Slutty Christmas cakes and why we hate them

christmas cake

Ugh, just look at that pathetic Christmas cake. YO CHRISTMAS CAKE, it ain’t December 25th! Hell, it ain’t even December no more, so who the hell would want your stank ass? Don’t you be coming around here dolled up in your frosting and shiny, glossy strawberries. It just reeks of desperation, y’know? Just accept it. You’re stale cake bread covered in dried up confectionery and sour, bitter fruit. Small children would run away from you in terror. You shouldn’t have been so arrogant when you were younger. Whoa whoa whoa, are we still talking about Christmas cakes?

I just feel sad about one particular topic. I just think it’s really, really goddamn cruel how anime can be towards unmarried Japanese women. Oh yeah, we’re talking about unmarried Japanese women. In fact, we’ve been talking about unmarried Japanese women all along. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that the words above weren’t really about a Christmas Cake. For those who don’t know, there’s a term in Japan for these single women: Christmas cake. Why? Well, ’cause nobody wants them once they’re past 25 years of age. Get it? Haha, a women over 25 is apparently spoiled goods like a Christmas cake past Dec. 25th. Now who’s being picky?

It’s a weird term if you try to think about it too deeply. Just speaking strictly about the actual cake itself, I’d love to have a Christmas cake even now. Cakes are fucking awesome, man. So I don’t really get the idea where nobody would want a Christmas cake after Dec. 25th. Oh, I’m sure sales are down, whatever. But shit man, a cake’s a cake. Still, someone made the connection of a Christmas cake to an unmarried Japanese women over 25 years of age, and they must have thought it was one helluva knee slapper.

japanese woman

But a cake analogy would be one thing. Whatever, it’s a joke. Haha. It’s another thing though when you constantly harp on this aspect of a person’s character like a bully. Case in point, take the anime Nourin. Just to provide some context, at one point in its first episode, a cow breaks loose and is about to rampage through a garden. A classmate of the main character immediately strips herself down to her nude — not sure why that was completely necessary since, I mean, where did the rest of her work uniform go? — because she had been wearing a red shirt. Yes, she did this in order to give her red shirt to the main character so that he can distract the cow like a matador. Obviously, we’re not talking about a very classy show.

So, I guess it should come to no surprise when the show turns its attention to the kids’ sensei and just absolutely tears into her. Becky is a blonde woman somewhere north of 40 years of age. You couldn’t possibly tell how old she is from just looking at her, though. Why not? ‘Cause she pretty much looks as though she could be one of her female students. Hey, it’s anime. All women are eye candy. All women, unless you’re a sagely obaachan, must be eye candy. There is, however, a crucial difference that separates Becky from her students of the feminine persuasion. While all women — pre-menopause, of course — are eyecandy, it’s quite apparent that some women are worthy and some women are unworthy in a very different sense. And that sense is apparently marriageability.

Again, it’s not just that Becky is merely undesired as a marriage prospect. It’s the way the anime portrays her. Think back to the opening paragraph of this post. If you simply don’t want a Christmas cake because it is no longer Christmas, then whatever. But I made character judgements about the cake; I called it pathetic and desperate. Now we’re talking about a whole different animal. How can you even call a cake pathetic and desperate? That doesn’t make sense, right? That’s what I’m trying to say about the unmarried Japanese women in anime. With Becky, it’s not that she’s merely single and over 40. It’s that the entire crux of her existence in the anime revolves around the mere fact that her unmarried status is such a joke.

nourin 0101

Becky appears twice in the first episode of Nourin, and twice now, she over shares the details of her single life to her students. Both times, it’s played off as a joke and a cruel one too. Oh, she’s so lonely that she orders two glasses of wine at a restaurant; one for herself and one for that imaginary boyfriend she so wishes she had. Haha… your loneliness makes me so… hard? Then later in the episode, Becky again regales her students with a tale of how she lathered herself in both canola and chili oil before taking a risque selfie in the mirror. Again, what a supposedly pathetic existence for a grown woman. My only question is, well, why are we being so cruel to her?

