China Mountain Zhang and the concept of Passing

Trigger warning: The book I’m reviewing contains depictions of sex, rape, suicide, racism, and homophobia. The book also contains persecution of sexual minorities. Proceed with caution if any of that is triggering for you.

Also, spoilers. Lots of Spoilers.

                Welcome to my first non-anime review and my first book review on this blog. Today I’ll be looking at the book China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh, published in 1992. This story takes place in a possible future where America has gone through a Second Great Depression and thus a communist revolution has taken place. The U.S.A is now a second world country with China being the first world (‘everyone wants to go to China they think’). The Chinese and those of Chinese ancestry are here the privileged racial category in society. The protagonist of the story is a gay man who is a mix of Chinese and Hispanic heritage. His Chinese name is Zhang Zhong Shan and his Spanish name is Rafael. Living in this alternative world he passes both as both Chinese and as heterosexual. Some chapters are told from the point of view of characters he meets. Such as San Xiang an ugly girl he is briefly coerced into dating. There is also Angel a kite rider, future sport that is dangerous often resulting in death. Finally, there is a Martian couple of Alexi and Martine. This is not a narrative about people who change the world but about people who are trying to find a way to live in it. Each of these characters struggle with this but for different reasons and they have different methods of doing so. One of these methods is passing but that method brings about its own problems.

                The concept of passing is something that is central to Zhang’s story. Before he was even conceived his parents used gene-splicing to make him look as Chinese as possible. He feels that he and his mother most be more like cousins then parent and child because he only has so many of her genes. He knows this is irrational though and logically knows that she is his mother. This something that haunts ‘my face is a lie’ he thinks. However, appearing to be an ABC (American Born Chinese) is not always a good thing when one is not especially when one is also a gay man (Intersectionality anyone). At the start of the novel Zhang works for Foremen Quin as a construction-tech. Foremen Quin sets Zhang up with his daughter San Xiang. Zhang goes along with this because he does not want to lose his job but knows it is a problem because of his homosexuality. As the situation escalates Zhang eventually reveals that he is in face not ABC, that his mother is Hispanic. This ends his faux-relationship with San Xiang and loses him his job along with his apartment. While passing as ABC and as straight clearly gives Zhang certain privileges it also complicates his life and creates obstacles he would not face otherwise.

But of course, he and his parents are not the only ones using technology to pass as something he is not (or at least something he is wholly not). San Xiang is considered ugly both by herself and everyone she meets. Her face is described like that of a chipmunk with eyes too big and no chin. She seeks to correct this and later does by changing her face to fit into her society of beauty standards. However once San Xiang is considered a pretty girl she then starts to receive attention from men she is not used to. This leads to horrific results when she is the victim of date rape. San Xiang begins to miss her old ugly face because it allowed her to be invisible. Both characters pass as something they are not to gain perceived benefits of belonging a more privileged group of people. However, both also discover that passing brings it’s changes and complications with it that can be deadly.

                The idea of passing as a racial group you’re not is not something that belongs just to sci fi. Take for example how some biracial Americans have passed as only white to gain access to education, employment and to survive. What is new here is how this concept has been altered in this science fiction tale. Instead of having characters passing as white, there is a character with Hispanic Ancestry passing as an American Born Chinese to gain work, education and to survive. But as the books shows it is not that simply. While I did enjoy this twist on the idea of racial passing I was less impressed with San Xiang’s story. The idea of a girl using technology to make herself fit into beauty standards is not new and is everywhere. Try googling plastic surgery. A critical look at this has a lot of potential to draw some interesting conclusions. But instead the idea is that being ugly protected San Xiang from predatory men. But as a naïve pretty girl she becomes the victim of date rape. The problem with this depiction is very simple: being ugly does not protect you from predatory rapists. The idea that men like Bobby would never tried to take advantage of San Xiang because she was too ugly is ridiculous. For more on that go here (https://rapecrisis.org.uk/mythsvsrealities.php). I won’t say anything more about it because that link does a better job of it then I can.

                So, with that out of the way I’ll move on to the other types of passing in this story. That of passing as straight and as passing as another gender. I’ll start with passing as straight as I’ve already briefly touched on it and it is much more prominent in the story. Zhang is not open about his homosexuality while in New York except with some gay friends and his mother. Later when he goes to China he must actively hide it because his sexuality is illegal. He becomes lovers with his tutor Haitao and through him meets Liu Wen another gay man. These men pass as straight and live with the constant fear of being found out. The scene that best demonstrates this is when Zhang, Haitao and Liu Wen visit a secret gay bar one night. While at the bar they experience as sense of community but they know they are under threat. This threat later becomes a reality when the bar is raided. Resulting in a desperate scramble to escape. While Zhang and Haitao escape they are scarred and further tragedy awaits them. The idea of gendered passing however only appears in once during the story. In the gay bar when Zhang admires a pretty girl only to realize she is a boy. He is not aroused nor disgusted by this act of cross dressing (as he calls it) only interested in this display of femaleness he has not seen before. He takes note of her body language and style of dress. Fascinated by this woman/boy. It is more of an odd to gendered passing than anything else. But even though it Is only brief this nod to gender passing shows another way many Queer people pass and the tremendous effort they often put into doing so.

