Queerbaiting and Erasure in Anime

As finals approach, I have found myself procrastinating and watching a lot more TV. With this has come my need to binge watch the new animes of the season. As I watched a new sports anime by the name of Sk8 the Infinity, I was reminded of something that has become a clear problem in anime that many viewers have pointed out - there is hardly any LGBTQ+ representation.*Spoilers* there was a scene in which Langa,  one of the main protagonists, is asked if he likes his friend Reiki to which he responds that he does. This was a major breakthrough in that anime community in that there are rarely any anime with gay pairing that doesn’t surround coming out or trying to accept oneself. It is hard to find anime where being gay or part of the LGBTQ+ is normalized. 

Love is Love mural art Photo by Yoav Hornung from Unsplash However, many people on social media pointed out the double standards and precautions many viewers take when viewing anime.For example, were this a heteronormative couple it would be automatically taken as canon that one character had feelings for the other. However, this is not the case for queer couples. This is because writers and animators have a habit of queerbaiting its audience. Queerbaiting is when characters or people are set up to be perceived as a queer couple and even act “romantically” or preform actions that are read as such only to be straight in the end.This is prominent in many animes like Free! and Sound Euphonium, animes which hint at characters sharing romantic feelings only to not clearly state anything. Even animes with queer representation such as Yuri on Ice! have such little confirmation that many viewers struggle to truly believe any of it. The viewers literally had to wait until the characters were confirmed to be engaged to let out a sigh of relief. This is horrible because when your viewer base contains many different and diverse people, it is angering to see the lack of representation. Queerbaiting also tends to minimize and make fun of queer relationships, viewing them as fanservice instead of actual opportunities to explore real relationships. Queer relationships are not there to entertain heteronormative viewers or to be fetishized rather they are valid and real relationships that need respect. 

Sharon Mccutcheon Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash This leads into a bigger issue also found within anime, and more specifically within the US dub and sub, as well as the interpretation aspect. An iconic example of this is Sailormoon, where Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus, two friends turned lovers, were changed into cousins when the anime hit the US Market. Similarly, cult classic Neon Evangelion which was added to Netflix notably cut out the hints of romance between Kaoru and Shinji. Unlike the original, it interpreted them as friends rather than romantic interests. This again takes the little representation queer people have away from them. How are viewers supposed to feel safe and noticed by the media they consume if translators and creators are exploiting their identities or erasing them? 

One man with Pride flag, other man hugging him Samantha Hurley from Burst The importance of good representation is necessary in anime and media as a whole because of its influence and impact. As someone who grew up with anime, it has shaped the way I view the world and myself. Although, I am happy that the anime community is becoming aware of the problems regarding queer issues, we still have a long way to go. It is vital for the newer generations to have that representation so that they never feel like outsiders in a community that is supposed to make them safe. It is time we start demanding real representation!