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Posts Tagged ‘manga’

In 19th century England, social class meant everything; what you learned, where you lived, your daily life, and even who you could love and marry. Emma, the protagonist of Kaoru Mori’s manga of the same name, is a young woman from a destitute past who, through a chance meeting with an aging governess, is lucky to be employed as a maid and receive a first-rate education. William, on the other hand, is the heir to the wealthy Jones family; with no aristocratic blood and having only recently risen the ranks to high society, keeping up appearances and social obligations are of the utmost importance to his family. One day, William decides to pay a visit to his old governess, Mrs. Stownar, who just happens to be the very one Emma works for. Soon, with a little encouragement from Mrs. Stownar, a cross-social class romance buds and the two finds themselves fighting between love and society.

When I first read Kaoru Mori’s beautifully drawn and masterfully written romance, Emma, I was swept away by the story of forbidden love between Emma and William. The story starts off light, perfectly capturing the slightly awkward yet sweet and warming feeling of two people falling in love with each other. While Mori does use words, often she skillfully expresses emotions through only visuals–a shy blush, a glance, gestures, and actions–that depict them better than any words could. It quickly pulls readers in and holds on tight. But just when you have relaxed into the easy and charming flow of the story and think Emma and William will get together, the class system and life comes down on the young couple, adding new drama.

This seemingly impossible romance is what got me on the first read-through, but after I saw an article naming Emma as a feminist manga, I was a bit surprised; while I love the series, it had never crossed my mind that it’s feminist. Now that I’ve read through the main story (volumes 1-7 out of 10) again, I’m seeing whole new sides to it.

There are actually a lot of strong female characters. Are they running businesses and becoming political leaders? No, but these women are strong-willed, especially in the context of the time period they live in where women had little to no power. However, many of the female characters in Emma are relatively in control of their own lives and/or push the boundaries of the times. Mrs. Stownar was widowed at a young age yet made it own her own as a governess and receives respect from men of many social classes. She even rebels against society subtly by being much less concerned with social classes than most. Emma herself might not seem the strongest and much of the good fortune in her life has been a result of luck, but she’s also got inner strength and perseverance on her side. Emma came as a young child to London with little to no education, no money, and no family to support her. While luck did play a part in, for instance, Emma meeting Mrs. Stownar, she worked hard to get where she’s at and continues to work hard. She also shows guts by pursuing a relationship that defies the rules of society. Not everyone has the strength to goes against the rigid ways of a culture and face the harsh criticism after all. Later in the series, German immigrant Mrs. Meredith is introduced. She’s the wife of a wealthy businessman, but is no slave to the whims of her husband. In addition to her strong-will, she appears to have a very equal relationship and therefore wields a fair amount of power. She actively participates in hiring staff for the household and traveling without her husband on occasions. These are but a few female characters in the series who exhibit strength in the series.

The other thing I love in retrospect about Emma is how the women treat each other. They support each other, something that is great on its own and absolutely wonderful considering the sea of fiction that portrays women constantly trying to undermine other women. Women like Mrs. Stownar and Mrs. Meredith aid Emma in her efforts in life and love and multiple examples of female friendships are shown. Some of the other maids Emma meets do gossip about other women (including Emma), but not in a backbiting way. Even Emma’s rival in love is depicted sympathetically and realistically. She is not trying to hurt Emma or “steal” William the way some female rivals are shown to do; she doesn’t even know Emma exists and truly loves William. It’s very refreshing to see this and is a fine example of Mori’s ability to create deep and original characters.

I fell in love with Emma the first time I read it and rereading it with a new perspective has only deepened my love. If you want a great historical fiction/drama, endearing romance and characters, and beautiful art, I can’t recommend it enough. Unfortunately, this series is currently out-of-print in the U.S. and hard to buy, but check your local libraries and maybe even fellow manga-collecting friends. With any luck, one of our manga publishing companies will pick it up some day and share it with new audiences.

