I’m working on the next video review, but I thought I’d do a written article to give you guys a little something before I put ouut my next review, and I feel like I’ve been reviewing robot cartoon to maybe tacle a more important/big boy topic like SJ kinda stuff, so here it goes
Ableism and Disablity Representation in Anime and other fiction.
So, before I go on, I’d like to start off by telling you all that I’m an actual diagnosed neurodivergent individual, and I have Asperger’s Syndrome on the Autism Spectrum. So hopefully I should be able to talk about this topic with a certain level of knowledge.
I think it’s only fair that we start with things of “What a good character representation is, and how it could turn wrong or uncomfortable if writers are not careful.” So we’re going to start to talk about a show I really like, GaoGaiGar.
GaoGaiGar is great because it has so many characters from all these different walks of life learning to work together and help each other through hardship. Guy Shishioh, one of the main characters, is disabled. He essentially has to live with a prosthetic body with some human body components, that runs on an experimental power source (not too unlike Tony Stark, rather than being some super-invention, is just a green magic rock powered by courage.) In spite of his disability, he’s the leader on the field for 3G who, outside of maybe Taiga or Geki, does most of the coordination of the missions, especially when instructing others like the AI Vehicle Robos or other in #G what should be done in a given situation, and as the series repeats multiple times, Guy is “A TRUE HERO” and gets to pilot a strong robot and save the day. Although, it’s quickly shown that he isn’t completely without difficulty. Simply performing Fusion and worse, the use of “Hell and Heaven” takes a horrible toll on his body, and it’s shown repeatedly that even with all the power given to him, that sometimes it’s still not enough, as we saw with the first fight with the Primevals, Guy even has his own bouts with depression from time to time, as after Guy thinks everyone else died in the first Primeval attack, he blames himself for it, for not being strong enough, Or more noticable, when the shuttle carrying his father is shot down by the Primeval moons at the Jupiter battle.
Then you also had characters like Mamoru, who wasn’t disabled but what he goes through over the course of the series is very relatable to anyone who’s felt “different” but particularly me as someone with mental issues. Having those important powers of his and later finding out to not being a human boy after all is a very emotional thing, it makes a social life at a school very difficult for one thing, but Mamoru was able to use his powers for GOOD, and had a group of people, including his parents who supported him in a positive way. 3G never really railed him into helping them, Mamoru chose to help with the Zonder crisis by his own choice, as scared as he might have been of them at first, He couldn’t stand by and let the Zonders destroy earth. He wasn’t just some little alien kid who was just some tagalong, a serious case could be made that he is the real main character. As, GaoGaiGar isn’t really about Guy. It’s the story of this orphan from a destroyed world trying to save his new home. (like the Iron Man parallel with Guy, there is an easy parallel to Superman here.) Except, Mamoru is still unique even if his origin story has been a thing that’s existed for years and years, Namely because his powers inherited by his race are kind of…..subtle. they’re mostly telekinetic in nature (the shield, the telekinetic bolts, the Zonder-Sense, Two Powers Into One, etc.) and most of the problems fitting in comes from the appaerance of his alien form, the glowing and the translucent white fairy wings, But Mamoru is always shown as someone who wants to do his best to help people, and to protect who he cares about, Particularly in FINAL, He’s really changed into someone willing to go to any lengths to find a peaceful solution or to save people he cares about, and the attachment to the character is what makes the stuff with the clone of him so powerful and tragic in FINAL’s second episode. Mamoru is not “perfect” the same way someone like say, Kira from SEED is. Mamoru is not an ubermench. He makes tragic mistakes (not paging 3G when he senses a Zonder in one episode, creating the replicant to evade the Sol Lords which would end up murdering Pappilon in FINAL, etc.) Mamoru wants so desperately to maintain a place in society and to be accepted and have a home, he doesn’t view himself as above everyone else, where Kira and the other Coordinators in SEED for example, see themselves as better than Naturals just because they have a sense of superierity because of the gene modification, like when Kira told Sai in SEED “IF I WAS SERIOUS YOU’D NEVER STAND A CHANCE AGAINST ME”. Mamoru never did shit like that or use his abilities to “look down upon” others.
