Gender, Sexuality, Identity, and Ancient Fears in Aquarion EVOL

Also, some speculation.

So, this started off originally as two posts, at different points, but I decided to combine them, as they are tenuously connected. Well, ok, and I kind of figured that if I didn’t combine them, one of them probably would never get written. Oops. Oh well. The first half is about how Aquarion Evol is about a fairly ancient fear for humankind, and the second half is all about Mix/y.

Spoilers for Aquarion Evol through episode twenty three, and spoilers for Vandread: The Second Stage.

So, Aquarion Evol. When you think about it, the show is just lending new forum to a very, very old fear: men from over there are going to come over here and steal our women and rape them. Aquarion Evol ducks that last factoid completely; while it is obvious that the intent in finding the new Eve is to make babies for a new generation, it never quite gets down to brass tacks about what this really means. The women of Vega are taken unwillingly to be the incubators of a new generation for Altair. That so far they’ve all died, gone into comas, or tuned into men doesn’t alter that basic fact. The agency of these women matters not.

So, yes, men from over there are going to come over here, steal our women, and rape them. It’s a fear as old as dirt, and it’s a fear that has been used to justify not having women on the “front lines” (regardless of the foolishness one displays by trying to allege that there is even such a thing in this day and age). So the girls of Aquarion Evol cannot, truly, enter the actual front of the war because they are guaranteed to die, be raped, or be rendered male (and it remains to be seen which of these fates Evol thinks is the worse; I’m tempted to say that they’re held equally, but I can’t quite gauge the tenor of the reaction to Mix’s transformation yet). It’s just too dangerous! While the boys may end up dying, they just as well may not; bad fates are not 100% guaranteed for them in the situation, and they certainly won’t swap sexes and genders, nor will they be raped. Neither possibility is ever so much as implied.

Now, Evol may seem to violate this somewhat, as Zessica is allowed to enter the battlefield on Altair after the realization of magical sex and gender transformations. However, the result is that Mikage possesses her, which can hardly be called a positive outcome. Women shouldn’t be allowed on the battlefield because they will be raped, or otherwise exploited by the enemy.

To return to the central theme, you may be wondering why the specific concern about foreign men raping native women. It has to do with age-old concerns about the purity of bloodlines; this is also why women’s sexuality has been so strenuously policed across the ages. Men did not wish to support the children of other men, because of the tremendous resources involved, and also due to pride. If you are raising the child of another, it means that you didn’t have much control over your wife, who is property. Unmarried mothers were also a strain on resources; there was no father to support her, so it would have fallen to her parents to have supported both she and her illegitimate child. And it would be a set-up that would continue for her entire life, as after bearing a child out of wedlock, no man would want her. She would essentially be a ward of the state, except there wasn’t a state for good amounts of human history, so it would fall to her relatives to pick up her burden once her parents passed away.

But I’ve wandered a bit, and didn’t completely answer why it’s about foreign men and local women. Women were considered property for most of human history (and still are by many, many people in many, many places), so the “defilement” of them was considered a personal attack against the men of that society. Rape was used as a tool of war to humiliate the men of a conquered society, to show them how powerless they were, as well as a method to ensure the continued humiliation of a conquered society, for many of the raped women were impregnated by this, giving a living reminder of the society’s impotency, and also sometimes making it impossible to work out if a child born in the wake of mass rapes were the legitimate children of a group, or the bastards resultant from rape. It could destroy the bloodlines.

As a female soldier, it’s kind of frustrating to watch Evol play to this old fear and to ideas about women being insufficient somehow for battle. Not, mind you, that I expected profundity from Evol; the set-up never suggested some sort of gender utopia from the get-go, after all. Which actually leads into my next thing, somewhat, which is rather simply that the whole matter of Mix’s sex and gender change would be a hell of a lot more interesting were it be handled by a more thoughtful show.

