Monday, June 13, 2011

Controversy Week: LGBT Issues in Tokusatsu

Before I begin this post, if you have read my blog and are familiar with my opinions and beliefs, I am for gay rights. Everyone deserves the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and who you love shouldn’t play a part in it. I’m not going to explain my own orientation, but just so you know, I’m surrounded each day with people of all orientations. I know that sounds cliché, like the awkward saying “some of my best friends are gay.” Which is what people say when they meet someone who is attracted to their same gender. It’s a really bad thing to say, but I actually study with people of all orientations, so I get pissed when someone says they “don’t like the gays.” And I’ve met people in the fandom who say that. One kid on actually said that in his profile, but he favorited one of my stories, so I can’t mention his name.

If you are uncomfortable around gay people, you shouldn’t be. Homosexuality is not a germ. And if you meet someone who is gay, they aren’t going to flirt with you or grope you. Heterosexual people don’t do that either. And not all gay guys are effeminate. In fact, some straight guys are effeminate. And not all lesbians are man-like. And some girls can be manlike and not gay. And just because a person crossdresses does not mean they’re gay or they are transgender.

Many times on TV people will crossdress for comedic reasons (especially in sentai). Like the guys in Monty Python.

Like the rest of the world, Japan is still warming up to the idea of gay marriage. There are hate crime laws concerning gay people, and in some prefectures you can get a civil union. But gay marriage isn’t legalized (I think).

However, there are same-sex host clubs, and there is a famous one with girls who dress up as male hosts, some of whom are straight, some of whom are transgender, some of whom are gay. In the world of anime, there is the yaoi genre which has gay men, and there is another one with gay women.

There are openly gay characters in manga too. The best example is Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune in Sailor Moon, who are an “out” lesbian couple. Unfortunately, they still fill the stereotypical lesbian couple gender roles: One is masculine and the other one is feminine.

In prime-time drama, there are shows concerning LGBTQ issues. A great example is “Last Friends” in which one of the characters, Ruka, is in love with her friend from high school, Michiru. As well, Ruka can be considered transgender because she views herself as a man, and wants to begin the medical process, but is struggling to decide. Unfortunately, the couple doesn’t get together, and they fall into the same stereotypical couple roles: Michiru is feminine, and very docile, and Ruka is masculine, although Ruka may not fall into the L category and may fall instead into the T category.

There are still some negative attitudes. A great example would be the wrestler “Hard Gay” who dresses in a leather outfit. He is straight in real life, and is playing a negative gay stereotype in the wrestling ring.

In the world of tokusatsu, there are openly gay characters, bordering or ambiguous characters, and fan pairings.

In Kamen Rider there has been one openly gay character, Kyosui Izumi, from Kamen Rider W, a member of NEVER, and one of the villains. It is noted that he is played by Genki Sudo, a Japanese MMA who is married. So far there haven’t been any reports of openly gay actors in tokusatsu, unless I haven’t truly looked.

Speaking of Kamen Rider W, it can be seen with homosexual undertones: two men join together…

We have Kamen Rider Drake from Kamen Rider Kabuto, who is a make-up artist, but is straight.

As well, there are characters who may or may not be gay. And there are some effeminate characters who fans may consider to be gay. However, there hasn’t been any lesbian characters, or masculine female characters. I’m not sure if there has been a bi character either, but let me know if there is.

In sentai there hasn’t been an openly gay male or an openly gay female. The closest thing we have is Wolf and Kit from Flashman, who some say are lovers, although I haven’t seen their connection (Flashman hasn’t been fully subbed yet). But I welcome it. Although I’m bordering a bit because they are essentially a cat and a dog and that is bordering on a whole other topic that I will not get into.

There have been some effeminate males who some fans like to label as gay. I’m talking about our favorite hairdressers: Kyosuke/Battle France and Kazu/Kirinranger.

Men can be hairdressers. That doesn’t mean they’re gay. And men can be effeminate or stylish but that doesn’t mean they’re gay either. Although they can be considered metrosexual. I think my two examples border on that. Being a hairdresser is actually a great way to pick up chicks, and Battle France was often flirting with his customers. He’s also a total flirt. He would be flirting and hanging out with Diane during her tenure as Miss America.

