime example.

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    2. Rinne no Lagrange? Seriously? I guess they were talking about Array, but...yeah. No.

      Also, I don't think Ko was emasculated, just boring.

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    3. Rinne started off very nearly into outright misandry, but it was noticeable most of the side characters were reworked after ep 3. (The main cast is female, so it's all about the side characters in that regard) Very likely this was where Sato was brought in as Chief Director to recover it. There's a big difference between having a central female cast be strong characters and having your central cast be "strong" wholly in comparison to completely incompetent males.

      Rinne saved itself and there's really not much left of that issue, but it's was a big red flag there in the early going. Though the series isn't exactly a triumph of strong writing on the whole. ("Yuri-love conquers all!" could be its tag line) But it's not outright sexist.

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    4. Wait, what? That makes no sense. What characters, specifically, are you talking about?

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    5. Tadakoro mostly, but also the assistant. The Trio's character arcs (at the periphery) also helped out in that regard. You have a military base commander that's being brow-beaten by a school principal for no reason. That just isn't going to happen in much of any universe. He got reworked into the commander from Top Gun. Stern & practical, but still the butt of unintentional jokes.

      It also helped the series also finally owned up some of the silliness of how it operated. The first season antagonist was playing Wii Fitness on a Xbox. You can't take it too seriously. But in the early going, the only male characters were incompetent, evil, whipped or a combination of those traits. That was a pretty big red flag. Thankfully, it didn't continue down that road, as I rather like the series, even for its hefty doses of stupidity.

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    6. Seriously? That is enough for you to start screaming "misandry"?

      Then I expect you are frothing at the mouth over how female characters are treated in...oh almost every show in every genre in every medium ever, right?

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    7. Wait, you're complaining about the realism of a non-military person chewing out a military guy (which has totally never happened before, no way!) in a show in which the basic premise is "Giant robots bad-touch underage girls for the sake of saving the universe"?

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    8. Well, I guess any subtlety can't be too expected, so I'll just put it this way:

      - Plots & stories tend to go in 1 direction from the beginning of a series. When Rinne started, there were a lot of red flags that it would descend into outright "men = evil; women = good". But note "red flags". When you're 3 eps into a series, you can only go by what you're presented with. The series shifted all over the place until the final story arc, as there was obviously a change in design for much of the character progression.

      So, when you're 3 episodes in and the military commander of a City-State, 2nd in command of an entire organization that can boss around the USA, is sitting like a school boy being brow-beaten by a high school principal that doesn't know what she's talking about.. yes, there's a monster red flag for there being a lot of problems.

      Rinne went in a different direction and didn't fall into the trap of "addition by subtraction", but all of the possibilities were there at the very beginning and it was very worrying.

      There is a difference between stupid writing that insults everyone (Guilty Crown) and intentionally making an entire group of people unnaturally weak to artificially boost a different set of characters in your story. Rinne had a very strong presentation to the latter at the beginning and it was a serious concern.

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    9. So, when you're 3 episodes in and the military commander of a City-State, 2nd in command of an entire organization that can boss around the USA, is sitting like a school boy being brow-beaten by a high school principal that doesn't know what she's talking about.. yes, there's a monster red flag for there being a lot of problems.

      What did you want him to do? Scream and yell at her? Smack her around? He wanted permission to have Madoka work with Novumundus, and while in theory they could have just taken Madoka, why do that? If getting yelled at for 15 minutes ends up with what he wants, without making enemies, isn't that a good tradeoff? Tadokoro lost nothing in that exchange, except for maybe a bit of embarrasment, and no one ever died from that. And Novumundus got what they wanted. Though it rather turns out that Madoka was going to do whatever the fuck she wanted anyway.

      Now, if you want to see a military officer unnaturally presented as "weak", I would like to present Natola Einus "captain" of the DIVA, I say "captain" because she has been shown to be incapable of doing anything without Flit or another male character telling her what to do first. She actually suffers precisely what you say Tadokoro underwent, and instead of it being only once, its been FOR THE ENTIRE ARC.

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    10. I think you may have read a little too much into it. Yes, there were signs of misandry (but oddly enough, only towards Tadakoro), but besides animosity towards Tadakoro, no other forms ever came to fruition. Since the first season has been completed, we can only say "look how bad it might have been", but in truth it wasn't as bad as you describe it to be. What about Hiroshi (from BWH)? He was never mistreated and came off as a wise person. What I'm trying to say is you can't use a series as an example of misandry when in the grand scheme of things that's just not true.

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  21. The last ideal male character I witnessed was Daikichi from Usagi Drop. God, I loved that show. In almost all primarily plot-based shows since then (this excludes the gem Danshi Koukousei), male characters have tended to be nothing more than plot devices. I love Kokoro Connect dearly, but the guys really are nothing but vessels to develop the girls. Still, there's not a doubt in my mind that Aoki and Taichi will have their day in the sun and I will finally feel some sympathy for them.

    I don't have too much of a gripe with the state of male characters since I think it will end up as just a passing trend. In a year, we'll all find something else to criticize (last year it was "Are we worshiping the innocent little girl in anime?"), and that's fine, because it means the landscape of the medium in question is changing rather than stagnating. And I'm totally in favor of the endless paradigm shift, especially right now since I agree that the issue at hand is quite disconcerting.

    And so, now that I want to watch some well-crafted male characters in action, I'll be over here watching some Kuroko no Basuke. Thank goodness for sports anime.

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    1. I hope you're right, Jim, but I don't see this so much as a flavor of the week as a gradually worsening trend. And until the kind of marketing that drives this drivel stops being financially rewarded so much, I don't see things improving. Again, I hope you're right (about Aoki and Taichi, too, though I'm likewise skeptical).

      Daikichi is awesome - but he's a non-threatening guy in his 30's who's primary role (no manga spoilers please, this is anime we're talking about) is as a mentor/protector and thus, allowed to be complex and interesting.

      And heh, I confess I find the characters in KnB less than compelling - dramatically it just isn't clicking with me.

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  22. You frame it as a comment about anime in general, then you exclude some genre, then you use shows from a generally more female focussed genre as exemples(an anon already made that point up there and for Tari Tari, the guys were not even featured in some of the main promo pictures) and you finish by implying it's a problem with all anime.
    If we consider all anime, I could make the complaint that girls are badly characterised in yaoi or otome show too. If we just consider some genre, you can't make it a statement about all anime.

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  23. The problem here is balance, you don't make your male character weak or lame to highlight the girls, or make your female character damsels in distress to highlight the guys, both need to be treated like characters with development, problems, background and personality, if you don't, it severely affects the whole show.

