So today as part of our Niji Nights, we’re going to talk about something that I believe, has greatly improved in the realm of anime. And that? That is the representation of transgender characters in anime. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Recently I re-watched Yu Yu Hakusho with Star and some of our other friends. While we were watching it there came a battle where Yusuke was fighting against a woman demon. Miyuki, is a one-time villain who was absolutely gorgeous. She was a part of the “demon triad”, who were supposed to be super strong. And she was, revealed to be trans female in one of the worst ways possible. While fighting, Yusuke, true to his nature, gave her a feel and commented on how she “still had the family jewels”. It was a scene that, despite Yusuke not caring about her gender identity, was super uncomfortable with the way they handled her gender identity. First Kuwabara wouldn’t fight her before she was a girl, then Yusuke outed her in a taunting and invasive way, and then they paid her gender identity little mind. It was…not the way to handle it. It felt like a half hearted attempted to mention something profound but that was instead just made bad and kind of insulting to be honest. Not only did Miyuki get treated kind of terribly, but her fight gave her barely any screen time. I know for the most part, YYH aged well but this? Not so much. It was, of course, a 90s manga/anime, and times were very different then.
Now though? Well, luckily we’ve evolved quite a bit since then. Not only do we have wonderful trans-representation in anime/manga such as Wandering Son (which is absolutely phenomenal and feels very real. I super recommend it), but we also have normalized trans characters in anime. For my example of more recent anime, I’m going to look at last year’s Hoshiai no Sora. Like Yu Yu Hakusho, our trans character is a side character with little screen time (though still MUCH more than Miyuki did). That character was Maki’s mother’s friend, Shou, who is female-to-male. Shou was a great character, and though he had little screen time, I really appreciated him and how they handled his gender identity with thoughtfulness. Why? Well, because we’d seen him around–saw how he was like the perfect father figure for Maki–and didn’t actually know about it until Maki mentioned it when trying to comfort Yuu, who was feeling pressured to establish their own gender identity and sexuality (they came out as non-binary). If anything, Hoshia no Sora took it so gently that it wasn’t ignoring the reveal but rather normalizing it. In this moment, Maki wasn’t trying to get Yuu to decide to be either female or male, but rather just providing an example of an avenue they can take and normalizing it–and perhaps a person to confide in. In fact, Hoshiai No Sora handled Yuu’s entire plot line well by needing not set it for them in stone. They are just figuring it out, and the boy’s soft tennis team is there for them no matter what.
There’s also other great transgender characters, my favorite of which is Hana from Tokyo Godfather’s–aka an absolute queen. Not only does she portray transgender in a positive light, she is–without a doubt–an exemplary human being. Hana is the one to pick up baby Kiyoko in the movie, and she is the most persistently loving and caring one for the baby. She is truly kindhearted, and though she has some moments that make her seem like a caricature, the movie never implies it to be because of her gender identity. In a way, the portrayal of Hana as a trans-woman is nuanced in of itself. She has faced hardship because of who she is, and though some others try to bring her down, she smiles head on. Honestly I fucking love Hana is a character. I just wish she had less comedic tones to her and erred more on the side of thoughtfulness.
Overall, I feel like transgender representation in anime has improved over time. I feel like instead of treating it like a joke, afterthought, or dramatic reveal, anime is starting to normalize it and normalize trans people. But as society has grown their understanding, so too has their portrayal been treated better. I know that the views in this post are my own, so I’m curious to hear what everyone else thinks? Do you think trans culture is being accepted and incorporated more thoughtfully into anime/manga? Do you have a transgender character in mind who you absolutely adore the portrayal of? Let me know! Otherwise, we’ll catch you all tomorrow for the next Niji Night!