So of course, I find it kind of funny the way two of the younger female characters are portrayed in contrast to Becky. Take Minori, for instance. According to her career survey, her first choice in life is to be a bride. Her second choice is to be a wife. Her third choice is to be a home maker. You get the picture, I’m sure. This young girl with her entire life ahead of her has her priorities centered around domesticity and only domesticity. Later on, and this is pretty much the entire premise of the show, that amazingly popular and amazingly beautiful idol decides to retire from her career and transfer into the main character’s agricultural high school. Yep, a girl with an enviable position in life — enviable in the sense that she must be banking mad dough as the top idol in Japan — chooses instead to educate herself on how to be a farmer. Again, sort of returning to domesticity in a sense, especially when you consider the very high possibility that while the idol is here, she will undoubtedly fall in love with the main character.

nourin 0102

Now of course, we have to affirm everyone’s life decisions. The point of equality isn’t just to make every woman a completely self-reliant career woman who looks at motherhood with disdain. No, we’ve all had mothers and we all respect mothers for their choices in life. What I simply want to point out is how the show makes this oh-so-subtle connection between the two young girls and how they choose at a very young age to make certain sacrifices in their lives in order to to secure love. Meanwhile, Becky, at her “advanced” age, no longer has a choice in such romantic matters. As such, she can only sit there and rot away, pining for that imaginary boyfriend. It becomes quite evident the sort of judgement the anime is making: Becky didn’t prioritize becoming a wife in her youth, and now she must apparently pay the price for it. And that price is to repeatedly humiliate herself in front of her students. How is this not cruel?

“But it’s funny! You said in a previous post that something that makes you cringe will also make you laugh!”

Well, no, not everything that makes me cringe is also humorous, and I don’t really find anything funny about the way Becky is portrayed. But okay, you’re right, Becky’s role in the anime is supposed to be a joke. I personally don’t find it funny, but I’m not so clueless that I can’t tell it’s meant to make someone else laugh. We wouldn’t be cruel to her otherwise, right? Don’t take it so seriously, because it’s just meant to be funny, right? Well, how about Shizuku in Kyoukai no Kanata. She’s also a teacher and, you could argue, she’s portrayed as a strong woman because she’s a spirit hunter. Trust me, battling malevolent spirits is no small feat. The one crucial detail about Shizuku’s portrayal, however, and this really stuck out to me as I watched Kyoukai no Kanata, is how the anime also sees her as lonely and pitiable. I think to this one particular scene:

kanata 0501

Yeah, that’s the sight of a jilted woman. If you don’t remember or haven’t watched the anime, there was a nighttime festival meant solely for couples. Our sensei manages to secure herself a date… or so she thinks. Upon arriving at the festival, she suddenly gets a text from the guy she was going to meet saying that he suddenly can’t make it. We then get to watch a single adult woman cry. For what reason, even? We just get to watch a woman put forth all this effort to dress herself up to the nines sit there alone amongst all the loving couples around her and cry. Unlike the role Becky plays in Nourin, this isn’t even meant to be a joke. Actually, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is a joke to someone out there–… I don’t really know. If that’s the actual case, I just have to really wonder why anyone would laugh at this. Haha, you’re jilted and alone during a festival that exists to celebrate romance… eat shit and die…? Again, just why? I don’t understand the cruelty. What am I missing?

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18 thoughts on “Slutty Christmas cakes and why we hate them”

  1. Anime seems to entertain the idea that unmarried women remain unmarried because they, after all this time, are still clueless/unsuccessful in the dating scene. Definitely not because of a desire for independence, and not because they’re being careful about their life choices, but because they’re plain terrible at dating. That if they spent all this time looking for a man and failing, it may actually be their own fault.

    I believe it to be some parts futility in repetition and other parts “instrument of her own demise” that may instill humor in people. It’s definitely used as a source of comedy when it comes to Becky, but Shizuku’s case comes off a bit more… endearing? Is that the right word for it? You may consider her persistence to be cute/moe because it contradicts her Spirit Warrior persona.

    1. but Shizuku’s case comes off a bit more… endearing? Is that the right word for it? You may consider her persistence to be cute/moe because it contradicts her Spirit Warrior persona.

      That’s still kinda depressing. She’s only cute because it comes at her expense.

