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Why are so many of my favourite anime homoerotic?

When I saw this search term come up recently, I thought ‘oh look, another strange, Hetalia inspired search term ending up on my blog’. But instead of being directed to Hetalia episode 5428, they were directed towards my top 30 anime. What’s more disconcerting is that they probably found what they were looking for. My top 10 that includes Death Note, Gankutsuou, Code Geass, Durarara, Berserk and Samurai Champloo, all series that have more than their fare share of homoerotic tension if viewed from a certain angle.

So….why? Why are a lot of my favourite anime littered with large yaoi fangirl fanbases? Forget Hetalia for a second. Hetalia is a female version of moe. Why do the likes of Durarara, Death Note, Code Geass etc. attract both myself and yaoi fangirls? Well, the first and obvious answer people would come up with would be that I am, in fact, a women. Now that’s quite an easy thing to check the answer to aaaaand…nope, I’m male. The second answer people could come up with is that I am gay. For the sake of research, let’s test this theory.

Nope, not doing anything. Now a women, upon viewing this picture, would feel her nipples go hard. A homosexual man would get an erection. Myself? No erection (and in case you were wondering, no, my nipples aren’t hard either). Now time to test another picture.

Pretty hot stuff. Women upon viewing this picture would probably close the browser window, or perhaps critique Eri’s taste in lingerie. As for myself, I’m displaying the typical bodily reaction a male would upon being sexually aroused.

But maybe the reason I like these sorts of anime has nothing to do with sexual preferences! I know, it’s shocking to think but maybe it’s true. Perhaps the reason I like these anime with homoerotic tension is because they’re the only anime that have any sort of decent male character relationship dynamics.

Think of what attracts yaoi fangirls to a certain pairing for a second. Beyond the typical hot guys and they happen to exist in the same universe (sometimes even that’s not a requirement). The two male characters have strong feelings for each other. Whether it be interest, friendship, loathing, fascination or any other type of emotion that means both characters find themselves thinking about the other frequently. There’s a spark between the two that make them fascinating to watch together. There’s a fantastic tension between the two when they’re together. To use our favourite Sushi Chef’s phrase, the two have a ‘complex’ about each other that draws them together.

This type of relationship can happen between a male character and a female character as well, but in these cases it’s quite clearly implied many times that the two have romantic feelings for each other. It’s incredibly rare to find a male/female relationship dynamic that isn’t romantic that has anywhere near the same tension as a romantic relationship would have.

What about female/female character dynamics? I’m afraid I’m drawing a blank on that one. Maybe it’s because I’m a man but I never find these friendships, hatred or any sort of fascination between the two ever that interesting to watch. While there may be one interesting character in the relationship, the other is often this do-good girl who runs around with a smile on her face, ever intent on being helpful or moe or whatever.  The other female character has a passing interest in the other, usually with one hand on their hip, a wry smile and saying “you’re an interesting person”. OK, that’s a gross overgeneralisation, but there doesn’t seem to be that much proper exploration of female/female character dynamics.

I really tried to think of a female duo I enjoyed watching, but none of my favourites threw up anything. Hellsing has a fantastic character dynamic between Alucard and Integra, as well as Alucard and Victoria (in the original Hellsing that is. Not Ultimate. Ultimate sucks balls), but nothing between Integra and Victoria. Black Lagoon? You’d think Revy and Balalaika would be interesting to watch but there’s no spark there. Ayanami and Asuka? Nope. Tessa and Kaname? Nope. Yoko and Nia? Nope. Anything in School Rumble? Eri and Mikoto are rather interesting but there’s certainly no spark there.

Even take some classic examples people might use. Haibane Remnei with Raki and Reki. Nope, I never found them interesting to watch together. I was much more fascinated by the world than the characters. Azumanga Daoih and the two teachers? They were fun but that was about it. Mai HiME? Hugely boring cast of characters so much so that I can’t remember there names, let alone whether they had interesting relationships. Minami-ke siblings? Chiaki and I AM BOSS were fun to watch but again, nothing doing. In fact, the only female/female character dynamic I could come up with that I enjoyed watching was the Noir pairing of Mireille and Kirika. They were fascinating to watch together and watch their relationship slowly change throughout the series.

