Otona Joshi no Anime Time & the state of women in Japan

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I am a 24 years old woman and, as the years pass by, I find more and more myself wanting grown-up protagonists with whom I can relate easier. Josei, a demographic targeted at women is relatively small, especially when we talk about anime. So it’s always more than welcome when a series appears in my radar.

With this title I was a bit hesitant, since I watched its very first episode, Kawame o Suberu Kaze, 2 years ago, but the anti-urban sentiment in it annoyed me. Now it was clearly stated though that these new stories would be based on awarded novels written by women, and the artwork was very appealing, too. Thus, I had to give it at least a chance. Three episodes all in all. Unfortunately, I got spades of housewifery stuff instead of work related troubles and successes. 

"The delicious meals I make for him become his flesh and blood and he always comes back to me. It's my job to create his body. That's my duty. My desire to cook for him is proof of my love more than just my desire to have him". - Mimi

“The delicious meals I make for him become his flesh and blood and he always comes back to me. It’s my job to create his body. That’s my duty. My desire to cook for him is proof of my love more than just my desire to have him”. – Mimi

The first story was the most frustrating and disappointing of the three. With the title Dinner I should have expected as much. Mimi is a housewife and remains one till the end of the episode, with the only difference that now she cares more about her cooking and has a different, kinder man by her side. Oh and a new couch. And that’s her only happiness. Illustrated by sparkles of course. Ok, they were subtle.

Dinner starts with a romanticized statement about the nature of cooking -as seen above- and rephrases the infamous saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. This is more problematic than it appears. Yes, good nutrition is very much needed for good health. And I won’t deny that I feel like creating something delicious for my beloved person to eat. I want to help him with his diet. But that doesn’t have to do with my gender. I expect from my partner to display the same willingness and feelings as well. It’s not ‘my duty’. It’s not any woman’s duty. And naturally, it’s not the only way I can charm my lover or expect my love to be understood.

scoldThe problems continue. Mimi tells us of her life before she met the garbage collector she fell in love with and it was really pathetic. She was an extremely obedient child who let herself be humiliated by everyone; she was continuously scolded by her parents, younger sister, and her parents-in-law. Her marriage wasn’t her choice. It was an arranged marriage with a man who hadn’t looked at her in the eyes even back then. At some point, she must have felt tired of this emotional abandonment and for once she stood up for herself and did the right thing, namely ask for divorce.

That was good, right? She realized her agency and mustered up courage to make her own life choices. Even before getting in an affair. The thing is that her husband denied to give her divorce and the things stopped there. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, she could have pressed the matter and she could have gotten what she wanted even without mutual consent. The man left her but she kept living on his money. Couldn’t she chase even a simple part-time job in order to escape his economical prison? What’s worse is that her freedom was not something she achieved by herself, but she was allowed to have it by her husband under the condition she came to her sister’s wedding -and probably stand by his side at the ceremony for the last time.

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“But if you’ll come back and put an end to it once and for all… I would gladly let him have you”. -Mimi’s husband

Her sister calls her and is quite patronizing in how she talks. She is in fact blackmailing her of sorts and blames her sideways for her adultery without knowing how Mimi feels and how unhappy her marriage was. Her husband’s family was “nice enough to be quiet” about her ‘crime’ which was leaked from a private dedective. Mimi neither protests about the belittling words she hears nor seems terrified and angry about the fact that “before she even made it out of the house, he knew the identity of that man”. Or the fact that according to her husband’s wording she is a possession to be disposed-bestowed to someone else. She just accepts everything and actually sees her husband’s disposition as generous and benevolent.

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Mimi appears genuinely happy in the end, though. Being a housewife is as much of a choice as being a career woman some might say here. Happiness takes many different forms and it doesn’t follow a certain recipe, so why would anyone question the protagonist’s bliss? Especially since Kou is such a nice guy who respects Mimi and praises her cooking skills, making her feel loved and important. I beg to differ.

I mean, Kou compares her to an animal, which honestly is insulting unless it’s a sweetheart or sex name. Which totally isn’t. He says:

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“…You’re alive, we eat together, have sex and sleep. You’ve been doing things that a cat, a dog, a bird can do for me.” – Kou

Mimi questions it for a moment but when he comes to hug her reassuringly she doesn’t seem to mind. No, it completely doesn’t matter if she was called a pet. He didn’t mean it that way, surely. They both live in Japan, they weren’t able to attain any upper education and they couldn’t possible know anything of feminism and patriarchy. Why would Mimi feel offended? It’s her duty to stay at home so that a man feels safe and good, no? She was ‘saved’ by him although she was “the most dangerous thing” he found, she was trash to be thrown away, and he validated her life which was awfully simplistic.

