As I’ve mentioned, I’ve recently become an Okami addict. One of things I like best about the game (besides the fact that it’s gorgeous) is that it gives me a chance to play as a strong, non-sexualized female character, i.e. a wolf. Yeah, yeah, laugh it up: The only way a women can not be sexual is to not be human. But it’s a refreshing change of pronouns to be able to exclaim, “She just tore that guy to shreds!”
That’s not to say that Amaterasu’s gender isn’t a bit confusing. Like Aile, she often gets talked to like a man. Then again, other gods address her as “mother to us all”. Of course, that in and of itself has got to raise some issues with the traditional male gamer audience. Especially since Okami is, in a lot of ways, a Zelda game. How do you go from identifying with the ultimate male heroic archetype to a female wolf? It makes me giggle.
But it’s not the first time us Japan-ophiles (There must be a real word for that. Someone help me here.) have encountered godly gender ambiguity. Take the animals of Princess Mononoke for example. The English dubbing features a female–if not feminine–wolf god; the Japanese a male. And let’s not even talk about the gender of boars.
In a lot of ways, the issue is a cultural one. If anyone out there has any insight [Thanks! Sometimes I'm a total space cadet] into how the Japanese view the gender of animals, now’s the time to speak up. But it’s also a question of gender in general. If sex is our biological difference, and gender is our constructed difference, than do animals ever have gender, or only what we project onto them? I know I can’t be the only one who can’t kick the feeling that every cat is female, and every dog is male.