Reformed Fat Hater on Fat Characters in Manga

fat-hater-header

 

Reformed Fat Hater on Fat Characters in Manga

I used to hate and blame fat people for their heaviness. It’s their faults, I convinced myself. But after facing my own fat issues and reading about weight discrimination in all walks of life, I’ve changed my accusatory hate into something more productive: understanding. It’s been hard considering that I live in Japan, a country where the inaccurate BMI is still gold and sizes run all but large.

In reading a post on Tutus and Tiny Hats, I realized that this problem–making fat people the victims of a weighty situation–is ingrained not just in Japanese fashion. It’s something that even manga readers have to see in black and white: the fat characters in manga and their treatment by their thin counterparts.

fortherose

Two manga come to mind. The first title is Bara no Tame ni, or For the Rose, an unlicensed title in the shoujo category. Because of its quirky plot–a chubby homeless girl starts living with her half-siblings in her movie star mother’s home–For the Rose won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1994. For me, this manga proves that a manga starring an overweight woman can be memorable. I read this 10 years ago, and I can still remember how unfair and judgmental everyone was being to Yuri, who only wants to find a home with her siblings. One thing I love about this manga was how the other characters changed around her, defending and protecting her for her, not her size. 

cousin-l0The second title is an unlicensed josei title called Cousin with a chubby girl as its main character. After Yuki graduates from high school, she meets Aoi, a carefree guy who decides to befriend her because he’s a fan of her actress cousin. Though Yuki is skeptical at first, thinking he’s a pervert, they become friends. In spite of its lackluster plot, I love Yuki and her realistic struggles with her weight and her place in the world. She faces hassles on her new job and with her new friends, but she keeps moving forward in life. What really surprised me was her family’s personality. When she decides to lose weight, her parents are reluctant at first because they “love her the way she is” (though her father adds, “I like chubbiness”). Her younger sister, on the other hand, gets on her case even more, but just as in Yuki-fashion, she is mostly labeled as an ignorable brat. I never thought of this kind of situation for a fat person. What if your family is resistant to you losing weight? What warms readers hearts about this manga is that Yuki has perseverance–and yes, she stumbles here and there–and the characters around her accept her for who she is, not the size on the tag.

I love these two manga, but as I said before, they’re unlicensed, meaning that they aren’t officially translated into English for the Western audience. I can think of other manga that have fat supporting characters, however, I’m looking at main characters. They come few and far between. This shows how Japanese comic artists stereotype fat people, usually making the defining traits for rotund characters like Choji Akimichi (Naruto), Gluttony (Fullmetal Alchemist), and Terumichi Nishida (Detroit Metal City) the same.

I don’t think fat people can be put into the same Giant Foodie Category just because they’re fat. Every person, whether they’re a size 22 or a size 2, has problems, and those problems lead people to different coping mechanisms. Some may be food addiction while others are alcoholism. Some may be one too many milkshakes, and others may be one too many sexapades. These things are just escapes from a larger issue that needs to be faced. I know for me to even start losing the weight I gained from life abroad and marriage, I had to look at my heart before my plate. If anything was going to change and stick, I had to tackle the problem(s). I’m not at my goal right now, but I am at a better place–and so are the numbers on my scales.

Now if only manga creators could find it in their hearts to make some super interesting fat characters, main or side, without using their fatness as the only defining trait.

Here are some licensed manga that feature fat or fat-thinking main characters:

Accel World by Reki Kawahara and Hiroyuki Aigamo (Yen Press)

Boys, Please Kiss Him Instead of Me by Junko (Kondansha/Crunchyroll)

Fat Cinderella! by RISE and Makoto Suzukawa (DeNA Manga Box)

I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow by Shunju Aono (Viz)

In Clothes Called Fat by Moyoco Anno (Vertical) [Review from Otaku Champloo]

My Love Story!! by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko (Viz)

Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution by Yuuki Fujinari (Yen Press)

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How Much of the Snake I’ve Eaten

In January, I posted my New Year’s resolution. Now, six months later, I’m doing a check-in.

Gotta get that fat outta here!!

#1: Losing weight: Drop 25 pounds.

In January and February, while my husband did a cleanse, I opted for only eating meat once a day. I don’t know if I dropped weight, but my clothes did fit differently–good for not exercising (my husband did, though). Just when we were going at a good pace, my husband hurt his back and the exercising (for him) and the non-meat meals stopped. It goes to show how much being in a relationship can affect your body.

Three weeks ago, I started doing Tae Bo again. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered (I did it last year for two months), but I decided to do cardio three times a week and strength training once a week. A week ago, I hurt my knee, so I’ll have to stick with strength training and minimum cardio. Injuries are the worst!

Plan: Do 30-45 minutes of exercise every other day. Two times a week include a strength training regiment (12 reps, 3 sets with weights), and work on abs every exercise day.

How to write “learn” in kanji

#2: Learn Japanese: Become a more fluent speaker.