But that’s it on the female/female character dynamic side. Male/Female there’s Horo and Lawrence, Nodame and Chiaki, Jinto and Lafiel, Senjogahara and Arararagi, Murasaki and Shinkurou, Sagara and Kaname. Male/Male character dynamics there’s Light and L, Shizuo and Izaya, Mugen and Jin (love the unspoken conversations that went between these two throughout the anime), Simon and Kamina, Reinhard and Yang (they rarely ever meet each other, but the presence of the one is always on the others mind), Vash and Wolfwood.

Or maybe I’m not looking in the right places. As you can probably tell from most popular search engine term being ‘durarara episode 24′ I originally started writing this post almost 3 month ago. Since then, I’ve stumbled across a series that gives evidence contrary to what this post says.

Noizimi, the guys who put up legal streams of Irresponsible Captain Tylor that is actually available in my country, put up the first two episodes of MariMite. Within 5 minutes of the first episode I saw everything that bores me about anime. It was a bunch of girls being insufferably nice to each other in its near purest form. An all-girls catholic school where nobody is allowed to move quicker than a light stroll. Where female/female character dynamics are on the menu for the rest of eternity. Yet I reached the end of the episode and found I didn’t hate the thing. It took me until the second episode before I discovered why. When the girls were talking about leaves falling and their favourite type of nuts, it’s as boring as any other ‘bunch of girls being insufferably nice to each other’ anime out there. But the rest is politics in the guise of a yuri anime. They hide harsh put downs as polite rebukes. The characters are fascinated by each other and find their minds constantly stuck on that other person. Unlike the many other shows with a Mary Sue leads or moe girls, these characters are actually interesting to watch together.

So maybe female/female character dynamics are as fascinating as male/male character dynamics. I’ve just yet to watch those anime that do it well yet.

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44 Comments

  1. Posted September 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    this post turned out to be about yuri.
    Well, since I am a female and is not really keen with the whole female/female idea, I rarely think up any pairing while watching an anime. But yeah, strong dynamic characters are often matched up together because they have that certain chemistry around each other which causes sparks to fly. You mentioned several good examples. Just because you noticed it doesn’t mean that you’re gay or automatically made you a female. That kind of thinking is too typical to be used nowadays, don’t you think?

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      Hey, MariMite isn’t yuri! It’s just a bunch of girls who happen to like rubbing their hands softly over one another. Nothing suspect there, no siree.

      I think calling people gay is more of a troll or immature reaction than anything. You like Durarara? lol u gay etc

  2. mrwan
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Maybe you’re under any normal circumstances a straight man. But when pushed down at the right place at the right time, you unleash your suppressed homoerotic tendencies….

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      I’m afraid I may have to forgo that specific experiment

  3. Posted September 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Gankut­suou is one of my favorites as well, but what’s your favorite male/male dynamic on the show? Nothing involving Albert I presume. He’s your typical female do-gooder in a man’s body.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Good point. I don’t really have a favourite pairing, beyond watching the Count maniuplate everyone. I was more using it as a perfect example of homoeroticism. As girly as Albert is, I’m sure he would have sucked the Counts grizzled vampire cock is he asked him to

  4. Posted September 18, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    You make an interesting point, and the male-male relationships in anime do tend to be more interesting on average (though I think female-female in implied yuri shows can do the same sometimes.) I wonder if it might be for one of the reasons cited for why women like yaoi shows: that the male characters have more freedom to act in various ways.

