“Theorizing Anime Shinnosuke’s Butt, and “Okama” Characters in the Crayon Shin-chan Films"

Presented By: Kenta Kato GSICCS, Waseda University Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies

This paper aims to investigate the politics of representation in film versions of Yoshito Usui’s Crayon Shin-chan series, through the lens of queer theory, by analyzing “okama” characters. In the 1990s when gay and lesbian studies started to establish itself in Japan, the Crayon Shin-chan films introduced a regressive kind of representation of queer people on screen. In them, sexual minorities are utterly ridiculed for being effeminate and homosexually-inclined, based on pejorative stereotypes, and referred to as “okama.” They are more or less given the role of comic sidekicks or villains, the antithesis of the heteronormative main characters who defeat the queer evil to establish the normativity of family values. However, it is possible to find an instance of queer subversion by looking at the semiotic components of the character imagery. Based on Usui’s original comics, some “okama” characters are bestowed with the same physical elements – face shape, eyes, mouth, etc. – with the protagonist, Shinnosuke. Referring to Inuhiko Yomota’s study on manga semiotics (1994), this paper argues that, in terms of the semiotic construction of character imagery, the “okama” characters are no different from Shinnosuke. Sexual identity and differences are constructed, not through the function of knowledge, but constant performance, as contended by queer theorists in the 1990s (Butler 1990; Fuss 1991). Therefore, the “okama” characters ironically suggest that heterosexual and homosexual are basically the two sides of the same coin, as Shinnosuke’s vulgarity and constant wooing of women epitomize the desperate attempts of patriarchy to prove its heteronormativity.