For our final viewing in BCM320, we watched Hi Score Girl, 2018. Hi Score Girl is a Japanese anime based on the manga of the same name by Oshikiri Rensuke. Hi Score Girl was my first experience with anime and not being used to the genre definitely had an effect on the way I engaged with the series and what I was able to take from it.
From the beginning, I found the tone of Hi Score Girl to be quite abrupt and difficult to ‘enjoy’. I believe that those people more familiar with anime and gaming would have enjoyed for the references and nods to different games. However, since most of this went over my head I found myself focusing more heavily on what was being said and the tone of the characters. Through my research in previous weeks, I can attribute this to the influence of my personal and cultural perspectives. Japan is a high context collectivist culture which poses stark contrasts to the traditionally low context culture that I have grown up in. A common feature of low context cultures is a heavier emphasis on what is actually being said and communicated rather than what is communicated through hand gestures and body language (Hall, 1989). Because of this, I paid more attention to the dynamic between the two main characters, Haruo and Akira. I was also drawn to question the significance behind why, Akira the female character, never spoke or responded in dialogue scenes.
I found that High Score Girl relied heavily on gender stereotypes, which was illustrated in one of the first scenes where Haruo assumes that Akira cannot be good at video games because she is both wealthy and a girl. The quote “She’s not the kind of girl that comes here”, by Haruo highlights this idea.
The meek and quiet nature of Akira was stark in contrast to the bursts of aggression and violence she would have throughout the episodes. However, the whole time the character remained silent. Through further research I found that this is a common theme in Anime, which I was previously unaware of. A blog by Lindwasser (2020) highlights the commonality of quiet, non speaking characters in anime, suggesting that it does not represent weakness but rather their strength through silence. This was an interesting theory as my personal perspective was that it made the character seem weak and passive. Deverell (2018) states that on-screen characterisations certainly hold psychological weight for the viewer, and I believe this statement perfectly explains the varying ways our personal perspectives influence or responses to content and film.
While the intended character portrayal may be different than how I interpreted it, Deverell (2018) also states that female roles in anime tend to fall into two main stereotypes: weak, meek, shy and pure, or the excessively dominant, angry warrior woman. In my opinion, Akira exists within both of these roles. A lack of character diversity or depth, especially when concentrated within one genre, can be harmful to the way the content is interpreted by the viewer. Sweeping character generalisations reinforce both gender stereotypes and the portrayal of one dimensional characters. It is important to acknowledge that while this may not have been the intention with Hi Score Girl, viewers can interpret it in this way.
However, viewing anime as one oversimplified characterisation is a restrictive way to understand it. I can maintain a critical gaze of the show and still acknowledge that in anime more broadly, women are also often portrayed as some of the most powerful characters in the genre (Ashford, S. 2018). Throughout this subject we have learnt that culture influences perspective, so having no prior experience with or understanding of anime certainly impacts my perspective and what I take from the genre at first look.
However, through further research I have found that anime characters are often more nuanced than the more generalised picture that is often painted of the genre. If you look past anime stereotyping (childish, over-sexualisation, gender stereotypical), then it is clear that an abundance of female characters exist within the genre in empowering roles. The silent female trope is dangerous and outdated, however, this is not true of all anime representations of women and characters.
Ashford, S. 2018. ‘ 25 of the most powerful women in anime’. https://www.cbr.com/most-powerful-women-in-anime/
Deverell, G 2018, The Power Of Identity: Women In Anime, online, Graphite Publications, available at: <https://graphitepublications.com/the-power-of-identity-women-in-anime/>
Hall, E. 1989. ‘Beyond Culture’. https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Beyond_Culture.html?id=reByw3FWVWsC
Lindwasser, 2020. ’17 Anime Characters who prove you should fear the quiet ones’. https://www.ranker.com/list/strong-but-silent-anime-characters/anna-lindwasser