Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

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Thenosa Yechette
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Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Thenosa Yechette »

So. I was checking this page:
https://www.toei.co.jp/tv/donbrothers/s ... _3246.html
And over here, there's some information about what kind of character Sonoshi is. Here they mentioned that- when Inoue wrote the character, he wasn't particularly concerned about the character's gender, he focused on making the character interesting- the gist of what I understood through Google translate. It also mentions, that even if people mistake him to be a "オカマ",「とどのつまり、ソノシはオネエでもオカマでもありません。」
I searched the words "オカマ" and "オネエ" and I got:
オカマ : effeminate gay man; male transvestite; (preoperative) transgender woman; (gay) male prostitute
オネエ: effeminate man
After this, it's also mentioned in the page that Sonoshi only does these things (feminine things, feminine tone, the red lipstick and etc) because these are a part of his "sense of beauty". There's no mention about the character's gender.

Now why I'm writing about this is because I was checking the Rangerwiki page for Sonoshi, and I saw that they listed Sonoshi to be a non-binary character. And they listed the previously mentioned page as the reference for this information. I'm assuming they took the オカマ & オネエ part as reference for this.

My question is, can this "neither オカマ, nor オネエ" part correctly be interpreted as Sonoshi being a non-binary character? I'm not asking about the sexuality, rather about gender identification. It's also noteworthy that neither Sonoshi himself nor the other Nouto address him with a gender specific pronoun in that episode, they just keep saying "やつ" the whole time. Only Tarou addresses Sonoshi as "彼" in one line.

Please note, I'm not criticizing Rangerwiki here, I'm just trying to verify the meaning of the previously mentioned sentence.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by takenoko »

Hmm, I'd have to read the article in full before saying anything since I don't want to get that wrong. But my knee jerk reaction was thinking Inoue wrote the character to purposefully lean into bad stereotypes. Historically, it's not uncommon to find that a lot of villains in media are written to fit the "trans as bad guys" trope, so it's kind of disappointing to still see it play out in 2022. Even if Inoue says his reasoning or thought behind it is different, on the surface that's how it comes off? It just seems like the kind of shit he'd do since he's an old guy who kind of is stuck in the past in some ways
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Lunagel »

The Japanese for "non binary" and "transgender" are the English terms, "okama" and "onee" are slightly different. I'd put them in the same category as the Thai term kathoey, which is more like a second type of female. The most famous okama personality is probably Matsuko Deluxe, who still identifies as male, but uses "watashi" pronoun and always wears dresses/earrings/heavy makeup. Because the onee/okama category is already there, Japanese non binary people tend to stay away from those stereotypes.

Getting back to the main point, even if Inoue says Sonoshi isn't a okama/onee character, the stereotypes are still heavily there. You can't take advantage of a stereotype and then claim "oh lol no that character totally isn't!" because people will automatically fall back on what they know.

I get that people want to see representation, but let's not give Toei credit they don't deserve. Unless they specifically say the term "non binary", view the character through the eyes of a child and see what they would think.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Thenosa Yechette »

So Sonoshi is just male represented as an effeminate man. Ok. Thanks for answering.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by takenoko »

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I worry I didn't do a good job at explaining why Sonoshi's portrayal is problematic.
Queer-coding villains was an easy way for 1900s animation to designate a character as different, usually saddling them with a bunch of cliché, homosexual stereotypes that the audience digests and associates as evil, playing off of history's real-life stigma against LGBTQ+ folks.
https://www.pride.com/movies/2022/3/10/ ... ed-gay-man

Think this link is worth reading on a sort of related note. You can't have Inoue writing a character this way, people complaining, and then going "Oh, he's not really this stereotype. He just invokes those tropes. But it's something else, so not problematic. Inoue thumbs up"
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Lunagel »

Yeah I wouldn't read too much into them not using kare for him, yatsu is a derogative pronoun and Japanese is a very easy language to get away with not using any pronouns at all. RangerWiki is unfortunately very hit or miss with their info (frankly can be said of almost every wikia) so while straight facts about the series are probably correct, any inference is usually just opinion.

Building on what takenoko is saying, stereotypes don't exist in a bubble. You can't just say "no this character isn't such and such so this doesn't apply here". Like in Harry Potter with the goblins being hook-nosed bankers, regardless of whether or not JKR intended them to be Jewish caricatures, they're going to be seen that way.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Blackcondorguy »

I wonder, are Okama or Onee seen pejorative terms in Japan ? Or are those viewed as Okama/onee seen in a pejorative way ?
If not, could we liken this to the "trans as bad guy" trope ? If it's so, then the case is closed and I'm pretty in sync with Take and Lunagel's opinion.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Lunagel »

mmm, I'd say it depends very heavily on context. Like I've heard Matsuko refer to himself as an okama, but on the flipside I've also heard it used as an insult in dramas etc. Kinda like how "dyke" can be a slur or not dependent on who uses it and in what situation.

Okama/onee are definitely seen as outside the norm, though there are several popular okama and trans personalities on TV that are pretty near household names. In general I think society is more accepting of the gender spectrum but on an individual scale I'm sure there are people who have disowned family that went outside the binary.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Blackcondorguy »

Okay, thanks. It seems to me that the line is too blurry for having cliché okama characters as bad guys to be okay, then.

