History of LGBT anime

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Cardcaptor Sakura Animate Cafe Taipei, 2018

For many years, LGBTQ characters, and related themes, have appeared in anime series and anime films, often based on yuri or yaoi manga, appearing more frequently since the 1970s, part of the History of LGBT anime. In the 1980s and 1990s, series such as Rose of Versailles (1979-1980), Ranma ½ (1989), Dear Brother (1991-1992), and Sailor Moon (1992-1997), Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997), and Cardcaptor Sakura (1998) were some of the most well-known. This continued with series like Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl (2006), Strawberry Panic! (2006), Sweet Blue Flowers (2009), Wandering Son (2011), Yurikuma Arashi (2015), and Otherside Picnic (2021) in later years. This page, organized chronologically, focuses on the most prominent, and influential, representations of LGBTQ characters in anime, noting directors, storyboarders, or writers who worked on various series.

Early years: 1970s-1980s[edit]

Osamu Tezuka in 1951; he was one of the directors of Cleopatra.

On September 25, 1970, Cleopatra, directed by Osamu Tezuka and Eiichi Yamamoto, was released.[1] It would be the first Hentai with an "X rating."[a] The film would feature various LGBTQ characters: Apollodoria, who is attracted to Cleopatra, and Octavian, who is attracted to a man named Ionius.[2] Tezuka had previously written the Princess Knight manga, while Yamamoto had previously directed Astro Boy. Tezuka would later work on the anime based on the Princess Knight manga he had written.

From September 1979 to September 1980, Rose of Versailles, directed by Tadao Nagahama (episodes 1-18), and Osamu Dezaki (episodes 19-40), aired on Nippon TV. The manga, which ran from 1972 to 1973,[3] was famous for having the first "bed scene" in manga that was depicted by a woman,[4] which has had a "profound impact" on female readers,[5] including fan criticism of the adaptation of this scene to the anime.[6] Yukari Fujimoto has said that "for us junior and senior high school girls at that time, our concept of sex was fixed by that manga".[5] The anime series earned high popularity on Japanese television and later in other parts of the world.[7] Influenced by Princess Knight, which aired on Fuji TV from 1967 to 1968,[8][9][10][b] In the anime, Princess Sapphire, would be introduced as a genderqueer character. She would be raised as a boy by their father since women are not eligible to inherit the throne,[11] but would be born with both a male and female heart, and later fall in love with and marry Prince Frank. CBR would praise the anime for achieving the "cinematic extravagance and form that the lavish former Queen of France would approve of."[12]

In the 1980s, anime started to go through a "visual quality renewal" thanks to new directors like Hayao Miyazaki, who founded Studio Ghibli in 1985, Isao Takahata and Katsuhiro Ōtomo.[13] Anime began to deal with more nuanced and complex stories, while Boy's Love continued to impact cultural norms, taking root across East Asia, as countries such as South Korea, Thailand, and China ingested these Japanese pop culture exports.[14][15]:3

Junji Nishimura's series, Urusei Yatsura (1981-1986) included Ryūnosuke Fujinami, a tomboyish girl and protagonist who she goes out on a date with an alien girl Ran, who thinks that Ryūnosuke is a lesbian after she says she has no interest in boys, and a protagonist of the anime.[16] In the OVA, titled "Nagisa's Fiance," Nagisa Shiowatari becomes her fiancé, a guy who was raised as a girl, meaning he behaves and crossdresses as a girl, implying that she may be bisexual. Her character was later used as a prototype for Ukyo Kuonji in the popular anime series, Ranma ½, as he also crossdresses as a girl.[17][18][19] In the same anime, the male protagonist, Ranma Saotome, is a "guy who transforms into a girl...from a woman into a man," and is attracted to Akane Tendo.[20][19] However, it is unclear whether this is confirmation she is a trans man,[21] trans woman[22] or something else because Rumiko Takahashi said in November 1992 that she decided on "the character being half man and half woman."[23][c] Some argued that the series "accidentally provides a resonant allegory for transmasculine identity"," is not "a healthy model for coming to terms with one’s trans-ness," and reinforced stereotypes.[21][24] From 2004 to 2006, Nishimura would direct NHK's Kyo Kara Maoh!, an anime where Wolfram von Bielefeld becomes the accidental fiancé of a man named Shibuya Yuuri.[25]

Growing representation in the 1990s[edit]

The popularity of anime continued to rise in the 1990s, with the early 90s known as an "anime boom."[26] Huge conventions were hosted while the yuri, BL, and related genres began attracting fans outside Japan, including in Hong Kong and mainland China.[27][28] A devoted fan base blossomed in the West as channels such as Cartoon Network airing anime in program blocks.[29][30] Although anime programs began declining after the "collapse of the bubble economy" in 1992 and an economic slump during the 1990s, anime continued to explore complex concepts.[31] Examples of this exploration included Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cardcaptor Sakura, and One Piece,[13] three of which had longstanding LGBTQ+ characters, one of which had LGBTQ+ moments (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and another which had very little representation (Dragon Ball).[32][33]

Early 1990s[edit]

Osamu Dezaki, who directed episodes 19-40 of the Rose of Versailles,[d] directed Dear Brother, which would air on NHK from 1991 to 1992. Fukiko "Miya-sama" Ichinomiya, a conservative-dressing woman,[34] who often psychologically and physically tortures Rei for several ambiguous reasons,[35] desires her sister, Rei "Saint-Juste" Asaka, and tries to destroy the relationship between Rei and Nanako Misonoo, by making Nanako love her instead.[36] Fukiko is also shown to love a man named Takehiko. The anime also has two lesbian characters, Mariko Shinobu who loves Karou, and Nanako Misonoo who loves Rei, with the latter relationship one of the major driving plots of the series.[37][36] Rei's destructive relationship with Fukiko leads her to be troubled, obsessed with death, and drug-addicted, which is why some compare it to Revolutionary Girl Utena.[38]