    Being that the entire medium comes from Japan where gender roles are still a great deal more conservative than other first world countries, male-male (dramatic and/or romantic) relationships in fiction have characters that aren’t held back or expected to be held back by certain cultural ideas. Surely there are male social roles that get impressed upon male characters, but from what I’ve seen they seem to be far fewer than the constraints upon female characters. Male characters have more freedom and power to act as they wish and in ways that are truer to their character, so they make for more interesting stories.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Took me a few times to get what you were on about…

      So it’s because their characters are held back because the writers are still stuck culturally in not giving female characters full reign to act out in an interesting manner? Nah, that sounds way too far-fetched. It didn’t stop writers in the past from making interesting female/female character dynamics. Just…no, I think you’re clutching at non-existent straws with that one

      • Posted September 18, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

        It doesn’t stop all works from creating interesting relationships, but I still think it explains a lot of the lack of interesting relationships generally. There is what you mentioned about men making most shows, and as someone else mentioned in the comments below mine the male/male relationships can be more equal. Contrast that to how many times you’ve seen female characters been encouraged to ‘act more womanly’ or complimented that “a woman in love looks more beautiful.” It’s there in works as diverse as Kimi ni Todoke, Ookami-san, and Gundam: 08th MS Team. I think there’s a lot more gender expectation and tropes for male/female relationships than male/male. There are tropes and standard ideas that have developed in anime for male/male relationships (and maybe in some shows they get to a point where they limit the characters), but the boundaries for certain types of action in male/male relationships seem larger to me.

      • Posted September 21, 2010 at 3:30 am | Permalink

        @Executive Otaku

        I agree with your analysis – males appear to be allowed more range of action in general, in Japanese life, than women are allowed. This means their characters in anime are frequently more interesting, as they can do more things. I wish there were more interesting female characters in anime, actually.

        @Scamp

        First pic is definitely hot.

        Second pic doesn’t make me want to click away from the screen – it just doesn’t do anything for me. ;)

      • Posted September 22, 2010 at 2:02 am | Permalink

        In fact… um… (quietly saves a copy of first pic to her pics folder) ;)

  5. Posted September 18, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    First anime I think of when you started talking about female/female character dynamics is Simoun.

    Btw the woman/man’s reactions to those 2 pictures are too stereotype it’s silly.

    • Posted September 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Seconded.

      Also – nipples go hard? Uh, not really the physiological reaction I think of as being representative of a woman being turned on…

      • Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Men just want a counterpart for their chin-chin ~

      • Scamp
        Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

        They don’t? I have been grossly misinformed!

  6. Posted September 18, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I’d just say you’re a product of your anime generation. Death Note, Code Geass, Durarara, and Hetalia are all also recent, popular shows, designed to be slashable. I doubt you even like these shows in that way but I think it’s undeniable that those elements exist.

    • Posted September 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      This isn’t a new phenomena, though – see Gundam Wing or Saint Seiya, just to name a couple of older shows with strong male relationships which lit the hearts and minds of ladies on fire for homoeroticism.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Yeah I doubt it’s a current phenomenon either, although I can’t really say so myself because I’ve watched so few pre-2000 anime…

      …I’m working on it. Slowly

  7. Posted September 18, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Well, the first picture did nothing for me, yet I was really turned on by the second picture…

    Hm…

    • Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      I knew I’m not alone!
      See how silly you are, Scamp?

    • Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Doesn’t help that the first one’s playful, but the second is seductive!

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      Well sooorry if Shizuo and Izaya are not enough for you ladies!

      Admittedly I wasn’t going to go searching through piles of yaoi to get the perfect picture of the two. I remember reading somewhere that ShizuoXIzaya pics can’t be all soppy and touchy-feely because that’s not how they’re drawn to each other. It has to be the kind of violent romance. Which is why I went with that pic.

      On the other hand, I’d gladly spend all day going through pics of seductive School Rumble girls =)

      • Posted September 19, 2010 at 2:23 am | Permalink

        Well, if you want to do this properly, you need better yaoi porn. ;)

  8. Ian K
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    My guess on why multi-faceted female relationships are so rare in anime is because most anime is created by guys, for guys, and the creators are apparently unable to capture interesting dynamics intheir female relationships, or else they don’t think that’s what their audience wants.

