Experiment 626. Twenty-five. "She" (technically cis-female but really gender-queer). Part of the invisible/forgotten B in LGBTQ. Aquarius. Fat and beautiful. Professionally involved in psychology and mental health. Feminist, activist, and advocate (which should go without saying, for everyone). Television show enthusiast. Obsessed with the 53 Disney Animated Features. ASOIAF reader. Ravenclaw.
All of my posts are queued and then randomized.
I run a Disney tumblr called disneyanalysis.
After the success of Sailor Moon, Toei Animation Studio realized magical girl shows were a great way to keep the cash coming and attract a market of young girls. And so, in 2004, the first Precure series came out. Back then it was still spelled “Pretty Cure” but at least by the time Fresh Precure rolled around, it had been shortened to “Precure”.
Precure has not stopped producing since the first 49-episode series in 2004. As soon as one series ends, the next series starts airing. So the franchise has been ongoing since 2004 right up until the present.
Currently there are ten Precure series: Futari Wa Pretty Cure, Futari’s direct sequel Futari wa Pretty Cure: Max Heart, Pretty Cure Splash Star, Yes! Precure 5, Yes’s direct sequel Yes! Precure 5 GoGo, Fresh Precure!, Heartcatch Precure!, Suite Precure, Smile Precure! and Dokidoki! Precure which is currently airing.
With exceptions of the two direct sequels, each Precure Series/Season is set in a seperate universe with different characters. So one can pretty much start with any season without watching any seasons before it- excepting the two sequels- and it will be a self-contained series. There are five AllStars movies where all the series cross over for a self contained adventure, but that’s about it for inter-continuity. Each separate season ranges from 47-50 episodes generally.
All the seasons follow the basic magical girl plotline- An ordinary girl or duo of girls encounters a cute fairy who informs them the world is in danger and that they are the chosen warriors. They are granted powers to fight the otherworldly threat, defeating monsters and collecting magical objects throughout the episodes. Often, a team of girls will be formed by the end of the season, with about four or five magical girls working together.
The magical girl genre is my favorite anime genre because it’s honestly one of the most feminist genres that exists. It’s about young women growing up and being heroes, drawing power from their bonds with other women and instead of being ashamed of femininity, they wield it as power. And the magical girl genre at its roots is supposed to be for an audience of young girls, to empower and entertain THEM. I don’t really approve of the recent trend of magical girl shows “for men”. There’s already everything else in the word for men, they don’t need to co-opt this genre.
Precure is fortunately still here to uphold all of those themes 100%. This is a show for young girls about girls being heroes. That doesn’t mean anything bad. It’s action packed, full of awesome punch-heavy fight scenes, loveable characters and the power of friendship. It can get dark and the stakes can be high, but it always keeps up the themes of optimism and overcoming pain to be stronger, and these girls aren’t punished for being powerful. It’s unashamedly girly and unashamedly cute, but you don’t mess with these girls.
There is generally zero fanservice too. The transformation sequences don’t show any nudity or sexualization-in fact, the girls often get to wear pretty gowns as they transform. The girls generally either have shorts under their skirts or incomprehensibly solid ruffles (I guess they’d be ruffled bloomers?) so there’s no panty shots and there’s no male gaze. Most of the time the girls actually look 14.
What’s more, with the exception of Yes! (I believe), there’s not much in the way of romance. Some of the girls have crushes on boys, but they’re generally not very important to the plot and only mentioned a couple of time- often times there’s no love interest in the picture at all. Guys are generally there to be flawlessly saved and protected by the girls. Either that or they’re blobby mascots. The bonds between the girls are the main focus and the show is usually too concerned with developing the girl friendship to seriously work any heterosexual romance in as a theme.
The girls are often very dedicated to their jobs as heroes, and get a lot stronger and learn more as they go on. Often, they have their own individual dreams and goals they pursue with driven passion, and that develops too.