In 1991, RG Veda, an OVA by Animate Films, would premiere.[e] It was based on a manga by CLAMP which ran from 1989 to 1996. In this anime, Kendappa-ō, also known as Kendappa-Oh, decides, in the first episode, to kill Sōma, whom she is in love with, herself.[39] She commits suicide in the show's second episode, saying there is no point in living in Heaven without her. The anime also featured Ashura, who was born neither as a man or a woman as punishment for their father's sins so they can not continue the royal lineage.[40] From 1992 to 1994, Tokyo Babylon, another OVA based on a CLAMP manga, would air. Two characters in the original manga, Subaru Sumeragi and Seishirō Sakurazuka, would appear in X anime series, based on a manga by CLAMP, which was broadcast on Wowow from 2002. These two characters were gay and grew to love each other.[41][42]

Clamp (group of artists) at the Anime Expo 2006; they created manga like RG Veda, Sailor Moon, Cardacaptor Sakura, and others which turned into anime

Sailor Moon would begin airing on TV Asahi in 1992 and end its run in 1997. Season 1 would be directed by Junichi Sato, Seasons R and S, and Super S would be directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, while the show's final season, Sailor Stars would be directed by Takuya Igarashi. In 1992, Zoisite and Kunzite were introduced. They were powerful generals who work under Queen Beryl from the Dark Kingdom are an openly gay couple in the 90s anime series. Though, in some dubs in other countries, Zoisite's gender was changed to female for his feminine appearance and to make them a heterosexual couple instead, but in other dubs, they are changed into brotherly figures because of the closeness of their relationship.[43] In 1994, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were introduced. They would become one of the most iconic lesbian couples in anime,[44][45] with the dubbed version on US and European television networks portraying them as cousins.[46][32][47] Although this was amended years later, networks, at the time, chopped out the "gay content" in the dubbed version of Cardcaptor Sakura, which had aired on NHK-BS2.[48][32] Some would describe the relationship between Uranus and Neptune as butch-femme.[49] The relationship between Sailor Uranus and Neptune would be expressed in two films in the late 1990s: Sailor Moon S: The Movie (1994) and Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie (1995). Another film, Sailor Moon R: The Movie (1993) would have a gay character named Fiore. He is an alien who lands on Earth and met Mamoru Chiba / Tuxedo Mask when they were both children. Years later, as adults, Fiore comes back to Earth and tries to reconnect with Mamoru. It is strongly implied that Fiore's feelings for Mamoru are romantic.[50][51]

Later 1990s[edit]

In 1995, Fish-Eye, an effeminate cross-dressing man romantically interested in men as first shown in Sailor Moon.[52][53] He was changed into a woman in the English dub. The same year, the anime cyberpunk film, Ghost in the Shell would begin showing in theaters. Some would say that the themes of "disassociation from the body inspired a lot of transgender interpretations."[54] The movie's writer, Kazunori Itō would go on to compose the screenplay, plan the series, and be soundtrack supervisor for .hack//Sign (2002). That series would have a lesbian relationship between two characters, An Shoj/Tsukasa and Mariko Misono/Subaru.[55][56][57]

In 1996, the genderqueer Sailor Starlights would be introduced. In the anime, the Sailor Starlights (Sailor Star Fighter, Sailor Star Maker, and Sailor Star Healer) were assigned female at birth, but transform to present as male and refer to themselves as males when not fighting, as shown in the episode, "Holy War in the Galaxy! Sailor Wars Legend."[52][58] Neptune and Uranus were some of the Sailor Starlights, and would act like in their civilian forms but transform into women when they battled villains.[59][60]

Some scholars argued that the gender of the characters in Sailor Moon was irrelevant to their personalities, attitudes, or behaviors, with oft-blurring of gender characteristics, "traditional roles," and identity itself.[61]:6, 8, 11–12 The show gained a following among male university students,[62] spreading in popularity thanks to the Internet.[63]:281 Some praised the show for empowering its viewers[64] while others saw it as expressing characters who acted in a "traditionally male" manner, or less than feminist in the case of Sailor Moon herself.[65] This representation came at a time that anime was beginning to establish a strong foothold in "American geek fandom,"[66][67] even as they still reflected the values of Japanese society.[61]:10–11

In 1997, Revolutionary Girl Utena, directed by Ikuhara, aired on TV Tokyo. The show contained many LGBTQ+ characters since Ikuhara tried to express queer and feminist themes in the series, leading some to call the series "groundbreaking."[32][68] Some characters are lesbian, like Juri Arisugawa, and others are bisexual, like Utena Tenjou, a crossdressing prince and her friend (and love) "Rose Bride" Anthy Himemiya.[53] While some believe that Ikuhara was inspired by The Rose of Versailles,[69] he stated that the show's concepts came from Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie.[70] One of the show's scriptwriters, Yōji Enokido would later write scripts for Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, and Ouran High School Host Club episodes. The pivotal shōjo animation Sailor Moon, "which contained a same-sex love affair between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune," and Revolutionary Girl Utena, "inspired by The Rose of Versailles," were some of the last to air on U.S. television for some time.[71]

Former TV Tokyo Toranomon headquarters; TV Tokyo created Revolutionary Girl Utena

The show would be a major influence on Steven Universe,[72] Steven Universe Future,[73] and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.[74] Rebecca Sugar, watched the show, distributed in the U.S. first by Enoki Films USA (which renamed the show Ursula's Kiss[75] and Central Park Media, the latter which released it under the same name in 1998, 2002 and 2003.[76] The show strongly influenced Sugar, would impact LGBTQ+ animation in the 2010s with her work on Adventure Time and Steven Universe. In July 2017 she would tell Shamus Kelly of Den of Geek[72] that the show was "an epiphany" for her because of the way "it plays with the semiotics of gender." She also called Utena "so extreme that it's funny," called it "really exciting" and said that the theater scenes also influenced her.

