One topic I’m interested in exploring is themes of escapism in anime, and how anime and related media draw us in by creating stories we can self-insert ourselves into, escaping from our ho-hum lives in the process. There are dozens of examples of this genre aimed at male fans: harem shows in which a man is surrounded by waifus who all love him, stories about teenage boys being told to “get in the robot,” isekai stories where males are whisked off to a fantasy world where they can wield a sword and become a hero, or a helpful fox girl who wants to live with us and pamper us. But it’s fun to analyze the kinds of escapist stories that are made for females, like the new Stand My Heroes: Piece of Truth, an anime based on an otome game that’s popular across Asia.
In the show, a girl named Rei Izumi joins a narcotics investigation called STAND, who is tasked with investigating various drug-related crimes, aided by the fact that her body is naturally resistant to all drugs. Around her is a huge number of ridiculously cute guys who sometimes aid her, but more often are annoyed by her, and only recognize her talent in the organization after she proves her worth to them after a crisis. It’s the perfect story for its target audience: female fans in Japan who fantasize about having a more challenging and rewarding job where they’re surrounded by handsome “husbandos” she might get involved with romantically.
It’s fun to look at other examples of escapism in anime for women, and organize them into genres.
This has been a pretty standard genre over the past couple of decades and has established itself with many fans. Some examples include
- Fruits Basket. A cute girl brings happiness to a family cursed to transform into animals of the Chinese zodiac when hugged.
- Idolish7. A female manages a group of unruly male idols.
- Brothers Conflict. A girl’s father remarries, and suddenly she finds herself with 13 handsome stepbrothers, who are all in love with her. Because why not?
- Today’s anime, Stand My Heroes, also falls into this camp.
Writing about the general topic of escapism in anime and what kinds of stories appeal to female viewers. Obviously reverse harem is a big category, but what other kinds of stories appeal to you, if you're a female anime/game fan?
Sauce is Love is like a cocktail. pic.twitter.com/Ay5nl6PD2A
— Peter Payne (@JListPeter) November 8, 2019
Stories Aimed at Professional Women
Love is Like a Cocktail. A short anime about a career woman named Mrs. Mizusawa, who works as the assistant manager at her company, dealing with stressful things all day. But every evening she goes home where her young, handsome husband is waiting for her, ready to cook an amazing meal then mix cocktails just for her. She then interrupts his housekeeping (which he loves doing) and drags him off to the bedroom for sexy time. It’s one of my favorite examples of escapism in anime.
Thrilling and Sexy
There’s a genre of adult manga targeted at married women called “ladies’ comics” (レディコミ ladycomi) which can be quite bold in the sexual themes they explore, aimed as they are at a segment of society not well-served by other pop culture. These can be merely steamy or outright sexually explicit. Some examples…
- My Arranged Marriage Partner Is My Troublesome Student, about a teacher named Nano who meets with a man in a formal setting to discuss marriage, only to discover the man is a high school boy she teaches who’s full of anger and angst. The boy has his sights set on marrying her and maneuvers her into a situation where she can’t easily deny him. In a society where many Japanese men have become “herbivores,” supposedly lacking the ambition and drive for dating and sex of previous generations, a story about a young man who would go to such lengths to win the heart of his teacher must feel very romantic to the target audience.
- Amai Chobatsu (Sweet Punishments), about a woman who’s framed for embezzlement and finds herself the only female inmate in prison. A guard who has total control over her fate becomes obsessed with her, submitting her to various psychological tortures and, ah, cavity searches. Aimed at women with who are M-curious, I guess.
- The 25-year-old High School Student, a short series about a girl who goes back to high school, impersonating her lazy cousin to keep her from getting expelled. There she encounters a steamy world of romance and sex she certainly didn’t learn the first time through high school.
What kinds of stories appeal to you? Are you a fan of female escapist themes in anime? Let us know on Twitter!