I haven’t seen Kazu with women, but I think he’s a great example of a man who might border on metro. Metrosexual by the way is a relatively new term and doesn’t imply sexual orientation at all. Most metrosexual males are straight.

I can think of female characters who are man-like but haven’t been viewed as lesbian, so I don’t have to do a post for them.

If a character in a tokusatsu series crossdresses, its usually because it’s funny, men in dresses are funny, especially if they are extremely masculine, tall, muscular, or serious.

Now onto slash pairings. This is controversial regarding the fandom. Some are for it, some are against it. I’m for it as long as there is some proof. Unfortunately, some people will pair them together just as they do a straight pairing (because they’re cute together, or it would be funny, or they are opposites, therefore they should be together, or she is the pink one, she should be with red, instead of the yellow one). You’re wasting paper if you’re doing that. As well, people will jump to conclusions if there is one second of what they view as homoerotic interaction between them. As well, some are paired together if they have a brother-like relationship (Like Domon or Sion, Domon of which already has a canon ship, and his relationship with Sion is blatantly like a brother relationship, or Gunpei and Hanto)

The following are the most popular and viable (in my opinion) slash pairings that would work. Usually they are from the later sentai, and the ones from the earlier ones aren’t that viable.

Kakeru and Gaku: Hero and Lancer is one of the popular pairings. Now, this might apply to the whole opposite attracts BS which I denounced, but it doesn’t. They are Hero and Lancer, but that doesn’t mean they are total opposites. A major theme in the series is Kakeru and Gaku’s growing friendship. Gaku hated Kakeru at the beginning for stealing his role as the leader of the Gaorangers., a role that he has handled for a year, and now, he’s demoted to seconded in command. Gradually, he warmed up to the friendly and optimistic Kakeru, and Kakeru still valued Gaku greatly as his second-in-command. They frequently battled together against the Orgs. The last battle centered on the fact that they finally said their real names out loud. They previously had referred to themselves as their colors, and Gaku finally said, “It was my idea, but forget it, I am Gaku Washio!” and he gives into Kakeru’s idea. At the end, Gaku even gets a bird and takes it to Kakeru’s office. And the beginning shot during the ending credits is Kakeru and Gaku walking together, gradually the other members joining them. This tension can be seen as sexual tension sometimes, and they both are protective over each other, and gradually become partners. This slash pairing is viable and popular. There needs to be more pictures of them online, though.

Ban and Houji: It’s kind of the same as Kakeru and Gaku. Houji is usurped as his role of  team leader, and it is given to the hot-blooded Ban. Ban and Houji gradually become friends. “Aibo” is the important phrase here. Houji hated being Ban’s “Aibo” but then he warmed up to it. Houji then became extremely upset when Ban referred to Kai in the VS as his “aibo.” This is a popular and viable slash pairing, and more well-known.

Takeru and Ryuunosuke: Note: this has nothing to do Ryuunosuke dressing up as a woman. He is a kabuki dancer, and his specialty is female roles. That doesn’t influence this pairing. What influence it is Ryuunosuke’s devotion to Takeru, and his attitude when Genta came in. Ryuunosuke’s devotion to Takeru may be over the top, it may be loyalty, it might be humility, but it can appear as something more. This is a good stalemate to call during arguments between Takeru/Mako and Takeru/Kotoha fans. Fans of this will also use Chiaki and Takeru (which sounds somewhat viable) and Genta and Takeru as a factor in fics: a plot device or an obstacle for the Fire and water ship.

