As the number of people worldwide who identify as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and more (LGBTQ+) community continues to rise, the need for positive and authentic representation of the community in media also arises.
In the media and entertainment industry, the influence of Japanese anime and manga series is widespread as far as the eye can see. They absorb every aspect society gives them, and LGBTQ+ isn’t an exception.
In this world, they are seen as equals and not discriminated against as otherwise.
Even though Japan does not openly support LGBTQ+ rights, despite implementing laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, it gives the community apt representation in the media they’re famous for—anime and manga. Works such as Classmates, Yuri on Ice, the Finder series, Given, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Ouran High School Host Club have shown that anime and manga are progressing faster than most Western media.
Jed Kendrick, a 34-year-old Philippine-based established manga artist, said that it’s not just manga but art in general that gives artists the freedom of expression as long as they are being respectful to the world around them.
“In the world of manga and anime, LGBTQ+ means carefree or joyous. It is represented in a way that makes everyone in that world happy. The key to ending all strife is by keeping an open mind and accepting people who are different in the society so that everybody wins,” Jed said.
When it comes to strife in society, discrimination is a heavy factor behind them all when close-minded individuals fail to understand and empathize with people with different lifestyles. Jed wants to end this cycle of hate through his works to promote a sense of acceptance amongst the people since, in the fictional world, individuals never discriminate against one another.
“Discrimination is one of the major reasons for conflict in the community and race. In inspiring them, we should teach or show them acceptance of each other,” the manga artist said.
A weeb (a devoted fan of anime and an admirer of Japanese culture), going by the alias “Harley,” is an active fandom member of Yoshihiro Togashi’s Hunter x Hunter and YuYu Hakusho series. She feels that anime is doing a great job of representing the community and spreading a message of equality in a society that people can learn.
“When it comes to showing equality in all aspects of life, may it be race or sexuality, nobody does it better than anime and manga,” Harley said.
Harley further emphasized that anime also shows the significant positive sides of the LGBTQ+, such as the high intelligence and emotional strength of characters to carry themselves forward in a lesson of dignity to all.
However, it’s not all positive. As Harley pointed out, many problems are present in numerous anime and manga fandoms, especially the fandom of Kōhei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia. Homophobia exists in some fandoms, which butchers the purity of the series and leads to an internal conflict within the fandom and toxicity, which could spoil the series’ image.
The demand for proper LGBTQ+ representation in media and entertainment continues to increase as communities advocate for inclusivity. Western media must catch up with Japanese anime and manga in positive and genuine portrayals if they want to dominate the market.
Even though some anime and manga fans remain critical of having LGBTQ+ characters in the anime and manga series they consume, Japanese creators strive to have LGBTQ+ characters in their works and lead the world in media representation of the LGBTQ+ community.