Love Stage!!

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Love Stage!! is the story of Izumi, an aspiring manga artist otaku who couldn’t be more different from his family. His mother is a world-famous actress, his father a singer, and his brother a boy-band teenage heartthrob. While he has been able to stay out of the celebrity spotlight for years, Izumi is drawn back in to do a follow-up commercial to one he starred in with the rest of his family when he was a child.

There are two problems, however. One is that in the original commercial he was dressed as a girl—and will thus be expected to dress as a woman again in the follow-up. The other is that Ryoma, the boy who acted opposite him in the original (who has since become TV’s most popular actor), is head over heels in love with the “girl” he met back then.

With this set-up, it’s pretty easy to see where a romantic comedy like this is going to go, but that rarely makes it any less hilarious. What starts as a mistaken gender comedy soon leads to Ryoma questioning his heterosexuality and later attempting to pursue a relationship with Izumi regardless.

Of course, much of the comedy comes from the fact that, beyond the gender and sexuality issues, the two are very different people. Ryoma is an outgoing, professional actor and a responsible individual, while Izumi is a hardcore otaku and a near shut-in. Watching them interact, especially with Ryoma having no idea how to win an otaku heart, always makes for a good-natured laugh.

Read on…

Star vs. The Forces of Evil shows boys it’s OK to enjoy makeup

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Over the last decade we started seeing more cartoons trying to appeal to kids and adults alike. Disney’s Star vs. The Forces of Evil is no exception to this trend.

It follows Princess Star Butterfly from Mewni, a planet in an alternate dimension. In order to train her magic properly, her parents send her to Earth (because it’s ‘less dangerous’ there). She becomes the foreign exchange student living with Marco, a human boy, and his family. Throughout the course of the show, Marco learns about Star’s magic and life on Mewni. He becomes her ally in driving away evil forces that seek to destroy Star’s family and the Kingdom of Mewni.

Season 4 of of the show premiered earlier this month. In the first episode, Star, Marco, and Star’s father River Butterfly attempt to find Queen Moon, who mysteriously vanished. In their searching, they come across a local play parodying Mewni’s royal family. They are momentarily convinced that the actor playing Queen Moon was, in fact, the real queen.

We soon discover they are wrong, and that the actor (a man in drag) just has really awesome makeup skills. Marco is the one most impressed by this. ‘I’m not the real Queen Moon,’ the actor, Eric, tells the group after taking off his wig. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, I was trying not to break character.’

While Star and River cry over being ‘so close’ to finding Queen Moon, Marco, mouth agape says, ‘Oh my gosh’ as he approaches Eric. ‘You have a gift,’ Marco exclaims with a smile. ‘This is the most flawless contouring I’ve ever seen,’ he continues, rubbing Eric’s face.

‘I used my new illuminizer to highlight my cheekbones,’ Eric gleefully replies. ‘Sometimes Turdina likes to highlight with glitter,’ Marco responds, referencing his own princess character from an earlier season.

‘I like to use glitter on my eyelids to make them pop,’ Eric remarks. ‘Sometimes I’ll put a little bronzer on and then blend it with my…,’ Marco begins before being cut off by a distraught Star.

Although this is not the first time we’ve seen queer representation in Star vs. The Forces of Evil, this short scene couldn’t come at a better time. There is a rising popularity of drag kids, like Desmond is Amazing, who are becoming famous drag queens in their own right. Other famous drag kids include Violet Vixen and Lactatia.

There is also a huge interest across the United States in Drag Queen Story Time, where professional drag queens come to public libraries, community centres, and bookstores to read storybooks to kids. One recent Drag Queen Story Time event in San Francisco had an estimated 500 attendees.

With the rising normalisation of and interest in drag culture, it’s great that Star vs. The Forces of Evil did its part in referencing this phenomenon.

via GSN

Wandering Son

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An effeminate boy who’d rather would have been born as a girl, a masculine girl who’d rather be a boy, and a student who comes to her first day at a new school dressed in a boy’s uniform just because. The number of anime titles dealing with gender identity in a realistic and non-comedic way are extremely few and far between. But Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) does exactly that.

The plot of Hourou Musuko consists largely of what you might expect from a slice-of-life anime – a group of young teens attempting to carve out a niche for themselves amongst their families and peers while discovering the joys of navigating through puberty and school life.

What makes this series stand out from the countless other anime doing exactly the same thing are the characters themselves. Shuichi, a cute but unassuming male who begins to cross-dress with the encouragement of his friends is nonetheless still attracted to girls and worries about the physical changes his body will go through.

