Discussing Hulu’s Anime Eradication on the Speakeasy Podcast


Hulu is removing hundreds of anime from its catalogue on June 1st, and I hopped onto the Speakeasy Podcast with Alain to talk about it and to speculate about what it might mean for anime streaming in the future.

If your favorite show is on Hulu, there’s a good chance it’s also on other legitimate streaming services, but it’s still notable because of how big Hulu is.

Sadly, this means Hulu viewers might no longer be able to experience the excellent Show by Rock!!




Ogiue Maniax on the Speakeasy Podcast, Talking About Giant Robots

I recently appeared on the Reverse Thieves‘ podcast, the Speakeasy, where we discussed the topic of recommending giant robot shows for people who have had negative experiences with that genre. If you’re not sure what that means, it is not referring to fans who have simply never seen any mecha anime and are just waiting to discover the glorious territory that is giant robots, but people who may have preconceived notions about the limitations of giant robot anime based on prior exposure.

Even though that’s the main topic however, I think there’s a little something for others as well, whether you’re a  robot expert or mecha newbie. Have a listen, and make sure to comment on either the Speakeasy or the Reverse Thieves’  blog.

Father Gonna Knox You Out

In my childhood I read a fair amount of mystery novels, but it wasn’t until I listened to the Speakeasy podcast that I became acquainted Knox’s Rules, a 10-point guide designed to make sure that a detective story does not violate the mystery’s logical structure and thus remove the reader’s desire to solve the case as well. That said, at least one or more rules are broken in every detective story, but the idea is that they should be kept in mind. More important though is the fact that adhering to those ten rules does not guarantee a good story.

The reason I bring this up is that the more I read about and examine the structure of comics, particularly manga, the more I find myself having to make sure that my reading of comics theory does not then overwhelm my reading of manga as I am looking at each page. The potential pitfalls here aren’t limited to just “overthinking” things or being too distanced from the work at hand, but that it risks making my viewing of comics, manga or otherwise, an exercise in dissection for the sake of dissection, and also can possibly lead me to believe that a comic is “better” if it follows those rules. That’s not to say you should just turn a blind eye to the things you learn, but in my experience, it can poison both the well of analysis and the well of enjoyment if mishandled. For example, in being more aware of the Ki-Shou-Ten-Ketsu (Introduction-Development-Twist-Conclusion) 4-part structure commonly used in manga (especially 4-panel manga), I have found myself looking for it everywhere in manga, and I have to make sure I don’t force it to appear in places where it does not necessarily exist just because I want it to be there.

Perhaps letting my own emotions towards a story mix in with the more distanced viewing is key to mitigating these situations.

On Strong Female Characters, Again

Occasionally people say that anime and manga have a dearth of strong female characters, that they are relegated to supporting roles where they must step aside for the male leads. But while such characters do exist, to think that they are the majority of female characters in anime and manga betrays a myopic view of anime and manga fueled primarily by titles designed for guys looking for some kind of power fantasy.

I recently began reading Attack No. 1, a 60s shoujo manga about volleyball and one of the most famous sports manga series ever. Being a 60s title and well before the advent of the Showa 24 Group, I somewhat expected the main heroine Kozue to be demure and dainty and in need of a strong man, but I was proven completely wrong. That part in the anime’s opening where Kozue goes, “But I shed tears. I’m a girl, after all?” That is a complete diversion from what she really is.

In the first few chapters, Kozue is a transfer student who antagonizes the teacher by sleeping through classes, then goes up to the girls’ volleyball team and accuses them of not truly understanding volleyball. She then makes a bet that she can beat their trained team using just a ragtag bunch of complete beginners, and then in order to achieve her goal trains her erstwhile teammates so hard that they collapse from exhaustion repeatedly.

Everyone talks about how Hagio Moto and her comrades revolutionized shoujo manga, and they surely did, but going back even to the prior decade we can see a heroine who shows strength, both inner and outer. And as you continue along throughout the decades, you can see more and more examples. Don’t let the popularity of certain titles and genres blind you.

But I also realize that it’s very easy to call just about any female character a “strong one,” particularly when they are designed to be badass action heroes. These fall into two dangerous categories, the first being the “action damsel,” where a girl is a strong and capable fighter up until the point that she gets kidnapped and needs a man, and the second being the “man in a woman suit,” as Hisui from the Speakeasy Podcast so put it. The issue with the former is that it tends to undercut all of the development a female character might have, while the problem with the latter is that it pushes a very specific idea of what it means to be “strong.”

In the same podcast, Hisui also says that his problem with the “man in a woman suit” is that it is essentially a shortcut to actual well-developed character portrayal, and that it is pretty much shallow. I pretty much agree with Hisui on this matter, but I also want to address another great danger that comes from associating the idea of “strong female characters” with “tough action hero,” and that is that it implies that the only way for a female character to be strong is to be “like a guy,” or to put it more broadly, that the only way is through physical strength and hardened grit and determination.