In 1998, another series based on a manga by CLAMP, would be showing on Japanese television: Cardcaptor Sakura. It would end its run on NHK in 2000. In the series, Tomoyo Daidouji is in love with the protagonist of the show, Sakura Kinomoto, even loving what she wears, even though Sakura does not return her feelings.[77][78] At some point, Tomoyo confesses her love to Sakura, but Sakura misunderstands her, thinking she means "love" as a best friend and Tomoyo says that she will explain when Sakura is older.[79] Some scholars have argued that based on Tomoyo's romantic attractions she is asexual.[80] Also, the creators have stated that Sakura, the protagonist of this anime who has a "desire to befriend everyone she meets,"[81] and that does not see gender as barrier for her romantic attraction.[82] Even so, some see her as bisexual.[83] Sakura doesn't have romantic feelings for Tomoyo and she confesses a crush on a female teacher, with the dubbing of the show removing any possible liberatory themes.[84][85] These two characters are not the only LGBTQ characters in the anime. Touya Kinomoto and Yukito Tsukishiro have been confirmed as a couple in the anime,[32] with Yukita rejecting Sakura's feelings because he is in love with Touya.[86] Before meeting Yukito, Touya dated Kaho Mizuki when she was his junior high school teacher, and she broke up with him later.[87] As such, some argued that Touya was either bisexual or pansexual.[88] Furthermore, Syaoran Li and Sakura, have feelings for each other, but do not admit them,[89] with some arguing that Syaoran is bisexual based on his sexual attractions.[90] Finally, Ruby Moon has no biological sex.[91] and are always seen presenting as female, with Moon saying that their gender does not matter because they are not actually human.

In 1999, Kunihiko Ikuhara's film Adolescence of Utena, which featured all the characters of Revolutionary Girl Utena, would begin showing in theaters. It would be praised for its influential animation sequence by Crunchyroll.[92] The film would feature Utena and Anthy flirt and kiss, more overt than in the anime and the associated manga.[93] A kiss was included due to a decision from Ikuhara.[94] Like in the anime, Utena and Anthy, who are in love with each other,[95][96] are both bisexual. In the anime, Anthy is engaged to an abusive man, Kyouichi Saionji, at the beginning of the series, and Akio has been sexually assaulting Anthy,[97] while Utena is in love with Akio Ohtori as shown in episodes like "The Barefoot Girl." The film has become popular among fans of yuri (lesbian manga and anime), and is often categorized as LGBT cinema[93] with somes critics saying the film seeks "a rejection of dominant discourses of gender and sexuality"[93] with the joining of the masculine Utena and the feminine Anthy being "an acknowledgement of the need for an integrate psyche, regardless of gender or sexual orientation."[98] Juri Arisugawa is explicitly in love with her female classmate, Shiori, in both the TV series and movie. She is described as "homosexual" by the creators in the DVD booklet.[99] The commentary in the booklet indicated that Shiori also had feelings for her, but was too troubled and insecure to act on them in a healthy way.[100]

Representation in the 2000s[edit]

Early 2000s[edit]

Bob Shirohata's Gravitation would air on Wowow from 2000 to 2001. Takeo Takahashi would be the key animator of the series. This series featured gay and bisexual characters. Specifically, Shuichi Shindo falls in love with Eiri Yuki beginning in the first episode.[101] and over the course of the anime as a whole the two become a couple.[102] In one episode, it is revealed that Eiri has a fiancée named Ayaka Usami, but she backs away after seeing the love between Shuichi and Eiri.[103] Takahashi would later storyboard episodes of Strawberry Panic! (2006) and Mayo Chiki! (2011). The latter series would include two bisexual characters, Kanade Suzutsuki and Masamune Usami, and one lesbian character named Kureha Sakamachi.[104]

On December 28, 2000, a shorter original net animation titled Azumanga Web Daioh would be made available for paid streaming, then offered as a paid download for a limited time.[105] In 2001, a six-minute trailer titled The Very Short Azumanga Daioh Movie, would be released to movie theaters to publicize the upcoming television series.[106] The series would begin airing on TV Tokyo with the name Azumanga Daioh: The Animation. The series would have a character, Kaorin, whose gender is ambiguous.[107][f] A storyboarder and episode director for the series, Shigehito Takayanagi, who had done the same type of work for Cardcaptor Sakura, would later direct the series Kanamemo (2009). That series would feature a lesbian couple who are protagonists, Yuuki Minami and Yume Kitaoka[108] with both sharing an expressive yuri love, kissing at least four times over the course of the series. They even kiss in the show's first episode.[109] Other reviewers described the story as about a "romance is between two openly lesbian high school students," with interesting side stories about lesbophobia and "being young gay student in Japan."[110] There are two other lesbian characters, one of whom, Haruka Nishida, is attracted to girls under the age of 15,[108] and another, Mika Kujiin, who is a loli tsundere who seems to have a crush on Kana.[g]

