Growing up, I was first introduced to anime by the film Princess Mononoke. I'm sure I've said that before. After that initial foray, it wasn't very long until I began watching the anime lineup on Toonami. This was probably the late 90s, early 00s, when the lineup was anime like Big O, Dragon Ball Z, Inuyasha, Tenchi Muyo, Ruroni Kenshin, Sailor Moon, etc. As with any childhood treasure, these shows impacted me at a formative part of my kid-hood, and in some ways informed how I understood and approached future narratives.
These were anime I loved even before really understanding them as 'anime'. One of my favorites when I was young was Ruroni Kenshin. It was strange to me because this was an unassuming and gentle man who, at the drop of a hat, could become the most ruthless samurai around. Yet, he'd only become like that because of danger posed to his friends, the people he loved. And he'd sworn off of killing.
This, in tandem with the narratives of Dragon Ball and Naruto and other anime, helped shape the way I examine narrative and the breadth of narrative that exists. Discovering my queerness was something that came later in life for me, but the narratives of certain manga and anime have always presented a queer reading to me. (SasuNaru *cough cough*)
Some anime had the queerness coded into the language of the anime, and not just the subtext. One, in particular, stands out from among that era.
This is a video from VICE that examines the significant impact that Sailor Moon had on the lives of young queer folks. Don't be scared. Watch the video. Take your time. This card will be here.
My favorite part about this video is when Charlene Ingram, the Senior Manager for Animation Marketing at Viz Media is speaking about the significance of Uranus and Neptune's romance, and the issue with the english dub intentionally misrepresenting that. (If you're still unfamiliar, the issue was that Haruka and Michiru (Uranus and Neptune) were lovers in the original anime but had their characters changed to 'cousins' in the English dub.)
Ingram speaks about her own love for the anime, and her own feelings about the original dub. She basically agrees that it is wrong to misrepresent characters that way, especially when there are already so few examples of canonically queer characters that aren't props. She say that "that's art that need to be encouraged," and I agree with her wholeheartedly.
I can't say that I'm a big Sailor Moon fan. I'm not. I don't dislike it, but magical girl anime hasn't ever really been my thing. However, I do emphatically believe in the message that Sailor Moon delivers.
Something surprising in this video for me as someone totally unfamiliar with the depth of the series was that the anime had trans representation as well. Alex, a trans man, speaks about the Starlights, characters that have two distinct forms - both male and female - represented as equally powerful. They talk about how the trans identities of the Starlights were not the focal point of them as characters, but facets of their personalities.
Fan of the series or not, I am a fan of good, representative media. I think it's too easy for shows to fall prey to making a queer character and then damning their narrative to focus solely on their queerness. And then they die, or just stay unhappy forever.
We need more of this, and we need more people to know why we need more of this.