Netflix has changed the gender of a queer character in its remake of classic anime Saint Seiya, sparking outrage among its fans.
The original show, which ended in 1989 after three years on Japanese TV, focused on the adventures of five Earth-defending Bronze Saints.
One of them was Andromeda Shun, whom many viewers held up as a gay icon.
Shun presented in femme ways, was open about his emotions, proudly dressed in pink armour, and refused to fight unless completely necessary.
But the character will be known as a woman called Shaun when Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac comes to Netflix in 2019.
Why has Netflix changed Saint Seiya character Andromeda Shun?
The Netflix show’s writer, Eugene Son, has taken responsibility for the decision.
“This one is all on me,” he wrote in a Twitter thread posted on December 8.
He explained that the one bit of the show which “concerned” him was that “the Bronze Knights with Pegasus Seiya are all dudes.”
Son appreciated that “the series has always had fantastic strong dynamic female characters,” but he didn’t want to feature five male Bronze Saints.
The writer added: “I didn’t want to create a new female character that would stick out and be obvious—especially if she was not created naturally and has no character/personality except ‘to be the girl.’
“Then we discussed Andromeda. Everyone agrees – an AWESOME character. So what if the original was ‘Andromeda Shun’ and our interpretation was ‘Andromeda Shaun?'”
He promised that “the core concepts of Andromeda [won’t] change. She uses her chains to defend herself and her friends—which she learned from her protective brother who taught her how to fight.”
The writer, who has also worked on The Avengers Assemble and Ben 10, ended the thread saying that “if you hate it (and me) and say ‘This new series is NOT for me’—no problem. I understand. I appreciate your passion for Seiya.”
Son has since deleted his Twitter account. PinkNews has contacted Netflix for comment.
Saint Seiya fans express their disappointment
Many anime enthusiasts who were excited at the prospect of a Saint Seiya remake have tweeted their frustration over what has happened to Andromeda Shun.
For some, this anger was because they saw Shun as representation of their own queer identities in an era when it was much rarer to see LGBT+ people on TV than it is now.
One wrote that Shun’s brother Phoenix Ikki could have changed gender, saying: “I refuse to get back into saint seiya after they gender bent my sweet boy to erase the gay under the facade of ‘oh, its 2018 the team needs a girl.’
“MAKE IKKI A GIRL SHE’D BE SO GOOD! BUT U GUYS ARE COWARDS!”
Another tweeter wrote: “So the asshole in charge of the new Netflix Saint Seiya anime decided to turn the wimpy gay (and beloved) Andromeda into a girl. F**k that. That’s why you don’t mess with canon.”
Some fans experienced contrasting feelings because they were happy to welcome another female character onto the show, but not at the expense of a queer-presenting character.
“I have to wonder if they’re just doing it because oh no NOT GAYS”
One commented: “On the one hand, Saint Seiya has always been male heavy cast-wise and I’m glad to see a female character without adding a new character.
“On the other, I have to wonder if they’re just doing it because oh no NOT GAYS.”
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Others were more concise, tweeting: “sorry but shun belongs to the gays.”
Watch the trailer for Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac:
“All Netflix had to do to keep me interested in girl Shun was to make her trans by just leaning more heavily into that reading of the source material but the way it’s been presented hurts me,” they tweeted.
New Saint Seiya character erases stereotype-smashing Shun
Other Saint Seya fans were upset at the erasure of a character who consciously rejected gender binaries and the aggressive, occasionally toxic nature of his fellow fighters.
One person wrote: “How to do inclusion totally wrong: Take a unique, openly emotional, pretty, strong, non-macho male lead, make it female.”
They added: “Making Shun female reverses the entire subversion of making a feminine male character in the first place. Now you have a feminine female character that is typical.”
Another said that choosing Shun instead of one of the other warriors was “discrimination and sexism on more than one level.”
And yet another person wrote: “I have no issue with genderbending in general, I do have an issue that an androgynous character seems to defy masculinity so much that they turned him into a girl. It’s insulting.”