We are the work of the Parents.
We do the work of the Children.
Without the use of constructs, you will unravel few mysteries.
Without knowledge of mysteries, your constructs will fail.
Find the strength to pursue both, for these are our prayers.
And to that end, welcome comfort, for without it, you cannot stay strong.
A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (2022)
Becky Chambers’ novel A Psalm for the Wild-Built, first in the Monk and Robot series, is dedicated to “anyone who could use a break”.
Chambers has been known for writing “cosy sci-fi” even before this book: oriented around humanistic details and personal stakes, and often leaving readers just… feelin’ good. Monk and Robot is my first Chambers series, and I can’t help but feel like that “cosy” label fits. From literally before page 1, comfort, cosiness, and self-care is built into this story. Not only that, but comfort, cosiness, and self-care are built into the story’s world—chiefly shining through in, of all things, its fictional system of religion.
For my thesis (which is now actually “nearly done” and will, come hell or high water, actually be submitted sometime in the middle of 2022) I analysed YA novels with non-binary protagonists. When I tell people that, often they’re surprised that there are enough books in that niche to make a study out of. And I get to say “yeah! There’s more than you might expect! In fact, I had to change the whole format of a chapter because there were too many to talk about all at once!”
So in celebration of nearly, actually, almost being done, and in celebration of the many fantastic books that have filled this category over the past couple of years (making said thesis, in its current state, possible!) I’ve compiled a pile of them for your perusal.
Please note this is only a handful of personal recommendations from within my studies: there are others I haven’t written about and others I haven’t read yet. Plus, this list is narrowed to non-binary protagonists (here defined as “a main POV character”) and if I included texts with non-binary love interests or ensemble cast members, there would be even more! More books exploring the complexity of gender in a variety of genres are being published each year, so no doubt I’ll come back and make more lists in future! For now, though, read on…
Last year, I worked as an editor on two great articles: Marina Garrow’s ‘Reconsidering Moe Through a Neurodiverse Lens’ and Patrick O’Loghlen’s ‘Why K-On! Deserved Its Second Chance’. Very different pieces in aim, tone, and focus, but each with a commonality at their heart: an affection for the iconic KyoAni series K-On! and what it brought to the world of anime, even if (mainstream, internet-based, English-speaking) anime fans may not have embraced it right away. These essays got me feeling nostalgic. Ah, K-On! I remember my own feelings when I watched the series…
Wait. I’ve watched K-On! right?
Of course I’ve watched K-On! It’s a foundation of the modern slice-of-life, girls-with-hobbies-and-passions genre, and I love that stuff. I would have definitely watched K-On! No way I wouldn’t have.
Reader, working on these articles made me realise I had never actually watched K-On!
“Do what’s right, and everything will work out.” This is the prayer repeated throughout The Aquatope on White Sand, particularly by its two main characters, Kukuru and Fuuka. It’s an optimistic mantra, one that shows a sense of faith in the goodwill of the universe (or at least, the little local god to whom these prayers are delivered). Good things will happen to kind people, honest effort will ensure your dreams come true, and love will always save the day no matter the odds—that sort of thing.
It would be easy to dismiss this worldview as naïve or even childish, but Aquatope never belittles its characters for believing in this sort of cosmic kindness. Even when the series transitions away from the magic and whimsy of its first cour, it maintains a surprising and uplifting sense of optimism.
Read the whole article on Anime Herald!
I’ve mentioned my adoration for the series Witch Hat Atelier before, praising the gorgeous, expressive art and thrilling sense of magic. Like many people, I was delighted to learn that Atelier’s artist, Kamome Shirahama, had other work that was being localised… though a touch surprised that said other work was a chaotic comedy about the antics and rivalry between a fashion-obsessed angel and demon. Priests wielding missile launchers. Spa days at the Mouth of Hell. Giant unholy poodles. Small children summoning spirits due to failures in the American health system. It’s all there and more and it has no business being as good as it is!
In the beginning, God created the sky, the land, and the sea… but when it came to creating the animals that would inhabit the world, He got tired and outsourced it. This is the tale of Heaven’s Design Team, which follows the trials and tribulations of the celestial design firm working hard to fill the Earth with all creatures great and small. Despite the religious framing, the presence of God and angels is little more than set dressing: the show is less about creationism and more about creative industries, showcasing and celebrating the imaginative process and all its ups and downs.
Read the full article on Anime Herald!
The most endearing anime of the season might be the one that’s trying to sell me a motorbike. Super Cub is the story of Koguma, an orphaned, painfully lonely girl whose world opens up when she buys a discounted Honda Super Cub—initially looking for a way to get to school more efficiently, but soon discovering a newfound sense of agency and freedom. Slowly, slowly, Koguma begins to disrupt her tight-knit, almost claustrophobic routine and step into the sunshine, making this a tale about the scary but rewarding process of overcoming grief and loneliness.
Like the titular motorcycle, this series is slow-paced, and maybe not as eye-catching as some of the others on the road that is the Spring 2021 season. In truth, I might have missed it if my pal Mercedez had not been championing it on as many websites as will let her. It’s a gorgeous, detail-orientated series that makes excellent use of its medium for visual storytelling. Owing to Koguma’s quiet nature, there are stretches of time where there’s simply no dialogue, and the animation, sound design, and storyboarding are left to tell the tale; and oh they tell it well.
In Winter 2021, Laid-Back Camp’s cast of teenaged camping enthusiasts returned to our screens and to the lush scenery around Mount Fuji. Rin, Nadeshiko, and the rest of their friends set out for a second season of outdoor activities, with all the essentials in tow: tents, tarps, portable stoves, woolly blankets, cup noodles, and… smartphones?
In a show so in love with the great outdoors, the frequent presence of cell phones may seem like an oxymoron. After all, Nature and Technology are often presented as an incompatible dichotomy. So much of the language around camping, hiking, and holidaying in general—in advertisements, pop culture, and conversations where your parents worry that you’re working too hard—emphasize the idea of “switching off” or “disconnecting.” Yet phones are never far away in Laid-Back Camp—in fact, they’re integral to the story and to the growth of relationships between the characters.
Read the full post on Anime Herald!
I’m a true Millennial Content Creator now—I’ve co-hosted a podcast! Listen in to my debut on Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast, where I chat about manga where ladies fall in love with each other. We go through some recent series and recommend our favourite titles from the ever-growing catalogue of English licenses.
Listen to the full episode here!
What a year, huh? At least there was some good cartoons!
In all sincerity, 2020 saw the release of some very fun and intriguing series—and working for AniFem has enabled me to keep a closer eye on what’s coming out than ever before, and, with premiere reviews, check out and enjoy series I may otherwise have totally missed. So read on for my favourite anime that I watched in 2020, which include everything from soft sapphic romances, to murder and mind games, to a “reincarnated in a video game” story I actually liked, to anime about anime.