Kirakira 25 is the gayest Precure ever

Episode twentyfive of KiraKira Precure À La Mode is the gayest I’ve seen Precure get.

Kirakira: Akira and Yukari sparkle

Precure is a magical girl series that has run continuously since 2004, each series featuring a new team of friends fighting against evil. From the start there has been a strong lesbian undertone to the series, with even the original Precure clearly being slightly more than just friends. But most of this has been subtext, not entirely spelled out or made completely explicit. KiraKira Precure À La Mode has had the same thing going on ever since Akira (left) and Yukari were introduced, both high schoolers when the rest of the cast was in middle school (as was always the case with Precure), prince and princess of their school, naturally attracted to each other. There had been enough hints given that you could consider it canon that those two are a couple, even if neither had yet admitted it. But in episode twentyfive Yukari and Akira moved beyond this unspoken love and into a proper romance.

Kirakira: real subtle Ichika

And it was all thanks to Yukari’s jealousy and insecurity, so strong she had to use a rival for her hand showing up as an excuse to test Akira. Which in turn got her hoisted on her petard when Akira didn’t respond as expected and all her anxieties she usually kept hidding came out. To which Akira responded in the right way, professing her love while escaping from the villain of the week that showed up just in time for the inevitable transformation scene. It’s a very strong episode, arguably the best episode of the series so far, which makes full use of the characters as they’ve been built up over the past twentyfour episodes. This is clearly something the series has been working towards from the start, not something read into the episode by fans; it’s way too blatant for that and it’s a clear milestone for Precure as a whole, to allow this explicit, queer relationship that needs only a kiss to be completely on a par with a straight relationship as shown in this sort of anime. I actually have a sneaky suspicion that Akira and Yukari were made high schoolers, rather than middle school students, explicitly to make it easier to tell this story, as the age difference probably make it somewhat easier to tell a queer story in what’s still nominally a children’s series.

I may be wrong though, but it hardly matters. What matters is Precure finally moving beyond subtext with its lesbian relationships. As long as they don’t botch it up.

Tenshi no 3p! — First Impression

A teenage hikkimori is saved through the power of cute lolis.

Tenshi no 3P!: pedobait?

I don’t trust this series. I just don’t trust this series. Alarm bells started ringing the moment I read the description on Anichart:

Kyou Mekui is a high school student who tends to skip school due to a trauma in his past. Kyou secretly creates songs using vocal song synthesis software as his hobby. Three girls who just entered fifth grade — the crybaby Jun “Jun-tan” Gotou, the strong-willed Nozomi “Zomi” Momijidani, and the somewhat sleepy Sora “Kuu” Kaneshiro who takes life at her own pace — email Kyou. These three girls, who were raised together like sisters since childhood, want Kyou to help them break into music.

There’s no real reason those girls needing his help should be fifth graders, rather than high school girls his own age, but there has been a minor wave of heartwarming stories starring little children rehabilitating much older people like Usagi Drop or Amaama to Inazuma, so I tried it out to see if it was one of those, or whether it would be something more problematic. The first episode was actually decent, starting off showing Kyou’s daily life and how his nominal class mates think about him, before he’s introduced to the three girls. Even when there are a few dodgy camera close ups of the girls, there are at least no panty shots, but then this shit happens. They ask him to help them plan a concert and in order to entice him, each of the girls says that he can have their way with them and then the episode ends.

Tenshi no 3P!: psyche!

And then in episode two we get the same scene again, but then ha ha it turns out they’re actually talking about their instruments, isn’t that hilarious? So you not only get a pedo joke, but a copout pedo joke, as the show has its cake and eats it too. It doesn’t look like it wants to go the route of oh la la sexy grade school girls harem, but it is clearly comfortable of toying with that route, only to swerve at the last moment. And what with the dress up scene, where each of the girls dresses up as a different kink — gym uniform, school swimsuit, naked apron — most of my trust is gone. Doesn’t help that they’re walking stereotypes either: the shy, cute one, the energetic standoffish one, the sleepy emotionless one. I actually like the central plot setup and it could be decent, but not with all this pedo bait.

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni — First Impression

Quick, who ordered the season of utterly generic trapped in fantasyland anime?

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni: bland

Look at this dude, just look at him. Black hair, bland face, even more bland personality. Is there a more generic protagonist imaginable? Even his clothing, freshly bought in the fantasy world he reincarnated in, looks like a school uniform. Anime viewers may complain about all the Isekai/Trapped in Fantasyland series we’ve gotten the past few years, but the reality is that series like Grimgar, KonoSuba, Re:Zero and even much maligned Swords Arts Online are the cream of the crop. The other ninety percent as covered by Sturgeon’s Law, the series that don’t make it out of the light novel or manga series it started in, is much more like this. Bland, generic and lacking even the bite that SAO did deliver.

Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni: no challenge

I’ve read so many of these series and they’re all exactly like this one. Some hapless fool (always a dude, almost never a girl) gets killed in some sort of accident, God or a reasonable fascimile takes pity on him and reincarnates him in some fantasy world, complete with some god level crack cheat to make up for his troubles. Sometimes he gets to redo his life the hard way, starting from scratch as a baby (as in this season’s Knight’s & Magic (sic)), but usually he’s dumped straight into the world as he was. At any rate, we then get to spent some chapters with him exploring just exactly what his cheat power is, as well as figuring out the inevitable game like status menu, while our protagonist also rescues or encounters the first of what will turn out to be a long line of damsels in distress who end up falling for him. In the process legions of low level fantasy monster scrubs are wasted, as well as the occassional human bully. Once the hero and the damsel reach civilisation, the next step is for him to register with the adventurers guild, so he can spent the rest of the story doing quests for which he is once again ridiculously overpowered. There may or may not be some demon lord lurking in the background, but even if there is, there’ll be dozens of chapters of protagonist-kun just puttering around having not particularly interesting adventures and gathering a harem of various archetypical fantasy girls. Important is that the hero is never actually challenged or in any real danger.

And that’s what you’re getting here. Combined with less than stellar animation, there’s literally nothing here that’s interesting or not generic. It’s so generic that it becomes interesting agai– naah, not really.

The last whites only literary movement in science fiction

The New Weird might be the only literary movement that wasn’t so much still born, as murdered in its crib by the very same people who first created it. Yet as Jonathan McCalmont explains, it still left a lasting impact on science fiction. Reading that history however, something struck me, especially when reading the quote below by Steph Swainston:

The New Weird is a wonderful development in literary fantasy fiction. I would have called it Bright Fantasy, because it is vivid and because it is clever. The New Weird is a kickback against jaded heroic fantasy which has been the only staple for far too long. Instead of stemming from Tolkein, it is influenced by Gormenghast and Viriconium. It is incredibly eclectic, and takes ideas from any source. It borrows from American Indian and Far Eastern mythology rather than European or Norse traditions, but the main influence is modern culture — street culture — mixing with ancient mythologies.

The New Weird was the last science fiction movement that could still get away with thinking about diversity only in terms of what’s being written about, rather than who is doing the writing. It was the last movement to be able to assume that writers and audience both would be largely white, largely male, largely middle class. Fast forward half a decade and you got Racefail where science fiction and fandom got their noses rubbed in the fact that this was no longer the case, if it ever had been. Another half decade and you got the culture wars instigated by a bunch of sad losers angry that their lazy, rightwing power fantasies no longer win Hugos. It’s a point jonathan McCalmont makes as well:

If the TTA Press forums discussion marked the point at which genre culture gave itself permission to begin ignoring genre boundaries then Racefail was the point at which genre culture began to both recognise its historical failures and begin appealing directly to its readers rather than simply working on the assumption that the default reader of genre fiction was a white, middle-class male and that everyone who wasn’t would just happily put up with the fact that virtually nothing was written with them or their concerns in mind.

As said, diversity when looked at from that white, middle class male perspective tends to focus on who’s being written about more than on who’s doing the writing. Not that this isn’t important in its own right, but it will still reflect the same limited perspective and no matter how well intentioned, often reducing anybody who isn’t (white, male, middle class) to the exotic. Diversity from this perspective is always from the outside looking in, making it easy to fall into stereotypes, cultural appropriation, orientalism and othering. You get things like making mutants as a metaphor for the Civil Rights struggle and thinking that’s enough, or writing alternate history in which America is conveniently empty when the Europeans land. This sort of diversity is only possible if your audience and peers are the same as you, or you can at least pretend they are.

The New Weird happened at arguably the last time that you could still hold up this pretence without immediadely being contradicted by the very same people you’re denying the existence of. Twitter, Youtube and Facebook didn’t exist yet, blogging was in its infancy and existing fannish and science fiction online spaces were still dominated by, well, white middle class men. What made Racefail not just possible but inevitable was that between the New Weird and Racefail the internet became not just mainstream but ubiquitous as both access and ease of access increased; it’s no coincidence that much of Racefail took place on Livejournal, one of the earliest social media sites and one that had long been home to sf fandom. Tools or sites like Twitter or Tumblr have only made it easier for everybody to let their voice be heard, harder to ignore people when they address you directly. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but the upshot is that science fiction can no longer pretend to be just white, middle class or male.