“60-70% of [this season] is for girls, and then the other is for otaku. There’s not much general audience fare.”
- Jacob Chapman, ANNCast: “Cruel for the Summer”, 8 July 2016
I’m using Jacob’s words, but this is a sentiment I’ve seen around. There is this perception that the tide has now turned and the majority of this season is aimed at fujoshi, or at least targeting women.
I wasn’t so sure… so I decided to crunch some numbers.
Are there really more anime this season for women than for men?
I classified each anime as one of the following categories: family, shojo, fujoshi, otaku, shonen and seinen. Classification depended on who I perceived their target audience to be, i.e. who these anime were made for and marketed to, not who ended up watching them, hence Love Live! in the otaku list. Where there is an existing manga I have usually gone with the classification of its serialising magazine, which is why Amanchu is shonen.
Anything with fanservice went in the otaku pile, as did anything with the emphasis on moe. Some titles were borderline, and you could no doubt dispute my classification choices, but unless you think a whole load of titles classified as shonen, seinen or otaku should be shifted over to shojo or fujoshi, it won’t drastically affect the results.
Puzzle & Dragons X
Time Travel Girl
First Love Monster
Scar-red Rider XechS
Cute High Earth Defense Club Love! Love!
Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu
D. Gray-man Hallow
Hitori no Shita: The Outcast
Mob Psycho 100
Shokugeku no Souma: Ni no Sara
Tales of Zestiria the X
The Morose Mononokean
The Seven Deadly Sins: Signs of Holy War
Sweetness & Lightning
Alderamin on the Sky
Hybrid x Heart Magic Academy Ataraxia
Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars
This Art Club Has a Problem!
Active Raid 2
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 3rei
Love Live! Sunshine!!
To break it down a different way:
For children (Family): 2
For women (Fujoshi): 8
For men (Shonen + Otaku + Seinen): 31
This is far from a majority. This is more like a fifth. Even when you compare like to like, fujoshi vs. otaku, women only have about two-thirds of the anime men have.
I carried out this exercise for winter and spring 2016 too, to see what has changed, then summer 2015 for a direct comparison. Programming for men has been higher than it is now, but it has not dropped below 70%. The perception that this is a fujoshi summer, an assertion I have seen in multiple places, is inaccurate.
Why are perceptions so far from reality?
Secondly, humans in our society generally assume that women and women-related things take up more space than they do. The first thing that came to mind when I heard the ANNCast that inspired this post was the study which demonstrated that “listeners show a general bias, independent of content, towards overestimating female speakers' amount of talk”. In other words, in mixed-gender groups, humans tend to perceive women as speaking for more time than they actually do. Women who take up under 50% of the time using under 50% of the words their male counterparts use are viewed as hogging the conversation. This is listener bias, and it affects all of us no matter how hard we try to avoid it. A minority feels like a majority, and parity feels like domination.
Geena Davis, whose Institute on Gender in Media has been amassing research and educational tools for 12 years, has said that “if there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50. And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men”. Turns out this is true of novels, podcasts, workplaces – probably most situations imaginable, because culture is not produced in a vacuum and this is the society we live in.
As enlightened, rational and unbiased as we may like to think we are, anime fans are not exempt from socialisation. If anything, due to anime’s roots in Japan giving us convenient “It’s another culture, you just have to accept it” excuses, anime fandom may be worse for this than fandoms around western television or cinema, which has an established body of research around gender representation. So to be crystal clear, I’m not criticising Jacob or anyone else who believed that this season targeted women more than men – it’s just important that we recognise unconscious biases and the impact they may have.
What counts as general audience fare?
There’s a difference between targeting and appealing to; Berserk appeals to all, but it was serialised in a seinen magazine targeting men. Love Live, about as far in tone and content from Berserk as you can get, appeals to all, but it was serialised in a seinen magazine targeting men. The Orange manga started in a shojo magazine while it was still ostensibly a school romance, but once more serious themes became more prominent it was transferred to a seinen magazine – targeting men.
One surprise discovery? The number of non-fujoshi shows for women is down. To zero. By all means do your own count and see if you can scrape up an example or two that I missed, but any shows I would have considered shojo either had a fanservice element or their manga was serialised in publications targeting men. I didn’t find any shows you could consider josei, the female demographic equivalent to seinen. If I had to guess, I would say that this small increase in fujoshi content hasn’t come at the expense of male-targeted content – it’s cost us female-targeted content, which was already pretty sparse. Where is this year’s My Love Story!, Ouran High School Host Club or Chihayafuru? Where are the shows starring and targeting adult women, like Nana, Nodame Cantabile or Gokusen?
No, it is not a fujoshi summer. Shows for men still outnumber shows for women, and the only shows you could consider general audience fare have come from male-targeted sources. Obviously pop culture doesn’t need to be targeting your demographic for you to enjoy it, people are individuals and their tastes will not be constrained by marketing decisions. But the more people view this season as an example of equality for female anime fans, the smaller a chance we have to see actual gender parity in anime programming, as defined by something other than “Exactly as many loving close ups of sparkling abs as there are of physics-defying breasts”.