The concept of passing of course is not the only subject explored in China Mountain Zhang. Themes such as migration, history, politics, race, and more are all woven into the narrative. So why did I focus so much on the idea of passing? Because it is something I have a lot of personal experience except for passing as a different race (I’m white). As bisexual, transgender, and a woman with (invisible) disabilities and health conditions I’ve passed as many different things. So, I found a novel that spent it’s time dealing in depth with characters who passed as so many different things fascinating. The only part of the book I really disliked was San Xiang’s sub plot but I won’t repeat myself. If you like alternative history, soft science fiction, queer characters and stories about the average joe or jane check this book out but take San Xiang’s subplot with some salt.

 

Anime Review: From the New World Episode Ten: More Than Darkness, English Dub.

Warning: The series I am reviewing contains depictions of child abduction, disappearance, murder, and violence in a future totalitarian society. It also depicts sexual violence. The show also contains sexual relationships between young people. That is the trigger warning.

Leave now if you wish.

Also, spoilers for the episode and the whole series. Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers.

 

Recap: This episodes opens were the last one left off. Saki facing the Impure Cat. The cat tries to attack her by biting her neck but the necklace protects her from its teeth. Next the creatures jumps at her again but this time is not only stopped mid air but is killed. The collar falls from around her neck and to the ground. Broken. Saki visible shaken is now her kneels looking out on the horizon. The scene cuts to her in what looks like a lake with trees and vines growing out of it. The setting is surreal and confused. Animals are mutating at a startling speed with one example being a fish turning into an insect as it leaves the water. Saki walks on. Eventually she stumbles and falls. Shuns voice can be heard as he tells the story of the Karmic demon again. She asks Shun where he is and he responds scared that she is here. He tells her to stay back, to keep away, to leave. Saki demands answers. Saki struggles again to tell Shun what he means to her. She then says she was nearly killed by the cat. Shun appears before her wearing a mask. He allows her to stay for ten minutes only. They enter a small crooked house. Shun restrains himself by focusing all his psychokinesis on crystal balls.

Shun tells Saki many things. No one is fully in control of their minds and by extension their psychokinesis. Society tries to control human’s power but something always leaks out from the subconscious mind. Psychokinesis is altering the world around them. That is why spiritual barriers exist to protect humans from the monsters they create from their own unknown nightmares. Spiritual barriers send this power outside of the villages and created all the weird animals in the series. Saki pleads with him to just tell her what happened to him. That’s all she wants to know. Shun’s dog comes in. He too has been mutated by his master’s mind. Transforming into a strange and grotesque creature. Shun’s powers are out of his control constantly changing and distorting everything around him. Shun has become a Karmic Demon. Saki’s mother has given Shun books on the Karmic Demons. Everything they know about them. Shun has been keeping notes before he dies.

Saki pleads saying there must be a way t save him. But the lid is broken on Shun’s power. There is no way to help him. Saki says she must have caused this when she broke Rejin’s seal on his powers, she might have damaged him. Shun tells her not to blame herself and begs her to leave. His parents died trying to stay with him. He yells for her to leave. Saki asks if there is anything she can do even if she can’t save him. The second Impure Cat arrives then. Shun’s dog attacks the cat and he is killed. Shun out of grief kills the cat. Shun says even his dog wanted to save him. Shun says he tried to leave his dog behind but the dog always followed him and Shun wanted him to. Shun says he has already tried to poison his body already. Shun’s power spirals out of control again. Saki flies into the  sky. The mask melts away from Shun’s face. His last words are ‘Saki I’ve always loved you. Goodbye’. Saki flies above him watching the destruction, tears falling from her eyes. She screams out Shun’s name. She decides she needs to live and flies away. The last image is of Shun’s mask breaking apart.

Analysis: This episode was such a kick to the stomach. All the foreshadowing of what would happen to Shun has finally happened. It was his death that finally said to me that yes this was the type of story that had the nerve to kill off a character in a way that it would really hurt. And by god did it hurt. So many questions are also answered here. Now we know what a Karmic Demon is. Now we know those old legends read in class have at least some truth to them. We understand more about how this society works and why it does what it does. Why the Impure Cats are used and who has control over them.

The animation in this episode is really something else. The scenery changes according to Shun’s inner thought capture both his torment and his confusion. Showcasing both his suffering and confusion over what has happened to him. The music again is used to reinforce everything else. The dialogue is between Shun and Saki is enough to make a person cry. The last scene where he tells her he love her is so full of sadness. So too was the nice touch with Shun’s dog. That dog was always following him and Shun was always trying to ditch him. This shows why. This episode shows this series two greatest strengths-creating both a compelling atmosphere and foreshadowing what is to come using them to great effect.

But we also see Saki’s determination to keep on going when she says ‘I need to live’. This will become a plot point later so I will save it for then. Just to point it out for now.

Another great scene was when Saki faced the Impure Cat and we learn why Shun gave her that collar. But it does leave me with one question though. The cats are clearly not immune to power as Shun later shows when he kills one. Also why haven’t more people come up with Charms to try and fend them off? Maybe this will be explained down the line and I’ve just forgotten the explanation but why don’t the people the cats target just kill the cats? If anyone reading this has any idea feel free to leave a comment below.