The transformation of Mix to Mixy actually reminded me of Vandread, another show that had an intriguing conceit but wasn’t quite intellectually engaging of a show to truly explore it. This is true of the whole separate civilizations for the female and male sexes, although I’m thinking more particularly of the revelation that Buzam (yes, said like ‘bosom’) is actually a male spy disguised as a woman to infiltrate the ship of the female space pirates. Bart, who had generally been the butt-monkey to this point in the series, has fallen in love with Buzam, thinking like everyone else that he is a she. He ultimately decides he doesn’t care, but the water is muddied by the lack of clarity about the nature of Buzam’s disguise – Buzam has rather large breasts, and they may be prosthetics… but it leaves up in the air almost everything else about it. So when Bart asks that Buzam use his female voice, it’s pretty hazy if he does so to imply that Buzam will be biologically female or if he simply does it since that is the voice he has grown accustomed to from him. And it’s a Gonzo show, so the matter is never cleared up.

I think we have a similar thing here. I don’t think Evol is, as I said, a thoughtful enough show to truly engage with Mix’s experience. It is possible that Andy’s declaration that he doesn’t care about her form, he still loves her, is a cause for positive feelings, but Andy also makes this declaration without being truly confronted with the physical and emotional reality of the situation. Mix is very far away. He interacted with her when he had yet to realize who she was. Surely the whole matter probably has him feeling pretty confused and mixed up, but he’s still in a position where it is easy for him to decide that Mix being a boy now does not ultimately matter to him. He also pictures Mix as the girl he knew, too, which suggests that he isn’t quite ready for the reality of what has happened to her.

The fact is, I expect that Mix will be somehow magically made female again by the close of the show. I don’t think that Satelight has any intent to have her remain male and then have Andy have to actually engage the issue. Evol has not demonstrated an interest in being terribly deep to this point, so I hardly expect it to change its tune now.

In a different show, we would spend some time with Mix as Mixy, and not just catch glimpses during battle. What’s interesting about her case is that the show was quick to point out that not only has her biological form changed, but her gender has as well. Typically, in gender-swap scenarios, while the sex may change, the gender does not… resulting in sheer hilarity! Here, both have been altered, and it’d be intriguing to see Mix/y deal with this fact once her memories are restored – would Mix/y even want to go back at that point, given that her gender identity has been changed? How does one contend with the unasked for change in their sex and gender? Because if one now gender identifies as male, then would they want to go back? Is that a comfortable possibility for them? Do memories trump current feelings? Or do memories influence current feelings such that current feelings are inclined toward reversing the change? And if it isn’t possible to go back, how does one deal with that?

And if Mixy doesn’t go back to being Mix, will Andy hold true to his claim that whether Mix is female or male matters not? And how does he process through it, once it’s become realer through Mixy’s actual presence? Will he decide that he just loves Mix for Mix, or does Mix’s sex matter, even if he doesn’t want it to? And what does this even mean in terms of sexual orientation?

Also, is Andy’s current state of distress more about himself or about Mix? Is he simply upset because of what it means for him is Mix remains male, or is he actually upset as well for the ramifications maleness has for Mix, i.e. her mental state, her adjustment to it, etc.? It certainly seems to be more about himself at this point, since his unhappiness regarding the matter is centered almost entirely around the fact that he loves her, but she’s now a guy. He’s pretty young, though, so I don’t really fault this depiction for that, but it is something that should be explored a little more. It may also be an error of ignorance on the part of the writers, that they aren’t intending to make it come across that way, even as that is exactly how it reads for the moment. Hazier, does Andy want Mix to be safe for Mix’s sake, or his own? Which is to say, does he want Mix back on Vega because Mix is in a bad place, or does he want Mix back on Vega because he wants Mix to be where he is? Without more of an in-depth look at Andy, it is impossible to say.

We could also consider the fact that, Mix as Mixy and sans memories is generally shown as comfortable in the new setting. Given that, is it even right to try to force Mixy to come back to Vega and be Mix again, if not biologically, emotionally and mentally? Mixy’s mental state only shows cracks under duress from Andy during battle, as he repeatedly calls Mixy ‘Mix’, causing confusion on Mixy’s part as he feels a recognition of some sort with the name, but can’t connect the dots wholly. We could even argue that what Andy is doing here is cruel, since, as I said, Mixy doesn’t remember his previous life as Mix on Vega. Are the Neo Deavan staff and students really acting in Mix/y’s best interest here, or are they just simply trying to assuage their own feelings of guilt for letting her get captured in the first place? I don’t think anyone is actively trying to be malicious here, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In a show with more depth, this could be really interesting. Too bad Evol’s just not the show for that. Calling all decent fanfic writers…