Yūji Yamaguchi's Yami to Bōshi to Hon no Tabibito (often called Yamibou) would air on JNN from October to December 2003. In this anime, Hazuki Azuma is a tomboyish female with numerous female admirers, throughout her journeys, who develops a sexual attraction to her adopted older sister, Hatsumi Azuma, who reciprocates, as noted in episodes like "Hazuki" and "Quill."[111] After Hatsumi disappears on her 16th birthday, Hazuki goes world-hopping in hopes of finding Hazuki, which her companions, a bird, and a woman named Lilith, know by the name of "Eve." Her love is deep-rooted, seemingly reciprocated through love letters from Hatsumi while she lived in Japan, and encounters a woman named Fujihime in a feudal Japanese world whom looks almost identical to Hatsumi.[111] In the final episode, "Lilith," they kiss each other, fulfilling Hazumi's wish. Apart from Hzuki and Hatsumi, is Lilith, the guardian of the Great Library. She flirts relentlessly with Hazuki, beginning in the show's third episode, although she is always turned down. Sometimes she goes to absurd lengths to show her love in various book worlds, sometimes even trying to sleep with her, as shown in episodes such as "Quill" and "Layla."[111] Lilith's previous lover was Adam, the library's previous protector, referred to as a male character in the third episode. Yamaguchi would later direct Tōka Gettan. Erica Friedman stated that while the show had yuri, she wouldn't call it a yuri anime because the main relationship was heterosexual, along with crushes which "go nowhere," like the feelings Shouko has for Makoto, and a number of other characters who have some feelings for each other. Even Hatsumi, Hazuki and Lilith from Yamibou, "appear in one cross-over episode."[112]

On November 8, 2003, Satoshi Kon's Tokyo Godfathers premiered in Japan. Kon had previously directed an OVA of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. The film's protagonist, Hana, is a homeless trans woman who is flamboyant, dressing in the "most feminine clothes she can find," while searching for the mother of an abandoned baby.[113][114]

From October to December 2004, Tetsuya Yanagisawa's Kannazuki no Miko aired on Chiba TV.[h]. Erica Friedman described the series as having themes surrounding "giant robots and lesbian desire."[115] In the anime, Chikane has loved Himeko since they met. As such, since Himeko has a close relationship with a boy, Sōma, Chikane she does not admit her feelings until much later, with her feelings for Himeko bordering on obsession.[116] One critic described the show as featuring a "fan-favorite type of romance," with the greatest strength of the anime being the relationship between Himeko and Chikane, and called the anime "one of the best yuri from the 2000s."[109] Yanagisawa would later direct a series titled Shattered Angels (2007), which featured lesbian characters named Mika Ayanokōji, Kaon, and Himiko.[117]

In September 2004, Masakazu Obara's My-HiME began airing on TV Tokyo. The series included a female couple: Natsuki Kuga and Shizuru Fujino.[109] Erica Friedman described it as focusing on the "sexist psychotic lesbians in anime" while warning people about possible fan service in the show.[115] The show later developed a devoted fanbase, and Natsuki and Shizuru have unrequited love which "ultimately pinnacles in a dramatic scene" in the anime. The My-HiME spinoff, My-Otome (2005-2006), also directed by Obara, featured a character, Tomoe Marguerite, who has a crush on another woman.[118][119][120]

Later 2000s[edit]

Nobuaki Nakanishi's Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl would air on TV Tokyo from January to April 2006.[i] Nakanishi has previously been a storyboard and episode director of Cardcaptor Sakura. The anime features a lesbian trans woman and a bisexual girl. In the anime, the "gender identity, gender performance, and sexual orientation" of the characters often conflict, with their characteristics threatening "the regulatory norms found within Western society and possibly Japanese society."[121] Hazumu Osaragi, the series protagonist, begins the series as a boy, and is inadvertently killed due to an alien spacecraft crash-landing on them, with the alien, Hitoshi Sora, resurrecting Hazumu, but changes their physical sex to female. Even before that point, Hazumu presents as male but is "constantly in a state of a drag performance" and later learns how to "perform" the female gender with the help of Tomari Kurusu, who acts a bit masculine herself.[122] As Hazumu adopts to life as a girl, she is attracted to two of her childhood friends: Yasuna, and Tomari Kurusu.[123] Tomari is the bisexual girl, who is Hazumu's childhood friend, who liked Hazumu more as a boy, not knowing what to do after Hazumu's initial transformation, later comes around to Hazumu later in the series, competing with Yosuna for Hazumu's love.[123][124] As the anime progresses, Hazumu remains attracted to Yosuna and Tomari, but does not want to be "identified based upon the traditional notions of gender" but rather just wants to seen as a person who "has hopes, dreams, and desires like any other person," while Hazumu's male friend, Asuta, becomes attracted to him in an unrequited crush.[125] Kashimashi was compared which involved gender switching, Ranma ½[126] and was positively reviewed by Erica Friedman, founder of Yuricon. Friedman argued the anime had normal ending reminiscent of something "that might have actually happened in real life."[127]

In April 2006, Takuya Igarashi's Ouran High School Host Club began airing on Nippon TV. The anime's protagonist, Haruhi Fujioka would be called one of the greatest anime characters.[128] Her father, Ryouji Fujioka (also known as Ranka), would be praised by Angela Goulene of CBR for being a "groundbreaking" queer parent. Goulene noted that Ranka is a crossdresser who performs as a drag queen, is accepted by his mother, and is shown as a "completely normal parent," who cares about his own daughter. She further says that despite his flaws, he is a "caring, loving father" who speaks fondly of Fujioka's mother, saying the show should be applauded for its "normalcy with which queerness and cross-dressing are approached in the show."[129] Ranka also brings home male lovers, has cross-dressing friends, and asserts he is bisexual.[130][131][132]