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    1. especially in TT, where the guys are being advertised as part of the main ensemble cast. So far, they still don't have much to do in the story; they don't have a role in the main plot. This imbalance is exacerbated by the fact that TT was advertised before the start of the season as an "original anime." Unfortunately, in this case, "original" = "a lot of the same we've seen already"

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  24. "One poster suggested that the male characters don’t need trauma or complex emotions or arcs devoted to them - as long as there are guys whose actions drive the plot, and as long as they function as avenues through which to explore the female characters, that’s all that’s needed."

    This isn't what I either said or implied at all, though (but I like how you set-up the straw man so you could tear it down, both here and on the Forum). Having trauma and complex emotions at the center *isn't the only way* to develop characters whether male or female. You need characters to take different roles at different times in the story. Sometimes, they're the subject being explored; other times, they're the vessel through which the exploration is done. It's very difficult if not impossible to have all characters be undone in the same way equally all at once, particularly when it's the interactions with each other that develop the issues. This isn't an issue of "equal airtime". But I would also say that not all *characters* (gender independent) need to be developed through trauma and emotional complexes because -- in fact -- not everyone faces those kinds of issues. It is okay for characters in a story (whatever the gender) to be developed in other ways. Equal characterization does just mean equal trauma.

    At the end of the day, the issue really isn't about "male" or "female", except because you're making it about that. Forget gender; it makes no difference. They're just characters in a story. What I think you're really saying is that, in some stories, there are characters that are more dynamic, and others that are more static, and you believe that all characters should be equally dynamic for a show to be engaging to you. You're suggesting that when some characters are underdeveloped at the expense of others (perhaps relying on stereotypes or static archetypes), it hurts your enjoyment of the show. Okay, that's a fine argument if you want to make it. But I think this argument gets easily lost when you frame it as "look at how bad guys are treated in anime" when in fact women are still much, much more marginalized in the medium on the whole. It makes the whole argument sound chauvinistic, which I assume you don't intend.

    At the end of the day, you have two shows that are based around a group of 5 characters, and so far it seems that some are being developed more than others, despite all being ostensibly presented as main characters. When phrased that way, it wouldn't seem that surprising to me; lots of shows present a full cast but develop some more than others (see VN-based anime that have multiple heroines with equal billing, but only a few end up in the spotlight while others are mostly marginalized, the source of great despair among shippers everywhere). At the end of the day, I mostly focus on enjoying the characterizations we get, and less on bemoaning the ones we miss... but that's just me.

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    1. I agree with what you've said, which is why I don't really think its much of a big deal that Taichi and Wien still haven't got their chance to shine even though they make me laugh every time they appear on the screen with their succinct comical timing. And like I said before, that its still too early to conclude that they won't get their time in the spotlight.

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    2. I'd be disappointed if they don't have the chance, but there's also nothing wrong with an anime using characters for comedy either.

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    3. If you feel I've misrepresented you RF, I quite sincerely apologize - TBH I thought I referenced your post almost word for word.

      To the meat of your comment, no - I don't think it's a matter of all characters being equally dynamic. I think that's nice and even ideal with some shows (not all), but for me gender is at the center of the problem. There's a great disparity between the number of female characters given serious development in character-driven shows (and those are the shows that matter in this context) and the number of males. That does a disservice to characters of both genders. The argument can't be separated from the gender question from my POV, as gender is at the very heart of the issue.

      Yes, in RL as in anime, not every character has traumas and complex emotional problems. Yet, over and over, we see girls treated as complex people with deep wells of emotion and guys as plot drivers (or worse). It's not a coincidence, and it's not acceptable to me as a fan of the medium. YMMV - if you're fine with things as they are, you have every right to be. Just as I have every right to bemoan what I see as a serious threat to the future of anime as a diverse medium that appeals to a diverse audience and even enlightens the human condition.

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    4. Well, you're allowed to see it this way if you want, but personally I think that you don't solve problems of gender equality by constantly focusing on whether one gender is being treated unfairly over another in one context or another. We're all people, and they're all characters. In my view, we'll know we're finally equal when people stop making arguments like "oh, you're just not giving him enough character depth because he's a guy".

      As many, many people have mentioned in the comments thus far, you've taken a small, isolated segment of the anime industry output ("the shows that matter in this context", according to you) and used it to make a proclamation that this is a widespread problem. Meanwhile, you make a sort of passing mention that "oh yeah, I don't like it when women are marginalized in a story either", while this problem is *much* more widespread across the anime industry.

      To me, anyway, it *comes across* (and again, I assume not what you intend) as if your male ego is somehow bruised that a women could *possibly* have more depth of character than a man, and that any time a man is present in a story, his role should certainly be no less than any woman. We've had *millennia* of stories where the men were the only ones with any depth whatsoever and women were little more than objects. Surely our male pride can "suffer" a few shows where the women are in the spotlight and the men are just along for the ride. Keeping in mind, of course, that the primary marketing angle of the show is to package these female characters as objects of admiration to a largely male audience anyway. It may not be misogyny, but there's still an element of objectification.

      Now again, because I don't think that's the angle you really intend to take (at least I assume it isn't), I think it's better to just talk about "dynamic characters", gender notwithstanding. That's an argument that I think has more traction.

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    5. Agree to disagree I guess, because you're certainly not representing anything close to the argument I'm making - it's nothing remotely close to what I actually said.

      I think you've got the blinders on if you think this is a small and isolated problem. But to paraphrase Newman, "As long as you're happy with the status quo, that's all that matters".

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    6. When did I ever say I was happy with the status quo? How could shows that have stronger characterizations for all characters be bad? But I think the way you're building the whole issue as a sort of "gender bias" against men is missing the mark considering the larger context, even within the anime industry. But yes, we'll have to agree to disagree.

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    7. For the life of me I can't understand this notion that by calling attention to one problem, you're denying the existence of all others.

      I'm sorry if the three paragraphs plus I devoted to the specific issue of females being badly treated by anime wasn't enough, but just because that wasn't the main point of my post that doesn't mean it's not something that bothers me - I would have thought my view on that was plain from what I wrote. The whole point of this is that the problems aren't independent of each other - they're not just related, but feed off each other. By ignoring the rapidly worsening marginalization, neutering and sheer idiotization of teenage males in anime, you're ensuring the continuation of the objectification and idealization of teenage girls.

      Has it gotten so bad that not only can't we have interesting and complex guys in anime, but even to wish we did is considered chauvinistic?

