Hello all and welcome back to Niji Nights! Last time I talked specifically about transgender characters in anime in some old school vs. some newer anime. Today, I want to open that door a little wider and just talk about LGBTQIA+ in anime and highlight some good moments for representation in anime over the past few years. Because while our world still has a long way to go, it has made strides, especially in anime, to be more inclusive.
So one anime I really want to talk about, and that I have talked about many times before (and in my last post), is Hoshiai no Sora. I touched on it briefly before, but I really wanted to drive home just important episode 8 was. In this episode, Yuu reveals to Maki that they identify as non-binary, and that they’ve never felt like they fit on either the female nor male spectrum. Instead, they felt as though they were in-between, therefore they did research before deciding they were non-binary. Yuu’s backstory of having to find out their gender identity by having to do their own secret research felt heart-breakingly real. They didn’t have anyone to talk to about it, they were afraid of what people would think. They ended up having to read up on gender and sexuality in secret because they were ashamed. But Maki was always there for Yuu–never judging them and accepting no matter who they were. Maki even said he sometimes wondered about himself–and he decided he didn’t care about gender roles that much. Even at the beginning of the series we see this when Maki rejects the teasing he gets for wearing part of the girl’s soft tennis uniform. I’d say overall, the main cast ended up being strong supporters of Yuu the whole time, never letting them get bullied, and also never fearing or judging them. It’s quite beautiful really. I kind of wish I knew where Yuu’s storyline ended (too bad we never got the full story–thanks studio), but what we got was surprisingly profound.
Another moment I want to talk about feels like a cop out since it was in a shounen ai title, but I feel like it was such an important moment to have in an anime period. Especially because Given ended up being a BL that was watched by non-BL fans even. The moment was an interaction between Uenoyama and Akihiko. In episode 7, Akihiko takes Uenoyama aside to talk because, they’ve all noticed Uenoyama being off. In this scene, Akihiko asks if Uenoyama if he has feelings, and Uenoyama kind of sort of panics. He then goes on to ask if Akihiko thinks he’s weird. He isn’t able to fully articulate what he means, but Akihiho knows. He tells him that it’s not weird liking a guy–even if he thinks that he’s “supposed to like girls”. Akihiko then goes on to tell him how he himself has been with both guys and girls, something that shocks Uenoyama but also really helps him. Akihiko saying this to him–meant the world, he even finishes his speech with “Do you think I’m weird?” Early on, it was established that Uenoyama idolizes Akihiko and sees him as kind of like –the epitome of manliness–a role model of sorts. Hearing such positive affirmation from his role model must have meant the world to Uenoyama. And it was such an important scene for viewers to. Sometimes just hearing that you aren’t weird for being who you are or feeling how you do, is exactly what you need.
Then of course, if we’re talking about LGBTQIA+ representation in anime, we have to talk about that great sports anime–you know the one–Yuri! On Ice. Perhaps the one with the biggest fandom in recent years, and that had a same-sex pairing in it. Victor and Yuuri are an absolute OTP of anime from the last five years. This sports anime had both a kiss and what was -definitely- a marriage proposal with those rings at the end there. While Yuri on Ice may not have been as groundbreaking as some said, it certainly did wonders for having a same-sex main couple in a non-BL anime. I like to think it is one of the anime that helped fandoms get a little more used to non-hetero representation (perhaps I’m just being too optimistic though).
Then there’s Attack on Titan. Yes. You read that right. This massive shounen-action hit teased at a lesbian couple but never officially confirmed. The pairing of Ymir x Krista is always in contention of being canon or not. Ymir had made it clear that she was romantically attracted to Krista, and the two of them had an incredibly deep bond. So much so that a lot would argue of was enough to claim canon. But it was never stated how Krista felt for Ymir. So despite the fact that this couple may not have been fully realized (and the fact they later killed off Ymir, the clearly defined LGBTQIA+ one), Attack on Titan still made great strides to even feature such a storyline in what is probably one of the biggest shounen titles in the 2010’s. Which is definitely commendable for being so inclusive…I just wish they’d handled it all better.
Now while there’s a world of more examples, I’m going to focus on only one more (for the sake of not making this blog too long). That is the ever popular Land of the Lustrous. This 2017, gorgeously animated show features characters who are actually agender—which is to say, they identify with no gender. This show was one of the first instances I had seen agender being represented in anime—actually, just media period. In Land of the Lustrous, th way that the gems self-identity is of little importance for Lunarians who only care about how they look. Subtextually, this carries a powerful narrative for those in the LGBTQIA+ community who may feel similar — that some people just ignore the way they identify—because these communities have been largely ignored, cast aside, or judged and labeled only on how they outwardly look. If I had to make a call on one of the most important LGBTQIA+ anime, I’d certainly look here.
So there are all my examples…but now to really answer the heart of this post—has anime generally become more LGBTQIA+ inclusive? I would like to think so. That isn’t to say it always hasn’t been inclusive, but I would say more anime are incorporating LGBTQIA+ stories and characters in their casts. And more importantly, I feel if anything, the anime fandom itself is growing and therefore becoming more inclusive and accepting. That isn’t to say that there isn’t still a long way to go, but I like to think that anime and manga are on the right track, in representing voices that are often silenced.
What do you all think—is anime more LGBTQIA+ inclusive? Let me know!
Remember, this is a safe space