That’s right. Due to this anime from several years ago, gender is no more.
Does anyone outside of certain anime circles even know this show exists? It wasn’t exactly a flash in the pan, but people also aren’t discussing it daily like some of the classics. As a former card-carrying weeb, this show was my jam. There was something so charming about the story and the characters and how the show handled common anime tropes. But more important than that, Haruhi Fujioka is a very interesting character study.
The show is first and foremost a romantic comedy, but it plays fast and loose with the concepts of gender identity, gender expression etc. Haruhi is the most obvious example, but there are also smaller examples of the show fucking with the entire perception of gender. In fact, gender fuckery is a huge part of the entire storyline, starting with our protagonist Haruhi. There are many indications throughout the series that Haruhi might be genderfluid or something similar, due to how she—and she actually says this—doesn’t care about gender. Her gender expression fluctuates between feminine and masculine. Of course most promotional art for the series features her wearing that iconic host uniform with the other—male—members of the club. In more casual promotional material, Haruhi is usually depicted in feminine clothing while all the boys wear masculine outfits. As far as gender identity goes in both the anime and manga, it’s very clear that Haruhi isn’t simply a “tomboy”. She responds to both masculine and feminine pronouns, but she also doesn’t particularly mind being called “daughter”. Haruhi never outright states her gender identity as anything other than cis, but she doesn’t really have to. The interpretation is there for anyone who wants to use it. And yet it’s one of the less talked about aspects of Haruhi as a character, probably because it isn’t spelled out so bluntly in the anime.
So what if Haruhi is genderfluid? What does that mean for the series? Why the hell does it matter? Well, as the series (and the manga) ended a long time ago, Haruhi’s gender identity doesn’t really mean very much in the year of our lord 2020. But at the same time, it’s an interesting topic to look into. Gender fluidity gets treated as a joke or a punchline very often in media, if it even gets mentioned. I get it. It’s a difficult concept to grasp. But Haruhi—as a character—actually gives some pretty good groundwork for understanding what being genderfluid means. While “Who cares about gender?” is a nebulous statement that could mean anything to the person saying it, Haruhi’s use of the phrase bears itself out as a true statement of who she is as a person. And yes, there are genderfluid/non-binary/etc. people who refer to themselves by “she/her” pronouns. It’s up to individual choice. “I don’t care about gender” or “my gender doesn’t really matter” or anything similar are common phrases used by those who fall under the non-binary umbrella either before or after realizing their identity.
A huge problem with the representation of non-binary people in media is the fact that so many of these characters aren’t human. Stevonnie from Steven Universe is at least part-human, but they are also part-alien and also an impossible fusion of a boy and a girl. While Stevonnie is their own separate person completely independent of Steven and Connie, they are still a part-alien fusion whose gender identity can be explained away by their components. Not that Stevonnie isn’t an amazing character and wonderful representation. But at the same time, that’s a very low bar. The series does a little better with Shep—who is an actual human—even though they barely get any screen time. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has Double Trouble, a shapeshifter. For the most part, characters who are identified as falling outside of the common gender binary are usually assigned a gender—male or female—or they are a non-human creature who falls outside of the gender binary for some fantasy or sci-fi reason. For example, robots can easily identify as “non-binary” because there is no reason—in most stories—for a robot to have a gender. The same goes for a shapeshifter or a part-alien part-human hybrid who is made up of two gendered components (and also their own person, to be fair). It is extremely rare to see a character who is completely one hundred percent human and also very clearly under the non-binary umbrella. Haruhi fits into this gap very nicely, as both a main protagonist with plenty of screen time and a completely human character who doesn’t live in a magical fantasy world.
Cheers to all the people who were helped along in their own journey of self-discovery thanks to Haruhi Fujioka and this series in general.
Some cute little links for the curious: