Himedanshi Ruin Anime

Again, clickbait is clickbait I won’t lie. I’m not noble enough to be above using it though. This is in a way a companion piece to my previous post you can check out here. I’m… actually not sure how many toes I will step on with this post. It’s a curious thing. But either way let me lay some ground work before jumping into it.

  1. I am not bashing GL/yuri/lesbian media, in this post. I do consume media from all these genres. I am voicing my complaints about the FANS of said media, i.e. Himedanshi.
  2. My post is going to be subjective because these are based on my own experiences in English speaking communities both online and IRL. I will NOT be linking to any specific articles/profiles/pages/etc. This is to respect the privacy of those blogs/websites/users because under no circumstances do I condone harassment.
  3. I am aware that my experiences are NOT universal. I sincerely hope these communities at large are positive and respectful. That’s what I would want for any community. If you’ve had more positive experiences with these groups I’m sincerely glad for you. You’re more then welcome to comment down below that this or that is overblown, a vocal minority, etc.
  4. I will emphasize this: If none of this applies to you, let it fly. I.e. you do not need to defend yourself or your interests to me. If I have something factually incorrect i.e. a definition, etc – please DO correct me.

Let’s talk real quick about Himedanshi, which is the slang for male fans of yuri media. I don’t like this because it’s not as strong as fujoshi in terms of connotation. Himedanshi in the most literal definition, means princess-boy. Before it was added to the yuri fandom terminology, it was a slang term for gay men who were more feminine or submissive. It’s not a term that I’m using liberally due to it’s history, going forward I will use the more wordy “male fans/dudes/guys that like yuri” or yuri danshi – it was used in the title to shorten it and be reflective of my fujoshi post.

What’s interesting about guys who like yuri, is that they don’t really label themselves the way fujoshi do. I can’t recall a single instance in person of someone identifying as himedanshi. I wouldn’t be surprised if the term isn’t widely used in Japan, let alone the West. I don’t go on yuri forums much since I just ask queer folks and friends for yuri media recommendations. Even on the hell hole known as Twitter, I have yet to see the kanji in a twitter bio the way fujoshi might be. I researched a bit more and apparently they use “yuri danshi” i.e. yuri man as a term. But again, I don’t see this term used the same way or connotation as fujoshi. I wonder if male fans of yuri don’t feel the need to have a community and title the way fujoshi do, due to being men. It might be something with male privilege where yuri isn’t a dirty thing (because no penises) to like and be shamed for so long as you’re a straight dude. It’s a very interesting separation of seemingly opposite sides of the same coin.

I suppose this is probably due to the difference in intention too. BL and yuri were both originally made by women, for women. The difference being BL always being seen as escapism for generally straight authors and consumers. Yuri being made by queer women for queer women, with the intention of escapism and representation. But don’t get me wrong – yuri based fetish material is out there. The media gets a bit more murky with straight male authors joining the fandom, as well as the fans. I know certain yuri magazine’s only allow female artists in their publications. I think there was one or two yuri mangaka’s outed as being straight dudes and their works dropped when it was exposed. I’m not sure the fandom’s perception on the subject as a whole, and honestly that’s for a different post.

Conceptually, dudes that like yuri are fine. Just like conceptually girls that like BL are fine. I understand that my experiences are not reflective of all male/male identifying folk who enjoy yuri. I sincerely hope there are some good ones out there.

Unfortunately, all my real life and online interactions with these fans have been horse shit. I went to a 18+ yuri panel at a con way back in the day, about how to find yuri titles that was being hosted by a lesbian panelist. They were incredibly kind and knowledgeable, explaining different publishers that were exclusive to yuri in Japanese, titles licensed in English at the time to read, suggestions for how to look at how the art was drawn to reach a better idea of male vs. female gaze, etc. Of course there was one dude in a pigeon mask during the Q&A, who did the whole speech of “lesbians can’t really have sex because-. The male gaze isn’t real, etc”. It was unpleasant and in a 90% queer audience it wasn’t the best place to try and platform those opinions. He was asked politely to leave and wouldn’t, he was chased out by security and seriously tanked the mood of the panel to the point where my friends and I left.

Online, I can’t say it’s much better. I saw an announcement for Lycoris Recoil. The poster has all girls, nice art, and hey is that a school girl with a gun? That sounds like something I’d be interested in watching, let’s check the post and – BOOM. “THIS SHOW IS JUST YURI BAIT.”

