As the hype train rolled around about Sword Art Online, I went through my usual ho-hum about a new series that has everyone except me excited. I got myself ready by first listening to the opening song, which was to my liking. I got my usual snacks and snuggled up with my CrunchyRoll app open and ready to begin a new series only to be disappointed again. As the story began to unwind I watched intrigued, but guarded…And then it happened: the main woman in the series fell in love and became weak.
Why does this seem to be a thing? Why does this always happen to the heroines? When did it become a point in time where I started to expect the women to become these great warriors only to succumb to infatuation and turn into this weak willed woman who is incapable of saving themselves after being able to mow down entire armies before falling in love? I have nothing against falling in love, but I can be a greedy person. Why can’t a character fall in love and still be the amazing heroine they have worked so hard to become?
When looking for love, I have always felt that you find a partner that is equal to you, who can raise you up to your highest potential. Going back to SAO (Sword Art Online), I saw the possible potential of that kind of relationship brewing between the two characters. Asuna, the main female protagonist, stumbles a few times, but grabs hold of certain concepts quickly. As the series progresses Asuna gains rank with a guild and develops her skills, even helping out Kirito on a few functions he needs to know to survive. While there is some back and forth between teaching each other, there is definitely a huge lean towards the power that Kirito possess compared to Asuna.
Yes, the main character who is destined to save us all from the big bad is supposed to have the most power. I get that, but does that mean they sacrifice their power to find love in another character? Maybe it’s not a sacrifice in power for the female heroine, but a stereotypical strength that both genders have that yield better results for their relationship. We could delve deeper into the history of Japan’s culture, where men are told to conform and women are submissive, but never invisible. The ideals of the ‘perfect man’ I’ve seen in Anime, which can be found in most cultures, for a male audience focus gears towards them spewing male dominance, conforming to societal expectations, and devoting themselves to their task through hard work and dedication. The strong, cool dude who comes in and saves the day is the personification of those cultural ideals. On the other side of the coin, there has been record of women who have made amazing strides in Japan who has helped create the amazing country it is today. From literary guineses to samurai who used women oriented weapons like the naginata. There are so many examples of women’s excellence throughout Japan’s history and culture, and it shines though it’s media, but I seem to always catch a separation between both genders lending to the mentality that women are indeed very important to society and building families, but yield to the dominance of the male character no matter how competent he may be.
I’m no expert in this, but there are gender stereotypes I’ve noticed throughout my years of watching anime. “Men must be stronger than women” is an over-saturated theme that can sum up a lot of gender relations in almost everything we watch; especially in male-targeted anime and manga. On the opposite side of the spectrum female oriented anime and manga tend to focus on togetherness and human relations. Even though there are exceptions to every rule, it seems that no matter how strong or independent women are, their need for someone to depend on and protect them bleeds through the brash yet flashy artwork of a lot of action filled anime and manga. Ideas like this pull an audience in and give high expectations of how male and females should operate, when in actuality, standards like this are outdated no matter how you try to ‘modernize’ it and often hinder more than they help. Like I said earlier in this article, I’m greedy. You can have both. You can be the warrior you have striven to become while still having the ability to fall in love. That in no way, shape, or form, would make you weak; it makes you human.