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Sexualization of women in japanese adventure games

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SoccerDude28 - 17 February 2016 07:36 PM

I have actually talked to a japanese friend of mine about this, and she said it actually is not a big deal so maybe it is a cultural thing? I don’t know. Western adventure games tend to be good in those regards with awesome female protagonists like Kate Walker and April Ryan (the underwear bit is not necessary really), so I am wondering what you folks here think about this matter.

There’s a cultural difference of course, but I think you should not forget that Danganronpa is just one series in a long, long history of Japanese adventures. I can think of as many Japanese adventures that feature strong, non-sexualized female protagonists (starting with, but not exclusive to Another Code’s Ashley, the trio from Twilight Syndrome, the shared protagonist-role of Yoko/Julia in Jinguji Saburo/Jake Hunter, the girl from Clock Tower, Mari in Kamaitachi no Yoru/Banshee’s Last Cry, Maria in 428 etc, etc.).

Sexualization exists in the Japanese culture, and you see the objectification of women throughout a lot of media…. mainly aimed at young men. Which is exactly the same as in “Western” culture. In recent years, we’ve also seen discussions on the question of why-the-hell-is-only-Black-Window-showing-her-ass-on-the-Avengers-poster, and Spider-Woman’s impossible crack for example. And don’t forget the always popular topic of women in music videoclips. The thing is: adventure games have a different target group in Japan than in the West. The genre is not as ‘niche’ as here, and is thus often aimed at the male YA target group. This is especially the case with Danganronpa: like a lot of Spike’s games, the DR games are aimed at those steeped in game/anime/manga/internet pop-culture and it makes use of a lot of stereotypes to joke about them. I don’t know what the image of the games is of people here, but it has always been a game that was specifically aimed at a certain target group. There are plenty of adventures that do not feature sexualization (as heavy as in game X, or Y). And that’s the same for media from all cultures.

thejobloshow - 18 February 2016 09:06 AM

I also remembered there’s the geisha stereotype, which helped shape the portrayal of women in entertainment oriented towards men. Although female characters are less submissive today, they’re still providing a service for the male viewer.

That’s a Western stereotype of Geisha. Geisha are professionally trained female performers/hostesses.

Mikekelly - 18 February 2016 07:07 PM

It is even part of woman’s styles of clothing. In Japan, having big eyes and a youthful appearance for women are a part of being considered attractive. So much so, that they will have plastic surgery at a young age to have bigger eyes or a more youthful appearance.

Plastic surgery is not that common in Japan. You’re thinking of the stereotype of South Korea (though I have to admit, I saw an awful lot of commercials and clinics when I was in Seoul…)

Oscar - 18 February 2016 04:40 AM
subbi - 18 February 2016 04:15 AM

It’s not that I have specific inside knowledge on this, but isn’t partly due Japanese cartoonist drawing european/western women and end up exaggerating certain features, because they appear larger to them compared most Japanese women?

I don’t think so. Japanese cartoon characters don’t seem to have any particular race at all. Purple eyes, blue hair, anything goes really.

Anthropologist Matt Thorn has an interesting essay on this on his blog. Basically: in every culture, you always draw “yourself”, unless you make it clear it’s the Other. You never mark yourself, only the other. So despite appearances, the characters are always “Japanese”, unless stated otherwise.

Regarding the eyes: I’ve read, and written enough manga to say I don’t buy in the idea of a common “manga style”, but a lot of Japanese artist use relatively large eyes, because they are the easiest, and clearest way to convey emotions. The surprisingly educational parody Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga has an interesting chapter on that too.

     

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The way i see it: japan has a longer history of videogames being popularized for adults. Its essentially like how a lot of R rated movies have an obligatory topless scene even though it isnt especially meaningful.. its part of the “mature movie” label… and doesnt necessarily equal objectification.
The thought does amuse me though when activists who are arguing about how the topic effects western games… what their reaction must be when they realize what japan is like Tongue

     

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GrahamDaventry - 19 February 2016 01:07 AM

Well i think we got our answer why it happens - it sells games. This danaganapa (or whatever) game which is so popular with boys - do any girls play it? I notice no girls posted in the game’s thread on the forum. I am sure its the same for LSL.

