Today is International Women's Day (for some of you the day is over) but I honored this a few years ago about talking about some of the most female empowering novels I had read, The Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier, and Black Jewels by Anne Bishop (seriously go read that). This time I want to talk about another series, this time in the world of manga: Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi.
Now if I wanna be blunt, manga is very sexist. Women are usually scantily clad and look beyond fake. They're quiet, and reserved, or wild and crazy. Rarely are they realistic. They seem to be more for fanservice or simply to show that only good girls get ahead in life. They always smile, and are happy go lucky, and girls with real feelings are evil or bad, or straight up nuts. If they act more like you, a normal girl, they are more for fan service that anything else. It's ridiculous.
I've been to several panels where female voice actors talk about how frustrating it is. They rarely play a character who has any depth to them unless they're playing the opposite gender. Now you can argue about how it's because it's comics, but it really isn't. Ever watch a Kung Fu movie? Check out The Forbidden Kingdom, or even Hero. Female characters with depth in Asian media usually are crazy. The good ones are silent and smile and are always poise. Sure, they can fight, but they aren't allowed to feel. Catching Tiger Hidden Dragon is much better at it, but most manga fails.
This one does NOT.
At first it seems to be. Teru's older brother and parents are all dead and since apparently it's fine for a teenager to live on their own there (yeah it's illegal in my state at least) she lives alone. But she does have a cell phone her brother gave her before he died with the number to text a guy named Daisy who'll protect her.
Cliche, I know. Even the email is all happy-go-lucky. Then he moves the phone, and you see what Daisy knows is really going on. She's not "fine" and school isn't "fun". She's currently being sprayed with a water hose by the student body president while protecting her friend. She's lying to Daisy.
Teru is realistic. She's trying to hide that she hates school, her only friends are losers, and she's beyond lonely. Like most kids, she thinks she can handle it on her own (she can't). She cries, and gets angry, and cusses. She gets into trouble and her friend aren't all amazing. They're good people, but they have sex and drink sometimes and make really stupid decisions. They pass and fail tests, and aren't always happy or bouncing from one high to a low. They're teenagers. They're real.
Then Motomi ups the stakes to keep it interesting. Her brother had some program and he and Daisy used to be computer hackers. An enemy murdered her brother and a program he died for is probably in her phone. She faces down guns and criminals, and ends up kidnapped more than once.
Sure she could fight them off, but that would feel fake. She cries, she screams, and while she doesn't know any martial arts (neither do I) she eventually learns how to fight back. Yes, most of the time she's rescued, but I recall her taking a pipe or shovel to the back of someone's head to get away. She gets beat up, and has to move from her apartment, and her friends get caught up in it, but Teru isn't holier than thou, trying to be a hero. She runs for help, and protects people in turn.
Basically, she's the most realistic girl I've seen in a manga. EVER. And I read a LOT. She falls in love, and tells Kurosaki (the male lead) to go bald. She gets angry and hold grudges and doesn't forgive easily. I love her. It's beautiful and doesn't teach girls they need to stay positive as much as they need to stay strong. It doesn't say you need a guy to save you, it says you need your friends and family to save you sometimes, and sometimes you're the one doing the saving.
Another super female power comic is Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and others.
Ms. Marvel follows Kamala Khan, a Muslim American from New Jersey (and NO they didn't celebrate 9/11, if you believe that GO AWAY). When she sneaks out to a popular kids party a mist gives her powers and suddenly she's Captain Marvel back when she was just Ms. Marvel. Once she gets more control she goes by Ms. Marvel and saves her family, classmates, and fellow New Jersians from everything including aliens, giant robots, mad scientists, and even the END. It's awesome.
And it's awesome because she's a fangirling nerd with strict parents trying to be cool while also having superpowers. It's normal comic book stuff, it just so happens her parents from Pakistan, and she goes to a youth group at the local mosque instead of a church. Her friend wears a hijab, she doesn't. Her brother want to be a priest, her dad wants him to get a job. Her mom wants her to wear longer sleeves, she wants to try sleeveless.
It's real and shows better than almost anything else I can think of what it's like to a Muslim American. THEY'RE NORMAL. I adore the story, and can't wait to read volume 6. It's beautifully done and I think her fangirling when she fights alongside every superhero she used to write fanfiction over is HILARIOUS.
I love both of these series and I'm sad there's no more Teru, but excited for more Kamala. Here's to all the ladies all over the world, whether their American, Muslim, Japanese, or whatever. Ladies, you can rock it anyway you want to (so long as it doesn't hurt people).