    MariMite, on the other hand, is created by a woman, who pr presumably has a beter understanding of female dynamics anyways. So maybe their are more of these sorts of relationships in shoji or josei works.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s slightly more believable. However in the handful of female-oirentated, female written shows I’ve seen, I haven’t found any interesting female character dynamics there either. Now obviously I’m not the best to ask because of my dislike of shojo, but the ones I’ve rarely, if ever, seen focus on a female/female relationship.

      Although in writing this comment, one did spring to mind: Nana. I really need to get down and watch that series.

  9. Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Interesting analysis!

    Personally, as someone not particularly interested in shipping… I do indeed find the dynamics interesting, but I more watch the show for the plot and the characters themselves than for any undertones no matter the gender of the characters…

    The shows with the most shipping tend to be the shows with the most interesting characters and therefore the most interesting character interactions. … Unless they just have a whole load of pretty people in which case the characters don’t necessarily need to be interesting. Yes, I admit it. It’s the fanworks that make Hetalia characters interesting, not their canon personalities.

    Not to mention fangirls tend to slash in whatever show they’re interested at the moment, and so more popular shows tend to have more slash. … Or something.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      People simply need to exist to be slashable. Multiply that by how pretty they are, add on another 20% for every time they either meet and add on an extra 50% for whenever they think about the other person.

      Shippers. I will never truly understand what drives them.

  10. blogger
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I generally find that men are more open with their emotions and you do get to see what drives them. With women, it’s harder to depict as most of my friends who are, clearly, female, are much more subtle in their comments. Most of them are polite when being insulting to each other.

    The first picture did nothing for me because I don’t support the pairing.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Ah but that’s exactly what makes MariMite work. It does depict girls being polite while insulting to one another. That’s women at their most devious. Yet that is rarely expressed in anime either. It can do bitchy and good-willed but that polite bitchy seems to beyond most of them.

  11. luffyluffy
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Shizaya doesn’t fucking work, and it’s fangirls piss me off.

    • Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Well, I think its hot, but I don’t think you could ever get them involved romantically and have it be at all convincing.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Hate = Love

    • Posted September 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. The freaking awesomeness that is Shizuo is hot enough on his own. :D

  12. dyxlisa
    Posted September 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    A lot of good points. Interesting male/male character dynamics are definitely why the series you listed above are some of my favorites (such as Berserk, Gankutsuou, Trigun, Gurren Lagann). I rarely find any male/female or female/female dynamics I find engaging, and the same is true for many fujoshi; the male/male relationships are more interesting, passionate, and equal. Though mainly we’ll just say ‘two guys together are hot.’

    Speaking of that, no nipple hardening at the first picture (do people really do that) but definitely smirking. Lots of smirking. Also should mention, a decently sized chunk of my yaoi fangirl compatriots are lesbians or bisexual, and would appreciate both the first and second images. ….just saying! (Why so many lesbians I know are yaoi fangirls is an interesting question.)

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      I think two members of the same sex together is hot for whoever is watching, providing you have the correct sexual orientation to enjoy said pairing.

      But do you really not find male/female relationships interesting? As great as Guts and Griffith, Light and L and Shizuo and Izaya are, none of them hold a candle to Horo and Lawrence, Jinto and Lafiel or Nodame and Chiaki. It’s a totally different kind of relationship though, so I guess I can see why someone might prefer one to the other

      • dyxlisa
        Posted September 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        That’s exactly it–they’re totally different types of relationships. I actually really like Guts and Caska, so it’s really the type of relationship rather than the fact that it’s two guys. Though I do actually find all your male/female examples very charming; Nodame and Chiaki especially are a favorite. However, one of my favorite male/female relationships is Athrun and Cagalli from Gundam Seed, and the first time they met they tried to kill each other. So yeah.