Mako and Kotoha: This is another stalemate I like to call during arguments. Kotoha looks up to Mako as a sister, and tries to be like her. She even asked if she could replace Mako in the infamous wedding episode. Takeru, Mako, and Chiaki all were extremely effected during the soul-stealer episode. But the best evidence for Kotoha’s admiration for Mako bordering on something more is the OV. The Shinkengers each revealed a bit of their unconscious in each of their movies (Chiaki wants to be the one to save Takeru, Ryuunosuke secretly wishes he was the Lord, Mako wants to be a singer, Genta is unconfident about his sushi). Kotoha’s sequence can be seen as a love for Mako, or an inspiration, or a love for Takeru (if you want to, I can explain how Kotoha’s movie sequence can be seen as evidence for her feelings for Takeru as well, or you can check out “I Trust You,” the Takeru/Kotoha community) One thing to note, the camera does linger on Takeru before panning to Mako as “the one she truly admires”. Kotoha’s sequence is a parody of the anime my sister likes (keep in mind, I’m familiar with the genre, but I’m not into it), teen anime. Girl goes to a boys’ school and disguises herself or vice versa. Kotoha wants to be with Shiraishi-kun. She’s about to tell her how much she admires “him.” This can be considered admiration, however, Kotoha starts to get little hearts in her eyes, and the screen becomes all fuzzy…. And then to Kotoha’s horror, the Shinkenguys reveal themselves as women. Now, Takeru and Chiaki are able to pull it off, but Ryuunosuke and Genta look hilarious because they are too tall, and have to wear turtlenecks to cover their Adams’ Apple. (Takeru does too, but he looks more feminine than them) and they disguised themselves to go to the boys only school to be with “Shiraishi-kun” as well. Kotoha looks visually disturbed, either because she’s shocked at the sight of the Shinkenguys in Drag, or because she realizes that everyone else loves Mako too. Despite that, Mako and Kotoha do have a subtle following, and this is the primary example of LesYay in sentai but it doesn’t compare too---

Gokaiger Hug Puddle: People have been shipping the Gokaigers since the beginning of the show. There are so many slash pairings. Marvelous/Joe, Marvelous/Don, Marvelous/Basco, Joe/Cid, Joe/Don (I don’t really see that one) and Luka/Ahim. Luka/Ahim is probably my favorite, and is a great stalemate to call again. (But Marvelous/Luka all the way!). There are many scenes that can be seen to have homosexual undertones. But really, the Gokaigers are probably one of the strongest sentai teams in terms of unity: they all truly love and care for each other, and whether the love is familiar or platonic can be ambiguous. So I guess all five of the team will date each other interchangeably, or have a friends with benefits thing, I’m not sure… okay, that sounded kind of weird, didn’t it?

Like I said, there are no openly gay tokusatsu characters that I know of, however, that doesn’t mean that they deal with LGBTQ issues. Some of them have been in movies focusing on LGBTQ issues. A great example would be one of my favorite actors, Kei Horie (this has nothing to do with the slash pairing, BTW), who wrote and directed an indie movie entitled “Gay Lovers.” No, it’s not an adult movie, but it’s a movie about a person struggling with his sexual identity.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this, and I hope you learned something.


  1. Nice list, but I'm surprised that of the same-sex fan shippings, the Jasmine/Umeko debate isn't there. Yes, Umeko ends up dating Sen after the season finished, but her interaction with Jasmine pretty much confirmed their TVtrope of "Romantic Two-Girl Friendship".

  2. Wow, quite the post, ThatChick. Good job! ^__^

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  4. If we're talking about tokusatsu in general, there are pretty strong "vibes" between Taiga and Wataru (Kamen Rider Kiva), Yaguruma and Kageyama (Kamen Rider Kabuto), and Gotou and Date (Kamen Rider OOO) - often similar to the shippy moments that the canon straight couples get.

    Also don't forget Hanto and Gunpei in Go-onger, highly slashable! On the subject of tokusatsu actors being involved in LGBT-themed movies, many of them have done BL, including Hidenori Tokuyama (Go-on Gold) and Yasuka Saito (BoukenBlack) who appeared together in "Ai no Kotodama" which has been praised for giving the same-sex couple a happy ending for once

  5. Further to the above:

    There certainly are "masculine" female characters in tokusatsu, or at least who would be considered masculine by Japanese standards. The best example I can think of is Natsumi in Carranger, but there are others. We just haven't seen one in a long time because Toei knows how much money it can make by marketing actresses as idols.

    I would also say there is a lot of homophobia in English-speaking fandom. There's a lot of bashing of characters that fans think are "too girly" (such as Alata from Goseiger and Philip from Kamen Rider W) and people reacting hysterically to the merest mention of slash. It seems that some fanboys think this is a way to make themselves look "manly" - that would also explain why there is so much sexism in the fandom