Oh its very different. LSL is marketed directly towards this theme. It isnt a driving force behind danganronpa at all, it wouldnt change the game if you took it out. It just looks bad when you see some of the screens rounded up together outside of the games context. Its a sprawling story with equal gender appeal.

     
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@Graham


Judging by responses on other media outlets I don’t think Danganronpa has more success significantly with a male audience. I think there have been a lot of girls who enjoy the game. It has a teddybear for its mascotte after all.

     
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I’ve seen a lot of sexualized male characters in Japanese media. It’s also very common, so the genders are actually a bit more equal in that aspect. The whole moe/cute thing is also big in Japan. Exaggeration is normal.

I don’t really see Japanese games, anime or manga being that bad. When things are sexualized, they’re usually quite openly so. I don’t see a lot of hypocrisy.

(There definitely are some other interesting gender issues that can be seen in Japanese works.)

     

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Its Japan trademark now , so much that now labelled as fanservice.
Yakuza series hires real porn actresses to chunli dlc costumes.
It all serves as basic usp.

Western media reactions are lol worthy sometimes,

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-06-28-suda-51-defends-killer-is-deads-controversial-gigolo-mode

     
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millenia - 19 February 2016 01:39 PM

I’ve seen a lot of sexualized male characters in Japanese media. It’s also very common, so the genders are actually a bit more equal in that aspect. The whole moe/cute thing is also big in Japan. Exaggeration is normal.

I don’t really see Japanese games, anime or manga being that bad. When things are sexualized, they’re usually quite openly so. I don’t see a lot of hypocrisy.

(There definitely are some other interesting gender issues that can be seen in Japanese works.)

Exactly my point, in a way, because there’s more sexualized male characters (and because it’s not uncommon for Japanese women to have been once to a host club), I feel that in term of sexualization and eroticism there’s actually less gender imbalance than in western countries. And, there’s also a lot less hypocrisy, taboos and hangups around sex than in more judeo-christian influenced cultures…

 

     
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nomadsoul - 19 February 2016 01:47 PM

Its Japan trademark now , so much that now labelled as fanservice.
Yakuza series hires real porn actresses to chunli dlc costumes.
It all serves as basic usp.

Not just porn actresses though; the series is known for constantly hiring all kinds of people from the entertainment sector (in the broad sense of the word) to base their characters on (and often voice them too). Porn actresses, movie actors, comedians, photo models, idol singers, everyone is in Yakuza.

     

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Visual design I don’t really care that much about - sometimes I worry that recent Western supposed “progressiveness” just turns the clocks back to 1950, banishing all thoughts of sexuality into random dark corners, instead of allowing ourselves (and in particular women of course) to be emancipated humans who can be confident in their bodies and attractiveness (while at the same time I’m also relieved that the age of retarded bikini armor and running-and-fighting-in-high-heels is mostly over) - but what really gets to me is how (and again of course not all) many Japanese female characters are written, particularly if there is a male lead also.

     
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GrahamDaventry - 19 February 2016 01:07 AM

Well i think we got our answer why it happens - it sells games. This danaganapa (or whatever) game which is so popular with boys - do any girls play it? I notice no girls posted in the game’s thread on the forum. I am sure its the same for LSL.

Danganronpa is a ton of fun yes I’m a ‘boy.’  Gay boy, no interest in anyone’s tracts of lands at all.  But it’s a murder mystery game, quite good on PSP, and I would go on to say that I’m not a fan of the sexualization of what are supposed to be high school characters (same with any persona game), I also don’t put Danganronpa on the same level as Senran Kagura, where that’s really the only point of the game.

With LSL, I refuse to play it because it sounds gross and uncomfortable.  It’s not inviting to play for me personally.  And when they tried to bring it to ps2 instead of other amazing sierra adventures, I was heart broken. (Not a fan of most al lowe work honestly).  I think there’s a difference between an attractive busty woman with other traits in a normal game, and a woman that only exists to be an object of lust.