Masayuki Sakoi's Strawberry Panic! aired on Chiba TV from April to September 2006. The series was based on a yuri manga of the same name.[133] Some considered it "a classic of yuri anime" due to the fact it includes a primary relationship between two of the protagonists, Aoi Nagisa and Shizuma Hanazono, with their relationship growing during the series.[109] Erica Friedman also reviewed Strawberry Panic! positively, calling it a "clever, fun-to-be-around street whore of a Yuri series."[134] There were many other yuri couples, including between Kaname Kenjō and Momomi Kiyashikim who are in a sexual relationship, the first explicitly lesbian couple depicted in the series, Yaya Nanto and Tsubomi Okuwaka who have feelings for each other, Amane Ohtori and Hikari Konohana, whose feelings for each other grow during the series.[134] At the same time, Miyuki Rokujō and Tamao Suzumi had crushes on other girls.[134] Some praised the series. Friedman described it as not only "a melodramatic romance about love affairs at a private girls’ school" but a parody of many other "earlier Yuri series" and a story of the "politics and pressures at a girls’ school."[135][136] Even Jack L. Godek who criticized the series, calling it not "good yuri" and "unoriginal" admitted he liked the music, called the soundtrack decent, and even praised the art.[137]

Nishimura's Simoun aired on TV Tokyo from April to September 2006.[j] In this anime, Aer and Neviril are a lesbian couple, with Aer frustrated when Neviril is thinking of Amuria.[138] In the end of the series, she and Neviril are in the new world, happily dancing. She and Neviril piloted the Ventus Simoun. Neviril and Amuria were very close,[138] and she is devastated by the loss of her beloved partner. Despite the fact she keeps being reminded of Amuria, she falls in love with Aer and march to the new world together. There is also Alty, whose name is also spelled Alta, who harbors an incestuous crush toward her older sister, Kaim, which causes her sister's hostility to her, as shown in the episode "Sisters."[138] She may also have feelings toward others, such as Floe. Amuria, on the other hand, has been romantically partnered with Neviril, as they kissed g multiple times, ever since Neviril first joined Chor Tempest in the show's first episode.[138] Apart from these LGBTQ characters, in the anime as a whole, gender and sexuality don't work the same as in our existing world, with the strong yuri themes shining through as Theron Martin of the Anime News Network explains.[139] That's because in this sci-fi anime, the premise revolves around a warship filled of young priestesses "not old enough yet to pick a permanent gender," meaning that it is ripe for "yuri content with countless pairings and scenarios"[109] and is unabashedly yuri.[140] Erica Friedman of Yuricon also positively reviewed Simoun', saying it was one of the best yuri anime of 2006[141] while she also criticized the character designs.[142] Nishimura would later direct Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (2012) which featured an androgynous male character named Lieutenant Oscar[143][144] and Vlad Love, an OVA which premiered in February 2021. Vlad Love had originally been scheduled to be released in October 2020,[145][146] From 2017 to 2018, he would direct a Netflix anime-influenced animation titled Neo Yokio.

In 2007, the first two films of the The Garden of Sinners franchise would air: The Garden of Sinners: Overlooking View and The Garden of Sinners: A Study in Murder – Part 1. They would introduce Shiki Ryōgi ("Void"), a teenage genderqueer girl who has recently awoken from a two-year coma.[147][148] She originally had three personalities: a male personality named SHIKI (織 Shiki), an original female personality Shiki (式 Shiki), and a third, gender-less personality known as "Void" who never manifests due to extreme apathy but who is also the embodiment of the Root of all existence.[149] While she knows she is Shiki, she does not feel that she is. In the hopes of regaining herself and the "dead" SHIKI, she puts on a cold façade that somewhat resembles the female Shiki's and tries to act as the male SHIKI did. Tōko understands the sense of detachment Shiki feels but considers the current Shiki a third, new personality. Her character would later appear in two 2008 films in the franchise (The Garden of Sinners: Remaining Sense of Pain, The Garden of Sinners: The Hollow Shrine, The Garden of Sinners: Paradox Spiral, and The Garden of Sinners: Oblivion Recording), 2009 (The Garden of Sinners: A Study in Murder – Part 2) and 2013 (The Garden of Sinners: Future Gospel).

Ikuhara would work on the opening of Nodame Cantabile, the latter which aired on Fuji TV in 2007. Both series would have LGBTQ characters, with Nodame Cantabile having a gay timpanist, Masumi Okuyama,[150] who loves another man. Ikuhara later created a series named Sarazanmai (2019).[k] This anime includes an iconic duo of male cops, Reo and Mabu, at odds with each other, as they "act as enforcers for a capitalistic empire" and are forbidden to show their love for each other, with their sexuality ambiguous even as they are very in love with each other..[151]

In 2009, a yuri series titled Sweet Blue Flowers, would air on Fuji TV. Ikuhara would direct the opening[l] while Ken'ichi Kasai, who had been a director for Nodame Cantabile and an assistant director of Sailor Moon, would direct the series. In the series, Fumi Manjome, a high school student is reunited with "her long-lost childhood friend Akira Okudaira," who she falls in love after they come together.[110] This series focuses on the protagonists but "relationships between all its characters," even side characters,[152] and includes gender-bending elements used in various manga.[153] In this yuri drama, some called it a queer animation which focuses on coming-of-age, which "subverts the traditional notions of gender and sexuality" and explores alternative sexualities.[154][109] Scholars also pointed to how memory and trauma affects queer identity, that Yasuko, through her actions, subverts "the heteronormative system of oppression and marginalization," and various "queer memories" found in the show itself.[155] Kasai would later direct a yaoi series, Love Stage!! which includes a male couple (Izumi Sena and Ryoma Ichijo) who are both bisexual, with both trying to accept their feelings for each other.[156]

