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What about Gender in „Kuragehime“ II

So first of all the Theory part: What is gender studies?
Basically it means that as difference between the biological sex and the cultural gender is given and actually even something that constantly changes. There are certain aspects of masculinity and femininity and these can extracted by analysing a culture as well as media like books, films and you might have guessed it: Anime and Mange.
Gender studies is closely related to feminist reading or analysis of homosexual reading or cross-dressing.

So Gender roles in Japan, this is based on personal experience! I saw parts of Japanese society plus have some knowledge through reading, still this is but an attempt to grasp aspects and will over generalise some aspects that might not be true for everyone in Japan, please keep that in mind.

So since in this article I want to concentrate on male gender, this is what I will focus on in this gender description.
Actually what is believed to be a „male“ attribute is in Japan slightly different then it is in Western countries. This starts by our definition of „good looking“
Westerners usually prefer a masculine, sporty man, a little 3 days beard might even add to the charm, a clearly visible chin, thicker eyebrows, short hair, broad shoulders and a bit of muscles (but not too much, looking at male models they usually do not look like body builders 😉
Now comes something MANY keep telling me about any manga/anime they see: The boys look exactly like girls!
Well that’s not true for ALL manga, and ALL characters, but, yeah I see the point very often. But that is because many Japanese guys actually look very much like girls, actually I did mistook boys occasionally for girls or wasn’t sure when passing by. This is easily explained: 1. the Japanese face, also the one of men, is rounder and softer, reminding rather of women in our culture 2. they rarly grow, and if only a little, beard, generally they have way less body hair then what we know from western men.
Also what is regarded as „handsome“ in Japan? Just look for prominent Japanese bands or actors or models, you will find that most have feminine faces, at least in our perception. The rather square-cut faces of westerners with the bigger noses are not really seen as desirable in Japanese culture, so what we mock as feminine is actually good-looking in Japan. Just look at this japanese boygroup „News“
japanese-boyband-news
So much for the looks, but what about other gender attributes?
Although female appearance (not in the way they dress though!) is regarded as desirable, still some of our typical male attributes are also considered male in Japan: Do not be too emotional, a man is the bread winner, men should be strong and stuff like that.
Men and women are very clearly distinguished from each other by social norms and expectations on how they should behave.

So let us take a look at Kuranosuke from „Kuragehime“ which I introduced in the last post.
Kuranosuke is the son of a politician, that means he especially is burdened with societies expectations on him, since anything he does will fall back to his father, or even uncle who is prime minister of Japan.
But he does not really care about that.
Kuranosuke is very good looking, because his mother comes from abroad (probably France) he has a lighter hair colour and blue eyes
kuranosuke3
He loves fashion, especially dresses, since he always visited the theatre plays of his mother where the most beautiful dresses were worn.
Kuranosuke decides to dress up like a women, although his family naturally strongly objects to this, cross dresser, just like homosexuals and the like, are not really tolerated in Japan (which is funny enough considering the yaoi scene, but never mind).
Thing is in contrast to normal „okama“ (cross dressers) from animes, like Nuriko from „Fushigi yuugi“ or the okama in „one piece“ etc., Kuranosuke does not identify as a woman. He does not dress like a woman because he wants to be one, but because it is his taste. He wears skirts, and dresses which does not damage his gender identity as a man, at least not from his perspective (his family and society might see it differently though). Even being treated as a woman by the Amars, he does not loose his self recognition of being a man.
This is actually quiet amazing, if I may say so, especially when recognizing this comes from a very patriarchal society, here gender identity is challenged. Doing things a „proper man shouldn’t do“ does not make the character less a male.
Actually he incorporates many male as well as female attributes. besides his love for fashion and women clothes and make up he is shown as very emotional and caring. He cares for the amars, although he only knows them very little, he acts rash and not rational as can be seen with his spontaneous ideas like creating a brand. He has no idea how to do it but starts dreaming about fashion shows in NY and major shops in Tokyo, LA and Paris.
On the other hand he is protective towards Tsukimi and the others, he stands his ground and is a good leader. He is interested in women (he seems to have had rather a lot of girls friends actually) and, though emotional, also smart. He knows how to make good advertisement or how to manipulate people, a trade that is not really feminine. Just look at him, dressed all „female“ carying like the classic prince sharming the sleeping Tsukimi:
kuragehime 4
I think this shows very well that just like women could challenge gender roles like „women do not wear trousers“ men (at least in this manga) can challenge the concept of „men may not wear dresses“ because this man is neither gay nor an okama.

