This week’s post is a collaboration with redball, John Sato, SnippetTee, and Foshizzel (who provided pictures). SnippetTee is currently duking it out in the final rounds of the Aniblog Tourney, so go check out the participants and giver her a vote!
redball: We’ve joined together once again to imbibe in the grand story of Queen’s Blade. Each week we learn more about the world in which the show takes place, and this week was no different. I must say that, after watching three episodes in a single evening, I for one am practically drunk with new and exciting information. I’d like to ask you to please pardon us if we’re overloaded, but that extra episode gives us a lot to process. With that, let’s dig in.
You may recall in our last post we discussed the role of men in Queen’s Blade, and what kind of history this world might have experienced in order to achieve such a maternalistic society. We’ve determined that men in this world are relegated to social insignificance. This week, we quickly noted that the lack of male characters does not mean that gender isn’t present.
We started at episode 8, which is something of a bridge episode. As with most bridge episodes, it serves to prepare the viewer for the next arc. In this case we are preparing for the final arc of the season. The allies of truth, justice, and pantlessness have assembled. It now becomes clear that Annelotte has not merely collected an elite group of skilled fighters, but also established a typical anime harem.
Taken alone, this would not be a noteworthy development. However, it is clear that Annelotte is supposed to play the male lead in this harem. We’re presented with most of the same tropes as a typical male-led harem rather than a yuri harem or a reverse harem, and Annelotte fills the male role.
This should not come as a huge surprise. Queen’s Blade has foreshadowed Annelotte’s status as a male surrogate since the beginning of the season. A perpetual theme is for her to be mistaken for a man. The leap from a mistaken stranger to an enamored compatriot is not a huge one.
John Sato: As we explained in the last colloquium, men in Queen’s Blade have traditionally been kept away from the public eye, a practice which the evil queen Claudette has done away with. While the lack of males in this episode surely enforces the point Annelotte is a holy warrior, as evidenced by the male-free group she has gathered around herself, it introduces a more interesting point of the uselessness of males in the Queen’s Blade universe. While unholy and therefore banned from attaining any kind of religious significance, males as a rule are also forbidden any kind of real political power. Throughout the Queen’s Blade franchise, this has been enforced by the idea of the land being ruled by a queen since time immemorial. Even the title of the series, Queen’s Blade, suggests that males are useless even in combat; this is a world where women fight (supported by the fact that all of the queen’s soldiers in Rebellion are female). Men, then, are useless/unnecessary in the religious, political, and military spheres. However, this episode would suggest another sphere in which the male is unneeded and unwanted; the relationship world, and by extension the social world as a whole. This is pretty obviously shown by Annelotte’s decidedly “male-led” style harem, and its lack of actual males. To prove my point, let me start by analyzing Annelotte’s harem.
First up is Yuit, the resident lolicon appeaser and childhood friend character. She is perhaps the most revealing of what I am attempting to show. Her way of constantly referring to Annelotte as “Onii-chan” enforces the usual implication of a male as the harem lead, yet at the same time solidifies the Queen’s Blade universe’s own tradition of females in the lead, as Annelotte is at least mostly woman. It is clear that Annelotte is primarily female (despite the holy man-woman status she holds that I explained last time), and but there is a continued reference to her being a male, or rather holding a traditionally masculine position. As she is the main character, it seems clear, then, that she would hold the position of being the male lead. And yet, she is, in fact, a (mostly) woman character. This rather clearly shows that the show has a male lead, despite having no male characters.
Next are the foreign sisters, Tanyan and Sanyan. Though they do not fill a traditional harem position (though it could be argued that between the both of them they fulfill the “zany girl,” “good cook,” “smart girl,” and “quiet girl” sub-positions), they more serve to hammer home the point that Annelotte is, indeed, a woman. You see, no other character can give a fully, 100% believable testimony to Annelotte’s actual gender. Yuit obviously has it wrong, Mirim has been at least partially tainted by the vibration armor (thus rendering her knowledge of the sacred philosophy of genders skewed), Lunaluna (known fondly to our group by her title of Sun/Moon Dancer) is too confused about her own gender role, Annelotte herself cannot be trusted (it is merely her word against her surprisingly masculine appearance), and every other character is under the illusion that she is either the son of an aristocrat, or believes the assertions of one of these other decidedly unreliable sources. Only the combined testimony of not one, but two outside, decidedly feminine sources can be believed to be have an accurate grasp of Annelotte’s true gender, which they affirm to be (mostly) female by the way they call her “Aneja” (or “older sister”).
The most recent addition, Izumi, serves less to prove my point and more to show that this is, indeed, a “male” harem. She does so by fulfilling the staple, no, the livelihood of the standard harem: the Tsundere. There is no stereotype or trope more strongly associated with the shounen (male) harem than the Tsundere. The mere inclusion of a Tsundere to Annelotte’s group would be enough evidence to prove that this is, indeed, a harem. However, Izumi takes this a step farther by portraying all the typical Tsundere habits a girl would present to a male to not one, but to two women (Annelotte and Maria). This shows a clear gravitation towards females, yet in a way traditionally used towards men. This proves, then, that Annelotte’s harem is indeed a “male” one despite lacking and actual man.
