Animefringe Cover Story:
Sex and the Single Anime Hero
Part 3 - What are Mom and Dad Doing Behind That Door?
By Dave Baranyi
Hmmm... anime parents seem to be a fairly tolerant lot. In Tenchi Muyo, Ryoko announces that she is pregnant with Tenchi's baby and Tenchi's father congratulates Tenchi. Tenchi is, of course, totally taken about and shocked by this. In Urusei Yatsura, Lum's father visits and just takes it for granted that Lum and Ataru are doing "what young couples do". Lum and Ataru both deny this ( maybe a bit too strongly) . In the first UY movie "Only You", during a meeting between Ataru's and Lum's parents, Ataru's mom tells Ataru that things have been "okay" for the past year, but a girl wants to be married sometime; implying that it is time to do the "honorable" thing and make Lum an "honest woman".
So the adults in anime expect the teens to act as "young adults" and seem to accept the fact that sex may be part of the equation in growing up. But how are the adults behaving and is it different from the behavior of the teenaged heroes that we've mentioned so far like Ataru, Tenchi and Keiichi? In some shows like UY and TM the adults seem to act more like teens than the teens.
In TM, Tenchi's father is portrayed as a hopeless, but good natured hentai; almost a grown-up Ataru Moroboshi. Yet in the first Tenchi movie Tenchi's father is portrayed as a typical "anime wimp" when he was a teen. The change in character is never explained. Is it the fate of all "repressed anime wimps" to become "dirty old men" once they grow up?
UY is a bit of an exception in comic anime genre in that Ataru's parents are both together and play a recurring role in the show. On a number of occasions Ataru's parents get in the mood to "feel young again" and disappear into their room. But at the same time Ataru's mother is portrayed as a closet "hentai" on several occasions when the super handsome ( and super stupid ) Rei shows up. Ataru's mother has no qualms about instantly getting made up and offering herself to Rei.
Hmmm... older women and younger men. A bit of influence from the "Graduate" in anime? ( The church scene in the first UY movie, where Lum is pounding on the window to get Ataru's attention, owes a lot to that film. ) A more "serious" anime series, "Brain Powerd" had this as an interesting sub-plot and character driver too.
"Brain Powerd" was an original anime series that ran on the Japanese "Wowow" pay satellite system in 1998. It is a story about ( at least ) two mysterious organizations that are battling to either save or destroy the Earth ( depending upon whose claims you believe ). Central to the show are giant "organic" mechas that are created not as machines but are "grown" from DNA-like accumulations of energy. The driving force of the show is the relationships between the characters and families on both sides of the battle.
The families are split by the conflict. The hero, Yuu, is a 17 year old mecha pilot for the United Nations side. His mother, Midori, who is in her 40's, is one of the leaders of "Orphan", the organization on the opposite side. Midori is having a rather open affair with Jonas, a 21 year old mecha pilot under her command ( and a sworn enemy of Yuu ), who happens to be the son of one of the leaders of Yuu's side. ( And this doesn't begin to scratch the surface in the soap opera-like relationships in this show. ) In one scene we see Jonas happily leaving Midori as Midori leisurely re-buttons her clothes and puts her glasses back on. Jonas thinks that he is having a fast, good time, but the look on Midori's face strongly suggests that she is in command in the bedroom as well as in the control room. This brings up even more family conflicts since Yuu's older sister Iiko ( who also likes Jonas but won't or can't get herself to do anything about it ), suspects what is going on but can't get her father to react or her mother to admit anything.
At the same time, Yuu is too engrossed with his anguish over the fact that he changed sides and abandoned his family to react to the beautiful 18 year old Hime ( who is the other main character and a mecha pilot on Yuu's side ) who obviously cares for him. So while the parents "act", the teens continue to dither.
In TV version of "Silent Mobius", one of the main heroines, Katsumi, made love to her colleague Roy immediately after they had seemingly defeated an attempt on their lives and their love by their enemy. Katsumi and Roy are not kids, but adults in a difficult and life threatening situation. The scene, while not explicit, is clear - the adults are once again behaving like adults.
In another recent anime with adult protagonists, "Cowboy Bebop", there are three main adult characters, Spike, Jet and Fay, who live together on their spaceship as bounty hunters in the distant future. Spike is 30 something, Jet is near 40 and Fay ( a beautiful woman without a past ) is in her early 20's. Initially, there is no "relationship" between either Spike and Fay, or Jet and Fay, other than some limited sort of friendship, professional respect and some signs of camaraderie. When the three of them "hit port" they go their own ways. In one show Jet goes to visit an ex-lover, with unexpected results. In some shows Fay goes off to bars to chose a man for the night. ( With her looks, attitude and ability with guns and martial arts, Fay is always in control of the situation. )
In last year's quirky "Kachou O-ji", ( being released in North American as "Black Heaven" ) we had the late 30's protagonist go through a mid-life crisis, accentuated by his memories of his youth as the lead guitarist in a heavy metal band. When O-ji drinks a bit too much after work with his new, mysterious, young and attractive coworker and she asks him to come with her, he immediately fantasizes about having sex with her, despite the presence at home of his loving wife ( who used to be a groupie for his band ).
So, in recent "adult" anime, sex appears to be something that adults chose in a manner which seems to be close to what one would expect from real society. But the teen sex still doesn't seem to match a similar reality. Is this a case of Japanese society, like American society, separating out in entertainment what is "acceptable" for adults from what is "wished for" in teens? In part 4 I'll look at some more "normal" teen heroes and ask "What are the Normal Guys Doing?"
Sex and the Single Anime Hero - Part 4 - What are the Normal Guys Doing? -->