Japan has a long history with anime and gay themes. Yuri on Ice!! is a recent example of an anime that portrayed same-sex love in a positive light.
But it’s also important to note that a lot of anime shows still portray homosexuality as a kink and not a part of real life. That is an enormous problem and something that needs to change.
1. Boys’ Love
One of the most obvious signs that anime is progressing in LGBT representation is the number of series that feature gay characters or relationships. However, the influx of such content has also created a specific type of fan base in Japan: fujoshi, also known as “rotten girls.” Fujoshi are heterosexual female fans who obsess over BL, or boys love, which depicts the romantic entanglements between men. They often ridicule homosexuality, viewing it as a mere kink rather than an actual sexual orientation. These attitudes devastate the gay community in Japan, which has not yet come out of the closet on a large scale.
Luckily, there are many anime that address this issue in a more respectful manner. In Yuri on Ice, Shun and Mio’s blossoming relationship addresses the reality that queer youth face in Japan: ostracization and othering. It also highlights the issue of erasure, in which gay people hide their orientation behind heterosexual marriages and other forms of concealment. This is a great show that should not be missed. Moreover, Paradise Kiss also tackles the subject of a gay couple very well.
2. Girls’ Love
Gay people deserve love, and they’re a big part of Japanese society. That’s why it’s important for manga and anime to showcase lesbian love in series that are aimed at female readers. These types of homoerotic romances allow girls and women to eschew the gender stereotypes that permeate their everyday lives. In a country where patriarchy is strong and schools seldom acknowledge LGBT kids, these escapist stories give them a space to find acceptance and respect.
After the popularity of Sailor Moon, more anime began to feature queer relationships. By 1998, two male characters were romantically involved in Cardcaptor Sakura, and by 2000, Ouran High School Host Club and Haruhi Suzumi had a transgender character who cross-dressed to impress her crush. However, it wasn’t until recently that the yuri genre, which focuses on female-female romances, really took off. These yaoi or yuri animes and mangas prioritize a female’s sexuality over ecchi fan service, making them a more realistic representation of LGBTQ relationships. This is important, as many gay kids lack access to accurate information about their identities and often feel like they must hide them in order to fit in.
For some, romantic relationships in anime are a form of escape from the societal pressure to conform to gender norms. This is especially true for gay men. The boys love genre, which fetishizes homosexual relationships between male characters, is popular amongst the community. While a few newer series like Yuri on Ice have tried to change this, most anime still portrays queer people negatively.
Despite the skepticism that the industry and the general public may have, it is still important to support LGBTQ anime. This will help bring positive change to the community and show that LGBTQ anime can be as entertaining as any other genre.
Anime is one of the few forms of media that can reach a global audience and provide a platform for discussion about the lives of marginalized communities. The more positive representation in anime, the easier it will be for people around the world to accept and understand those different from them. With more and more local governments recognizing same-sex couples, it is clear that the tide has been turning.
In a country where LGBT people must hide who they really are, and where homophobia is rampant, sports anime is one of the few genres of Japanese entertainment in which queer characters can be seen. While the real world may have a long way to go in accepting LGBT people, anime has become a platform for protesting dominant ideologies through LGBTQ character creations and relationships.
Even in mainstream titles like Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, and even the classic 90s show Eternal Embrace, gay relationships are shown in many forms – including the infamous Kaworu-Shinji onsen scene. More recently, Yuri on Ice, Sarazanmai, and Stars Align have all featured LGBT characters that do not adhere to the stereotype of the “gay friend” found in most Western animes.
These stories highlight the importance of LGBT characters in anime and other media, and a world that needs to see them more often. With Japan’s rocky relationship with LGBT rights – where same-sex marriage is not yet recognized and conversion therapy is legal, it is a good thing that these shows are out there to help create a more open environment for those who need it.
One of the biggest changes in anime is the way that LGBT people are portrayed. At first, the genre was a place where gay characters existed, but they weren’t treated as normal. Rather, they were seen as a kink or as a subculture.
In Japan, where gender identity is still a sensitive subject, manga and anime offer young children an alternative to the country’s harshly homophobic culture. Many kids are unable to talk about their experiences with parents, so they turn to escapist literature to enter a world where queerness is accepted and even celebrated.
Hayashi and her team’s work is changing attitudes, but on a larger scale, there is still a long road ahead. Her hope is that Letibee will help to make Japan a more inclusive society. Whether it’s helping to fund Tokyo Pride or supporting transgender hair salons, the company is on a mission to change the landscape for all LGBTQ kids in Japan. It’s a big job, but Hayashi and her team are ready to take it on. Their passion is evident in the work they produce.