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    8. Gotta agree with Enzo here. I've thought countless times when I'm watching an anime that this show could be so better if only the male to female ratio is balanced. Guys are indeed given the short end of the stick in many anime and that only hurts the story because, if given the chance, they can spice up the story by actively interacting with the females and creating interesting situations. (Of course I wouldn't call this a grave problem)

      Anyway, the only beef I have with this article are the weak examples Enzo chose to illustrate his point. There are far worse shows which could've driven Enzo's solid argument home and that's one of the reasons why I named two titles that he could've used in one of my earlier posts.

      He's definitely doing something different by showcasing the problems faced by the other half. Countless articles have been written that highlight the problems faced by the women depicted in media including anime, therefore, focusing on males for a little while can be refreshing. I do wish he could've written problems faced by both genders in media but that would make the article way too long. I suppose he'll address the female issues in one of his future editorials.

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    9. Vanth, thanks for your balanced and low-key comment. The only thing I'll say in my own defense is that there's quite a bit of specific discussion in my original post about the problems faced by girls in anime. But it's as you say - that wasn't the main thrust of the post, and it was long enough as it is. And again, as you say, it's not as if discussions of the treatment of girls in anime are hard to find - and I don't see people being labeled as sexist for having them.

      Again, to the issue of why TT and KC, I think I make it clear in the original post why I chose those - it's because they're good shows in many other ways, and should have been natural candidates to do better with this gender bias than they have. If I wanted to make a list of the worst capitol offenders the post might have been as long as War and Peace - they certainly aren't hard to find, and the ones you mentioned are prime examples.

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    10. Of course, you made yourself clear and you are right. Its just a little knee-jerk reaction by the little fanboy in me because at first your article seemed kinda harsh on these titles... as if you brought out Goliath to pick on David for being annoying lol.

      But yeah, overall I do agree with you. ( ^‐^)_

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    11. I guess I will put it this way as way of trying to explain where I'm coming from. Most of the guys I have known who speak out most vehemently about the presence of strong male characters in fiction also tend to be the ones who seem to care the least about the portrayal of women. Their reason for wanting a stronger male presence is often simply so that he can conquer the female characters, in the most vile meaning of the word possible. This is something I have seen over and over in my years on the Forum, for example, and also in real life. Based on this experience/perspective, the idea that stronger male characters will result in the reduction in the objectification of women seems to run counter to my experience; the conclusion did not follow in my mind.

      Now, I admit that my experience do not necessarily reflect a representative sample of everyone. This is why I was trying to convey the way your comment *came across* to me, even though I knew in my head that this probably wasn't what you were intending to say. This is also why I was saying that phrasing the issue more about having strong characters all around seems -- to me -- to be a better argument, because to me it avoids this baggage and is an easier "sell".

      If I have judged you and your opinion too severely based on my prejudices and prior experience, then I apologize. But I hope this helps explain where I'm coming from, and why I still have doubts about your message. While you likely do truly mean well, I do fear that this "agenda" will only be corrupted by those who don't have nearly as balanced a view. Everyone's got their baggage, eh?

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    12. Addressing the issue that anime requires strong characters would be rather pointless, no? I'm pretty sure everyone knows that and there wouldn't be much to say on the issue other than, "Modern anime needs better characters. Here's some examples of shows that could have used them: x, y, z."

      The point of this piece was to highlight the decline in complex characterization on males in anime. Highlighting that fact and acknowledging that female characters suffer from similar problems (and probably have for a much longer period of time) are not mutually exclusive. If I could speak to young Jimhawk in the days of Toonami watching Dragonball and Gundam and later Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Outlaw Star, and others, I would tell him that all those shows have some very poorly developed female characters and that maybe that's something he should concern himself with. But I'd also let him know that there are bad male characters, as well as great male and female characters. Today's programming is the same, just with different proportions of these four encompassing categories.

      The purpose of this piece isn't to proclaim a large disparity in gender representation in regards to well-developed characters, but to simply point out that the male role has suffered as of late and that there has been a proportional increase in the amount of poorly portrayed males in relation to the other three categories I mentioned. I saw no agenda and no extreme opinions, just one person's subjective take on an observable trend.

      On that note, I see where relentlessflame is coming from and I don't even wholly agree with Enzo's viewpoint. I'm just glad that the issue has garnered discussion across the net. We all just want good characters all the time ^_^

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    13. RF, I can't control what baggage readers bring to the table when I write an opinion post. What applies to these people you refer to has nothing to do with me.

      My last thought on this is that I categorically reject the notion that I shouldn't dare speak up in defense of male characters in anime because unscrupulous women-haters will co-opt the discussion and turn it towards their own ends. If an open discussion of gender roles in anime is impossible for that reason, we're all screwed.

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    14. Isn't an "open discussion of gender roles in anime" exactly what has resulted anyway? It's not like I'm saying you "shouldn't dare speak up" or have any power whatsoever to shut you up on your own blog. That has never been my goal. I am only trying to share how the way you framed the discussion can be perceived by people with a different perspective on this issue. Because of that perception, which I do believe is somewhat prevalent, I provided a suggestion of another way to frame the issue, which you rejected. That's fine -- you can make whatever argument you want. But I think the approach has some weaknesses given cultural context that limit the power of the argument, and my goal was only to help you see why some might see it that way. It's not intended as either bile or vitriol, just part of the often-unpleasant honest conversation of gender-based roles and stereotyping.

      Indeed, you cannot control the perspectives people bring to the table. But, I think it is still relevant and needs to be considered.

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    15. Indeed, with some exceptions I think this has resulted in a very interesting and generally respectful discussion. But while I never thought you were challenging my right to start it, it sure sounded like you were saying it was a bad idea to do so.

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  25. I think there are well written male and female characters in anime but they certainly are not to be found in the all female cast & harem shows. Unless I hear very good reviews from people I trust I avoid these series like the plague.

    A great character should be well rounded, flawed,& experience growth, and hopefully not be stereotype. The character's gender should not even be a factor.

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  26. The funny thing is, this is the exact same kind of thing I used to be bothered by in anime... some 10? 15? years ago or so.

    I'm rather less bothered by it now, I think. Partially because, if anything, I think, portrayal of males in anime has actually improved since then. I personally can't quite recall any old anime with a male lead character so consistently focused on and developed as Okabe Rintarou, for example - I loved Trigun, but the fact is (like so many other manga-originated stories from that era) it became obvious from a writer's viewpoint that Vash's character wasn't something developed from the beginning, but developed from the middle, around when the author decided more character development was necessary rather than just 'funny/wacky/cool'. In fact, go back 10 years or so and you find some of the worst offenders of the useless male category - most egregious being those in harem shows like Love Hina and Ichigo 100%, but you also had Noir, where every male character was useless or an almost one-dimensional villain, for instance. At least these days most of the harem leads actually do something - and you can't argue that Araragi isn't explored (perhaps too deeply, even). As far as male character abuse - well. Love Hina had that, Trigun had that, go all the way back to the classic Ranma 1/2 and you see that in utter spades, way beyond almost anything in the current day. And quality shows will be quality shows in any time period - be it Haibane Renmei or 10 years ago, or the Steins;Gate or Madoka Magica of today.