Precure also often touches on the theme of redemption. The heroes save other women with the power of love and convince them to find a better path and discover their own identities. I love a good redemption arc, especially when it’s all about women helping each other escape from despair and escape from being shackled to dominating forces, and some of the arcs in Precure are very moving and well done (well, mostly one. We’ll get to that).
Not everything is flawless though. There are no canon queer characters, all the girls are thin and there’s not much disability representation besides some sickly side characters and only one series I know of has a recurring darker-skinned character.
Despite that, the strength of Precure is its loveable, often well-done characters and relationships, the awesome ladies kicking ass and good showcasing of female friendship and teamwork- not to mention colorful designs and cool fights. It’s a very positive kids show. It may not be “edgy” and don’t expect the plot to blow you away with complexity- but if you like fun stuff, humor, action, sparkly girly power, excellent relationships between women and good characters who often grow quite a bit, this series is for you.
However, some series are better than others, and all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. So I’m going to outline them for you! However, fair warning, I haven’t watched all of them. I don’t really have a desire to watch all of them either, so instead for those I’ll just give a brief description and/or direct you to liveblogs.
Now, your Precure guide! Faux Spoiler alert: Fresh is the best, Heartcatch and Smile are really good, Suite is pretty good and seriously, you should start with Fresh if you want to be hooked. Heartcatch is also a good choice to reel you in. It’s probably not a good idea to start with anything before Fresh, as of the three series I’ve only seen one and it definitely didn’t age well. The others might be fine, but I can’t vouch because I haven’t seen them. I wouldn’t recommend the latest Precure, DokiDoki, as a starter either.
Despite it’s title, Moretsu Pirates or Bodacious Space Pirates is relatively restrained in its fanservice and turned out to be a very feminist friendly as well as queer friendly show (canon queer romance!) and a fun watch to boot.
The anime tells the story of Marika Kato, who lives on a planet called “Sea of the Morningstar” in a distant future where space travel is commonplace. Marika is an enthusiastic member of her school’s yacht club, a club dedicated to piloting space crafts. She is suddenly approached with a surprise- turns out both her parents were space pirates sanctioned by the government, and with the death of her father (who she knew nothing about), she set to be the next space pirate captain. With a mysterious girl named Chiaki in tow, Marika has to figure out if space piracy is in the stars for her.
This show is a fun little romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It embraces it’s ridiculous premise and just does whatever it wants. Don’t expect it to be heavy on the action- it’s more of a laid back slice of life anime that happens to be about space piracy. The battles that happens are battles of wits and determination, not epic brawls. Often things are just thrown in there to be cool, or fun, or funny.
The great thing about the show is it’s focused on the journeys of a variety of powerful, determined, active and self possessed female characters- there’s a heavy theme of female relationships and female legacy going through it. Marika is a good lead- she’s smart and confident, but like the show she doesn’t really take herself too seriously and clearly has fun with what she does. It’s also nice to see a lady to gets by mainly on wit, leadership and tactical skills, which is what Marika’s all about. She bounces well off the other characters, especially her friend Chiaki, who tries and fails to keep up a cold, distant front in the face of Marika’s all-embracing enthusiasm. Marika also actively strives to be able to stand beside her mother and is trying to figure out who she is in the face of that, so there’s an element of mother-daughter legacy going on here. Despite the fact she’s taking over for her father, she never met him and so doesn’t seem terribly curious in learning about him, despite people constantly comparing them.
Marika has a lot of strong relationships with several other woman, and it’s really entirely women who drive everything in this series. Marika leads a band of high school girls to kick ass and take names as pirates in the stars. The story is largely about women helping other women forge their paths in life and discover themselves and be powerful and that’s great.
