These past couple of weeks, I’ve seen Hana Uzaki, the titular character from Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! showing up on my Twitter timeline a lot. Weirdly tough, her viral popularity isn’t one of people excited about her or of her becoming a new meme template. Rather, there is this wave of sentiment amongst people to try and “fix” her.
It’s a weird collective take that enough of the internet has globed onto that it’s become a talking point. And all I can think when I encounter is it: “Is this the first time these people have seen an anime character?”.
The general sentiment amongst the people I’m talking about is that Uzaki’s design is “gross”, that she looks like a 10 year old with some giant boobs latched to her forward facing side. The result has been something of a hashtag campaign that redesigns her maker her look more human. As well as the wave comments that follow to argue the artist’s sentiment.
For the life of me, I’m trying to understand where this is all coming from. There is nothing all that unique about Uzaki in the grand scheme of anime character designs. She’s short, high energy and stacked. If I had a mind to I could probably find a dozen other examples of characters in manga and anime that fit in that same mould.
Which leads me to believe that almost all of this sentiment is coming from people who have little to no historic interaction with anime or other Japanese media outside of the super mainstream stuff. Coupled with the very idea of criticising a cartoon for doing exactly what a cartoon does: exaggerating features and aspects of a character for the sake of humour.
It just so happens that Uzaki’s exaggerated features paint her in a mildly sexualised fashion. Because let’s be real. This series is some mild ecchi at most, there are a ton of far more damning examples of anime characters for people to be outraged at.
This is a bandwagon people seemed to have jumped on while it’s good and hot. I noticed that almost all of the people redesigning Uzaki are actually younger than the character herself, who is stated in the very first episode of the anime to be a 19 year old college student. Thus most of the people criticising her for looking underage are ironically not in positions to have peers of the characters age and see just how varied in shape and size people can be. It seems that way at least anyway.
The whole thing feels like a low scale moral panic to me. One coming from a group are assigning their own morals, values and attitudes onto a character that comes from a country on the other side of the world. One with a culture that’s about as separate from western culture and values as any first world country can be.
A fact that many of the people criticising seem to missing out on. I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on Japanese culture whatsoever. I do, however, have enough self awareness to understand that imposing my morals and culture onto their media is shortsighted, reductive and wrong.
Does Japan have some attitude towards work, gender and age that I find problematic? Absolutely. Is it my place to tell them that they’re wrong? Of course it isn’t. That’s what culture is, there are plenty of aspects of western culture that the Japanese probably find abhorrent. They seem to have the self awareness to know that those aspects of our culture are ours to suffer and not theirs to interfere with.
To try and impose our morals and culture onto other peoples does seem to be a thing we’ve always loved doing in the west. To give an extreme example, look at the christian missionaries, going to Africa and imposing God into the natives. People who were thriving and going about their lives just find before us white folk came alone. Telling them how to live, how to dress and basically imposing their will on another culture, squashing it in the process.
More recent examples include the terrible Americanisation of older anime in the 90s, including the pains dubbing studios were forced to go to censor violence in Dragon Ball and Yu-Gi-Oh! as well as the likes of 4Kid’s now infamous Jelly Doughnut scene from the original Pokemon dub. As well as totally re-scoring anime for no reason I can understand today.
This whole miniature moral panic comes from the same place at those old 4kids alterations though, those redesigning Uzaki’s appearance to make her more suitable for their personal tastes, which in most cases turn her from a pretty generic looking anime character into a just as generic looking western character, one they would feel more comfortable consuming in their own media. Which is somewhat hypocritical given the over-sexualization and a lack of normal body types in our own, western television and movies.
What makes this all the more bizarre to me is that Uzaki herself isn’t even that heinous of an example of a character looking too young and acting in a sexualised manner. Uzaki is more clueless about her actions that actively trying to be seductive in anything she does. And from a culture where there are countless examples anime with sexualised demons and dragons appearing with the bodies of prepubescent girls; getting mad over a vertically challenged 19 year old with big eyes and bigger boobs seems to add another strike against trying to argue whatever point it is they’re arguing.
Hell, half the echhi shows out there are set in high schools where the girls range from the ages of 13 to 17, the fact that this character is the one that got everyone’s ire up seems so quaint compared to the countless better examples this moral panic patrol could have used as the flag for their stance.
This drama will come and it will go away, I wouldn’t be surprised if I never see this issue show up again after this post goes live. But there’s no doubt that some anime character will become the target for another, similar moral panic amongst Western Twitter again in the future. Imposing their views on sex and violence onto a culture that is doing just fine without anyone else telling them what to do. When all they needed to do accept that some things from other cultures weren’t made for them, rather than coming through like a battering ram.
In the end, maybe these people who are jumping on the band wagon and implying pedophilia on the creators and the audience that enjoys this anime should just actually go and give Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! a chance. Then they’ll realise that it’s ultimately a pretty harmless and cute slice of life comedy that isn’t really worth all the drama. Especially when there are battles closer to home they could be battling instead.
One Final Note: This post was never intended to be an attack on any of the artists featured within the post. Hence why I erased the names of the accounts that posted them. You can probably search them out if you need to, but I’d ask that you don’t. This post was meant as a wider talk about imposing moral values upon others while only using this event as example.