Ok that was it so far, I am no expert on Gender studies and I admit I did not do thorough research on it (yet) my information is basically what I gathered from various courses where we discussed gender reading time and again 😉
So if one of you know more about it and wants to add their knowledge, please leave a comment ^^

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What about Gender in „Kuragehime“

The next Manga/Anime I will take a look at in terms of gender will be „Kuragehime“ by Akkiko Higashimura, published in Japan by Kondansha, the Anime was directed by Takahiro Omori in „Brains Base Studio“ in 2010 with a total of 11 Episodes, while the manga started in 2008 and is still ongoing. Like always I will first give you an introduction to the manga (this time a little earlier since I will be busy this WE) before taking a look at the cultural studies topic, this time Gender 😉

Plot:one with the afro)

Kuragehime is about an18 year old girl who, after her mother passed away, went to Tokyo to become an illustrator, Thing is, she is a total jellyfish Otaku! And she behaves like a classical otaku: the doesn’t dress well, has no soft-skill, is rather shy and not self confident at all. She also failed to get a job until now.
So she lives at a place where only Otaku girls like her live, men are not allowed at all!
amars

These are the „Amars“ as they call them selves and Kuranosuke, to whom I will come later.
From left to right its: Banba (the one with the afro) is the train otaku, behind her is Mayaya who is a „Records of the three Kingdoms“ fan, then comes Tsukimi she is the protagonist and, as mentioned jellyfish otaku, in the middle is Kuranosuke, next to him (yes him) is Jiji, who is osbessed with older men, and the last one is the daughter of the owner of the apartment Chieko, who loves traditional Japanese clothing and traditional Japanese dolls (dressed in Kimono XD)
One evening Tsukimi goes to a small shop for water pets, to take a look on a jelly fish but discovers that in the same tank is another jellyfish (btw: Kurage=jellyfish in Japanese) who will kill the other fish sooner or later. She tries talking to the shop-person but can’t since 1. its a he 2. he is even a hipster XD. Kuranosuke appears, looking like a stylish girl (similar to that he looks on the picture) and helps her out, she naturally does not realize his sex. So he comes along with her, and decides to stay in her room, and well only the next morning she discovers she spent the night with a guy in her room.
Since male persons are absolutely prohibited to enter the Amamizukan (name of the building) she has to keep it a secret, and against her hoped Kuranosuke simply decides he finds things around there interesting and keeps coming over.
To quickly explain about Kuranosuke, or Kurako as the other Amars later call him: He is the very rich son of a very rich and influential politician. In fact he is the grandson of the prime minister. But he is only the son of an affair who, for what ever reason, stays at the house of his father since he was I guess around 4 years old. His mother was an actress and Kuranosuke already as a child admired her clothing and was always interested in fashion rather the politics. He also has an older brother who is also becoming a politician. Kuranosuke started cross dressing simply because he finds female clothing more interesting then male clothing, not because he felt he was more a woman or something along the lines.
After this introduction the main plot is approaching: Amamizukan (a living district in Tokyo) is supposed to be mostly tared down to built a great luxurious hotel, this includes Amamizukan, but the tenants are all job less and couldn’t afford anything else. Kuranosuke decides to help them and via some side routes they start a brand. Yes all this not well dressed, in fashion not interested people are to start a brand called „Jellyfish“ because it is clothing inspired by Jellyfish, Tsukimi does the design, the others have to somehow get it together which brings them many nights awake with rather unprofessional results
Umz7c
this though became the first dress.
To save their home they do a fashion show with more of these dresses and try to make a less formal line and find out how difficult it is to actually make money with this.
In between a (possible) love story between Kuranosukes brother and Tsukimi is taking place while it is being hinted at, that Kuranosuke himself might actually like Tsukimi in a romantic way (tho ugh he himself doesn’t want to believe this)

As you can see the gender identity of Kuranosuke is rather interesting. He is neither gay nor a „drag queen“ (in Japanese Okama) or crossdresser because he feels rather like a girl then a boy. This is why I will concentrate on that aspect in the upcoming analysis 😉 But also the female Characters, like Tsukimi are not exactly the stereotypical „girl“ but it would be too long to include both in one article. If requested I can do another post on them later, if you want that, please leave a comment.
😉

What is the „other“ in Death Note part II

Ok, as promised here is my reading of Death Note and the other.

