If you have been in the anime community for a good amount of time you will be well acquainted with discourse around the dislike of Sakura Haruno. Sakura is one of the main characters in the famous anime series Naruto and has since gained the reputation for being “useless” and “mean”. Many in the community claim that she is weak compared to her male counterparts and that she is the epitome of a one dimensional character. Although much of this criticism is valid, it says alot about the ways in which women are written in anime/manga and how people react to this portrayal. There is a trend of anime women being displayed as tools or eye candy which is detrimental to girls watching anime and the audience’s perception of women.
Until recently, much of the audience of Shonen anime, anime that is usually filled with action and aimed at teenagers, have been seen by teens and older men; however, there has been an influx of a more diverse audience. With this new coming audience, more accurate portrayals of women have begun to be demanded as many girls in anime are either fan service or serve as love interests or motivation. An example of this is the dead mother trope, rampant within classics, we see authors use the death of mothers as the motivation for their heros, if not the mother then their lover. Women are used as plot devices rather than actual characters.
We see this with Sakura as she is viewed as a love interest for Naruto and Sasuke.*Spoilers* Much of the hate for her is that she continually rejects Naruto and waits on Sasuke. However, her motivations overshadow her achievements or other personality traits. She is painted as lesser than her teammates and even placed into the feminine role of healer. It is through her character design that she is cornered into the stereotypical role of love interest. Many Naruto fans hate her for her rejecting Naruto and putting Sasuke first when this is what the show decides to highlight. This also perpetuates the narrative that men have the right to anger and shame women after a rejection. All that is taken from her character is that she is “mean” to Naruto and too obsessed with Sasuke, but when the tables are turned many justify Naruto’s obsession with Sasuke as “true friendship”. There is a blatant double standard.
Women are also viewed as decorative in that they are often pretty and wear skimpy outfits to bring in male viewers. When authors forgo this “beautification” of women, they receive backlash. A prime example of this is Mikasa from Attack on Titan. She is praised for her beauty and skill from many viewers, however, in the newest season she cuts her hair and takes on a masculine appearance. This led to many viewers complaining that they had “ruined” her. They expect a certain femininity from female characters just because they are women.This shows how even if they are powerful, women in anime are still held to misogynistic standards. This needs to change as young audiences will learn from these shows and it will adopt these misogynistic standards as a decent treatment of women. Similarly, young girls watching will find it hard to navigate their own ideas of self and beauty if all they see is a push for hyper feminization and the reduction of women to roles of motivation or lover. It is time as a community that we begin to discuss and fix these horrid views of women within anime.