Yoshino, a tall and more emotionally charged girl prefers to dress and act like a boy but doesn’t like to draw attention to herself, and refrains from cross-dressing unless she travels outside of her home city. Then there are personalities like the outgoing and impulsive Chizuru, who occasionally dresses as a boy as a gesture of independence but seems perfectly happy just the way she is.

In short, everyone in this show is unique in his or her own way, yet also comes across as far more down to earth than many, if not the majority, of those presented in other slice-of-life titles. While Hourou Musuko does have its humorous moments, it avoids straying into primarily comedic fare as with other anime involving cross-dressing as a main plot point such as I My Me! Strawberry EggsPrincess Princess, and Ouran High School Host Club. At the same time, Hourou Musuko also miraculously steers clear of any real melodrama.

The artwork of this anime is reminiscent of watercolour; soft and almost fuzzy around the edges, which lends the series a very gentle tone despite the serious nature of its themes. You won’t find any unnatural hair colours or enormous eye size here, and in that sense it’s perhaps vaguely akin to the work we’ve seen come out from Studio Ghibli.

Hourou Musuko is not for everyone but for those after something touching and heartfelt but just a little off the beaten track, I strongly suggest giving Hourou Musuko a try. At the very least, you’ll finally be watching something that doesn’t stoop to using gender reversal as an oversexed plot device.

Don’t Sneak

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Patrick Haggerty grew up the son of a dairy farmer in rural Dry Creek, Washington, during the 1950s. As a teenager, Pat began to understand he was gay—something he thought he was hiding well. But one day, after performing at a school assembly, Pat learned that his father could see him much more clearly than he realized.

Is it OK to replace one kind of representation with another?

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In summer 2019, Netflix will release its remake of the ‘80s- and 2000s-era anime classic Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac, a series about five cosmic warriors defending Earth against vengeful Greek gods.

The original Japanese program featured a gentle male character named Andromeda Shun. He had long green hair, wore magenta armour, was very emotional and always tried to resolve conflicts without violence, despite being a skilled warrior. As such, some Saint Seiya fans viewed Andromeda Shun as queer or at least challening the idea of what a male warrior has to look and act like. However, Netflix’s remake will change Andromeda Shun’s gender to female, upsetting many fans.

Andromeda Shun fanart by じょぼ

Last month, the show’s producer Eugene Son explained his decision to change Andromeda’s gender in a series of tweets, stating, “This one is all on me.” The series has other strong female characters, but Son wanted to make one of the Knights female to avoid an all-male cast of protagonists.

“Thirty years ago,” he tweeted, “a group of guys battling to save the world with no girls around was no big deal. That was the default then. Today the world has changed. Guys and girls working side-by-side is the default. We’re USED to seeing it. Right or wrong, the audience could interpret an all-male team as us trying to make a STATEMENT about something…”

Interestingly, fans seem divided over the gender-swap. Some don’t particularly mind the female inclusion, but others feel it betrays the subversive spirit of an “openly emotional, pretty, strong, non-macho male lead.”

Netflix has previously tried to elevate strong queer and female characters. But its attempt to be more inclusive here has proven controversial. While many agree that making the cast of a show more diverse is a good thing, they question if erasing the only character that could be read as queer or gender-non-conforming to make space for a different kind of representation was the most sensible choice.

nakedyouth

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In nakedyouth director Shishido takes us on a journey through the uncertainty and excitement of young love. This gentle short film quivers with sexual tension, which is linked to the natural world…

 

Backstreet Girls

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Back Street Girls, originally a Japanese manga series by Jasmine Gyuh that was released in 2015, will be turned into an anime.

There’s two sides to every story, and in the case of Back Street Girls there’s two sides to the leading men, too: yakuza and idols. After a trio of hapless yakuza make an unforgivable mistake, they have two options: Commit honourable suicide or go to Thailand for gender reassignment surgery so they can become a popular idol trio. 

Once a yakuza, always a yakuza, but these three are going to try their best to make their boss loads of money as idols. To get in the groove, two flavors of promos have been released. First up we have the hard-boiled (yet still bubbly) gokudo version (above), followed by the idol version /(below). The only real difference is the voice acting in the back half of each promo.

The series premieres on Japanese television on 3 July. It will air on BS11, Tokyo MX, and MBS. It will likely also be part of anime streaming service Crunchyroll.