First of all, what is meant with the ‚other‘. In it’s basics it is exactly what it sais: It is what is different from the norm. That also means the other is defined by the point of view, so within Germany everything and everyone from another nation is the „other“ and this shows that the other is something which describes the relationship of certain things (yes even things can be considered the ‚other‘) (Faulstich S. 414).
This conversely mean that not everything I know is for me considered as the ‚other‘, since it is a relationship between me and the thing or person or what ever in question, I have to know about and think about this thing. As long as this is not the case this is not the ‚other‘ at least for me. Erdheim considers the other thus as something that is unknown to us in the same terms as the subconcious is something unknown to us. We do not understand or can grasp it, but it does effect us. (Erdheim S. 167)
The ‚other‘ can come in many different form, and usually it either interests us, and we want to learn about it more, or is shocks us and we are afraid, sometimes even both at the same time. In movies Faulstich categorizes 3 types of the other the ‚exotic‘ ones, which usually deal with exploration of new lands or adventures into the unknown („Startrek“ mightbe a good example or „Indiana Jones“), the other as ‚healing‘ which is meant on a spiritual layer, simply accepting things that we do not understand (e.g. God), and finally, and this brings me to my major focus: Horror. (Faulstich S. 418ff)
In Horror Movies there usually is a monster, presented as the ‚other‘ incontrast to society. This ‚other‘ invades the realm that we know and thus threatens us and people get scared of this, which also shows a major difference to the first category ‚exotic‘ because there the ‚other‘ is actively searched for, not in the horror movie. The monster comes for us.
But what is important to note is, that this monster, since it is thought of by humans, can never be something entirely ‚other‘ because we can only use what we know of! Humans couldn’t possibly fathom something entirely ‚other‘ to what we know, untill we saw it. This shows that the ‚monster‘ always represents something that a society in which this movie/book/comic was produced is regarded as ‚other‘ or ‚uncanny‘.

Ok so much for the theory part, now let us look at „Death Note“, for all unfarmiliar with it, pleas look at my last post, there is a short introduction to the manga/anime. I will try to keep this as short as possible ^^

1. Ryuk.
Ryuk is probably the frst one you think of when considering the ‚other‘ in DN. This makes sense since he is no human, he comes from another worl even and has uncanny powers. Just considerin his looks, hus spiky teeth, the dark wings and his whole get up he is marked ‚monster’Although there is a weird connection to some Visual Kei clothing and make up when comparing…


the dark clothing, rather light skin, dark coloured eyes and such does in a way resemble some parts of Visual Kei Movement (for all who do not know: VK is a japanese movement, is describes primarily as clothing style that deviates from the norm and an indi music style in Japan)
After all the ‚other‘ cannot be anything we do not know at all, visual Key is not the norm in Japan (though it’s is popular among younger generation and is something japan becoem famous for abroad) it clearly is a deviation what is considered to be socially accepted. His charater also has seem attributes given to the younger generation: not caring, not helping, just going with the flow. Ryuk basically becomes more an observer then anything else.