I entered an international speech contest in Japanese, but I wasn’t picked. Maybe next year… Every day, I learn a new Japanese word (today’s word is 野良猫, noraneko, or “stray cat”) to build my vocabulary. I also write in a journal in Japanese, and some of my posts on this blog have a Japanese translation. So far, my reading comprehension has gotten easier as well as my kanji.

Plan for the rest of the year: Sign up for the JET Programme’s free advanced Japanese course and get ready for another speech contest (to get picked this time!).

#3: Save more money

I haven’t saved any money (according to my Mint account), but I have managed to slim our daily expenses. Instead of buying many snacks and going out to eat, we cook at home and avoid sugary products like cookies and fruit juices.

Plan: Send a set amount of money to my American bank account and not touch it except for emergencies and bills.

#4: Travel more.

Because of Item Number 3, traveling is out of the question. Sadness!

Once upon a time, there was a writer…

#5: Get to reading and writing!

I became a part of a creative writing circle. We get a prompt and two weeks to write something, then we post in on Google Plus. It’s very convenient because I never know how people will react to it. Also, it keeps me on my toes in keeping with deadlines!

Plan: Continue with the writing circle. Win at least one writing contest!

Links

1. Scale: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg

2. “Learn” kanji gif: http://nihongoichibandotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/5b66.gif

3. Piggy bank: http://sj.sunne.ws/files/2011/09/Piggy-Bank1.jpg

4. Suitcase: http://henricodoctors.com/util/images/TravelMedicineSuitcase.jpg

5. Books: https://jadesescape.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/books.jpg?w=257

Time to Take a Bite Out of the Year of the Snake

Per New Year’s and weight gain, I made several resolutions to better my life. For 2013, I have a few, but I’m not just going to say what they are. Many people make that mistake. I want to avoid the talk and just get down to the core of the problem and how to realistically solve them.

Gotta get that fat outta here!!

#1: Lose weight.

Last year, I made this a goal, and in July, I could wear clothes that I hadn’t worn in two years because of my weight. By December, I regained most of the weight I lost five months ago. The most realistic approach to losing weight for me is not stressing out, getting enough sleep, eating more vegetables and fruits, and exercising.

My goal in losing weight this year is 25 pounds. Right now, I weigh 155 pounds–30 pounds over my high school weight–and I want to shed it. This fat represents the stress I’ve gone through since getting married, living in a foreign country without being fluent in the language, and becoming inactive in my local community. The fat needs to go.

My plan is to start with moderate cardiovascular exercises that I enjoy (basketball practice, dance, and jogs) and moderate strength-training regiments at home. I just have to watch my knees (two torn ACL injuries from ten years ago). Right now, my eating habits are OK, but they can be better. I’ll add more dairy products, fruits, and vegetables to my diet from now on.

How to write “learn” in kanji

#2: Learn Japanese.

I’ve come a long way since last year when I could vaguely understand what someone said in Japanese. Now, I’m on my way to becoming a more fluent listener. My goal this year is to become a more fluent speaker. It’s harder than it sounds because I have trouble with what I call the linkers, wa, ga, wo, and ni. I want to master them.

My plan is to study with a native speaker weekly and later take the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Right now, I have a book for passing the JLPT and I have several workbooks for learning the most basic kanji . In the meantime, I’m working on remembering my Japanese speech for a contest.

Bank on the Pig.

#3: Save more money.

That’s all. Just save more money. This past year, I was able to pay off just about all of my credit cards. Now I want to pay off one of two big debts and continue my savings plan for when I return to the U.S. One thing that has kept me in check is a financial planning website called Mint.com, which gives me a pie chart of all of my expenditures and keeps track of my financial goals.

Let’s get to packin’!

#4: Travel more.

My husband and I decided that in 2014, we’ll return the U.S. Before then, I’d like to visit some other nearby countries on holiday breaks. Of course, this could dig into Resolution #3, but we can definitely make it work without having to spend an arm and a leg. Flying between China and Japan starts around $150 dollars. For a new experience in a different land, I’m willing to pay for it.

Once upon a time, there was a writer…

#5: Get to reading and writing!

In August last year, I self-published The Ends Don’t Tie with Bunny Rabbits. Ever since then, I’ve gone on to do a free book-reviewing website by the same name and started to read indie authors’ books. I still have several books on my list, but I’d like to read up to 50 books in 2013. I only read 26 books in 2012 and 24 books in 2011.

With writing, I’d like to start this year with a great Korean comic review for the Manga Bookshelf column. I also want to finish writing another book and get it published this year. It’s possible to do all this if I use my time wisely. No more Youtube time wasters.

Links

1. Scale: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg

2. “Learn” kanji gif: http://nihongoichibandotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/5b66.gif

3. Piggy bank: http://sj.sunne.ws/files/2011/09/Piggy-Bank1.jpg

4. Suitcase: http://henricodoctors.com/util/images/TravelMedicineSuitcase.jpg

5. Books: https://jadesescape.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/books.jpg?w=257