“The Queen’s Choice” Debacle: A Collision of Politics and Romance

On June 4, 2021, the company that runs the videogame “Love and Producer” ( “恋与制作人”, known in the US as “Mr. Love: Queen’s Choice”) fired principal voice actor Jonah Scott (also from Netflix’s “The Way of the Househusband”) in retaliation to a tweet he made on his personal account. The tweet, which was deleted shortly after it was posted, simply declared that Taiwan was a country, voicing a position contrary to the Chinese government’s stance of Taiwan being one of its provinces.

Not only has Scott been fired, but the company has pulled all the audio files which he has performed from the franchise, and are promising to re-release it with a new English-speaking voice actor. It is telling that the company is taking such a harsh stance, especially since Mr. Scott’s performance is for the English language version of the game, and thus targeting international audiences.

Even with the franchise’s bourgeoning popularity, having produced an animated television adaptation of the game last year, finding a replacement prove to be challenging, with current game English voice actors Sean Chiplock and Joe Zieja promising to no longer do any work on the franchise while Scott’s termination stands. Similarly, another voice actor from the show, Darrel J. Delfin, stated that he didn’t understand why Scott was terminated for “stating a fact.” (Source: Anime News Network)

This also doubles down on Scott’s initial statement, which, if ignored by the company, would’ve been lost in a news cycle, but now, with the retaliation in affect, is invigorating the awareness and support for the Taiwanese independence movement.

Promotional image for the mobile game “Love and Producer”

Signal Boost: Insightful Article on the Themes inherent in Videogames and their Adaptations

screen capture of anime adaptation of videogame, where character is stating "our next issue is one of human rights"
A capture of one of the graphics from the article

Anime News Service is running a penetrating feature article on the adaptation of videogame mechanics into anime television shows. “Log Horizon, Undertale, and the Tale Game Mechanics Can Tell” details how game mechanics can convey meaning, and delves into how the anime adaptations dive deep into themes of the plurality of perspectives, gray morality, and human rights issues inherent in game play mechanics and tropes we all take for granted. The author’s and the adaptors’ themes intersect with Associate Professor Whitney Pow‘s analysis on the colonialism inherent in gameplay (mentioned in her 2020 Magfest presentation on The Glitch: Queer and Transgender Software History based off of an article of hers published in game history journal RomChip.)

The Saint’s Magic Power is Imposter Syndrome

US release cover photo of The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent manga
US release cover of The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent manga

One of the most anticipated shojou/josei animes coming out this spring is an adaption of “The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent.” Per the manga cover (released by Seven Seas) the story follows 20-something, workaholic Sei as she adapts to living in a new magical world after being (accidentally?) summoned to be a savior “saint.” Sei is dismissed as a spare by the eldest prince of the magic world, since a younger, innocent ingenue girl was also summoned during the same ritual. 

The readers follow Sei as she processes her new situation. From the first pages, Sei describes herself as someone who works very hard at her job, to the point of exhaustion. After sleeping for two weeks as a guest in a castle, she wanders into a new area that is the Medicinal Flora Research Institute where she eventually becomes an employee. Even though her new employment does not demand it of her Sei continues with her M.O. of overworking and needing to prove herself through her productivity. For example, even though for the first 2 weeks of her residence in the new world, she is a guest in the palace, waited on hand and foot by servants and put up in a plush bedroom, when she starts her “job” as a researcher, she says she’s “gotta work work if [she] wants to eat.” There is a dichotomy of expectations presented – the ones expressed by the locals who feel honored by her presence and welcome her to simply be in the palace (or as a token employee of the Research Institute), versus her expectations of herself, which is stated that she must work to eat and must contribute productivity to “earn her spot.” We see Sei’s self definition come from her work: After she makes her first potion, she states “That’s how I came to live here…not only as a medicinal flora researcher but as an inhabitant of [the] world.” 

With a light and fluffy isekai (read: magical world) framework, this story taps into and addresses a deeper transnational psychological trend, what is commonly known in the US as Imposter Phenonmenon (aka Imposter Syndrome). This phenomenon was coined in research in the 1970s on high-acheiveing women, but gained larger societal awareness as a buzzword in the 2010s. It is defined loosely as “doubting your abilities and thinking you are a fraud” (HBR) and “experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. (VeryWellMind). 

This manga answers the questions that imposter syndrome poses, and the reader watches as Sei’s journey to accept herself and her impressive abilities improves her health and makes her stronger. This content and the light-heartedness and entertaining way it is communicated positions it to be relatable to audiences anywhere there is imposter syndrome, but for countries where that term is not used, anywhere where women are entering fields and achieving leadership in fields that are male-dominated. 

