After enduring several years of stigmatization, discrimination, and ostracization due to archaic beliefs and practices, the LGBTQIA+ community is now finally given the chance to express their individuality and identity.
While what we currently have in place is not exactly a perfect system, largely due to existing confusion and lack of proper understanding about the LGBTQIA+ community, it is not too far-fetched to say that we are slowly nearing a healthy level of acceptance. This is why LGBTQIA+ representation is important across different media, including anime.
The Need For Representation
Humans are social creatures by construct. As a result, we often band into groups for various purposes. This usually has a wide range of structures, including families, teams, organizations, syndicates, and entire civilizations.
The tricky part about this is, not everyone will be the same in any given group. The individualities and differences among us give human society its charm and vibrance. The primary facets behind representation are visibility, recognition, and inclusion.
It is about ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their background or identity, feel seen and valued in society. In the case of marginalized groups such as LGBTQIA+, representation takes extra precedence due to the need for eradicating stigmas and educating other communities on the truth and facts about them.
Japanese Society and LGBTQIA+
Japanese society is a very traditional one and has historically placed great emphasis on conformity and maintaining social harmony, which is made evident through the structured and ordered means by which the country functions.
Consequentially, LGBTQIA+ issues have been considered taboo subjects, and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities isn’t unheard of. As far as public opinion goes, younger generations tend to be more accepting of LGBTQIA+ individuals, while older generations lean towards the conservative side of things.
Paradoxically though, Japan is no stranger to representation. Yaoi, Yuri, Cross Dressing, and other similar themes that are usually related to LGBTQIA+ have been prevalent across anime, manga, and other forms of otaku culture.
Portrayals In Anime
In the past, LGBTQIA+ characters were often deployed as comic relief characters, usually carrying heavy stereotypes. More recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of anime where LGBTQIA+ characters play a central role, including as protagonists. Some of these include:
- “Given” (2019) – This anime follows the story of a high school student named Ritsuka who falls in love with a college student named Mafuyu.
- “Yuri!!! on Ice” (2016) – This anime follows the story of a Japanese figure skater named Yuuri Katsuki and his relationship with his Russian coach, Victor Nikiforov.
- “My Next Life as a Villainess – All Routes Lead to Doom!” (2020) – A fantasy-themed anime that features a bisexual prince and a lesbian princess as supporting characters.
- “Bloom Into You” (2018) – This anime follows the story of two high school students named Yuu and Touko, who develop romantic feelings for each other.
- “Doukyuusei” (2018) – This movie explores the story of two high school boys named Hikaru Kusakabe and Rihito Sajou, who meet each other in their music class and develop a close relationship. It explores themes of first love, coming out, and self-acceptance. It has been praised for its realistic portrayal of a same-sex relationship and its sensitive treatment of LGBTQ themes.
Overall, we can see a positive trend in the rise of the LGBTQIA+ community, their representation, and inclusion in the anime community. However, the representation is still in its early stages and has more room to grow and evolve.
Some representations still carry certain outdated stereotypes, but with time it is possible to utilize the anime medium to provide the representation that the LGBTQIA+ deserve, doubling as a means to showcase acceptance.