However, GaoGaiGar could very well have made a subjective mis-step at the end of the TV series, that with the show’s focus on the concept of miracles and stuff being such a big part of the show, the pendulum had unwittingly swung too far in the other direction. the first part of the ending had Guy and Mikoto given superhuman bodies by the G-Stone. So, in other words, Guy was “cured” of his disability while being able to keep the super-strength to a degree. This can be interpreted as offensive by way of “disability erasure.”. Some disabled individuals think even going to a doctor or a therapist is disability erasure, so that would be really offensive to people like that. My own take on it is, while it’s an unfortunate mis-step, it makes sense with the “miracles!” context of the story. and I’ll actually play devil advocate and say it’s actually inspiring. Because isn’t that some good optimistic wish fufillment for a disabled person? While it may be a little jarring and unfortunate, I don’t think it’s outright offensive, and it doesn’t take away from the amazing second Mamoru-centric part of the ending. (the leaving of earth to fulfill his role as the last of his people.) Seeking to improve your problems or difficulties is not oppression, is not erasure, and it can make those with issues a happier person. But it’s really subjective and everyone has different opinions on that, some people chose not to better themselves like that because of fear of losing their identity, or fear of being exposed to something cruel or evil, like inhumane practices, etc. oppression is assholes telling r-word jokes in public or making fun of someone with a prosthetic limb. Seeing a Therapist does not dehumanise you if your therapist actually does their fucking job.
But what kind of stuff crosses the line into bad representations or outright offensive?
Gurren Lagann is a example of kind of offensive. It’s a show that stars a depressed young boy upset with the way that his life has been, with the only thing keeping him going is a hyper, buff, able bodied, egotistical, bully. That does nothing truly supportive of the boy except tell him how useless he is if he keeps acting like a coward, not fighting, or generally not satisfying the patriarcal norm for young men. Going so far as to HIT HIM OR THROW BOULDERS AT HIM for not dong things “the right manly way” or not. It’s offensive to anyone that’d been through depression or other mental problems. and yet, the show’s fans try to twist Kamina into some “inspirational figure” when he’s fucking ANYTHING BUT. And Simon wasn’t the only victim either, Kamina constantly makes rude, sexual comments at Yoko, bullies Rossiu in much of the same way, and acts like a fucking asshole in general. And yet, because this abusive asshole was the only “friend” Simon had up until he died, his death ends up as a tragedy rather than a relief. Because the upbringing insured Simon would sadly grow up to be the same kind of abusive jerk pushing the same patriarchal nonsense on Rossiu later. the Suicide scene is particularly offensive because Rossiu was so consumed by depression he was ready to end him life, only for a dude who got over his own depression through unhealthy ways, uses same unhealthy solution on Rossiu and tells him very blunty to accept the patriarcal bullshit and “be a man” much like Kamina did when he was younger. It’s pretty awful and offensive the way that the protagonist group mirrors everything that’s wrong with patriarchal and neurotypical culture. A similar kind of thing happened witht he character of Sarah in the latest episode of the video game The Walking Dead, followed up by ableist comments from the game developers.
But then, we cross the line into really offensive.
Like for example, the topic of a future review Hades Project Zeorymer. The show stars a main character with a disability but is in NO WAY a positive representation. you see, the main character, Masato, essentially has Multiple Personality Disorder. His multiple persona, Masaki is, to put it mildly, incedibly heinous, evil, and an awful human being. (I won’t go into detail until the actual review, Even then I’m gonna have to trigger warning the fuck out of that video.) Now eventually Masato wins “the fight for control” and once he does, he hands Miku, his girl partner, a gun and begs her to kill him, afraid Masaki will take control again. Saying such things about how “disgusting he is inside” and other horribly offensive shit, and the show ends with him and Miku entering into a suicide pact with the villain. (even though Masato himself was kind of the real villain.) The show is basically telling us that “disabled people are dangerous, and the only atonement is for them to kill themselves” which is just the cherry on top of Zeorymer’s Offensive Sundae. (to go with the rampant misogny and the transphobia in one episode, among certain other things…)
I still think disabled people among other groups like women and such still need better representation on fictional media, especially science fiction and anime, and I just felt this was an important discussion to have, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it.
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