  2. Yeah, there are the things that really rub me off the wrong way in anime. It makes me think of some of the arguments I had at the beginning of the previous season, when there was a huge uproar about the fanservice in the first episodes of Kill la Kill. I said, back then, that I thought it was way worse in a show like, say, Sword Art Online, where women were never shown in anything more risque than lingérie, yet their whole purpose was that to satisfy the fantasy of the “subservient wife” in the viewer. I find this kind of thought really sick, even more because it’s aimed at young people. It’s not even just a matter of women’s condition. It’s a bland, uninspired, unambitious dream life for both boys and girls alike. You should dream of Love with a capital L, not of formal engagement and marriage. You should dream of wandering the world, or going into space, or becoming a rock star, or whatever, not just of settling down into your little home. There’s another time for realism – and if you’re a balanced person you will probably find a middle ground between the two opposites when that time comes.
    I think something like Kill la Kill, that provides maybe some risque shots but has a roster full of ambitious, funny, smart, cunning or plain dangerous female characters is way more off putting for the kind of viewers these series pander to. It doesn’t matter if you can look at them – you can’t touch them, both in a literal and metaphorical way, because they are too big to simply fit into these little dreams of houses and marriages. It’s occasionally sexy, yeah, but it puts sex back right where it belongs – with the other big passions of life, be them friendship, courage, anger or ambition. It is, at least, a grander vision than these anime full of boobs and panty shots that may as well have been written by your 70 year old grandmother for the values they embody.

    1. Ah Kill la Kill, the show I’m too lazy to watch. I can’t say I disagree with the sentiments of your comment. I just can’t really confirm it as I haven’t seen that show. But SAO being trashed? I’m always ready for that!

      1. Well, it’s kind of an easy watch – if you like highly stylized action, that is. It’s a sort of poor man’s Utena meets the brand of madness we’ve seen in Panty and Stocking. The animation isn’t top notch due to low budget but they make up for it with a lot of interesting graphic ideas (the most notable one being the all-present big red text blocks that break the fourth wall more and more as the series proceeds). There’s also some interesting symbolism in play – all involving clothing, both as a sexual and a societal metaphor. Nothing too burdensome really, the series is playful and doesn’t take itself seriously, but it could be interesting as a spark for a discussion.
        About the fanservice: it mostly comes off through the stripperrific suit main heroine uses to fight. It’s lampshaded and made fun of, in fact, and later becomes a plot point in the whole “clothing” scheme of things. But as I said, there’s a lot of sexy shots but no pandering. Another controversial point was a scene in the first episode – when the sentient sailor uniform, Senketsu, basically assaults the protagonist and forces her to wear it in a frenzy – that someone perceived as rape-y. Personally I didn’t mind it much either, since it wasn’t fetishized or anything. I don’t like rape scenes and certainly I don’t like rape apologetics (Valvrave did a pretty shitty job at portraying it a few seasons ago), but if one interprets every scene involving violence/physical assault/struggle with a woman as having sexual undertones, then it becomes impossible to have women characters in action shows altogether.

        1. but if one interprets every scene involving violence/physical assault/struggle with a woman as having sexual undertones, then it becomes impossible to have women characters in action shows altogether.

          Having just seen the first episode, I’m going to have to dispute this. Is it literally rape? Of course not. Is it sexual assault? Questionable; we can debate it. But are there sexual undertones? I don’t know how you can deny it. An adult — someone who has likely experienced sex before — put together a scene wherein an item tears off the heroine’s clothing and screams, “I’ll make you wear me by force.” There is no way that this scene is devoid of sexual undertones especially when the entire show isn’t shy about sex. The sexual undertone is quite deliberate. We can debate on what this scene is actually trying to say. We can even debate whether or not we should be offended (probably not). But I think we’d be horribly naive to think the creators were blissfully unaware of the sort of reaction they’d be stirring up when they storyboarded that scene.

        2. Yeah, true there – I expressed myself in a wrong way. It’s not like this specific scene lacks sexual undertones, what I meant was more referred to the literal interpretation as “rape”. Another interpretation that I thought – and that was reached independently by other commentators too – is that Senketsu, more than a physical adversary/rapist, represents the concept of “sexuality” itself (he is awaken, after all, by a spilling of blood). In this sense the scene would relate more to Ryuko being ashamed/conflicted about her own sexuality before she accepts it and makes it a strength rather than a weakness. Then again, that’s speculation, and there’s certain a taste for the shocking in Imaishi’s writing. Just look at Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.