Once, when Kou was late from work, she was worried sick that something happened to him and at that point their relationship was still not public. She had no one to turn to. This made me realize two things: a. She really had no friends that could support her and b. if something happens to Kou, she will be lost. She will be left all alone and after her divorce, she won’t have any way of surviving. Because as she says herself:

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“I finally figured out why I was so passionate about cooking for Kou. I wanted to prove that my life up until now was not for nothing. Eating, having sex, sleeping. I wanted him to tell me I was better than any other woman at these things.” – Mimi

She depends on him completely. She has no particular skills except for her cooking. No hobbies or interests. She is frail without him. Why would that be romantic or good? Her relationship with her family is pretty bad and probably not repairable much- I know from my own experience that old people don’t change much; on the contrary they get worse as they get older. Mimi has no family or friends and a psychologist would talk about worrisome lack of safety nets. Not to mention that a relationship which is slightly mutual exploitative bears some significant flaws and in the long run it’s dubious how far the two individuals will go and develop. Mimi states that:

Satisfying his appetite was the beginning. I was trying to monopolize his beginning. And using him as a starting point, I came back to life. […] I used him as a starting point and he used me as an ending point. If we keep using each other like this, it might end up as something like love.

She generally either uses the wrong words or she has a distorted view of what love is and how it works. At an earlier point she says: “He took me in. When pity is coupled with the flesh, it becomes love.” I am not sure she will be able to overcome her low confidence issues, if she keeps the same beliefs. A redeeming ending would have been to show them sharing a common interest, Mimi starting working somewhere and blossoming into an individual that can stand on her own two feet. Not remaining a simple housewife.

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8 thoughts on “Otona Joshi no Anime Time & the state of women in Japan

  1. I said I was going to post a comment for laughs and here it is:
    The term “they grow up so fast” has never been more true until I read the first paragraph by this talented blogger. A 24 year old beauty with the mind of a 57 year old. Women really do mature faster than men…for better or worse.

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  2. Wah, great article! The first story seems really disturbing and god the part where Kou called her an animal makes me think that maybe the anime is meant to be satirical. How true that in some places women simply think that their life has to revolve around men, and the men just take it for granted.

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  3. I appreciated your view of this anime, and I have just as much to say about your post that you have written. Your post sort of opened my mind to how Japanese women are treated in the workforce, but I disagree with your perspective on housewives. I sure hope you were only speaking in terms of your research on Japanese women, but even so… It seems that you see it as a negative thing, when in fact it isn’t. Your notion that stay-at-home women, despite the fact of possibly having gone to post-secondary, have limited education and social skills is very wrong. First off, a post secondary experience (not only the education) expands your mind to different issues & cultures to begin with. And saying that someone’s education is limited is very vague; everyone’s knowledge is limited, the question is limited in what? Is a scientist going to know everything about architecture, and is a PR consultant going to know anything about plumbing, because they’re in the workforce? A housewife with a well-rounded education is just as smart and brilliant as any of these professionals, and maybe even more. She herself is a professional, but her position is not in the workforce. There’s knowledge in taking care of your family and raising children well. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home, you never go out & learn new things, or have a social life. Come on now. I especially see your view on housewives as negative because you only talk about how they do chores. There’s much more to them than that. For example, there are plenty of women in charge of the money their husbands gain. My mother for example was one of these women, and I’m not the only one. Being in control of the family’s money, that’s a form of power. Have you ever heard that saying “behind every great man, is an even greater woman”? The woman is the head of the family, while the man is only the neck, yet it doesn’t seem that way. A woman’s power is not determined in the boardroom, it’s a matter of character and how in charge you are of your life, no matter your role. She’s absolutely able to speak her mind, and is not always controlled by the man contrary to what you most people think or what the man himself may think. I’d also like to add that they absolutely contribute to society, and it doesn’t always mean being active in the workforce; that is, making money.They contribute by raising children, who are the future generation of the society. Life isn’t about making money anyways. Lastly, if a woman decides to stay home after university, it’s her choice. A lot of the time for these women, getting a degree is a backup, or life happens and she decides she wants to stay home and devote her time to raise her family. If she wants, she can contribute to the workforce. There’s nothing wrong with that, so don’t get upset because it’s not what you would choose to do.

