Saturday, October 10, 2015

On the Prevalence of Sexual Molestation in Anime — Motivated by Accel World Episode 14

So I just finished watching Episode 14 of Accel World and being thoroughly disgusted, decided to talk about a common portrayal of evil men in anime. This won't be a formal essay so much as a reaction to something I had to sit through just now.

Basically, the stereotypical portrayal of an evil male in anime is one that licks the face of a female character and implies or commits further sexual molestation and rape (and I say further, because licking someone against their will is sexual molestation).

Noumi Seiji

Now, I fully agree that this is a "good" representation of "evil", but it is prevalent in all levels of anime and nearly always, the female becomes docile even if she was not a docile character previously. This complete surrendering pisses me off almost more than the molestation. And it's not that I am blaming the female, but rather, I am blaming the supposedly male writers for stripping the female of any agency or power of their own. I understand that different people will react differently to the situation, and someone not fighting back does not give someone the right to continue the abuse, but it seems almost universal; at least to the point that I can't think of a single anime where it resolved itself in a way that I found appropriate. Also, unless the show is about that, it almost always comes out of nowhere and just all of a sudden the girls are victims and the guys are either equally helpless or ignorant until it is time to overcome the bad guy.

There is a cultural aspect to molestation in Japan that is one of the worst aspects of Japanese culture to be honest. It seems as though women almost expect to be molested and are certainly put down even more than they are in America. Is it that in America we pretend that it's not that bad? Or is it an even more egregious sexism in Japan than we have here? I don't know and I'm not particularly qualified to speak as more than an observer.

If you look at the stereotypical classical representation of a Japanese girl in anime, she's nearly always demure, polite, accommodating, whereas American girls are loud, rude, and brash, and not afraid to go after what they want. Yet, both stereotypes become nothing but victims when an evil male chooses them.

Because I have been enjoying Accel World so much, I went on Wikipedia to search for this particular evil male and see how his arc ends. I won't spoil it totally for people, but it appears as though it will be a few episodes of unsettling, horrible behavior and the girl being victimized before being resolved in a somewhat progressive manner. But WTF? What does this storyline do besides make us hate the characters and the episodes they are in?

I'm not going to say it is ineffective writing, because I, as the viewer to this, feel as powerless as I know people feel in these situations (albeit without the futuristic virtual world construct), but with the characters as we know them in Episode 13, there is no reason why they need to have this asshole come in and upturn everything. I wouldn't be surprised if the writer's room went something like,
"Let's have everyone be pathetic and ineffective and make our audience hate our main characters!"
"And then, in the same episode where we have some relatively inoffensive fan service that really highlights how close the characters are more than any sort of sexual undertone, let's have those characters be sexually molested so everyone can feel like a complete creep for having fun with a lighthearted moment of the show."
"Wow, I can't believe how awesome we are at coming up with this!"
I'm sure I'll eventually start watching Accel World again, especially since I know how the arc resolves, but why would I want to sit through that arc at all? So far, the second half of the season has been slow as molasses compared to a breakneck first half of the season. Maybe I won't go back to Accel World after all.