A little over a year ago, a strange hybrid smartphone game called Burn Your Fat With me! made its way to the App Store. Half dating sim and half fitness app, BYFWM cast you in the role of a mute - and pudgy - male protagonist who reconnects with an old female friend, Mayu, who he's interested in dating.
The only problem is that your character's really let himself go, and Mayu isn't interesting in dating until you shed some pounds. Through careful coaching and copious insults, Mayu encourages you - the player - to do increasingly difficult sets up sit-ups and push-ups with her. As you clear more work outs, her attitude to your hardening body softens and a romance begins to blossom.
It's a cute game, but undeniably Japanese in its tone and presentation. Now, a female-focused version - Nenshou! For Girls - has been announced by the same company that switches the genders around and lets you play as an out-of-shape girl who's trying to get in shape for a cute guy.
The reaction of western media to this announcement? FREAK THE FUCK OUT!!!!!!
Jezebel, bless it, spun the news with a headline of 'Hey Fattie' App Has 'Hot' Guys Insult You Until You Lose Weight while HuffPo took a similar tack with 'Hey, Fattie' App Uses Hot Anime Men To Shame Women Into Losing Weight.
There's no question that shaming anyone (men or women) for their body types is a bad thing - but what both sites failed to turn up with 5 minutes of research is that Burn Your Fat With Me! is every bit as shame-focused as Nenshou! For Girls is. In fact, a western review of BYFWM - written by a male reviewer - opens with "I've never had a game call me 'fatty' before."
But hey, research is hard and - really - who has the time for it?
As a heterosexual male, I think I'd gladly bust my ass to get in shape for these guys
Nenshou! For Girls undeniably takes the same oddball approach to romance and dating sims that Burn Your Fat With Me! does, but it should be rewarded for bringing the incredibly under-represented genre of female-focused otome dating games to the western mobile market instead of being subjected to kneejerk feminism.
If Nenshou! insulted girls while Burn Your Fat With Me! praised guys, then the reaction of the western media would be justified - but the two games are almost identical in their tone, presentation, and style. Thus, it's a bit silly to rail against one while ignoring the other.
The worst part about the negative spin that sites like Jezebel and HuffPo have given the yet-to-be-released Nenshou! For Girls is that it's perpetuating an exaggerated opinion of anime and Japanese video games as being unilaterally sexist and misogynist.
Sure, the genres have had some major issues with that sort of thing and the results have been as ridiculously offensive as they have been ridiculous - but irresponsible journalism isn't going to help either of those change any.