Literal Objectification in Animanga

So, with Black Bullet airing this season, I’ve been thinking of the literal objectification of women in media. I don’t really feel compelled to go into depth about how this is an overarching problem and affects/influences our views and treatment of women because other people have said it and said it better, but I felt it would be interesting to compile a list of anime and manga that use this trope, both for women and men.

Note: this list does not say anything about my actual feelings about the particular series in question. In fact, I actually do enjoy reading/watching many of these. I’m simply illustrating a greater societal problem. And because I love making lists.

Will be updated whenever I find/remember more examples.

*Asterisks indicate that these are not literal objects but are genetically modified (or something) and treated as weapons/tools. So symbolic objects. And, yes, the major plot point could be that they’re not actual ~objects~ but that doesn’t disprove the fact that the society within these stories treat them as objects. I don’t really think this distinction (between literal and symbolic objects) is absolutely necessary, but I thought it would be interesting to make.

Men as Objects

  • Angel Sanctuary (Kira)
  • Celestial Clothes (MC)
  • Ilegenes* (Fon)
  • Kieli* (Harvey)
  • Neppu Kairiku Bushi Road* (Suou)
  • Ryuu wa Tasogare no Yume wo Miru* (MC)

Women as Objects

  • Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (the battleships)
  • Baccano!* (Ennis)
  • Black Bullet* (the cursed children)
  • Black Cat* (Eve)
  • Chobits (the persocoms)
  • Claymore** (the claymores)
  • Clockwork Planet (RyuZu)
  • Dantalian no Shoka (Dalian)
  • Elemental Gelade (the edel reids)
  • Gunslinger Girl* (the cyborgs)
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS* (the cyborgs/artificial mages)
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica*** (the magical girls)
  • Rozen Maiden (the rozen maidens)
  • The Sacred Blacksmith (the demon swords)
  • Saikano (Chise)
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index* (Index/the sisters)
  • Witch Hunter (Halloween)
  • X/1999 (Fuuma’s mother)
  • XBlade (the swords)

Both Men AND Women as Objects

  • Black Lagoon* (Hansel and Gretel)
  • Coppelion* (the coppelion, though Haruto is shown to be the only guy so far)
  • DN Angel (the artwork)
  • Dragon Recipe (the holy swords)
  • Fate series* (the heroic spirits)
  • Hitogatana* (everyone, basically)
  • Noragami (the shinki)
  • Soul Eater (the weapons, though Soul is the only boy wielded by a girl)
  • Yuusen Shoujo* (the knights)

**Yes, Claymore has had male ex-claymores show up recently, but for most of the narrative, it is exclusively female claymores. Never mind coherent in-universe reason given, the point of this list isn’t about worldbuilding but about the larger rhetoric in using predominantly women as tools and weapons.

***Madoka is actually a really interesting example because the entire point of the series is that the girls are turned into objects for the sake of the “greater good” as dictated by a patriarchal figure (QB). And this experience is framed entirely as horrific and awful. So, yeah, Madoka might be the only one on this list that I would consider actually feminist (albeit, most likely unintentionally) and that actually deconstructs this trope within the series. But, not going to go into it because other people have said it better, yadda yadda.

This list also excludes gender-coded objects (Hermes in Kino no Tabi, the Colonel in Kieli, the devices in Nanoha, etc.) that are not necessarily treated as weapons/tools and/or are not humanized/personified beyond the fact that they can talk. Though a separate list with them would be interesting, I don’t think it’s relevant to this particular discussion.

Now, of course, closer examination of these series are necessary, since this list just tells really surface-level stuff. (For instance, for series that have both men and women turning into literal weapons, are male weapons treated differently in comparison to female weapons? In the Fate series specifically, the female heroic spirits are definitely more objectified and controlled than the male heroic spirits, but, well, it came from an eroge, so it’s to be as expected.) And, of course, there are series with objectification that actually handles it as such and discusses it, so this list doesn’t really say anything about the status of the work as a feminist or sexist narrative. Again, this list is simply illustrating an overarching, societal trope that is problematic.

But I think this is a good, albeit obvious, starting point.

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