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    • “Your notion that stay-at-home women, despite the fact of possibly having gone to post-secondary, have limited education and social skills is very wrong.” – I obviously didn’t make a very clear differentiation. I talked about limited education mainly for people who haven’t had post-secondary education. About those who have I think it’s a shame they let their knowledge and skills go to waste or get rusty. Have you seen Mona Lisa Smile – that’s what I had in mind. As for the theory of having a degree as a back-up, I’m not sure that is very common, much more applicable, if you consider that an employer would rather have someone striving to improve their knowledge constantly than someone who after many years of disinterest and ‘negligence’ decided that wants to get in the working force.

      Continuing though your train of thought about post-secondary education, I’ll have to mark that the experience, knowledge and skills you get during university -let’s say- isn’t the same within that of a workplace. I don’t know about your age and occupation but I’m working right now and I can certainly see the difference. I’m forced to organize things for others and I’m not even allowed to do it in my way. I have to lie and compromise my morals with my survival. I am scolded when a customer is displeased even when it’s irrational or doesn’t know better. I have to cope with many different people most of which I can’t avoid. It wasn’t like this during education. Of course, you couldn’t avoid some hyperbolically or crazily demanding professors, yet you could work in your own way as long as the outcome was fine. You needn’t cope with peers you didn’t like necessarily.

      As for the ‘limited knowlege’ part, I see your point, but I think it’s irrelevant. I perhaps tried to avoid talking about it because morals are a very different thing for everyone, though I kinda implied it. For me a ‘good person’ is one that is open-minded and isn’t hostile against women, lgbtq individuals, and other minorities. I’m referring to that ‘lack of prejudice’ on Maslow’s pyramid. I also think that such people are happier since they don’t harm other people and don’t leak poison; hatred is something that poisons the person bearing it, too. I was able to overcome many prejudices of mine throughout university and people I’ve met online in places where polyphony dominated. That is not that easy when you have a very specific clique and you don’t have to put up and come in contact with people you’d otherwise ignore.

      “Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home, you never go out & learn new things, or have a social life.” Ok, it’s not the way things are all the time. It’s still the rule though. And then there is how one defines ‘social life’, because going out to bars on the one hand does involve social interactions on the other under the usual bar circumstances I’m not sure something productive comes out. Where you live also makes a difference. I do think though that people who choose to be housewives don’t usually live in big cities, which can offer a lot of educational and entertainment choices.

      “there are plenty of women in charge of the money their husbands gain.”- Right, it’s their husbands’ money not theirs. The fact that they decide what to do with them doesn’t cancel my arguments about pride and emergency cases.

      “They contribute by raising children, who are the future generation of the society.” – Women who work still take care of their children and housework. I know that some don’t pay enough attention, but it’s not a matter of how much time you spend with your children as how quality time this is. I have seen some working women’s children who are very clever and know how to take care of themselves way better than me who was pampered by my parents who try to spend lots of time with us doing many things for us instead of us thinking they grant us happiness -while on the contrary they suffocate and impair us. And they were working before going into retirement. I don’t want to think what they’d do, if they didn’t work… As I mentioned in the post I know 2 cases where the stay-at-home mom did more harm than good due to jealousy, latching onto their children and planting guilty in them for various things.

      “Life isn’t about making money anyways.” I don’t disagree at all. I never said otherwise. Nevertheless, I claimed that money is a very important means -among others- to reach your goals, achieve your independence and happiness.

      I’m sorry to say that I still stand by my opinion. I don’t intend on offending your mother specifically by being negative about the notion of housewife generally. I’m really glad you came out and voiced your opinion and thus contributed to the discussion 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

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      • Thanks for replying. I just needed to voice my opinion in hopes of opening your mind even a little. We could go on about this, but I’ll end it here. About Otona Joshi no Anime Time specifically, you pointed out a lot of things I hadn’t even noticed so thanks for that.

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  4. A very thoughtful and thought provoking post. Being a male, I don’t have much room to comment. It does trouble me how these episodes seem to portray shallow characters. Personally, I would find a wife/girlfriend who didn’t have hobbies, a career, and goals for herself unattractive. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to take care of someone else; I don’t think I would mind being a stay-at-home husband. However, making someone else your “all” is co-dependency and not healthy at all.

    I liked how you added the last bit of information about traditional Japanese society. While they are heavily Westernized, they still retain their own mores and norms.

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    • Thanks for sitting through it. It got bigger than I thought and wondered if would be any good. I’m happy that you liked it.

      I think it’s fine to stay at home for some period of your life, especially for the first 3 years of your baby and granted that the state doesn’t give you many other options. But otherwise it can be boring apart from unhealthy.

      Also, some further reading you might find interesting:

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