The Hub recently introduced a new cartoon – Shezow. It’s a rather unremarkable superhero toon about Shezow, a female superpowered heroine who fights crime. But it has one twist that has upset a few on the right side of the aisle — her alter ego is a 12-year-old guy (named Guy, appropriately). Evidently, according to some, watching Shezow will encourage boys to wear pink or cause gender confusion, or something. So what? Gender is confusing, and anyone can wear pink if they want.
Wait until they get a load of Ranma 1/2….
For those not familiar with Ranma, it was a Japanese manga/anime series from the late 1980s- early 1990s. It starred 16-year-old Ranma Saotome, a martial artist of nearly unsurpassed excellence– who, thanks to a bizarre encounter with a cursed hot spring, turned into a girl when doused with cold water. Hot water changed him back to a boy. Hilarity – and a lot of really silly martial arts battles — ensued. So not only has this been done before, in this case “before” is “nearly 30 years ago.”
And that’s the thing, of course: millions of Japanese viewers (and later, Americans), including many children, watched Ranma without deciding to run around Tokyo and dump buckets of water on unsuspecting pedestrians or hit or each other over the heads with mallets, let alone transform into girls. And, unlike Ranma, Shezow apparently has a some kind of underlying lesson: that “girly things” shouldn’t be considered “lesser” just because they are girly. If there’s any lesson in Ranma, I guess it would be to stay away from strange hot springs, or maybe there are better ways to woo your love other than a barrage of insults (or, you know, not).
It will be interesting to see if Shezow explores any larger gender issues, but I’m not sure it will. Even Ranma, because of writer Rumiko Takahashi’s love of complex romantic plots, dealt a lot with the idea of desirability because of gender – girl-type Ranma attracted quite a few unwanted suitors, much to his annoyance. To be sure, so did boy-type, much to Akane’s annoyance (Ranma’s fiancee by parental fiat).
Shezow seems to be more of standard superhero cartoon without a lot of focus on romance (at least from what I’ve seen so far). But if the series lasts as long as Ranma (7 seasons, several OVAs, and a recent live action episode), who knows what it will explore?