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Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category

In our final section of our series, we take a look at shojo manga in North America.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Origins of Shojo Manga
Part 3: Riyoko Ikeda (Part 1)
Part 4: Moto Hagio
Part 5: Keiko Takemiya
Part 6: Interlude: The Rose of Versailles Franchise
Part 7: Riyoko Ikeda and The Influence of The Rose of Versailles, 1990s
Part 8: Riyoko Ikeda and The Influence of The Rose of Versailles, 2000s

Shojo manga (and the animated adaptations of these manga) have had a strong cultural impact on recent generations of fans in the United States and Canada. During the past fifteen years, fan discussions and fannish artistic production have nourished diverse interests in Japanese cultural products, which are beginning to exert a stronger influence on mainstream geek media.

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Screen cap of Steven Universe of a desk with a copy of a Sailor Moon manga on it. Although the lamp is supposed to be the character Cookie Cat, it has a striking resemblance to Luna the cat from Sailor Moon and Chibiusa’s balloon “Luna P.”

 In 2002, the now-defunct manga publisher Tokyopop launched a program it called “Global Manga,” which was kicked off by the Rising Stars of Manga talent competition. The winning entries were published in a volume of the same physical dimensions as the publisher’s Japanese manga titles, and there were eventually eight volumes of The Rising Stars of Manga, with the last appearing in the summer of 2008. During this time, certain winners were encouraged to submit proposals to Tokyopop, which published their work as OEL, or “original English language,” manga. Because Tokyopop’s bestselling titles where shojo manga, about half of their OEL manga were characterized as shojo as well.

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Cover art of M. Alice Legrow’s Bizenghast, with an image of Dinah as a violin playing herself.

One of Tokyopop’s most commercially successful original OEL manga titles was M. Alice LeGrow’s eight-volume series Bizenghast, which, like Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, is a shojo story with shonen elements. LeGrow’s story takes the adorable mascot creatures, monsters-of-the-week, cute costumes, adoring and beautiful young men, and powerful female villains of Japanese manga for girls and transplants them into the small Massachusetts community of Bizenghast, which becomes an Edgar Allan Poe-ified Gothic wonderland after dark. The art style combines the huge eyes and wide panels of fan-favorite shojo manga like Cardcaptor Sakura and Fruits Basket with steampunk Art Deco motifs and Edward Gorey-style line etchings. The artistic and narrative conventions of manga and the stylizations of Western fantasy are so blended and intermixed that it’s impossible to tell whether Bizenghast is a manga with American influences or a graphic novel with Japanese influences.

As Tokyopop began its decline in 2008, an imprint called Yen Press rose to fill the void. The publisher’s magazine Yen Plus solicited reader contributions, which resulted in both one-shot and continuing OEL manga appearing within the pages of the magazine. These titles were written and drawn by women and featured clear shojo stylizations. In addition, Yen Press’s parent company Hachette began releasing manga adaptations of some of its biggest young adult properties, including Gossip Girl, Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate series, and Twilight. All of these manga adaptations are imbued with a strong shojo feel.

What Yen Press seemed to be jumping on was the idea that manga could reach an audience of young women (and young-at-heart women) who may have felt excluded from traditionally male-centered genres like action comics and science fiction. These female readers increasingly came equipped with access to online and in-person fandom networks, which could help ensure the longevity and profitability of any given franchise, as was famously the case with Star Trek and Harry Potter.

As a result of the creation and growth of an audience for shojo manga in North America, it’s easy to see a definite shojo influence on mainstream entertainment media. One of the most interesting incarnations of this trend is Cartoon Network’s animated television series Adventure Time, whose producers have actively scouted young talent from places like comic conventions and fannish art sharing websites such as Tumblr. A number of these artists are women from the generation that grew up reading and watching shōjo series such as Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, and easily identifiable references to these titles occasionally pop up in the show. As a result, Rebecca Sugar, a former storyboard artist for Adventure Time, was given a green light by Cartoon Network to create a magical boy show, Steven Universe, which features all manner of references to anime, manga, and video game culture. Since its first season aired in 2013, Steven Universe has received an overwhelming amount of support from both Adventure Time fans and the enormous shojo anime and manga fanbase on Tumblr.

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Promotional image for Steven Universe with Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl–and Steven!

Seeing better representation of diverse female characters in shojo manga has encouraged more young women outside of Japan to seek careers in comics and animation. In the future, we will probably see an even stronger embrace of shojo-related narrative influences, art styles, and fandom cultures as the members of the Adventure Time and Steven Universe generation start coming out with their own work. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of shojo manga, which continues to be as vibrant, appealing, and supportive of a diversity of female and gender-nonconforming identities as it was in the 1970s.   

