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In real life girls tend to look more distinctive than boys, with a wider range of stylistic choices. I feel that it's probably more of a case of the mangaka being not very good at drawing female characters. He seems somewhat misogynistic, what with his sympathetic portrayal of Takagi's misogynists attitudes in an early chapter.
I believe that was addressed earlier in the forum, it was called Values Dissonance . Miyoshi should just be thankful she ain't Misa. I know I am.
There is a lot of subtle sexism when it comes to Bakuman. One I found particularly interesting, was how the protag specifically flat out said 'females don't need to be realistic. They are idealized versions of what the mangaka thinks' or something to that extent, although it was pretty early on.
Although, it's ten times better than Death Note.
I can't say I thought it spoke well of Mashiro, but it's a pretty accurate as a depiction of how shonen mangaka deal with female characters.
The one issue I have about that explanation, is that it makes me wonder how many of these mangaka enjoy females who are violent... is that just because it's funny and isn't related to that rule at all, or what?
There are a number of possible explanations, but my guess is that it mainly comes down to a combination of wanting to create some level of romantic conflict, and not knowing much about writing relationships.
Ah, that makes sense. Guess it's also the only way some people know how to write 'strong females' that they know are in high demand now a days.
Bakuman is, merph, it flip flops between being pretty good about it, and other times being a bit eyebrow raising. Aoki as of now has struck me as an interesting and legit strong female character, because Iwase is only doing this out of...a highschool crush, which, considering how all of the other female characters are motivated by romance plots, it's a bit...not pleasant.
Strictly speaking, I wouldn't consider Aoki one, considering the fact that she was for a long time (and still is) an object of sexualization (mostly via Nakai's fantasies), and has to mostly rely on other (male) mangaka's help to achieve true success (help with panty shots/art). Great character development, certainly, but not really an perfect example of a strong, legit female character. Again, Iwase's stories, while being good, are only rendered truly excellent through Niizuma's drawings. And as you mentioned, Iwase's motivation revolves around a male (Takagi), as do the lives of most other females in the story.
Not exactly empowering.
I agree it's a bit better than Death Note though. Misa Misa, anyone?
And the most troubling fact is, I get the strong feeling that Japanese teenagers will read the bit about intelligent girls should hide their intelligence and dumb down their ambitions/make their goals stereotypically feminine ones, in order to be cute, and actually believe that that is a reasonable attitude to have. Girls AND boys. This troubles me a lot, values dissonance or not.
About the action girls thing, I believe that: 1) It's an easy way to get great action and fanservice in one package - the same goes for Western media, of course- and 2) It's the lazy way out when an author wants to not be completely male chauvinistic. Just have a female character kick butt, and you won't have people accusing you of misogyny. Of course, when this fails, we have the Faux Action Girl...
edited 23rd Feb '10 6:08:21 PM by Yuen
For a given definition, I can accept that she's not exactly a "strong" female character, but in what way would you say she's not a legit female character? Remember, the characters are creating shonen manga, an extremely male dominated profession. It's hardly surprising if she faces some degree of objectification from coworkers, and isn't immediately equipped to deal with the expectations of a shonen publication, having crossed over from shoujo manga. If she's a developed, believable character, is it necessary for her also to be a shining example of female empowerment?
There is always gonna be debate about how much empowerment is needed, I think if this was an american series, I wouldn't be as worried about the female characters, if only because the US tends to emphasize Political Correctness, which, while not always good, does have its advantages.
Also, with Japan, they tend to be more into traditional roles, so it's easier to see every TINY feminine characterization as all out sexism and misogyny even if it's relatively tame compared to what the males suffer.
I think Aoki is the strongest female in Bakuman so far, but that doesn't make her a strong character over all. I think if they just showed to be a TAD more independent, I think a lot of the criticism would be cut down. I will admit, the Fukuda X Aoki (platonic or romantic, either way,) had me squeeing and d'awwing, but it would be nice if Iwase could be a good mangaka not only on her own terms (which she almost is) but also a good mangaka because she WANTS to be, not because of some crush she had. It would be nice for Aoki Ko to be able to write a manga the way SHE wants to, and still create and enjoyable shonen series. It would be nice if Miyoshi actually had a dream and characterization separate from her soon to be husband.
edited 24th Feb '10 12:00:34 PM by A_H_R
Desertopa: Ah, terminology mistake on my part. What I meant to say was "legitimately STRONG (empowering?) female character", which I don't believe she is. I do think as a character she's gotten very nice character development and depth.
Miyoshi is the flattest female character in existence. How ironic.
edited 25th Feb '10 8:27:07 AM by Yuen
Well, I think Miyoshi has the benefit of getting a lot of face time, so I wouldn't necessarily call her the flattest character of the bunch...just the only one to be 2-D
Every other female character has shown hidden depths, even the main love interest (I was practically floored when she got mad at the protag for not explaining the situation with Aoki), but the only time Miyoshi has shown any hidden depths was when she broke down crying when she thought her boyfriend was cheating on her, but that wasn't even much of a 'hidden depth'. =\.