What I never gave a thought about until now, though, is that many villains from the 80s had what could be considered feminine traits. I really didn't mind as a child, it sometimes gave them an eerie feel which I thought was pretty bad ass, actually, but it was never something that seemed demeaning about them. I've even grown fond of that look for face villains, this kind of wicked Renaissance noblemen thing. And now I'm wondering where the line is between this and the "trans as bad guy" cliché, which is obviously wrong. Sorry for the existential questioning ! :?
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Lunagel »

It's a fine line. What is the point where a stereotype becomes harmful? Oren from Gaim was an onee character but he never felt hurtful. The donut truck owner in Wizard was played by trans actress Kaba-chan, and despite going over the top a lot, that also didn't feel hurtful. Yet somehow Sonoshi rubs me the wrong way.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by takenoko »

It's funny, growing up in the 90s, I used to think the lgbtq politics in Japan was so progressive compared to America. You'd see shows like Utena, queer characters would just appear casually. I think there were even a couple trans characters in Banana Yoshimoto's novels that I read

But like Luna says, context matters. Is this character this way because it's a part of who they are as a character, or are we just villainizing or making fun of it? I really agree with the examples she gives
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Blackcondorguy »

As Luna says, it's a fine line indeed. I think part of what is wrong with Sonoshi is that the character clearly didn't need that. The other Nôto have been well written and played by their respective actors to be creepy without being walking clichés or offensive. Sonoshi could have been ok by only being a germophobe freak, but having him be effeminate adds nothing to the character and really sends the wrong message. So, effeminate men are supposed to be creepy ? :(

Take, I get what you mean. In France the most effeminate characters (like Andromeda Shun or the Pisces Saint in Saint Seiya) or the cross-dressing villain in Shaider where given female voice actress, which says a lot about gender issues back then : if you look like a girl, then you're a girl ! There's also a cross-dressing character in Maskman which is treated like a man in the show until
Spoiler
she is revealed as female in the last episodes
. In the French dub, they used female pronouns and replaced "王子" with "princess" or "兄" with "sister".
Then again, we westerners have come a long way since then (we had very popular racist comedy acts during the 90s, for instance) but I guess Japan, while culturally more tolerant with homosexuality and cross-dressing, is not so much of a progressist country as a whole. You just have to look at female characters in Toku show to see that they're still way into the "boys will only be interested in guys" approach.

Sorry for the long message and broken English. This topic is really interesting, I wish I could convey my ideas more clearly and concisely.
Last edited by Blackcondorguy on Thu Jan 19, 2023 10:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Arigomi »

takenoko wrote: Thu Jan 19, 2023 9:17 am It's funny, growing up in the 90s, I used to think the lgbtq politics in Japan was so progressive compared to America. You'd see shows like Utena, queer characters would just appear casually. I think there were even a couple trans characters in Banana Yoshimoto's novels that I read
Unfortunately, young people today still make these false assumptions and have to be corrected. The representation you see in entertainment isn't necessarily an accurate reflection of Japanese society. It can be filtered through what the creator would like to see in Japanese society.
Blackcondorguy wrote: Thu Jan 19, 2023 12:36 pm Sorry for the long message and broken English. This topic is really interesting, I wish I could convey my ideas more clearly and concisely.
You don't need to apologize. This is not a topic that can be easily discussed in just a few words.

While the majority of Japanese don't necessarily have a problem with queer people, the reaction is very different when it comes to someone in their immediate family.
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by takenoko »

Yeah, I appreciate the input from someone not American. It's good to get a variety of viewpoints

To bring it back around to the subject at hand, I think my problem with Sonoshi is his portrayal. Aside from evoking effeminate/trans tropes, he's also characterized as being the most annoying character on the show. Someone that's so hated that the Nouto plot with the DonBrothers to get rid of him. He doesn't even treat humans well. Despite being foundational for Nouto society, he declares humans as being filthy and sucks them into the pocket dimension where everyone on this show goes. If Sonoshi stuck around, became a regular character, or had any sort of personality traits or growths, this wouldn't seem so bad. But as it is, he shows up for one episode, embodies these bad stereotypes, and is basically an irredeemable villain that's frequently referred to as "the most annoying guy"
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Re: Sonoshi and some Japanese cultural references.

Post by Thenosa Yechette »

Oh boy. I did not expect this to become such a long and complicated discussion.
takenoko wrote: Thu Jan 19, 2023 2:13 am I worry I didn't do a good job at explaining why Sonoshi's portrayal is problematic.
Don't worry, I get why this character's portrayal was inappropriate. Especially now that so many people have expressed their thoughts and opinions on this matter. I hope I'm not seen as insensitive, but since I don't have any control over what they do in Super Sentai in Japan, I try not to worry too much about it. If it's disturbing or worrisome, I tend to avoid it as a whole. I don't like to make a fuss about something I can't change. I hope that's understandable. But it's nice reading about how people feel about this matter.
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