From the works of Osamu Tezuka and Rumiko Takahashi to contemporary hits like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Blue Period, anime and Manga have had a playful relationship with gender and sexual identity for many decades. As with any form of expression or representation, there have been flattering and unflattering portrayals of queer characters and gender non-conformists within anime and manga. I won’t attempt to decide who’s doing it right or wrong in this article– I simply wish to highlight a trend that I’ve noticed in the slate of of 2022 anime and why I think it’s exciting.
There are three popular anime series currently streaming that all feature androgynous male characters. These shows are Sabikui Bisco, Sasaki and Miyano, and Requiem of the Rose King. The genres within these anime range from post-apocalyptic action adventure, to romance, and historical fantasy. What’s exciting is that these shows have a level of universal appeal that can speak to anyone regardless of where they lie on the sexual or gender spectrum.
Simply put, anime means a lot to its fanbase and to see anime embrace androgyny means the world to us. This has been a difficult article to write because it brought back memories of a time in recent history where being male with an effeminate side made you a target for harassment. Not everyone can express their feminine side safely in reality so it helps to have an animated world that’s free from the rules, restrictions and biases of the real world.
To quote Nagisa Shiota, the protagonist of Assassination Classroom, “When you spend your whole life being invisible, it’s something to feel like you’re being seen.” Nagisa is an example of a character who makes androgyny look sexy, badass, and cool and I’m happy to see more characters like this in popular anime shows.
I chose to do this article as part of Adult Animation Revolution because anime is changing Western animation. Those who grew up on anime are now running their own shows and making their own films. As a result, we’re seeing a rise in American animation with a focus on long-form sophisticated storytelling that explores complex mature themes. I hope that the popularity of anime that feature androgynous and queer characters will give rising creators the courage to express themselves in their work.