Character Analysis: Lili Hoshikawa

I didn’t have this one ready for Pride Month. Sorry about that. But I wrote it during Pride Month. Does that count?

One of the things that routinely bugs me is the treatment of transsexual characters in anime.

Now, it might be hard to believe about a country that created a medium full of yuri and yaoi, but the Japanese are a lot more straight-laced about sexual orientation than a lot of people are. Not saying that’s bad or good; that’s just how it is, okay? It’s not for me to tell the Japanese how to live their lives, no more than it is for them to tell me, right?

But if you’re gay in Japan, a lot of people think you are a pervert. And from what I see that applies about a hundred times over for people who are transsexual.

Sure, right? Think of everyone’s favorite anime transsexual, Hana from Tokyo Godfathers. Hana is a really good, if not very bright, person with a very warm heart, isn’t she? But at the same time she’s drawn to with an angular face and a huge Adam’s apple; she’s tall, has a deep voice, is generally very unattractive. There’s not supposed to be any doubt about who she is.

And you see that sort of stereotype all over. Think of the singing transexuals from Carole and Tuesday: They even have mustaches. Shangri-La is something I’ve watched twice trying to figure out what’s going on there. It has Momoko, an explicitly trans woman who is physically attractive but written so butch that she’s voiced by men (and makes constant crude jokes about the surgeon who performed her sex change).

They aren’t nice portrayals.

Now, there’s Ruka from Steins;Gate, who is actually quite feminine and beautiful. It’s too bad Okabe is such a jerk he can’t stop himself from saying things like, “He’s a dude.” Okabe, it’s not just bad but outright cruel to misgender people.

And then there’s Lili Hoshikawa from Zombie Land Saga.

Lili is cute, earnest, hard-working, a child actor before her untimely death and zombification. She’s a pro who understands “The Show Must Go On” from the inside and plays her part on the team to the very best of her ability given that she’s a child and not as big or strong as the others. She’s really sweet – practically the reincarnation of Shirley Temple – and until her backstory comes out it’s impossible to know that she’s a transsexual. In fact, the other girls – yes, they’re all dead, too, but still, they’ve all been living in the same room for weeks by then – are astonished to learn about it.

Lili Hoshikawa

What I especially like is that she has a father and it’s clear that her father loves her very much, loved her unconditionally when she was alive and continues to love her unconditionally when he discovers her performing with the zombie idol girl group Franchouchou. She is Daddy’s Little Girl, regardless of what gender she was assigned at birth. She loves him, too, the big galoot.

There is a moment of transphobia in Zombie Land Saga, of course. I mean, it’s almost obligatory, right? Poor Lili, who as a child star and transsexual lived in dread of puberty, finds a whisker on her face, and the combination of fear and stress causes her to have a heart attack. “Ha ha ha. Look at the bearded lady!” is what the story implies.

Seriously, they could have let her faint from overwork and stress, and hit her head on the coffee table that’s right behind her in the shot. The outcome would be the same and it would have been far less nasty.

Now, I’ll be frank here: I’ve known a number of very attractive women – and yes, I know for a fact they were female, and take my word for it, they were VERY attractive – who had a little facial hair. So this particular twist seemed inappropriately cruel to me.

But look at what happens: The other girls look at Lili as she sleeps, and speculate briefly about her private parts (she is pre-operative at her age, of course).

And then they accept. “It doesn’t matter,” they say. “She’s one of us.” And it NEVER comes up again. Never. Period. She’s a 100% member of their girl group.

Girl, pronoun: “She.” Get it, Okabe?

Lili Hoshikawa is an enormously attractive character; to be honest about it, all the girls/women of Zombie Land Saga are so likable it falls to their manager, Kotaro, to be asshole enough for all of them.

But what I enjoyed seeing about it was that they told us who Lili is, and then, with only one misstep, they let her be to be who she is, a wonderfully talented little girl.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if they had cut Hana a break like that?

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “Character Analysis: Lili Hoshikawa

  1. The anime I usually enjoy don’t have any transgender characters, though it is also true that I don’t go out of my way to look for them either. But you give a nice glimpse of how they are treated in Japanese media.

    I really like one fact that unlike some other westerner, you did not write this article with presumptuous tones, acknowledging that we the outsiders can’t tell Japanese how to live their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

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