This leads to the drawback of the manga: As a comic, it would be targeted to teenage girls, but imposter syndrome is largely a college-age and employment-related phenomenon. To better fit a younger demographic, adaptation would need to highlight the some root symptoms of Imposter Phenomenon: the need to overachieve, the inability to recognize one’s own talents and skills, unrealistic expectations.  

On the whole, if executed well, the anime version stands a decent chance to garner international commercial success, and I’ll be interested to see how the production studios smooth over some of the rough edges of the light novel/manga (namely, pacing issues, some awkward word choices, and plot holes) and highlight the deeper emotional development of the protagonist to draw in and relate to the audience. 

For those who are familiar with Japanese demographics, Saint’s Power is a shojou manga that deals with josei issues.

For my fellow American otaku, if you liked “Boys over Flowers” (“Hana Yori Dango”) or “(Kaicho wa) Maid Sama” you’ll enjoy Saint’s Power, even though its set in a magical world and not a high school.

For European manga-fans, if you liked “Kimi wa Petto” you’ll enjoy Saint’s Power, which has a little less romance at the onset.

Signal Boost: Haute Couture and Sailor Moon

US American reporter and translator Angelica Frey posted an article yesterday on “Sailor Moon’s Fashion from Christian Dior to Theirry Mugler” on Jezebel. This is a great read on the intersection of East Asian storytelling and graphic novels, European fashion, and the US American market in the 1990s. If just one of those topics interests you, I highly recommend her article on Jezebel.

Link:https://theattic.jezebel.com/the-haute-couture-history-of-sailor-moon-1844488914?utm_campaign=Jezebel&utm_content=1598886989&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2uAsHH8vdbHWB7sklYKZbG1gB-8whTy69wU595Xu5apsZlqdI6NQdWcWw 

A stylized drawing of Sailor Moon wrapped in pink ribbons

Thai Protesters use Harry Potter Symbols to Rebuke Government

Image of Thai protesters with Wands Up Harry Potter gesture from The Guardian

Image from Photograph: Sopa/Rex/Shutterstock via The Guardian

A series of protests and rallies have spread across Thailand, condemning the government. The protesters, many of them high-school and university-aged young people, are using art to circumnavigate the lèse-majesté laws in place, making it a crime to defame, insult, or simply criticize the royal family. By using the images, symbols, and narratives in Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, protesters can critique a government which has acted in eerily parallel to the books’ plots:

  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned King Rama X of Thailand in 2016, and later the Palace led a campaign that changed the constitution to give the king increased emergency powers.
  • The Thai Crown is closely linked with the Thai military, as the king now has personal control over several influential army units and the Prime Minister previously led a military coup
  • Police have increasingly harassed activists
  • Nearly ten dissidents who have fled the country have “disappeared,” and at least two are confirmed dead
  • Public school students face stricter behavior and personal appearance guidelines set forth by the government.

The imagery and language of Harry Potter are being used by the protestors to call out their government. Many protesters use “Wands Up” gestures using prop wands or glowing cellphone flashlights to evoke imagery of the final battle for Hogwarts against the Deatheaters in the penultimate book. Some dress in Gryffindor colors or witch/wizard robes. A few dress as Deatheaters and hoist gilded gold framed images of Lord Voldemort– gold being the color of The Crown in Thailand.

The youngest protesters also use other art forms to tell their stories. The New York Times published a photograph of high-school-aged children performing the Mockingjay Salute. Their article also explains a piece of performance art by one such child protester: she was tied to a chair, a pair of scissors on her lap. Audience members (fellow protesters) are instructed by a nearby sign to cut her hair to the government-mandated crop length– even with the bottom of her earlobe.

Hundreds of young protesters use pop culture iconography, imagery, and narratives to indirectly criticize their government that limits free speech. It is indisputable, at least in Thailand, that art continues to be a powerful tool against oppression.

 

Sources + Read More: 

 

Anime Community in Zambia Garnering International Attention

logo of NerdOtaku, a Zambian anime fan community
logo of NerdOtaku, a Zambian anime fan community

Dennis “Kidd” Banda, the COO of the Zambian otaku community NerdOtaku, recently published an article on Anime News Network explaining the growing popularity of anime, cosplay, and videogaming in the East African country, located just north of Zimbabwe. The article articulates the quickly growing fan community, citing access to Netflix as the main provider since region-locking often means that other legitimate anime sources are unavailable. The article also includes a synopsis and clip of “Scuna Girl,” a Zambian horror anime that reimagines a local urban legend. 