Expanded stories in the 2010s[edit]

In the 2010s, LGBT issues became increasingly visible in Japan[157]:50 with an increased interest in LGBT issues across Japanese society, with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party trying to promote Japan as "LGBT friendly."[158] This aligned with the estimated market size of 21.3 billion yen for the Boy's Love genre in 2010,[159] which is aimed at young women,[160] who are the main consumers of the content itself, even though some heterosexual men read it.[161] At the same time, the anime home video market, which peaked in 2002, dropped 46% between 2005 and 2010,[162] while total sales of anime products stood in the billions of dollars. By the end of the 2010s, Japanese popular had become a global phenomenon but fandom in Japan itself remained "insular and socially marginal" with otaku and fujoshi regarded by Japanese society as "undersocialized, immature, and even dangerous."[163] This did not stop the anime industry from growing,[164] even having five years of "record-breaking high sales" as a report in 2019 stated [165] and the billions gained from the over 300 anime programs broadcast in 2016.[166] There was also growing market for yaoi, described as "huge throughout Asia" in 2016,[167] a domestic market size of the Boy's Love genre reached over $190 million around the same time.[168] As an underground culture was growing up around anime,[61]:3 anime remained a part of Japanese media that often reinforces stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people in Japan itself, as noted in one opinion piece in The Japan Times in 2016.[169]

Early 2010s[edit]

Danny Choo (left, site owner of culturejapan.jp) and Chiwa Saito (middle) on the stage event of Puella Magi Madoka Magica at Anime Festival Asia 2011

In 2010, Sakoi's film, A Kiss for the Petals: Becoming Your Lover, would premiere. The film follows the story of two women, Mai Sawaguchi and Reo Kawamura, after they confess their love to one another.[170]

Yukihiro Miyamoto's Puella Magi Madoka Magica aired on MBS from January to April 2011. The anime was a change from normal magical girl anime, as this anime contained more darker, complex and more gorier themes than magical anime usually would, exploring the "inherent sadness of magical girls, and love," as two girls, Madoka Kaname and Homura Akemi, have romantic feelings toward each other.[171][32] Naoyuki Tatsuwa would be assistant storyboarder for the series. He had previous directed Monogatari (2009-2012), which has a lesbian character, as Sugaru Kanbara self-identifies as a lesbian. However, her character has been criticized for constantly flirting with Araragi and talking about "becoming his lover," because it may imply she is "faking her sexuality," which some described as a harmful lesbian stereotype.[172] Miyamoto has previously directed Maria Holic (2009). The series had a character, Kanako Miyamae, who is parodied as a stereotypical "flaming lesbian" with a constant exaggerated demonstration of her attraction to other girls.[173]

Ei Aoki's Wandering Son aired on Fuji TV from January to March 2011 as part of Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block. The anime would be praised as a "breakout show in the transgender drama genre" for its delicate art, empathetic story, and focus on characters.[174] Others would describe it as artful and gorgeous series, with intricate characters, which fairly treats transgender identity, recognizing the challenges characters like Shuichi Nitori, Makoto "Mako" Ariga, and Yoshino Takatsuki have to face.[175] One reviewer argued that the show showed characters like Nitori trying to wade through a "cissexist school environment."[176] Another person pointed out that while the series as an important "piece of transgender literature within manga, anime and Japanese popular culture," Takatsuki assimilates "into a cis female identity" by the end of the anime, and asks whether the series has held back transgender fiction.[177] They also argue that the series reinforces the gender binary. This series also included a bisexual woman (Anne Suehiro) and a trans woman (Hiroyuki Yoshida). In March 2020, The Daily Dot published an article talking about a Gender and Anime at Anime Boston, noting that manga and anime have "a dearth of gender representation," with issues within Japanese culture itself, with crossdressing and genderqueer identity often made out to be a joke or a "trap" for the protagonist.[178] They further argued that Hourou Musako in Wandering Son is one of the "few sensitive portrayals of transgender characters out there," with one panelist calling it the "only true transgender anime in existence" and saying listeners should be "sensitive when discussing gender identity."

Tatsuo Satō's Bodacious Space Pirates would air on Tokyo MX from January to June 2012. It featured a lesbian couple, Jenny Dolittle amd Lynn Lambretta,[179] president and vice president of the Space Yacht Club. Erica Friedman of Yuricon describes Jenny and Lynn are not only strong female characters, but are a "perfect Yuri couple," and noting a moment between these characters in the second part of the anime.[180][181] Both characters also appear in the film, Bodacious Space Pirates: Abyss of Hyperspace (2014).[182]

Kazuya Murata's Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet aired on Tokyo MX from April to June 2013. It includes a bisexual woman, Lukkage, who has two female sex slaves who serve as her co-pilots for her mecha,[183] and later develops a romantic interest in a male character. Murata has previously done production on an OVA titled Gunsmith Cats (1995).[184] In this series, Irene "Rally" Vincent in Gunsmith Cats operates the titular "Gunsmith Cats" gun shop in Chicago and works as a bounty hunter, assisted in both activities by her housemate, former prostitute "Minnie" May Hopkins.[185][186] While Rally is an expert combat shooter and marksman and May is an explosives expert, May often teases Rally, who is also friendly with Becky Farrah, who gives them information about the Chicago underworld.[187]

Later 2010s[edit]

