Valentine’s Post is about Androgyny?!

I usually ride a songthaew home after work.  A songthaew (look here) is one of a variety of odd Thai public transport vehicles: this one’s basically a pickup truck with two rows of seats in the back and a roof.  Yesterday as I was riding home I noticed a very pretty lady sitting right in front of me on the opposite side.  My reaction, very typical for me, was focusing my eyes on the regular/ugly looking fellows, so as not to annoy the pretty one.  I guess I’m always paranoid I’ll be spat upon if I stare, though I wonder how many unattractive people must have thought I fancied them because of this silly habit of mine!

Anyway, I couldn’t help but glimpse in her direction a couple more times, and I quickly realized that if she cut her hair and changed into something other than that striped dress and green fingernails, she’d easily pass for a guy.  That is, this woman had what I would classify as androgynous features.

The reason why I got onto this thought pattern was that I have androgyny on my mind, and here’s the bastard who put it there.

Dio means God in Italian

Dio means God in Italian

Dio from Last Exile.  It took me a full episode to realize this was supposed to be a male character.  We first meet Dio and his friend Luciola playing chess.  First, I thought Dio (a male-sounding name to me, but that’s probably theological prejudice as the equivalent Dios in Spanish means “God”) was the other character, and Luciola was the one in the picture above.

Once it dawned on me that the ridiculously cute character was a guy, I immediately thought Luciola was female.  Not only does the name sound like a girl’s (although there are a bunch of manly men in Italy named Andrea, so…), but Luciola seemed to me more and more female.  Now I know they’re both male.

I called Dio a bastard in jest.  That he’s male troubles me not one bit.  In fact…but before I get to that part I guess I should add another anime character that’s putting androgyny into many people’s minds these days.

Mariya

Mariya, used to be Mother of God

From what I read in blogs and forums, cross-dressing boy Mariya is causing male fans to question their sexuality.  I realize people are joking when they debate whether (pardon me but it’s a proper technical term) “fapping” to Mariya is acceptable, but so many folk saying this so many times starts to get suspicious.

The way I see it is this: the character designer for Mariya is not even trying to draw a boy crossdressing as a girl.  That though obviously never crossed his mind.  What he did was draw a girl, slap her with some nasty dialogue and call her a boy.  So “fapping” to a picture of Mariya is not crossing (gotta stop using this word!!!) the Rubicon into San Francisco, not even close.  What you’re looking at is a typical Japanese male’s fantasy of a perfect woman, down to the long blond hair and the pigtails.

But the fandom will be disappointed by this.  I’m sure some of the fans do want to confess to certain yearnings, and Maria†Holic is a perfect vehicle for this.  They want to be able to tell the world that they’re excited over a guy, without too much of a risk of being called gay.  Another larger group is probably hopelessly conventional in their tastes, but interested in sounding all risqué.  Again, Mariya fits their bill.  Can you have your cake and it too?  I guess if it’s a cartoon cake then yes, you can.

Dio and Luciola

Dio and Luciola

BTW, I dropped MariaHolic (and White Album), because I was bored by the plotlines and the character design wasn’t good enough to warrant me enduring them.  Conversely, Range Murata could animate the next APEC Summit and I’d be sitting there riveted.

And Murata, in his subtlety, does work the androgynous angle.  Just focus on the top half of Dio’s face in the first pic above, then cover it and look at the bottom half.  There’s stuff going on there.

***

Let me follow the train of thought that Mariya interrupted.  I said Dio was male, but what does that mean?  I learned in Sex Ed that there are two sets of genitals, if you have A you’re male, if B female.  But that’s not the end of the story.  For one thing, I haven’t seen Dio’s genitals (kindly point me to the right doujinshi if you will).  More importantly though, there is a whole set of secondary sexual traits associated with male and female, and these traits more often than not range over a spectrum rather than being a yes/no deal.

On top of which there’s an entire array of personality traits artificially clustered around gender.  And here’s where maybe I can pin Dio down and say: yeah, he’s a guy.  I mean that so far in the story he’s a classic pretentious little asshole.  Combined with finely balanced androgynous looks, I’ll say he’s male.  Mind you, language forces me to call him one or the other.  You can’t call that pretty face an “it”, can you?!  It’d be more correct to say that Dio is Dio, and leave it at that.