  13. Posted September 18, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the folks who have pointed out that most anime is made my men. I would add, too, that much of anime is made for a male audience, which compounds the matter. There is a real dearth of solid female/female relationships in the medium, something which is actually downright amusing/sad when one considers how much “yuri” has infiltrated everything. But, hey, quantity certainly isn’t quality.

    Revolutionary Girl Utena is a good one for interesting female/female dynamics. Someone is going to force you to watch that one of these days if you don’t sit down and do it yourself first~ I noticed someone mentioned Simoun, and that is a fairly solid option as well. But it is sad that I find myself so hard-pressed to think of any others. I think manga does a better job overall…

    • Scamp
      Posted September 18, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

      Vaguely interesting realisation that shouldn’t have been that surprising: Any interesting female/female character dynamics come from anime that are reputed to have yuri undertones. Obviously when anime provides a sutible fascinating duo, the fans are more than willing to ship the two. In short, I should start searching out anime that have yuri fanart but aren’t yuri themselves.

      I will get to Utena! It’s on my list after Galactic Heroes, which I’m over 2/3 of the way through now

  14. Edvardaz
    Posted September 19, 2010 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    You forgot about the girls of Ga Rei Zero, although it isn’t exactly a great relationship

  15. Posted September 19, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    meh, not all women are yaoi shippers, and i should add that not all yaoi shippers are necessarily turned on by their pairings. for some it’s just moe, and unfortunately i had to have a lolicon explain to me what the difference was between sexually appealing and moe was.

    i love me some good chemistry between characters, no matter the gender, but i always get heavily annoyed when you see romance coming down the horizon in some obvious form, or the pair are obviously implied to be together romantically. i guess that explains my distaste for most romantic anime. i feel it’s a cop out to going in a more original direction and exploring an interesting relationship without them having googly eyes for each other.

    there’s actually lots of good female/female chemistry in some series…it’s just most of those series are shoujo/josei, and in those series, hardly any of them are animated. knowing your track record im not going to go on a recommending spree ‘-’

  16. Posted September 19, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Hmm.
    I’m bi, maybe that explains why I love straight and homosexual pairings. And it explains why I found both the Shizaya and the Eri picture hot. Also I thought there are MUCH better picture’s for that pairing. But I liked how you picked a pictre with a knife. Somehow I only kept the doujinshi where they are having sex while they are beating eachother up or Izaya is threating Shizuo with a knife while Shizuo is handcuffed. Funny when you think about it.
    But don’t forget Scamp, not all women are yaoi-fans, not all women are not aroused by other women, but not all yaoi-fans are bi, as you said not all fans of homoerotic anime are yaoi-fans, not all yaoi-fans would get aroused by their favourite porn, some just get a warm feeling inside or would grin, and not all yaoi fans are women. There are many fudanshi too. Just go to Yaoifangirl/Tropertales in tvtropes. A LOT of fanboys. But not all of them are gay. The most of them are just enjoying a good realationship. And that is again that what you described in your post here. Good job!

  17. smallish
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    ‘Per­haps the reason I like these anime with homo­erotic ten­sion is because they’re the only anime that have any sort of decent male char­ac­ter rela­tion­ship dynamics.’

    Yeah, that pretty much covers it. (Plus, it’s hot.)

    I also like to gripe about a complete lack of female/female dynamics in… well, the vast majority of all tv, but anime does have a particular affliction. It’s probably got to do with the idea that the audience will only be interested in men and the women primarily act as plot devices for the men to act off of.

    Of course, even in shows where the women are actual characters, there tends to be no real spark between two females.

    Eh, let’s just blame it on gender stereotypes and call it a night.

  18. Scamp
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    When I set out to write this post, my only intention was to explain why my favourite anime were so full of apparent homoerotic tension. I certainly didn’t expect everyone to agree with my analysis. If I’d thought this was a more universal trait, I’d have written this post a lot differently.

    Still, you learn something new everyday. I never considered this was more widespread and it was just my totally biased views

  19. Posted September 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Why are so many of my favourite anime homoerotic?

    Coz you’re a great big closet fujoshi, that’s why! :P

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