    ...in fact, I'm curious. Can it really be called a 'bad trend in anime today' if I can point to a wealth of anime, across a large degree of genres, in the last few years with a perfectly good balance of male and female character development? Steins;Gate - Sankarea - Hyouka - Denpa teki Kanojo - Uchuu Kyodai - Nazo no Kanojo X - Working! - Nurarihyon no Mago - AnoHana - Darker than Black - Durarara - Hourou Musuko... the list goes on. And when you think about it, you can't really argue that shows like Accel World and Aquarion EVOL give balanced treatment to characters of both genres - they're just not well written (to a much, much greater degree in the latter, of course). Sword Art Online comes closer to being a biased treatment, but a lot of that is sadly due to the fact that the main character might as well be a walking plot device half the time.

    I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the two issues you're seeing (and they *are* two very distinct issues, which I feel you're doing a disservice to yourself by attempting to lump together) are indeed present, to a certain degree - but in my opinion, they've both been present for a very long time, and in fact have been getting better over the last decade or so. Baby steps, perhaps - but better than nothing, no?

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    1. To a certain extent this is like asking if the LeBron-era Heat could beat the Jordan-era Bulls (for the record, no) - comparing eras objectively isn't really possible (though less literally so here than with sports).

      If I agreed with you that "baby steps" are happening, would I still consider this a problem? Well, yes - less of one, I suppose, but if the problem exists it exists. The real issue for me, though, is that I don't share your view that things are getting better.

      I don't dispute that you can name your fair share of idiotic male characters from 2002 (or 1992, or 1997) anime - you cite some good examples. But part of that is that the percentage of male characters in anime was so much higher then that you were going to get more badly-written ones just by the law of averages.

      I also don't dispute that you can name some good ones in recent memory (though I don't agree with every one you cite) but exceptions don't disprove trends. A cold winter doesn't disprove climate change, and one or two good male characters per season don't mean the overall trend isn't bleak. I would also argue that citing shows that refute my argument because the males and females are equally bad is cold comfort, indeed. Is gender-balanced character disservice really a hopeful sign?

      I appreciate your comment - thanks for participating. I don't happen to agree with the substance of it - I do think the problem is worsening, and I do think there's a direct relationship between it and the objectification and idealization of girls - but it's well-reasoned, clearly elucidated and lacking the bile I see in so many comments on this post.

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    2. ...mm. No offense intended, but... that reply sounds like a lot of dissembling, really.

      Let me run down your points:

      1. Percentage of male characters in anime 10-15 yrs ago was 'so much higher' as to have more badly-written ones by law of averages

      That the percentage of male characters back then was higher is probably true. 'So much higher' as to be able to quote the law of averages? Let's take roughly 2001-2004, searching on AniDB... Hand Maid May was predominantly female. Happy Lesson was predominantly female. Scrapped Princess. Kiddy Grade. Azumanga Daioh. Kaleido Star. Memories Off. Tokyo Mew Mew. Comic Party. I'd lay even odds that if you took an actual major character percentage comparison of male characters against female characters in 2002 and 2012, you'd find the variation is probably only around 10-15% - and if you took out blatant idiocy like Queen's Blade and its ilk, the variation would be even less.

      2. Some good balanced shows in recent memories are exceptions that don't prove trends

      Mm. I'd contend that there are rather more than '1-2' good male characters per season, but I'll just take that as hyperbole. Perhaps a better counterpoint would be that I'm not convinced that these are the exceptions rather than the trends, I think. I certainly do think your statement in your blogpost that 'all-female casts and idiotic male characters' being the 'overwhelming majority' reeks of hyperbole; that argument may certainly be applied to particular seasons, including possibly this current one, but as a general description of anime today? Nope. And all I need to have personal proof of that is a list of next season's shows - albeit with the advantage of knowing the source material of a good number of these.

      3. Shows with gender-balanced character disservice isn't really a hopeful sign

      This point I actually don't really dispute - just look at that trash called the Dakara Boku wa H Dekinai anime. What I do question is why that point showed up in response to me quoting Accel World, Aquarian EVOL, and Sword Art Online - when the problem with all of the above 3 is most definitely not neither failure to focus on male characters and their issues, nor condemning them to idiocy and/or irrelevancy, but instead simply the fact that the writing is just bad to abysmal (in Aquarion EVOL's case. Seriously, the ending on that one was so bad it made certain recent American PC RPG endings look good by comparison).


      ...as an addendum, actually, I finally got around to watching Tari Tari 7 and Kokoro Connect 6 to see what the problem was with these two episodes in particular, and... I don't really think I see the problem. Wein is very clearly being built up for something, and if that something doesn't follow then it's both a valid point for you and a writing flaw. Taichi's treatment (both of them) is... normal? I know at that age my friends and I all did all those and worse to each other. (Minus the vital spot kicking, of course, but then again none of us ever asked someone else to do it to us.) And as for KC Taichi, the preview makes it sound very clearly like he's going to become quite aggrieved with someone next episode. So...

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  27. shame that we can't see sexuality and self awareness handled with the dexterity of Nazo no Kanoko X. People are complex and while boys and girls find each other attractive, it was nice to see that after being cajoled into honesty, Tsubaki didn't end up being penalized for it. Watching how they react and deal with that attraction doesn't always have to end with the male being blasted for just being a guy and while perhaps those emotions are dealt with too honestly in that series, it was a refreshing change for that attraction between people to be handled in such a fashion that girls can be driven/motivated just like boys and show that these relationships can evolve past holding hands as being the best you can hope for as an outcome.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree, and Nazo no Kanojo X is a superb example of what I'd love to see more of. And what is it? It's a writer who wrote something that spoke to his own experience. He wrote about how alien and scary, yet alluring, girls seemed to him as a teenager (the "giant robot" the mangaka references) and in doing so, gave something relateable to anyone who felt the same way. And while the POV of the series was definitely Tsubaki's, it wasn't hateful or demeaning towards Urabe or any girl - in fact, I thought the way it embraced sexual desire on the part of both sexes without obsessing over it was quite empowering and even uplifting.

