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Cap off Pride Month with these book and film recommendations


Though Peru is over 9,500 miles from Japan, the countries share a surprising cultural connection — anime and manga fandom, also known as otaku. Alexandra Arana, a doctoral student in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature, can show you why.

Her scholarship explores the intersection of otaku, LGBTQIA+ identity and Peruvian literature. She is the author of the book “In the Lilies Garden: The Love Between Women in Asian Pop Culture,” an analysis of lesbian themes in anime, manga and similar media produced in Korea, China and Peru.

Arana, now 30, was raised in Peru watching anime after school and reading manga. Peru’s civil war, fought from the early ’80s to 2000, inadvertently led to anime’s popularity in the country. As civilians sheltered indoors for safety, television became central to many Peruvians’ lives. At the same time, anime was inexpensive to rebroadcast on national TV stations, so a generation of fans was born. At the advent of the internet, communities across South America formed online to translate and post manga, making it accessible to Spanish speakers and further growing its popularity.

In addition to teaching her about another culture, manga and anime were also how Arana first encountered LGBTQ+ storylines.

“I started to be conscious about diverse sexuality through anime and manga because it’s a normal topic in those genres. There’s flexibility in the depictions of gender and sexuality; you can be attracted to anyone, and it’s no problem,” she said.

And yet, anime and manga are also often labeled as being intended for a female (shōjo) or male (shōnen) audiences.

That’s a throwback to the early 20th century, when magazines were gendered, said Arana.

“Nowadays, these categories refer more to formulas, tropes and the perspective that the magazine invites the reader to adopt. For instance, the reader of shōjo manga is invited to read and see the world through the eyes of the feminine character,” she added.

In recognition of Pride Month, Pittwire asked Arana to share her manga and anime recommendations.

“The Rose of Versailles” (1972)

This manga, inspired by Japanese feminist movements in the 1960s and 1970s was also made into an English language film, Lady Oscar.

The heart of “The Rose of Versailles” is Oscar, a girl raised as a boy by her father because he desired a son to serve in the Queen of France’s palace guard. Oscar’s journey is marked by her struggle to reconcile her gender identity and navigate complex romantic entanglements.

“Bloom Into You” (2015-2019)

This series, published during what’s characterized as the mid-aughts lesbian or yuri manga boom, was initially aimed at a shōnen audience but is now universally popular. “Bloom Into You” reflects the push-pull nature of early love between two high school girls as they come to realize their feelings for each other.

“Citrus” (2012-2018)

Another yuri manga mid-aught entry that centers on high school girls. “Citrus” is an enemies-to-lovers story featuring party girl Aihara and straight-laced Mei.

Arana recommends reading “Citrus” and “Bloom Into You” in tandem to understand the range of sexual expression depicted in modern manga.

“Revolutionary Girl Utena” (1997)

The surrealist anime series “Revolutionary Girl Utena” turns binary gender on its head with its story of Utena, an adolescent pulled into a sword-fighting competition for the hand of Anthy, a girl known as the Rose Bride.

“Liz and the Blue Bird” (2018)

Crushes can be so crushing, especially for high school girl Mizore, who has feelings for her best friend Nozomi. The main characters play instruments in a wind ensemble, and “Liz and the Blue Bird” is noted for its delightful soundtrack.


— Nichole Faina, photography by akovisuals