This essay will be split up for easy reading and will be released over a couple days.
Keijo!!!!!!!! is the ongoing 2013 manga series recently adapted into a 12 episode anime. Also using the subtitle Hip Whip Girl, the series follows Kaminashi Nozomi and friends through their lives in the gambling sport Keijo, where athletes fight atop a buoy platform using only their breasts and ass. By it’s elevator pitch alone, the series entices images of mud wrestling and fanservice. 130 translated chapters in, however, it’s proven to be greater than the sum of its parts.
Over the course of four parts, I’ll be touching on four main themes that separates Keijo!!!!!!!! from other traditional anime and why I believe it is empowering to women.
Part 2: Men are basically non-existent and act as tropes to be subverted
As previously mentioned, there are very few men to be found in the story of Keijo!!!!!!!!
The few who have been named mostly relate to Nozomi; her brother, her childhood friend, and her former gymnastics coach. There’s the father of secondary main character Miyata Sayaka, who appears in one arch. There’s a single cameo of a male doctor from the mangaka’s other series. There are a couple of male students Nozomi has a small rivalry with, but they’ve been long forgotten.
The most recent male character is the landlord to Nozomi and Sayaka’s new lodging, introduced chapter 124. He is the uncle to another character and helps with her plot. I don’t think he’ll be much more than background after the current arch.
The sport of Keijo, which I know will probably bother a lot of progressive women, is a gambling sport. Meaning the women fight each other and men bet on who will win. The manga depicts the crowds as mostly male, while the anime throws in a couple women. As I said in the opening, it brings mud wrestling to mind, but I don’t interpret it that way.
The girls in Keijo take it very seriously, just like all athletes. None acknowledge the crowd during the fight, only outside of it on their social media. The fact that it’s a gambling sport doesn’t really come up much after introduced in the opening chapters.
When Nozomi enters the professional league are we reminded of the seriousness of the sport. Men don’t bet on athletes just because of their looks – they go on stats. Which, yes, includes facts about their hips and breasts, but it’s the same thing as a baseball pitcher and their arm.
Let’s examine two of four male characters who have effected the plot: Nozomi’s childhood friend Omotenishi Taichi and Sayaka’s father.
The two play a similar role – oppose their female counterpart’s participation in Keijo. Taichi, who is implied to have a crush on Nozomi, outright tells her “A sport that is so dependent on brute strength is impossible for you.” Sayaka’s father has a similar notion, disapproving of his daughters participation in the sport because she left a prominent Judo career.
Although both characters are cliché, I believe they act as important stepping stones for Nozomi and Sayaka.
Starting with Sayaka’s father, he plays the classic trope ‘disapproving parent.’
Until his first appearance, the reader picks up that the two have a rocky relationship. Sayaka left a future in professional Judo to join Keijo, so her father, who was also her coach, is understandably unhappy. In the series, the two never have a face-to-face talk. Rather, he begrudgingly agrees to attend an important Keijo match because of his wife and he evidently learns the err of his ways.
He changes his mind because he sees how Sayaka incorporates her Judo background into her Keijo fighting: the ‘Nipple Full Shoulder Throw’ mentioned in Part 1. It’s an important moment for Sayaka, as she realizes other sports can benefit a Keijo athlete – as seen in a flashback that explains Judo uses hips to control an opponent’s centre of gravity.
Although seen earlier in the series, this moment shows how Keijo is a mix between traditional and modern thinking. It’s rather on the nose, actually, since Sayaka’s opponent has trained exclusively in Keijo and criticizes Sayaka for not doing so. But it does bring up an interesting point of such a situation: training exclusively in one sport would make that athlete better, right?
Well, not quite, as we see from several characters in the story. A lot of them have different sporting backgrounds such as softball, kendo, and swimming. Everyone uses their unique skills for new techniques that allow them to win.
By taking a traditional technique, a shoulder throw, and using it in her own way, Sayaka subverts her father’s assumptions and ultimately changes his opinion of the sport she loves. A rather cliche climax, but still heartwarming.
It’s important to mention that Sayaka is totally ignorant to her father in the crowd, which I think makes this scene even better. She doesn’t look to the bleachers, see her father, and suddenly find the determination to win. It’s all her and helping her teammates.
Let’s turn back to Taichi. He claims Nozomi can’t succeed in Keijo because she is a trained gymnast, but she proves him wrong in a matter of minutes. He quickly gets his ass handed to him when the two participate in a mock Keijo battle and Nozomi knocks him out.
Although this is a quickly resolved plot point, I believe it serves as an good example of proving societal standards wrong.
Firstly, there is the tried-and-true ‘man tells woman she can’t do X.’ This is a trope throughout storytelling, regardless of gender, but I like it because I love when a character gets their comeuppance.
Second, Nozomi proves Taichi wrong in a non-traditional sense. He says it’s a sport of ‘brute strength,’ but Nozomi subverts this via her gymnastics skill of balance. If I was reading a little too into the first chapter, I would call this a heavy-handed metaphor. Men and strength, women and grace – the parallels are obvious. It’s as more characters are introduced do we really see the power behind Taichi’s wrong assumption: A woman can succeed in Keijo in their own unique way.
To quickly elaborate, I’ll use the four main girls from the anime as an example. Nozomi has her gymnastics skills, which leads to her proficiency with the Vacuum Butt Canon, an attack move that requires hip rotation. Sayaka is a speed-focused athlete, but uses moves from her Judo background to overcome difficult opponents. Aoba Kazane has a special copying ability. Toyoguchi Non as a super soft ass and is incredibly lucky.
That’s what I really like about Keijo!!!!!!!!, almost none of the characters rely strictly on strength. It’s all about playing their way, regardless of body type, muscle density, height, or bra size.
I wouldn’t use Keijo!!!!!!!! as a positive-body-image piece of media (it is not an entry-level manga/anime series), but I like the relationships established between men and women. These girls have proven they don’t fall into ‘the patriarchy’ (I think I’m using that correctly). It’s their sport and they’ll do whatever the heck they want!
We’ll discuss in more of the gender dynamic in Part 3: There are no romance plots