Photo by Tyler Meuter

Go to an Anime Club meeting at Tech, and you might notice a disparity of women in attendance. As I took my seat at the first meeting of the year, it became immediately clear that I was one of roughly three women in an audience of at least 50 people.

The lights went off, the first few episodes played, and I began to realize why — many of the anime selected by the club board featured quite the variety of characterized tits. Not female characters with any personality to speak of, but supple, bouncy, comically large breasts. The women these breasts were attached to were not represented  by their spectacular intelligence, or their bravery in battle so much as the fact that they were in possession of breasts (and in a few cases, an ass).

Instead, many of the characters were caricatures of the typical hyper-feminine Asian woman, who young American men love to sexualize.

I do not necessarily blame the GT Anime Club for showing anime featuring an abundance of characterized tits. The phenomenon is endemic to many anime not specifically geared towards female audiences, and many of the best anime feature copious fan-service. A few of my favorites come to mind: “Code Geass,” “Gurren Lagann,” “Cowboy Bebop,” “Bleach,” etc. While not every show I’ve seen sexualizes the female form, the tendency to do so is certainly popular.

As a woman, I do not necessarily find this sexualization immediately offensive. Occasionally, it is done with good taste. In “Kill la Kill”, the concepts of clothing and both the female and male nude forms are explored. Similarly, in “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, Asuka’s sexualization plays a role in Shinji’s maturation and mimics his use of her as a sexual object.

Unfortunately, however, the large majority of times that female characters are sexualized, the sexualization demeans and objectifies them. Rather than creating a female character with a complex range of emotions, with personal goals and motivations, anime creators chose to pander to a horny, immature male audience — a choice that isolates many female viewers and distracts the audience from the show’s desired narrative.

As much as I love to watch the bad-ass characters in “Bleach” destroy their Hollow and Espada enemies, I am distracted by why Harribel’s overly large breasts are completely unsupported and how they don’t fall out of her ridiculous top. I see Faye Valentine’s tight crop top and tiny shorts and wonder how she stays warm. I tried watching “Fairy Tail” and loved the storyline! I was so interested in Lucy’s progression as a mage and Natsu’s backstory, but could hardly stand the number of bikini-wearing, large-breasted women that seemed to crowd the screen at every possible
opportunity.

If I wanted to view objectified women’s bodies en masse, I would go watch ecchi, the genera dedicated to fanservice. As it stands, I can’t escape the booby overload that is in most fantasy/action/comedy anime currently produced.

Not only are women’s bodies objectified, their personalities are as well. Tsundere, dandere, kuudere, yandere. Many anime girls fall into these preset tropes — so much that the terms are widely known and acknowledged throughout the otaku populace. Many times these women give off a stoic or antagonistic exterior, which hides a traditionally feminine personality just waiting to be unlocked by the male protagonist, who these women inevitably and inexplicably fall in love with.

Another frequent trope for female characters to elicit “moe” —  that feeling of burning passion otakus are known to have for two dimensional characters. Usually this feeling is accomplished via cutesy mannerisms and exhibiting traditionally feminine stereotypes. Traditionally as in “ideal woman in the 1940s”, as in “someone who will love me immediately and unconditionally, do all the housework, make me sandwiches and have no real desires or goals that interfere with my own”. These characters are unrealistic, and frustrating to watch as a woman who knows these characters only exist to be fetishized.

For these reasons, though I enjoy the anime medium, I am significantly limited to the number of anime I can enjoy. If producers could please leave the hypersexualization out of the not-explicitly-ecchi anime, and treat women as actual people, not as objects to be fantasized about, I would greatly appreciate it.

  • And so..?

    Because tv shows with live actors care so much about theses things.. I find it odd how people fail to look at what is actually live produced and wonder why they are complaining about anime. I find a lot of these same fashion choices and obvious tropes in American television and movies too, somewhere is that article? What if every tv show actually displayed no sexuality at all and all women were cover by clothes to the point there was no form be distracted by. Would we be happy then? Or be outraged that women are being forced to wear normal clothes that dont show cleavage or leg. Because is that really needed for survival in life is the fashion of womens clothes? Is sexy fashion needed by society at all? So why make it.. and why do people buy it.. and then complain about… sexy fashion..? It’s not needed, let’s do away with it. Problem solved. Let’s just have everyone and every show and anime wear robes from now on. Then we have solved the problem of using sex over story telling. I’m sure big networks are rushing to cover their stars in as many clothes as possible for the sake of story. They’d never dress a young female star in tight clothes when she could easily have worn anything else.. ever..

