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The “Golden Ani-Versary of Anime” is a collaborative effort among bloggers, fans, and experts of anime to celebrate the 30th anniversary of anime on television. Coordinated by one Geoff Tebbetts, the plan is to have one article per year from 1963 and the debut of Tetsuwan Atom all the way up to 2012. I’ve included below an excerpt from my entry on the year 1977.
The year 1977 is something of a contradictory time in anime. Although the industry at this point was at the beginning of an animation boom and had been firmly established for over a decade, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact level of experimentation vs. continuation of formulaic trends, simply because in many cases the individual works of 1977 featured both.
The ’70s were the golden age of giant robot anime, and with six super robot-themed anime debuting (as well as five holdovers from the previous year) 1977 was no exception to that trend. Somewhat unfortunately for the robot anime of that year, the legendary arrival of Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 tends to overshadow them as a whole, but while nothing in 1977 broke the mold as Gundam would, there were a few series which pushed that mold to its very limits. These shows managed to convey new and interesting ideas while working well within established convention, an impressive feat in its own right.
This post contains spoilers from Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Mine Fujiko
Lupin the Third: The Woman Named Mine Fujiko came and went, and I think it brought with it an intriguing sort of depth and character study that differentiates it from most anime out there.
The way in which the series explores the psychology of the character Fujiko really felt like women were in charge of this show, which they were. It had not only a female writer in Okada Mari, but also a female director in Yamamoto Sayo. I think I get this impression because while Fujiko is an unpredictable character of many mysteries, the way it’s portrayed doesn’t invoke “mysterious woman” as some kind of unsolvable rubik’s cube or distant creature like I think often happens when men write about exploring a female character’s psyche. There is less peeling back the layers and more starting from the assumption that the way thinking happens on the part of Fujiko is normal.
There’s an interesting twist which happens at the end of the series where up until that final episode we think we’re learning about Fujiko’s past and that finally we get to know what makes her tick, but it turns out that all of those memories have been falsely implanted in her. That false past shown is one of rape and sexual abuse, and it created this sense that Fujiko’s life of crime and hypersexual activity is in response to that. As I was watching, I wondered how this would transform the identity of the character of Fujiko, and even whether this extreme past would make it incompatible with the rest of the Lupin the Third franchise before it’s revealed to be false information.
If the circumstances were different, the fact that we were basically fed lies perhaps might have felt like a cop-out, but I don’t see it that way at all. By subverting it at the very end I feel like that whole train of thought, the very act of considering the consequences, became a meaningful thought exercise.
Warning: Spoilers for Aquarion EVOL in this post
Amidst fears that a television series starring the matron saint of anime femme fatales would be mired in an inescapable well of sexism, Lupin III: The Woman Named Mine Fujiko manages to assuage those worries through extremely sharp characterization. Say what you will about nudity or Fujiko as an object of sexual desire, but the show makes it clear that they all have the skills and the smarts to succeed in their mutual world of thievery. Even if trust is at a premium (as is often said), there is no shortage of respect between Fujiko, Lupin, and the rest, and with mutual respect comes a sense of equality.
I’m not about to decry anime and manga as being polluted with unequal male-female relationships, as I can think of many examples to counter that idea, enough so that they don’t collectively turn into “the exception that proves the rule,” but this very idea of representing gender-egalitarianism has me thinking about what goes into portraying such relationships. For example, if a boyfriend and girlfriend each alternate being “dominant,” then is that “equal” or is it merely just multiple instances of inequality? Does breaking things down for comparison defeat the idea of equality between a guy and a girl by putting too much emphasis on haves and have-nots, or is ignoring it a bigger mistake?
As far as recent anime goes, the other show besides Lupin: Fujiko which has me really considering the concept of equality among opposite sexes is Aquarion EVOL, particularly that of Yunoha and Jin, the (literally?) star-crossed lovers who seem to have taken Pixiv by storm. Yunoha is an extremely quiet girl whose very shyness translates into her power (invisibility), and when she meets Jin (an enemy spy whose power is to keep others away), the two form a bond which gradually grows stronger.
Between Yunoha’s diminutive size in multiple respects (in a series full of toned and busty girls, her proportions are significantly more subdued) and her personality, Yunoha can seem to carry a potential problem that is similar, yet in a certain sense opposite to that of Fujiko in the sense that she can come across as the girliest girl, harmless and pleasant and easy to dote upon. Yet, despite the awkwardness of some of her interactions with Jin which can come across as her being dominated (notably the part where he tries to kidnap her out of love so that she can be the mother of his children and save his woman-less population from dying out), I don’t get that sense from their relationship.
While Yunoha can seem weak, and even her willpower and inner strength aren’t particularly impressive, Jin in many ways seems even weaker despite the basic idea that he’s an extremely skilled pilot and a deadly fighter. There’s something to his personality, perhaps a combination of naivete and extremely subtle yet numerous emotional scars, which make even his “domination” seem weak. In that sense, I find their relationship to be a very equal one, but in the sense that the two seem to grow to understand each other, a resonance between similar, yet complementary individuals.
One of the big ideas I keep running into when it comes to portraying a character well with respect to their gender is “the right to be a weak character.” By that, I mean how weakness (mental, physical, emotional, etc.) is generally thought of as a trait which makes one character “lower” than another, and which implies that their appeal is in their “lower” status, but at the same time that weakness can resonate on a more “equal” level with those who perhaps find themselves similarly weak. I think this is probably part of what makes arguments over moe so volatile, but let’s leave that for another time.
(Please don’t argue over moe.)