Usagi is a great character. We watch her grow from a clumsy, lazy, self-centered teenager into a fearless goddess of justice who takes down the force of chaos itself. But the great thing is? She doesn’t stop being the girl we met back in chapter one. Sure, she’s indomitably powerful and her teardrops turn into the universe’s most potent energy source, but she also likes video games and donuts and napping and she gets crappy grades on tests because instead of studying, she was playing video games and eating donuts and napping. She whines about having to study for high school entrance exams, then stops a Texas-sized asteroid from slamming into Tokyo. Also, she was totally having sex with her star-crossed-reincarnated-prince of a boyfriend.
J.K. Rowling once made a really interesting point about the Narnia books (which I have not read): “There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex. I have a big problem with that.” Takeuchi avoided this in Sailor Moon with such deftness and grace that I’m only fully realizing it now, at 22. Usagi and Mamoru were totally boning—there are all kinds of dreamy, gauzy artbook pictures of them together in bed or discreetly covered in feathers, not to mention the penultimate scene of the manga, where they wake up in a (seriously awesome) bed together all naked and cuddly. Moreover, check out the illustrations of Usagi in lingerie and just straight up topless that Takeuchi busted out for her self-published artbook. Usagi is pure-hearted, but she isn’t “pure” in the archaic sense. She’s sexual. And I love that she can be both. She’s the amaranthine avatar of goodness and love and serenity in the universe—she is every cherished ideal we hold of what it means to be a “magical girl.” She stands for truth and freedom and hope. She wears floaty pastel clothes and enormous pigtails and her weapons are covered in hearts and stylized angel wings. She’s often drawn with angel wings herself! And she has sex. It doesn’t make her dirty, or suddenly inappropriate as entertainment for young girls. She doesn’t lose her power or her magic. She is a multifaceted young woman who loves sweets and comics and vanquishes the forces of evil and also has sex.
And the thing is, this kind of attitude in entertainment helps everyone. It’s not just very sexually active girls who need characters like Usagi, or even just girls in general. I was a prudish kid who didn’t have her first kiss until the age of 18 and this particular aspect of the manga has always stuck with me and informed my attitudes about sex. Whoever you are, however you handle your sexuality—it never makes you dirty. You can be queen of the mahou shoujo and have sex and wake up the next day to slaughter the wicked hordes with your bunny-bedecked Magic Rainbow Sparkle Sword. You can do both. You can be both. One does not invalidate the other.
I really love this analysis! It’s really beautiful!
I’ve seen her talk a few times (like the documentary Business of Being Born, and some interviews I’ve seen from The Farm) and while I don’t agree with everything she always says (and the gendered language) I firmly believe that pregnancy and child birth would be so much easier if we weren’t made to feel afraid and if we had more advocates like duolas making sure that the pregnant person got what they need.
The niece of the great Mongol leader, Kubla Khan, Princess Khutulun was described by Marco Polo as the greatest warrior in Khan’s army. She told her uncle she would marry any man who could wrestle her and win. If they lost they had to give her 100 horses.
She died unmarried with 10,000 horses.
Note: This is referring to the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and its direct adaptation, which is called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in the States and Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Fullmetal Alchemist in Japan. I am not referring to the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime adaptation, which I don’t consider feminist due mostly to less central female characters, more problematic handling of race and most prominently its bad treatment of Rose and to a lesser extent, Winry. It’s okay if you consider it feminist, but this is my review. I detail my problems with the anime on feminist and other grounds in the top posts here: http://adventuresofcomicbookgirl.tumblr.com/tagged/fma-2003-anime-liveblog-action. Beware spoilers for both series.
I will forever find it pretty fantastic that it’s a woman who wrote what I consider to be the best shonen manga ever. Hiromu Arakawa’s masterpiece should be an example to other artists of how it’s done. It’s tightly plotted, well drawn, has a huge cast of complex characters and it never lags, but comes together to be a beautiful and inspirational tale. Forget one of the best stories in manga, the Fullmetal Alchemist series is one of the best stories out there, period. Not only did Hiromu Arakawa continue the legacy (started by artists such as Rumiko Takahashi) of proving women can dominate in action-oriented manga, she also showed that you can do a story in a genre typically targeted to young boys with male main characters and still have a diverse, prominent and fantastic cast of lady characters. You can also explore serious themes like war, genocide, prejudice, faith, hubris and the nature of humanity and how to move on after committing great sins.
Fullmetal Alchemist is the story of brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric (usually called Ed and Al) who live in Western-fantasy world where alchemy is a highly touted science based on the principles of equivalent exchange. The two of them tried to bring their mother back to life using alchemy when Ed was eleven, but Ed ended up losing an arm and leg, and his brother would have disappeared entirely if it weren’t for Ed binding his soul to a suit of armor. Now, with Ed aided by a mechanical arm and leg made by his childhood friend Winry, Ed and Al are on a journey to restore what they’ve lost, but find out about a deep conspiracy within their country and secrets about their own family on the way.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a story that’s really about people, and Ed and Al’s journey is really about the people they gather around them on the way, and the state of humanity in general. Though it has a very intense and well paced plot, it’s a really character-driven series. And a lot of those characters are important and well-developed women, who have a variety of different strengths and roles and all have their own goals and character arcs. Boys’ manga in particular can fall into the trap of not developing female characters as well, only including one decently prominent female character and calling it a day, shunting girls to the sideline or, even if they have more than one female character, adhereing to the idea that women can only be important if they imitate the male characters and act hyperviolent. Female characters can be there just to be put in hostage situations, or have their lives only revolve around the male main character.