Angel Beats! intrigued me with it’s premise- basically a boy named Otonashi wakes up with no memory of anything other than his last name. A girl with a sniper rifle named Yuri lets him know that he’s dead. They’re in a sort of limbo for dead Japanese high school students that takes the form of a boarding school. A God is nowhere to be seen, but a girl dubbed Angel seems to enforce the rules of the school. Basically, if long as students behave and go to class like normal kids, they’ll disappear, and no one know what happens to them after that. Yuri is not ready to accept this. She refuses to disappear quietly into the unknown. She seeks to lead a rebellion against the God that gave them all such tragic and short lives, and she’s gathered an organization of likeminded students to fight Angel and then, presumably, her boss. She asks Otonashi to join her, but unable to remember anything, he’s unsure of which side to choose…
It’s an exciting premise, but the most interesting thing about Angel Beats! from a feminist perspective is the casual reversal of gender roles with the male and female lead of the show.
The fact is that Otonashi is a sensitive, emotional, bighearted and loving person. He’s not an action guy and not very good at physical fighting. In the beginning, he misses when he fires a gun, causing him to explain “agh! I suck!” and though he improves marginally as the show goes on, he never becomes a real action guy, tending to fall behind and be protected by the others when it comes to physical fighting. But his real value lies in his sensitive soul. Otonashi’s strength bought up again and again is his open emotion and empathy for those around them. The fact that he’s very compassionate and reaches out to understand and connect with those around him is what drives his character. He actually once saves the day by hugging another boy and yelling at him that he loves him. And that’s what saves the day when no amount of physical force could. Otonashi’s sensitive heart opens the eyes of others and ultimately brings change and understanding to other characters. He also cries a lot, and openly. Obviously, this is all very unusual to see in a male protagonist- he exibits traits that are typically thought of as feminine- hugging and crying to solve his problems while being bad at physical fighting, choosing pacifism, understanding and compassion over violence- and what’s more, these traits are shown to be good for a man to have by the narrative, and highly valued. This narrative shows traditionally feminine traits as powerful, and that a man who has the traits is strong rather than weakened. He also treats the women around him with respect and admiration and isn’t afraid to openly rely on their strength and praise them for it, which is great.
Michiko e Hatchin or Michiko to Hatchin is a 2008 anime series that takes place in fictionalized Brazilian/Latin American setting, and the heart of it is the relationship between Michiko Malandro and Hana Morenos, a woman and a little girl on the run together.
Michiko breaks out of prison and crashes into Hana’s abusive foster home on a moped, rescues the young girl and they set out on a mission to find Hana’s father, Hiroshi, who was Michiko’s ex-lover. On the way, they are pursued by Atsuko Jackson, a cop who has a complicated past and an even more complicated relationship/rivalry with Michiko. Hana and Michiko have to deal with scams, attempts on their lives by paid professionals, gangsters and their own clashing personalities during their journey.
Michiko e Hatchin at its core is about two women against the world, taking it on together. It’s true that Michiko states that her goal is to reunite with her lover, but let’s just say her motivation is more complex. The idea that Michiko is just bringing Hana along as a bargaining chip so she can get back with Hiroshi is bough up as a point of conflict a lot in the series, but it’s explored well -not really a spoiler to say Michiko cares about Hana in her own way.
What’s more, it’s clear from the beginning that Hana herself isn’t really as interested in seeing her Dad, and this only intensifies as the series goes on and she becomes less and less impressed with her Dad- she sticks with Michiko because she loves her and this is the first adult she’s met who actually genuinely cares about her. Hana and Michiko have a complicated and nuanced relationship- everything’s not sunshine and flowers. They fight a lot because Michiko’s reckless, tenacious nature can clash with Hana’s caution and sensitivity. Hana suffers from her previous abuse and abandonment issues, so she is especially prone to acting out when Michiko leaves her for any period, and gets incredibly jealous when Michiko has dalliances with men- meanwhile Michiko has had a hard life and therefore is not equipped to be the perfect guardian- she can be unintentionally neglectful and has a short fuse that can manifest in some bad stuff.