I just can't believe the same people who created L would settle for creating someone like Miyoshi.
L is male. Miyoshi is female. There is a huge difference you see.
In all honesty, remember when Takagi whined about issues writing females, so he went to Aoki who had the exact same problem, only with males?
Yeah, I'm sure there is a trope for it, but I bet the author was channeling himself into that bit.
edited 25th Feb '10 10:52:02 AM by A_H_R
Chapter 75 out.
Iwase has an evil smirk
I love it.
NO! STOP IT! STOP IT!
CAN'T YOU JUST MAKE HER AN INTOLERABLE SNOB AND LET US RANT ABOUT THAT? DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO MAKE HER THAT SHALLOW?
That is how the creator sees women. Rather disgusting, if I may be frank.
I love Niizuma so much. That expression, that statement - best chapter ending ever. It evokes quite a complex emotional response in me.
edited 25th Feb '10 11:31:21 AM by Yuen
I always found the Bakuman endings odd, because they are largely more subtle than most weekly cliffhangers, especially with Kishi -Naruto- pulling out all the stops lately to make each one super shocking (whether he is successful is debatable)
I don't think I particularly like it, but I don't really hate it either. It usually strikes me as Narm though, because it's still treated as a Shonen Jump cliffhanger with diagonal rhetorical questions and all, when it should be much more subtle for it to work.
Oh yeah, the way they view women can certainly rile a person up. The worst part is that I threw a temper tantrum on the One Manga forums back when Aoki was leaving Jump, because I assumed she was being Put on a Bus (I was wrong, obviously) and went into a way over the top rant about the sexism of Bakuman as a whole. I was politely told that I was basically overreacting, which I was, but I think my paranoia was rightly justified, eventually...
edited 25th Feb '10 11:37:08 AM by A_H_R
The female characters aren't the most rounded and developed I've read, for sure, but they're not particularly poorly done by the standards of shonen manga. Even Miyoshi has more depth than a factory produced tsundere. I mean, it's hardly a paragon of feminist literature, but that's a fault of the entire industry more than the author. It seems like an odd complaint to single out Bakuman in particular for.
Well, since this is a 'Bakuman' thread, and not a 'feminism in anime' thread, the real question is, does it stand out compared to other issues, character handlings and tropes in general in Bakuman?
Yeah, cause it's a relatively realistic setting...
But wasn't the writer a woman?
The author is an unknown identity. The artist is male, and previously drew Hikaru No Go, which was written by a female.
What bugs me about the sexism in Bakuman, as compared to the sexism in shonen manga in general (of course there are exceptions), is the way the author rationalizes it and presents sexism in a reasonable light. In particular, that early chapter where Takagi goes on what I presume is an Author Tract about women is utterly horrible, because he says it like it's the only logical and right thing to do. The females aren't as shallow as some other female characters, but the way they are presented seems more dismissive and misogynistic - "sure, women can do this and this and this, but only within a 'feminine' sphere, and if they step out of it (like Iwase), they are horrible/one-dimensional/bitches, and their world revolves around men". Sexism in manga is usually more thoughtless and simplistic. As you mentioned, females are present for the sex appeal. Fanservice. The run-of-the-mill "girls are weak" theme, as in Naruto, Bleach etc. Mindless drivel. But nothing as thought out and calculated and condescending as "the really smart, cute girls are the ones who play dumb and pander to society's discrimination against them".
I really wanted to rip his heart out of his chest when he said that.
And the fact that this is coming from a pair of very intelligent people - people who created a complex, mature series like Death Note (which is chock full of sexism in itself, by the way) - makes it even more shocking. I mean, if this is what even intelligent people believe... what hope does humankind have left?
I can dismiss the sexism of fanservice and tsundere and shallow, thoughtless female tag-alongs as the product of mindless chauvinists, apathetic to gender equality. But when someone is actively trying to justify discrimination against women and the maintainence of the gender inequality status quo... that's when I feel like killing someone.
edited 25th Feb '10 6:45:40 PM by Yuen
Maybe I'm just a generous person, but I didn't really read it like that. Rather than rewarding one girl for acting dumb and feminine while punishing the other for entering the "intelligent" world of men, I saw it as praising one for knowing exactly what she wants and how to get it while dismissing the other for not thinking through the consequences of her actions (ie: being a social outcast). Maybe it's a bit conformist for trying to work within the system rather than change it, but as a pure measure of intelligence I would agree that someone who finds happiness in mediocrity is smarter than someone who blindly reaches forward without thinking about what they'll get out of it.
Basically it's "she's happy and she worked towards it as she knew how" versus "she's unhappy and doesn't even know why, even though she's booksmart".
edited 25th Feb '10 7:41:12 PM by Clarste
I know that everyone is entitled their own opinion, and that all interpretations are valid to a certain extent... Still, I feel that your interpretation is overly optimistic.
Here are the relevant pages:
"Azuki's not calculating, she's just being a girl. She's naturally absorbed the idea that it's feminine to be graceful and well-mannered. And that girls should be serious, but not too smart. She was born with the ability to sense that being too smart isn't cute."
