Even More Transgender and Non-Binary Characters in Japanese Media

A sequel to my 2019 video, Transgender and Non-Binary Visibility in Japanese Media. Let’s learn about a few more trans characters from recent years! (Reupload because KADOKAWA blocked the video worldwide.)

Original Video Script:

A few years ago on Transgender Day of Visibility, I made a video going through various transgender characters in Japanese media. Seeing as it’s one of my most popular videos, I’ve been considering making a follow-up to it for quite some time. And today is March 31st, Transgender Day of Visibility, once again. So let’s take this opportunity to have a look at EVEN MORE TRANSGENDER AND NON-BINARY CHARACTERS IN JAPANESE MEDIA!

We will be looking at fairly recent characters today, but I wanted to start by mentioning a character that should have been in my first video. Claude from Ikeda Riyoko’s 1978 manga Claudine! which has even been released in English since my last video. Claude is a trans man from a French aristocratic family in the early 20th century. Claude is one the first trans men to appear in a manga and the story itself is arguably the first time a manga focused on a realistic trans narrative.

Spoilers incoming here, though it might not be a surprise given Ikeda-sensei’s love of tragedy. Claude falls in love with several women who reject him, leading to Claude blaming his presumed female body. He commits suicide after falling into depression, with the final narration of the manga being Claude’s psychiatrist officiating Claude’s transsexual diagnosis. It’s a tragic tale both in isolation and in regards to the fate many trans characters would face in the future.

Moving forward to 2015 we have Our Dreams at Dusk by Kamatani Yuhki. The manga features several LGBT characters, including Natsuyoshi, a trans man. He’s a supporting character that appears as early as the very first chapter. That same chapter also introduces Anonymous, an x-gender and asexual person who owns the drop-in center where most of the cast hang out. Finally, the manga also has Shuuji, who is currently questioning their gender. The book has been localized into English, so definitely check it out if you haven’t as it’s a solid in-depth look into Japan’s LGBT scene which is not easy to find.

In the light novel recently turned anime So I’m A Spider, So What? there’s a trans woman named Karnatia, or Katia for short. As the series is an isekai reincarnation story, the way in which Katia came to find herself a woman is through magical contrivance, as she lived as a man before being put in the body of a cis woman. Despite this, she embraces her new body and gender. Even going so far as to refer to her past life as a different person, long since dead.

Another recent anime adaptation was Suzukawa Rin’s manga Asobi Asobase, which features a perfect example of how to not involve a trans character. Tsugumi is a trans woman and a minor character who the main characters learn the assigned-gender-at-birth of when seeing her break up with her boyfriend. The main characters then proceed to have a total trans panic about this person they barely know and it’s all presented as if it’s hilarious. It’s not, it’s probably one of the most perfect examples of transphobic comedy in recent anime and manga.  Though transphobia was certainly not the only sensitivity issue the series has. (It has blackface, like, beyond usual ganguro stuff blackface)

Come 2016, we find Kanata from the video game Akiba’s Beat. She’s a trans woman that plays a major role in the game and while the word transgender doesn’t appear in the game itself, she’s been reaffirmed as trans by the developers. In Fujimoto Tatsuki’s dystopian action manga Fire Punch there’s Togata, a trans man with the power of regeneration. His power, ironically called a Blessing, prevents him from going through with the gender reaffirming surgery he wants to have. Spoiler warning again here. While Togata is a major character, he does not survive the series.

Nojima from Oda Tomohito’s manga Komi Can’t Communicate is a non-binary supporting character who defines their gender as simply Nojima. This book has also been localized into English. Hebi-Zou and Suzuki Tsuta’s manga Heaven’s Design Team, which was adapted into an anime this year, features Venus, a trans woman who’s part of the main cast and whose trans status is just casually part of the series without any questioning. Highly recommend the anime adaptations, as it is hilarious. Though I was disappointed that Venus is voiced by Kishio Daisuke who’s a cis man, though thankfully his acting approach doesn’t turn her into a caricature.

While I did mention it briefly in the original video, I want to once again highlight Konayama Kata’s manga Love Me For Who I Am which began in 2018 because it has recently begun its English release. It follows the story of Mogumo, a non-binary teenager, and the various people from the LGBT spectrum they get to know by working at Cafe Question, an otokonoko cafe. The cafe is run by a trans woman, Satori, and another member on the staff, Mei, is also a trans woman. It’s a wonderful series that you should absolutely read if you haven’t already.

