Hello dear reader. Either you have stumbled upon this blog entry or you read previous posts discussing anime but this is the first in a series examining major female characters involved in my anime education. I quickly realised that by examining the sorts of anime heroines I grew up with that this would turn into a personal journey through anime screened in the UK since the early 90’s.
Like most western kids of the 90’s I didn’t have the sort of choices that are available today so I grew up watching things like Transformers (which I found dull), Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Duck Tales, The Real Ghostbusters and Gummi Bears (which I loved). Also broadcast on British television were anime like Battle of the Planets (Gatchaman), Ulysses 31 and The Mysterious Cities of Gold but I never attributed nationality or cared about it at the time. One day I actually paid attention to the credits for The Real Ghostbusters and Dennis the Menace and saw that the animators had strange names – not American strange but totally different.
My mother informed me they were Japanese. That was probably my first realisation that cartoons could come from countries other than Britain and America (as silly as that sounds).
Anyway, my first real anime were Gatchman and the French/Japanese co-productions of Ulysses 31 and Mysterious Cities of Gold. It was with these that I started to identify anime tropes and aesthetics.
Where are the female characters I keep talking about?
Princess was definitely the first I can remember.
Unlike Yumi and Zia she was not a child. She was an integral part of the team, capable of taking part in the action whilst having the integral role of doing the tech heavy stuff – not as flashy as the lead fighters but important stuff. I remember her dealing with bad guys and using vehicles.
Yumi and Zia were mostly support-role types, healers, thinkers, not quite waif like and too important to disregard, they were kids so they didn’t get heavily involved with the fighting the way the adults did.
Zia was South American – daughter of an Inca high priest, she was kidnapped by Spanish conquistadores and sent to Spain but ended up back in her homeland after being kidnapped by a mercenary named Mendoza who wanted to get to the mysterious city of gold.
She was kidnapped alongside main male protagonist Esteban which seemed to get the balance between male/female right, especially since both had medallions that interlocked… Anyway she ended up travelling through South America evading conquistadores through her wits. She held a key part in the plot although I forget just what it was although a giant golden condor and the final revelations at the end stick in my memory. That said, I can’t remember what she sounded like due to the fact I haven’t watched the series since it was broadcast on the BBC. Which isn’t the same case with the next
Ulysses 31 has stayed with me because it is a distinctive reworking of the Greek legend and was screened on the Jetix cartoon channel recently. Anyway, lead female protag Yumi has a Japanese name and is a blue skinned alien. She was the younger sister of a character and fit the description of physically weak but possessing courage and intelligence. She possessed telepathic powers and although she didn’t get involved with the fighting, she didn’t shy away from danger which fit basic notions of femininity that I had attained.
These last two were closer to my age and I saw them analogous to real life girls because it fit in with my nascent (and rather silly but then I was very young) views on girls – pretty and smart but should avoid violence. I suspect Yumi and Zia inculcated the idea that most female characters are a better fit for non-combat support roles and it wasn’t until the mid-90’s with Moldiver and Robotech that I changed my views. They were distinctive enough to leave a mark on me because I can still remember them. In any case it helped to even up gender numbers, something that seemed intrinsically right without having to think about it.
That’s it for the first part. Tune in next week for the start of the kick-ass females of anime.