「マイフェイバリット」 (My Favorite)
I need to come clean about this: I’m not watching much this season. Other than the two I’m blogging, I’ve got OreSuki, FGO, and a ton of backlog anime. As such, I haven’t been interested in venturing out towards other shows this season at this point. And because the more respectable shows this season are either in Netflix jail or are 2-cour anime leaking into Winter 2020, picking up dropped shows doesn’t sound like an enticing idea. However, I still want to salvage my selections this season by having a bit of fun and flipping the script.
Not sure if every episode will have the degree of dedication that this post will have, but starting now, I would like to create meaningful dialogue through an otherwise airy ecchi series. Merely trying to make meaning of easy-to-understand characters and mechanics that would come naturally if you think of it as a racing game isn’t enough. What I aim to do throughout the Fall season is explore the themes, imagery, and concepts explored in the anime to call attention to the dual nature of fanservice anime through Kandagawa Jet Girls and examine how it goes with and against the grain of your standard ecchi anime.
These posts won’t be an outright indictment of the series or fanservice in general because I enjoyed the episodes I’ve seen so far and can say I’ve enjoyed a show because of its ecchi. But as an experiment, I feel like the best way of analyzing this anime is to study the merits and demerits it has as an anime that encapsulates both the highs and lows of how women are portrayed in ecchi anime.
One aspect of the series that clears your conscience is how a majority of the focus in Kandagawa Jet Girls is centered around girls. There are no male characters to act as your main perspective in the anime, nor are there any male audience members that exist to draw attention to the girls having their clothes removed in the process of the game. Additionally, all of the nude scenes are naturalistic in the sense of depicting the girls bathing in their own privacy.
This would be a good time to introduce the basic Lacanian concept of “the Gaze” that comes to mind, which posits that the act of seeing a person or thing would create a state of self-awareness that ultimately objectifies the person/thing being viewed and calls attention to our physical existence. This has since been appropriated by Laura Mulvey as a means of exploring cinema’s tendency of viewing women from a voyeuristic perspective known as the “Male Gaze”, but for the sake of this anime, there are no men to act as the “camera” viewing the Jet Girls.
But even within the absence of the male point-of-view, it’s hard not to look at the show’s objective to create visually appealing women to act as objects of the audiences’ desires within their own sphere free from a threatening male perspective. This episode’s race is particularly emblematic of the Gaze’s strength by probing and glossing over the girls having their clothing stripped off in a way that feels divorced from the girls’ personal experiences.
The male presence within Kandagawa Jet Girls is fascinating because it manages to defang the unpleasant venom of having boys or men show up to draw attention away from the girls and acts as a personal threat to the audience’s ability to project their own fantasies onto the girls without their interference. This is prevalent in many slice-of-life shows that don’t aim to cause angry otaku to lose their collective minds, but it’s an idea that is interesting to look into because it calls attention to the fact that the audience is watching an ecchi or slice-of-life not just for story or comfort, but because they are able to satiate a personal and voyeuristic desire from the “camera”‘s ability to capture these girls at intimate or private moments of their lives, giving us a reason to admire or lust after a character without the possibility of watching a male character “take” a character from an anime you watch more for brain candy.
This can manifest into the worrying notion that any of the lesbian romance that develops throughout the series doesn’t exist for the sake of wanting to capture an open-hearted message of accepting same-sex relationships in an ideal society. Instead, my worries for the series’ romantic angles is that the lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual characters in the anime are left ambiguous because it offers a sense of relief to viewers that there aren’t any male characters to capture or taint their hearts, allowing them to “temporarily” seek each other out as a means of keeping them off-limits “for the time being”. On top of that, it is hard to see the anime taking any of its lesbian subtexts seriously when it pulls all of its punches by having our supposed couples merely indulge in skinship and lustful signs of affection.
It is too early in the series to jump to the conclusion that they will be shallow with the show’s yuri content, especially when, to the anime’s credit, it is not afraid of showing two women affectionate with one another and the next episode’s preview shows that the idol couple is far more genuine in their love. At the same time, I would hope that they don’t undercut the anime’s relationships by being too afraid to establish couples and to spend more time depicting their bonding as “eye-candy” instead of actual romantic affection.
My main interest in the series comes from how Senran Kagura came to be as a misunderstood ecchi game. From future games and anime adaptations, it’s easy to see how it ended up indulging the objectification angle far more, but the 3DS games have a surprising level of depth to the characters and the story. Class warfare, extreme poverty, street crime, and loss of parental figures are explored prominently within these games as proof that they are far beyond the window-dressing that comes from the idea of ninjas having their clothes stripped off.
Kandagawa Jet Girls shows plenty of promise by giving us the potential of seeing serious lesbian relationships manifest as the girls race against one another in fun and electrifying Jet Races. Hopefully, the anime is able to legitimize and flesh out these personal relationships and give us the same depth to the romance that Senran Kagura had to its own characters. From my own personal analysis of how the show is framed, it can be discouraging to keep your hopes high for it to transcend anything beyond guilty pleasure ecchi. Nonetheless, I’m hoping that future episodes will be able to provide some valuable enough content to fuel this conversation deeper to explore what about Kandagawa Jet Girls makes it both transformative and derivative of its contemporaries in the ecchi genre.