Teenage wasteland

Don’t cry, Don’t raise your eye, It’s only teenage wasteland – Slavoj Žižek

Funny how references from the Monogatari franchise (1) sneak into Genshiken. Sue’s initial Shinobu act (btw: my previous Hato- build up logically references Shinobu Handa of Shojou Sect infamy, not Mono’s fallen demiurge.), the “hardware store, pot lid and awl” quote are just for starters.

I stutterd Genshiken_v10_035wb

We know that Kio Shimoku and Kōji Kumeta are friends, and that SHAFT creative light [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akiyuki_Shinbo] did work on the SZS animes – anyone care to do a full list?

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h55m05s107

Wasn’t that supposed to be “My abusive language is alchemized through 40 kg copper, 25 kg of zinc, 15 kg of nickel, 5 kg of ice and 97 kg of spite” ???

Ice pick Genshiken_v10_121crop

What if Genshiken was written as Bake(etc.)monogatari?

A great deal of the story in Genshiken moves along because the characters cannot bring themselves to say what they need to say to their friends, and that they stubbornly refuse to deal with their own internal contradictions. In the Monogatari franchise, everybody gets to talk at length and then some about teen neuroses; as these become the cause of their monstrous “aberrations” /possessions. Everyone eventually gets extremely personal. Sure they take the roundabout route first and look at every freaking angle in nearly endless bouts of dialogue, but they inevitably get painfully intimate as they examine each other’s internal “truths” and “lies”. It is always the lies told to one’s self that power the possession de jour.

capture_10092014_224548

Hato’s stands never grow cat ears or snake hair and set off on murderous late-night sprees.

The Genshiken’s members are isolated monads. The closest Mono-like comments in Genshiken are made by Kousaka on Madarame’s Saki crush. Keiko gets to prod Mada too, but it never goes too deep. It is that honne and tatemae thang again, yawn… but this goofy what-if contrast highlights the seductive appeal of the Monogatari franchise.

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h18m35s202

At first it the Monogatari franchise looks like a quirky supernatural high-school harem grinder, with plenty of outre fanservice, weird SHAFT design conceits and annoying pacing. TL:WO&O:DW

Lets take a closer look:

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h40m32s43

Welcome to the nightmare that is Chiba/ Kawasaki/ Yokohama Monogatari-Alphaville. Definitely a “new” town with too many wide- open streetscapes, big parks, empty pedestrian malls, industry on the edges, a beach/ waterfront and woodlands in the hills surrounding it.

deco bunk bed NiseMon e4web

An affluent burg; a three child family with both parents working in the police force can afford an amazingly spacious modernist/ art-nouveau deco house. Check out the bath room (Japanese homes traditionally put the john in a seperate water closet room) that looks like it is a cross between a spa and a church loft:

isanely large bath web

(Aside: A nice consideration of Degas and bath scenes and loli fanservice in the show can be read here:  http://karice.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/p239/ 
And while I’m at it, a tip of the hat to http://www.entravity.com/monogatari-series-second-season/  for its episodic reviews !!!)

The young rich monkey-armed fujoshi lives in a huge old-money walled and gated Japanese style mansion: it comes complete with the requisite tippy bamboo water gong. Her bedroom is the size of a banquet hall and is filled to her height with BL books.

uH7EeqI

Another of the female characters has a spacious bedroom with a balcony and a huge closet for hiding her deepest secrets within.

monogatari-5-38

Still another heroine has a terrible family situation and sleeps in the hall of her un-parent’s house, but it is a big hall. She will eventually get a good-sized bedroom of her own.

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h37m10s84

Even the tsundere heroine’s cartoon poverty digs are not too bad for an incomplete condo construction office suite turned into a home.

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-21h24m56s214

The school grounds are massive and fitted out with finishing design touches that would make a freshly built regional university drool. Sometimes the classrooms look like they could seat 200 students. Other times they are a bit more reasonably sized.

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h40m58s77

And then there is that donut shop on the edge of “town”: did SHAFT get a product placement deal? Western franchise style donut shops are rather scarce in the parts of Japan that I have visited. Equally scarce are highways out of town leading to Nevada-esque plains.

monogatari-8-17 (1)

These visual quirks and contradictions are there for a reason. Unlike the close, confined, safe and often claustrophobic social of a “real” Japan, Monogatari-Alphaville is a late-bubble economy, somewhat west-coast USA -like nowhere-ville. There is no “here” here. And it offers a cautionary frisson of danger to the Japanese reader: you want more space, more privacy, more autonomy?

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-23h57m46s238

Be careful what you wish for!

The distance between buildings and structures is mirrored by the distance between people.

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-21h24m32s160

One interesting way around this is the notion of “the character lens” brought out in this blog; http://surprisinglycomplex.blogspot.ca/2013/05/bakemonogatari-behind-summer-triangle.html . Definitely one of the go-to resources for the series, the reviews and essays on the franchise are excellent fun reading! You should visit! The idea behind the lens is that the exaggerations we see are the point of view of the POV character.

To restate for clarity: most of the first Mono (Bakemonogatari) is from the POV of the recovering teen vampire Koyomi Araragi. Buddy-boy’s brush with the supernatural has brought on a bit of maturity and he is now a bit less of a rebellious slacker and a bit more thoughtful, introspective and tyro- superhero- “responsible” – especially if the problem involves a girl in distress. He is good-hearted, tries to control his impulsiveness and ecchi urges and is in the process of learning how to negotiate his first serious romance with a formidable girlfriend.