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Skip Beat! is one of those highly addicting series that’s hard to put down. Funny and drama-filled, it follows Kyoko, a young woman who decides to get into showbiz to best the rising star guy who used her good nature and threw her away. Some day I’d love to write a review on the series in general, but today I want to focus on something in particular: how interactions between women are presented. As I watch or read Skip Beat!, I have noticed that on her quest to rise up the ranks of stardom, Kyoko frequently is met by adversaries who try their best to trample her. Those adversaries are usually women. This alone doesn’t necessarily bother me; getting into showbiz is extremely difficult so, it makes sense that rivalry occurs. What bothers me is that these female rivalries are very reminiscent of mean girl behavior between women frequently portrayed in fiction and that those rivalries make up a majority of female interactions in the series.

From very early on in the series, Kyoko is faced with mean girl behavior. First, Kyoko meets Kanae (a.k.a. Moko) at an audition, where Moko is snide and hostile toward her for no other reason besides that she thinks Kyoko seems too ordinary and is competing against her. Soon after that, Kyoko is assigned to assist Ruriko, an up and coming actress who is spoiled and refuses to work with others yet puts up a nice face initially. She singles Kyoko out from the beginning as someone to use and bully, but her jealousy grows when Kyoko receives attention from popular actor, Ren Tsugura, whom Ruriko likes. Then there is Erika, who is not only spoiled but also a daughter of a big time businessman who used her family’s power to get herself the best roles and thwart any potential rivals. On top of all these rivals, nameless girls are constantly taking jibes at Kyoko, too.

But is this trend of female rivalry in Skip Beat! that much different from rivalry trends in other manga? In shonen (boys’) manga, the hero often has plenty of rivals of the same gender. One of the best examples of this is Naruto. Naruto starts off as an outcast who is disregarded by his peers and even made fun of. But as he gets stronger and proves himself repeatedly, he slowly begins to win the support of those peers. This set up is similar to what is seen in Skip Beat!. Kyoko is often underestimated by peers, but once she proves her acting skills and confronts the rivals in question, the girls at least acknowledge her and many even come to like her. Ruriko’s “battle” with Kyoko makes her realize how much she really loves acting and that she needs to compromise to work with others. Erika decides to stop relying on her family name to get roles but use only her own skills. Some rivals, like Moko, even become friends with Kyoko. This last bit is especially important because it allows readers/viewers to see character depth and development beyond the initial mean girl attitude and shows positive female relationships. Once friends, Kyoko and Moko help and support each other, breaking from the generally catty behavior shown of other young women.

Perhaps the trouble lies in the fact that many of the interactions between young women, rival or not, are coated with displays of the jealous, nasty, sneaky, and cutthroat behavior, even though there are some good female friendships. This is enforced with comments about Kyoko and Moko’s previous attempts at friendship: Moko says that the reason she never made female friends was because they gossip about/backstab others and and Kyoko always wanted female friends, but was shunned by the girls at her school for simply being close to a popular guy. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of how girls behave among each other. While mean girls do exist and work well for a drama, it is a shame that fiction continuously focuses strongly on the negative because it creates the idea that mean girls are around every corner and overshadows healthy female interactions and friendships. So, it’s not just Skip Beat! but the combination of so many representations of mean girls in fiction that’s the real problem.

Luckily, Skip Beat! does have some positive female interactions as well and provides a heroine who doesn’t let anything defeat her. There also seem to be less mean girl scenarios as the series has progressed. So, don’t let my musings about female interactions stop you from giving either the manga or anime a try if you haven’t already! For those of you who follow the series, what do you think about how female interactions are portrayed? Do they contribute to mean girl stereotypes or is it just another drama filled with rivalry?

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Manga, like fiction in general, doesn’t always give us the best female characters. Many female characters’ minds are filled with thoughts about appearance, such as if their chests are too small or if they should diet, and their aspirations and dreams seem limited to those that involve guys, everything a girl is supposed to think about in a nutshell so to speak. No surprise, they often are unable to handle anything more than making a meal or doing the laundry by themselves and sometimes the heroine can’t even do that.

