So forever ago I watched Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge. Back then, I wasn’t quite as aware of and annoyed by the way that women are often treated when they’re not perfect, beautiful, and docile. But even then, I was often irritated and bothered by this show. I did still enjoy it for it’s fun comedy antics.
Having come back to it years later and re-watching it, I have a much stronger opinion, and it’s not as forgiving. However, the reason I picked it back up again was because I found the live action version. And that version, I honestly enjoyed. It felt like a re-vamped version that minimized a lot of the problems I have with the original.
So for those who haven’t seen any of this show, the premise is that there are four REALLY hot bishi who live together in a mansion. Why, I have no idea. They just have a beautiful people’s club in the mansion of a really really rich lady who is looking all over the rich world for love. She promises to let them live rent free if they help her niece to become a “Yamato Nadeshiko,” which is basically the historically ideal japanese woman. However, if they fail the rent triples. As it turns out, her niece the protagonist Sunako, is obsessed with horror things like blood and skulls and slasher movies, has rejected all things feminine, and even beauty/health care. Antics ensue. Many very stupid and crazy and hilarious.
So… yes. The premise and driving plot point is ACTUALLY four men trying to force and pressure a woman act less like herself and what she likes and more like they, and society, thinks she should act and be and look. Yes, everything you’ve ever heard about advertising and the unrealistic ideals of beauty, how women have to spend time so that they’re pleasant for others to view or else they’re value-less as people, how they’re discouraged from studying non-feminine subjects and interests and are encouraged to pursue household and other kinds of interests and works.
Obviously, it exemplifies exactly the sorts of things that third-wave feminism has been fighting against. But it also does a decent job of highlighting that these things still happen in everyday life, which a lot of people are really against (and usually think feminists are hormone raging man-hating machines of overreacting). Things like that women are bullied and treated badly if they’re not pretty by their peers. They also try to use Kyouhei to talk about the effects of sexual harassment, and how people will often objectify and not give a damn about more than your looks when you have them, how people will treat you differently and how that can be hard to live with. The fact that he’s a man kinda doesn’t really let them explore it too much, especially since his character is prone to violence when that happens, which isn’t really a reasonable solution for when it happens to women in reality.
When Kyouhei gets hungry basically says “Bitch get in the kitchen where you belong!” to Sunako, who cooks or them for no apparent reason other than that’s what women are supposed to do, yes, a part of me dies inside. When they’re filthy and she cleans up after them (even though she is a border at the house just like them and there is no apparent reason for her to act like their private maid) or worse, when she doesn’t and they end up living in filth and that’s okay that they can’t/won’t do their own housework, doesn’t it seem weird and wrong and like they’re taking advantage of her? BECAUSE THEY ARE! Bleh.
But in the live action, they do a much better job of everything, with much less of the troublesome overtones. The characters and premise are basically the same, but the message is way better. Yes, the bitch=kitchen is there. But the Aunt and related people who are the driving force of making Sunako a lady says several times that it’s not about being what everyone wants you to be, but finding yourself and your confidence, being able to walk proudly around other people, and also there is an element of maintaining appearances, but that it’s something everyone has to do, make and female alike. Even though she still loves horror and isn’t doing hours of hair and make-up a day, they agree that she’s made progress because she’s getting better at being with people, not hiding, and finding herself. That it’s about being able to find people who you like you for who you are, and how that’s just a bit easier if you make a few concessions. It’s not perfect, but I liked it without many reservations, as opposed to the anime. Also, I like Kyouhei’s insistence on being uninterested in anyone who likes him for his looks, and instead wanting to be valued as a person. It’s a conversation I’ve had before with women, but it’s nice to hear. I also ADORED the ending when he was on stage and crying. That was the cutest love-story thing I’ve seen in a long time and I loved it.
So! Don’t watch Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge anime. It’s funny sometimes, but it promotes something that I can’t in good faith recommend to anyone. Also, it’s probably one of the worst art and animations of any anime I’ve ever seen. Shit, the opening for the first 13 episodes is just a mash-up of random footage from the first episode. Unless you want to write a more thorough feminist analysis that I have. Then I’m cool with you watching it. Also, doode link me! However, DO watch the live action, as it has everything going for it the anime does (though no constant SD, I will admit), much better done and with much better overtones, and it’s good stuff. Not anime, but close!