When narratives collide
I’m talking about Kodomo no Jikan again. So the warning gave in the last post holds for this as well. While I have avoided it in this post, the source may be triggering around childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence. The original can also be quite squicky. The extract I’ve linked to this story is free of the squiky bits.
So why have I gone to the effort if the text I’m examining is so problematic? While I have an interest in reviewing anime and manga with LGBT content I don't review everything however KnJ contains a perspective that I haven't seen in any other anime. The scene contains something I haven’t seen any other anime a seriously written coming out scene. Kuro (the young girl wearing cat ears) is basically telling Shirea the teacher she admires that she is in love with another girl.
Now you may protest that I'm imposing an interpretation on this scene. Of course each person comes to a story with their own cultural lens, mine happens to be one that is informed by exposure to the BLGT community and their narratives so it is natural that this affects my reading.
Anyone who enjoys an artwork will always be creating their own readings of it so to some extent it is unavoidable. Especially when you're dealing with a culture that is distant from one's own. There is an element of cultural appropriation here. However since Japan is a modern, influential state I'm not so worried about the appropration from a social justice perspective.
The reason I'm confident in my reading of this as a coming out is that it is foreshadowed in a previous scene. One of the other characters makes use of the term “kamu auto” a borrowed word meaning to come out as gay or lesbian. For many Japanese people who are gender or sexual minorities the entire concept of coming out is contentious one. Some see coming out as a foreign concept incomparable with highly conformist Japanese culture. Others are trying to change the society which they live in to something that is both Japanese and not so heteronormative.
So in these scene we have two narratives about young lesbians. We have the older “Class S” narrative touched on by the teacher Shirai. The class S goes along these lines, girls in school might have romances with or desires for other girls but it is a childish thing and when they grow up they will settle down, marry a man and have children. This might be considered weird and Japanese but during the 70’s and mid 80’s many parenting manuals and books on adolescent sexual development written in english claimed that transitory homosexuality was common feature of puberty.
Then we have Kuro’s more identity based narrative. She is aware that she likes a girl and she is aware that this isn’t typical and not accepted in her society. Seeking validation and support from a person she respects she comes out to them. It is a narrative that supposes gender preference is a part of ones identity because if orientation doesn’t exist then there is nothing to come out as.
Just like particle physicists smashing hadrons together to discover the mysteries of the universe the writers of this anime smashed together two different narratives to better contrast the ideas in them. Across the world different cultures are trying to deal with biological fact that there is a minority of people who don’t fit into the hetrosexual, cisgendered box and each culture tells itself stories as a way to try and digest these new understandings and make a new sense of a changing world.