I genuinely did the confused anime girl head tilt. Where. the fuck. did this visual. suggest. romance?

I’ll admit my high school level art classes were superficial at best, but god damn if it didn’t teach me visual cues. So forgive me here, but I am compelled to use that knowledge to debunk how the damn POSTER is allegedly yuri bait.

First off, color palette. It’s mostly deeper blues and reds – not colors typically suggestive of romance. The next part isn’t art theory, but botany. It applies since every detail in art does matter and the usage of certain flowers over others is subtle but important. Looking at the flowers in the foreground – they’re spider lilies. While yuri as a genre does derive it’s name from lilies, it’s the lilium variety that are typically white/pink broader petals. Spider lilies or lycoris radiata are a different variety and in Japanese media are typically associated with blood on the battlefield – which when taken into account implicates a more dangerous series.

Now the character composition of the poster. There’s the foreground characters, Takina and Chisato, and the background characters whose names I don’t know. Basic composition indicates that the most important characters to the narrative should be the largest and typically centered in any key images – which Takina and Chisato are. However, an important distinction is that Takina and Chisato are not parallel to one another, therefore suggesting they are not of equal importance. Chisato is at least a step or two closer to the viewer then Takina. That, purely from the poster suggests Chisato is the leader of the duo, potentially the group and Takina a close follower. Takina’s body language isn’t even suggesting that she’s secretly holding a candle for Chisato either. Her gaze is clearly on the audience, and her holding her hair could either be a habit, or an attempt to make her appear more innocent. The gun in the other hand doesn’t really leave much romantic connotations.

Now this dissection of one poster, one visual does not equal the mood and themes of Lycoris Recoil. The poster could be a red herring. There could be a subversion of action and events within the anime. Fuck they could have just made it this way for shits and giggles. I haven’t seen the series so I do not know. I’m just using my knowledge of art theory and context clues to show why this poster isn’t yuri bait – it’s a fucken poster of school girls with guns.

My second example was I saw the poster for Shy, a manga that had recently gotten announced to have an anime coming out. Again, I saw this mecha/super hero looking female character, and a school girl behind her and think “hey with a title like Shy, and two female protagonists probably – this looks like something I might be interested in” and again – BOOM. “Looks like yuri bait”, “Is yuri bait” comments dominated my screen.

Again, I ask where the fuck does this poster suggest yuri? I won’t do another art analysis like before but just a few key context clues. Two female characters – one looks like a superhero the other a school girl. The poses suggest hesitancy i.e. being shy, but also could be to make them look ‘cute’. Their bodies aren’t facing one another and their lines of sight are not on one another, or even one looking longing at the other – they’re looking at the viewer.

I do not follow how this poster is anywhere within the suggestion of yuri, let alone a romance. It looks like an action or shonen series to me!

So you might ask yourself, “Rise, it’s clear that the commentators on these two anime posters didn’t read the plot synopsis nor do they understand visual cues in art. Why do you think these alleged himedanshi ‘ruin’ anime?”. That’s a good question.

That’s because on these annoucement posts – that’s all the commentors were fighting about. I would scroll and scroll the comment section for anything else. I looked for things like comments about the producers, directors, studio, what platform would release it, hell I’d take a throwaway “x is best girl” comment. There was nothing. The same fight circling over and over between different users.

It didn’t matter when I went to Lycoris Recoil‘s reviews, or anime episode discussions – the dominant conversation was if the series was yuri bait all along when it wasn’t about how bad it was. Most of the reviews made a point to outline explicitly if they thought it was yuri bait or not. The same when I went to the pages about Shy, manga or anime – the biggest conversation was yuri bait or not. Not if the story is a good fit to be animated (considering how big BNHA is I’d argue yes), or if fans were excited – just “YURI?!”.

As someone who reads/watches both hetro and queer stories – I do want more lesbian representation in media. I want bad lesbian stories, good ones and everything else in between. I also want stories about female friendship with no romantic undertones – something that old school yuri was all about. I want to see female characters that have meaningful relationships with other women that aren’t centered on their relationships. What gets tiresome is watching stories that if it were two dudes on the poster, there would be hype and opinions on studios and things, when it’s two women the conversation is reduced to just yuri or yuri bait. It’s hard to see repeated title after title, year after year – this conversation has to be about as old as sub vs. dub at this point.

