Archive for July, 2013

35348Valvrave the Liberator is a shiny new mecha anime to hit the screen (in my case, the computer screen) this spring 2013 anime season. With colorful, humanoid machines, wars fought in space, teens from a neutral state getting caught up in the fight, and even an opening theme by T.M. Revolution, I was reminded of a certain angst-ridden anime with questions about war and peace called Gundam Seed when I first came across this series. Intrigued by the art and curious to see how this new series would handle similar issues, I began to follow it…and soon became concerned about how the female characters would be represented.

The story is centered in a world where the majority of humans live in space and are broken up into three groups: two large groups, the Dorssia Military Pact Federation and the Atlantic Ring United States and a small, neutral group called JIOR. The series begins with a feeling of teen drama and romance, introducing Haruto, our super nice and unimposing protagonist, and his friends at school living a life in JIOR, oblivious to outside troubles. That is, until Dorssia, a militaristic country (which appears oddly reminiscent of Nazi Germany at times throughout the anime), invades the peaceful nation of JIOR, including the school Haruto attends. When it appears his childhood friend and crush, Shoko, has been killed in the attack, Haruto recklessly gets into a military machine secretly being kept on school grounds and, accepting the mysterious condition posed by the machine’s system of relinquishing his humanity, he becomes the pilot of the machine and the only defense the students have. Add in a deadly Dorssian spy with his own unknown motives to the mix and you have the beginning of Valvrave the Liberator.

!!Spoilers for Valvrave the Liberator season 1 ahead!!

While the two protagonists are both young men and all the main antagonists so far are male as well, there are a fair amount of female characters populating this series (which, unfortunately, is saying something since there seem to be a good number of fictional stories with maybe one or two female characters total). From a reclusive hacker who monitors the school and lets the outside world aware of what’s happening to JIOR to an ex-idol who isn’t afraid to take control of another machine and become a pilot herself, this show doesn’t appear to be short on female characters. In fact, unlike some series in which the main female characters may be passive and dependent except for on one or two rare occasions, if at all. I was pleasantly surprised to see not just one but two female characters become pilots, taking on active roles within the plot that are usually occupied by male characters. More typically but still nothing to squeeze at, one female character becomes the prime minister for her group. Therefore, a number of the female characters are given positions of power.

Unfortunately, while I had moments where I felt that rush of excitement that the show was doing something right with its female characters, I can’t say I came away from season one feeling that the female characters were particularly empowered, despite the number of female characters in powerful positions. Too often, the female characters were reduced to sexual objects for the male characters and audience to drool over. Not to be confused with a woman who is simply presented as confident and sexy, this trend takes the focus away from the female character’s other attributes such as a skill to lead or her intelligence and puts everyone’s attention on the fact she has big boobs or a nice butt. It reminds me of the stereotype of the guy that looks at a girl’s breasts instead of her face when she’s talking. Who cares who she is or what she’s saying, she’s got breasts. It’s as if this series was made by that guy.

!!Trigger Warning!! Discussion of sexual violence ahead

But even barring those issues, I found one particular scene toward the end of season one unacceptable. Throughout the season, Saki, a female character who is the second person to become a pilot and help Haruto defend the school, is largely defined by being the aggressive rival for Haruto’s affection against the always smiling and energetic Shoko, something that bothered me throughout the series. Anyway, Haruto appears to truly love Shoko, not Saki won’t give up and tries to win his heart, doing her utmost to be near Haruto and creating physical contact by grabbing onto him at times and even kissing him once. I suppose this is supposed to justify the fact that Haruto, overcome by a strange side effect brought on by the machine he uses that causes him to lose his senses, rapes Saki. However, the series has yet to be clear about defining it as rape. In fact, the way it’s presented is like something out of the 50’s.  “Even though Haruto did not have consent from Saki, she’s okay with it because she loves Haruto” is the message the show sends. In addition, while Haruto feels guilty, viewers can absolve him of any fault by chalking it up to the fault of the side effect and not Haruto himself, just like some people blame alcohol when someone has been drinking and assaults another person.

This scene reeks of the mythical and seriously misleading idea of a rape that can be excused or even justified. Everything is okay because it wasn’t really Haruto who did it and Saki has romantic feelings for him and understands him. From the way the show presented it, one could even argue that old, harmful argument that, “from the way she acted,” she may have wanted to go to that level anyway. In fact, that’s just the kind of argument occurring in Crunchyroll.com’s comments on the episode. “It wasn’t rape if the other person accepted it” is another kind of comment I saw several times when another person defined what happened in the episode as rape. Contrary to Valvrave the Liberator’s message, even if someone loves another person, forcing yourself on that person without explicit consent is not okay under any circumstance. And as for the whole “she accepted it so, it wasn’t rape,” how do we define “accepting it” when another person forces himself/herself on that person? If some kind of media entertainment or person ever say “it wasn’t rape because she accepted it,” that’s what I call an excuse. Rape is still a huge issue in society and when people in the entertainment industry want to put a situation of rape in their fiction, they need to be very careful about how they do so. There needs to be clear messages that this type of behavior is not acceptable, no matter what.