Anime Review: From the New World Episode Nine: The Raising Winds, English Dub.

Warning: The series I am reviewing contains depictions of child abduction, disappearance, murder, and violence in a future totalitarian society. It also depicts sexual violence. The show also contains sexual relationships between young people. That is the trigger warning.

 

Leave now if you wish.

 

Also, spoilers for the episode and the whole series. Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers.

 

Recap: We open with the characters in school. Older Saki tells us that Shun hasn’t been to school for four days. The remaining members of group one gather outside the school. Satoru says they need to find Shun and make sure he isn’t in trouble. He is willing to do whatever it needed. Maria says it sounds like Satoru is trying to be Shun’s white knight. Satoru says that is not why he is doing this. There are too many questions that need answering. What did Shun mean by watch out for cats and what has happened to him? Most importantly is someone spying on them? Maria and Mamoru caution they need to be careful. Saki agrees after all if the monster rats could train birds to spy on them then what can the ethics committee do? Could a bug be listening to them?

In the end to not draw attention to themselves they split up. Saki and Shun will look at Shun’s house. Meanwhile Maria and Mamoru will ask around to see if they can find out anything. Satoru and Saki head for Shun’s home Pinewood village by boat. There are some flashbacks to Shun’s house, his family, his dog and Shun as a young boy. Shun’s home was one of those houses built around a tree. But their journey is not smooth one, they come across barricades and the village has been roped off.  Maria and Mamoru have found that only people from Pinewood are absent from school. Why would they all be absent on one day?

Saki and Satoru try to get into the village through the woods only to come across another barrier. They see a monster rat in the woods. They realize they’re outside a sacred barrier-a recently made one. As if something was trying to be contained. As they cross the barrier they come across more unusual things. Trees with faces on them, statues of moths and frost on the ground. They reach a massive crater. Two people are inside it as if they are digging for something. Saki asks Satoru to make a mirror to see what is down there. They see the remains of a tree in it. Saki realizes that this is where Shun’s house once was. Next, we see Saki and Satoru outside of Pinewood sitting in a children’s playground, they are waiting on Maria and Mamoru-both of who are late. They are hopeful Shun is safe at the bungalow. Satoru says to try again tomorrow. Both head home.

Saki returns to her house just in time for dinner. She is covered in mud and heads to wash up. Her parents make small talk about their day to day lives. One thing we do learn is that twenty percent of the town budget is spent on the library and that Saki’s mother works late. This continues until Saki interrupts them and asks ‘Hey, do you know what happened to Shun?’ Both of her parents are surprised and scared. Interestingly the camera focuses firstly on her parents, then on Saki and the empty chair next to her. Her mother tells her no one is meant to talk about that ‘sort of thing’. Her father tells her to say goodbye and that Shun is missing. There was a big accident in Pine wind village. Saki demands to know more but her mother soon tells her to stop. Saki thanks her parents for dinner and makes to leave. But her mother starts to cry and says, ‘Saki please I don’t want to lose another-I mean I don’t want to lose my only daughter’. There is a flashback to the scene in episode one when Saki’s mother said, ‘I don’t want to lose another one of my children’.

Saki goes to bed and realizes something she has suspected for a long time to be true. She had older siblings. Then there is a flashback of Maria and Saki talking. In this culture names are chosen for what parents hope their child will be. Saki looks up her name. It means ‘the youngest’. We get another flashback of Saki as a small child. But there is also another child in the scene. An older girl her mother calls Yoshimi. Saki jerks awake as she remembers her sister and asks herself ‘why did you disappear all of a sudden?’ Next, she hears tapping at the window and sees the silhouette of Maria.

She lets Maria in and she embraces Saki then tells her what happened. She tells Saki that Shun’s friends from Pine wind have been absent too. Maria and Mamoru were suspicious and decided to sneak into the court yard using Maria’s flying ability. Now we learn what was in those Storage drums. Three adults walk into the courtroom including Indo Sensei. From their talking Maria and Mamoru and later Saki learn that inside the drums are the Impure Cats and that the adults have no choice but to send them out before the transformation to Karmic Demon is complete. The cats are as big as lions. The adults use their powers to subdue it. As they leave Maria hears her teacher say, ‘he was so talented it is such as shame’. Maria continues ‘I heard him say it clear as day, he said Shun Ownumba’.

Once Maria leaves Saki decided to act. She puts on the necklace Shun gave her and gets dressed in warm clothes with a back pack. She flies out of her window after muttering some chants to herself.  She takes a boat then and heads straight for the barrier she and Satoru came across earlier. In the rain and the dark, she creeps past it and the search lights. She is nearly discovered once but slips past in the end. She pulls up to shore after some time. But it is here she comes face to face with the black Impure cat. She drops her torch and the episode cuts to credits.

 

Analysis: So many things happen in this episode but what is was really doing was building what would come next. The conclusion of the foreshadowing of what would become of Shun is finally here. We finally also have confirmation that Saki had older siblings at least one sister. There was a lot of build up to this. One bit of foreshadowing that was especially good was the dinner scene. The empty chair next to Saki meaning there should have been another person there.

