maanantai 28. tammikuuta 2013
Blogikommenteissani joku joskus suositteli minulle animesarjaa nimeltään Kuragehime (Jellyfish Princess), koska sarjan yhtenä päähenkilönä on poika, joka pukeutuu tyttöjen vaatteisiin. Oikeastaan olin kuullut sarjasta jo aiemminkin ja katsonut pari minuuttia sen alkua, mutta jostain syystä en ollut jaksanut jatkaa. Kommentin innoittamana päätin kuitenkin viime syyskuussa antaa sarjalle uuden mahdollisuuden, ja katsoinkin kaikki 11 jaksoa parissa päivässä. Lopputulos: sarjan crossdressaava hahmo, Kuranosuke, teki minuun suuren vaikutuksen itsevarmalla asenteellaan ja rohkeudellaan. Heräsi jopa innostus cossata kyseistä hahmoa jossain tapahtumassa, hänellä kun on niin ihania asuja!
Sattumoisin vähän ajan päästä osallistuin yliopistossa (englanninkieliselle) kurssille, jolla yhtenä tehtävänä oli kirjoittaa lyhyehkö kriittinen arvio jostain Japanin populaarikulttuurin "tekstistä" (elokuvasta, sarjasta, musiikista, muotityylistä, melkein mistä vain). Hetken ajattelin kirjoittaa lolitasta, mutta aihe tuntui hieman liian laajalta lyhyeen kirjoitelmaan. Ei kuitenkaan mennyt kauaa, kun jo tiesin kirjoittavani Kuragehimestä ja sen tavasta käsitellä ristiinpukeutumista. Vasta vähän aikaa sitten sain kurssista arvosanan, joka olikin yllättävän korkea, joten opettajakin taisi siis pitää esseestäni. Niinpä ajattelin, että miksipä en jakaisi sitä täällä blogissakin. Aihekin liittyy blogini aiheeseen aika läheisesti, vaikka tämän Kuranosuken identiteetti poikkeaakin omastani joiltain osin. Pahoittelen, että teksti on englanniksi ja muutenkin ehkä vähän vaikeaselkoista, mutta ehkä siitä jotain saa irti :).
(English summary: Some time ago, somebody recommended me to watch an anime called Kuragehime featuring a cross-dressing boy. I watched it, and what an experience it was. I took a liking especially to the boy's (Kuranosuke) self-confident attitude. Some time later, I attended a university course within which I was supposed to write a critical review about some "text" related to Japanese popular culture. After considering about writing about lolita, I decided to write about the series' way to depict cross-dressing. My teacher gave the essay a good grade, and so I thought why not publish it also on my blog, considering the theme of the essay fits my blog pretty nicely. I'm sorry if the text is a bit complicated.)
Kuragehime - Interesting viewpoints about cross-dressing in society
Regarding gender issues, today’s entertainment industry tends to concentrate on issues of sexual orientation a lot more those of gender identity. Instead, some aspects of gender identity have been made into a laughing matter. Already since long ago, male-to-female cross-dressing (to which I will refer simply as “cross-dressing”) has been used in films and plays as a humorous element to make the audience laugh. It is often seen as unnatural, thus laughter is considered justified. Aside from documentaries, few are the cases where cross-dressing people are depicted in a compassionate way that realistically portrays their everyday life in society. Fortunately, such cases can be found in the world of anime and manga. I agree with Nuira Monteiro who states that one of the most striking and alluring things in anime compared to the Western standards is the constant presence of characters with ambiguous gender (Monteiro 2011, 11). Out of those characters, some are really interesting and lifelike. Especially the anime Kuragehime shows a cross-dressing character in a way that I think is quite rare in anime and maybe even in entertainment in general.
Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish) is a manga-based 11-episode TV anime show aired in autumn 2010 on the famous Fuji TV noitaminA programming block. The shows broadcast on this Thursday late night block are always somehow unique and unconventional, intending to broaden the audience of anime watchers. Kuragehime really delivers that purpose. To sum up the rather simple plot, it follows a jellyfish-obsessed girl called Tsukimi living in an apartment complex in Shibuya with four other otaku-like girls, described as fujoshi and NEETs. One day, Tsukimi meets a princess-like crossdressing boy, who eagerly starts helping the introverted girls for example in socializing and resisting the destruction plans of their apartment complex, while still having to keep his male identity a secret from the girls, excluding Tsukimi, who don’t allow men to enter their apartment. There isn’t much to write about the light, open-ended plot, but it’s the characters, especially the cross-dressing boy Kuranosuke Koibuchi, who deserve special attention. Although not more than an anime character, analyzing Kuranosuke reveals a lot about the attitudes in contemporary Japanese society.
Kuragehime skillfully depicts a world where traditional gender roles are reversed – a world where girls are otakus and boys wear dresses. This is culminated in the scene where Kuranosuke, a boy, asks Tsukimi, a girl, for makeup remover, only to find out she doesn’t have any. What makes the anime spectacular is how it gives the impression this world is not only fiction but these person types really exist in today’s Japan. In fact, Kuranosuke’s cross-dressing can be recognized as part of the 男の娘 (“otoko no ko” which means “male daughter” but is pronounced the same way as “boy”) cross-dressing phenomenon that has gained popularity among males recently (Ashcraft, 2011). Producing an anime like this acknowledges and confirms the existence of the phenomenon and surely reinforces it.