Not Haruhi Fujioka, the blunt and independent heroine of Ouran High School Host Club, a romantic comedy about a “commoner” on a merit scholarship at the ritzy Ouran Academy who, after knocking over a vase and being mistaken for a guy, is commandeered into becoming part of the school’s host club (a place where, in this case, beautiful/handsome young men converse and entertain patrons) to pay off her debt. Of course, shortly after joining, the boys of the club all realize that Haruhi is, in fact, a bona fide girl. Yawning at the prospect of yet another heroine forced to cross-dress while surrounded by beautiful boys who will surely fall in love with her, one by one? Well, Ouran does things a little differently.

The keyword in the description is comedy. This series satirizes a lot of trends and stereotypes seen in manga such as harems, cross-dressing, and the types of characters that show up in the romance genre. For example, it is not uncommon to see characters in the romance genre divided between the characters involved in the romance and the romantically uninvolved side characters. In Ouran, the male lead of the story, Tamaki, literally draws a line on the floor to separate himself, the self-deemed love interest, from the rest of the main cast who he labels the “sexless” characters. Or how about the scenario where a love interest is thrown into a rage when someone causes the poor, defenseless heroine to cry? In this series, a fight occurs when it looks like Haruhi has been hurt and is crying, only for it to be revealed that she was not upset, her contact just popped out. 

The characters are equally entertaining. While Tamaki is prince-like in many ways, he’s also a narcissist and a (well-intentioned) idiot who is so blind about his feelings for Haruhi that he believes he has fatherly feelings for her; Kyoya is the “cool-type,” but is also propelled by making a profit and known as the “Shadow King” for his puppet master behavior; despite being a senior in high school, Honey looks and acts like a kid from elementary school yet is a master at martial arts and incredibly scary if woken up. The list goes on, but these are the types of characters you get with Ouran High School Host Club.

So, it is no surprise that the heroine of the plot is not so typical either. In many ways, I feel like Haruhi is almost the antithesis of a majority of heroines. She is intelligent and has dreams of becoming a lawyer rather than dreaming of boys; she’s independent and not afraid to speak her mind. This all comes through in the story, like the reason she attends Ouran Academy. Haruhi wanted to go there to get her closer to reaching her dream and achieved this through her academics. Compare that to heroines who choose schools based on how cute its uniform is. I also want to add that I’ve seen spunky heroines and meek heroines, ditzy and misunderstood, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a heroine who is blunt and somewhat apathetic like Ouran High School Host Club‘s lead. It’s good (and amusing) to see such a different personality!

Because of this, like the story itself, Haruhi is put into classic manga scenarios, but usually handles them rather differently than your average manga heroine. For instance, if a female character with long hair has to cut her hair, it’s seen as a sacrifice (Sakura from Naruto, Keiko from Yu Yu Hakusho). In Ouran, Haruhi used to have beautiful long hair, but after a neighborhood kid stuck gum in her hair, she cut most of it off without batting an eye. The boys of the series regret the loss of her long hair, but Haruhi could care less. While I probably would be in the former category if I suddenly had to cut my hair, I love Haruhi’s attitude. She is removed from social pressures about appearance.

Another example is how Haruhi handled being mistaken for a boy. I have seen the cross-dressing scenario in manga before, but her reaction to the situation is unique. She doesn’t care about dressing like a guy. In fact, right after all the boys of the host club have finally realized that she is really a girl, she says, “I don’t really care if you guys recognize me as a boy or a girl. In my opinion it’s more important for a person to be recognized for who they are, rather than what sex they are.” (Episode 1, anime version) Seeing people for who they are on the inside is something that Haruhi brings up multiple times throughout the series. Can you imagine what fiction would be like if we saw more heroines with attitudes like this?

