Anime’s great support for the LGBT community

Being part of the LGBT community is not always easy, even as things are improving nowadays. The general population is getting more accepting of us, but there is no denying there are still people who face discrimination from employers, family, or even complete strangers. I’ve been there myself and it can be rough. Fortunately, those of us who are into anime have long been able to find supportive messages and relatable characters in the media we consume.

Tohru

We are all familiar with yuri and yaoi being separate genres, but even in mainstream anime there is a lot of love for alternate sexualities. This has been true for years, best demonstrated by the 1984 anime Stop!! Hibari-kun! which was based on a manga series that began publication in Shonen Jump in 1981. It’s about a male-to-female transgender girl who is part of a mafia family and I was caught off-guard by how empowering and positive the show is. Hibari has to deal with bullies, oppressive parents, jealous girls, and is constantly at risk of being unwillingly outed, but contrary to the show’s title, she can not be stopped by anything. Hibari is a real LGBT hero, a girl who stands up against those who want her to “be normal” and is unrelentingly determined to express her true self.

Hibari-kun! is probably the oldest anime I have seen that was specifically about LGBT themes and it was followed up by other prominent anime like Revolutionary Girl Utena and, from what I have heard, the Japanese version of Sailor Moon. I haven’t seen it yet myself, but Sailor Moon‘s popularity needs no introduction and the way the English dub censored its non-hetero characters has been a major source of controversy.

Farewell bench

Such shows were the pioneers of the old times. Nowadays, you got so much choice that it’s almost perplexing that there are still dedicated yuri and yaoi genres. Kyoto Animation has Dragon Maid, MAPPA has Yuri on Ice, Shaft has prominent gay characters in Monogatari and Madoka, and Utena’s own director returned to anime after several years of hiatus to make more experimental shows with prominent LGBT themes. Welcome back, you lovable weirdo.

Even smaller anime, shows that aren’t major hits and may be forgotten come next year, are now including interesting LGBT characters. Zombie Land Saga was one such show and the emotional storyline that came from its non-hetero character was a memorable highlight for me. Even more remarkable was Anima Yell, a show I only found because people were sharing its heartwarming and beautifully directed coming-out scene online.

Gif
This is fine too.

Anime has always been there for the gays, lesbians, transgenders, and bisexuals. Our stories have been told in the most mainstream of shows like Sailor Moon, as well as in cult hits like Dragon Maid. We have starred in highly-acclaimed movies like Tokyo Godfathers and a boatload of… less-respectable works. Considering how well anime is doing today, I am curious to see how many new all-time classics are in the works right now that will star LGBT heroes, villains, and side-characters. What show will be the next Revolutionary Girl Utena? Only time will tell.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Fu-reiji says:

    I think the reasons those are successful or even when they’re not are at least memorable is due to the fact that’s never really the first thing people remember because they’re given actual characters to know and enjoy. with both good and bad points as well as being part of a actual story and that’s kind of where the west for the most part fails at where it tries to force it and hammer it in instead of just making a story or just writing out fleshed out characters. representation should always be third or secondary when doing a work a of fiction mostly cause any representation you or others personally feel is gonna come out of it naturally or just cause you like the character to the point they handle themselves in a well done way their sexual preference could either way or even when they’re straight, gay, trans and what not you’re not just sold on that cause as I’ve said you got to know these characters.

    that said though the problems in the LGBT community are the groups that try to take this too far in acting like everything and everyone is against them when they’re not and we all have different life experiences so it’s mostly just having to deal with the occassional assholes or communities that aren’t gonna change. so it’s fair say it’s a 2 sided problem where you got the occassional assholes still attacking and oppressing others and the other side taking these a too far and claiming they never get anything.

    so like I tell people a work of fiction does have representation provided it’s done and handled like they’re telling a story with enjoyable characters.

    Like

    1. Casper says:

      I have had some interesting discussions about this subject, but deliberately decided to keep this article as a love letter to anime’s inclusiveness, rather than approaching it as some argumentative piece about what the medium should and should not do. If it seemed like I was arguing for having LGBT characters in anything and everything, then no, that was not my intent here.

      With that said, my preference of course goes towards LGBT characters that feel natural and are well-written, but I also accept that we’ll see a lot of mediocre stuff alongside that. It’s no surprise there’ll be authors looking to pander to the community or who struggle with finding out how to make diversity work without, as you say it, hammering it in. It’s not easy to do in such a way that everybody will enjoy it, but the result of the successes has, in my opinion, been worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fu-reiji says:

        and I don’t deny that the successes speak louder cause when done right we get the examples you mentioned and yeah regardless of sexual preference or identity as you said there’s always going to be the usuals schmuck trying to pander and people for the most part in terms of a general audience are always gonna for the traps so I guess take the good with the bad is what it comes down to

        Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s