Scene from Food Wars! looks like something you’d see on an R-rated Masterchef

Japanese manga and anime are beloved by people all around the world, but if there’s one blight on its otherwise sterling reputation, it’s the portrayal of women and their enormous, physics-defying bosoms, which has a tendency to divide audiences time and time again.

The topic of female busts in the animated world was thrust into the spotlight again recently, after a viral TikTok video highlighted a particular shot from the anime adaptation of the 2012 shonen manga Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma.

The image shows Erina Nakiri, one of the characters from the cooking-themed series, dressed in chef’s whites. However, these are no ordinary chef’s whites, as rather than flattening the chest as they normally do, these appear to have two breast-supporting cups sewn into them, drawing the eye straight to the character’s sizeable bosom.

TikTok user @shrimptempuraroll shared a video reacting to the portrayal of Nakiri in this scene, asking “Whose shirt fits them like that? How is her shirt even made?” and “She’s cooking. Did you need to sexualise her cooking outfit?

Take a look at the video below.

L.A.-based Japanese Twitter user @mihoimiofficial shared the TikTok video online with subtitles to explain the point being made to her followers, who are mostly Japanese. In her own Twitter message attached to the video, @mihoimiofficial says:

“This TikTok video pointing out the breasts in Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, which is currently being shown on Netflix in the U.S., has 100,000 likes. I hope that not only the creators but also the viewers will think about the representation of women and whether this portrayal will have a positive impact on the future of women. Men aren’t the only ones watching anymore, so I think it’s better for us to have a rethink.”

Both the original video and the shared video with Japanese subtitles garnered a huge amount of views and comments. However, the Japanese Twitter user received an overwhelming number of negative comments in Japanese.

“This is about freedom of expression. The end.”
“Don’t look to anime for reality.”
“Characters also have pink or purple hair in anime, it’s not meant to be seen as real.”
“It’s strange that activists will defend large women in bikinis but they’ll get angry over a fictional character with a great body.”
“Maybe anime should come with warning messages like ‘this is an anime for men’ so women don’t have to watch it and get offended.”

On the other hand, the American TikTok user received a lot of support for her statement against the sexualisation of anime characters.

“She be wearing latex to a cooking competition huh”
“Vacuum sealed.”
“And it’s a CHEF’S JACKET those things make you look so FLAT.”
“It’s called fan service and it’s been there since the dawn of anime get used to it lol.”
“I wear those exact outfits at my culinary school and let me tell you they don’t fit like that they make u look like a door.”

@mihoimiofficial pointed out this disparity in a follow-up tweet, commenting on the fact that it was strange that she was being subjected to negative comments for merely pointing out the same thing as the American.

It’s a revealing take on the different ways men and women perceive female characters in the world of anime and manga, and how the society in which people live can play a role in colouring that perception too.

After all, here in Japan busty anime women are used on Red Cross posters to encourage blood donations and panty-revealing schoolgirls are used to sell mandarins in shopping malls.

What would happen in your country if a giant inflatable schoolgirl with her panties on display was set up on a public beach? Because here in Japan, the answer to that is: not much.

Sources: Hachima Kikou 
Top image: Pakutaso
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