February 25th, 2013


On Negima

Kodansha USA has updated their "new releases" section to include everything up through June, and that includes Negiho!. Tadah! For those who don't know, Negiho! is a brief Negima! parallel universe series where Negi is an adult, and instead of teaching middle school, he teaches preschool. Some people might think that if there's anything more disturbing than a Ken Akamatsu series, it's a Ken Akamatsu series that takes place in a preschool, but this one is really very innocent. There is one instance of a girl suddenly losing her clothes, but there are like fifteen chapters, so only one instance is pretty good, ratio-wise, and considering it's Negima.

Speaking of Negima...I have a big jumble of thoughts. The other day, like maybe a couple months ago?, we were reading a thing on the internet where Negima! got brought up, and one of the commentators in the article said she thought of Ken Akamatsu as the devil. Of course we understand where she's coming from (we have read Negima, after all), but we had to consider the hypothesis. Naturally, our hypothesis about the hypothesis is that it came about because of Akamatsu's apparent objectification of women at nearly every turn. I mean seriously, why can't any female character ever stay clothed?

On the other hand, there's the Bechdel test, which, according to Wikipedia, is used to identify gender bias in fiction. We end up thinking about it occasionally, because people bring it up online a lot, and so we were thinking about it when we were working on Negiho!, which passes the Bechdel test all over the place. Sure, there are the fighting-over-Negi chapters, but the majority of the chapters involves the girls talking about each other, with practically no male involvement. Negima! proper has a lot of scenes that pass the test as well, and so the thought occurred to us, "You know, when your feminist test is consistently passed by Negima!, of all things, it might be time to get a better feminist test."

But then we thought about it some more, and we thought about how another complaint about the poor portrayal of women in fiction has to do with the very narrow range of female personalities presented. Negima! has thirty-one female characters right off the bat (not counting Anya or Nekane or Shizuna), and from the very beginning, Ken Akamatsu said he was trying to give them each a unique personality. You have outgoing girls, shy girls, shameless girls, athletic girls, domestic girls, smart girls, not-so-smart girls, boy crazy girls, the opposite of that, kick-butt girls, timid girls, shallow girls, girls that seem timid but obviously have a lot of inner strength, etc. etc. etc.

So then we thought, "Yeah, Ken Akamatsu can't keep any clothes on them, but he definitely seems to think of women as people rather than objects." Not that we're condoning the constant stripping, ugh.

Anyway, then the whole brony thing came up, and we thought about it even more. We seem to live in a world where men must shun anything that might...okay, it's like girly things are poison oak, and if you touch it, it puts its evil girly oil on you, which will give you a horrible, painful, itchy rash. (Women, of course, are immune, but they tend to avoid girliness anyway, because when you get peanut oil on your hands, you have to wash them before shaking hands with someone who's deathly allergic to peanuts.) And so we have people mocking bronies for liking worthwhile entertainment something girly.

On the other hand, we've seen hints that at least some bronies spend time debating, for example, which of the My Little Ponies in Friendship is Magic is the most slutty. You see what they did? They sexed it up, which, based on our (possibly erroneous but extremely aggravating if correct) observations of society, is what makes it okay to like things. Especially if you're a man. It's like that joke about how to impress a woman (do all these fancy things, wine her, dine her, flowers, chocolates, etc.) and how to impress a man (show up naked, bring beer (beer optional)).

So that's pretty much what Ken Akamatsu does. He takes his "girly" love comedies (that involve women being powerful, and men being the kind of man a woman would want) and makes the girls naked, so that more men will want to read. In that sense, you could say he's really a very twisted ambassador for feminism. Maybe someday the girls will get to keep their clothes on.

Today I'm thankful for getting to translate Negiho! (we feel like we did a really good job on this one!), having an extra box of cereal, getting to watch Lady and the Tramp last night, getting to read today, and the photographic stylings of our Nephew Logan.