In 2015, Ikuhara's Yurikuma Arashi aired on Tokyo MX.[m] In the series, the main female protagonists, Kureha Tsubaki, Sumika Izumino, Ginko Yurishiro, Lulu Yurigasaki, and Yurika Hakonaka, have various sexual encounters and romantic relationships with each other,[188] as they learn more about their connections with each other[189] and those in the world who do not accept their feelings, deeming relationships between humans and bears as "dangerous."[190][191] The series has been praised as tackling the "prejudice facing gay people in Japan"[192] while simultaneously being a "moving tale of prejudice and fear and love" which focuses on cultural treatment of all women, especially those who are lesbians, criticizes the "idealization of female innocence and purity," and serves as a study of bigotry.[193] Further reviews praised as a well-written drama which is "densely packed with social commentary, multivalent symbolism, and references to historical events, [and] literature,"[194] is LGBT-friendly,[195] and is "all about lesbians."[196]

Cardcaptor Sakura Original Art Exhibition (Nakayoshi 60th Anniversary) in December 2014

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, the sequel to Cardcaptor Sakura and based on an ongoing manga of the same name by CLAMP, would air on NHK January to June 2018. Some harshly criticized the series, which did not feature LGBTQ characters. For instance, Geordi Demorest argued that while the original Cardcaptor Sakura is beloved for its "LGBTQ-inclusiveness," this sequel seems "less actively progressive" and is missing the original focus on "explicitly representing LGBTQ characters," criticizing the lack of character development for Tomoyo, only having a brief reference to the romance "between Sakura's brother Touya and his friend Yukito." Demorest called for the series to do more to "explore sexual orientation and the gender spectrum" of the characters and called the show nostalgic while coasting on "broad characterizations" of the original cast.[197]

Masayuki Sakoi's Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online aired on Tokyo MX from April to June 2018. In the series, Pitohui "Pito" is bisexual. After revealing she is Elsa Kanzaki,[198] she kisses the main character Karen on the lips and flirts with her.[199] M/Goshi Asogi, who is her manservant and in love with her,[200] warns Karen that Elsa goes through men and women relatively quickly. In the ninth episode, Clarence, a fellow GGO player, is dying and Karen demands Clarence give up, with Clarence demanding a kiss in exchange and reveals she is female (and chose an androgynous avatar) and that she is bisexual.[201]

Takeo Takahashi's Citrus aired on TV Tokyo from January to March 2018. Naoyuki Tatsuwa would be the series director. Citrus would have various lesbian (Yuzu Aihara, Himeko Momokino, Matsuri Mizusawa) and bisexual characters (Mei Aihara).[102] However, it has been a subject of much debate, with the founder of Yuricon and writer of Okazu, Erica Friedman, criticizing the series,[202] as did Christopher Farris on the Anime News Network,[203][204] while another yuri fan praised the series, calling it "a dramatic and salacious Yuri" anime.[205] Some have argued that one of the characters, Sara, is pansexual, demisexual, or even bisexual.[206][207]

Kazuki Akane's Stars Align aired on TBS from October to December 2019. Akane had storyboarded episodes of Dragon Quest (1989–1991), Cowboy Bebop (1998–1999), Turn A Gundam (1999–2000), and Samurai Champloo (2004–2005). Additionally, he created the Noein (2005) series and directed Code Geass: Akito the Exiled (2012–2016). In the series, there is a gay and non-binary character, Yū Asuka, who is not sure of whether they are "binary trans, x-gender, or something else entirely."[151] One critic said that Stars Align was an anime which explored and discussed gender identity, including non-binary identities, better than shows like Zombie Land Saga and My Hero Academia, which featured trans characters.[177] This critic also pointed out manga which focused on trans experiences like Bokura no Hentai and Bride was a Boy, stating that discussion of these works in English language is rare.

2020 to present[edit]

Yuki Ogawa's Interspecies Reviewers aired on TV Tokyo from January to March 2020. Some episodes would be directed by Naoyuki Tatsuwa, who had previously been the series director of Citrus. This adult sex comedy was controversial because it walked "the thin line of how explicit anime can be"[208] named Interspecies Reviewers included an intersex protagonist, an angel with a broken halo, named Crimvael, and a one-time lesbian character, Bina Banana, a female film director who runs a lesbian succubus brothel.[209] Crim, is well-endowed intersex angel with a broken halo that, like Iena, has male and female genitalia, as noted throughout the series. On THEM Anime Reviews, Stig Høgset, noted that while Crim identifies as male, he has "sexual organs of both men and women," saying that he acts like this is the "standard for all angels," and has some enjoyable sexual experiences in the series.[210] Høgset further pointed out that the show is centered around "a group of men going around having sex with various girls in brothel-like settings," and writing about their experiences at these establishments.

