I finished watching Backflip!! not that long ago. It’s June right now. I liked it. Maybe my review for the show is out already! There is one aspect of the show I didn’t talk about it much in that review. It’s not a very important part of the show. It’s about Asawo Kurikoma.

Asawo is the manager of the rhythmic gymnastics team and pretty much the only female character in the show. Sports! anime are sort of that way. But the thing that sets her apart in my mind is this one particular scene. She designs the performance costumes for the team and she had just brought the latest batch over to the guys. In their excitement, half of them begin the strip in order to try them on right away before someone points out that there’s still a lady in the room. At which point they all get terribly embarrassed and apologize profusely. Guffaws!

I kept a screencap from that scene just for this post! Professional!

But in this scene, rather than shriek or get embarrassed herself, Asawo pulls out her phone and starts taking pictures of the attractive and buff shirtless dudes with unabashed enthusiasm. I get it, it’s part of the joke. Just a little throwaway moment.

And it’s never mentioned again. Nor is Asawo characterized as particularly sexually aggressive or anything of the sort. It’s just a normal little joke at the expense of the main cast with a normal supporting character. Nothing special at all. And it’s so special…

See up until recently, the only accepted standard would have been for the girl to scream in confused horror and maybe hide her face behind her hands. Run out of the room or stay rooted there in embarrassment. The moment would have been more traumatizing for her than for the boys. Because anime girls are pure, innocent and chaste and the very idea of a man’s body is terrifying to them. Otherwise, they are depraved perverts. No middle ground!

But that’s not what Asawo is. She’s a very normal girl that just happens to think hot guys are…hot. Like most other very normal girls. I’ve been waiting to see that in anime for a long time.

reasonable reaction!

I mentioned it now and again when reviewing My Dress-Up Darling. Marin is another example of this slow evolution of female sexuality in anime. Admittedly, My Dress-Up Darling is based on a very ecchi manga. Marin’s interest and open mind with regards to explicitly sexual material is part of the ecchi appeal of the character. But in the adaptation, the ecchi parts were very toned down while Marin’s attitude remains generally unchanged.

Marin is aware of her own sexuality and rather than ashamed or scared by it she is excited and happy to explore. But she isn’t defined by that sexuality either. Marin isn’t just a sex-crazed pretty girl and she isn’t just a fanservice character. That’s one of the big reasons she appealed to so many anime fans during her season. Marin is a full-fledged character, a particularly charming and slightly too perfect but otherwise normal girl. She also happens to have sexual desires and both she and the show thinks that’s perfectly normal. It’s something we’ve always seen in male characters but when you stop and think about it, it’s fairly rare in female characters. At least in anime. I for one am really relishing in the sex-positivity.

I’m not saying there’s no place for pure female anime characters or for openly perverted ones. Quite to the contrary, I think the more variety we have the better. Both for representation and just for crafting diverse and interesting characters. But I can’t be the only one that has noticed that anime has a thing for purity… almost a fetish if you will. And girls in anime are often ridiculed or softly chastised by the narrative, when they don’t fit into that rigid pure framework. And that’s not very fun to watch. It certainly made it rather difficult for me to completely relate to any of them. I’m frekin delightful but I ain’t that pure. I have a feeling I never was. That’s some angelic shit!

and no ne can live up to anime angels!

So seeing Marin happily discuss her passion for eroge games was a breath of fresh air. Yeah, girls do like naughty games. And it seems like that’s a shocker for some people. Sadly, even for some people who aren’t anime characters.

And now, slowly we’re seeing ladies who are more comfortable and aware of their own sexuality even in shows where that has no bearing on the storyline. I am very excited about this. We have been in turn villainizing, ridiculing and mystifying female sexuality for way too long and it has put too much useless stress on young people for generations.

I’m hoping that this trend keeps up and becomes more prevalent if possible. I’m hoping that in a few years, it will be banal to have a sex-positive female character with a complete personality. So common that it’s not even worth mentioning. Until then, we at least are getting more examples!

23 thoughts

  1. Awesome post, I had always had a problem with how women in anime were never supposed to even talk about or reference their sexuality out side of just some kind of some purified ideal of “love.” Of course male characters particularly haram protagonist its portrayed as nomal and comedic to think about ecchi stuff. I think its great that anime is no longer pigeonholing women characters into these idealized version of femineity and are just allowed to be people, who can express their interest in a healthy way. It makes better character and personally it makes me feel less ashamed about my own sexuality. Anyway love your work.

    1. Thank you! I do hope we get a bit more variety in how women express sexuality in anime. It’s bound to make things more interesting

  2. You forgot one of the classic reactions: scream about the guys being perverts and whack them. Because “purity” meets “tsundere.”

    I haven’t noticed this trend, but I am not at all opposed to it! The idea that guys and girls can interact freely without anyone getting destroyed for it, this appeals to me!

