Here at Funimation, we strive to celebrate the diversity of the anime community.
In celebration of Pride Month, we asked some of our LGBTQA+ employees about their experiences working within the anime industry, as well as what series they would recommend everyone watch.
Being an LGBTQA+ Anime Fan
Sarah, who’s worked at Funimation for 10 years, finds the anime community generally very supportive of LGBTQA+ fans. “Sometimes the anime itself isn’t LGBT-friendly, but the fandom is.”
“Simply put, I’ve always felt accepted, protected, and comfortable with who I am among my peers in the anime community,” said Andrew.
“Acceptance for who you are is just a big part of the anime community,” said Kit, who’s been with Funimation for over three years. “It was because of the anime community that I was able to realize my bisexuality and felt comfortable coming out to my friends and fellow fans. That’s not to say there aren’t those who still judge and hate, but I’ve found that in all the different hobbies and fandoms I’ve been a part of, it’s much easier to be myself and out around anime fans.”
“I’ve found a lot more acceptance and support in the community than I have elsewhere to be honest,” said RW. “It’s nice having people you can turn to who share your interests, and who find who you are a fan of… worth more than what you identify as.”
“For me, it was about finding a group of people who not only loved the same shows I do, but understood where I was coming from as a lesbian,” said Melissa. “We can geek out about 2D loves and ships but feel a real sense of community as women-identifying anime fans. I wouldn’t still love anime if I didn’t have supportive otaku friends.”
Queer Representation in Anime
As a member of the anime industry, how have you seen representation change over the years?
When it comes to queer representation in the anime industry, almost everyone we talked to agreed that there’s been clear progress toward more accurate representation. “It’s been nice to see same sex relationships in anime change from mostly examples of rape to being actual loving relationships,” said Chris, who’s been with Funimation for 11 years.
“I’ve seen the most change in the last two years,” said Kit. “More and more titles with realistic LGBT relationships are starting to appear and become popular. Even if the title itself doesn’t focus on the LGBT character, they’re at least giving us appropriate representation.”
From the Japanese culture viewpoint, Greg noted that he’s noticed a growing acceptance of LGBT people in general. “The wife of the current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Akie Abe, has marched in Tokyo Pride parades and made her support of Japanese LGBT issues widely known. Anime and manga featuring LGBT characters has become a growing and important part of the fandom in Japan and internationally. While the representation isn’t always perfect, I feel like it has been improving over time as characters are becoming more well-rounded and less defined by the single characteristic of their sexuality.”
C, who’s been with Funimation for six years now, admitted that there’s still a long way to go, though. “In anime itself, I don’t honestly know if much has changed. We’ve seen a few stand-out LGBT+ characters and series but it’s still often something that’s a joke or pandering. I do think it’s generally getting better, though.”
Andrew agreed, saying “The shows themselves have made strides in representation with various characters and story arcs, but they probably still have some work to do.”
“I haven’t been a part of the industry for very long, but I think that it’s generally followed a little behind the trend of overall representation,” said Brandon, who’s been working at Funimation for two and a half years. “Things are improving, but I’d like to see the day when it’s not anything special to have a gay or queer anime, it’s just Tuesday.”
Working in the Industry
“I wanted to work as a graphic designer in anime because of the shows I loved, and I’ve been #blessed to work on many favorites,” said Melissa. “It keeps my passion for anime high and tells me to never give up. Working in anime has allowed me to explore titles I wouldn’t have normally watched, but I love that I can give fans a package that comes 100% from my heart as a fangirl.”
“I’d say Funimation is pretty ahead of most places I’ve worked in terms of acceptance across all categories, not just LGBT+,” said C, “and they’ve only gotten better about it over my time here. Honestly, I feel like my surface-level “weirdness” is usually more apparent than my LGBT+ status—I don’t have a normal hair color, for instance—but I find Funimation a very accepting place to work, overall, and that does definitely contribute to my quality of life.”
“Funimation is the first place I’ve worked where I’ve felt that it’s okay to be me – not just in terms of my sexuality and identity, but also in expressing my personality and style!” said Brandon. “My coworkers have become my closest friends, and absolutely instrumental in me coming out and living how I want. I’ve personally changed a great deal in my relatively short time with Funimation, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that acceptance and experience.”
Advice for Those Looking to Work in the Anime Industry
“Never stop sharpening your craft and work REALLY well on a team,” Andrew said.
Sarah suggested learning how to study films and TV shows critically. “A lot of people want to translate, write, or direct anime, but don’t have the experience with critical analysis to deeply understand the themes and character motivations in another creator’s work and do justice to their story.”
And, of course, the most practical advice of all. “Get training (college, trade school, internships) in the type of job you want instead of trying to use anime expertise to get into the industry,” said Chris “The art/film/marketing degree is more important to an employer than your love for anime.”
Community Influence on Work
Has your experience influenced or shaped your work, or has your work shaped your personal experience at all?
“I get really energized when I go to work on a new creative endeavor because the excitement and anticipation for a new show that radiates from the anime fandom is almost tangible,” said Andrew. “Basically, their energy is so infectious that I try to channel all of that into my work. More specifically, in my line of work, the incredible music that is so pervasive in anime has changed my writing style a lot over the years.”
“My personal experience helps me bring a knowledge of why this content connects with fans so well, because it connected with me the exact same way growing up,” said Greg, who’s also worked at Funimation for 11 years. “As a kid, a lot of content coming out of Hollywood didn’t speak to me or my experiences, so I cast my net wider and came across anime which gave me something more interesting (and sometimes challenging).”
Melissa: Fullmetal Alchemist. ” It was the show that made me fall in love with anime.”
Kit: Doukyusei -Classmates-. “I just watched it for the first time and OOF my heart. It’s a sweet BL title that will really grab at your heartstrings!”
RW: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Chris: A Centaur’s Life. “It has great representation of diversity and people working to overcome their prejudices.”
C: Revolutionary Girl Utena. “It’s my eternal favorite anime.”
Andrew: Steins;Gate or Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Greg: Cowboy Bebop
LGBTQA+ Charity Recommendations
Brandon: The Trevor Project. “They are an AMAZING charity that supports LGBTQ teens with crisis intervention and suicide prevention services, which is CRUCIAL in a demographic with statistically higher rates of suicide and depression, as well as fights for advocacy and representation. They’re completely transparent with their budget as well. I donate to them personally and feel extremely confident that they’re making a difference.”
Sarah: “Whoever is going out there and doing good work for LGBT members of your local community is a great cause to support, because you can see the results for yourself and judge whether they’re an organization you feel good about.”
C: “Out Youth! But more than charity, I try to support LGBT+ small-time creators and businesses, especially if I can find local ones and I encourage others to do the same.”
Greg: Resource Center of Dallas. “It’s an amazing LGBT resource center in Dallas that was community started, is community operated, and serves over 60,000 people per year via 50 employees and 1,100 volunteers. “