It is very possible that Saki had more older siblings than her sister. After all her mother says, ‘another one of my children’. This could mean two but it would be more likely than to say, ‘I don’t want to lose another child’. The series never really addresses if there were more older children but really it doesn’t need to. As you know my feelings on how death shouldn’t be overused in a story how do I feel about the death of Saki’s older sister. I like how this is done unlike the death of Reiko back in episode one. Why? Because she was never really a person Saki knew. Yoshimi most likely died when Saki was very young and Saki’s memories were most likely wiped. Instead of Yoshimi being a character who we could have been invested in we instead find out the truth as Saki does.

Instead what we feel is the presence of Yoshimi’s absence. It has been there from the start and now we have some answers for it and will be getting more. This is a much better way to handle the idea of death in story. Compare for example Shun’s arc to Reikio’s brief time in episode one. As this is my second time viewing this series I know Shun’s death is coming. During the first watching this I was dreading what was happening and desperate to know he was okay. This time I feel the impending sense of doom. I know what is coming and I don’t want it to. I want Saki and the others to save Shun. I want to see Shun clear the air with Satoru and Saki telling she loves him.

She nearly does in the last episode but she stops just short. Honestly it is just painful. That is what the death of a character should be. The only character who came close to this was Rejin and even that wasn’t as powerful as this is. But there are other things this episode does that are good other than the build-up of suspense to what comes next and characters dying. There is some release of tension as some questions are answered. The impure cats have been established as real since the first few episodes and they are under the control of the educators in the village including at least one teacher. As the end of this episode draws Saki finds herself face to face with one of these creatures. We are left wondering if she will survive this encounter. (that collar Shun gave her might come in handy).

The use of music in this episode to emphasis the character’s emotions is amazing. It adds to their pain and the feeling of creepiness in this episode. The idea of being spied on is everywhere here and makes me feel just as uncomfortable watching this as I would be with the idea of being watched. This anime has not only mastered the art of foreshadowing both also the art of creating an atmosphere. The kids also show their quick thinking in coming up with ways to make themselves seem less suspicious by doing things such as splitting up.

Anime Review: From The New World Episode Eight: Omen. English Dub.

Warning: The series I am reviewing contains depictions of child abduction, disappearance, murder and violence in a future totalitarian society. It also depicts sexual violence. The show also contains sexual relationships between young people. That is the trigger warning.

Leave now if you wish.

Also spoilers for the episode and the whole series. Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers.

Recap: This episodes starts two years after the ending of the last episode. Th characters are now fourteen. They are back in school and older. Saki and Maria are together. We see many couples in the school all of them of the same sex. Satoru and Shun walk by holding hands. The anime focuses on Saki and Shun as they walk past each other. Saki stares after Shun. Maria notices this. The scene changes to them being in class. Maria is flying above the other students. Saki is fixing a broken bottle. Satoru tries to impress her with his ability to create a mirror. He and Saki bicker over whether it’s warped. Mamoru is drawing using his power. Shun is trying to hatch a chick using his powers.

Shun then stands up and walks past Saki to embrace Satoru. Saki distracted by this ends up cutting herself on the glass from her bottle. Maria sees this and is quick to comfort her and make sure she is okay. The scene changes again and Saki is outside in a field next to a tree. Shun’s dog Subaru shows up. Shun is not far behind him but Satoru shows up then. Saki hides behind  the tree. She peeks at the two boys. A slow music starts to play. The two boys roll around together and kiss. Shun sees Saki but doesn’t say anything. The boys continue maybe even have sex. She runs off and finds Maria.

Maria is with Mamoru having her portrait done. The two girls leave for a walk. Maria tells Mamoru to take a break. He watches them leave. We then get a scene where the two girls play in water together, kiss and presumably have sex. The next scene is in class. Satoru and Shun have gotten matching necklaces. Maria says that Satoru is copying everything Shun has been doing. Saki then asks Mamoru if he is having fun pining after Maria. She then suggests she and Maria get something that matches then dismisses the idea and walks off. While in class she stares after the two boys and then smiles at Maria. She then looks at Mamoru portrait of Maria. The episode cuts to Saki in the bathroom washing her face. She asks her reflection ‘what are we even doing with ourselves?’

Saki leaves school. She comes across another scene with Shun and Satoru but this time they are not being intimate but breaking up. Satoru is rather confused by what is happening. Shun gives him back the necklace and walks away. Satoru even goes as far to tell him not to hang out anymore. Saki is hugely confused and asks ‘but why?’ The next scene is of them in class. Satoru is now with another boy called Ray. The whole scene comes off as awkward and tense as they walk past Shun. The other members of group one look on in shock. Mari and Mamoru think that Satoru dumped Shun. Saki stays silent.

The next scene we meet Shisei Kaburagi. The post powerful PK user. Everyone wants to impress him. He praises some of them including Satoru and then stops by Shun. The whole scene is tense. Adult Saki says Shun is expected to succeed Shisei . They all expect that Shun will be taught directly by him for the first time. But instead Shisei backs away and runs out of the classroom. We hear the teacher and Shisei  talking but not what the latter is saying. Shun is exhausted. He knocks over the egg as he slumps. The other members of group one are concerned for them. It is also the first time they’ve hang out in a long time. We then see what happened to the egg, it broke open and an eye was inside.