This outlook applies to her attitude toward the host club members as well. Instead of being one of the masses who can’t help but be charmed by the beauty of the boys of the host club at first glance (a scenario that appears in other manga in a non-comedy setting), Haruhi sees them for what they honestly are, the good and the bad. The audience is often treated to her humorously blunt insights such as when Tamaki goes on a rant about his beauty, Haruhi honestly thinks hard on the right word to describe him and comes up with “annoying,” instantly deflating his ego like a needle to a balloon.

The series is not without some problems. One such problem occurs in an episode in which, after Haruhi stands up to a couple of male bullies and is hurt in the process, a couple of the characters, and thus the story, focus too much on the fact that Haruhi was a girl going up against guys and the physical disadvantage she has as a girl instead of the idea that she needed to learn that she can rely on others sometimes, which I think was the main point of the episode. However, my overall impression of Ouran High School Host Club and its female lead are very good. So, if you’re sick of stereotypical heroines and plots or just want something a little different and fun, check out Ouran High School Host Club! You can watch the anime for free and legally on Hulu.com, but if you want the complete story, be sure to pick up the 18 volume manga series it is based on.

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!!Spoilers for Tokyo Boys & Girls!!

Despite all my complaining about romance, I seem to read a lot of it. As a result, I’ve run into dozens of trends, seen one scenario done over and over, and observed how people portray romance, both the good parts and the difficult parts. Years ago, before I was typing away on Gagging on Sexism, I came across Tokyo Boys & Girls, a manga created by Miki Aihara, better known for her hit, Hot Gimmick, at my local library. Now, Aihara doesn’t have the best track record for making manga with particularly forward-thinking and healthy relationships, but I didn’t know that when I read Tokyo Boys & Girls. What did I think of it? I was thoroughly irritated by it. So, years later, I had thought to do a scathing review, but I had to stop my eager fingers. Upon refreshing myself with the story, I found it not quite as bad as I remember, but I still have some things to say about some issues surrounding the heroine and her romance.

The story opens with Mimori Kosaka, your average peppy and cheerful heroine who wants only a couple of things out of her high school years; to wear a cute uniform, become cute, and to snag a boyfriend. Education? Pssh! When have girls ever been interested in knowledge? Anyway, Mimori’s third wish just might come true because not one but two studs have stepped up as potential love interests. Yeah, I know. One of them is a playboy and the other one is a long-lost childhood friend turned guy-out-for-revenge against Mimori for unknown reasons (Haruta), but obviously, these boys truly like our lucky heroine. I mean, with guys like that after her, can anyone say, “jackpot?” So, there is our lovely love triangle.

All sarcasm aside, obviously this story gets off to a troubled start. This was one of those romances where I just wasn’t impressed with the potential love interests. Both are jerky toward Mimori at some point and Tokyo Boys & Girls plays right into the old cliché that the heroine ends up with the one that comes off as mean toward her initially. I also had a problem with why Haruta is not-so-nice to Mimori at first; back in elementary school the two had been friends and Haruta had a crush on Mimori. Mimori, however, only saw Haruta as a friend and was completely oblivious to his feelings for her and to add insult to injury, years later in high school, Mimori doesn’t even recognize him. This understandably hurt his feelings, but the way the story plays it, this makes Haruta justified for being a jerk. When Mimori realizes all this later, she feels she had been a selfish person to have not realized Haruta’s feelings all those years ago. I felt this was over the top. The situation Haruta and Mimori faced in elementary school happens all the time and while it’s not fun and feelings may be hurt, that doesn’t make the oblivious party an awful person and certainly doesn’t give the hurt party reason to be a jerk.