      Another great example is Tsuritama. It was basically a guy who decided to write a story about the isolation and neuroses he felt as a teenager - except through the lens of the experiences he'd lived through since. Though he didn't have a happy adolescence, he wanted to write a story that represented his own experience, but was more hopeful and optimistic. Like MGX it was a highly personal story, drawn from experience, and I think that really shone through. If we got more of those kind of stories written by both women and men, anime would be a better place. The fact that we got two of them in one season is truly a miracle, and one reason why I called Spring one of the best seasons in years. Alas, this season hasn't kept up the momentum.

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  28. Kokoro Connect isn't ANY different in cast make-up from a generic harem.
    Aoki fits the harem leads perverted best friend archetype perfectly and isn't as well written as Daigo from Hoshizora.
    While Taichi fits the White Knighting harem lead archetype to the point where it's commented on in story. So if you think generic harems are unfix-able to the point of dismissing them out of hand I think you can safely dismiss Kokoro Connect too.

    On the other hand Wien is awesome so I don't know why you're being so mean to him.

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    1. I think Wien is great. That's why I pointed out that the writers and the girls in the cast are treating him like shit.

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    2. Whats interesting about Wien is that his character type is usually female.

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    3. Can you provide specific examples of how the writers and/or girls are treating him "like shit"? If you referring to misleading him, they aren't doing it because he's male--it's because he's a returnee (and/or foreigner). In any case, I think it's more the anime hasn't yet explored Wien. Like Konatsu, he's largely been related to a comedic role--one I think he's been rather good at so far. Only Wakana and Sawa have actually been explored in any depth so far.

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  29. Could it be the studios are just focusing on the main audience (and by "main audience", I mean those who actually go and buy ridiculously overpriced $90 DVD containing 3-4 episodes and collect any type of merchandise one can think of, aka Otaku) and they are mostly the same "timid and neutered, oversexed idiots, irrelevant or nonexistent" male members of the human society?

    Now, now before y'all get offended and started throwing chairs at me, remember, I wrote "mostly". There are always a few minority who isn't like that, but the truth of matter is that most dedicated anime fans who actually spend their fortunes on anime products are eerily similar to these male characters in real life, that is in relation to the rest of society. And perhaps they identify better with these characters and thus keep demanding more of the same. The studios in turn have no choice, but to listen to their overlords, I mean, money makers. They have to feed their staff, you know. Art is somewhat luxury, similar to atheism; you can't afford it if you're poor and desperate, you know! These hardcores also tend to put a certain female celebrity on a pedestal, similar to how female characters are the main focus on these anime shows.

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    1. I don't think it's very helpful to issue a gross generalization about the target audience, but then to try to couch by saying "mostly", as if to say "don't be offended because *of course* I wasn't including you" in as sarcastic a tone as possible. ^^;

      I don't buy the "they resemble the audience" argument because I don't think "having characters you can relate with" is the point of this sort of characterization. (I think a key point is that this poor characterization makes them harder to relate to for everyone.) Rather, I think the point (in most, but not all cases) is to serve the demands of the plot and allow the heroines to more-clearly take center stage. The fact that the audience may be more interested in the women then the men isn't necessarily an indictment on its own (as that doesn't seem to be a personality-driven quality).

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    2. While I wouldn't take it to the extreme you do, I don't disagree that there is an element of playing to the crowd with these male characters.

      Put somewhat harshly, it's as if the anime audience that studios are targeting are the guys who lined up all night in Akiba with Kyosuke in Oreimo (though it's easy to guess the anime which target the women lined up for the game he was buying for Kirino). The irony of course is that those otaku loved that show (I liked it a lot myself) despite the fact that they were the ones being made fun of - probably because they were too busy fixating on how cute Kuroneko and Kirino were to notice (or care) that they were being mocked. I think it worked because it was clear in Oreimo that the mockery had a lot of self-deprecation in it - that was a property that was obviously created by people who were otaku themselves, but ones with enough self-awareness not to take themselves too seriously. It's actually a pretty bold and risky franchise for that reason, IMHO (but that's a tangent).

      There's some psychological basis to speculate that the rise of the tsundere trope is due to a decline in self-esteem among the male otaku audience, who enjoyed seeing males treated badly in anime. Taken a step further, one might say that as the self-esteem problem has gotten worse, this audience has moved beyond the tsundere, and now would rather see males (literally or metaphorically) out of the picture altogether and just want to see shows where there aren't even guys to play victim to the tsunderes, but guys so ineffectual that they don't even make an impression (or no guys, period).

      That's a dangerous path to follow, build on a lot of conjecture, which is why I didn't want to OP to turn into a thesis on the causes of the decline of the teenaged male in anime. There are studies that do show a very real problem growing among young men in Japan - decreased interest in sex, relationships, and starting a family - but whether that's a direct contributor to the marginalization of young men and objectification of young women in anime is conjecture.

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    3. The irony of course is that those otaku loved that show (I liked it a lot myself) despite the fact that they were the ones being made fun of - probably because they were too busy fixating on how cute Kuroneko and Kirino were to notice (or care) that they were being mocked.

      Holy shit does that ever miss the point. Of course we know we're being mocked! Otaku are not as un-self-aware as you seem to think.

      Not even going to touch the rest of your armchair psychology.

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    4. No offense, Fence, but I have no further interest in engaging with you. You turn every post into a referendum on your own personal obsessions, you groundlessly accuse me of sexism and homophobia, and now hijacking posts here for your own gratification isn't enough, so you're flaming me on Twitter as well?

      I don't know what your deal with AGE is, but I've ripped that show ten ways till Sunday and your obsession with it still borders on pathological. You accuse me of never discussing the injustices done to female characters in anime when I've done so frequently - including the discussion of BRS, a show I find quite disturbing in it's depiction of girls and what it says about the audience.

      I think the internet is a wonderful thing for the way it's opened up communication worldwide, and allowed people to interact in ways they've never been able to before. But the downside of that is that the anonymity it provides has made a lot of cowards feel like heroes. You have your own blog - use it to call attention to the injustices you see in the anime world and stop bullyinng and slandering everyone here who doesn't kowtow to your narrow agenda. I've been running this site for better than two years and I've never banned anyone, and I don't intend to be goaded into it by your petty insults. But I can sure as hell ignore you.

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    5. Actually, I'd say those of us of the Kirino type--which I am mostly since I love escapist, genre anime--are capable of and enjoy self-mockery. It's fun to do. What isn't so much fun is when the jokes aren't about laughing with you but at you. OreImo was very much the laughing with you type of anime. It also very much reinforces that, despite what others may think, it's OK to be an otaku.

