If you’ve been watching Seton Academy, you know that the whole show is about individuals who are trying to stay true to themselves while still fulfilling the roles expected from them based on their species. From the very beginning, we see a hard point of view that “members of different species shouldn’t mix”. Much like segregation based on race, gender, and/or sexuality, Jin’s and their society as a whole have a very narrow point of view that Renka the wolf refuses to accept. Though Jin can be a closed-minded prick in regards to animals, he eventually starts realizing that everybody is different and that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends—or a “pack” in this case—and so they slowly start changing the dynamics of the school.
Other than Jin, everyone at the school seems to accept each other and their unique attributes and customs because they understand that is each animal’s nature and, other than interspecies relations, everyone is pretty much allowed or even encouraged to be themselves and do their thing, no matter how “weird” it may seem to others—Yukari’s favorite food, for example. With a pattern like this, it is no surprise that Murenase! Seton Gakuen has touched on a very relevant and important subject, one that has been taboo to even discuss in many places up until relatively recently, the transgender experience.
The Self-Styled Young Man
In episode 4, we meet Yena the hyena who is clearly a female by birth—in Seton, females are kemonomimi characters while males are anthropomorphized animals—but Yena doesn’t wear the female uniform to school and they are basically a tough badass nobody messes with; male hyenas follow them and female hyenas are in love with them. Yena declares themselves a male and clearly acts and thinks like the best male in their species, but then, Jin does what any ignorant person would do and points out that she’s clearly female. Reasonably offended by this, Yena goes into a confused state when they realize that, even though they’ve always felt like a male, they were born with a female body and therefore, “they should act like one” too.
Fast forward to episode 7 and we see Yena attempting to become the lady they are “supposed to be”. During that time, Yena goes through the whole thing; female clothes, a feminine hairstyle—that her brother gave her because he was “hoping that day would come”—and she even stalks Hitomi to try to emulate her ultra-female ways. Yena has a hard time at first, but eventually, she actually looks like a delicate female. But she’s miserable. She’s constantly self-conscious, always struggling to not be tough, not sit like she’s used to, not fight, eat delicately—even though they’re just bones—but then her nature kicks in and she regurgitates the undigestable parts of her lunch in front of everyone. That’s the last straw and Yena realizes she will never be a delicate feminine flower because, regardless of what body he was born with, Yena feels more comfortable, and, more importantly, like himself as a male. By the end, Yena goes back to being a male and he is back to being happy. His family accepts it and loves her just the same and we all feel happier for it.
Seton Academy did a wonderful job of encasing the transgender experience in a way that is easy to understand for everyone watching. Much like transgender people, Yena felt like a male from childhood—even wishing she didn’t have such a feminine face—which caused him a lot of problems growing up as others saw his biological body and kept telling him he was a girl and to act like one, which naturally offended and confused him. Transgender individuals also have to deal with the eventual onset of adolescence which makes things even more difficult as their bodies are basically doing all the opposite things they want. In Yena’s case, we see this when Jin points out the biology of his body and shows that he was in fact born a female, which prompted him to attempt being a girl, which is also a parallel for many transgender people. There comes a point when “you just try to make it work” in order to avoid problems, bullying, or—sadly—to be accepted by their own families. But just like in Yena’s case, that doesn’t work. That’s just not who they are and it sometimes takes a very long, painful time to finally say “You know what? This is who I am and that’s it”. By the end of episode 7, after giving being a girl a good, wholehearted try, Yena figures out he is not happy, that is not him. He is a male and will continue to be true to himself no matter what anyone thinks or says.
As we mentioned before, the world in Seton Academy is a very accepting place. While Yena was told to “be a girl” as a kid—kids don’t know any better—his schoolmates are aware of his preferred pronouns and respect his identity and respect Yena himself! What a wonderful world this would be if every school and every workplace was like that!
Yena also is lucky enough to have an accepting family. Her brother and dad were kind of expecting/hoping that he would realize he’s a girl and go in that direction and were ready for it with dresses and a hairstylist license, but when Yena comes back and says “I’m a male after all”, his family lovingly accepts his decision and his identity and Yena is able to live his life as a male and happy. Her dad even mentions how he’s glad to see his SON happy and being his usual self. We have to admit, this made us tear up. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for every transgender individual but it is what we’re striving for, and clearly, even anime creators are doing their part to expand people’s minds and educate them about how it feels to be in that situation and what the proper reactions should be. Acceptance and love.
While this writer is only an ally and can’t speak from personal experience, it is clear that Yena’s feelings and the way he feels about his situation reflect those of transgender people and so do the reactions of those around him. We hope that this anime will give a glimmer of hope to those young people struggling with coming to terms with accepting who they really are regardless of what is expected of them and embracing it.
Also, Yena is not the only LGBT+ character we will meet in Seton Gakuen! We can’t wait to see what other amazing characters and life experiences we get to live with our new pack! Has this or any other part of Seton Gakuen spoken to you? What do you think about our essay? Have you read the manga? With as few spoilers as possible, what characters/relationships are you looking forward to seeing animated!? Join the conversation below!