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LGBTI Writings: LGBTI representation in anime culture

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Every one of us has at least once in their lifetime been exposed to anime content, just enough so we could see what that contents brings with itself. Word “Anime” comes from the english word “Animated” so it could be said that anime represents all animated media content that originates from Japan. Anime content can be series and movies from very different genres.

When it comes to anime content with the best representation of LGBTI, genres that stand out the most are “BL anime” or “Boys’ love anime”, “Shounen-ai” or any other genre if the creators of that anime decide to include LGBTI identities. One of the best anime contents regarding LGBTI representation, in my opinion, are not intended for that at all. Their genre is not BL anime or Shounen-ai, but they still do a great job at representing LGBTI topics in a subtle, yet effective way.

One of the first anime that should be mentioned, and one that is relevant to the subject of LGBTI identities, is Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon is an anime that first came in 1991, and since then has become one of the most known anime in history. The plot resides around our main protagonist, Usagi Tsukino, who transforms into Sailor Moon every night so she could fight the forces of evil. Reason for the importance of LGBTI representation in this series lies in to characters – Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. The two of them are displayed in the third season as an inseparable couple who fight together to protect Usagi. Uranus and Neptune were one of the first major gay characters in anime history, and the fans adored the couple which led to more representation of LGBTI identities in future anime content.

But, unfortunately, one of the biggest enemies of representation in anime series and movies was censorship. During the translation of Sailor Moon, translators decided that the series had to be “appropriate” for children, so Neptune and Uranus were not represented as partners anymore. In the international version of Sailor Moon, they were made as cousins who seemed to be very close. It made the situation a bit awkward because they still displayed high amount of affection towards each other, now as a family.

The next anime series worth mentioning is Banana Fish. It’s a BL anime series that people argued if it’s a BL series at all in the beginning. All the romance that happens between the two characters is very subtle, which makes the series exciting where you wait for those small intense moments of romance where you can feel the feelings they have for each other. Those two characters are the main protagonists, Ash and Eiji. They are represented as two totally different personalities which find ways to tolerate each other. The deep character development is what really sticks out this series. During the series, Ash and Eiji try to resoleve the current problems they’re enveloped inside, while the romance is at its high peak at the end of the series, where their love is actually confirmed.

One of the bad sides of anime content is that anime doesn’t have any quality and accurate representation of transgender people. Both animes mentioned earlier don’t mention the topic that much at all. Their creators even had perfect moments to execute transgender representation, but they never did. Most of the transgender characters seem to be done in a very lazy way, where their identity is invalid because it turns out they were never transgender at all. These characters are done for purely a sensational purpose, to shock the audience. I think that this way of portraying trasngender characters is problematic. Unfortunately, representation of transgender identities in anime is very slim. But one of the good things is that anime culture is constantly developing, and has never stopped. The world of anime is getting more progressive every day and offers more space by each day for discussing many topics, including the represenation of LGBTI.

Author: Anonymous

This article was written as part of the project "Access to Justice for LGBTI persons in Tuzla Canton", which is funded by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The article does not necessarily express the views of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, but only the author.


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