Video Trans(heh… trans)script:
In episode 8 of the currently airing anime Zombie Land Saga, the twelve year old zombie girl Hoshikawa Lily is revealed to be a trans girl. It was a reveal met with a lot of praise from the trans community and, unexpectedly, criticism and doubt from those opposed to such inclusion.
This led to a claim that the transgender status of Lily was invented solely by Crunchyroll, the series western distributor, in the translation and was not actually part of the Japanese script.
This claim is absolutely false, which I will provide evidence for in this video.
First off, let’s look at Lily’s story as it is presented in the episode with Crunchyroll’s translation. Lily, who died seven years ago and was resurrected as a zombie, meets her father for the first time since becoming undead and this gives her conflicted feelings as she wants to do something for him but can’t reveal who and what she is.
She sits down and tells her life story to Sakura, our protagonist zombie. She was born with the name Go Masao and her mother died when she was very young. Despite her male-coded name, she still presented entirely as a girl with her father’s approval. She became a child TV actress under the pseudonym Hoshikawa Lily in order to be able to make her father happy, as he loved television.
Upon entering puberty at age twelve and being met with the sudden growth of body hair, Lily have an anxiety attack over not wanting to grow up and looking like her dad. She wants to stay a cute girl forever. When she sees that she’s grown hair on her chin, the mental shock of it all is too much to bear and she dies from an acute stress reaction.
Sakura helps Lily tell the story to the other zombie girls. At first she’s met with Saki, the delinquent biker Zombie, making fun of her former name. But after the initial reactions have settled down and they ask the one who resurrected them all if he knew about her story they reach a consensus. It doesn’t matter what genitalia Lily has or what name she used to go by, she’s one of them now.
Lily declares, happily, that she’s Lily now and that’s who she’s going to be from now on.
It’s a fairly direct story, shouldn’t be up for interpretation at all. But despite this we’ve had some people insist that the trans stuff was invented by Crunchyroll. So let’s look at the claim which has mainly boiled down to one scene. Saki declaring “it doesn’t matter what junk she’s got.”
According to a person on Twitter, who we’ll call Akira Yoshida for the sake of anonymity, Saki’s line in Japanese does not reference Lily’s genitalia and basically just says “whatever, who cares?” instead.
Now, Akira Yoshida claims to be born and raised in Japan so it’s understandable why some might take this at face value. But let’s actually look at what Saki says in Japanese.
The direct translation of this, with no localization flair added, is the following; “Who cares! Whether she’s got something attached down there or not doesn’t matter.”
The key word here being 付い (tsui) which literally means “attach.” Saki is directly talking about the fact of Lily having a penis. This makes sense in context too since it’s in response to the other girls saying that they’re surprised they didn’t notice Lily’s trans status despite how close they’ve all been.
So that’s pretty direct in regards to what Saki is referring to. She’s saying that Lily isn’t defined by her genitalia, end of story. In fact, when more people pointed out the inaccuracy of Akira Yoshida’s claim, he backed down and said it was all up for interpretation instead.
Now, I’m not saying people should be distrustful of anyone claiming to be Japanese just because they can’t type simple phrases in Japanese, think Japan has street names, think “watashi wa American-jin desuka” means “I’m from America”, think kanji are katakana, doesn’t think there are any transgender idols or because their Twitter account previously said they’ve never been to Japan and are American but they’re now claiming it’s all because they inherited the Twitter account from a friend…
But maybe do some source checking before taking things at face value.
In fact, I’d argue the Crunchyroll translation could have been more explicit about Lily’s trans status had it been a bit more literal. When Lily talks about her old name, Crunchyroll translated the line as “that was my old name” when Lily’s actual wording is closer to “that was the name I abandoned”, or to put it in modern trans terms, “that was my dead name.”
Lily’s trans status is slightly hinted at earlier in the show. When the girls learn they’re going to a hot springs resort, most of the girls are excited about a chance to visit the hot springs. Lily, on the other hand, looks mortified. This makes perfect sense as she’s not told anyone she’s trans and she’s worried that the girls would treat her worse if they learned about her genitalia.
It also puts her insistence on being called Lily into perspective. Saki, who is a bit of a bully, keeps making fun of her height by calling her “shrimpy” which Lily clearly resents and deflects by insisting on her name being Lily. It seems like nothing at first, but once you learn her backstory you realize it’s because she doesn’t want her identity invalidated.
It should also be noted that Crunchyroll’s localization of Zombie Land Saga involves them directly working with Studio MAPPA, the animation house that creates the show. This isn’t some detached third party translation without input from the creators, they know what they’re doing here. And I’m saying that as someone who’ve been highly critical of Crunchyroll’s translations in the past.
The official English PR account on Twitter for the series have also been making it very clear that despite Lily’s backstory she’s very much a girl. Posting various tweets to fight the toxicity some brought to the reveal. Of course, some argue that because that account is English it somehow doesn’t count as official. So let’s look at the Animate Times interview about the episode.
Tanaka Minami, the voice of Lily, talks about the reveal in the interview. She refers to it as Lily having been Masao in the past and how she’s Lily now. “It’s not Masao, it’s Lily!” She also talks about a subtle touch to the acting of Lily, in which the Lily seen in flashbacks has a regional dialect that involves a lot of boyish slang, which Lily has since trained herself to not use. Though some of it slips out when she sees her father.
Finally, when asked about what to look forward to in upcoming episodes, after talking a bit about the upcoming episode nine, Tanaka closes by saying that the series “is about friendship between girls, so please look forward to more of that.” She never says Lily is a boy. She never says Lily is a crossdresser, an otokonoko, that she practices josou or any other terminology that could be used to invalidate Lily’s status as a girl. Because Lily is one of the girls. It’s that simple.
Even Kotaro, the man who resurrected everyone as zombies, calls out the idea that Lily wouldn’t be welcome as a girl because of her past in the episode itself. Itself being what leads to the scene where she’s declared to be one of them by Saki.
Lily is, by all official accounts and the context of the show itself, a trans girl. A very lovely trans girl that deserves respect and love. If you’re not yet watching Zombie Land Saga I highly recommend it, it’s a delightful anime and also features a genderless chicken mascot.
If you like my videos or any of the other things I do and would like to support me, I have a patreon. There’s a link in the description for that. You can also follow me on Twitter if you want to read my depressed ranting about the state of the world. Also, while this was my first video since coming back from Japan, please look forward to more videos soon as I’ll be participating in the #12DaysofAnime this year. Until then, take care…
Also, Sakura wears trans flag pants.