  3. I suspect it has something to do with Japan’s terrible Birth Rates, a play on Japan’s trend towards very late marriages, and perhaps a little of the Conservatives wail on the decline of Japanese culture.

    Just for one, I really want a show that actually intelligently tries to look into that issue, rather than playing it for laughs. Sadly, I fear it’ll be an epic commercial bomb,

  4. I did find the scene with Shizuku from KnK to be sad that and I never quite understood the focus on unmarried=lonely failures for women seen in anime. There are times when I question exactly what makes anime appealing to me despite all the negative connotations seen in so many shows =/

    1. There are times when I question exactly what makes anime appealing to me despite all the negative connotations seen in so many shows =/

      There are good shows. They’re just sadly hard to find.

  5. I think the person who mentioned Japan’s declining birthrates was partially on the money. Of course, women are blamed for those declining birthrates, women who must be made aware how sadly mistaken they are in thinking that delaying looking for a partner and having children is an okay thing to do. There’s cultural anxiety to reaffirm the idea that being a housewife, pursuing a husband to the exclusion of all else, and having children young is the only fulfilling path for a woman. Not to mention that it’s her duty, and if she doesn’t do it she must be punished somehow. After all, with all those selfish women not popping out little pure Yamato Japanese children clearly the country will be overrun with immigrants and come to ruin someday!

    But I think there’s a second aspect to it, and it’s the spite some men have for women they perceive as “picky”. You know, women with standards for romantic and sexual partners. A certain type of men have learned from experience that women aren’t clamoring to date them, but they feel entitled to it, and hostile towards women as a group because that isn’t the case. Clearly the problem is that women have any standards at all.

    Incredibly hot women who cook amazingly and are successful in a way that doesn’t threaten their masculinity (they own a bakery or something) must be happy, even ecstatic to get together with a boring, homely, mediocre, self-centered guy. Once in a relationship they must mother him, stroke his ego, satisfy his sexual and emotional needs completely, perceive his faults as strong points and never ask for anything in return. And if they don’t do all that, then of course they’ll end up a pathetic 40 year old going crazy with loneliness or a pitiful single chick crying in a world full of happy couples.

    It’s as much a cautionary tale for women as a comforting fantasy for men who are left bitter by a changing society. Obviously ever growing numbers of women feel free to focus on career or having fun, instead of being horrified of their status of Christmas cakes. It’s a bit of a toothless trope imo.

    1. Yeah, I know it’s some parts bitterness, some parts spite. I’ve looked into this same issue elsewhere, i.e. China and Korea, and those countries are facing the same thing. There’s also another aspect of the problem that I haven’t gotten into (it would’ve made the original post too long): Confucianism just doesn’t perfectly fit into the modern world no matter how much you try to revamp it, but its philosophy continues to serve as the underlying basis for every East Asian culture. At some point, something’s got to give.

      Obviously ever growing numbers of women feel free to focus on career or having fun, instead of being horrified of their status of Christmas cakes. It’s a bit of a toothless trope imo.

      Is it? To girls, I don’t disagree with you. I don’t think anyone’s sitting at home sobbing because they’ve been called a Christmas cake. But this post is just as much about guys as it is about girls. For instance, when I wrote my first post about ImoCho, I tried to write it from the imouto’s perspective. Why? Because I wanted people to sympathize with her. Do girls really need help sympathizing with other girls? Usually, no. So the post was implicitly for a male audience. The same thing applies here. I’m not really saying “Don’t worry girls, they’re just a bunch of idiots!” Rather, the question is to the guys… why be cruel? Even if no one’s crying over it, it’s uncalled for.

  6. Well done for spotting this. I think what we’re actually seeing here is a kind of subconcious expression coming from a society that still isn’t sure about the transition to western values. Japan is trying to look away from arranged marriage and similar practices and become more “modern” (western) but at some level they realize that what they’re doing is scary and harmful. The problem is that they don’t know whether to laugh or scream.

    1. I think what we’re actually seeing here is a kind of subconcious expression coming from a society that still isn’t sure about the transition to western values.

      Perhaps. But I’d like to think not talking shit to a certain subset of the female population is a universal value. I don’t disagree with you though.

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