Wherein I Combat an Assumption

This is totally relevant, I swear.

One of the first things you learn in editorial school is to check your assumptions at the door: we can do without them, thank you very much. They don’t quite tell you how, though, and it turns out they like to pop up where you least expect it. In fact, in my experience, they tend to show up wherever it is you think yourself most well-informed. With that in mind, let me share with you a story about a girl who was reincarnated as a boy.

My initial reaction to Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru (hereafter Uraboku) was more neutral than anything else. It was another one of those shows: made ostensibly to pander to a female audience with pretty guys and homoerotic subtext. It’s mostly enjoyable, if boring at times. Once I learned about Yuki’s past life as a woman, though, I became conflicted.

On the one hand, the show is pretty decent, and interesting enough I want to continue watching it. On the other hand, I saw this as an attempt to pass of any subtext between Yuki and Luka as “but not too gay,” or something to that effect. And there isn’t a quicker way to make me upset than to pass off sexual orientation as something so trivial as that.

When does it stop being subtext, again?

But, late last week, I realized something: I had assumed what the creators meant without giving it any more thought. It took reading Animanachronism’s (very insightful) “Death of the Animator” for me to see the error of my ways. Rather than trying to (cynically) discern the author’s intentions and trying to worm into his or her head, I should stick to what the show actually says, and work from there. This lands me in completely different territory.

Instead of trivializing sexual orientation, Uraboku actually rereads gender identity in about the most drastic fashion I’ve seen since Ouran High School Host Club. Yuki sees himself as a guy (aside from the odd dream or two), and he visibly and physically is one. But at least one person still thinks of him as the girl he used to be. She doesn’t worry whether Yuki saw her naked because she remembers all those times when Yuki’s past life bathed with her past life.

Compare the standard portrait of a transgendered individual: a person whose sex and gender do not match, but whose attempts to rectify the disparity (generally) meet with resistance from outside parties. The whole reincarnation thing in Uraboku actually makes things much simpler: the difference is who recognizes the difference between soul and body. In real life, the individual will recognize it; in Uraboku, his friends/family do.

Two volumes in and they’ve already gotten further than Yuki and Luka.

I mentioned Ouran above, but I’d rather compare it to something a bit older: Please Save My Earth. It does something similar with reincarnating a female as a male, but in this case the issue of romance is tackled a bit more directly. I actually rather like where it goes with it. It differs from Uraboku in how it approaches the subject, though, with the reincarnation as a male mostly brushed aside, and more of a focus on how Gyokuran and Enju should redefine their relationship.

Now, as I haven’t read the Uraboku manga I can’t really predict how in depth the series will go into this, but it is there if you look for it. And there are hints that it could be important in some way, possibly as a sign of the end. Who knows where they’ll take it, if anywhere. But I never would have noticed it if I had remained blinded by my biases.

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9 Comments

  1. WhoBeMe
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    My only assumption about this anime was that there would be a lot more fighting and it had something to do with vampires for some reason. But I watch it anyway. I’m not bothered by yaoi type scenarios. As long as I don’t fall asleep, I’ll watch anything. I guess just be more open-minded. Or maybe I missed the point entirely.

    • Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:46 am | Permalink

      ‘…and it had something to do with vampires for some reason’ – prob cos of the blood, fangs, roses, crosses, feathers, chains, etc – has there ever been a more derivitive OP sequence?! Which is a shame as I can see why it would stop many from watching further, as I think it’s actually one of the better, if hitherto underblogged, shows this season.

  2. Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Chrono you have hit the nail on the head. Clearly, the man-service is there (woohoo!), but it’s great, as well as very interesting, how you compare the differing attitudes to such complex issues like gender and sexuality and the representation of these in anime/ manga. Although Ouran is in a league of its own, unfortunately most shows (usually shoujo) tend to only deal with transgender issues in a very mild way, often ‘sanitising’ them by making it a plot device for enabling what is meant to be recognized as a ‘heterosexual’ relationship (yes, even yaoi, with the whole girly uke and the uber manly seme thing). Btw thanks for recommending Please Save My Earth, will add that to my list of things to check out during the summer of suck.

    • Chronolynx
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      I could do a whole post on how I hate the uke and seme thing, honestly. And please do read Please Save My Earth, as it is one of the best manga I have ever read.

      • Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        In that case it’s just gone higher up the list. Will let you know what I think! :)

  3. catzcradle
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    What manga is the last image from?

    • Chronolynx
      Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Please Save My Earth.

      • CatzCradle
        Posted June 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

        thanks!~

  4. Posted July 3, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    This is almost a month late (somehow this slipped by me), but I enjoyed this post so much that I wanted to leave a comment.

    I haven’t watched Uraboku yet – I think I might, after this – but I’ve been following how it’s been received in the sphere and when I first heard about the reincarnation business, I rolled my eyes. After reading this, though, I feel as though I understand more and feel much happier about the way the show’s handled things. Thanks very much for that!

    Okay, time for a little rant. LGBT characters definitely aren’t lacking in anime/manga, but, like Hana said, it really pisses me off how their sexualities tend to be ‘sanitised’. It’s great that gay and lesbian characters are included in the medium but this tends to be subverted by them either conforming to stereotypes or by trying to make their relationships fit to a male-female dynamic, both of which make me rage a bit. Transvestites definitely aren’t rare, but they seem to generally be either fetishised (in the case of traps) or comic relief (in the case of drag queens). Transexual characters feel much less common to me, perhaps because I tend to the mainstream, but I can think of a strong example off the top of my head: Fukunaga from Liar Game – a seinen series, of all things. She’s not just MtF but strong, intelligent, comfortable with her identity and has a personality that goes way beyond a stereotype. (Though in the drama adaptation, she was turned into an ambiguously gay, effeminate man. *sigh*)

    Gah, sorry for going on and on about this (hope you don’t mind!). It’s just a subject that I’m interested in and care about. Can’t wait to read more from you soon, on any topic!

One Trackback

  • By Uraboku: A Mildly Sarcastic Retrospective on September 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    [...] the adaptation from showing even a single kiss? Or even just spoken confirmation of some sort? I predicted earlier that Yuki’s reincarnation as a male might play some greater role (and thus explore [...]

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