And the final member, the ever complex Lunaluna, proves my point about the how males are defunct better than any other. Lunaluna might be considered the counterpart of the tomboy character type, due to the distinctly masculine features she possesses (her rather phallic codpiece being the greatest example). However, this has deeper implications. Lunaluna is the second closest to being a masculine figure in Queen’s Blade: Rebellion, but there is never any indication by any of the other characters that she might be a male, as is often the case with Annelotte. This supports Redball’s theory that this is not a yuri harem. If it were, then Lunaluna would suffice as the leader, acting as the all-too-interested in girls woman with some eccentric masculine habits/features. But instead we have a character, Annelotte, who Redball astutely described as a male surrogate, acting not so much in a female role as in a male one. Apply this to my idea. Lunaluna and Annelotte together have no need for a male in their relationship. The two can switch their roles as needed, making any male involvement for either side unnecessary. Because these two characters, males are entirely unnecessary in this “traditional” harem structure, since they more than make up for any male elements that might be missing.
As these members clearly show, males are unnecessary even in relationships. I propose that this could be taken a step farther, however, to say that males are unnecessary in the entire social sphere. Think about it, what purpose do they serve? As Ymir showed throughout the first several seasons, women are fine craftspeople, and need no supposed male endurance or strength to make their goods. They are, if anything, a parasite to society, as all men are shown to be either gamblers or facilitators of gambling. They can offer nothing on the intellectual level, as shown by the low intelligence of Yuit’s assistant, and are certainly unneeded in the economy, as only women ever buy things. The only purpose men have in this world, then is as a part of the reproduction process. As we see god grant extraordinary life-giving powers to certain women like Sun/Moon Dancer, however, it is questionable if they will be needed even for this. That aside, however, it is clear that men are useless in all other walks of life. This being the case, it should come as no surprise that females would replace the under-performing male gender in their roles in harems.
draggle: One thought of John Sato’s particularly struck me: the fact that males in Queen’s Blade are so utterly useless politically, economically, socially, religiously and militarily. Men are stricken from the sphere of public life, aside from a few choice occupations, such as an underground arena bookkeeper, which the lowest on the lowest rung of society must stoop to in order to survive if they are unable to find a woman to take care of them.
So despite the matriarchal society and the tremendous amounts of female fanservice, I must conclude that Queen’s Blade: Rebellion is fundamentally a feminist work.
Why is that? It reveals the systematic and hidden oppression in our society by putting the shoe on the other foot. The audience of Queen’s Blade is largely composed of males (and females of excellent taste such as SnippetTee) so the message is tailored specifically to males. To unmask the hidden, ubiquitous and unquestioned suppression of females in our world, Queen’s Blade creates a fantasy world in which males are the ones being sent to the kitchen.
Now, Queen’s Blade, which thrives on subtlety, never explicitly mentions this. In fact, it hardly shows any males, and this, I believe, speaks for itself. The males themselves may not even realize they’re being oppressed. Things are the way they are, and no one even imagines they can or should be changed.
But a few of the viewers may wonder, “Where are the men?”, and gain a newfound understanding of the female condition in our own world.
SnippetTee: “Hidden oppression”, “tailored”, and “unmasked”. These words coming from our smartest starfish, Draggle, made me think.
I can’t seem to fully accept that this is a feminist work just because it shows female domination and how hypersexuality of femininity enslaves men–that’s just like flipping one side of the coin! Indeed, the men of this show are the lowest creatures that one can ever imagine, but come to think of it, that only happens in “Queen’s Blade” world. In reality, the girls and women of this anime are being stripped and humiliated right before the audience’s very own eyes. This franchise is also mainly catered for the male demography–as poignantly emphasized–that’s why it’s so hard to conclude whether it is truly a feminist work or not.
Also to be honest, I am disappointed with Queen’s Blade. I was expecting some hardcore yuri scenes but all I had seen were just bouncing breasts and flirtations. Like seriously, why do the girls of this show too busy in stripping clothes but then just stopped on that… where is the banging part? Further, battling is so manly. If this show really likes to uphold female attributes, then instead of fighting each other, they should make love in order to promote a better and gentler world.
redball: It may be that Queen’s Blade is a feminist world portrayed for a male chauvinist audience. I would submit that the missing yuri elements are actually present, but they are largely shown via symbolism. Fights in Queen’s Blade are not merely the conflict they seem on the surface. They are also sex scenes. In these scenes there is often a duality for the characters where each plays roles of dominance and submission. Each battle works its way to a crescendo that leaves one or both warriors sprawled on the ground in exhaustion, depleted from the activity.
The question therefore is whether these qualify as yuri, or if through stereotypical gender roles we’re shown a heterosexual relationship that is simultaneously devoid of men. I’m not sure I’m convinced either way. We have but two more episodes to find out!