    • This is a straw man. The issue is anime, of course there’s plenty of objectification in other areas of media. Also, you are confusing sexuality and objectifications. They are disparate topics; you can have one without the other.

  • Branko Burcksen

    Thanks for such an honest opinion. As a straight-male, even I get frustrated at inappropriate fanservice. Show off a lot of T&A in your over the top, harem comedy like the recent Monster Musume, no problem. Try to stick overt sexualization into your serious drama like the recent God Eater or the popular Sword Art Online (complete with disturbing rape fetish) and I have to ask, “What the f— is wrong with you?!”

    I will say, there are some good examples of ‘manservice’ shows like Free!, but they come at titillating their female audience from a different place. Anime like Nana, Free!, and the more recent My Love Story, offer a sex positive message to their girl viewers. They say it is okay to be attracted to these boys, and they do not mind you ogling them. Not all male centered fanservice offers this spin, and in fact punishes the male characters (fairly or not) for being attracted to the female characters the show exploits. That is some messed up messaging that irks me to no end.

    I should point out that many anime cons and anime companies like Funimation report their male to female consumer base is usually an even 50/50 split. Also, it surprises me you do not mention the utter lack of fanservice of any kind in the most popular anime in recent memory, Attack on Titan. (Unless you like naked giants without genitals.)

  • Will

    The supply is to meet the demand. If they feel the overwhelming majority of the demographic they are targeting wants something they will produce it. Most of these anime are targeted at young men 15-21, can’t really change that your demographic wants fanservice. If they changed their production the audience would likely move on to a different form of entertainment.
    Sorry that you aren’t able to enjoy anime as much as you would like but that is part of not belonging to the niche the are trying to cater to.

    • This is true, but it doesn’t make it right.

  • I agree that it could ruin a good plot, but hey, I’m not hating. At least I can enjoy two plots at once…

  • Well put. From my male perspective, I wholeheartedly agree with this, both from the obvious need to promote women as they should be promoted (strong and complex), but also because I’m tired of feeling creepy for watching anime. Sexual themes (both male and female) can be explored without blatant objectification.

    Smart anime is arguably one of the most creative art forms of the past few decade, but it will never get its due because of this issue.

  • Crazy_O

    It’s a gender segregated market – there are enough anime that are watched almost exclusively by female anime fans, even shounen anime. Anyway, your club should be split by gender or sexual orientation, like they are on many japanese campuses.

    Personally I can’t watch a lot of stuff either, just look for the term “fujoshi bait” those anime are made with you in mind, not for my heterosexual male mind. This season alone you have:

    – Dance with the Devils
    – Haikyuu!! 2
    – K: Return of Kings
    – Noragami Aragoto
    – Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen
    – Star Mu
    – Young Black Jack

    All made mostly with the (japanese) female fan in mind in this season alone. Btw the label shounen doesn’t matter, the magazines in question publish gender statistics showing stuff like Haikyuu having a 80%+ female following for example.

    Also there are no provable effects to sexualization, sexual and violent crimes have been decreasing constantly over the last 20 years, if we could say anything by the numbers, it would be that media like porn or violent video games decreased the chance sexual/violent crimes but I can’t guarantee causation. So nothing here is “problematic”. There are no provable problems, maybe there are even upsides.

  • Wowtrafalgar

    As a man who sexually identifies as a lamp post I find that this article is extremely offensive.

  • Wesley Satterwhite

    You’re an adult. Stop watching cartoons. Problem solved.

    • dharper7

      Commenting about “maturity” and being an adult, while reading an article about anime on a college website…Thank you for participating my distinguished philistine

  • Mike Rowe

    Sexuality is something that we see everywhere in media. From Movies like Magic Mike, to the stereotypical college movies like Neighbors, to Victoria Secret Ads.
    Sexuality is everywhere and It targets men and well as women, specifically in advertisements regarding clothing, colognes, etc. It goes both ways across all forms of media. Animation portray of women is not much different than what Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Kesha, Rihanna, and what other have been doing for decades.

    I can’t buy the notion that you can target one area and say that it is wrong or bad when every other media industry is doing exactly the same thing. I think Anime is great, I love it, and it does a lot of good for a lot of people. But the medium is simply a reflection of society, nothing more.