This panel and series of essays is copyright Kathryn Hemmann and L.M. Zoller 2015-16 and was originally presented as the panel “The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga” at Geek Girl Con 2015.

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Via Tor.com. [Image: cover of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. The cover shows an open wooden door in a doorframe in the middle of a forest.]

What’s the Non-Binary Book Club?

While Book Club might have fallen a bit by the wayside as I (and many of the other participants in this group and in my blogging community) have spent the post-election weeks calling representatives, donating, and just reading, reading, reading everything about bills and political issues and the Electoral College and trying everything to get through to the people who are not concerned about marginalized groups because it’s easier to say “you’ll survive, don’t be a sore loser” than “you and your loved ones might be in danger and your fear is rational, what can we do to help each other? I am listening.”

Plus, Thanksgiving, that great “oh god please no one talk politics at the dinner table but also I am angry and feel like yelling” holiday is this week. Maybe you need a nice fantasy book to warm your heart as you crash in the guest room or on the couch, or to give to your cousin or sibling who just came out, or to remind yourself that you are real, you exist, and you matter.

In light of this disaster of an election, I want to highlight groups relevant to each post where you can donate, volunteer, share with others, utilize, and/or learn more. Since today’s book features ace and trans youth, here are a few ways you can support them under the VP-elect’s anti-LGBTQ Christian extremism.

The Trevor Project, which has support for LGBTQIA and questioning youth, and is ace and trans inclusive. In addition to the (telephone) hotline, there are also options to text and chat; the hotlines are staffed by trained counselors. If you’re an adult, you can receive training for youth-serving professionals.

Trans Lifeline deals specifically with trans issues and is staffed by trans people. A $25 donation pays for someone’s call. The Lifeline received 400 calls on election night–essentially a month’s worth of calls.

PFLAG: don’t let the name mislead you: “Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” covers all our rainbow alphabet-soup letters, not just LG. If you have an LGBTQIA family member or friend and want to learn how to be a good ally* without relying on that person for your education, this is THE place to go. And not just for straight and cis allies: maybe you’re bi+ or trans and your partner isn’t–go together. Maybe you want your parents to see other people like you, or they want to network and advocate for you. Maybe you need a guided space to sort out your feelings about your orientation or gender, or had someone come out to you and want to educate yourself. There’s plenty of reasons to attend. There are chapters all over the country. *Note: including within the queer community–trans and nonbinary individuals and bi+ are marginalized within the monosexual-cis queer community.

Finally, here’s an article on supporting ace youth.

Our Sept/Oct 2016 book: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.

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Cover for “Help! Everything in my life is turning GAY” by Sophie LaBelle. Frank is clutching his face; there’s a silhouette of a unicorn in the background.

I adore Sophie LaBelle’s comic Assigned Male, and when she announced she was making a Halloween zine (Hallowzine?), I preordered the crap out of it.

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Image: Illustration by Anna Bongiovanni of a queer Halloween party with two people dressed as Carol Aird, one from the novel The Price of Salt and one from the film Carol, with a nervous looking person dressed as Therese in a Santa hat.

In case you needed ideas for queer costumes for Halloween or a loving queer laugh about costumes that queer folks gravitate toward, Kayla and Anna have just the list/comic for you.

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (2016) was an experience which left me feeling both disappointed and somehow queerer. Let me explain.

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Image of Laverne Cox’s spider-web leggings with the text #RockyHorror and #DontDreamItBeIt

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Content note: contains images of a racist and sexualized costumes.

Spirit Halloween always gets a mention on my Feminist Halloween series in the costume fail category because of their racist, sexist costumes. This year, when Spirit Halloween asked Zooey Roy, an Indigenous woman in Saskatoon, to leave after complaining about the Indigeneous-inspired (read: racist and appropriative) costumes the store stocks. Chris Kortright and the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism decided to take action by taping warning labels on the costumes:

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Image: Spirit Halloween adult costume with a low-cut beaded leather dress with fringe and a headband with three feathers and beading: “Reservation Royalty.” The package has a warning label on it (see below for text). Image via Facebook

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Image: the poster for The Moth Diaries, showing Ernessa touching Rebecca’s face

In the course of doing this series, I always find a couple of duds–films that aren’t very interesting, not ones I can recommend as feminist horror films but also not ones that clearly illustrate problematic elements. I hit a couple of dull ones this year that I’ll review briefly, including today’s selection: The Moth Diaries.

I was promised atmospheric queer vampire romance directed by a woman. The first half of the film delivers, but the second half just doesn’t hit the mark.

Rebecca is a student at an all-girls boarding school (surprise). She totally wants to be gal pals with her bestie Lucy, but Lucy is too enraptured with Ernessa, the new student who totally isn’t a vampire, to notice.  (more…)

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