Anime, Manga and the Female Gaze

I love anime, manga and video games. I talk about them on my blog and all my social media. I’m majorly into a mobile game right now, one that has an anime series, including an upcoming film, and I’m even writing fanfiction for it. Some of the series I love are the popular ones you see a lot of people talking about, and you can easily get merch for in the west. But those series tend to be shonen or seinen series. That’s not to say I don’t love any series where the target audiences are girls and women. My current obsession is definitely aimed at girls, and it definitely has a fairly large fanbase but is it promoted as much in the West? No.

In fact, very few female-targeted series get promoted as hard in the West.

I did a poll on Twitter recently asking people whether they thought female-targeted series are promoted as much in the West, and 5 out of the 6 people who answered agreed that they aren’t. There is something incredibly sad about this, and I want to talk about it.

Obviously, some series do well. Some of the classic magical girl series like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura are incredibly popular. Fruits Basket has had a recent resurgence with the new anime, but it very much feels like we see the same girls series promoted over and over. It’s great that so many girls love Sailor Moon or Ouran, but what about other series? Why are things like Ju Jutsu Kaisen and Demon Slayer so popular with people of all genders, but the series targeted at girls are just seen as not as cool?

I’m well aware that some of this is internalised misogyny. We see something girls like, especially teenage girls, and automatically assume that it sucks. I’m talking about pumpkin spice lattes and pink glitter here. Things you see all over social media and the internet, but also see people ripping the heck out off as those things are so basic. Why are they basic? Because so many young girls like them? We need to admit that attitudes like that are a problem, and they feed into the whole not-like-other-girls narratives that we hate in fiction, as girls are taught that liking popular, feminine things is bad. Sure, part of it is that fantasy series are likely to draw in more people than idol series like I am into currently. But there are so many series targeted at girls, many of which are a fantasy that could do well. Karneval is being translated into English and had a one-season anime. It is a pretty dark but fun fantasy anime series but one targeted at girls. So why can’t I find merch of that easily? Other than the anime being a little old now, but so are many of the popular series. Servamp is considered a shonen series for girls, so it could do pretty well. Yet once again, I don’t see much about it.

The beauty of anime and manga is that there are series out there for absolutely anyone. They’re just cartoons and comics, and there really is so much variety. I’m a big fan of a lot of shoujo and josei series. I’ve really gotten into boy idol series recently too. I love looking them up online, but there’s something sad about only really being able to get merchandise from Japan.

My current obsession is Ensemble Stars, and yeah, it’s finally getting an English server. Yet the majority of people I’ve seen excited about it are people already into it. The only other boy idol game available in the west now is Uta No Prince Sama Shining Live which…isn’t a great game if you’re not really into the series anyway. And that’s a series you have to find online as it’s not got a traditional English release. A3! was available in English for a while and did have a dubbed anime…but it eventually got closed down. I’m hoping EnStars will be available in English for a long time to come, and I hope to see more people get into it. This could be the start of something beautiful, but I know that it could still be a flop, even with the love of things like k-pop boybands.

So what should we do? We need to make it known that we want more female-targeted series. We need to be officially supporting the series we have. Download and buy the games, buy the manga and watch the anime on official streaming services. If companies ask to hear what series you’re interested in, have a list of those you’d love to see translated. Though many of them won’t have official translations, there are plenty that do. They just aren’t as popular. Let’s talk about them more. Include them on our lists and share all the fun stuff we find. If the people releasing the translations don’t know we want this stuff, we won’t get it. We need to push back on the idea that everyone is into shonen and that only girls are into shoujo. It’s kind of ridiculous and means that we’re missing out on so many series that could become just as popular. I’m tired of seeing comments on female-targeted series complaining about them. I want to see more love.

And that’s it really. I just wanted to ramble a little bit about this as it is definitely an issue. And it’s something we can definitely work on together.

Let’s talk about the shoujo and josei series that we all love. If you have any favourites that you don’t see people talk about enough? Why not leave them in the comments below so I can either check them out or talk about them with you!

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