In 2021, Takuya Satō's Otherside Picnic, a yuri anime, would begin airing on Tokyo MX and other networks.[211][n] Nicholas Friedman of Funimation described the series as "cloaked in sci-fi mystery" after protagonist Sorao Kamikoshi "comes into contact with Toriko Nishina"[212] while Rafael Antonio Pineda of Anime News Network called it a "sci-fi yuri anime."[213] Constance Sarantos of CBR said that the series breaks the mold of the yuri genre, avoiding common stereotypes of the genre and creating a unique narrative, defying, in their view, "expectations for a yuri anime" as it delves into the horror genre and has a "Relationship built on crime and survival" rather than a slice of life about "interpersonal romantic drama."[214] Sarantos also said that the series shows how well the sci-fi and yuri genres can mix, combining themes of fear and romance, something which isn't often used in yuri anime. Caitlin Moore called the series "one of a kind" and a welcome addition to a series of yuri anime about "teenagers falling blushingly in love for the first time," with neither of the protagonists, Sorawo or Toriko, not based on stereotypes.[215] Hannah Alton of CBR argued that the series stands apart from the "usual fare" of the isekai genre because it is a yuri series.[216] Erica Friedman, had a mixed view of the anime, saying she was a "little disappointed" in the anime, specifically criticizing the animation style, disliking what she described as "comedy-action" in the series, and the pacing. [217] Even so, she called the anime "very enjoyable" and praised the voice acting as "superb." Ultimately, she called the animation "unsatisfying," said the story was not "compelling," criticized what she saw as "pointless service" in the series, and said that the anime "feels like a children’s version of the novels," giving the anime an overall rating of 7 out of 10. Satou previously had experience with anime, specifically by directing Asagao to Kase-san and Happy-Go-Lucky Days. The Kase-San franchise, which came in the form of an ONA and a OVA, focused on the high school romance between the clumsy, flower-adoring girl, Yui Yamada, and an exuberant girl, Tomoka Kase, who is a school's track and field star.[218][219] Happy-Go-Lucky Days had two segments with LGBTQ characters, one about a woman in love with a girl she kissed in high school, and a male student who professes his love to one of his teachers."[220]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Most erotic works have been retroactively tagged as "hentai" since the coining of the term in English. As such, there is no agreed upon first hentai series or film.
  2. ^ This anime would also influence Revolutionary Girl Utena and Sailor Moon, the latter noted by Erica Friedman
  3. ^ Kappa was an Italian magazine published by Star Comics from July 1992 to November 2006, having 173 issues. Takahashi in the Ranma ½ Memorial Book/The Art of Ranma , talked about how she came up with the idea of Ranma transforming, adding that Ranma could be a male or female name.
  4. ^ episodes 1-18 were directed by Tadao Nagahama
  5. ^ Hiroyuki Ebata directed the first OVA and Takamasa Ikegami directed the second one.
  6. ^ In Azumanga Daioh: Supplementary Lessons Chapter 3 Page 12, Osaka asks Kaorin whether she is gay, to which she responds "The correct term is Lesbian!" before denying that she is a lesbian.
  7. ^ Feelings for Kana are implied in the official descriptions on the TV Tokyo website and the King Amusement Creative website
  8. ^ Also known as "Destiny of the Shrine Maiden" and "Priestesses of the Godless Month"
  9. ^ He was also a storyboarder and episode director for the series.
  10. ^ He also wrote the script for episodes 3, 9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 19, 22, 25, and storyboarded episodes 1, 2, 8, 12, 14, 16, 19, 22, 24, 25.
  11. ^ He also storyboarded the opening of episodes 1 and 11, was an insert song lyricist, and the music director.
  12. ^ He also storybaorded episodes 5, 6 and 11
  13. ^ He would also direct the ending, would also storyboard episodes 1, 2, 7 and 12 and would be the music director of the series.
  14. ^ Such as Sun TV, BS11, and AT-X.

References[edit]

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Sources[edit]

  • Anime Industry Report 2015 Summary (Report). Association of Japanese Animators. January 2016. Retrieved April 11, 2020. In 1963, TV animation broadcasting began with only seven animation programs, including Astro Boy. In 2014, a total of 322 TV animation programs were broadcast (232 among them new), forty five times the number in the first year and the largest in history, breaking the record of 279 in 2005 (195 were new among them). While content industries are generally stagnating, as seen in the music industry, the field of TV animation made a miraculous recovery. Still the total production minutes in 2014 were less than the peek of 2006.
  • Anime Industry Report 2017 Summary (Report). Association of Japanese Animators. March 2017. Retrieved April 11, 2020. Recently, the Japanese animation industry has been covered a lot in the mass media, including newspapers and TV, and the data in this report is frequently cited in the coverage. That helps build people's awareness of the industry in some way. In 2016, the industry, which recorded positive growth for four consecutive years, crossed the 2 trillion yen mark when they recorded sales of 2 trillion 900 million yen (109.9% on a year‐by‐year basis). Looking at each genre, 5 genres (Movie, Internet Distribution, Music, Overseas and Live Entertainment) increased while 4 genres (TV, Videogram, Merchandising and Pachinko) decreased
  • Anime Industry Report 2018 Summary (Report). Association of Japanese Animators. March 2019. Retrieved April 11, 2020. The year 2017 was the first year* that the Japanese animation market crossed the 2 trillion yen mark. The market recorded 2 trillion 152.7 billion yen in sales, growing for 8 consecutive years, with 5 consecutive years of record-breaking high sales. To break it down by genre, TV (100.9%), Internet Distribution (113%) and Live Entertainment (116%) expanded while five genres (i.e. Movie (61.7%), Videogram (97.1%), Merchandising (93.0%), Music (91.6%) and Pachinko (95.8%)) decreased. Overseas (129.6%) showed strong growth, making up for the decline of those five genres. The ebb and flow of respective genres have become clear compared to when this report was first issued 10 years ago.
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Further reading[edit]

Lamarre, Thomas (2018). The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-1-5179-0450-0.

McLelland, Mark (2005). Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities. Richmond, England: Curzon. doi:10.4324/9780203016688. ISBN 978-0-203-01668-8.

McLelland, Mark; Nagaike, Kazumi; Suganuma, Katsuhiko; Welker, James, eds. (2015). Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. doi:10.14325/mississippi/9781628461190.001.0001. ISBN 978-1-62846-119-0.

Poitras, Gilles (2000). Anime Essentials: Every Thing a Fan Needs to Know. US: Stone Bridge Press, Inc. ISBN 978-1-880656-53-2.

Stuckmann, Chris (2018). Anime Impact: The Movies and Shows that Changed the World of Japanese Animation. US: Mango. ISBN 978-1-5179-0450-0.

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