As Kyoko-san prepares a lovely dinner for Godai, we hear something
like the following:
A couple of eyebrows in the audience rise, stay tense for just a second, then drop; a couple of chuckles are emitted throughout the various people in the room; and a handful, oftentimes me included, express positive support and acknowledgment with a smile and a small laugh. Then the moment passes and all is forgotten, until something like it happens again... and again... and again...
Warning signs are probably going off in your head as you sense this article acquiring a slight tinge of politically-correct preachiness, and with all the exposure and over-exposure the sexism issue has been getting in the media recently, I can't say I blame you for being wary. But it is an issue that affects all of us and will continue to do so no matter what we end up doing. Also, as fans of anime, I think it is important, or at least interesting, to dwell a bit upon this subject.
One thing that I'm sure everyone has not failed to notice is how the overall depiction of women in anime is overwhelmingly, well, "traditional," or maybe "slightly skewed," and I'm sure many other people out there could find plenty of other colorful words to describe it. If the American mainstream public were ever exposed to Maison Ikkoku, there would be an amazingly angry response to the depiction of Kanrinin-san's character, and I would have to get quite upset and bitter at the world in general for not appreciating the show's good points.
Yet something tickles the back part of my cranium, and it suggests that maybe this very depiction is what I consider one of the "good" points of the show -- a risky thought to admit publicly -- but I think it is very true. Now, some of the more exaggerated versions of this female as subordinate, docile, passive, can cook, clean, and do it all while looking amazingly-pretty-so-I-can-rest just plain makes me ill (i.e. Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess). But others, such as Kasumi from Ranma ½, I do like quite a bit, and I'm pretty sure that the "slightly skewed" take on these characters has a lot to do with why I find them appealing. Although I probably won't admit it or will shrug it off when directly confronted with this issue, I find that there is something slightly disturbing about my liking for Kasumi-like characters and the social values they represent.
Every time we recommend an anime to a fellow fan, push to have one shown at a meeting, or go out and purchase tapes or laserdiscs, we are promoting that anime and the ideas it contains. Whether we agree or not with all the themes or depictions within an anime has no bearing on the fact that when we promote an anime, we promote the entire production. That is why every time I see an instance of questionable political correctness in an anime I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in anime, I can't help but feel a twinge of discomfort. It passes quickly, and I certainly don't lose any sleep over it, but I can't ignore the fact that it is part of my anime experience.
It's possible that I am just a freak reading too much or thinking too much while watching anime, but think about it the next time you watch one of your favorite anime. I'm not suggesting that you go on a rampage and attempt to purge the world of sexism, but I do think it's something to toss around, and heck, maybe you'll even learn something about yourself.