New Star Guardian skins have been announced, and what do we have? Another male Star Guardian skin.
Allow me to explain a little something about anime, and the mahou shoujo genre in particular. ~~Having grown up in Japan with a younger sister, I practically have a degree on the subject.~~ I'm not even going to get into the disturbing levels of visual maturity going on with Zoe's face in contrast to her usual demeanor. I'll let you off the hook for that one, because this other thing you've now done twice. Once, okay, novel joke, I'll accept it. But _twice_, I have to say something.
Anime as a medium isn't just about throwing random colors together (_Star Guardian Neeko..._) and it's no more about throwing random concepts together. I see League using "anime style" as an excuse to do "lol wacky japanese stuff" to its otherwise serious business characters, and that's... partially offensive, but more importantly, I feel like it's a letdown to these characters when judiciously applying the medium could _enrich_ the skins.
Why is it a problem that there are two male Star Guardians? Because mahou shounen is its own genre entirely. (In point of fact, mahou shoujo was derived heavily from the _tokusatsu_ genre (I think Kamen Rider might have gone to the west...? If not, I think you have a show called Power Rangers that was adapted from a popular tokusatsu; it's that) which itself was made "for boys". Mahou shoujo was literally created to give girls their _own_ chance to shine in a way that the characters from those live action series had in male-oriented action scenes. I digress.)
~~Apart from one outlier that's basically a novelty comic,~~ Mahou Shounen as a genre puts less emphasis on the flowery stuff and more on the fighting. It's literally "mahou shoujo for boys"; the themes of hope and wonder overcoming some great, often very trope-fueled evil are clear and present, but the style is very different. The art tends to be more harsh and blunt than it does for shoujo series. The characters tend to wear more practical clothing; often, mahou shounen series don't even use transformations at all. It's not about what the characters look like, it's about what they're doing and what's in their heart. The perception, I suppose, is that "boys don't care about all the visual fluff".
In any case, why is this an issue? Because characters like Ezreal and even Rakan _could_ actually benefit from such skins! I can absolutely picture Ezreal as a scrappy magic-wielding teenager who's standing alone (or with a couple friends) against the tide of darkness, in an alternate universe. I can _see_ Rakan as just a charming guy who happens to unlock a unique and wondrous power that he wields primarily to protect the one he loves. _I can picture all this._ It _works_, as far as alternate universe skins go.
Now, do men appear in mahou shoujo? Yes. But if they're not secondary characters who their role entirely in the heroines' "normal" lives, they're fanciful in their own, classically male way. Ezreal seems to take _some_ inspiration from the Tuxedo Kamen type characters of the genre, but he doesn't take it far enough. Why is this important? Well, if the man is _too_ fancy, _too_ similar to the heroines, he threatens to push them aside in their own series. That's not his role. His role is to support at key moments and help his heroines shine their brightest. This is why Tuxedo Kamen wears black and literally hides his face. Because the series isn't about him, it's about the Sailor Senshi. His visual appearance sets him apart and gives him a back seat, even at a glance.
> Shingetsu, you're rambling. Get to the point.
The point, dear reader, is this: Riot doesn't get the medium it's trying to pay homage to. Let's set aside that "anime" is simply shorthand for animation, and that you can find everything within that medium from abject horror to dumb comedy. Let's pretend for a moment it's a "thing", because it does have its own sort of image, especially overseas. Can you use it to inject some new flavor into your characters with themed skins? Yes! Absolutely. I mean, video games themselves sort of descended from the medium, so it makes enough sense.
However, you need to know what you're doing. If you put cinnamon in pancakes, it can taste really good, right? What if you don't know how to use cinnamon effectively? What if you just stir a random amount in, or worse yet, just throw it on the pancake after it's done? It's not gonna taste all that great. You need to know _how_ to make use of a thing in the context of what it's enhancing, and Riot doesn't seem to do that with anime. In putting an undue spotlight on Rakan and Ezreal, they detract from the spotlight placed on the "heroines" of the theoretical tale. In throwing Neeko the Technicolor Wonder into the mix as an excuse to get wild and crazy with "anime colors", they take attention and impact away from the champions who are actively enriched by the Star Guardian theme, such as Lux and (arguably) Ahri. In trying to do something overly... I dunno, "anime-esque" with Zoe, they _literally took away everything that made her look iconic_. It doesn't even look like Zoe, it looks like some cocky dark empress from a diminutive fantasy species.
Long story short, I lament as both a League of Legends player and a Japanese man. We have so many cool things that could influence League's skin choices, and they choose to zero in on a couple of very specific "anime tropes", dial them to 255, and sling them around with a yo-yo. So many missed opportunities... And ruined successes! Had these skins stopped at Lux, Star Guardian Lux would've forever been iconic. Now she's just "the least new Star Guardian".