Mugen Monday - 23rd Edition

For Those Who Dare Dream.

For the average Anime-goer, things seem to revolve quite a lot around the particular niche that they tend to like. And it wouldn’t be completely wrong to claim that different groups of society react differently to varying genres. Groups can entail race, ethnicity, nationalist identity, but also gender.

  • Today, we will dive into a particular research study from scholars in the US who tried to measure the level of sexism inherent to Anime.

  • Is Anime sexist? Does Japan portray hypermasculine men and overly curvaceous females who stick to gender norms?

  • How capitalism has a play in the unfolding of sexism in society

  • And why it isn’t entirely the fault of Anime producers for portraying hypermasculine male and curvaceous female

The last two points are rather my insights. While I will begin by laying the foundation of the study, a basic grasp of what it is - so basic that even a novice would understand, I would then refute why the study’s claim that ‘Sexism is promoted by Anime and it is evil’ may not be such a black-white answer as they strive to make it be.

Well, it will be a fun ride, why don’t you stick til the end?

- From the Editor’s Desk

Rhytham Das, Editor-in-Chief, Spiel Anime

Capitalism, Sexism, and Anime

By and large, Anime is ultimately a byproduct of Japanese culture. I was roaming around a few scholastic articles and came upon this particular study that claimed how sexism still prevails in modern society, with particular emphasis on ‘Anime’ as their subject matter for the research. The paper made a few ominous claims from the get-go. Here’s what they basically did -

In their first study, episodes from nine of the most popular anime series were analyzed. It was found that women (as opposed to men) were underrepresented in anime and were more likely than expected to be sexualized (as opposed to men), curvaceous (compared to secondary characters), and provocative (compared to secondary characters). Meanwhile, men (as opposed to women) were more likely to use a weapon but were not typically portrayed as hypermasculine.

What the study is about - a gist

At the onset, I would like to brief you a little on what the introduction to this study contains - this will give you a gripping knowledge to contend with the contents of sexism and the problems that this particular study is trying to fend the world against.

  1. There are antagonistic and positive sexism, in the former women are portrayed in a negative manner who sway from gender roles, and in the latter women who tend to their nature are praised and are said to require the protection of males.

  2. Anime is said to contain sexism, so the study will study sexism in Anime

  3. They study the top Anime rated by MyAnimeList, primarily Code Geass, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Attack on Titan, and Clannad among others of similar stature.

  4. They randomly selected some 5 episodes of each Anime for a total of 45 episodes, with over 700 characters all total.

The result?

  1. They found that in those 45 characters, there were some 200 females, but 400 male characters. Thus proving one of their hypothesis that males are more represented in Anime true. (Or another way of putting it is that ‘females are underrepresented’.) This all seems quite problematic from my perspective, but I’ll get to it.

  2. Another finding was that most lead female characters seemed to be more curvacious than secondary characters, and they found that indeed lead were more lewd-ly drawn (as a cultured fan may put it so).

That was only one study, the second study is further complicated. Riddled with intricate yet quite explanatory mathematics and statistics. For today’s Mugen Monday, let us only contend with the first study.

Begging your forgiveness, critics: You might feel that discussing only one study without the other is an incomplete review of the research paper, but I would like to claim this a rather heart-felt review of an academic work by an Anime fan (Who also happens to be in Academia, but that is not my true role today).

Today, it is about trying to see whether their findings, that Anime is riddled with poisonous sexism, is something an average Anime-goer should be bothered with.

First, let us lay a philosophy: capitalism

This image does not serve many purposes for relating to the heading ‘capitalism’, I don’t even know why I put it here. Image rights belong to their respective production houses.

It appears to me that the modern capitalist system leans toward production that flows through a phenomenon called ‘demand’. Simply said, whatever the masses (that is the crowd) demand, factory owners (those owning means of production, in technical humanities terms) are inclined to produce it. The simple reason being - that which sells is profitable.

In such a system, it is paramount that it will eventually start a feedback cycle. You identify what the masses want, and then you supply them with it. Along the way, you make some changes to your product’s aesthetics, and maybe the crowd will then demand that product with that particular aesthetic starting then.

Now the question, and a philosophical one at that, is whether it is the crowd that has that inherent desire for that particular aesthetic, or is it the origination of the factory owner who seeded it?

You may be losing me, but I am trying to draw an analogy. That is entirely what the researchers are trying to figure out. Does Anime promote sexism? and they say yes. In my analogy, the ‘particular aesthetics’ is what would be this study’s sexism.

Are gender roles perhaps an inherent part of society and not the propagation of Anime production parties?

I think it is more complicated. It appears to me, (and I do mean this as a subjective interpretation, I do not have yet objective data to prove this to you, but taking to the light-heartedness of this newsletter I think I will be pardoned this once,) this -

That it is more likely that whatever these researchers are claiming as ‘sexist’ actually are certain fundamental values that may already be an inherent subconscious part of the Anime community which consumes such media. These fundamental values over time have evolved to take extreme measures such as hypermasculinity and curvaceous females. But both of these seem to be one of the extreme ends of healthy masculinity and feminine energy.

Part of why Anime may have strayed toward over-expression is primarily that expressions are a difficult theme to express in animations that are hand-drawn and not 3D.

And that, instead that it is an Anime production house, authors and Mangaka who are pushing a sexist narrative, it may instead be an unintentional feedback loop.

Imagine you’re a mangaka

So let’s say I am a Mangaka, and I see that young men seem to like young girls with curvaceous bodies and worship jiggle physics (if you know you know). I will then produce a Manga that may either be completely a hentai or pornographic work, or another genre of work that contains fanservice (or limited exposure to sensual content).

I will do this with two things in mind,

  1.  There is a good following of people who watch Anime and read manga that have this ‘cultured meme’ thing going on, thereby which association of curves and bustiness has become quite normalised to this sort of audience. To the point that it is not even held in contempt, but is instead a niche that is celebrated.

  2. The best thing I can do to make a profit from such an audience is to give them what they want, which may be hentai, or which may be some sci-fi thriller story which is well thought out but contains your occasional fanservice just to creek a particular age-group or sex-group audience in.

Is it evil and extortionately greedy? Well, it’s difficult to say. One defence of capitalism is primarily that whenever there is a capitalist system, there is an accompanying idea of the free market.

You get to choose which sexist (or non-sexist) Anime you watch bud

What is free market? it is merely that limitless liberation to produce whatever the masses want. Humanity has produced all sorts of materials, for different people, for different groups. The benefit of this is the benefit of choice provided to consumers.

Look, here is an Anime that has hypermasculine men and curvaceous females, and here is an Anime that has family and kids and left-leaning liberty promotion. Which one do you want?

‘I want the former’

‘Aye, you got it’

A short refutation of the research

Again, no idea why I am putting this here.

This all leads us to one thing, primarily that the study took a random 45 episodes from the top Anime rated by MaL. Which firstly is full of cultured men (I include all genders and sexes into the word men), and also almost all of them (with the exception of Clannad) is a freakin shonen Anime.

  • It was meant to be for boys, of course, it will contain a ton of Boy characters.

  • The second finding that all women were drawn curvaceous, is not exactly a wrong evaluation. This is especially true for some authors, even those as legendary as Oda.

Now this again is a topic that is worth discussing perhaps in another episode of Mugen Monday.

Til then, enjoy liberty of choice and liberty to produce whatever the crowd demands.

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