I would like to contrast this with a few bits about men.  First of all Persona 4’s representation of Kanji is a little insulting and stereotypical, but I think it lands in the same way, where it’s clearly over the top and exaggerated.  Does a good job showcasing kanji’s insecurities.

Akiba’s Trip is a very sexualized game about hitting people, and then tearing their clothes off, but you can do it to both men and women.  So I have no problem with it.  LOL

And even Fragile Dreams on nintendo wii has a male on male kiss!  I was very surprised to see that on a nintendo wii game, and it is also implied the characters are minors. 

Look, I’m an adult, and I don’t mind sexual content, and I actually find it far less offensive than violence, but I’d like to see the playing field leveled. Let the men wear the bikini armor (I’m looking at you persona 3)!

 

     

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You kinda get numb to it after a while - it is so common in Japanese games. If the game is great otherwise, I can tolerate the “fan service”. But it’s hard to recommend the game to others unless you know they are OK with it.

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Pyoro-2 - 06 March 2020 03:04 PM

Visual design I don’t really care that much about - sometimes I worry that recent Western supposed “progressiveness” just turns the clocks back to 1950, banishing all thoughts of sexuality into random dark corners, instead of allowing ourselves (and in particular women of course) to be emancipated humans who can be confident in their bodies and attractiveness (while at the same time I’m also relieved that the age of retarded bikini armor and running-and-fighting-in-high-heels is mostly over) - but what really gets to me is how (and again of course not all) many Japanese female characters are written, particularly if there is a male lead also.

Yes, I also need to take back a bit what I said years ago. I mainly meant the visual representation myself. I really don’t like the huge-boobs-panty-shots type of manga/anime/games myself, I usually steer clear of them, but I feel it’s fine that they exist. There’s plenty of similar stuff that sexualizes men. (And all the weird fetishes are fine too.)

(Personally since I prefer to look at sexualized males and androgynous people, I tend to steer straight towards yaoi / shounen ai content with possibly some gender bending. Though obviously I don’t really yearn for completely unnecessary sexual content despite the gender.)

But I really don’t like the way some of the Japanese stories for instance represent ideal women very submissive and bland. I’m quite vary of otome games in this aspect (it’s suuuper boring to play that kind of character). Though it’s not like western media wouldn’t quite often write female characters poorly. Both have plenty of female characters that are really just prizes for the male characters.

     

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I apologise in advance for this rather long post. Furthermore, I would like to highlight in advance that some things I have written below are hyperbole to make a point and aren’t intended to offend.

tomimt - 18 February 2016 03:49 AM

Japan has one of the most sexists cultutres out there. That’s why I’ve always been a bit amused by the fact that outside Japan it’s really women who seem to be into their culture so much.

It’s only a sexist country if you lack the ability to see the world from another culture or ideology other than you own.

In short; It’s a cultural thing. The Japanese see sex and sexuality differently to westerners. What some people in the west consider very sexual is just normal in Japan.

For instance, girls and women often wear short skirts, or short-shorts with long socks. People in the west see it as super sexualisation, but it actually mainly due to fashion, culture and even their history. Go back hundreds of years when both women AND men here used to wear short robes which would show off much of their legs. This was, and still is, especially the case during the summer. Japanese summers are RIDICULOUSLY HOT and humid.

On the flipside, Japanese people are sometimes surprised as to why so many men in the West walk around shirtless. In Japan, is it an unwritten rule that men should not walk around topless in public, even if it is blisteringly hot. I have even been made fun of for walking around a beach area wearing just shorts and sandals.

So, by this logic, are western men overly sexualing themselves? I mean, so many men in western films, TV shows and video games walk around bare-chested. Heck, there are even male sports players and models everywhere going bare uptop in perfume advertisements and clothes. Must be sexism, right?

No. It’s just our culture. We have ours, and the East has theirs. The Japanese like women in sexy clothes in their games. Americans and Europeans like to steal cars and rip’n'tear people apart with guns in theirs.

