Monday, December 21, 2015

TWELVE DAYS OF ANIME 2015: Gender Insight

As I have already made clear, I really liked Gatchaman Crowds Insight and thought it was eerily well-timed but there was one thing I didn't find time to talk about in my review, how other fans were reacting to some of the more gender-fluid characters.

(minor spoilers for late in series events, nothing spoiling the ending or major plot points)

Gatchman Crowds as a whole has been really great about thinking outside of the gender binary, usually if you have an effeminate (possibly but not always gay) male character they're either the villain or an ineffectual side character and while Berg Katze fits that villainous role, OD was one of his main foils, wholly good, and just as fanciful (although it did seem like he dropped it partially when serious which did make me grumble a tiny bit). Plus, cross-dressing and possibly transgender Rui was never portrayed as evil even in their earliest occurrences, the cross-dressing clearly wasn't supposed to be a bad, "deviant" trait but rather just part of who they were*. Even Sugane acts like not a dandy per say but a fashion conscious young man with a lot of female friends in this season, all while still appearing completely straight.

So this season upped the anti with an alien whose even more alien in appearance than OD/Berg Katze, Gelsadara who first appears as a wholly inhuman floating skeleton filled with smoke. Gel then turns into roughly a small girl, they had orange skin and crazy blue hair but acted and sounded like a young child so everyone (outside of the show) was fine with calling her a she. You could make an argument that you could never apply a gendered pronoun to an alien from a species with a different take on sexes/genders (I'm assuming anyway, the show never devotes time to it because like Rui, what they are is much less important than who they are/the show is surprisingly non-judgmental like that) but I kind of like the idea of a genderfluid alien so I also called her "she".

A few episodes in Gel decides to run for Prime Minister (I swear this isn't a major spoiler) and changes into a more grown up form. They still have orange skin and blue hair but are now taller and with a distinctly male voice, they actually changed voice actors! Again, since I am very cool with the idea of genderfluid aliens I didn't mind now saying he, but I saw some people retroactively using he to refer to their earlier form! Also again, we really don't know anything about them so it's possible Gel was male all along and we were totally wrong but looking at this as a human, Gel basically changed into a more "electable" self (which is an adult male, in a room where I believe everyone else except for newcomer Tsubasa also was an adult male) and so by saying "he" the whole time you erase that they were ever female!

I don't like that, if they were trans then it would be more important to highlight their change but since Gel shifts again later in the series, back to their more childlike form, this supports my genderfluid-alien idea and even after they speak with a female voice again people continued to call them he! Guys, that's really awkward, that final shift to me indicates a comfortability, perhaps a more accurate analog to how Gel appears in their own world, the latest in GC's list of atypical characters, and yet you keep going back to the idea that they are simply a guy, a more privileged, more represented class!

And that bothers me, if we want diversity we need to recognize it when it happens (hence why I have that entire footnote on Rui in a post not about them), otherwise I really am going to start thinking that we're all just apes.




*I say possibly trans since I've never been completely sure honestly, Rui willingly appears in male clothing in public a few times in the first season and the camera doesn't shy away from showing them in more private moments also in boy shirts and pants. I will note that this happened far less often in the second season, and they went by "Rui" not "Load Galax" while dressed in female clothes which would support the idea they were transitioning and becoming more confident. I totally understand why some people think this way and saw a number of reviews this year that used female pronouns to refer to them the entire time.

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