This is post will probably offend people, but I just need to rant right now so do try to deal with it. There’s this sentiment floating around that anime will be ruined if there are too many “SJWs” watching, and that said “SJWs” are in the wrong place as anime fans. What, are we not allowed to care about both anime and being good advocates? Screw that. On the other hand, I’m also not an over-the-top and easily “triggered” sort of advocate. Let me show you what kind of person I am.
I’ll give you a handful of “problems” in anime that are polarized and fought over fiercely by SJWs and traditional otakus. For each issue, I’ll give my own opinion, which I believe is the reasonable middle-ground. For a quick example, take Mahoutsukai no Yome (The Ancient Magus’ Bride) and the “issue” there of Chise being ok with being “owned.” The SJW might say that the relationship between Elias and Chise is toxic, that Chise is not consenting to being treated this way, that Chise is a submissive doormat, and that anime needs to show healthy relationships and not so many questionable ones. Meanwhile, the traditional otaku might say that there are no moral issues at all with the show, that the relationship is fine because Elias doesn’t have sex with Chise, that Chise is the ideal type of girl, and that Elias’ possessiveness is a form of true love.
Then there’s my perspective. I wasn’t sold on the idea that Chise really wanted to live with Elias at first, but by episode 10, she had insisted so many times that I was convinced. Magus Bride is an anime where a reasonably assertive girl chooses to be the pet, apprentice, and future bride of a nonhuman, mostly socially acceptable sociopath. That’s interesting. I like it. If you showed me a girl like Chise in reality, I might say that she’s not old enough to know what she’s getting into, but guess what? This is just anime. Also, anime, like any form of fiction, is not meant for preaching. It’s meant to tell a story. Sometimes, stories can (and should) be dark. They can (and should) depict “questionable” relationships. Otherwise, there is nothing thought-provoking.
Let’s move on. Much of Yuri and Shoujo Ai serves to sexualize young girls, anywhere from age 6 to 16, usually. The SJW says, “This is horrible and should not be allowed.” (They’d have no way or power to ban it, but they’d make it a social evil.) The Otaku says, “This is cute,” “This is funny,” or “I can fap to this.” I say, “People are right to be put off by this at first, since if it was applied to reality, it would be morally wrong. If some middle-aged men want to fap to these 2D loli girls kissing, though, that’s none of my business. It’s not a moral issue because it’s just anime.”
Lolicons are a similar case. First of all, “lolicon” can mean several things. A pedophile who likes children in reality might call himself a lolicon, but most of the people calling themselves lolicons are only sexually stimulated by lolis in anime and not in real life. I know a few of these guys myself, and they have told me that this is only acceptable if it stays in anime. None of the ones I know are in any way sexual deviants. Lolicon can also refer to someone who loves lolis and small creatures, but not in a sexual way. (The MC from Working/Wagnaria is this kind of lolicon.) So listen. Just because I sometimes feel “turned on” by Holo the Wolf-girl doesn’t mean I accept or participate in bestiality. In the same way, just because someone’s anime waifu is Kana from Dragon Maid, that doesn’t mean they accept or participate in pedophilia.
Ok, so the next issue is the way the yaoi genre romanticizes sexual assault and sometimes rape. I have seen a good amount of BL or shows with strong friendships between guys, and these anime don’t have the problem I’m thinking of. I mean actual yaoi anime, where sex between guys is implied or shown. All over yaoi, uke characters are sexually assaulted or raped, and yet instead of becoming traumatized, defensive, or furious, they magically fall in love with the seme. … … SJWs would say this is absolutely appalling, and I would say it’s not my cup of tea. But look. If the fujoshi community wants to jerk off to Sekai Ichi Dakaretai Otoko, well, live and let live. Because after all, it’s just anime.
Sometimes “SJWs” complain that there aren’t enough strong women in anime and Japan needs to make more characters like that, while having fewer timid or quiet girls. Otakus (the male ones anyway) are at a loss to understand why that would even be an issue, and are quick to insult the SJWs. As for me, sure– I love assertive, bitchy, obnoxious, and badass girls in anime! But I also love some of the sweet and submissive characters. Actually, that goes for both guys and girls.
While I prefer to see strong women, I don’t think we need to change anime to make more of them. Anime is an industry, and I don’t know of any industries that put morals before money. Furthermore, we need to respect Japanese culture, where women are usually more “traditionally feminine” than in the U.S. I think Japan has some issues with sexism, but I also think that it’s none of my business because it’s not my country. If I did want to go out of my way to help spread feminism to Japan, I’d first move to Japan and start work there. I wouldn’t sit at home in the U.S. and criticize a sub-culture’s entertainment form for appealing to common male fantasies.
There are other issues I could rail about, like the debate over whether anime encourages racial stereotyping, or the general frustration with how characters are put into cookie cutter types instead of being written more like real people. But my rant-energy meter is falling from medium to low pretty quickly. So before I run out of steam, I just want to introduce the items below as my general principles when it comes to facing issues in anime. I am a social justice advocate when it comes to reality, but I rarely see the need to bring it up in anime.
1. It’s Just Anime
Everybody who watches it knows it’s fiction. If a small minority of people can’t draw a firm enough line between reality and fantasy, it’s not anime’s job to help them. A few people will always take things from media in the wrong way.
2. Fiction is Not Meant for Preaching
Fiction is for telling stories. Stories can be pure and stories can be twisted. There are as many stories as there stars in the sky. You can use a story to convey a message that’s important to you, but you can’t use it for outright preaching. If you do, your story will be substandard. Preaching morals is a form of pandering. It ruins the integrity of a story.
3. Actually, You Are NOT What You Watch
People can watch trashy shows sometimes and not be trashy people. Let’s not be black-and-white in our thinking. Also, while it’s fine for casual viewers to only watch anime that they like or approve of, critics and people of a similar mindset (like me) need to watch many, many series to increase our knowledge and critical thinking abilities.
4. Live and Let Live, Watch and Let Watch
Some people are going to love what you hate, and you have to let them. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s bad. This goes for both raging sides, “traditional otakus” and “social justice warriors.” Jya, ne!