"She's thought since birth that getting married is what makes a girl happy. And until then, no even after she gets married, she wants to be graceful and cute. Because it's not calculated, it makes her 100 times smarter than Iwase, the girl with the best grades in our class."
[picture of Iwase with an annoyingly snobbish look on her face] "She's got the best grades of all the girls in our class, and the fact that she's proud of it repulsive. I think she's stupid."
Takagi is basically stating his belief that a smart girl is one who conforms to societal expectations of feminine behavior. He praises Azuki because she has unconsciously internalized the sexist beliefs of the society around her. He stresses multiple times that she is "not calculating" - she simply naturally conforms to a society that expects girls to be cute, humble, not to smart, and pursue careers that an androcentric society has deemed acceptable for females. The way he describes it, this sort of conformity is some sort of innate talent. A virtue, almost. They have a saying in ancient China, you know? "For women, a lack of knowledge is virtuous." This is exactly that kind of barbaric backward thinking.
Takagi praises Azuki precisely because she does not consciously think about or work towards being feminine. She just naturally "is" a girl. If anything, Azuki is the one who is blindly moving forward on her path simply because she feels, instinctively, that it's what a girl should do. "I can only assume that she naturally chose voice acting because that's a common dream for girls these days, and she's enjoying having such a dream. She doesn't feel pressure about the future like we do." "Because she's a girl?" (More sexism. Yes, she's a girl so she doesn't feel the pressure, even though being a seiyuu can be as much or even more stressful than being a mangaka, and later chapters in Bakuman show this explicitly.)
In the end, everything good about her is tied back to the fact that she's naturally gravitated towards the good old ideal of an male chauvinistic society of what the ideal girl should be like. Another implication about this is that basically her gender is the only major factor influencing her personality. Gender determinism, anyone?
In short, Takagi is praises her simply because she has a natural talent for conforming to gender stereotypes. To what society believes a girl should be like.
On the other hand, Iwase, who is "booksmart", as you put it, is called "stupid" because she is proud of her good grades, which is a completely reasonable thing to do. Because she does not conform to the ideal of "cute girls shouldn't be too smart", she is labeled as "stupid". And look how the creators choose to portray her. Snobbish, shallow, unreasonably obsessed with Takagi, an utter bitch. Her bitchiness is in direct proportion to her talent - in fact, her talent is why she's so bitchy - the creators obviously believe that extremely talented and intelligent girls cannot possibly be cute, and so they portray her in an extremely negative light.
This is not about just what is happening in story. This is about how the creators are deliberately choosing to set up the characterization and the story in a way that conveys the aesop which says: "Girls, be good girls and conform to what society wants you to be, and you'll be happy. If you're very intelligent, don't show that, because if you do, well, that automatically makes you an evil bitch who will never find happiness because you're such a bitch."
"Maybe I'm just a generous person, but I didn't really read it like that. Rather than rewarding one girl for acting dumb and feminine while punishing the other for entering the "intelligent" world of men, I saw it as praising one for knowing exactly what she wants and how to get it while dismissing the other for not thinking through the consequences of her actions (ie: being a social outcast). Maybe it's a bit conformist for trying to work within the system rather than change it, but as a pure measure of intelligence I would agree that someone who finds happiness in mediocrity is smarter than someone who blindly reaches forward without thinking about what they'll get out of it.
Basically it's "she's happy and she worked towards it as she knew how" versus "she's unhappy and doesn't even know why, even though she's booksmart". "
I think we both agree on the same basic points. It's just that you're at it from a more forgiving point of view. I am of the opinion that by looking at it that way, you are implicitly acknowledging Takagi's attitudes as reasonable and that Azuki should indeed be lauded and praised for being conformist, and that Iwase really is stupid for being so proud of her good grades as a female.
Is that what you believe? Your post implies that you believe that females who conform to society's expectations of them and remain mediocre but happy are more intelligent than someone like Iwase. You believe that girls, if they're smart, should act like they're stupid because if they do well on their tests like Iwase they'll end up being social outcasts (in that particular society). You don't really believe that, do you?
Another thing that goes against your argument is that I feel Iwase knows exactly what she wants, and getting good grades is her way of moving towards that goal. I don't think being a social outcast makes her unhappy. Social acceptance doesn't seem to be what she wants. All she wants is Takagi to acknowledge her intelligence, and acting dumb is counterproductive towards achieving that goal.
I think one assumption that you're making is that social acceptance and conformity to gender roles is essential to happiness. Iwase seems perfectly happy - in her own way - without those things.
How about Takagi goes through Character Development and acknowledges Iwase as not "cute", but deseving of true praise and respect. Kawaii implies elicitng a feeling of protectiveness. A pround, strong, empowered person usually doesn't have that effect, nor wants to. To a Japanese, attractiveness practically equals cuteness (and youth).
As for the bitchiness and overcompetitive attitude, I used to be Iwase to the smartest girl in my class, so I can understand her behaviour, it's not really gender-based (I'm a male BTW).
Excellent analysis BTW. I love my life, thanks to TV Tropes.
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