The other big thing that bothered me with this manga was a certain incident that occurs in the later half, when Mimori and Haruta have started dating. Haruta is still insecure about his relationship with Mimori and afraid that his former rival in love is actually still very much a threat. Propelled by these fears, Haruta confronts her about her feelings and her relationship with his rival. Unable to simply take Mimori at her word (or her actions) that she wants to be with him, he demands that she prove she’s really Haruta’s by having sex with him. Frankly, Haruta’s inability to believe in the relationship and his jealous nature made for an unstable relationship in my opinion, but this particular bit had red flags flying. Mimori is understandably scared by his behavior and rejects him. Haruta jumps to the conclusion that because she wouldn’t have sex with him then and there, Mimori really didn’t love him and would rather be with his rival-in-love. This paranoia and aggressive behavior just screamed abusive relationship to me. Mimori asks why he always has to be so malicious before running out. Readers are left with Haruta by himself, saying, “Why? Why do you think? Because I love you!” Riiight, because malicious behavior toward someone always equals love. He goes so far as to break up with her because she becomes a little scared of him after that incident, believing she simply has something against him in particular touching her.

I also felt like Mimori’s later reactions to all this is plain terrible. She connects her obliviousness to Haruta’s feelings back in elementary school to her more recent rejection of his pressure to have sex. She feels terrible because in her mind she’s been thoughtless of Haruta twice and hurt him twice. Mimori doesn’t do everything right over the course of the story, but that episode was not one where she should take blame. And after all, Haruta wasn’t thinking of Mimori’s feelings when he demanded that she prove herself by having sex with him. What does this say to readers? It reminds me of situations where someone is in an abusive relationship and they twist things in their own mind until they believe they did something wrong, and that’s the last thing I want to see in stories promoted toward teenagers.

The conclusion of this argument saves it from being completely rotten. The two make up, both realizing they were causing problems in the relationship; Mimori tries to be more honest with her feelings with Haruta and Haruta vows not to rush her with sex and never to do anything that would make her afraid of him again. Having them both realize their mistakes and having Haruta finally make it clear that he understands he did something wrong by pressuring her made me feel better about the story as a whole. I still feel it presented confusion and unhealthy messages regarding relationships, but it wasn’t a total flop.

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Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

For those of you who don’t know, this is the first official installment of a series discussing princess characters who break the Disney princess stereotypes. The first princess up is Nausicaa from Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I’ve talked about Nausicaa before on this blog, but it’s impossible to talk about stereotype-defying princess characters and not mention her. In fact, one of the things that I like about this character is that she’s a princess who’s not afraid to be in the front lines of things and get stuff done herself. I’ll try to go over the major points that differentiate Nausicaa from stereotypical princesses in this post.

To give you a general idea of the story, Nausicaa lives in a postapocalyptic world some time in the future; humankind has driven the world to the brink and pollution has made much of it uninhabitable. In addition, humans have lost most of the industrial knowledge of their ancestors. But none of this has stopped people from fighting amongst each other and wars are occurring between groups of people over the few resources that exist in a poisoned land. Obviously, this isn’t a world for the fragile and naive princesses from Disney and truthfully, we never see Nausicaa twirling around at lavish balls or fawning over princes.

TYPICAL PRINCESS TRAITS 

Before I go off on how different she is from Cinderella or Snow White, Nausicaa does have certain similarities to stereotypical Disney princesses. As I pointed out last week, all Disney princesses are kind, innocent beings. Nausicaa isn’t naive, but more so honest and has undiminished hopes and she’s definitely shown to be a kind and peace-loving. Another element that I did not mention but that exists at least in a couple of the Disney princesses is a certain self-sacrificing nature, kindness taken to the extreme; Nausicaa has this as well. There is nothing wrong with these characteristics in princess characters; it’s the way they are handled and Nausicaa is the prime example of this.