Fullmetal Alchemist subverts all of that spectacularly. The best mechanics in the series are women, and while Winry Rockbell is the main character’s love interest and a non-combatant, Ed depends on her to support him at all times because he wouldn’t be able to walk or do alchemy without the limbs she made him and her constant repairs and he points this out. She loves the Elric brothers dearly, but her life and goals are not dependent on them. She is dedicated to helping people as the best healer and mechanic she can be, and tons of customers depend on her and adore her. She’s also an incredibly driven and courageous person in her own right without busting villain heads. She has her own rich character arc where she struggles with abandonment issues, her anger over the death of her parents and tries to figure out her purpose in life and philosophy.
Haha wooooooooow I really couldn’t limit myself could I. SORRY. This is basically like my essay on the manga only with a wider scope you’ll see similar points made SORRY COULDN’T STOP TOO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT I LOVE IT TOO MUCH. Part three’s coming.
Women and Gender:
Sailor Moon is a series that is unquestionably focused on the growth and power of young women and strength of the bonds between them.
The very premise of it is that women shape the fate of the universe. They are what holds the universe together and are its last and first line of defense. Every single planet and star and satellite has a woman who represents it (A Sailor Senshi/Soldier), who rules it and protects and fights for it, who controls its very fate. You’re going to be hard pressed to find any other story that says women are important, women are essential; women are powerful on such a complete and cosmic scale. What’s more, the mythology of Sailor Moon is that things are pretty fantastic when women are in power- women can be the best rulers and protectors if they put their mind to it. The Queen of the Moon used to protect us all and it was pretty sweet. In the future, women will be in power again and it will also be pretty awesome. Sailor Moon verges on feminist utopian fantasy, unflinchingly saying that girls are good enough to run the world.
Another obvious premise of Sailor Moon is female legacy and community. Sailor Moon’s power is never going to die, and it will be passed on from woman to woman from generation to generation. Sailor Moon inherited her power from a powerful woman in the past and the series makes it clear she’s going to pass it on to her daughter and the a new generation will also take on the roles of the Senshi. There will always be powerful women, and these women have the support and legacy of powerful women from the past to stand on and to carry on proudly. These girls don’t just save the world, they end up running it, and they change it in a real, positive and permanent way.
Another Halloween themed post.
GHOSTS AND SPIRITS
- Iron and Ghosts
- The Early Ghost
- Guide to Ghosts
- Gravestone Symbolism
- 10 Little Known Mysterious Ghost Types
- Ghost Types
- The Different Types of Ghosts
- Haunted Places
- Cemetery Folklore
- Writing a Ghost Story
- Tips for Writing Ghost Stories
- Ghost Cliches
- Horror Cliches
- The Science of Zombies
- Zombie Biology
- Zombie Sociology
- Zombie Myths
- Stage II and Stage III Zombies (pictures)
- Vampires vs Zombies
- Undead Creatures
- Guide on Zombies
SHAPE SHIFTERS AND HOMINIDS
- Werewolves and other were-beasts
- The Shape Shifting Process
- Shape Shifters
- Hominids of the World
- Werewolf Myths
- Science of Werewolves
- Werewolf Behavior
- Werewolves vs Vampires vs Zombies
- Werewolf Anatomy
- Wolf Body Language
- Werewolf Myths and Truths
- History of the Werewolf Legend
- The Mermaid
- Sea Creatures
- Books About Mermaids and Sea Folklore
- Sea Creatures: Books
- YA Mermaid Novels
- Best Mermaid Books
- Awesome Mermaid Books
- Mermaid Anatomy
- A Dissection of Mermaid Anatomy
- African Vampires
- Writing the A-Typical Vampire
- So You Want to Write a Vampire Novel
- Avoiding Vampire Cliches
- Vampire Cliches
- Vampire Burial
- Vampire Mythology
- Vampire Biology
- Vampire Virology
- Vampire Sociology
- Vampires in Folklore and Literature
FAIRIES AND FAE
- Types of Faeries A-Z
- A Guide to Fairies
- Other Names for Fairies
- Books About Faery
- Best YA Fairy Books
- Best YA Fantasy Series About the Fae
ANGELS AND DEMONS
- Creating Creepy Creatures
- Mythology Meme
- Master Post of World Mythology, Creatures, and Folklore
- Figures of Norse Mythology
- Those Who Haunt the Earth
- Writing Horror, Paranormal, and Supernatural
- Genre: YA Supernatural
- List of Mythical Creatures
- Mythological Creature Picture Spam
- How to Make Your Supernatural Characters Unique
- Supernatural Theme Story
- Myths and Urban Legends Masterpost
- Original Gods, Goddesses, and Myths
- World Building Basics: Myths and Legends
- Mythical Creatures and Beings
- Symbols by Word
- Mythology Meme
- Writing Paranormal Characters into the Real World