Gender-Bender in manga and anime.
May 17, 2011 Leave a comment
Following on from the cross-dressing post here is one about gender-bender. As a genre it is similar to cross-dressing but takes it one step further, one of the major characteristics of gender bender as a genre appears to be that of comedy, there is often a very strange set of circumstances surrounding why the character has changed genders.
One of the classic manga, and indeed one of the first I have read that includes gender bender is that of Ranma 1/2. In this manga, Ranma Saotome along with his father Genma are on a training mission in china when they each fall into cursed springs, his father turns into a Panda, and Rama turns into a girl. While the springs and other characters who change play a large part in the manga, the main focus is that of Ranma himself. The effect of his gender change is controlled by water; hot water reverses the effect changing him back to a man, whereas cold water changes him into a girl.
The manga follows his trials and tribulations, as a character he continuously acquires fiancés through his fathers misadventures and just plain stinginess and his own suitors for both his male and female appearances. The device of water temperature allows for a seamless switch between genders, so seamless in fact that there are whole story arcs whereby Ranma is either one gender or another. This is done in such a way that there is no question about how this happens, it is merely an everyday fact about his life, and the natural way in which all those around him interact with Ranma, whether he is a man or a woman shows how easy it is for this gender switch to be accepted.
Gender bender is similar to cross-dressing, and they are both often used in the same manga, however it takes it to more of an extreme, in particular it is used for more of a comic purpose in manga. There are occasions where a spell for example goes wrong and people switch bodies, this is often followed up by the boy who has moved to a girls body making some comment or perhaps feeling certain parts of a women body and wondering why they feel the way they do.
What is very specific about gender bender compared to cross-dressing however is that when boys or men switch bodies, be it like ranma, a spell or some other reason they tend to keep all their male mannerisms. The most obvious example would be switching to a body of a very well brought up ojou-sama or wealthy girl, in this example the girls personality would completely change to that of the mans. So while in cross-dressing genre the protagonists often change there mannerisms, the men becoming more feminine, the women becoming more masculine in gender bender we largely have a complete swap of genders while still maintaining the original personality. And yet this is almost exactly the same as cross-dressing, but in a reversal of the roles and personality compared to gender.