Getting into the Schwing of Things: Hunter x Hunter’s Progressive Gender Depictions and Exploration of Non-Binary Possibilities
This thesis investigates the depiction of gender in Madhouse’s 2011 television anime adaptation of Hunter x Hunter; a commercially successful ongoing manga (comic) series with a multitude of incarnations. The thesis examines three groups of characters across three chapters, respectively: androgynous men who embody conflicting attributes of hegemonic and homosexual masculinities; masculine women who defy traditional stereotypes via their association of domesticity with violence; and gender ambiguous characters who potentially challenge the established gender binary model by demonstrating loyalty to neither category. These characters are studied in relation to both Japanese and western gender norms to highlight cultural differences, however emphasis is placed on western interpretation through the application of western theories to the text and incorporation of western fan discourse into my own textual analysis. I assess the characters with an understanding that gender is not a biological prescription but a social construction and observe how characters are easily able to adopt masculine and feminine qualities regardless of their implied sex. I additionally aim to shed light on how Hunter x Hunter (2011) refreshingly tests the notion that mainstream shōnen (boys’) series are necessarily conservative in their alignment with normative gender ideals; on the contrary, Hunter x Hunter (2011) fearlessly challenges its viewers to question established gender norms and encourages discussion about the legitimacy of binary gender categories. Overall, I posit anime is an important area of study due to its growing popularity in the west, signalling a need to better understand the texts in relation to our own ideological perspective.