Ecchi: Gender & Gender Representation in Japanese Anime and Manga

Before discussing the topic, I was inspired by the idea from my last Cosplay article, where I plan on filming a vlog to supplement my blog posts. The vlogs allow me to further discuss these topics, discuss my experiences, and then finally provide content to share with Reddit. Furthermore, it allows me to additionally briefly examine the experience of an emerging YouTuber, however Reddit will still provide as my main platform of interest when discussing my autoethnographical experience.

Aware of the issues prevalent in the representation of women in anime, I decided to look closely at the development of the anime sub-genre titled Ecchi. I was inspired by Flomu’s article “Female Empowerment in Kill la Kill,” which I discovered whilst traversing Reddit, an article which claims that the anime Kill la Kill, rather than communicating lewd images as deviant fan service, rather communicates sexual empowerment. In order to conduct an auto-ethnographical study of the topic, I decided to watch the first episode of Kill la Kill, documenting my thoughts in the following YouTube vlog where I additionally discuss the theory behind Flomu’s argument.

Ecchi is a Japanese slang term which often refers to lewd and lascivious conduct. Fandom communities use it to refer to softcore or playful sexuality, unlike ‘hentai’ which connotes perversion or fetishism, often incorporated in anime and manga as ‘fan service‘ which, as the term suggests, refers to content intentionally included to please the fan base.

Kill la Kill, is an anime television series produced by Trigger which first aired in 2013, directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and written by Kazuki Nakashima. What brought controversy to the show, is that the characters, by donning an extremely ‘skimpy’ uniform, they are transformed and gain amazing powers.

I was fortunately able to legally access the anime online via the anime streaming website Crunchy Roll. I hadn’t heard much about the anime, but I was aware of it’s popularity. Given that I’m already a fan of anime, I didn’t approach the text with any negative bias, and I was expecting to enjoy the show.

As expected, and as expressed in my vlog, I really enjoyed the first episode. I didn’t experience the open sexual imagery in the show as negatively confronting, largely since I knew what to expect, and additionally since I’ve grown accustomed to sexual imagery in anime, given that it largely permeates the media environment. Interestingly, an image created by tumblr user skaboyjfk, titled “Kill la Kill: A Visual Guide to Understanding Female Empowerment and the Male Gaze,” allowed me to see the anime in a new perspective. I look at the topic more in depth in my vlog, but ultimately he argues that the sexualisation in the show serves a function beyond ‘fanservice,’ stating that the uniforms empower the female characters, highlighting the quote,

“You cannot control the lens through which people view you, but it should never ever be a cause for shame. In fact, you are stronger because of it.”

This article certainly fostered a new understanding, and I personally grew to agree with the argument. I decided to take the argument to Reddit, sharing my vlog and posing the question to r/KillLaKill, ‘do you believe that the show is trying to empower women, specifically teenage girls?’ I finally experienced what I thought was inevitable from the start, my post was downvoted to hell, only 17% of users upvoted it. One user commented, stating that “the show was written by a middle-aged Japanese man who has said in interviews that he wrote Ryuko and Satsuki as males… So no, that doesn’t seem to be an aim of the writer or the show.” Alternatively, I posed a question suitable to the topic to r/anime, trying to find out some of the user’s favourite female characters, the post was mildly successful, receiving a few comments.

What I felt should be highlighted as it will serve to both help me, and others learning how to properly use Reddit in order to maximise their chances of having a successful post, was a comment by user Niernen, who instructed the importance of including a message body:

Self-posts without a message body are likely to be removed. If you want your post to stay and succeed, spend time to write a message-body to go along with it. We’ll permit such threads to stay around if we come across them and they happen to have generated a discussion, but better safe than sorry.

Ultimately, as Sheridan provides, autoethnography asks, “will this research help others cope with or better understand their situations?” this experience serves to inform those who are attempting to better understand Reddit. I believe the reason my vlog was downvoted was the fact that I posed a question which most users found didn’t feel was important, supplemented by the trend that they might have downvoted my self-post given that it could have been seen as self promotion. Hopefully this experience will allow me to be more successful in my future experiences with Reddit.

References

flomu, “Female Empowerment in Kill la Kill,” flomu.net

skaboyjfk, 2013, Kill la Kill: A Visual Guide to Understanding Female Empowerment and the Male Gaze, Tumblr, http://i.imgur.com/DpG1VIk.jpg.

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

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