Friday, February 6, 2015

Lessons from Anime: Attack on Titan and Diverse Background Characters

So I know we just talked about Attack on Titan a couple of weeks ago, but this is going to be more of a comparison on how animes handle diverse background characters. Specifically the male to female ratio.

These days, we’re getting a lot more female leads than we used to. Young adult fantasy and realistic fiction with mass appeal is going strong. In 2013, the two highest grossing movies had female protagonists. The majority of Hollywood movies still don’t pass the bechdel test, but now we’re getting a new Ghost Busters with four awesome and hilarious women. Don’t let me down Ghost Busters.


But though awesome ladies are stepping into spot light, many people still use male as a default, especially in fantasy. All of the random, nameless characters in a resistance group or army or other organization are male.

Today we’re going to be referencing Fullmetal Alchemist as a negative, which is rare given that this is my favorite show of all time and I just adore it. There are a lot of awesome, bad ass ladies in Fullmetal Alchemist and in the remake, FMA: Brotherhood. Winry the mechanic, Oliver the general, Riza Hawkeye the sharp shooter, Lan Fan the warrior, Mai Cheng the princess. And then there’s Izumi.


She’s a house wife. Like a boss.

But for all of the super awesome female characters all of the background characters in the military are men. All of the women in the military have names and characters, which you’d think would be a positive. But there’s something to be said for just having a woman in the background.

And honestly, the lack of women in the army doesn’t make any sense. Gender issues are nonexistent in this world and never are any of the women told they can’t make it with the guys. It’s one of the refreshing things about Fullmetal Alchemist. We never get the tried and true, cliché ‘but you’re a girl. You can’t do IMPORTANT things’ narrative. The women are just awesome. And the men respect their awesomeness.

But women in the background of the military? Not a lick. There aren’t even any female state alchemists which is frustrating given that alchemy is a science requiring no physical strength. There are lady alchemists outside of the military. Not so much in the military.

Now let’s look at Attack on Titan. Not only are the side characters practically evenly split in gender (in the top ten cadets four of the five are women) but there is relative equality across the board. Men and women join the fight against the titans and they exist in the foreground and background. The titans do not discriminate about who gets eaten either. Male and female cadets and officers get axed off on the regular. Because of this, the female characters aren’t characterized by their gender. They’re characterized by their skill sets. And there are some really…


Bad ass…


Women…


I also like that the uniforms are the same for everyone, and they make functional sense. Not like some of the BS outfits in anime, am I right?

Anime why? Anime stop.


Bottom line is: it’s good to have women in the spotlight. But they should be everywhere in all sorts of different positions. That’s how we get diversity. And that’s how we come to accept not male as the norm, but human as the norm.

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