Musings on Genderbending (via @Rubenerd)

K-ON! Genderbent

Ruben's recent post on genderswap art of FREE! gave me cause to put a little thinking to the concept of genderbending and genderswapping again, so there a just a few points I'd like to mention because of his post. Let's begin:

Despite their rugged, toned bodies, the boys of Free still have the limpid, expressive eyes usually reserved for female characters. Its not that all their characters look like women, its that they all seem to conform to a roughly similar art style.

Long ago when I was still mastering the skill of drawing as to distinguish males from females by staring at others' art (it wasn't that long ago), I eventually started to notice that the eyes of male characters don't have to be different, they are usually merely simpler and narrower versions of the female eye, usually without the long lashes that frame female eyes. Of course, some artists take it upon themselves to make their characters as unique as possible and make the shine or the shading different for each character, but for the most part this is usually how an art style operates and how all the characters in a series are usually kept uniform.

This is usually pretty similar whether or not you're drawing for a shounen or a shoujo series, though it certainly doesn't stop people genderswapping characters in shounen series either, even if they are extremely masculine to begin with. Possible with the largely effeminate nature of Japanese anime? Quite so!

Xanxus from Reborn

In other words, reimagining Kyoani characters as another gender isn't as great an artistic leap as perhaps we'd think. Contrast this with Western comics, for example. Looking at their facial features, you couldn't easily confuse male and female characters.

Funnily enough, it isn't much of a leap at all for any anime, in an artists' eyes. Or a writers'. Why is this the case, I have no idea, but since I started getting more involved in anime fandoms in 2009 onwards and first learned of the concept, genderswapping has just come almost naturally. I even wrote a genderswap (性転換) of Inuyasha, though I never posted up any sketches I made. Perhaps we see it as just another challenge to the way we think.

To be honest, genderswapping happens all the time, but rarely do we really hear about it. Take the K-ON! picture above. In the hands of determined artists, it doesn't really need any encouragement. Funny enough though, more often than not you may find a great portion of those artists doing these genderbends are female anyway. What is it that makes genderbending more predominant in anime?

Genderbending in Western Comics

Well, let's just say it's not for a lack of it in Western comics, it's just a lack of hearing about it. They're probably surprised we have it too. Or not, we're kind of from the same ilk, really.

What's really the most famous genderswap though? I'm going to have to call Ranma on this one. D-does that count?

Ranma 1/2

K-ON! genderbend by Unknown.
Xanxus from Reborn! is owned by Amano Akira.
Xanxus genderbend by くく維きゃん.
Superman and Batman genderbend from this kinda tasteless page.
Saotome Ranma from Ranma½ is owned by Takahashi Rumiko.
Inuyasha from my 2009 Seitenkan is also owned by Takahashi Rumiko.