    1. Hopefully it will get more widespread. Admittedly I think I’ve noticed it more on media traditionally targeted at ladies

  3. I’ve been seen this uptick too and it’s been pretty enjoyable. Even Blue Box, which isn’t that horny of a manga, has had its female cast being slightly less pure and real when seeing the guys they like with their shirts off or sweating while being in sports competitions. I like it a lot.

  4. The lusty woman is usually set opposite the shy and pure guy who does that shocked and embarrassed and “can’t look” routine for them. So purity is preserved from the male side.

    This reminded me of a scene in “A Little Sister is All You Need” where Nayuta and Myako stumble upon Itsuki naked while he’s working out the scene he’s going to write in his next manga chapter. Myako is shocked, turns away, and calls him a pervert but Nayuta calmly starts snapping pix with her cellphone. Itsuki is as shocked and embarrassed as Myako.

    “Oh, don’t worry. You were just acting out a scene in your novel, right?”

    Needless to say, Nayuta is my waifu in this series. She’s a good person who doesn’t pretend to “purity” because there’s nothing inherently impure about lustiness.

    1. I’m actually not talking about lusty women. Just average women. Like I said, the lusty type has been used forever to appeal to a certain part of the audience but we haven’t seen many women with normal attitudes.

  5. A great post. Out of all the shows you discuss here, “My Dress-up Darling” is the only one I’ve seen but it’s possibly not the best example of the point I’m trying to make, but here goes…

    I hope that this is the beginning of a trend, because the medium would really do itself – and its fans – a huge favour if it appealed to a more diverse audience. So many high-profile titles are aimed at teenage boys, which ignores literally 50% of the potential audience! Just because a large number of existing fans are young, straight, male geeks, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t loads of other potential fans who are non-male, of different ages, sexual/romantic preferences, or perhaps not geeks at all.

    A lot of my favourite shows are the ones that try not to rely on tired tropes, but do unexpected things instead. Getting away from the shallow, unrealistic portrayals of how girls and women look and behave is a really good start. Surely when viewers see a bit of themselves in a character, rather than some unattainable or unappealing stereotype, that character is going to be more popular…and the show is likely to be more popular as a result?

    1. Hopefully that will be the outcome! I get that characters will always be a bit exaggerated but a healthy attitude is always nice to see.

    2. I think broadening target audiences would do a lot for anime fans too. For example Dress Up Darling has the male lead is invested in a hobby that is typically seen as “feminine” and Marin is very comfortable with her interest in ecchi anime which is typically reserved for “masculine” characters. Having characters who divert from the norm is really good for destigmatizing harmless things like being a guy and liking dolls. Personally anime like Renma 1/2 and Sailor Moon really destigmatized femineity for me and made me more open to my feminine side. And now I live as a woman who is much happier than how she used to be.

  6. Agreed, I only saw Dress-Up Darling on this list but I had that feeling about Marin, that she was unusually open about her feelings for a girl in anime.

  7. Oh dear, the purity cult. It’s pervasive all through anime and it’s the dark side of the idol business (which includes anime), where the girls are supposed to voyeur-friendly angels…

    I didn’t watch backflip, but reading your post I’m reminded of the manager in Free. Similar type?

    I’m trying to see a trend. Maybe. I’m not sure. It feels the type is as rare as it always was. My intuition is that sex-positive characters are usually most common in harem shows, where the bulk of the girls fit the purity ideal, but there’s usually one or two who balk the trend. The common archetypes would be the drink loving onee-chan type who likes to tease the younger innocent (prototype: Konno Mitsune/Kitsune from Love Hina – later Rachnea from Monster Musume or Nonko from Yuragi-sou no Yuna san), or the sporty body-conscious genki girl – often tanned – often with many male siblings (can’t think of an example right now – come to think of it, Marin could be derived from that prototype?) Those types tend to be the exception to the default, and they’re not usually protagonist material.

    I wonder how the Rumiko Takahashi shows like Ranma or Urusei Yatsura figure into this (I’ve only ever seen parts of either) – I remember lots of comedic violence, but it doesn’t register as the embarrassment punch of Love Hina in my memory. Unsure.

    Certainly, the rise of idol anime and seinen magical girl shows would have given a push to the purity culture. Maybe CGDCT shows, too?

    Interesting topic.

    1. I find that most of the harem characters I have seen are a bit beyond sex-positive and more sex driven. Their interest in sex is usually an active and important part of their characterization. But I haven’t seen all that many harems. mind you.

      The purity trope certainly isn’t unique to anime but anime does seem to have latched onto it more than most. I wonder why.

      1. Hm, I think you’re right about the first type I mentioned, but not sure about the second, since I can’t think of clear examples. On the other hand, I think the second type is more about body image than sex, maybe? I’m entirely unsure, to be honest.

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