As the home to mega-hits such as Dragon Ball and Naruto, Weekly Shonen Jump is the most famous manga magazine in the world. If you’ve been paying attention to the magazine over the past few weeks, you might have noticed that they’ve been launching one new title after the next, such as We Never Learn by Taishi Tsutsui and U19 by Yuji Kimura. This is because Shonen Jump is a cutthroat competition for space. Titles that fail to succeed are quickly canceled and replaced, and these new works are the latest batch attempting to survive. Given the frequency that new series get aborted, I refer to this process as the Shonen Jump Meat Grinder. You might just see your new favorite titles get cut down in their infancy.
Dragon Ball is undoubtedly one of the definitive works of anime and manga. However, criticisms of it (especially the series Dragon Ball Z) have been mostly fair. Historically, the television series have featured an absurd amount of filler (mostly in the form of characters powering up), fights that drag out for what seems like an eternity, and extremely sparse characterization and character development. What makes Dragon Ball Super special is that it basically tosses all of that out the window, resulting in a surprisingly well-paced product—something that is typically not associated with Dragon Ball.
There are two phrases in Japanese culture that are traditionally said to describe the “ideal Japanese woman.” The first is Yamato nadeshiko, which roughly translates to “Japanese carnation.” The second phrase is ryousai kenbo, or “good wife, wise mother.” The two terms collectively create a seemingly monolithic image of what it means to be the perfect Japanese women, one that is steeped heavily in cultural sexism. However, there is a significant amount of range within this general concept, and I find that the two characters who really demonstrate this plasticity are the sisters of Love Live! Sunshine!!, Dia Kurosawa and Ruby Kurosawa.
This is not to claim that fans of either Dia or Ruby are sexist, or that their appeal comes solely from how they embody the Yamato nadeshiko or ryousai kenbo traits. Rather, by dividing up the traits commonly associated with those concepts, the characters are used to play around with them to show how flexible they can be.
The Yamato nadeshiko is classically viewed as a shy, demure woman. In contemporary times, especially in popular media such as anime and videogames, her appearance is usually slender, and she possesses long, straight, dark hair with neatly trimmed bangs in a style known as a “princess cut.” The “good wife, wise mother” is less about appearance and demeanor and more about approach to life. She is supposed to be endlessly loyal to her husband, and both intelligent and strong-willed enough to raise her children right. Given that men are almost non-existent in Love Live! means that throwing these terms into that context already conceptually refracts them, but these ideas are made further pliable by Ruby and Dia’s characters.
One of Ruby’s primary personality traits is her shyness. She frequently hides behind her friends, and at the beginning of the anime is afraid to stand up to her sister. While this partly comes from fear, it’s also because she cherishes her sister very much. In terms of demeanor, she is very much a Yamato nadeshiko. Yet appearance-wise, it is Dia who embodies the stereotypical image more than any other character in Love Live!
When looking at Dia’s personality, she embodies many of the values in “good wife, wise mother.” At first, Dia (as student council president) adamantly refuses to let a school idol club form. While she seems antagonistic, Dia is essentially showing tough love, having experienced the hardship of trying to become a school idol. If these new girls can’t stand up to Dia, how can they possibly deal with that world? Here, Dia is playing the role of the wise mother, while her desire to protect both her sister and her old friends, Mari and Kanan, showcase the loyalty expected of a “good wife.” Ruby is similarly devoted to her friends and Dia.
However, there are elements of both characters that are essentially Yamato nadeshiko/”good wife, wise mother” traits taken in unusual directions. Take for instance Dia’s desire to want the best for those she cares for. This combines with Dia’s hyper-competitiveness to form a level of aggressiveness that is not generally associated with the “ideal Japanese woman.” Similarly, Ruby also shows the strength of her inner resolve by refusing to capitulate to her sister’s initial forbidding of school idol activity, defying the loyalty expected of her. Ruby’s appearance is also more in line with a contemporary “ideal wife” image perpetuated by otaku-oriented anime, manga, and games.
Aspects of the “ideal Japanese woman” are distributed across both Dia and Ruby Kurosawa. It’s enough that they can both be thought of as falling in line with that tradition, but that would mean there is more than one version of this ideal. After all, Dia and Ruby are two very different characters. Furthermore, these same traits are closely associated with other qualities in Dia and Ruby that might not be considered “ideal,” but only because they possess variations on Yamato nadeshiko/”good wife, wise mother”-esque traits that can also exceed those boundaries.
