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Japanese TV Series With LGBTQ Protagonists

This is a bonus post for our previous blog post Why LGBTQ Inclusivity Matters To MIRCHI KOMACHI - What Is Feminism for?.
I happened to know that lots of TV series with LGBTQ protagonists have been made in Japan recently.

Since there are many Japan-lovers among MIRCHI KOMACHI community, today I talk about such TV series with the links of the websites with English subtitles!

The Indian people who’re fluent in English watch Western TV series on Netflix etc.
The West also have discrimination and harassments (often violent) towards LGBTQ people. But compared to the situation in India, some might feel that their situation - having a “normal” job while being open as one of LGBTQ, or LGB couple living together officially - is so much better.
How about in Japan? To describe very roughly, you can say “in the middle between India and the West”. But if you look closely, it is rather “different” than “ahead/backward”.
For you Indian people, especially the LGBTQ persons, it might be interesting to see a society of different situation through TV shows.


Ossan’s Love (Ossan Zu Rabu)

Japanese TV Series Ossan’s Love

Manga-ish drama with hyper energy. Looks like it was so popular that it was made into a movie followed by Season 2.
But to be honest, I couldn’t soak in its world due to the high-handed plot/flow. I couldn’t follow the transformation of the characters’ feelings.
Rather, gradually I grew tired of the one-on-one contracts like “this person and this person are a couple”, and started feeling “trying to make an exclusive relationship, beyond wanting to be close or feeling love toward a person, is making things complicated!”. The point of my review has shifted away and away.
But maybe the TV shows with such forced plot have been made for decades about man-woman lovers. This show was epoch-making which seriously did it with man-man lovers. I saw some reviews from Japanese LGBTQ people as “finally Japanese TV series has reached to the level where audience pray for the success of love between two men!”

Ossan’s Love
7 episodes of Season 1 with English subtitles

Life As A Girl (Joshi Teki Seikatsu)

Japanese TV Series Life As A Girl (Joshi Teki Seikatsu)
Based on a novel.

Miki is a trans-woman who left her narrow-minded family and is working at an apparel company in the city. Her romantic interest is in women. She goes to matchmaking parties to meet new women.
She’s used to be treated as a monster that she doesn’t get hurt any more. She observes the offender with a calm mind and returns the best counterblow. No matter what others say, she never gives up what she likes. She’s very pop and “girl nowadays” type, but is fighting in her own way every day. Sometimes she realises her own bias, and updates her understanding about human nature and gains “experience points”.
The series portrays not “a trans-woman” but “a woman called Miki”.
NHK, the Japanese state channel, tackled the theme seriously and made this light-but-serious show.

Life As A Girl  
4 episodes with English subtitles

My Brother's Husband (Otouto No Otto)

Japanese TV Series My Brother's Husband (Otouto No Otto)

This was made by the state channel NHK as well, based on an award-winning comic.
Yaichi lives with his daughter after getting divorced with his wife. His twin brother came out to him as gay when they were teenagers, but Yaichi couldn’t accept it and eventually grew apart from his brother. The brother went to Canada to study and then got married, but died there. Mike, the brother’s husband, comes to visit Yaichi from Canada after that.

Gradually Yaichi opens up his heart to the gentle and kind Mike. And he realises the bias of other people and his own.
What is “normal family”? Is it worth seeking for “normal”? The show asks these questions.
Mike, a good Japanese speaker, was sincerely played by a foreign ex-Sumo wrestler.

My Brother’s Husband
3 episodes with English subtitles

Transit Girls

Japanese TV Series Transit Girls

The first TV series made on “girls’ love” in Japan.
Yes, that’s really meaningful, and the story is fine, but I didn’t like it much. I thought how the love started was problematic, and also felt the flow of characters’ feelings was a bit inconsistent.

Transit Girls
8 episodes with English subtitles

My Skirt, Where Did It Go? (Ore No Sukato Doko Itta?)

Japanese TV Series My Skirt, Where Did It Go? (Ore No Sukato Doko Itta?)

A middle-aged cross-dresser gay man, an ex-owner of a gay bar, becomes a high school teacher and educate students in his unique and honest way.
A bit preachy, but it’s finely made as a classic school drama. With the imperfect (excuse me!) subtitles, sometimes you might not understand the comic scenes or kids’ slangs, though.

By the way, are there TV series in India which are “school drama”? I don’t watch TV, and have never heard of such dramas…

My Skirt, Where Did It Go?
10 episodes with English subtitles

IS (IS: Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei)

Japanese TV Series IS: Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei

This was made from a comic, too.
“IS” is “Intersex”. Intersex is the state of body which has a part of / all the genes, chromosomes, genitals etc are atypical and its physical sex can’t be categorised as either male or female. A high school student who has such physical feature is the protagonist of this series.
It portrays the dilemma with the parent who can’t accept the reality, the pain of not being able to have romantic relationships like others, the pain of being forced to hide the real self from others, the hypocrites, and the people who ignore the existence of the people whom they can’t understand, and so on.
Indian people might find the series a bit slow, though...

This is just an aside; how many of you have read the novel “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides who wrote "The Virgin Suicides"? It was a painful, sensitive, wonderful novel. I sometimes recalled the pain of the protagonist while I was watching this series.

IS: Otoko Demo Onna Demo Nai Sei
10 episodes with English subtitles

What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Kinou Nani Tabeta?)

Japanese TV Series What Did You Eat Yesterday? (Kinou Nani Tabeta?)

Again it’s based on a comic.
It portrays the daily life of a live-in gay couple.
It portrays the hardships and fights which don’t happen to man-woman couples, but I think what they wanted to show was the normal life of two persons who care about each other a lot and love each other just like “normal” couples.
Sometimes the dialogues are very funny though I am not sure if the subtitles convey it.
The original comic is categorised as “food comic”. In every episode, one of the protagonists cooks mouth-watering dishes. The story flows around the food. Even if you’re not a foodie, you would enjoy watching various Japanese daily foods. He talks about the recipes and tips while cooking deftly, and you can try making some of the dishes in India.
The series says - no matter what happens outside, if you can enjoy good food together with a loved person, isn’t it a precious happy life?
It’s a wonderful series which you’d feel like watching forever.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?
12 episodes with English subtitles

If you find any dialogue or behaviour which doesn’t make sense while watching, please let me know. If not mistranslation (it exists… But kudos to those who translated them!!), it might be due to the uniquely-Japanese way of thinking or customs.
Also, I would be very happy if you could leave comments like “I liked this one!” “Can you introduce series like so-and-so situation?”.
Enjoy watching!


Some More Thoughts
About Gender Fluidity In Fashion
About Patriarchy In Family
About Hair Style And Femininity


Bonus Video
Meet Ms. Ai Haruna, a trans woman who had been very popular on TV in 2000-2010s.

She knew she’s rather a girl from her early childhood. But because of her non-masculine atmosphere (though she was hiding), she was bullied so much in junior high school. She even thought of killing herself. 
But meeting trans-women changed her life. She started her challenge to be a TV talent.

After some years of struggle, she broke through as a star by the super-mimic performance shown in this video.
The left-hand side of the video: original, a live DVD of a then-top star Aya Matsuura
The right-hand side: super-mimic by Ai Haruna, perfectly lip-syncing (without watching anything, of course!) adding some comical moves.

Not only by this performance but also with her happy personality and very witty rapid-fire talking skill (actually it is pretty common in “trans talents”), she had been everywhere on TV.


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