By Amy R. Zunk
Main Entry: an·i·me
Pronunciation: 'a-n&-"mA, 'ä-nE-
Etymology: Japanese, animation, short for animEshiyon, from English
: a style of animationoriginating in Japan that is characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots often with fantastic or futuristic themes.
- From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
A search on Google.com for the word “anime” resulted in almost 2.2 million hits. Meanwhile a search for the words “women and anime” resulted in just 900,000 hits, but the porn sites started showing up on the second page of results.
What does this tell you about the world’s perspective on women and anime?
I would like to set some of the record straight, at least from my view of things.
The first time I ever saw any anime or any kind, was the movie Akira on my best friends laser disc system. I was so mesmerized by the film that I convinced my friend to play it for me again. I think we wound up watching it about 4 times that night. After Akira, I watched Dominion Tank Police, Bubblegum Crisis (the original) and Project A-ko, all in the original Japanese with English subtitles. I was hooked. I was fascinated by the good plot lines, interesting character development, and of course, beautifully rendered artwork. It also was great comedy, especially when I watched Japanese interpretations of Americans. And of course I wound up learning about how the Japanese viewed woman (i.e. anti-gravity chests and sometimes ditzy personalities). Now, this was all back in 1992, when there was no Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh or anything even vaguely like that in the US television watching consciousness.
Anime was only for those geeks at science fiction conventions, and they were all men. So, here I was, a geek girl who was hooked on anime. I went though my friend’s limited library quickly. But, I wanted more. And didn’t know where to look. When the next sci-fi convention came to town, I went in search of anime and anime fans like me. All I found was one video room dedicated to anime, and where most folks there were either geeky guys who didn’t know how to talk to a female counterpart, or couples taking advantage of the darkness. Not much else. The Internet was still in its fledgling status, so there weren’t many sites dedicated to anime. There wasn’t much an anime loving geek girl could do.
Well, times have changed quite a bit. There are web sites, club organizations and conventions dedicated to anime and anime fans. But, things haven’t changed completely from 10 years ago. Anime fans are still dominated by mostly a 99% male following. Many of the anime sites have more anime porn than just good anime. But, there is that 1% of women fans that are out there. And it is growing.
And why shouldn’t it? Anime appeals to all types of people on all different levels. There are the folks who love the mechs and science; who like the sexy woman characters, who love the sexy men characters; who like the plot lines/or lack of plot lines; interested in the artwork; interested in the production value; who just like the music and even those who learn Japanese by watching the films. Anime appeals to men and women. And the women are catching on more and more.
For example, take a look at the Shoujo anime movement, http://www.shoujocon.com/. From the site:
The word "shoujo" is simply the Japanese word for "girl". Shoujo manga is predominantly produced by female artists, and targeted to a female audience. The variety of themes and content, however, in shoujo attracts a broad audience far beyond the target group. Shoujo's sub genres include romance, comedy, action/adventure, horror, science fiction and drama. In short, whatever type of story you like to read or watch, shoujo definitely has something for you to enjoy.
Many shoujo series do have devoted male followings (just as several shounen series have their female fans), and several male artists are prominent within the field (shoujo, in fact, has a "founding father" in the venerable Osamu Tezuka). Many shoujo fans, after growing into adults and watching their favorite shoujo series grow with them, continue to be fans well past their college years. Or, they go on to josei (pronounced "joe-say-ee"), which are stories targeted to older women.
Shoujo and josei manga and anime are only beginning to catch on in popularity here in the West, despite their popularity in Japan. Some well-known shoujo/josei works include the wildly popular "magical-girl" series Sailor Moon, the surreal and beautiful Shoujo Kakumei Utena and the gay-themed "yaoi" romantic drama Kizuna.
The site goes on to talk about the annual Shoujocon convention and how to participate.
Shoujocon is just another step in how women are showing they are just as fanatical about anime as the men. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
If you would like to talk more about this topic, look for me in the AnimeMetro.com forum under the name CyberDragonne, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy R. Zunk is a freelance writer for several online publications doing editorial commentary and product review. Her column on Geek.com, "Backwards and in 4 inch heels", addresses women in the technology industry. She is an anime fan from way back. Her favorites include Robotech and Cowboy Bebop. Amy wants someday to own her very own veritech.