WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Episode 1 of Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle - Rhyme Anima, "As soon as man is born he begins to die," now streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Music has the power to allow people to convey their deepest emotions, which can move listeners to tears or brighten their day. New to Fall 2020's anime lineup is Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle - Rhyme Anima, which brings these emotions into a harsh reality that turns rap music into a weapon that replaces the use of actual weapons. Spearheading this music-governed world is a powerful matriarchy, one that is blatantly sexist with its plans for the country.
In her opening dialogue, the ruling party's leader gets straight to the point as to what the rules of the new world are. As part of the regime's laws, traditional weaponry and its production are outright banned. In their place, people are granted "Hypnosis Mics" to fight with. These microphones grant their users the ability to turn music into psychic pain, unleashing attacks that don't damage the surroundings but instead, directly affect opponents.
The ridiculousness of the psychic projections used during these battles allows for the show to veer off from a serious tone. Considering that performers can project almost anything they like -- from rocket launchers to coffins -- the show avoids a realistic mentality in any way. In fact, it appears that there is no limit to how expansive these projections can get -- they even alter the backgrounds in some cases to fit with the rap music. However, if taken seriously, the world itself has multiple elements that contribute to the matriarchy's sexism.
The first element to look at is who typically uses "Hypnosis Mics." Throughout the premiere episode, men are the only ones to wield these psychic weapons. It is clear that men from all walks of life have access to them, ranging from doctors to playboys and gamblers alike. The government spends the premiere episode monitoring certain groups of men, intending to pit them against each other in rap battles at a later time. However, not a single woman is shown using them. As a matter of fact, the only situation where women enter the scene -- besides the ones running the new government -- are fangirls who get completely caught up in certain male-led performances.
The reasoning for this is probably down to the intentions of the matriarchy. When they first introduce their objectives they declare men as foolish and warmongering while women as the ones who are supposed to give rise to a "fresh start" under the matriarchy. This ideology points the finger at men for being solely problematic, claiming that they all lack the propensity for order. It's reductive and dehumanizing, painting men as merely animalistic stereotypes.
But this also has an adverse effect on the representation of women in the show. Since men are the ones that predominantly hold the mic, women are denied the ability to make their own music -- the spotlight, in other words. Everyone has their fair share of imperfections, and the fact that women aren't allowed to express themselves, warts and all, with these mics decenters them in a world that they purportedly run.
Just because there are men who can be violent and engage in criminal activity, it doesn't mean there aren't any women capable of the same thing. And the fact that there aren't women among any of the show's singing groups yet, nor among criminal organizations, reveals the sexist lens of this world.
Fortunately, the show carries itself in a way that keeps it from being overly serious, meaning that such complaints may ultimately go unheard among its viewers. Hypnosis Mic is an anime that you can appreciate as mindless entertainment -- and is probably best that way.