      The other thing is you apparently missed that the other message from OreImo is that we're just not otaku (or otaku-like, in my case). Real people aren't characters--they are rather complex and, while stock characters can be useful in fiction, are rarely ever simple in reality. Kirino isn't just an imoutoge, loving otaku--she's talented at track, does well at school, is fashionable, etc. Stereotypes are signs of sloppy thinking and poor mental modeling--even when done of Japanese otaku. Fiction is, after all, not reality.

      As far as your perception that there was an increase tsundere characters which led to a purported decline in males, please provide data. I'm not seeing it.

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    6. I don't know what your deal with AGE is

      How can you not? I've spelled it out quite explicitly.

      I want you to put half as much thought as you've put into the treatment of the male characters of Tari Tari and KokoroCo into the female characters of Gundam AGE.

      Just look at Kio's arc. Three female characters have died solely to advance his character development. That was the sole reason they were even included. Imagine if a show treated its male characters the way AGE treats women. You would be ranting and raving and generally screaming about how terrible it was.

      You manage to address many of the problems AGE has, and I agree with every one of them, except this one. And that absolutely boggles my mind because I know you aren't that stupid.

      You have your own blog - use it to call attention to the injustices you see in the anime world and stop bullyinng and slandering everyone here who doesn't kowtow to your narrow agenda.

      I don't have my own blog, no more than you would if the only blog you posted on was RandomC.

      As for flaming you on Twitter, its been in an apparently vain attempt for you to actually engage on this issue. Hitokiri wrote like three-thousand words in this thread and you completely ignored it.

      I'm not the one with an agenda here. I don't even, fundamentally, disagree with the basic point. I just think you have a major blindspot.

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  30. About Aquarion EVOL, it was the producer himself who requested a main character with "more broad appeal", thus it was not directly a fault of Okada herself. And the series itself certainly had a lot of bad writing here and there, but at least Amata manned up in the final episode, something most character won't ever do.

    I agree on the main issue, guys are generally treated badly in anime nowadays. And I'll add another category to your four: male characters that exist to ooze covert gay undertones (including crossdressers). I don't think the problem is that the ones who create anime are mostly male, though. I think the problem is the audience being largely male, therefore the ones who are being showcased are the female characters (about whom people will draw lots of doujins), while the male characters must be either dense of timid enough so that they won't be able to do more than a symbolic kiss at the end of the story, without taking away the girl's "purity". Similarly, when the target audience is female then there may be lots of covert gay undertones and the female characters are unobtrusive.

    Another problem I see is also the fact that it is usually frowned for a man to hit a woman (more so in Japan), and if there is a fighting woman it is really hard for the male to put her back in her place (usually the other must have women on his party too), whereas female violence on males is accepted and even laughed at. This is true also for female characters who are simply bitchy.

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  31. I've been thinking about this post some more. I completely understand disliking the male characters you describe. They are not well written characters.

    But I am curious can you be more specific of what type of male characters you want to see more of. You specify better written teenage male characters and you use examples like Tsuritama & Chihayayfuru. What about these characters do you specifically like? I like the male characters in these series too but I am also coming from a female perspective so I am not sure if it is the same reasons as yours.

    Also I am curious what you mean by "non-threatning" males. Do you mean "lack of sex drive". I know you like Mutta, Kotetsu, & Daikichi as characters but you also act like they are not what you are looking for. Personally I think they are excellent adult male characters, and I wish there was a larger representation of adult female characters like this.

    And here I get to the crux of my post. You acknowledge that there is also a problem with female characters but I am going to take it further and say I think there is even less well written female characters than male characters. Because as you said just because a cast is all female doesn't mean they act like "real women and girls".

    I think by and large you can still find a larger percentage of series (and this is not just a problem with anime) are told from the male perspective. Even more annoying when it is from the female perspective it is either as a love interest or through the eyes of the male gaze. Of course again I as you are biased as a male viewer I am biased as a female viewer.

    Don't get me wrong as I said above I think there are excellent male and female characters in anime/manga (written by both men & women) and I think I am a bit better at fettering out the bad series (I've noticed you watch a lot more than me and hence you might experience more of the bad).

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    1. Yes, non-threatening males are those that won't ever deflower their harem or love-interest. Its one of the reasons why many are just self-insert pithless characters that are devoid of any personality. Take the MC of Asobi ni Ikuyo for example or the MC of Infinite Stratos. So yes, its one of the reasons why Enzo didn't consider father figures or characters from anime aimed at the seinen crowd. They don't threaten their idolized 'waifus'.

      It reminds me of the Kannagi controversy when in one of the manga chapters it was revealed that she has an ex and it was implied that she was not a virgin. The rabid fanbase was up in arms about that and flamed the author with curses and vitriol.

      Another instance was with B Gata H Kei where the anime staff received multiple threatening letters because the dumb fanboys didn't like the 'slutty' nature of Yamada.

      Sigh, I can only imagine what the real Japanese idols have to put up with, but that's for another time.

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    2. I certainly wouldn't have a problem with anime that is more frank about sexual desires (and by frank I don't mean the characters that see girls in their underwear and get nose bleeds).

      However on the other hand one thing I actually find a breath of fresh air about anime (in comparison with Western media) is that it isn't all about sex and that even the romance is a bit overly innocent. It might be unrealistic but I like it too. It feels that children are depicted as children for longer. I somewhat miss that innocence in media here.

      And when I say this I don't mean that I like girls to remain "innocent and pure waifus" but I also don't mind that romance is just shown as kids holding hands and heck sometimes I am happy when a story just focuses on friendship.

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    3. The only problem I have with Mutta, Daikichi and Kotetsu is that they're adults - which is great in that we need good adult characters in anime, but they don't act as ballast against the worsening trend of terrible teenaged characters. This ties into the issue of "non-threatening" and while it's somewhat crude to say so, I think it's an issue of otaku fetishising and idolizing the teenaged girls on screen, and not wanting to see any characters who come off as worthy romantic rivals. So they portray the guys as either buffoons whose obsession with sex makes them anything but serious or so ineffectual and weak that the girls in the show treat them like the worthless dogs they are. Again - a disservice to characters (and fans) of both sexes.

      As to what characters I'd like to see more of, and why I singled out Chihayafuru and Tsuritama? Well, they are indeed fantastic examples. They're complicated, troubled, interesting people with real arcs that show them growing and progressing. They reveal that teenaged males have neuroses and insecurities just like girls do, they're not sex-crazed idiots who think with their penis and they aren't so timid and self-loathing that they refuse to try and do what they want to do with their lives. Some other great examples of characters I'd like to see more of would be Tsubaki from MGX, both leads from Ano Natsu, Claude from Ikoku Meiro, Nitorin from Hourou Musuko, even the two guys from Sakamichi.