The Twelve Kingdoms (also called Jūni Kokuki, “Record of 12 Countries” or “Juuni Kokki”) is a story by Fuyumi Ono that is both a series of novels and an anime. It’s one of the most well constructed and positive fantasy stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
The most prominent narrative centers around Yoko Nakajima, a submissive sixteen year old girl who lives to please those around her, reared by her controlling father to believe a very narrow idea of what girls should be. Everything changed for Yoko when a strange man approached her at school and informed her she was being hunted by demons. The man bowed to her and offered her his protection and allegiance. Yoko was panicked into accepting his offer, and given a sword to fight demons with. She was chased by the demons into the fantastical world of the twelve kingdoms, separated from her mysterious protector and stranded. The world of the Twelve Kingdoms is filled with strange customs and dangerous creatures, and in some places the outsiders that blow in from Japan and China aren’t welcomed due to the calamity caused by the storms that blow them in. This meek schoolgirl who built her life around serving others now has only herself to count on, and she is going to have to find out who she is and what she’s really made of if she wants to survive.
If you’re looking for a story that has a) has ridiculously complex and thorough world building that delves into every facet of the mythology, geography, population and governance of a high-fantasy alternate word and b) massive character development, intense psychological examination and characters having to examine the effects of abuse of power and oppression and facing sticky moral conflicts with no easy answers and oh did we mention that these complex and conflicted characters are mostly excellent ladies….well, this is the right story, my friend.
RideBack is a twelve episode anime adapted from a manga of the same name. The story takes place in a near future where an organization called the “Global Government Plan” is in power and it focuses on Rin Ogata.
Rin followed in the footsteps of her late mother as a ballerina but she injures her leg during a performance and gives up her passion. At her college she happens upon a club devoted to racing on machines called RideBacks - a robot-motorcycle hybrid. Rin finds herself enamored with the machine and the way she moves with it is reminscent of her passion and experience with ballet. But the machines are also deeply involved with a government conspiracy and Rin finds herself caught up in it.
This review is of Revolutionary Girl Utena or Shoujo Kakumei Utena and the movie Adolescence of Utena (which is essentially a loose retelling/reinterpretation of the show). I am not reviewing the Utena manga by Chiho Saito, as I have never read them (well, I tried, but couldn’t make it). By all accounts, the quality is lower and the themes and queerness are erased or watered down. Saito’s homophobic comments don’t impress me either.
These are difficult works to review because revealing the true greatness of the series would require basically spoiling the whole plot. Even discussing specific characters or facets, I can’t do them justice without spoiling everything, but I’ll do my best.
The reason Utena has this challenge is because it’s a series that messes with your preconceptions and subverts your expectations. Nothing is as it seems and every character has layers and issues and complexes that will be peeled back as it goes on. Expect heavy symbolism and heavy concepts.
But what I can say about this series is that it is eminently qualified for being part of this review because the entire premise is deconstructing gender roles, examining and criticizing misogyny and turning ism-filled tropes so common in fiction on their head. Also tons of queer characters and themes and commentary on racism as well. This is not just a deconstruction of shoujo- it’s a deconstruction of myth and fairy tale and human psychology in general, and it’s not just a surface look either. It will make you uncomfortable. And it will revel in doing so. I should also note it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve ever seen that sexualizes men just as much as women are generally sexualized. All in the name of deconstruction, of course.
Read or Die
Read or Die is a franchise centered around the idea of fighting evil…with LITERACY! Or more accurately, mutant paper manipulating powers that allow those blessed with the abilities to form paper into ‘anything from flying machines to bizarre creatures to stuff that can slice through metal. These “Paper Masters” are typically quirky bibliophiles.
The series spans several media and each continuity is separate though they share concepts and characters. There’s the light novels that started it all, the Read or Die manga, the Read or Dream manga, the Read or Die three episode OVA and the 26 episode ROD the TV anime that acts as a distant sequel to the OVA and unites the characters of the Read or Die and Read or Dream continuities. I’ll outline all these different stories and what’s good or bad about them in comparison to the others in their own sections.