Decent comedy bundled with creative absurdity is always an artistic way to soften the effect of a seemingly serious issue. After seeing episode four of both A Channel and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, it appeared that dieting and being extremely weight conscious are just normal for young girls. Before I go further into this post, I would like to clarify that I’m not demonizing A Channel nor Panty & Stockings, this post is just meant to reflect the materialized body sizes depicted in these anime.
In today’s culture it has been normalized that we perceived ourselves as too fat, especially the young girls. We measure ourselves not against the average weight statistics and medical charts, but rather through the created icons, and fantasies-made-flesh which are designed to arouse envy and desire. As we have seen in A Channel, it started with Run and Tooru’s discussion about Yuuko’s best physical attributes. Usually in a situation like this, Nagi stays on the background and acts maturely. However, when she heard Run saying that Yuuko has a model-like body, all of a sudden her immaturity and deepest self-indulgence to encompass a slim body unfold.
Further, it is significant that the archetype of the ideal slender body has grown increasingly thinner throughout the years. We can say that Yuuko’s “model-like” body is influenced by media figures such as the fashion models, actors, and sportspersons. Women are particularly critical about the narrow range of body shapes presented in the media–which are viewed as unrealistic and unhealthy. This resonates with how ironic Nagi wants to become slimmer when the body that she wants to obtain–Yuuko’s stature–is not even perceived as “thin” but rather curvy.
On a similar note, Stocking also showed obsession in dieting after pinching “some” skin on her waistline. Even though the act is meant for hilarity, the image of unwanted bump is a metaphor for anxiety about internal processes of out of control—uncontrolled impulse, unrestrained hunger and lawless desire. Also, as we have witnessed, the repetitive use of weighing scale, super early morning jogs, intense exercises, utterly high-temperature sauna and almost zero food-intake are all ludicrously presented with extreme self-internal tension. Hence, although perceived as comedic, imageries and portrayals in Panty & Stocking arguably contribute to the trivialities, and standardize dissatisfaction in body figures especially among girls since the characters are females.
Aside from that, when Stocking’s body ridiculously blown-up, instead of showing some sympathy—just like when she turned skin and bone—Panty made fun her. From here we can see that in the popular representations, the fat body is shown as inherently flawed, ridiculous, and something to be fixed. If the underweight body is represented as the dominant idea, the representation of the stout female body is the contrary, inducing revulsion and disgust. Also, whenever the fat body becomes visible in contemporary culture, it is likely to be pathologized, medicalized and seen as a sign of the spoiled identity of the person within it, unlike skinny bodies which are perceived as disordered but trendy.
Beyond doubt, media depiction of bodies—anime is not an exception—have an effect on all of us to a certain degree because the media is one of the principal agents of this socially constructed world. Nowadays some children may learn more and evaluate their body based from the media rather than from the people who actually physically surround them. Hence, how the body is visualized in mass media generate dominant cultural narratives.