Then we get a scene of Saki and Shun together in the afternoon setting sun. Shun just runs into Saki by the river. Shun tells Saki to stay back. Shun has a sickness of some kind and need to be by himself. He is in a small bungalow for medical treatment. No one will be coming with him or visiting him not even his dog he says. Saki nearly tell him she loves him but he interrupts her. Shun tells her that he believes they are being watched and that ‘they’ know what happened with Rejin two years ago. He warns her to watch out for cats.  She asks him if he means the trickster cat. He shakes his head and then gives her the necklace he is wearing. He throws it to her. It is a charm to keep cats. Shun made it and tells Saki to tell the others. Subaru then shows up. The episode ends.

Analysis: Wow does this episode pack a lot. The last episode allowed for a lot of tension to be released but this one brings some new tension to the story. It had been hinted since the episode one that Shun would turn into a Karma Demon and now we can see it happen. It’s heartbreaking to watch as he pushes away his friends and lovers because he does not want to hurt them. The scenes with Shisei are also good. Now the most powerful Psychokinesis users will become part of the story.

I won’t spend too much time focusing on the same sex relationships here as I already did that in my analysis of bisexuality in the series. So instead I will talk about the other sex relationships. Saki is very much in love with Shun by this episode. Even with her romantic feelings and relationships with both Satoru and Maria it is Shun who her heart belongs to. The scene were she tries to tell him this is actually really painful to watch. Because in the end these two never get to be together.

Shun’s character in this episode is shown to be truly complicated. On the one hand he is love with Saki while also being in a relationship with Satoru. He pushes both of them away because he realizes even before Shisay does that he is turning into a Karma Demon. How long has Shun known this? How long has he been hiding it unable to tell his friends and lovers. How long has he been hurting? This is effective because we don’t know we only learn this as Saki learns it. Also Shun’s dog is the coolest and its great to see him before things start to get really dark. His habit of follow his master around is noteworthy and will become important later.

Also the use of music and animation in this episode was beautiful. I haven’t talked about the music before but when it played during the romantic and intimate scenes it was so effective. We get to see the Utopian side of this dysptopia. These are the things the episode does really well. It’s a great introduction to what is the second third of this anime.

But there is one thing I want to address that I have seen raised about this series. How young these characters are. At this stage they are only 12-14 and engaging in sexual activity. Many are uncomfortable with this. I can understand why that is but I really don’t have a problem with that. For starts the portrayal is not graphic instead going for subtle effect. Secondly these characters are all the same age, this is a case of young people exploring their sexuality together-it is consensual. That is very important, there are no power imbalances here.

Lastly there does not seem to be a risk of STI and pregnancy. STIs are never mentioned in story considering everything else it is very possible they have been eradicated. None of them are engaging in penis and vagina intercourse so no risk of pregnancy. So I don’t have a problem with it. Since I used a picture of Shun and Satoru last time I decided to go with Saki and Maria this time. I’m nearly a third of a way through the series. I think the next anime I will review will be a Wandering Son. Anyway see you next time.

From The New World and Bisexuality

Warning: The series I am reviewing contain depictions of child abduction, disappearance, murder and violence in a future totalitarian society. It also depicts sexual violence. The show also contains relationships sexual relationships between young people. That is the trigger warning.

Leave now if you wish.

Also spoilers for  the whole series. Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers.

I know I said I would post this at the same time as my recap of episode eight but this is finished and I want to get it out there. I will recap episode eight asap though. Also this based only on the anime, I have not read the novel nor the manga.

Are the characters in the anime From the New Word bisexual?

The characters in From the New World (FTNW) never verbalized their sexuality in terms we in our culture would use-i.e. words like bisexual, gay, straight, lesbian etc. But similarly so characters like Bo and Lauren from Lost Girl never express a label either yet from the show it is clear that they are bisexual and lesbian respectively. So from watching the anime can we tell what orientation these characters are?

First off I need to address the fact that the characters in FTNW are from a very different culture and time period to me. They are living in a fictional future in dystopia Japan. So the cultural context these characters are in is very different from my own. So how does this cultural context view sexuality? For starters most of the characters are engaged in relationships with members of the same sex. Satoru and Shun are together, Saki is with Maria. Only Mamoru is not engaged in a same sex relationship instead in Saki’s words he spends his time pining after Maria.

In their society it is presented as the norm to have same sex relationships until a certain age with Mamoru being viewed as unusually for not having a boyfriend. They are expected to later form a relationship with a person of the other sex. In other words they are expected to grow out of their same-sex sexuality. There are no adults in the series who are in committed same sex relationships. None of the teenagers in episode sixteen pair with a member of the same sex. It seems that same sex relationships are expected to be something one grows out of.

The False Minoshiro in episode three further supports this. Human society has become like Bonobos (whom have sex many partners of any sex). A society of love. This basically means that I doubt these characters are meant to be monogamous either. But I won’t be talking about that here that is a topic for another post entirely. Getting back to the subject at hand, this idea of someone growing out of their same-sex attractions happens to Queer people in the real world. In the show this is referred to as playing a game. I myself have been on the receiving end of this. Another problem with this depiction is the idea that everyone is bisexual. Because if everyone is bisexual then rather then bisexual being an identity and community it is instead a universal human experience. This is a form of bisexual erasure. Putting it into a future does not change that. So is problematic tropes the only thing FTNW offer us in terms of bisexual representation? No it’s not that simply.