In closing, in combination with the rape and the general fixation on female characters as sexual objects, I came away feeling there was a big problem with the way the female characters were presented. Things like fanservice that I find undermining to female characters anyway, but can brush off as simply annoying, becomes a larger problem when the rape scene and its tragically terrible handling of the issue is factored in. If female characters are constantly being reduced to sexual objects and then a rape is shrugged off as not that big of a deal, the creators of Valvrave the Liberator need to take a step back and think about what kind of message they’re sending about women.

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sunshine-award1While I was taking a short hiatus, I received a surprise: my fellow blogger, simpleek, was kind enough to nominate me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! It’s a bit late, but I wanted to thank her for honor of being considered an inspiration to others in the blogosphere. I started Gagging on Sexism as a way to get my thoughts out there and get myself writing with the hopes that maybe others would find what I have to say interesting. I’m very thankful to everyone who reads my posts and to everyone who takes the time to share his/her own thoughts by commenting. That always motivates me to write the next post. So, thanks to my readers and thank you, simpleek, for this wonderful award nomination and more inspiration to keep writing!

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Blogger Award:

1. Use the award logo in a post and/or on your blog.
2. Include a link back to whoever nominated you.
3. Offer 10 pieces of random information about you.
4. Nominate ten other bloggers who ‘positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.’
5. Let your nominees know about their much deserved award.

And here are some random facts about a certain blogger called Erin:

1. When I was in elementary school, my brother was having problems in school and my family was moving to a new area that my parents weren’t sure had good schools, so my brother and I ended up getting homeschooled. That was one of those decisions in life that has a huge affect on one’s life. I certainly don’t think homeschooling is a good idea for everyone as there are definite downsides, but overall, I think it worked out well for me. While I missed out on things that my friends got to experience, I also gained some big opportunities that I’m very thankful for.

2. As a little kid, I once had the brilliant idea to get my hair cut like my brother’s. After the initial excitement of getting my locks chopped into the classic bowl cut, I came home, decided I’d had my fill of having short hair, and told my mom I wanted long hair again. Whoops.

3. Even if I only got a few hours of sleep and had the whole next day off, I cannot sleep in really late. The latest I’ve slept is until 9:30 a.m. and that’s unusual. I look at people who can sleep until noon with a combination of awe and disbelief. How is it possible, I wonder. I have never been able to do that.

4. I tend to worry about what others think of me and I guess you could say I’m what they call a “people pleaser.” Therefore, I don’t like to tell many people I know that I write this blog because if I know they’re reading it, I’m afraid it might affect how I write about the issues I talk about.

5. I really don’t like talking on the phone. I have no idea why or when I started to feel that way, but I don’t like making calls or taking them.

6. Speaking of phones, I took my time getting a cell phone. Even after I gave in and got a smart phone, it wasn’t with the intention of making calls and texting, but actually so that I could use it to look up Japanese vocabulary words on the spot and look up kanji characters. In others words, I got one for the purpose of studying.

7. I recently developed an addiction to anything matcha(green tea powder)-flavored. In Japan, I could often be caught in a convenience store buying a new type of chocolate with matcha in it and I loved the matcha-flavored shaved ice. And of course, drinking tea made from matcha was delicious! Before I left Japan, I made sure to buy a stock of matcha KitKats to take home with me to hold me over for now.

8. I used to draw manga when I was younger. I practiced for a number of years, but, as life usually goes, I got busy and gave it up. I was never great at it, but it was a fun hobby while it lasted.

9. I’m the type of person who has too many interests and not enough time to really delve into them all.

10. I love watching BBC dramas and mysteries. I often get shows based on classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice or modern retakes on old stories like Sherlock. Those shows are always so rich and addicting that I just want to marathon the series because I just can’t wait to see the next episode.

Finally, here are the bloggers I’d like to nominate:

1. Simpleek

2. Contemporary Japanese Literature

3. Pixels and Panels

4. Shojo Corner

5. The Beautiful World | diaries of two travelers

6. Manga Therapy

That’s it for now. I’m once again reminded that I need to read more blogs and unfortunately, I only have five to name right now, but they’re great ones! So, if you haven’t checked them out yet, they’ve got some interesting things to say. Two of them are on hiatus right now, but I’m hoping we’ll hear more from them soon. And to those of you waiting for my next commentary post, I’m still trying to get caught up with everything since I’ve been away for two months, but my next post will have more meat.

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Hello, everyone! I hope you all are enjoying summer (and hopefully getting a little break). I have finally returned from my trip to Japan (which was everything I hoped it would be and more) so, if you noticed I haven’t been replying to comments lately, that’s going to change. Thanks to everyone who commented on my blog while I was away and I’m sorry I couldn’t reply to each comment individually like I usually do. Things will be getting back to normal at Gagging on Sexism now. Now excuse me while I catch up on two months-worth of anime, manga, books, and movies!

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