Poster of a human and beastman holding hands, text “let’s hold hands. Animal rights day.” Graffiti says “beastmen must die.”
Poster of a human and beastman holding hands, text “let’s hold hands. Animal rights day.” Graffiti says “beastmen must die.”

In the opening scene of Studio Trigger’s BNA (Brand New Animal), beastman protagonist Michiru hides in breathless silence in an air vent while a group of faceless delinquents defaces a poster nearby. Michiru stares at the poster after they’ve passed on and it’s safe for her to emerge. “Beastmen must die,” the graffiti proclaims.

As with their masterpiece feature film Promare, Trigger has no interest in fucking around with such things as “subtlety.” You know exactly what you’re getting up front, and what you’re getting is an in-your-face allegory about oppression, identity, transformation, prejudice, belonging, all that good stuff.

And, most powerfully for me, about the performative, empty, and dark side of allyship and acceptance. Equally chilling as the violent message of the graffiti above is the poster it’s scribbled on top of. We’ve all seen this poster — generic, simplistic expressions of equality, of tolerance, of acceptance, of teamwork, of camaraderie. Not malicious concepts in the abstract, perhaps; but when juxtaposed with the realities of pervasive hatred and oppression — in this case, starkly, physically juxtaposed, a literal backdrop to hate speech — there’s an all-too-familiar dissonance, a hollow ring of hypocrisy. …

A thought experiment: You’ve taken a mystery novel out of the library, and you’re almost at the end. As you curl up with a nice cup of tea and prepare to read the last chapter, your mind is whirring with theories and questions — you’re pretty sure you’re supposed to think it was the butler, but something about that just doesn’t add up, and why would the author even mention that the archduke had a purple polkadot umbrella too if it wasn’t going to end up being relevant?? You turn the page, breath held in anticipation….. Only to find that some asshole who borrowed the book before you ripped out the ending. …

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Promare, the first feature-length movie offering from Studio Trigger, is one of those things that I first heard of as a gradual tide of tweets I didn’t quite understand. Bits of fanart and references that went over my head; people lamenting the rather limited US release because they’d just driven three hours round-trip to see it and dammit they wanted to go back again. The visual style of the art snippets I saw looked intriguing, a beautiful palette of bright pastels, purple and turquoise playing off each other like the doodles in every one of my middle school notebooks. But… what was this movie, exactly? I’ve admittedly never watched any of Trigger’s shows, that particular flavor of mecha/action romp not being what I usually seek out. Skimming Promare’s Wikipedia page and a handful of reviews led me to feel safe in shrugging it off — full of easter egg references to Trigger’s previous work, they said (okay fine, but not for me); a post-apocalyptic mecha action spectacle about something-something flame mutants… okay, those are literally a dime a dozen in the blurbs for new anime any given season. …

(Warning! This piece contains major spoilers for Promare. Read on at your own risk!)

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Okay, don’t say you haven’t been warned!

The first image of Promare is a triangle constrained inside a rectangle, distorted and maimed as the walls close in around it.

There’s a place for subtlety in art, but there’s also a place for distilled simplicity. And the more I think about Promare the more I feel a burning need to shout from the rooftops about the sheer elegance and power of the visual symbolism of shapes. Triangles — the burnish flames, sparks, broken glass, Lio’s earring, the sharp edges of Lio’s Mad Burnish suit, the triangle mosaics on Lio’s burnish sword, triangular ash floating upward in the triangular firelight, the triangular peaks of a volcano looming. Rectangles — lawns and buildings and city blocks of Promepolis, blocks of ice, the barrel of a freezing gun, cubical elevators, cubical cells, cubical restraints, tiled rectangles of windows and doors, rectangular barriers. The moment I knew I was watching a masterpiece was when I noticed that even the lens flare effects of the sunlight in the rectangular city of Promepolis are rectangular. …

Welcome to the Anigay OP/ED section, in which we will be diving into the wonderful, ridiculous world of anime opening and ending animations. One of my personal obsessions is the myriad ways that anime makes use of these sequences, be it for foreshadowing, symbolism, building aesthetic, highlighting themes, playing with the power of repetition and subversion of expectations, or just being ridiculously beautiful.

To launch this section, and in celebration of summer and associated aquatic activities, we begin with a tour of a strikingly ubiquitous OP/ED trope — drowning, sinking, floating, or generally being underwater. “But Rebecca, can you really write a whole article about OP/EDs of queer anime that involve being underwater? That is…extremely specific,” you may be thinking to yourself. The answer is yes, it is extremely specific; and yes, I absolutely can. In fact there are shows I left out of this article because I got tired of making gifs. What is behind this trend? Does the water represent the oppressiveness of the heteronormative paradigm in which we are all constantly drowning, desperate to let our true identities breathe freely? …

I burst into tears at the end of episode three of Sarazanmai.

Queer storytelling is important to me for so many reasons, both personal and sociological. I spend so much of my energy shouting from the rooftops about all the complex, intricately layered, purposefully ambiguous narrative and linguistic tools that so many creators use to craft queer romances. My favorites are the stories that hide in plain sight under a microscopic veneer of heteronormative assumptions. I love these stories deeply. …

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One of the best depictions of an intense adolescent crush that I’ve ever seen is in the middle of episode 28 of Hikaru no Go. Eighth grader and professional go player Akira Toya has just finished his match in round one of the Young Lions tournament. The camera lingers on Akira as his defeated opponent rushes off toward a noisy crowd across the room. Akira places his basket of stones on the board and closes his eyes, and the sound and color slowly fade from his surroundings. Except for a single sound, a single image: the player seated at the table just behind him, Hikaru Shindo, rhythmically picking up and placing his stones. Each clack of stone on board reverberates in Akira’s mind. …

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“Hime hime, hime, suki suki daisuki!” (From Yowamushi Pedal, ep 1.)

No discussion of the nuances of translating queerness could possibly be complete without diving into the messy, messy world of suki (好き). This slippery little word, taught in first semester Japanese classes everywhere as “like,” as in “I like pizza,” often finds itself sitting in some fuzzy space between the emotions of like and love. This isn’t a huge deal when we’re talking about pizza; but as soon as the emotions are applied to relationships between people, a whole heap of contextual nuance and cultural baggage works its way into the interpretations.

Let me begin by giving you a puzzle. Close your eyes and imagine a romantic moonlit scene, alone with your crush. Suddenly your crush turns to you, with a serious expression, and blurts out a confession of their feelings for you. What phrase do you imagine them saying? There are plenty of choices here; think of a few.

Okay, now imagine a rather different scene: You are playing a life or death game of dodgeball against some pirates inside a video game (look, it happens). You believe you have the power to defeat the evil pirates once and for all, but in order to hit the ball with your full power you need your best friend to be the one holding the ball for you. You have to tell this to your other teammates. …


Rebecca Black

Linguist, mathematician, professor, aspiring translator. Constantly obsessing over the intersections of queerness, narrative, and language.

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