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    4. I just want to throw into the mix that, in at least some cases, there's an element of humour in all of this that perhaps some people just don't find funny. Particularly self-depreciating humour, that was mentioned in an earlier comment. There are also elements of various fantasies being portrayed in anime that can only really work if characters are portrayed in certain ways. (For example, the classic shounen romantic comedy harem fantasy is only really possible if the lead is indecisive. Otherwise, you either couldn't perpetuate the fantasy (since the protagonist would pick their romantic interest), or the protagonist would end up sleeping around and generally be not highly-regarded by the audience.) I don't think it actually has much if anything to do with seeing protagonist characters in the story rivalling the audience themselves. Perhaps in some cases, though, the audience would rather see a male lead who is somewhat ineffectual than one who would deliberately treat the heroines poorly or cause them to suffer.

      Vanth used the illustration of the "rage" some Kannagi fans demonstrated when it was revealed that Nagi may have had a former lover. This story was seriously overplayed by certain blogs (and most of those "raging" were just trolls who didn't really care but wanted the attention), but that notwithstanding, it wasn't the fact that Nagi had a lover that was the real issue, it was the fact that the lover wasn't the protagonist, Jun. So in that case, it's actually more that a romantic pairing they were cheering for got ostensibly spurned by the author (though that isn't the way the trolls spun it).

      Anyway, in the end, I would submit that a lot of the "offensive characterizations" are the result of a sort of compromise necessary to sustain the narrative construct, rather than a conspiracy to misrepresent men in general. Perhaps the constructs themselves are offensive and need to be revisited, but I think that's more complex than "otaku don't want to see protagonists who would rival them", which I think misses the mark.

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  32. Great post Enzo and I can't agree more with what you said. While I enjoy my fair share of harem, ecchi and yuri goodness, it's undeniable there has been a lack of animes that center around the male cast. Tsuritama was a true gem and I love it to bits. It's disheartening that many refuse to even give it a chance because the usual anime tropes of moe school girls were absent. I do think this is not a zero sum game though and a balance can be achieved across different genres with a diverse casts of both genders. Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon and Anohana are good examples, both of them have a huge cast which are likable and well-developed, males & females, moe & GARRR, badass & timid. How the author juggles all those moving parts is where it becomes tricky ;)

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  33. The way I've always seen it, men that interact with beautiful women in anime are mistreated in order to prevent the male audience to dislike them out of jealousy. The bigger the female cast, the greater the punishment. Sort of like a ritual of passage for them to deserve living in a world with idealized girls.

    I'm not saying that I particularly enjoy this arrangement, but I can easily tell that watching a guy struggling from a trauma despite being surrounded by beautiful girls could come off as whiny.

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  34. The rise of the "Herbivore Male" isn't just unique to anime; it's something of a widespread social issue in Japan. What we're seeing in anime is a reflection of Japan's changing view towards masculinity. In Japan, men no longer feel empowered, in part because the economic situation encourages them to stay at home longer and not take responsibility. The "Salaryman" ideal is fading from the younger Japanese mindset. Up until the '90s, masculinity in Japan was mostly defined by a man's ability to work - but in modern Japan, we can no longer hold men up to these standards. To put it simply: Japanese men are struggling to find the measures to affirm their masculinity.

    The good-natured self-deprecating humour that comes from the Herbivore Male archetype has already been pointed out in discussion, but I also think that the Japanese actually do respect and even idolise these types of males too, to a point. The Herbivore Male refuses to be manly - in part because of his circumstances but also through choice. They don't NEED to be manly; they can express themselves through other means. It's something, I'm sure, that many Japanese men feel comforted by.

    There is no doubt that males have a weaker presence in anime these days, but I think we've been seeing this entire issue through a western perspective and it hinders our judgment. Others have already mentioned that the recent trend reflects the consumers of anime, but to me it feels like we've all been labelling Japanese audiences as "otakus", even implying that they're losers. I feel like we've been doing the Japanese fans a great disservice by stereotyping them like this. Certainly, otakus do exist but they are the minority and it's important to note that they are marginalised in their own society too. As someone else has already pointed out in the comments - what we're seeing in anime is probably not a permanent trend. I'm not too worried either.

    That being said, I do have to agree with Enzo's main point - it doesn't excuse the bad writing. Bad writing is bad writing no matter what the social trends are. But I don't think just because a male character is passive or treated as inferior by the female characters that he is instantly a bad character. Speaking personally as a fan here, I do enjoy non-threatening teenage male characters myself. The lead male from Nazo no Kanojo X has already been mentioned a few times in this discussion and he is certainly one of the better passive males. The discussion has also brought up plenty of well-depicted male characters from this year. I think it's a bit overly dramatic to say that there are no good male characters in anime these days because I still consistently find them to be better-written and more compelling than the female characters. (Alas.)

    If anything, we should focus on the portrayal of females in anime because Enzo is quite right in pointing out that idealising the girls causes problems for both genders.

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  35. A couple of quick notes:

    Thanks to everyone who's made this such an interesting discussion - certainly one of the most passionate and diverse ever on LiA. Special thanks to those of you who've kept it civil and respectful.

    I'm going to be taking a bit of a step back from the comments here, just in the interest of time - this thread is eating a lot of it. I see that I've responded to over 30 comments just myself, and in the process written far more than was in the original post. The next couple of days are going to be crazy busy so if I don't respond to you, don't take offense (and don't assume I don't have a response!) - it just means I'm not responding individually to every comment, just out of sheer necessity.

    Lastly, to those of who who've contacted me via various channels asking that someone or other be banned, let me just repeat what I said earlier - I haven't banned anyone in over two years and I'd rather not start now. I know some posters are a little pissed off, but I'd rather rely on the best tool we have, which is the right to ignore anyone we choose to. If someone's trolling, just ignore them - I'd rather not use the nuclear option unless absolutely necessary.

    And remember - the undignified treatment of one gender doesn't lead to the dignified treatment of the other. Not only are they not mutually exclusive, they're mutually dependent.

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  36. While the lack of development of the guys in Tari Tari and Kokoro Connect irks me, well-written males are not underrepresented in anime. I think of Hyouka and Natsuyuki Rendezvous as examples from this season, although summer 2012 probably is not the best season to pull examples from. Let's just wait for Bakuman 3 and Chihayafuru 2, haha. But two shows from a season is not something to complain about.

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  37. I think the issue you only briefly hinted at, at the very beginning of this post of yours is the real issue here.

    Thing is, What we think, what we regard and what we value really holds no weight or bearing on Anime.