For starters Saki and Maria continue their relationship when they have paired with Satoru and Mamoru. There is no problem expressed in the story or from any of the characters with this. Saki’s and Maria’s relationship clearly remains strong and even at the age of twenty six Saki still thinks of Maria. She even has a moment when she dreams of Maria and the following takes place. Maria is justifying why she left with Mamoru and one of those is ‘It’s not like two girls can start a family’. Did Saki and/or Maria want that with each? It is very possible that they did but that their society clearly does not facilitate it. Maria leaving breaks Saki’s heart and Maria’s letter clearly shows she too is devastated. In short even though their society expected them to outgrow their same sex relationship they clearly haven’t.

Saki and Maria are both bisexual women. Are they marginalized in the village for their sexuality? There is no indication that is the case in fact these two have other things to be worried about. Maybe because it happened in their youth they were accepted for the time being. Maria does not stay in village so we don’t get to see what kind of conflict if any their relationship would have caused had it continued into adulthood. That’s unfortunate but it at least does enough to subvert the whole ‘you grow out of queerness’ trope that could have been present.

So I’ve talked a lot about the girls in this anime but what about the boys? I talked a bit about Mamoru before so what about Satoru and Shun. At the start of episode eight they are in a relationship but on realizing he is becoming a karmic demon Shun breaks off the relationship rather coldly. Even going as far as to say ‘Haven’t we played this game long enough?’ Satoru is hurt by this. He later starts seeing another boy as part of a rebound or to make his ex boyfriend jealous. Shun dies soon later. Shun says he was in love with Saki.

He never says anything similar to Satoru even though there is clearly tension between them after they break up. We don’t get a enough of Shun’s perspective in the anime to really tell us how he viewed his relationship with Satoru. But we do know he was in love with Saki. The tension after they break up and why Shun broke up with him show that he did at least care for Satoru in some way. There are examples of him caring about Satoru through out the series for example in episode seven when they are reunited he and Satoru are the first to embrace. Shun may have cared for Satoru not in the same he did for Saki but in some way he did.

However Satoru is another story. There is much more information on his feelings for Shun then on Shun’s feelings for Satoru. Satoru was very much in love with Shun. Saki even saying when they spoke about Shun’s replacement Ryou that ‘(Ryou) is not the person we both fell in love with’. Satoru’s actions after he and Shun break clearly show he is not over him. He is worried about Shun and is the first to leap into action to find him when he disappears.  With Shun dead and Satoru’s memories of him erased he doesn’t think of Shun as Saki thinks of Maria. But we learn in episode twenty that he still wants to regain his memories of the faceless boy (Shun) so he can come to terms with whatever happened and move on. When Saki says Shun’s name in episode twenty five we see Satoru’s eye widen.

Is it possible he has recalled who Shun was? Very much so. The ending only further supports this when we see Saki had regained all her memories, even those of Reikio.  I like the interpretation that he did. Even if he didn’t Saki may have restored them. She clearly shows she is able to work well with hypnosis in the series. Because he is able to remember Shun Satoru is finally about to move on. Satoru like Maria and Saki subvert the toxic tropes as well. Making him not just a bisexual character but a male bisexual character. Boys who are bisexual are still so uncommon in media so it is great to see one.

There are other things the show does that is praise worthy, even with all the characters who die there are two bisexual character who get a happy ending Satoru and Saki. Happy ending for Queer characters are still so rare and it’s great to see one. The heterosexual relationships in the show are treated with respect and developed rather well. None of the hetero relationships come out of left field.

Despite the good the anime does with bisexual character there are few things that could have been done better. I wish is that the show had gone a little bit further in showing these character’s relationships. Especially Shun’s and Satoru’s romance. Since Saki is the point of view character we only get inside her mind in depth. Also this begs the question what about monosexual queers (gays and lesbians) do they not exist in this world since human society is meant to be a society of love? If that is the case how come someone like Mamoru the token heterosexual exist? Even if you make the argument that he is not straight just always in love with Maria what would the situation have been like if she was a boy? Alas we never get an answer to this.

So how does From The New World hold up as a representation for bisexuality. It is a very solid one. Does it do everything right and explore everything about queer identity in this world? No but it does more then enough things to represent some pretty cool bisexual characters including subverting some pretty toxic tropes. If you want a cool science fiction anime with bi character this is probably the best out there and well worth watching.

Anime Review: From The New World Episode Seven: Summer Darkness. English Dub.

Warning: The series I am reviewing contain depictions of child abduction, disappearance, murder and violence in a future totalitarian society. It also depicts sexual violence. The show also contains relationships sexual between young people. That is the trigger warning.

Leave now if you wish.

Also spoilers for the episode and the whole series. Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers.