Lavie with the boys

Lavie with the boys

Look at it another way.  Lavie Head is a tomboy of sorts.  Dio is a pretty boy.  But even if you had Lavie do a million push-ups and forced Dio to grow his hair down to his ankles, you couldn’t get them to meet on a gender spectrum: there is no point at which Lavie would be manlier than Dio because there’s no single gender spectrum.  Instead, you have loads of vectors (a muscle vector, a hair length vector and so forth) firing off in different “gender” dimensions and everyone’s an ever-changing combination of all of these.

Come to think of it, “androgyny” is just a crappy term to begin with.  It literally means “male female”, as if you have these two basic things called the male sex and the female sex and and then there’s this third thing that’s either 1) the void between the two solid points “male” and “female”; 2) the midpoint in a segment with “male” at one end and “female” at the other.

The truth is that what’s primary is sexuality, “male” and “female’ are simply signs like “+”  “-” for the cutting off of regions in one universal, massive flow of SEX.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

~ by Haloed Bane on February 14, 2009.

8 Responses to “Valentine’s Post is about Androgyny?!”

  1. [“male” and “female’ are simply signs like “+” “-” for the cutting off of regions in one universal, massive flow of SEX.]
    Ok I guess I no longer need to mention where I’ve heard of this before (^_^b). I agree with you on Murata’s character design. There is that element of androgyny that is unique to him, and create an unique attraction to characters in anime like Last Exile.

  2. Well that was an interesting Valentine’s Day post😛

    And for what it’s worth, Mariya’s character design never bothered me for the reason that you mentioned: the artist clearly never tried to make him look like a “him.” After all, the mangaka has the power the draw the most effeminate of loli’s and claim that the character is male, because the final decision rests with the creator. Jun from Happiness is probably a good example (who has a disturbingly hawt Valentine picture somewhere on Danbooru).

  3. I have an affinity for androgynous characters, and I don’t tend to care what gender they turn out to be. Say whatever you want about me.

  4. “For one thing, I haven’t seen Dio’s genitals…” — ak

    Well, you will now (and translated into Russian, no less). You can thank Pat for that one.

    Anyways, androgyny…I think my first experience with it Japan-style was through Sailor Moon. That was way back and I don’t remember much…so I don’t know where I’m going with that. I’m cool with androgyny as long as they don’t make everyone like that. Unless that’s one of the main stylistic choices or whatever.

  5. @gaguri

    Yes friend, Deleuze is perfect for Valentine’s. Funny that he jumped out of a window to his death! In other news, Murata rules!!

    @ETERNAL

    I’m happy you agree with me on the character design for Mariya. The mangaka is omnipotent within the bounds of his creation. But then the question is why would a mangaka want to create a girl and say it’s a boy??

    @digiboy

    This is what I say about you: “I call you Peter, and on this rock I shall erect…” Wait, that’s something else. I’ll say you’re digiboy, like dio is dio and that’s that.

    @ prophet

    Thanks for the doujin! It looks like “Last Exile” meets “Boy George on a Saturday night”. It’s good to see Dio has a long, hard vector to boot.

  6. I’ll take traps over androgynous characters any day. With one, you’re just confused, but with the other, at least you know where you stand. Even if you’re still confused in other ways <_<

  7. “Androgyny” is an interesting topic. It always brings me back memories of the great story and images in Orlando (I’ve only seen the movie) where the main character – a young male – discovers at one point of his life that not only he is immortal, but also has become a woman. The question is, if our sex is really an essential part of our identity or just a minor trait that is perceived to be important just because it’s usually unlikely to change.

  8. @omisyth

    I guess I get what you’re saying, kinda sort of..

    @hardy

    I read Orlando, haven’t seen the movie. The novel’s very good. I agree with you that sex is a big part of our identity, I wonder though to what extent our image/brand of our own sex differs from our real sex (which possibly changes constantly, even daily!).

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