Scuna Girl title image

News of the Zambian community is spreading across US American anime circles. We can hope that the Zambian NerdOtaku community continues to thrive and more African anime communities gain awareness on the international scene. 

Sources/Read More:

cover image of Zambian Tsubasa Studios

BTS and #BLM: Kpop Fans are Not New to Political Organizing

BTS at the 2020 Grammy'ss

Last week, Kpop band BTS (formerly known as Bangtan Boys and Beyond The Scene) and its fans made global headlines as they raised over $2 million in donations to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. The band itself donated $1 million and has been vocal about denouncing racial oppression. On June 4, they tweeted, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I, and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter” (Source) James Corden even covered how BTS fans are diluting white supremacy hashtags by drowning out hate with their love of the band.

Reporter Yim Hyun-su points out in a Washington Post article that Kpop fans have a well-established history of social justice initiatives and wield social media hashtags with lighting strike power. Their social media campaigns have not only a global reach but also activate global collaboration in a matter of minutes. The online activism of Kpop fans is not to be underestimated.

Hyun-su continues to analyze why the many stories of Kpop fans mobilizing don’t get the coverage that similar stories of streaming/vlogging fans or videogame fans do.  While acknowledging the often problematic landscape of fandom communities, he posits that the barrier to Kpop fans being recognized is classical sexism: the popular image of a “fangirl” is not in alignment with that of a social justice warrior.

Maybe one day, perspectives will mature to a more holistic comprehension of these fandom identities.

To read Hyun-su’s article, visit here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/11/surprised-seeing-k-pop-fans-stand-up-black-lives-matter-you-shouldnt-be/

#AintNoCinderella: The Power of a Selfie and a Slogan

Earlier this week, the hastag #AintNoCinderella went viral in India following an incident of a young woman being harassed and then victim shamed. Varnika Kundu went out on the town on Friday night, August 4. At the end of the night, she was harassed by two young men who then followed her when she fled in her car, attempting to make her stop and trying to enter her car several times. She wrote about the harrowing experience in a public Facebook post, thanking the police who helped save her from being kidnapped and urged women to be vigilant against attacks.  One local politician victim-blamed her by stating that she should not have been out late at night.

Public outcry against misogyny and classism was immediate, and only increased in fervor once it became clear that one of the two young men allegedly involved was the son of another local politician.

The viral hashtag #AintNoCinderella, often accompanied by selfies of young women in clubbing outfits, has become a rallying cry by young Indian women to exercise their basic human right to safety no matter what time of day. Every tweet is a micro-effort to battle violence against women, and the overall effect is bringing to light the persistent issues of classism and sexism in a country that had elected and reelected a female head of state in 1966 and 1980.

 

Sources:

China’s newest pop idol band tackles traditional gender norms

No really. This is not an April Fools joke.

Acrush is a group of young Chinese women gathered together to appeal to the boy-band, pop-idol demographic that has previously been dominated by young men from Japan and Korea. China has long been trying to improve its public image and ameliorate the reputation of having a staunchly conservative and controlled artistic sphere.

Acrush, however, is not the first androgynous women on the music scene. In the early 2000s, Han Hong crossed over from folk music to pop charts with her song Heaven’s Road (天路 ), about the trans-Tibetan railroad. Hong’s signature masculine/androgynous style caused a very negative reaction, which can be partially attributed to rumors of her being a homosexual. (Homosexuality was officially attributed to mental illness until 2001.)

Acrush’s agent and publicist has been very careful to remark that the young singers in the group are not attracted to the women whom their image is designed to attract. While Acrush may be challenging traditional sexual identities that have confined Chinese women, they are simultaneously reinforcing traditional sexualities.

Acrush promotional photo from their American Twitter account.

Update 4/7/17: Many news sites are referring to Acrush as “genderless.” It’s important to note that the band are calling themselves “meishaoshian” 美少年, which is denotatively a gender neutral term for “beautiful young person,” but connotatively refers to beautiful young boys. It’s also noteworthy that the Mandarin terms for he (他) and she (她) are phonetically identical (tā).

Update 4/8/17: As much viral attention Acrush has been getting, China’s major news network, CCTV, has not mentioned Acrush in any articles.

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Compare/Contrast: Youth in Politics

Today, NHK and BBC are running stories about young adults in politics, but the pictures are very different. In the UK, Millennials are feeling the Brexit burn, while 20-somethings in Tokyo are disengaged from politics and passive towards policy changes.

Read more: