There are female viewers of mecha anime now, as evidenced by the success of shows like Code Geass and Mobile Suit Gundam 00. As far as I’m concerned this is a fantastic development. I imagine that the declining birth rate in Japan makes the people behind these works at least welcome the idea of new fans. Female fans would indeed be a growth area for the mecha anime market.
I was provoked by some interesting commentary by jpmeyer that basically says that one can identify what kind of Gundam fan by virtue of the show the fan likes the least. Here’s his rundown:
G: oldfag that thinks that as UC is the apotheosis of Gundam
Wing: You hate how yaoi has been polluting Gundam ever since. This is one of the only ones that is cross new/oldfag
G Saviour: You’re trying too hard, because nobody has ever seen this
SEED: oldfag that hates newfags
SEED Destiny: newfag
00: really really newfag that is reflexively hating the newest show
What interests me here is his statement about Wing.
“Yaoi is polluting Gundam…” Since yaoi is primarily pursued by female otaku, or ‘fujoshi,’ this phenomenon is due to the use of bishounen character designs in Wing, and the newer shows in the franchise. Once can claim that yaoi has indeed ‘polluted’ Gundam, because even from the Universal Century shows one can find Char x Garma doujinshi if you look hard enough (not that there wasn’t any subtext, Garma had that freaking shower scene while Char was around).
But if Wing popularized bishounen characters in mecha anime, it certainly wasn’t the first to use such characters. I can’t verify any historical claim I make, but I present the case of a manga, The Five Star Stories by Nagano Mamoru. This manga boasts of a very rich science fiction setting that is distinguished by his very stylish illustrations. I personally find the style very feminine, reminiscent of shoujo manga.
The Five Star Stories (1986-ongoing) is a manga by Nagano Mamoru, remarkable for its rich setting and very stylish illustrations. What does The Five Star Stories remind me of? It reminds me a little of The Vision of Escaflowne in that there are bishounen and there’s a Medieval European vibe in the design of the setting and of the robots themselves. I’m also reminded of both Chobits, and Ghost in the Shell in that there are artificial life forms that serve human masters (and that it’s a major element in the narrative). I’m also reminded of the stories/comics in Heavy Metal magazine, only that the stories in FSS are interconnected by a continuing narrative, even if the stories are not sequenced in a linear. And lastly, I’m reminded of Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah, and God Emperor of Dune novels in that the main character is following a divine path (he is turning into a God), and that the narrative timeline stretches for thousands of years.
But what does The Five Star Stories give me? It gives me delightful fanservice. Really. Top-class high-quality exquisite fanservice. Now I’m not saying that this work is devoid of substance. I think it’s quite an interesting work that has a whole lot of stuff going for it. Perhaps the most substantial themes are the questioning of the meaning of how it is to be human (contrast with the fatimas as artificial life forms), and the progress of history guided by a singular entity approaching godhood.
But yes, fanservice. Nagano’s work is teeming with fetishes – from styling the mecha designs, to love dolls, to loli love dolls, and a traptastic lead character. IT IS INDULGED.
Here’s a presentation of his color illustrations:
What I find interesting about it is the dated, yet amazing use of line and color. Everything is long and the colors are garish in an ’80s kind of way. I lived through the ’80s as a child and these works remind me of album covers from the late ‘70s and early ’80s.
Here now is a presentation of the character designs:
Look at all those long limbs! Amaterasu, the Emperor of Light looks so feminine he’s a bona fide trap. As his disguise, Ladios Sopp, HE IS ONE. Even in the more masculine characters, the impossibly long legs contribute to the overall bishounen look. But man, those girls look like they stepped off a catwalk in Tokyo in ’88. Again, the look is dated, and yet so amazing.
Here is a presentation of the mechanical designs:
To me, it feels very feminine. The detail work, the overall line, the overall put-togetherness… is feminine. Contrast this with classic Gundam designs:
Blocky and masculine, even if hinting the more refined lines that will influence the designs in SEED and 00. But an even better example:
Norris Packard’ Gouf from Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team, round shapes but still very masculine. The spikes help, which off-sets the fact that it’s wearing a skirt.
Now if you know of/find earlier mecha anime or manga that feature bishounen style character designs, let me know.
Fujoshi? What is this I don’t even [->]
Nagano Mamoru [->]
The Five Star Stories and the feminine idea of mecha (Vendredi 2009/05/22)
The best resource for Five Star Stories on the web [->]
Young Reader’ Guide to the Five Star Stories [->]
[Note: if you are reading this post via feed reader, you will not see the embedded presentations. Visit the website to view the delicious images.]