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A Surprisingly Gay Children's Film (That Technically Isn't)

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




I like animated films, even ones that might be targeted at a... younger demographic than myself. And I've always found it kind of unfortunate that pretty much no children's films feature gay romance. There's quite a lack of LGBT representation in most media, but it's particularly absent (and depressingly so) in children's media. I think it's actually a huge roadblock against LGBT people realising and coming to accept who they are - I know that I personally spent the first many years of my life believing people came exclusively in guy/gal pairs, in no small part due to Disney's repeated insistence of such. That's why, just last year, I was pleasantly surprised to find an animated film that can be considered both a children's movie, and a gay one. It's a Japanese film called Arashi no Yoru Ni (commonly known in English as One Stormy Night).

I don't really expect you to have heard of it, seeing as it's never officially been released in English, although some fans were given permission to make a dub, which can be found on YouTube here (it's split into 8 parts).

The film is about Mei and Gabu, who meet one stormy night (Boom! Title drop) in a dark shed, and they spend the night sharing a conversation. The two of them have a lot in common and decide to become friends. Unfortunately, Mei soon realises that Gabu is a wolf, and Gabu sees that Mei is a goat. Naturally, this introduces some tension to the relationship, not only from the conflicting feelings that arise from their species being natural enemies, but also due to outside pressure from their respective herd/pack. (The story bears some similarity to Disney's The Fox and the Hound in this respect.) The relationship depicted between the two isn't explicitly romantic or sexual, it's allegedly just a friendship (albeit a very close one). But there are a few reasons that it can be interpreted as a gay film.

A look of love, or of desperately wanting to tear him apart
and eat him? Like there's really a difference.
For one, the film contains examples of the male gaze focused on the male body, in what is an arguably sexualised way. For those who aren't familiar with the term, the 'male gaze' is used in feminist film theory. It refers to how the camera typically follows a heterosexual male's perspective, particularly in the way it focuses on women's bodies. At one point early in the film, Gabu and Mei are heading towards a picnic up a mountain path. Gabu accidentally drops his lunch, and is left with nothing to eat. As he's walking behind Mei, Gabu starts to get hungry and starts looking at Mei in a somewhat... predatory way. Specifically, we he watches Mei's butt wiggling tantalizingly in front of him. Yes, we literally see a male character drooling over another guy's ass. Okay, so it's not explicitly sexual, but the film seems to use hunger to symbolise sexual desire in a kid-friendly way. A hungry Gabu watches Mei sleeping with the same kind of desire you might see when Edward watches Bella. (I can only assume. I've never felt masochistic enough to subject myself to those films.) Later on, Mei seems somewhat upset – almost jealous – when he notices Gabu has been hunting and eating mice. As a children's film, it's not surprising that any kind of male-on-male sexuality would be hidden under layers of subtext, but it is there. Probably. At least, that's what I see.

But even ignoring that, the story of the film can itself be read as a gay allegory. The two main characters are guys who find themselves in an unexpected relationship, one that is deemed by their families and friends to be dangerous and unnatural, and the two are persecuted and hunted down for it. We are even given flashbacks to Gabu's younger days, when he had been picked on by others due to his lack of both physical ability and aggressiveness - not an unusual experience for gay youth. This isn't the only possible interpretation of the story, but it is still both valid and meaningful. I suppose you could also look at it as a sort of Romeo and Juliet type story about people from different backgrounds struggling to be together - which, let's remember, is also a romantic relationship.

So far this has all been subtext, but to really appreciate just how gay this film is, you really need to look back to the original book by Yuichi Kimura. When reading Arashi no Yoru Ni, it seems a lot of people assumed that Mei was a female goat, due to the nature of the characters' relationship. The fact is, until the film, Mei's gender had never been revealed at all. The author had always intended for Mei to be male, but wound up never explicitly stating it in the books.

“Although I originally started out writing the goat as a male, I realized it would be better not to limit it by attributing a gender to this character [...] I wanted to see how far I could expand the book by not limiting the characters by gender. I want the readers to be allowed a chance to interpret this book as broadly as they are capable of. ”
-Yuichi Kimura

To be perfectly honest, this strikes me as nothing short of brilliant. By making the character androgynous, the author didn't force himself, or others, to follow the usual "same-sex = friends, opposite-sex = lovers" dichotomy. Whether the relationship was intended as romantic or platonic, people interpreted it as a romantic, and that's how it was commonly understood for years. Then the film came out, and suddenly Mei was male. It didn't necessarily reduce or change their relationship... it just made people realise it was a gay one.

Again, the story isn't technically about being gay, as that's something that we're still unlikely to see in children's films even today. But if, like me, you've been desperately searching for kid's movies with gay themes, I present you with the closest thing I've ever found. It's not a bad movie in its own right, and is actually quite cute, so if you (or any kids you know) like films about friendship and talking animals, it's worth a look.

Actually, I'm not entirely convinced these two were 'just
friends' either
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