Recap: The episode opens with Satoru and Saki looking down on the Giant Spiders who are in three big groups. They speak about how to take out the monster rats and Satoru is starting to be more effected from using his powers to kill monster rats. The enemy changes position and then attacks using catapults and rocks. Fortunately Saki spots this and they hit the decks. Satoru suggests counter attacking but Saki tells him not because if they do so now they be figured out. Better to wait. She asks were their nest is, which is deep in the forest. Saki tells Satoru to burn a three. But then news arrives with the fact that the enemies Queen has been evacuated. They are now free to stage an all out attack.

Squalor runs off. Satoru can only use his powers three more times at most. Saki tells him to send a rock back at the catapult. Saki says they need to leave. But Satoru wants to fight some more. Only after destroying a second catapult does he and Saki run. She assures him things will be okay and they will make it home. Satoru looks exhausted. They then run into Squalor. He is with enemy rats. Saki calls him a traitor. Satoru kills these rats. Squalor then claims he was pulling a ruse, that he was on their side. Saki is not impressed. Saying he still betrayed them. Satoru tells him to shut up and they head to the East a path Squalor suggested.

Satoru collapses and there are enemy rats. Squalor then asks why they don’t use their powers-have they lost them? But a horn sounds. Reinforcements have arrived. The Giant Hornet colony led by Kiroumaru has arrived. The largest colony Eastern Japan. We get our first depiction of Kiroumaru. The Earth Spider’s Queen has been captured. At her nest Satoru warns Saki to be careful with the Giant Hornet Colony because they are loyal to humans. The Larva of the Earth Spiders is claimed by the Robert Flies and the Giant Hornets. The Earth Spider Queen is to die. There is a least ditch effort to kill Saki and the others using balloon dogs but Satoru holds back the explosions and collapses.

Satoru was asleep for a few hours. Then we get an explanation as to why they are in danger. Satoru believes that because the Giant Hornets are loyal to the Ethic’s committee and because Saki and co have broken a lot of rules they will be seen as problematic kids. Like how kids disappear from elementary and the unified class. Satoru fears that the monster rat may kill them. Saki agrees and they flee into the night. Saki thinks of Shun and starts to cry. Satoru asks what is wrong but Saki says there is nothing to talk about. But Squalor soon finds them.

Squalor helps them reach the canyons but they are being followed by a night hawk. They meet the other and Squalor leaves. They paddle away with Saki and Satoru back to bickering. Then the Giant Hornet colony catches up to them. They fear the worst. With Mamoru and Mari embracing and Saki and Satoru holding hands. But Kiroumaru does not hurt them. He gives them a lift. He takes them as far as he can.

Kiroumaru asks them to keep what he did a secret or else he will be killed. Satoru realizes that the Ethics Committee must have ordered to eliminate them. We soon learn that the others know their mantras (by memorizing them or writing them down). So Saki can restore their powers. Starting with Shun. They make it home. Uncover their seal powers. They think they have succeeded and think everything will be normal. But the older Saki is narrating and says they are simply fooling themselves.

Analysis: This episode is a little less action then the last few but has a lot of information in it and is very dialogue heavy. Probably the most interesting characters in this episode are Squalor and Kiroumaru. Squalor even before he became the threat he would was already manipulative, sly and deceitful. So many times in this episode I could see he was playing these two children like a fiddle.

But of course they did not have the knowledge, experience or maturity to see that. It really does show what he is capable of especially further down the road. Kiroumaru already stands out as a far more ethical person. He clearly thinks for himself and is willing to disobey humans to do what he thinks is rights. This will come into play later on. Even though Kiroumaru disobey humans he is not ruthless enough to do what Squalor will later do.

It’s clear also from this episode that Saki has romantic feelings for both Shun and Satoru. She thinks of Shun after being separated from him but holds Satoru’s hand. Considering what happens in the nest episode this is a love triangle here. This episode is really more of a wrapping up and concluding of the first third of the story. There is of course the usual foreshadowing. Which is good particularly the taking of the larva as the spoils of war.

Satoru shows again some pretty excellent analysis skills here figuring out that they are in danger even with loyal rats. Satoru really has transformed in these last few episodes. He was far more depth then before. He is also the one who saves the day by stopping the explosion. The first time I watched this anime it took me a while to like Satoru but by this episode he was easily my favorite character. I know I usually write more but I think that is about it for this episode. Next episode we have a time skip of two years and the characters will form romantic relationships with one another.

See you then.

Anime Review: From The New World Episode Six, Escape, English Dub.

Warning: The series I am reviewing contain depictions of child abduction, disappearance, murder and violence in a future totalitarian society. It also depicts sexual violence. The show also contains relationships sexual relationships between young people. That is the trigger warning.

Leave now if you wish.

Also spoilers for the episode and the whole series. Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers.

Recap: The episode picks up where the last one left off. Saki and Satoru being buried under the cave in. They are in a tight embrace after the cave crumbles. Satoru asks Saki if she is okay. They are both alright and he lets her go. He soon realizes they must be buried very deeply because they can’t hear anything.

Saki and Satoru wonders about the others and both say they are grateful to have the other with them. Next we get a series of surreal images. They seem to be showing us the inside of Saki’s mind. We see the False Minoshiro again but this time it keeps changing and altering shape. Next we see the fire in the temple of purification. Then a flashback occurs where we learn that Saki know Satoru’s mantra from a childhood game.