Think about that for a moment. It’s bad enough that we define male strength through physical prowess, but to also try to group women in there as well is a grave mistake. Putting characters and fiction aside for a moment, true strength comes from within, it is not something measured simply through muscles and athletic ability. While a person who is physically strong, male or female, can also be strong inside, the former without the latter is an empty shell. Though I know that Hokuto no Ken isn’t the best example of strong female characters, as most of them are there to just stand aside at let men fight men, I think of the little girl whom Kenshiro rescues early on, Rin.

In one chapter, Rin is kidnapped by a gang of misshapen thugs who have terrorized an entire village. In order to oppress the villagers, the gang ruthlessly forces them to walk on a pit of fire, with many casualties naturally resulting. The villagers are gripped with fear, but when it’s Rin’s turn to walk the coals, she remembers Kenshiro’s words, that she cannot give in to fear, that she cannot let them win. Rin willingly walks towards the flames, head held high, and in doing so shames the villagers. If such a little girl has the spirit to fight back, what does that say about all of the full-grown men who cowered in the shadows?

Then Rin eventually becomes some kind of damsel-in-distress and there’s a whole marrying Rin arc when she gets older, but I chalk that up more to the second part of Hokuto no Ken being terrible overall than anything else. But there it is, even in Shounen Jump you can find a display of great inner strength in a female character, albeit temporarily.

One more time, I want to state that strong female characters in anime and manga definitely do exist and in large numbers. If asked, I can even start listing them off, but the important thing to take away here is that you simply have to look in the right places with the right mindset.

The Bishounen and the Trap

The Speakeasy Podcast recently released their 4th episode, wherein they talk about the “bishounen,” and all of the celebration and agony that comes from putting some eye candy for girls into anime that are traditionally considered “for guys.”

For those unfamiliar, the term bishounen literally means “beautiful boy,” and refers to characters in manga, especially shoujo manga, who are beautiful and effeminate. In being pretty, bishounen in turn violate the unwritten rules of Acceptable Beauty in a Man, where guys are allowed to look good, but only in a way that reaffirms heterosexuality by having them conform to the male view of what a lady killer is supposed to look like.

Simply put, bishounen threaten masculinity and make guys uncomfortable. But the “threat” of bishounen isn’t simply in their looks, but in their very presence, and to get to the real heart of the problem, we have to take a look at a very similar concept which also holds some very profound differences: the trap.

The origin of the term “trap,” as it’s used by English-speaking anime fans, refers to the idea that a male viewer is “tricked” into being attracted to what he thinks is a very attractive lady, only to find out that the character actually has a Y-chromosome. In some cases, it works so effectively that some will say that liking traps is still not considered “gay,” because the character is so effeminate that all they’re doing is appealing to a heterosexual man’s natural desires using the power of artistic expression.

Now what’s really interesting is that in some cases you’ll find examples of guys who love traps but hate bishounen. At first, it can appear to be a contradiction, but there’s a fundamental difference at work here: bishounen are designed to appeal to girls, while traps are designed to appeal to guys.

Of course I’m aware that there are plenty of guys who decry the presence of traps just as much as they do bishounen, guys who believe that both the moe fan and the fujoshi are killing anime. But I really believe that the thin line between bishounen and trap reveals the truth, and that it all comes down to fear.

Guys who lament the presence of bishounen are not as threatened by their good looks as they are the idea that the presence of bishounen means that guy-oriented anime will suffer in some capacity. When the bishounen talks, this is what they hear coming out of their mouths.

“These character designs are not for you.”

“We’re doing things to actively appeal to people that aren’t you.”

It’s the fear that girls will latch onto a show just for the hot guys and will ignore all of the deep and wonderful story that’s actually there and will refer to the guys as “bishies” and debate the degree to which they would “glomp” them. It’s the fear that anime which would have had excellent story and setting might end up being aborted half-way and turned into a hideous carbunkle that sacrificed its potential for greatness for scenes involving with male beauty, angst, and sparkling moonlight.

The truth of this matter is actually stated in the Speakeasy podcast: anime, in some capacity has always made attempts to appeal to girls, even in that most manly of genres, the giant robot anime. The original fans of Mobile Suit Gundam were actually mostly female. UFO Robo Grendizer found a female fanbase as well, because of some of the romance elements in the story, as well as the presence of strong female characters. Even Gowapper 5 Godam tried to appeal to girls by being the first giant robot series to have a girl as the main character. They may have been a secondary audience to the boys buying action figures, but when it comes down to it, what’s wrong with having an audience that’s 50% female?