Imagine your favourite work of a japanese visual medium (visual novel, manga, anime, etc). Then imagine if the genders of all the characters in the entire series were swapped. What exactly would change about it? Before I tried thought-genderswapping any work in particular, my original thought was: well, everything changes. But the more I thought about it, the less relevant gender became. For fanservice shows like Free!, Negima, Seikon no Qwaser, nothing would really change. These shows are still mostly about fanservice, albeit pandering to a different audience. For some story oriented works, like True Remembrance or Swan Song, there isn’t much of a significant change; the same story is still being told, more or less. Sure, it might be weird seeing a male Cardcaptor Sakura walking around in the strange outfits his friend Tomoyo designed while capturing Clow Cards, but its not at all detrimental the core of the anime. Even for the obscure and bizarre (think Ergo Proxy or Serial Experiments Lain), the work itself really wouldn’t change itself all too much, mostly because those works are usually abstracted to a point where gender is simply irrelevant.
So what does change? Well, the most obvious one is the demographic of the work. Idolm@ster with a male cast would probably go just as well with the male crowd as UtaPri with a female cast would with the females; i.e, they wouldn’t match at all. Not for all works though; story oriented works would probably capture the same audience, as would some of the more gender-inclusive slice-of-life works. The crowd of people that enjoy Azumanga or Daily Life of High School Boys would probably enjoy it the same regardless of the main characters being male or female respectively. Something like Kuragehime or Love so Life, a shojo/josei romance drama would probably reach the same Shojo demographic as well. Character stereotypes would also see a pretty significant shift. We’d have a lot more tsundere males, sadistic females, etc. But still, the core part of the work usually isn’t changing, unless the work has a character driven core.
All this is irrelevant without a proper example. Putting this into practice, I’ll take one of my favourite works, Working!, as a test dummy. Takanashi-kun is now a female shotacon who spends his time adoring over her co-worker, the lovely cute shota Popura, getting beat up by the gynophobic male Inami-chan and being bossed around by his Yakuza boss and all-around lazy manager, Kyoko. Souma is now a sadistic yandere, and Satou is a female gangster-yankee character that’s too shy to confess her love to the lovely, innocent and airheaded Todoroki. Sure, the premise seems weird at first, but how much has actually changed? Besides complaints of a now female Takanashi being physcially abused by Inami, the core of the show still remains unchanged. Takanashi still dotes upon Popura, Inami is still beating up Takanashi as a way to suppress his true feelings. Satou is still forever unable to make his feelings clear to Todoroki, but nothing has really changed. Working! would still be a light-hearted, comedic slice-of-life manga with some romance and a family restaurant setting, and I’d still be reading Working for those same general reasons. The crux of the work is still the same, more or less.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that, demographics aside, nothing really does change when a work is gender-swapped; or at the very least, the experience is still the same. This doesn’t mean I’ll start jumping headfirst into something like Inazuma Eleven, which I might have before considered playing if it was about lolis playing soccer, but I think its an important exercise to perform before truly judging a work. Are there any works you would’ve read or watched if they were genderswapped? More than likely, the general experience should still be the same, so give them a go anwyays.