With this knowledge and a bit of improvisation she puts Satoru under a hypnotic state and unlocks his powers. He clears away the rocks and makes a staircase for them to escape. Saki listens to see if there is anyone close by. With the cost somewhat clear they leave the cave in. Saki and Satoru quickly deduce where the Monster rats are hiding. Saki wants to run away but Satoru says otherwise. He decides to wipe out the enemy monster rats. To do this he adopts a number of tactics including transforming a rock into bullets, sending their arrows back at them and setting threes on fire. He reflects that slicing them up with wind would have been cooler but he will make do. Even Saki is scared by this display of blood lust.

Next they come across the machines making the poison gas and more rats. Satoru’s methods become even more cruel using the rat’s dead bodies to scare the others. Soon the Earth Spiders at the Machines are dead. Saki then says then should just leave as the Earth Spiders are no longer following them. But Satoru instead wants to wipe them out. Saki then confronts him saying ‘What has happened to you it’s like you are a different person’. She points out that they don’t even know where the Earth Spider’s nest is. But then Squalor pops up again.

Squalor informs them of where the Earth Spiders are hiding, in the forest across the clearing. Squalor offer them a safe passage. We also learn that the monster rats use poison arrows. The poison is from a foreign frog. Squalor also tells Saki and Satoru that his Queen is safe. Squalor asks them to smith the Earth Spiders colony. Saki fears the path may not be safe but Squalor assures her it is. Saki is not fully trusting and arranges for doubles to be used just in case.

Their doubles do not last long and are killed by archers hiding in the trees. Saki quickly deduces which one has Satoru shake it so they fall out. The archers are two small snake like creatures not monster rats. Saki and Satoru speculate that perhaps the Rats can take on other forms and hide themselves as anything in the forest. Saki suggests turning back but Satoru says if they do so they will hunted down.

Next they come across a pound. When one of the monster rats on their side is killed. Turns out there are frogs hiding in the pond. Satoru begins to boil the water in the pond killing them. Saki notices that behind them are some badger like creatures. She tells Satoru this and their location. He promptly cuts them down using the water from the pond. Satoru points out that the frogs were just bait to pull them in. Saki fears that use of his powers is wearing him out but he just smiles at her and insists they keep going.

But Satoru is clearly becoming more tired as in the next scene he protects them from rocks being flung at them and send them back. In the end they run for it. Saki realizes which tree they are up and Satoru sets it on fire. Squalor appears again and tells them the Earth Spider’s defenses have been cut down and asks Saki and Satoru to crush them. Saki however is angry because he told them the path was safe and it turned out to be a trap. She is also worried that Satoru is too tired to continue. She tries to get Satoru to leave again but he refuses. However in her anger she lets slip that her powers are sealed to Squalor.

As they continue Satoru becomes more exhausted. They come across where the Earth Spiders are gathered and hid themselves in the woods and shrubs. The episode cuts to credits.

Analysis: There are a lot of things done well and done right in this episode but one thing that really wasn’t. We’ll start with that. Saki unlocks Satoru’s powers using his mantra, why didn’t she do this sooner? The plot? Also there was no hint before hand that she knew his mantra making this come out of left field. But everything else in this episode is very well handled.

Saki and Satoru are shown to care about and comfort one another. Saki’s concern for Satoru is shown through out the episode and exposes a wide range of emotions. From worry to anger. We also see that without her powers Saki is far from useless, she is able to spot traps Satoru and others are not. She deduces quickly where the enemy is hiding. It was Saki was the one who figured out how to unseal someone’s power (although why she didn’t do it sooner is still bothersome). However we also see her character is not perfect when in her anger she gives away information that endangers her. Namely that she does not have her powers.

Meanwhile we also get more character development for Satoru and my goddess is he terrifying. He displays blood-lust and joy for fighting. Not only does he enjoy it but he is good at it. Coming up with rather creative ways to kill the Monster Rats. These last few episodes have given Satoru a lot of development. At first he was a loud and annoying child who told tall tales. But now his tales are not so tall, he is clearly a fast thinker, logical and smart. He is also loyal sticking alongside Saki (that will come up again). So because of this I actually like the fact he has such blood-lust. It keeps his character more fleshed out and developed. We and Saki have seen some very different sides to him lately-shown by Saki saying ‘you’re acting like a different person.

We also learn more about the Monster Rats their battle tactics and that even though the humans have a clear advantage the Rats are still a threat to them. Perhaps the rats are also more powerful then they first seem with the idea of ‘taking any form they want’. Or perhaps they simply have made allies with other creatures. Either way they are mounting up to be quite the antagonists down the the road.Lastly the animation once again stands out here especially with all the action and fight scenes there are in this episode. It makes them very interesting to watch.

There is only one episode left before we get to the first of two time skips. While sexuality is clearly growing as an important aspect of this series, it will not be until after the first time skip it becomes a core part of the story. Especially same-sex sexuality. For that reason I intend on publishing my analysis of sexuality in this episode along with my review of episode eight. I will be addressing the very simple question -do the character in this anime count as bisexual representation? I hope you enjoyed this review.

Fin.