By: BRENDAN MCDANIEL
International Transgender Visibility Day was March 31, and it would have been the perfect opportunity to have a column highlighting LGBTQ+ representation in media. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about it until after the date had already passed, which means that any article about it that we did run would come out over a full week after it was actually relevant. Now, the obvious decision for me would be to simply ignore the mistake, run a similar article next year and avoid drawing attention to my goof-up, but… I’m pretty sure you’ve already read the title. I would now like to introduce a new segment to be run whenever I inevitably do this again in the future. In this edition of “Brendan Can’t Read A Calendar,” we’ll be discussing my favorite transgender character in media: Lily Hoshikawa, of the 2018 anime “Zombieland Saga.”
For those of you who don’t know, “Zombieland Saga” is a satire of the Asian idol industry (which is actually a horrifyingly disgusting industry, despite the cutesy appearance it likes to put on), tackling the horrifying working conditions and slave-like treatment of its musicians by having its fictional idol group be formed of the undead. Each character died in a different era of Japanese history to be resurrected as pop idols for the world’s shadiest music manager. Each episode follows their individual or interpersonal struggles to become the most popular idol group in Japan. One of these characters is Lily Hoshikawa; a child actress from the early days of television.
Lily, as a character, is interesting for quite a few reasons. Having grown up with a workaholic father and a deceased mother, she took to acting as a way to make her television-loving father happy and to strengthen their relationship. In the show’s idol group, she’s the youngest and most energetic of the team, almost always joyful and supportive to the rest of the cast. However, in the sixth episode, she is revealed as being transgender during a conversation discussing how she died.
Now, when most shows have a character come out as LGBTQ+, it’s almost always a big deal in-universe. The process of a character coming out is usually the focus of the episode in which it happens. That episode may be about a character coming out, or it may be about larger LGBTQ+ issues as a whole. These sorts of episodes tend to be hit-or-miss; many writers simply don’t have the experience or research needed to have a deep and serious discussion on civil rights, and even when they do, having a social issue episode in a series not typically associated with social commentary tends to create a nasty tonal dissonance with the rest of the series. It rarely feels like it fully belongs in the series, which is a feeling one would want to avoid creating when attempting to integrate such a character into the cast.
So what does “Zombieland Saga” do right? Two things: firstly, Lily’s coming out isn’t actually a big deal. It comes up three times in the series, all in the same episode, when she’s “coming out” to the rest of the main cast (one of whom, the manager, already knew). At no point is it made into a big deal; it comes up once, and then the episode goes back to its established plot about Lily reconnecting with her father. Although “Zombieland Saga” doesn’t say anything new or thought provoking about gender identity or the LGBTQ+ experience, it does make another important step: making it a normal part of life. While there certainly are people for who their gender identity or sexual orientation are major parts of who they are, there are just as many for who these things only come up when explicitly discussing said topics. However, I said there are two things “Zombieland Saga” did right. And while the show has some amazingly clever writing, the second point is one that doesn’t actually require any sort of skill at all.
When I set out to write this column, I was initially going to do something similar to Headline Lightning Round and give quick summaries of excellent trans characters. But then I realized something; Lily is the only trans character I’m familiar with. Even in 2019, LGBTQ+ representation outside of works specifically about LGBTQ+ people and themes is incredibly rare. So, I want to at the very least raise some awareness.
I’ve got a Twitter now, so let’s put it to use. I’ll start a thread, and I want you guys to reply with your favorite trans characters outside LGBTQ+ specific media. Whether it’s books, TV, or games: send it in. It lets me do my job better by giving me more diverse and interesting content for you, and it raises awareness of positive LGBTQ+ representation.
So send it in to @brendan_preface, and show our readership’s support for the LGBTQ+ community in media.