As promised, this is my first feature of a series of anime I will be reviewing in the months ahead under the scope of feminism and feminist critique. And since this is also Women’s History Month, this month will be devoted to series that are adapted from manga written by women. And while I had covered an example of objectification of girls/women in my last anime review, we need to start with somewhat of an antithesis of that!
Why do you ask? Because girls with guns can actually be cool; not just for the boys, but for girls to aspire to be like them… or so we’d think. And in this parody of a series, it may look like a shounen/seinen series on the surface, as it did gain attention from a wide male audience; but I hate to break it to you: it’s adapted from a manga that’s serialized in a shoujo magazine Nakayoshi, and written by female writer and artist Hidekichi Matsumoto!
Survival Game Club (Sabagebu!) is about the whacky adventures of high school student Momoka Sonokawa and her friends in the school’s Survival Game Club. The series is told in situational mini-arcs, each spanning roughly a third or half of a typical half-hour episode. The school where these events take place is an all-girls school; and as you can imagine, there aren’t many guys in this series. And of the guys that are in this series, they are nothing short of outliers in society anyway!
While this series is about girls playing survival games with “non-lethal” guns (presumably loaded with BBs or paint balls; I have no idea), the series does not portray these games in such a way. The girls involved are killed in some of the most brutal ways; but because it’s a parody, they’ll always live for the next segment! That’s because, as the narrator constantly reminds us, all of this is in their imagination. And why not? Survival games are meant to simulate situations where people will die when force such as guns and explosives are used!
But there’s more to this series than just the survival game aspect. In fact, it goes beyond that! Since this is a “shoujo” parody of a subject that is (almost) exclusively male-oriented, there are plenty of moments that are parodies of action scenes from Japanese AND American media!
Of course, what makes these scenes different from their originals is that they are not intended to be “manly,” but show that these same images can be empowering to girls too. Boys aren’t the only ones who can ascribe themselves to active ways of life, after all! And I think it’s important that we recognize that, because it seems that girls in general continue to aspire to have more passive roles in life, whether it is to be expected to support someone or something else or to be displayed in ways that only entertain patriarchal control over them. In fact, I find it most amusing that the male action hero cameos in this series are less active, but are treated like they are on display themselves!
And despite what some people will think is “sexy” about these girls with guns, let’s be real: girls just need to be themselves!
However, not all of this is about the coolness of guns for girls. There are moments where they do add some form of political or social advocacy.
In one segment, there was a strong case for people to get hunting licenses! Based on what I got from it, the main argument is that Japanese farms continue to be riddled with beasts and vermin that ruin crops. While it is important to protect and not abuse wildlife, hunting is appropriate in cases specifically for this reason. The few hunters in Japan today are getting much older, as the average age of a hunter has increased to their late fifties or so. And so, in an attempt to draw young people into maybe thinking about these concerns, Sabagebu! is here to encourage Japanese viewers to get a hunting license and protect local farms!
But may I remind you, this is still a shoujo series. While there is still plenty of freedom in terms of what can be written or drawn for this demographic, there are some consistent qualities that seem to be upheld for this series within that scope (get it? Scope? Never mind).
Part of being a girl also involves being “cute,” which as I have discovered can mean a lot of things! One of the typical shounen examples of a girl’s cuteness stems from childlike innocence, usually involving things like valuing friendship and stuff (more on that in my reviews coming next month). Well screw that! Who would buy into something so simple like that? And as Momoka understands herself now in comparison to her self years ago, I’m sure she’d rather reject that part of herself than make that her life’s worth!
But as I continue arguing over whether this series is meant for a male audience or the intended female audience, what makes this series a shoujo and not a shounen? I honestly don’t have a good answer for this, but based on what I have seen of this series, allow me to take a quote out of context that I believe speaks to the original creator Hidekichi Matsumoto’s and director Masahiko Oota’s opinion of this matter:
So if you’re looking for a hilariously funny anime about girls with guns that actually encourages girls and women to use them, check out Sabagebu: Survival Game Club. It was indeed, quite the riot!