The bizarre fanservice fighting anime Keijo!!!!!!!! (aka Hip Whip Girl) parodies many different action series. However, while some attacks (“Shoryucans”) are fairly obvious in their origins, the final episode of Keijo!!!!!!!! features a reference that might not be so familiar to current anime fans. When rival character Maya Sakashiro performs the attack “Heaven and Hell,” she’s actually referencing the mecha anime, King of Braves Gaogaigar.
Yuri!!! on Ice is definitely one of the most popular anime in the Fall 2016 lineup, and it has caught the attention of anime fans and real-life figure skaters around the world. It follows the story of the 23-year old Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki as he tries to make it through the Grand Prix Final with the help of his idol Victor Nikiforov. The series has truly managed a lot of feats in the history of anime--something that a lot of mainstream titles, let alone a sports anime, haven’t managed to do.
The fall anime season traditionally caps off every year, and it’s often the case that fall is when a lot of studios put their best foot forward. This year, however, feels even more impressive, particularly when it comes to the beauty and impact of opening animations. Here are my top 5 for Fall 2016, and why I think they’re worth watching every time.
This December marked the conclusion of the airsoft-themed comedy shoujo manga Sabagebu!: Survival Game Club by Hidekichi Matsumoto. With its final chapter appearing in the January 2017 issue of Nakayoshi (published in December), Sabagebu! finishes its five-year run with an anime under its belt, and as one of the most unlikely and irreverent shoujo manga ever made.
With its action-packed fighting and positive, powerful heroines, the titanic Precure franchise has stood at the top of all shoujo anime for the past 14 years. The series has featured themes including music and badass princesses, and now “baking” can be added to that list.
Toei Animation, the studio behind Precure, recently announced the 14th and latest iteration: Kira Kira Precure A La Mode. The official slogan is “Cook ! Eat! Fight!” The show intends to appeal to a primarily young female audience by targeting their love of sweets and pastries.
Japanese anime news site Anime! Anime! recently ran a poll in October asking readers what titles they would most want to see get a sequel. Over 13,000 readers voted, and the results are as follows.
1) Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (“Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun”)
2) Houzuki no Reitetsu (“Hozuki’s Coolheadedness”)
3) Mob Psycho 100
4) Ookiku Furikabutte (“Big Windup!”)
6) Re: Zero
7) Arslan Senki (“The Heroic Legend of Arslan”)
8) Katekyou Hitman Reborn!
9) Akatsuki no Yona (“Yona of the Dawn”)
10) Ouran High School Host Club
Top pick Nozaki-kun received over 2,000 more votes than Houzuki no Reitetsu. A comedy series, Nozaki-kun follows a tall, intimidating high school boy who moonlights as a shoujo manga artist. The anime features an amusing cast of crazy characters and frequently pokes fun at common story tropes, incompetent editors, and other amusing aspects of the manga industry.
The love Nozaki-kun has received pleases me, but I personally think all of these titles really deserve sequels. I believe a revival of Ouran High School Host Club would be especially interesting, as it was wildly popular around the world in its heyday (I’m also a big fan of Ouran heroine Haruhi Fujioka!).
According to Anime! Anime!, 80% of the participants were female, which contributes to the high number of shows on the list with girl appeal. In addition, any series that received sequels as recently as last year—such as Sword Art Online and Natsume Yuujinchou—were not included.
Sources: Anime! Anime!, Crunchyroll, Funimation
The Japanese yakiniku restaurant Gyu-Kaku is currently doing a promotional campaign with the manga Nikujo no Osusume (“Meat Girls’ Recommendations”).
A series by artist Neneko Kobato, the manga follows three ladies as they try various meat dishes from various restaurants. For this promotion, Nikujo no Osusume features a special chapter where one of its characters visits Gyu-Kaku.
The chapter also has a QR code readers can scan to get a free serving of Galbi. 29 lucky winners will also receive a special gyudon ball autographed by Kobato.
Nikujo no Osusume is currently published in the magazine Young King. Fans of Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma and its matron of meat, Mito Ikumi, may enjoy this series. Those interested can also find creator Kobato Neneko on Twitter (@kobato_neneko) and on Pixiv (warning: NSFW).
Sources: Comic Natalie, Twitter