While the earliest Disney princesses were kind and innocent to the point of sleep-inducing boredom, these traits in Nausicaa, combined with a few other traits like bravery, strength, and a brain, become some of her strengths. Many in Nausicaa’s world are blinded by things like ambition, greed, anger, or even misconception, fueling the destruction of their world. As a result, Nausicaa’s unbelievably pure and understanding nature cuts through much of this and shocks the people around her into awe. Much of her battle is dealing with the hatred in the world.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

NON-TYPICAL PRINCESS TRAITS

But Nausicaa doesn’t just get through to people by standing around being really nice; as I mentioned earlier, she has other traits and circumstances which transforms her from a nice princess to an inspiring and interesting figure. Nausicaa is the princess of a small group of people and her position as the daughter of the king actually holds power and responsibilities. The fact that Nausicaa has power is very distinctive difference between all the Disney princesses, none of whom are ever shown to have any power whatsoever as a princess. As for responsibility, some of the princesses do have a little (Jasmine, for instance, originally has the responsibility to marry for the good of her country), but it’s limited. In the manga version of her story, her father is ill and has no son so, Nausicaa must go to war in his place. In the movie, for the sake of her people’s well-being, she must become a political hostage. In both versions, Nausciaa takes plenty of risks to keep people from completely destroying the world. Because of this, she can’t just simply be kind, but also tough, resilient, and know how to act on her own. In fact, Nausicaa makes all of her moves of her own accord and takes a lot of action. As a result, coupled with her motives derived from her kind, innocent nature, Nausicaa helps many. This is what earns her not just the love of people but also respect.

There are several other major differences including Nausicaa’s intelligence, which is actually important to the story, and that there is only the slightest whiff of romance in either the movie or the manga. As for the romance, I will just say there is nothing wrong with romance, but since we see so many stories with female leads where romance takes center stage, it’s nice to see one where the independent female lead is the focus. Finally, while I realize Disney’s princesses are made for a young audience, I just want to point out that the movie version of Nausicaa’s story still only receives a PG rating.

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Kodocha and Gakuen Alice; ever since the more recent Gakuen Alice started being released in English several years ago, people have been buzzing about how similar these two manga series are. Having read a good portion of Gakuen Alice and finishing Kodocha, I have to admit, there are some obvious similarities; in both stories, readers are presented with peppy preteen female leads whose first challenge of many challenges is to deal with the zoo they call class. The out-of-control classes are both controlled by quiet troublemaker boys who have a chip on their shoulders about something. This ultimately leads the girls into confrontations with the troublemakers and eventually develops into a more friendly relationship.

Despite this likeness, there was something that differentiated the two stories for me. There was a similar set up between the female and male leads in these manga, but the dynamics seemed somehow different. What was it? While the female lead from Kodocha, Sana gave back whatever her troublemaker Akito dished out and more, Mikan, the female lead from Gakuen Alice, often endures and reacts rather than dishing out. To give you an idea of what I mean, let’s compare the first clash of the female and male leads.

 In Kodocha, Sana has been tolerating Akito’s reign of chaos in her class for some time from the looks of it. However, by the start of the series she’s done dealing with it. At first she does indirect things like leaving class or ranting about Akito on a talk show (she’s a young actress), but that doesn’t change things. In fact, after badmouthing Akito on TV Akito’s gang begins threatening and insulting Sana. Sana isn’t the least bit intimidated and, for whatever reason, Akito won’t confront her head on. On the other hand, regardless of his reputation, she isn’t afraid to confront Akito. The two finally have a confrontation when Akito starts bullying a friend of Sana’s. She slaps him, dodges his punches, and tries to talk to him about why he’s doing this. Even when Akito snaps and says he’ll start bullying her from now on, Sana stands strong. This all transpires in the first chapter and already Sana has defined herself as a tough girl who’s not willing to deal with this behavior or be pushed around. With so many female characters out there who are willing to put up with abuse, it’s great to see one who isn’t. Her strength inspires her fellow classmates, who had just been putting up with Akito and his gang’s craziness, to stand up against them as well.