    Anime, unlike the recent Video Games Industry, is predominantly Japanese and totally focused on catering to its local audience. Anime or Manga is NOT made with the international audience in mind, with diversity or any of those things.

    More often than not, Original Anime series aside, Anime is adapted from Light Novels or Manga, and these in turn depend more so on the sort of writers and people that the culture of the country and the industry itself breads.

    There are serious cultural issues in Japan, especially with regards to the whole idol industry that you outlined briefly. Added to that, there's the entire issue of the Idol Seiyuu industry.

    But leaving real people aside, there's Otaku that freak out when Anime female characters end up getting boyfriends. I remember the outrage in Japan when Kanagi ended up actually having a boyfriend, or when it was announced that some of the K-On! Girls had ones as well.

    The issue of the Anime Industry right now, is that in many ways, a big chunk of it is serving as a fulfillment fantasy in a society where people are expected to work exceedingly hard and not get a good quality of living until their well into their 40s or 50s, or so I feel like given what I've heard of the surveys, issues and problems.

    I think, the writers are just giving people what they want. Shounen is a male power fantasy, where males focus on getting stronger and better. Romance and Love Comedy is generally a romance fantasy, for those people who haven't had such experiences or have had really sour experiences in their own high school or adult days. From this perspective and lens you can look at literally every genre in Anime these days, and find a pretty clear indication of what I'm talking about.

    I think that in itself is more of the issue, more so than gender equality. At some point in time, Anime ceased being about exploring complex ideas in sci-fi, what if scenarios (where the whole harem thing stemmed from) and is now more or less concerned with fulfillment fantasies. And unfortunately, we as viewers and even passionate fans of anime, had nothing to do with it.

    While I do applaud you for looking at and identifying a very serious issue, I kind of have to sadly wonder what the point is of us really doing anything because our opinions and tastes have no bearing on what the end product actually is.

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    1. While I do applaud you for looking at and identifying a very serious issue, I kind of have to sadly wonder what the point is of us really doing anything because our opinions and tastes have no bearing on what the end product actually is.

      Great post - but to that point, don't you think there are discussions that are worth having strictly for their own sake?

      Don't have much time, but yes - there's no question that wish fulfillment is a much larger part of the anime equation now than it was 5 or 10 years ago, and that does represent a big part of the problem. I'm especially dismayed to see the idol industry - which I find unbelievably sexist and demeaning - directly bleeding over into anime more and more. Of all the trends I see, that might be one of the most depressing.

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  38. If I think about anime with balanced casts with sufficiently developed characters for both genders that was well-executed teen romance would be Toradora. It actually did more good than bad. Even though the what's-his-face-with-the-glasses didn't get a sufficient development, that will be as good as it gets.

    After wondering for a while, are majority of Japanese Otaku masochists? They definitely don't mind being fed with same repetitive harem comedy with tsundere as a main lead.

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  39. If I think about anime with balanced casts with sufficiently developed characters for both genders that was well-executed teen romance would be Toradora. It actually did more good than bad. Even though the what's-his-face-with-the-glasses didn't get a sufficient development, that will be as good as it gets.

    After wondering for a while, are majority of Japanese Otaku masochists? They definitely don't mind being fed with same repetitive harem comedy with tsundere as a main lead.

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  40. "In RL males and females both are emotionally complex, and I'd like to see anime be a place where they're both treated as such."

    Sorry to interrupt your discussion
    but I have an unrelated question.
    What's this "RL" you're talking about? I tried to guess
    for a minute but I could not come up with anything.

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    1. Its "real life". Internet lingo level up! :D

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  41. Enzo!

    I don't know if you're still reading it this far down, but I agree with this post. (Although there's an argument to be had that Tari Tari and kokoro are stories that havent been finished yet... I haven't seen the last few of them either, but will do soon.) I hate boring stereotype protagonists, it's the worst. And it seems like boring protagonists are never female.

    But do you remember my flaming disagreeing posts a while back?
    Well, if you are going to call kokoro taichi "timid and neutered" how do you have the nerve to yell "CLICHÉ!" when he said he masturbates to Inaba?
    Cliché?!!! Have you ever seen such a scene in any anime or Hollywood before!? The scene was (or at least trying to be) pretty delicate.
    My god. And if you're saying that teenage masturbation is cliché, then well, so is taking a shit, or eating breakfast. The double standard you're showing there is...
    Well, I'll stop there.

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    1. Btw, I think mashiroiro symphony, Stein's gate, Deadman wonderland, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, R-15, Mawaru penguindrum, No-6, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, Fate-Zero, Chihayafuru & Mirai Nikki, are all exceptions to your rule here, and these all aired in 2011.
      (My memory may not be perfect and I didn't watch them all to the end, so you don't have to agree on all of them.)

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  42. This is outrageous, though anime is clearly sexist both ways Its unreasonable to have every single new anime bad ass characters be female just to fulfill these creeps pedo fantasies. Take a look at Infinite Stratus the first season everything was fine but the second season they decided the main male lead would do nothing but get saved by female characters and act as a "everyone loves this weakling for no reason" character. It seems as if shonen are the only ones getting it right these days (and thats an issue). Its ok to incorporate both male and female strong characters but these days It's ONLY female strong characters. Female bad ass with a sword female bad ass with a gun. Can't I just see some competent men for once? Ones that don't need to be saved by girls every 5 seconds? Hell even peach from mario was more manly then most anime characters these days.

    Take a look at gurren lagann. Its cast had both strong females and strong males, showing that one sex isn't better then another. And for those of your saying the female saving the male scene is more realistic just stop. Females don't go through the same development as men and as a result have less testosterone then men which directly correlates to muscle gain. Not to mention that females have breast tissue where men have their chest. Also I'm sure I don't need to ask someone to tell me why throughout history men fought the wars hunted the animals and have around a 198 million person lead in weight lifting records (No joke the most weight lifted by a female in the world only holds around the 500 thousand place of both sexes. And yes you could argue "They are taking testosterone pills / steroids, that makes this possible. Yes, sure it makes it possible, but then they would all have deeper voices loss their breasts and start growing hair in unnatural places. This BY NO MEANS MEANS MALES ARE BETTER THEN FEMALES. Since when did MUSCLE or FIGHTING ABILITIES dictate who is "better" then another person? Sure Bruce Lee could kick my ass, does that make him a better person then me? Hell no. You people need to stop looking at muscle as defining a person and then maybe just maybe anime can start raking out some decent characters that don't get abused by the female staff everywhere they go. I swear you can say "its the males fault for being perverted" Thats true about 20% of the time, the other 80% the female feels like punching him abuses him out of jealousy or he accidentally sees her naked because for some reason shes in his room naked.

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