And then there’s Oda Eiichiro’s One Piece which certainly did not start in 2018 but did introduce the character Okiku that year. Okiku is a trans woman who stands in strong contrast to Oda’s various okama stereotypes from earlier in the series. Two years later the series also introduced Yamato, a trans man. I personally haven’t read One Piece in many years, but I’ve been told that both characters have their genders fully respected by the main cast.

The 2019 anime Carole & Tuesday features Martian Androgyny, a sci-fi intersex condition that causes a person to fluctuate between biological sexes. Two characters, Dahlia and Desmond, have Martian Androgyny and are portrayed as genderfluid in conjunction with their biological status. It’s another case of an anime involving fantastical contrivance to justify transness. The series also features the Mermaid Sisters who are non-binary singers, named after how a Mermaid is neither fish or human, just like they are neither men or women. Their appearance sparked debate among trans viewers as some consider them a brilliant middle finger to gender norms whereas others considered them ridiculous caricatures. I’m not about to dig further into this debate here because that could be its own video, but it deserves mention regardless.

There are two non-binary characters in the visual novel Gnosia, Raqio and Setsu. Again, I have not played this game myself yet, but I’ve been informed that Setsu is a major character and that the player can also choose to be non-binary. And speaking of non-binary characters, the anime Stars Align’s main character Yuu actually discovers being x-gender while learning about LGBT identities in the series itself. I might be wrong, but I believe it’s the first anime tv series to use the term x-gender, which is a milestone in itself.

Boys Run The Riot is a manga from 2020 by Gaku Keito who himself is a trans man and the main character, Ryuu, is also a trans man. The book is still ongoing in Japan and will begin releasing in English by Kodansha USA later this year. Another trans man from that year is Kite Japan Sinks: 2020, an modern day anime remake of the 1973 novel Japan Sinks by Komatsu Sakyo about people surviving an environmental catastrophe tearing through Japan.

Popular viking manga turned anime Vinland Saga by Yukimura Makoto has the character Cordelia, who is a trans woman. Her story is a bit unique in that while assigned male at birth, her mother raised her as a girl. As she grew older, she realized her assigned birth gender as she began to resemble her father more.than her mother, but continues to identify as a woman despite life becoming much more difficult as a result.

And then there’s 2021, our current year. I debated back and forth whether I should include this next anime or not because once again I could probably make an entire video about only this anime. But it wouldn’t be right to not mention it at all. I’m talking about Wonder Egg Priority. This anime’s broadcast ended last night, although the actual ending won’t be released until June. It’s a show about child suicides and various other horrible traumatic topics that make up the list of content warnings you probably want to read before watching it. It also has a 14 year old trans man named Kaoru who appears in episode 10, wearing a transgender pride coloured jacket.

I need to mention this detail right away. Kaoru is already dead by the time we meet him, he comitted suicide after having been raped by his school councelor and getting pregnant. His story is not pretty and while he maintains a strong colourful personality throughout our brief moments with him, I can not in good faith point to Wonder Egg Priority as something to watch for the sake of seeing an awesome trans man because of the nature of his appearance. There’s also Momoe, one of the main characters, who is heavily coded as trans and even gets to don Kaoru’s jacket at one point. But this is getting into territory that would be better left for its own video.

And that’s where I’m going to leave things for now. I hope that you learned about a few more trans characters and don’t forget that next week everyone’s favourite undead trans girl idol Lily is back in Zombie Land Saga Revenge!

Source Materials: Claudine…! (Manga, 1978), Our Dreams at Dusk (Manga, 2015), So I’m As Spider, So What? (Novel, 2015), Asobi Asobase (Manga, 2016), Akiba’s Beat (Game, 2016), FIRE PUNCH (Manga, 2016), Komi Can’t Communicate (Manga, 2016), Heaven’s Design Team (Manga, 2017), Love Me For Who I Am (Manga, 2018) One Piece (Manga, 1997), Carole and Tuesday (Anime, 2019), Gnosia (Game, 2019), Stars Align (Anime, 2019), BOYS RUN THE RIO (Manga, 2020), Japan Sinks: 2020 (Anime, 2020), Vinland Saga (Manga, 2005), Wonder Egg Priority (Anime 2021)

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