Spoiler warnings for Banana Fish, content warning for rape, pedophilia, sexual assault, and sexual trauma
This week was marked by Anitwitter discourse about Banana Fish and BL. An article by Gabriella Ekens on Banana Fish and a history of BL has since been taken down for revisions (but is still viewable via Wayback Machine). It began with a few flippant opening paragraphs about Banana Fish and BL fandom (Gabby later clarifies BL is something she enjoys). It was dismissed notably by calling the first three paragraphs of the article out for chastising women for getting sexual enjoyment from it, orientalist for being self-deprecating and ironic while enjoying BL, misogynist and biased against women and not actual criticism.
My position on Banana Fish is that I am rooting for Ash and Eiji (they deserve all the happiness they can get) but I know it has quite a few problems because of when it was created including racism, homophobia, and the problematic implication that sexual trauma led Ash to be gay. (I agree with what’s laid out in the article itself, in AniFem’s reviews of the first episode as well as ANN’s weekly coverage)
I strongly disagree with the statement that it’s “an article that chastises women for daring to get sexual enjoyment out of media” when the actual sexual situations are almost exclusively negatively charged by either ogling Ash or traumatizing him, whether it’s through the leering shots of Ash in pain in the anime, being sexually harassed and assaulted by Marvin, Golzine, Garvey or Bull, or his history having been sexually abused by a war veteran when he was 8 and being victim-blamed. This statement is incredibly ignorant of what actually happens in the story, presuming it isn’t defending getting sexual enjoyment out of rape and sexual assault. Sexual acts have only ruined Ash’s life. This is precisely why no sexual relationship and an emotional connection between Ash and Eiji is what Akimi Yoshida wanted to portray, as acknowledged in an interview round-table with her. Also, when viewing the presence of sexual trauma from the perspective of Akimi Yoshida exploring her own experiences and thoughts about sexual trauma through Ash, it’s clear why the story is rife with it.
Being critical of the problematic content in Banana Fish (and in BL that have also prominently featured lack of consent and rape) while still appreciating Banana Fish’s core relationship is not orientalist or misogynist, it’s taking Akimi Yoshida’s personal context and evaluating what it’s saying from her perspective for women. It shares being a space for women to explore sexuality (both positively and negatively) in common with other BL, which Gabby noted in her article concerning BL scholar Akiko Mizoguchi’s observations in her dissertation.
Because Akimi Yoshida confirms that sex doesn’t play a part between Ash and Eiji, the first statement doesn’t hold up. Because the article itself acknowledges the significance of BL as a space for women, the second statement doesn’t hold up. Saying the article is ‘not criticism’ is false. All that’s left after that is calling out the tone of the first three paragraphs of the article which Gabby admits you can think what you want about on it’s own, but taking it out of context was what caused the misconceptions outlined in this post.
Abel’s second thread, including the orientalist and misogynist accusations (after learning Gabby’s clarification)