Updated: Aug 11, 2021
With the Mineta allegedly "coming out as bisexual" from My Hero Academia, we get a reminder of just how difficult it is to get LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream media.
Terms used in the article:
LGBTQ+: An acronym for "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, etc." which is the generalized term to refer to any person or group that does not identify as straight and cis-gendered.
Queer: A term that is used by members of the LGBTQ+ community to refer to one another, though is not used by all members of the community.
What is actually going on?
The 'My Hero Academia' fandom, and the anime community in general, has been in a confused mess after one of the latest chapters of the beloved manga dropped. And it's not because of a new power that our main character, Izuku, discovered. It's not because of a new plan by All For One. It's because Mineta, one of the most divisive characters in the entire show, has been confirmed to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. Or, at the very least, attracted to Izuku.
That's what many are saying after Chapter 321, where Mineta can be seen cheering Izuku on. In the middle of this fight, Mineta tells Izuku how he "fell" for Izuku after watching him. The specific line in the English translation is:
"I fell for you. When you were scared and sweating buckets and quaking in your boots! Back when we found a path forward together...the way you were back then."
The original Japanese text doesn't help clarify matters, with many pointing out how the words were too vague and easy to interpret as romantic in nature. It could be possible that fans are misreading the entire situation, and it is generally accepted that this is the case, but it hasn't stopped the Internet from milking the situation for its worth. Memes have popped up on many social media platforms that detail absolute horror at the news, triggering waves of criticism against the author and the manga. Others considered it funny and made jokes about the absurdity of the situation. And many others are criticizing the fans of 'My Hero Academia' for misinterpreting the content in general. It's a whole bag of confusion, and people are still mixed with how to feel about the situation.
For whatever it's worth, it's impossible to confirm if it was true or not if the manga author, Kohei Horikoshi, doesn't speak up on the issue. And, as with all things Mineta, it's most likely going to be ignored by the author who hasn't really responded to the many criticisms lobbied against the character.
Why do people hate Mineta?
For those unaware, Mineta Minoru is a character from the My Hero Academia universe who is Izuku's classmate in Class 1A. While not the most powerful, Mineta is infamous for his notorious perverted nature that borderlines on sexual harassment. One particular instance in the story has Mineta actively trying to peek into the girl's bathhouse, a scene that many fans have criticized the author for being "creepy". Other times, we see the character making inappropriate comments on the other female characters' bodies and blatantly showing his desire to grope them. This, along with multiple other instances where Mineta acts on his sexual urges, has caused many fans to protest Mineta's continued role in the story.
So to have, what is essentially a sexual predator, be the first form of LGBTQ+ representation the series has is not just a bad joke. It's a nightmare for the fans of the series who are also part of the community.
Why does representation matter?
LGBTQ+ representation in media has always been a huge problem. It is very difficult to find a character that is openly part of the LGBTQ+ community that isn't offensive. Many of the more notable characters that are queer have always followed dangerous stereotypes. From the flamboyant Disney villains, the hypersexualized lesbian couples, to the cross-dressing serial killers, being anything but straight is connected to create a sense of weirdness to the story. This is reflective of the real-life experiences of actual LGBTQ+ people who suffer from oppression every day. Many of these stereotypes stem from actual perceptions people have towards queer people. Hostility, fear, prejudice, fetishization, exclusion. And while times are finally changing, the process is slow and has yet to reach all places. This is no less apparent in Japanese media, specifically mainstream manga and anime.
Many tropes in manga and anime use stereotypes of queer people as dehumanizing entertainment. You have the hypersexual gay character, the use of lesbians and lesbian sex as fan service for male audiences, the use of transgender or transgender-coded characters as sources of comedy, having queer characters be perverted. These tropes portray LGBTQ+ people as nothing more than stereotypes, caricatures rather than characters. They are often devoid of humanity, rarely have agency, and are often just fetishized for fan service or dismissed from the story altogether. It's difficult to find an anime or manga that doesn't use these tropes. And the older the source material, the more prevalent these harmful ideals are.
'My Hero Academia' has thankfully escaped some, though not all, of these tropes. The manga has confirmed transgender characters in the form of Magne, a villain who is also a transgender woman, and Tiger, a pro-hero and transgender man. These two characters have been portrayed as effective characters, both capable in battle, and are treated humanely at some point during the series. However, they have also suffered similar tropes that queer characters suffered. Magne was violently killed, and Tiger was used as a source of comedy. And beyond these two, no other blatant forms of representation can be seen
So it's safe to say that, despite its attempts, 'My Hero Academia' still has yet to give proper representation.
Why can't Mineta be part of the LGBTQ+?
This leads us to the glaring problem of Mineta "coming out". Since there isn't a lot of representation happening in the series, many fans have been clamoring for a character to be queer. From main character Izuku, to side characters like Miruko, the abundance of possible queer characters in 'My Hero Academia' should have meant that it was easy to choose any character to come out. But in the off chance that the author was to choose Mineta to come out, who is openly perverted and has been portrayed by the manga and anime as a comedic character, it will be offensive to the real-life members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Because Mineta being queer will represent the harmful stereotype of "queers as sexual criminals". This is a real-life perception of LGBTQ+ people that is used to exclude queer people from existing in the same spaces as non-queer people. It has been used to keep queer children from interacting with other children, used to prevent transgender people to enter shops or buildings. There is a long history of exclusion that is connected to this stereotype. And 'My Hero Academia' has the responsibility to ensure that this idea is not further enforced.
What happens now?
Thankfully, it doesn't seem like the "Mineta comes out" has any real basis. It's more likely that a benign moment was taken out of context by fans, and was only made worse by the vagueness of the source material. Whether or not Horikoshi will make blatant and respectful representation, only the future can tell. But, for now, you can rest assured that the perverted Mineta is not one of them.