I’ve got a few more general ephemera to toss in regarding the show before I close out:

  • Although it isn’t exactly enlightened on gender, I have really been happy about how the Mikono/Amata/Zessica triangle has been handled. I like that for once we don’t have the girls being nasty to one another; Zessica obviously would prefer to be the one to get Amata, but she doesn’t resort to being mean to Mikono. She’s envious on occasion of Mikono, but it seems that she legitimately likes her.
  • Speaking of Zessica, as if it wasn’t obvious that she wasn’t going to end up with Amata, the fact that she’s not the new Eve is a dead giveaway.
  • I think Shush might be the reincarnation of Apollonius. He’s never mentioned after noting that his winged dog reincarnated into Apollo, and the absence sticks out as Celiane and Toma are accounted for, as is said winged dog. So I guess next go-‘round Shush can reincarnate into a person because he’s in love with Mikono, and Apollo/Amata/Kagura can go back to being a dog.
  • Does Mix’s character design remind anyond of Misty from Pokemon? Because I cannot unsee the resemblance AT ALL.
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8 Responses to Gender, Sexuality, Identity, and Ancient Fears in Aquarion EVOL

  1. Remember Andy’s code for Mix is Big Bangs… blah blah blah the one who gives the name, has the power etc.

    The Big Bangs will return, their disappearance is the narrative weight of the tragedy so far.

    • dliessmgg says:

      He can call Mixy big bang too, it’s just in the pants now.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Surprisingly, turns out Andy was being legit when he claimed in that episode that it didn’t matter to him, even though he was picturing Mix with Big Bangs intact. I’m sure they’ll still have Mix get her original body back, though.

  2. dliessmgg says:

    Mix’ character design reminded me (and a few others) more of Kirino from OreImo, with added purplies & ponytail and a costume change.
    I don’t really like how Zessica is the loser in the triangle, but at least the two dullards end up with each other.

    Calling it now: It’s gonna end with the power of love crossing all boundaries Andy and Mixy become the hole-and-fill bros, Mikage realizes what a silly boy he’s been and falls into Fudo’s arms, Amata and Kagura gattai too hard and become one, Shrade’s ghost comes back for Cayenne, all is true love etc.Only Crea is alone.

    p.s.: What about Yunoha and Jin?
    p.p.s. the depth lies in the hole of the donut

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Yes, she did remind me of Kirino, but I actually think of Misty most, curiously enough. The character designs were actually done by the lady who did the designs for Uta no Prince-sama, amusingly.

      I definitely agree that Kagura and Amata are probably going to re-combine. Otherwise, I think the only thing that could happen with Kagura is that he croaks. There’s really no room in the narrative for him to live.

      I did enjoy Yunoha and Jin a lot. I liked how they were both shy and not great at social interaction, and they ended up helping each other out of their shells a bit.

  3. las artes says:

    I guess only a gatai with Amata will produce an Aquarion. More likely it’s because only those specific vectors had their stones destroyed. I’d imagine it would be possible to remove the stones on the other set but they would be taking extra precautions to avoid Aquarion going out of control by keeping it so that there is only 1 Aquarion. I thought Aquaria and Aquarion are just name, they still use the same Vectors to combine, right? And wasn’t they called it Aquarion 9 years ago when Donar piloted it? Maybe because the other set still has that seal stone (Guize Stone, or whatever it’s called), so they can’t use male-female combination on it? Still, they can deploy it with either male or female team to support Amata’s Aquarion :heh: Aquarion is specific to mixed gender combining. It runs of the power of love between the pilots so it requires at least 1 of each sex to gain the power it is known for. Aquaria is single gender combining. However because it doesn’t run off of feelings like Aquarion, it has a much lower power output than Aquarion so isn’t nearly as effective in combat.

  4. TheVoid says:

    Gender has nothing to do with anything when it comes to Mykage. He’ll use whatever tools he can find to get what he wants. Zessica unfortunately happens to be one of those tools.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Err, think you missed the point of my post. And it may not matter to Mikage, but since Mikage is a fictional character, can’t exactly put the blame at his feet, either way, for how the creators think of gender and its meaning.

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