And I know some smartass is going to say “well if you’re that sensitive, then just don’t read the comments”. I am well aware that not reading the comment section is an option, and use that quite often, thank you very little. 98% of the time when I do venture into the comments, it’s for a series I don’t know anything about, and trying to see what if any fanbase is saying. I’m a proud bandwagoner at heart, but my heart breaks when a long standing fandom gets a subpar treatment with an adaptation. So when the conversation is purely romantic droll, perhaps we should mind our personal biases and scroll to see if someone already made the comment before dog-piling for lulz.

Of course, I am assuming these dudes have their noses crammed so far into lilies that anything with two girls is yuri now. Rub the pollen out of your eyes and take a more literal look at what’s being shown.

You may have noticed, that I have quite an aggressive stance on yuri danshi / himedanshi / guys that like yuri, in comparison to fujoshi. You would be right. I have a bone to pick with straight dudes injecting themselves into fandom spaces that were curated for women by women. The main problems being; man-splaining the history of yuri or even lesbian sex to… you know, queer women, that yuri sex scenes are “pure” because there’s no penis, and that lesbian intercourse isn’t a valid form of intercourse, etc.

While these conversations are not the bulk of yuri fandom, by any means – they do still exist. And it because they persist, although now shifted to just ‘yuri bait or not?’ a majority of interesting conversations about a series are drowned out. What about the actual romantic chemistry between the two characters? Has either character demonstrated substantial growth, or even subtle growth? How does the setting of their story affect what happens to them or creates stakes? As a queer woman myself, queer baiting is something that I am concerned with. But reducing every single story with two women on the cover down to yuri bait is deriviate at best, and dehumanizing at worst.

The biggest problem is that unlike fujoshi, who tend to use yuri as an exploration of their gender identity and sexual orientation – male yuri fans don’t do that. At least not from what I’ve seen online, nor experienced in person. They don’t use the genre to further their understanding of sexual minorities, or issues that queer women face. They’re usually the first to bemoan the fact a series is bringing in ‘real world bullshit’ to the story since it’s ‘distracting’. I’ve heard more stories of himedanshi gatekeeping yuri from it’s target demographic, or even plainly taking over these spaces created and curated by queer folks. It’s honestly unfortunate since I know there are kind and considerate fans in these spaces but… they’re such a minority that it’s hard to defend them. While my history with yuri, and fandom spaces related to it are limited, unlike spaces dedicated for BL I don’t see the audience changing or adjusting their opinions based on lived experiances. Their opinions and feelings remain static, shifting from outright fetishization to the much more socially acceptable “concerns of queer baiting” via yuri bait. And this seems really unlikely to change given how long these comments have existed.

So yeah. That’s the end of this rant about himedanshi. You’re welcome to comment below, I’m sincerely curious for anyone who can provide accurate insight. I know my experiences are limited and severely biased. I have a lot to learn on this one. Just keep your comments above the belt please. And I’ll see you all next post – again if I don’t get eaten alive or not.

4 comments

  1. I don’t really join fandoms so I didn’t realize that things had become so unpleasant. It’s a shame that people will join an anime conversation only to end up ruining it for people that just want to enjoy the anime. You’re totally right about the posters! I actually have a degree in Fine Art, but it doesn’t take a lot of education in the field to understand that there’s nothing romantic about the images. An easy way to pick out if an artist intended to express a romantic message is look for associations. Physical associations are a visual stand in for emotional ones. Are the characters holding hands? Hugging? Leaning on each other? Looking at each other? No? Than there wasn’t any intended romantic connotations. See, understanding art is very easy! Even with work as abstract as Picasso’s, when he intended to imply a romantic theme there would still be some kind of connection between two (or more) people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not 100% sure if this is common for fandoms, I just personally, have experienced it a lot more with titles with majority female casts. It’s also a large part of why I’m not active in fandoms much these days either. The closest I get to fandom is the WordPress Anime community as a whole lol.

      And that’s amazing about your degree in fine art! I won’t lie I was pretty nervous about including that section especially since it’s been so long. But I do feel reassured to read your comment and know that I’m not too far off in my amateur analysis.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am genuinely not surprised by that at all, but at the same time… how disappointing. Hearing stuff like that just makes me feel bad for the mangaka.

      Liked by 1 person

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