In Gakuen Alice, Mikan meets the troublemaker of her story, Natsume, when he tries to escape the mysterious school Mikan is trying to enter. A teacher quickly quells Natsume and he and Mikan are put in a room to wait while the school officials try to sort things out. Unlike Sana who knows Akito is a troublemaker, Mikan doesn’t know Natsume and although she’s warned that he’s dangerous, she’s caught off guard when he grabs her, threatens her, and demands to know who she is. Understandably, she’s shocked. When she doesn’t answer, Natsume steals her panties and readers are left with the typical scene in manga of the heroine crying, “comically” insisting she’ll never be able to marry now (I’ve never understood the humor of this scenario in manga since it’s making fun of a character feels like she’s been violated). In Mikan’s defense, as I said earlier, she isn’t used to dealing with Natsume, but because Natsume has already one upped her, the power seems shifted to his court. Readers are constantly reminded of this since, in coming confrontations between the two, Natsume brings up the incident with the panties. While this only fuels Mikan’s anger, I think there’s a certain amount of power in being able to rile someone up like Natsume does with Mikan. She’s put at Natsume’s whim more than a couple of times and so, while she does stand up to Natsume, she also has to endure a lot.

In the end, even after the relationships between the female and male leads aren’t enemies anymore, I felt Sana and Akito’s relationship was a lot more equal. Even when those two get on each other about something, it doesn’t feel like either of the characters is just being overpowered or steamrolled over by the other. In comparison, Mikan and Natsume have a relationship that’s much more typical in my opinion with Natsume pushing and pulling Mikan around a fair amount. Mikan isn’t spineless and Natsume does get nicer, but in the 10 volumes I’ve read of the series so far I still feel the relationship hasn’t reached the equal footing I’d like it to.

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To ring in the New Year I’m doing something a little different from my normal posts. I thought I’d end the year by shining the spotlight on some movies, books, manga, and anime that I found satisfied both my need for a good story as well as my need for awesome heroines. As I’m sure you all know, it’s not easy finding strong, realistic female characters in fiction all the time and while everything I’ve chosen may not be perfect, I’d like to give some suggestions for those of you looking for some satisfying fiction (and some non-fiction) for the coming year. I’d love to do individual posts on these suggestions in the future to further explain why I found them appealing, but for the sake of quickness, here’s the list:

Fiction Books
  • Abhorsen trilogy (by Garth Nix)
  • Fire (by Kristin Cashore)
  • Graceling (by Kristin Cashore)
  • Harry Potter series (by J.K. Rowling)
  • Moribito series (by  Nahoko Uehashi)
  • Pride & Prejudice (by Jane Austen)
  • Song of the Lioness series (by Tamora Pierce)
  • The Twelve Kingdoms series (by Fuyumi Ono)
Non-Fiction Books
  • America’s Women (by Gail Collins)
  • Elizabeth I (by Anne Somerset)
  • Enlightened Sexism (by  Susan J. Douglas)
  • The Mysterious Life of Private Thompson (by Laura Leedy Gansler)
  • When Everything Changed (by Gail Collins)
Manga
  • Nana
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Paradise Kiss
  • Sailor Moon
  • Skip Beat!
  • Usagi Drop

Anime

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Beast Player Erin (streaming legally on Crunchyroll.com)
  • Cross Game
  • Library Wars
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
  • The Twelve Kingdoms
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena
  • The Rose of Versailles
  • Usagi Drop

Movies

  • Elizabeth (2008)
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • The Heiress (1949)
  • Disney’s Mulan
  • Offside
  • Persepolis
  • True Grit (2010)
  • The Young Victoria

This list will be posted as a page labeled “Recommendations” from now on. Some of these I chose based on the thought-provoking messages dealing with gender while others simply presented strong female characters. I enjoyed (or am enjoying in the case of a couple of those on-going manga) all of the stories in the fiction I have on this list. As for the non-fiction, I listed a couple of books dealing directly with feminism and a number of books about women in history that I found inspiring. If I have done a more thorough review of something on the list, I will put a link to that review on the page (there aren’t many right now). Finally, because I’m always looking for more stories of strong women, this list will certainly grow (I’m positive I’m forgetting a ton as well). On that note, if you have any suggestions for me to look into, I’d love to hear them and will try to read/watch it when I can. I wish everyone luck in the coming year and hope you’ll continue to support Gagging on Sexism! See you in 2012!

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