What distinguishes Kuranosuke from cross-dressing characters in other anime series is his immense self-confidence. In the first episode, having found out Kuranosuke’s real sex, terrified Tsukimi asks: “A-A-Are you you a drag queen?” to which Kuranosuke replies: “What? No way! I just like dressing up in women’s clothes. I’m perfectly normal.” Kuranosuke is not a bit embarrassed but greatly surprised about the fact that someone finds cross-dressing strange. In a country where traditional gender roles in society are stiffer than anywhere else in the world, this is a very interesting approach. In the only other noteworthy anime discussing cross-dressing realistically, Hourou Musuko (Wandering son), the main character, a little school boy, tries to hide his cross-dressing from many people and struggles with unsure thoughts. Kuragehime, instead, presents cross-dressing in a whole new light, as an attribute that one doesn’t have to be ashamed of.
However, unlike the main character in Hourou Musuko, Kuranosuke doesn’t appear to be an innate transvestite or transsexual but has an external motive for cross-dressing. In the third episode he clearly states that by dressing up like a woman he tries to avoid becoming a politician like his father and big brother. He thinks it will be easier on him later if people think he’s “some kind of deviant”. Interestingly, this reveals that even Kuranosuke himself, despite his earlier surprised reaction to Tsukimi, thinks that society finds cross-dressing people weird – as it obviously still does. Therefore, with this external motive the series loses a bit of its potential to work as an encouragement for real-life transvestites who don’t think cross-dressing needs any reason to be acceptable in society. As Monteiro deduces from the comments of his interviewees, unnatural behavior like cross-dressing requires some explanation for its existence, since personal preference about elements established as opposite gender attributes is not accepted in itself – especially by male audience. According to Monteiro, women may be more rapid to accept these kinds of characters even without a valid justification (Monteiro 2011, 15). Considering Kuragehime is defined a josei (womens’) show, it’s interesting the creators still included such a clear justification for cross-dressing.
However, it’s hard to imagine his motive alone would load Kuranosuke with such determination to cross-dress. The admiration for his mother’s dresses in his childhood as well as some of his replies speak for the fact he might also have a bit of a transvestite identity. On the other hand, the way he uses for example the masculine pronoun “ore” when referring to himself also in the woman mode suggests more an androgynous identity. To sum it up, it appears Kuranosuke gets his main motivation for cross-dressing from his motive and the beauty of the clothes but he doesn’t actually seem to want to adopt girly mannerisms to back up his female image. Also, his protective, thus rather manly behavior remains when he’s cross-dressing. The transformation often not being absolute is also pointed out by Monteiro. He refers to the manga and anime series The Rose of Versailles in which a girl is educated according to the rules of masculinity, as her father, who wished for a son, wanted her to be a general. The girl still maintains feminine elements, indicating an essence that remains despite of all efforts. (Monteiro 2011, 12)
The series is lifelike also in the fact how it presents three different types of attitudes to react to cross-dressing. The first type is those who don’t accept cross-dressing at all. This type is represented by Kuranosuke’s father, shouting to dressed up Kuranosuke: “Get out of my sight this minute!” The second type is those who reluctantly accept cross-dressing, like Kuranosuke’s big brother. He doesn’t show immediate signs of hate for cross-dressing on personal level but wants to prevent other persons like Kuranosuke’s father from seeing his brother dressed up. The third type is those who clearly love cross-dressing. Kuranosuke’s uncle, the Prime minister, fits into this category with his exaggerated affection for cross-dressing Kuranosuke. It’s interesting how Kuranosuke reacts to the different attitudes: he doesn’t care about them or even uses them to his own advantage. He doesn’t care if his father doesn’t like him dressing up, and he even threatens his big brother by saying he’ll go in front of his father’s dressed up if the brother doesn’t comply with his requests. Therefore, Kuranosuke seems to represent a new, rebellious and individual person type who, by using new social phenomena (in this case, 男の娘) to his advantage, cleverly tries to free from the bonds of constricting society. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people in Japan who have already used techniques similar to this to escape the hold of society.
Kuragehime succeeds at discussing cross-dressing interestingly and rather realistically, showing how a cross-dresser reacts to society and how society reacts to him. As noted by Monteiro, the use of cross-dressing to create laugh is a strong instrument of discrimination. (Monteiro 2011, 15) Therefore, the fact cross-dressing in Kuragehime is presented in a non-comedic way might help to raise public awareness and acceptance of cross-dressing. Although the series could be criticized for creating an “unneeded” motive to justify cross-dressing, it’s actually part of the series’ appeal: it just reflects how real-world cross-dressers and transvestites’ reasons can vary, too, because not everyone’s urge to cross-dress comes from the unconsciousness. Even if just an anime, a series like this really reflects society and makes the audience think about their own attitudes.
Ashcraft, B. 2011. What Is Japan’s Fetish This Week? Male Daughters
Hourou Musuko (2011)
Monteiro, N. 2011. Gender bending in anime, manga, visual kei and lolita fashion. Prisma Social 7, December 2011.
Sellainen postaus tällä kertaa, kivaa joku jaksoi lukea loppuun asti :D. Lähipäivinä onkin sitten luvassa vähän tyypillisempää postausta... Siihen asti moi ♥!
(... Ai niin, ja alle 10 tunnin päästä taas transpolille ;D!)
That's it for today, I'm happy if somebody made it till the end :D. In a few days I'm going to post a more typical blog text... until then, see you ♥!
(... Oh, 10 hours till my next transpoliclinic consultation!)