A Vacant Sea…
Here we go, time for me to talk seriously about something again. Let’s talk about homosexuality and anime.
A few weeks back, I mentioned that people will give fans of yuri or yaoi shit for accepting tropes and things that they would normally not accept in what isn’t a homosexual love story. And they’re somewhat right in their accusations, but they’re also missing a major point in all of it, one that I hope to explain in this post among other things.
Homosexual anime have their own set of overused tropes. In yuri it’s basically a set standard that the relationship must be “innocent and pure” and the actual relationship, outside of pornography, often doesn’t even extend beyond suggestively ending with one or more relationships between characters. It’ll be chapters upon chapters of characters saying that their feelings are odd and wrong because it’s between girls and when they finally accept their feelings it’s basically all over. Yaoi is often more suggestive and sexual in its presentation, but follows a similar storytelling formula more often than not, ending just as things are starting.
While this often happens in straight romance as well, there’s a far wider range of alternatives. You can easily find a straight romance story which spends most of its time actually focusing on relationships established early on. Hell, I have reviewed multiple stories like that in just my few months of anime blogging. As a result of this, when the standard tropes from the straight romance stories start creeping into stories with homosexual elements, we might be more forgiving about it as long as the tropes we’re used to seeing in the homosexual stories are kept down as a result. It’s a case of taking what we can get, because there’s not the same wide selection of stories to begin with.
Now, to make sure we’re clear here. It’s not like I will automatically dislike any show, regardless of the sexual orientation of the romance plot, because of some tropes simply being there. I’ve said in the past that I like Nisekoi despite it both having a terrible male lead and probably ten overused cliché sub-plots in just the few episodes that are out, and that’s a straight romantic comedy. And if the tropes end up in a homosexual story, I won’t automatically enjoy it. I tried reading the yuri manga Sakana no Miru Yume last fall and could not get into it despite really wanting to for that very reason.
The big problem regarding sexuality in the world at large is that we view heterosexuality as normal and homosexuality (among other sexualities) as abnormal. Even if you’re accepting of homosexuals and hold no ill-will against them, chances are that you still conform to a heteronormative line of thinking. I’ve heard people legitimately angry that a person might ship two fictional characters of the same gender with the argument “They’re not gay, you shouldn’t ship them!” as their big reason. But nine times out of ten, the character has never spoken out as being heterosexual to begin with. Who are you to assume? Or even if they have shown attraction towards the opposite gender, who’s to say they might not be bisexual? Personally I think that shipping shouldn’t be taken on any serious level to begin with, but if you’re going to start arguments about it, then assuming a character is simply heterosexual is just as offensive as “deciding” they’re not simply heterosexual.
It goes further than fan-fiction though, of course. How rare is it to see homosexual relationships outside of a show focusing on homosexual relationships? It’s almost non-existent and when it’s there it’s almost exclusively to provide disturbing comedy or sexual titillation. I don’t have a problem with the latter, like I’ve mentioned before, but it’s sad that it’s basically the only thing that it’s being used for. As for when homosexuality is used for a joke and nothing else, it makes me a little sad, but it can be done well and without harming the show as a whole too. I’ll use Golden Time as an example of a show that did this both with good humour and without badmouthing homosexuality in any way, and Super Seishun Brothers as a show that did the total opposite. That’s not even getting into the whole “trap” thing, which I briefly talked about last year.
Now, there are of course exceptions to every rule. Sailor Moon famously had homosexual characters back in the 90s and their sexuality was rarely if ever used against them. Most famously is, of course, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune who are in a relationship from their very introduction in both the manga and the anime, but on the villain side we had Kunzite and Zoisite who were also lovers. Then of course you have Yukito and Toya in Cardcaptor Sakura. But most of the time the best you’ll get in an anime that’s not specified yuri or yaoi is a small suggestive wink about a homosexual attraction between characters.
This year we’re pretty lucky. We have three yuri shows and one yaoi show confirmed to air and one of them has already started. It took just the PV to get people outright angry about the show existing. I’m of course talking about Sakura Trick, which just released its sixth episode yesterday as of writing this. The show got attacked on mainly for reasons I already brought up in this post so I won’t go over it again, but if the reaction to Sakura Trick happened every time a show that didn’t feature homosexual women did the very same things that it did, then we would have a anime community even more angry and rage-filled than the one we already have. That’s because the effect of the tropes I mentioned earlier works both ways. When a homosexual story is bad, it often feels worse than a heterosexual story, because you can’t just always go get another one.
Every show should always be judged on your own subjective enjoyment of the show, but that subjective enjoyment will always be influenced by the things around you. Should we enjoy a show less or more simply because of the sexual orientation characters in the show? The simple response is no, we shouldn’t. But it’s not that simple, because it’s never that simple. The real question shouldn’t be what we “should” be doing, but what we will be doing. Will we enjoy a show less or more simply because of the sexual orientation characters in the show? As long as the sexual orientation is part of something with a smaller selection, then yes, we will. We shouldn’t, but we will, because that’s how subjective taste and outside influence work.
And this is not a post about me telling you how to react and feel about things. Whether or not you like or dislike something is up to you. I will never take that away from you and I don’t want to take that away from you. But when I see people who share my sentiment and feelings on this topic get attacked and questioned on message-boards and social networks because they had the guts to disregard a trope they once criticized, I felt that I needed to do my best to fully explain just why it’s not as simple as black and white to some of us.
When the day comes, and it will come, that there’s no longer a heteronormative view in storytelling. When homosexuality is truly not viewed as abnormal to the public eye and the selection of stories involving homosexual relationships is just as wide as those that contain heterosexual relationships in both size and genres, then I can happily say that the overlapping tropes that I dislike will not receive any amount of potential disregard simply due to them existing in a homosexual story. Because I won’t have any need to at that point, there’ll be plenty more fish in the sea. But we’re not at that point yet.
Let’s get to that point first and then start being too picky.
That’s it for Valentine’s Week! I hope you enjoyed it.
- Day 1: Three True Pairings
- Day 2: Best Romance Right Now
- Day 3: Why do male leads suck!?
- Day 4: Golden Time | Episode 14-18 Review
- Day 5: Who’s your waifu?
- Day 6: Say “I love you.” | Series Review
- Day 7: Talking Homosexual Anime