Also, regarding the idea that Japanese women are subservant, submissive, weak, and all that cliched rubbish; it’s exactly that. Rubbish. Japanese women are just as empowered as Western women, if not even more so in many ways. The difference is that they see and use empowerment in a different way. What they desire is very different to what a lot of women in the west desire. And what they consider respectful and respectable to both themselves and others is completely different.

For instance, wives have a LOT more control over their husbands in Japan than what they do in any Western country I’ve been to. Trust me, I’m married to a Japanese woman. If anything, one of the biggest problems in Japanese culture is actually that too many Japanese women see men as nothing more than walking ATM machines to help pay for them and their offspring. And that is a quote from my Japanese dentist, if you were wondering.

And let me tell you that women in Japanese workplaces can be pretty damn ferocious too. Push-overs, damsels in distress, stupid or weak they are not!

Whilst there are some very strange cultures in Japan, even some that after almost a decade of living here I still haven’t been able to get my head around, what has become clearer over the years is that there is less a problem with the Japanese and more a problem with the West’s inability to even try and comprehend cultures completely different from their own. Not just with Japan, but anywhere outside of their own beliefs. Sometimes in their own countries now.

Japanese women are often stereotyped and even stigmatised as being weak, oppressed or constantly being taken advantage of by their society. It’s just all too easy for westerners to believe that than take the time and make the effort to understand the layers and complexity that go into a society that is different from their own. Seriously, try living in Japan for a year, and try dating a few women, then I can assure you such labels about the women here are far from the truth.

If you can’t understand any of the above, you honestly cannot hope to understand how male or female characters in Japanese games are intentionally being portrayed.
If you can’t understand Japan’s culture and celebration of politeness, and the virtue of putting others before yourself, you cannot hope to understand why so many women in their games come off as being so polite or apparently submissive.
If you don’t understand their history or current trends, then you won’t always understand when something is sexualisation for the sake of sexualisation, or sexualisation to make a point, or what that point is.
And If you don’t understand the traditional and constantly shifting roles of men and women in society then you probably won’t always understand the character traits and actions in their games.

I say allow developers the world over to make games the way they want to. I also have no issue with media being hyper-sexual in content. I don’t want it in everything. I agree with a previous statement made regarding The Major in Ghost in the Shell; I think her body and the way it is used undermines the seriousness in some scenes. The impact in Nier Automata is sometimes destroyed for similar reasons. But I do love it in a number of other media. But it all comes down to contest with each piece of media.

And I honestly don’t recall Danganronpa being that sexual in nature either. But maybe that’s because I’ve been playing too much Dead or Alive Xtreme 3.

EDIT: I would love to comment on Celebreon’s post, as I agree with a lot of what he/ she is saying. But this post is long enough as it it. I will just say: I love the avatar. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, right?

     
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I myself enjoy Japanese games because their plot and puzzles are very different from Western games. I will treasure my VITA for games like the Dangaronpa series. Sure, the Asian games may have more fan service, but I am pretty thick skinned to that now,

So, someday I’ll own a PS5 or a Switch and I am looking forward to all the great Asian games I’ll be playing soon.

I just finished Dangaronpa for the 4th time and the ending still bring tears to my eyes, Highly recommended despite all the fan service.

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Terramax - 01 April 2020 03:28 AM

It’s only a sexist country if you lack the ability to see the world from another culture or ideology other than you own.

Having a “different culture or ideology” doesn’t mean the culture can’t be sexist.

I don’t think you’ve been following Japanese debates about school uniforms, about university admissions (where women often are blatantly disadvantaged for no other reason than being women), for career opportunities (again, the same), employees and politicians protesting about ridiculous dress codes for women and blatant problematic sexualization in otaku culture, in idol culture, and so on.

Yes, doesn’t mean it’s literally some hellhole you can’t arrange yourself with. But “eh, it’s just their culture” is saying nothing, and the idea that it’s just us Westerners who “don’t understand” while the Japanese are all on board with this and don’t see it as questionable at all is laughable.

In fact, you might go so far - although that’d be tough to really measure - as to say that you’d probably find more disgust for their games and anime there among the general population than here, to the point were being “a gamer” can easily be a social stigma.

     

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