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Cosplayer and media personality Kaho Shibuya weighs in on the Uzaki-chan debate

From its initial serialization as a manga (illustrated by Take) in December 2017 on Niconico Seiga’s Dra Dra Sharp website to its anime adaptation by ENGI which began airing last month, “Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!” has sparked controversy on both sides of the Pacific.

The sexy slice-of-life odd-couple comedy about Shinichi Sakurai, an introverted college student, and his buxom, bubbly classmate Hana Uzaki who teases him to no end, has gained a solid fan base. However, Uzaki’s depiction and character design have been at the center of a debate (more on this below) which initially began in Japan and is now brewing mostly on English-language social media.

We recently had a chance to interview cosplayer and media personality Kaho Shibuya, who is a fan of the series and enjoys cosplaying Uzaki, to aks her what she finds appealing about “Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!” and its boisterous protagonist, as well as to get her opinion on the current controversy.

Kaho Shibuya grew up reading manga and watching anime, and had a brief career as a baseball reporter for the daily newspaper Tokyo Sports from 2013 to 2014. For the next several years, she was an adult video actress, but since 2019, she has shifted gears. Taking her love of manga and anime professionally, she has been enjoying cosplaying and has published photo books as well.

Fluent in English, having achieved a perfect score on the TOEIC exams, she tours international anime conventions as a guest. She’s also a media personality, having hosted her own radio show, appearing as official spokesperson for the company Top Partner on their YouTube channel, and regularly streaming in Twitch. She’s also writing her memoir which she intends to publish in English.
Interview with Kaho Shibuya

Kaho Shibuya (KS): I adore the whole show, besides Uzaki herself who is honest and energetic.

Uzaki’s senpai is a seriously good guy who doesn’t try to take advantage of her when she insisted on coming over to his place. He always looks out for her all the time, even though he often finds her annoying.

The owner of the cafe where senpai and Uzaki work, as well as his daughter, are kind. They watch over the two affectionately, kind of representing us manga readers or anime watchers. I love not only Uzaki and senpai but the world around them as well.

KS: In a recent manga episode, the whole Uzaki family gathers at their dining table to discuss her debatable relationship with senpai. We all knew she’s got an interesting mother, but they are a bunch of colorful personalities.

I love the moment when her father gets shocked during the discussion, but no spoilers!
gJ: You posted a cosplay of Uzaki-chan once in February but just recently, you have posted many more. Was there any particular reason why you decided to cosplay her again now?

KS: The one in February was just me in the shirt. You can hardly call it cosplay. It was meant to be regular fashion… I mean, I wear anime/manga clothing every day! The merchandise was officially made so I purchased it because I was a fan of the comic already.

I chose to do the whole cosplay in summer because we were expecting anime from July.
By then, I had ordered many shirts in different sizes and fabrics to see which one works best in a photoshoot.

Uzaki-chan has repeatedly been the subject of much criticism, and after the anime began airing, it has mostly been in English-language social media. Some of the commonly voiced complaints are that Uzaki is over-sexualized, has unrealistic body proportions, or resembles a child, both in appearance and behavior. As someone who likes Uzaki-chan and cosplays her, what is your take on these criticisms?

KS: Uzaki criticism started when the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center used the show for their blood donation campaign at Comiket 97 (2019 Winter). Each year, they collaborate with popular comics so that con attendees will become interested and donate blood to get a free poster. This has been successful since it started in 2011, contributing to a 47% increase in first-time blood donors and 1.7 times more donations for each campaign truck. Everything is done through volunteer work and it’s all for a good cause.

I understand some people get repulsed by certain content, especially when they involve ecchi fan service. But Uzaki is genuinely fond of senpai and senpai enjoys her company, even though they’re both oblivious to their own feelings. It’s more a rom-com than a “harem” show in which a boy gets randomly lucky with girls.

Uzaki is sexy, but she has never been victimized in the show as a sexual object. Just like the title says, she just really wants to hang out with senpai. She doesn’t even seduce him with her body for that. She follows him around, takes care of him when he’s sick in bed, and hypnotizes him to call her by her first name. How adorable is that?

But still, if some people read/watch the show and don’t appreciate her as the face of a blood donation campaign, they’re free to feel that way.

I’m retired as an adult actress and no longer make R-18 content like bare-breasted or nude modeling (except hentai voice acting!), but my past can be a hindrance when representing myself as a cosplayer. I’ve been refused by a small convention at an anime industry networking party, with them saying “Sorry, we’re a family-friendly event. Good luck with your life.” Yes, I was hurt, but I understood.

Uzaki-chan isn’t R-18 but it has a lot of fan service scenes. Her favorite shirt says “SUGOI DEKAI (super huge)” on her chest, which is super huge indeed. Some may not be comfortable with the obvious message.

However, the argument over Uzaki reached stupidity when people on the internet tried to “fix” her, since they think she needs to have a mature face to go with the mature bosom, or her eyes and head are too big compared to her body.

I get it if Western people want to fix Uzaki’s teeth since I know that the “vampire fang” isn’t appreciated outside of Japan. (Here, it’s been considered cute even in real life.) But fixing her height, face, or the artist’s drawing style?

First of all, there are short and stacked girls with a childish face, including myself. Criticizing Uzaki‘s body type along with the face type as “unrealistic” would offend women like me.

Secondly, I’ve realized that those people complaining about Uzaki’s look are non-weebs; otherwise, they would have known that in manga both the eyes and the head are usually drawn bigger, the nose is often missing, and let’s not forget those impossible hair-dos. Do we have obvious veins on our forehead when we get angry? Do we get nosebleeds whenever we get sexually excited? Do rich girls laugh like Santa Claus or have you met anyone ending their sentences with “dattebayo” all the time? Welcome to the world of anime.

Besides, manga drawing styles vary from quintessential “moe” to JoJo-esque, depending on the artist. It’s just like regular art.
If they want reality in artwork, they can go ahead and hate on abstract paintings. People mock Uzaki only to seek attention because it’s the hot topic on social media.

Now that manga and anime have become so popular, even “regular people,” who tend to use the term “otaku” or “weeb” in a disparaging manner, are curious about the culture.

Uzaki certainly isn’t the only female character with such a curvy figure and youthful looks. She is an easy target because the media controversy over the Red Cross campaign made her the center of attention, and some people keep using her for their hateful posts to get noticed on their timelines.

For what it’s worth, the creator of “Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out” should be proud of the buzz it’s generating. No one’s going to talk about you unless you’re worthy of recognition.
Article Source: Grapee.Jp

Cosplayer and media personality Kaho Shibuya weighs in on the Uzaki-chan debate

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