2. Light/Kira:

On the first glance Light is the definition of normal. He is exactly what all Japanese students should be like, an ideal. He comes from a respectable family, his father works hard, his mother stays at home and he has a cute yet not overly smart little sister. He is good in sports, good in studies, popular, charming… you get the point. Even from his looks he remains normal, good looking but not in a ’star person‘ kind of way, he dresses in normal, good clothes, has a neat hairstyle, he is optically the opposite of Ryuk and L who even by appearance are visibly different from the rest.
Yet he incorporates the ‚other‘ but a different part of the ‚other the Ryuk I might say. Light is the ‚other within‘. Even before meeting Ryuk it is made clear that he does not fit into this society, he thinks about how boring life is and how meaningless, and how anoyed he is of all those normal people. But this is a thought many people can relate to! Especially young people probably often find themselves thinking something along those lines. But Light is given the Note Book and this gives him the chance to not only change the world, he even goes as fas as wanting to become its ‚god‘.
So what Light does is uncanny, but it is something society already knows: Killing as a punishment and scare off other criminals‘, death penalty in short. Sure he does it on a larger scale, and more importantly without a trial. You can only wonder how many innocent people he killed (even before killing the FBI agent and such).
But what might even be more scary then him killing is the effect he has on society, because just like Ryuk triggered him becoming Kira, Kira triggered that all those people who already thought the same thoughts as he did now spoke them out. In the anime as well as manga quickly websites that support Kira come into being and in fact many people support him. But for the reader these comments about how great Kira is are still considered the ‚other‘ because in our reality it would still be a taboo.
Just quickly coming back to appearances: Isaid before Light looks exactly what a Japanese protige should look like, true on the surface but in the anime as well an Manga the artis do show differences between Light and Kira. E.#G. as Kira his eyes become more narrow, often large black shadows will cover his face, later here even is shown as insanely laughing making a rather ugly face. The anime even goes as far as giving him occasionally red eyes.

vlcsnap-2010-09-22-19h30m51s36

3. L

L is the ‚good guy‘ so why even bother looking at him for the ‚other‘. Well especially because of that!Although L is the ‚good guy‘ (Ok Kira would refuse that and claim he is, but that is a different discussion) he is also the antagonist to the protagonist Light.
I also mentioned before how L just looking at him deviates from the norm!
First of all him Name, L is no name and it shows that he is different to the others who have normal names. L is but a latter, also a letter Japanese people cannot pronounce making him even more foreign. also at first he doesn’t even have an appearance, he is but a talking letter in a computer, and at least for the citizens in the anime he always stays this, which is why he can be exchanged so easily.
Once he does make his entrance, he also look peculiar. He is (like Ryuk) rather pale, his eyes as black and narrow. In contrast to the always accurately dressed Light he wears old jeans, and old white shirt and no socks and if it can be helped not even shoes. While Light always has a good posture, L is always bent over, he holds his spoon/Handy/other stuff in a weird manner. Well he has hardly any social abilities, and thus does not fit into society.
Also, he does not hunt Kira because of justice but out of interest. It is a challenge to him, kind of like a game of chess (or tennis? XD) So he as well as Ryuk is in a way an opposite of Light, and still he can be considered ‚other‘ to society, though in a less uncanny way then Light or Ryuk.

Ok what does this bring us to? First the question of what actually is the ‚other‘ in DN? Is there even a representation of ’normal‘ there? (if so, tell me…)
All the main characters deviate from the norm but they also represent already existing ideas of the society, which are felt to be improper and thus the ‚other‘, somehow threatening. In DNs case these thoughts are concerned with justice, but also with intellect. How scary can a genius become having the right weapon at hand (just think of the atomic bomb, and Japan had to suffer the most of it) is such a great intellect even something to desire? Or is it something uncanny that can turn against society any given moment?

yeah I know I left out Misa, and Rem and the policemen to safe space, so I concentrated on the three main characters of the first half, please understand 😉
I’m sorry this became al little flat but other wise it would have taken a lot of space. I you want me to go further into detail on this comment below, or comment and go deeper in your selves, I’m very interested about what you think about this
and also what other topics would you be interested in, pleas suggest Manga/anime and aspects to look out for, I will do my best at it ^^

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will continue following my blog. Also pleas bear with my bad spelling ^^***

sources:
Tsugumi, Obâ. Death Note. Shueisha. Tokyo. 2003-2006. print
Death Note. Obâ Tsugumi. Madhouse. 2006-2007. film

Streeck, Ulrich ¬[Hrsg.]: Das Fremde in der Psychoanalyse , Erdheim, Mario: DasFremde Totem und Tabu in der Psychoanalyse, München, Pfeiffer, 1993

Leskovec, Andrea: Fremdheit und Literatur, Berlin [u.a.], Lit, 2009