||home / september 2002 / chasing otakuism
(or how I learned to stop worrying and find shoujo ai)
By fellow Animefringer Danielle D'Ornellas
In this day and age, its fairly common to go to any anime club, convention or various other forms of otaku interaction, and hear fangirlish giggles and squeals over the cutest couples in anime. But no, lately they aren't talking about Tamahome and Miaka are they? Nope, they're talking Tsuzuki and Hisoka, Duo and Heero and quite often, Shuuichi and Yuki. "But wait!", you're thinking, "Aren't these all guy names?" Well yes, yes they are. Shounen ai seems to be "the thing" to be obsessed with right now. Now you're thinking, there's got to be just as many people on the other side of the spectrum, right? A huge following of shoujo ai, and the couples in those shows... RIGHT? Uh, well, unless it's a group of hentai fans talking about "that Cool Devices episode with chicks" well, no there isn't. But it isn't the fans' fault, the fault lies in the fact that shoujo ai is just not available to us here in the West. Supply and demand? Well let's see.
Shounen ai is easily becoming a very popular genre with female anime fans lately, and the North American companies such as Right Stuf, who acquired the fan favorite Gravitation and Central Park Media who acquired the dark shounen ai series Yami No Matsuei, are quickly picking up on this trend. But what about shoujo ai? Sure the fans of this genre are a little quieter than the shounen ai fangirls, but shouldn't they be appeased as well?
Well let's start asking companies such as Central Park Media who have had license on a very popular series, Revolutionary Girl Utena which has many shoujo ai implications in it. CPM has had this series for a very long time, in fact, they released the VHS version of the series in 1999. They completed the first 'arc' of the show, up to episode 13, and afterwards they just... Stopped.
Fast forward, it's the end of summer in 2002 and fans of this show are STILL waiting for the rest of the series, CPM has just started working on the series again, with a possible release date in November, but why did they stop the show the first place? Rumour mills tell us that the "implications" later on in the series delayed its release. Implications of shoujo ai? We don't know, but this is just one example of shoujo ai fans being put on "hold" for other projects.
When it comes to finding shoujo ai in series that are available to us in the West, you have to look long and hard, because it isn't quite as easy. One can easily say they see 'implications' in shows such as Card Captor Sakura, but there is no resolution, there is no admittance, its all just speculation on behalf of the viewer. But then a smart little cookie will remind us of the ever popular lesbian couple Haruka and Michiru from Sailor Moon, who are quintessentially the lesbian couple for fans of shoujo ai in the West right now. But the problem is, there was no delving into their relationship in the series, their relationship brought an aspect to the show, but its not enough to satiate a shoujo ai fan looking for a classy show to cling on to.
There is one place where shoujo ai does seem to shine very brightly, and that is in manga. There are such artists as the infamous shoujo ai manga-ka Ikeda Ryoko, who gave us the 'mother of all shoujo ai, Rose of Versailles and another work which is just as bright Brother Dear Brother which were both turned into such beautiful works of anime. Her work even inspires other shoujo and yuri works that are being done today, but there is one problem with all of this, most North American shoujo ai fans cannot read these mangas! Even in the realm of manga translation, shoujo ai is still ignored, so sorry to say, unless you want to go and learn how to read katakana, hiragana or kanji, fans of shoujo ai manga are left out to dry.
It seems to us fans in the west, that if we want to see two girls trying to express their love for each other, we have to see it in a hentai show, and that usually defeats the purpose since it is intended for only a male audience and usually doesn't have the "class" that a shounen ai would give its fans. And that all that shoujo ai fans ask for, a show with two females in love, showing a little bit of class, egads, is that too hard to find!?
But there is hope at the end of this tunnel, times are changing, slowly, but they are changing. It might be a long time before we can buy Rose of Versailles on DVD, but in the meantime, we can enjoy newly licenced works of shoujo ai such as... Miyuki-chan in Wonderland which is about a pretty school girl who falls into 'wonderland' and is lusted after by many of the female characters she encounters there,
OR Alien 9 which explores an awkward relationship between two girls as they battle aliens at their school,
OR Read or Die which is an action plotline about an important book being stolen, and the battle to recapture it, with a lesbian theme running along with this wild show. Look for that first title at your local anime store, and watch for these last two titles to come out later in 2002 maybe early 2003. As for now, I think I'll go watch old episodes of Dirty Pair and Bubblegum Crisis to draw my own conclusions from there. ;) Happy hunting, shoujo ai fans.