Deviating Voice Representation of Female Characters and Feminist Readings in 1990s Anime

By Minori Ishida 石田美紀

In the 1990s, Japanese anime sophisticated both their ›visual database‹ and their ›voice database‹ for their character design. These two ›databases‹ usually cooperate in a complementary manner in order to construct characters for an audio-visual medium. In the following article, however, I am going to point out that there are always possibilities of deviation, because, fundamentally, the visual appearance and the voice of the character are created independently. This has, in fact, opened up the possibility to introduce a new style of characters like Haruka Tenou, one of the most popular characters in the Sailor Moon series (1992–1997). According to Azuma Hiroki, moe (affective responses) toward characters had drastically altered the reception of anime in the 1990s, preparing the way for the so-called ›kyara-moe‹. Within otaku (fan) cultures, however, another kind of reception took place, which was inspired by female, queer characters, such as Haruka or her successors. Feminist audiences who experienced moe toward these characters interpreted them enthusiastically: with regard to the gender and the sexuality of the protagonists, they created their own narratives.