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-17h12m50s255

Because he IS THE POV, we get to see his world in a slightly distorted way; sometimes through his eyes, mostly from tracking perspectives but always exaggerated by his perceptual leanings and state of mind at the time. The gory fight scenes were used as the primary example in the Surprisingly Complex essay. He might have extra ex-vampire strength and healing powers, but the violent stuff still hurts like heck; hence the over the top blood and gore.

monogatari-4-25-tsukihi-karen

His two younger sisters have become strong skilled brawlers and his chances for brotherly skinship and good-natured harassment – which often descend into borderline lolicon excess are limited…

dont wake me like that web

…so they are for the most part transferred to lost snail-cow ghost girl. The rest of the over the top fanservice can be similarly situated. Along with a trademark SHAFT ironic presentation, we get our pantsu shots and bath scenes but we can say that we are just laughing at the excess.

monogatari-8-19-koyomi-mayoi

As well they can be read as subjective exaggerations to highlight the residual character flaws of our slowly maturing male hero. He may have Ecchi urges, but he is controlling himself. He and his lady-love are even saving their virtue for after high school graduation. Even if they are almost “engaged” complete with meet the parents, they dont do the teenage lust make-out thing. It is a wonder that they had one good romantic kiss on the night of Tanabata. (D’awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!)

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-17h07m46s21

 Just ignore all the loli pantsu stuff…

Yup, tell that to the customs officers. Oh well, that’s what streaming sites are for.

Let us return to those wide open spaces. The character lens effect from buddy-boy’s POV can only explain so much of the expo/ world’s fair post-modern design nature of Mono-Alphaville. Time to drop a note over to the folks at Neojaponism – they understand commercial design trends, typography and layout a whole lot better than moi. They would have a lot better idea of what “era” is being referenced: I will stick with “bubble economy” because it is easy and vague.

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-23h14m42s251

Aside from freeing the SHAFT animators from the expense of detailed backgrounds by allowing for a clever reworking of CGI savings (dial DOWN the rendering quality from 2.9D to “superflat” then overdo perspective and colour shift for mood. Sell your production economies as style!) the design-conceit heavy spatialized mood of the setting emphasises the social ISOLATION of the characters and strengthens the bonds that form between them. The crowded, visually cluttered, complex and sometimes suffocating modern Japan that gives rise to rigid codes of honne and tatemae, honne and giri, uchi and soto, etc., are blown away like dust in the sterile, wide empty streets.

Cold Equations:

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h51m38s31

Aside from the superflat treatment, another inescapable characteristic of the background treatments are their linearity, their hard angles and the use of only the simplest geometric operations for curves. The streetscapes and the city may be jumbled, but it is a jumble born out a dropped geometry set, perhaps an echo of one of the heroine’s school supply weaponry. There are not a lot of complex, natural curves in Monogatari-Alphaville: everything looks like it came out of a 40-year-old street furniture supply company catalogue.

vlcsnap-2014-10-16-21h44m22s121

Even ruins are linear, hard horizontal and vertical strokes, as in the derelict cram school, set off by the one organic oddity that marks it as a magical space – a giant tree that has grown up through its roof.

Life goes on despite, rather than with the help of such a setting.

“To yourself be true. Don’t stress out. Don’t lie to yourself. If the truth of your life is unacceptable you can change that truth but you must change it through deeds not words. Skill suffers if practiced from a personal agenda. The kids are all right. Travel broadens one’s horizons. You can’t choose your family, but they are still your family. There’s no place like home”. These are the commonplaces of coming-of-age tales, and can be expected in a young adult story. Mono has got all these o’ plenty, but the supernatural focus on lies, especially lies told to one’s self verges into almost un-Japanese extremes and in doing so offers a Japanese audience the chance to vicariously experience the shedding of a claustrophobic tatemae in parallel to the experience of the anomic wide-open spaces of Monogatari-Alphaville.

You also get donuts!

And you get frenetic production-fourth-wall black, white, red, whatever transition frames, graphic conceits, text cards, stock illustration fast-cuts and other almost subliminal visual clutter to keep the eyes busy while the platitudes are being endlessly mulled over by the characters.

vlcsnap-2014-10-16-21h45m47s207

Jeesh! All they do is talk talk talk, but seldom has talk been so visually dynamic; except for the Zetsubo Sensei animes which shared the same frantic visual overload to compensate for inane dialogue. The Monogataries seems to have a more consistent style book governing the application of these distractions – as if the producers are trying to stay on a linear storyline, while keeping up the supply of eye-candy. Sometimes it just becomes a bit too much.

vlcsnap-2014-10-16-21h40m08s145

I would guess they are hoping the fans buy the blue ray and endlessly rewind pause-play for hidden extra bits.

This visual clutter adds a certain mood to the story; Shifting POVs, the consideration of multiple subjectivities and multiple, diffuse interpretations of barely understood events. While the roots of this kind of video trickery run deep in Western crime/forensic series, the effect here is to expand “width” of the storytelling and slow it down rather than chivvy the action along.

“How can you make Art out of the internet?” – R.A.Stone
“SLOW… IT… DOWN!!!” – overenthusiastic art student in the audience

Female trouble:

Many late-modern Japanese harem grinders lean toward odd female-centric exercises. The absence of males in the Mono franchise is glaring: the male lead’s dad remains offstage – we see mom do a cameo warning cat-girl not camp over too much, but no dad. The female lead’s dad silently chauffeurs them on a date.

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h56m46s72

Guys with agency occasionally make an appearance as part of the ghostbuster irregulars: Hawaii shirt and the con man form a good uncle/ bad uncle tag team that in the end perform similar functions. Of the two, the con-man Kaiki is far more nuanced. Supernaturally limited, he first appears as a Ray Bradbury Carnival devil and finally evolves into a flawed tough-love destroyer of delusions and a hopelessly romantic old dude who still cannot resist playing puppeteer.

monogatari-21-23

It is fitting that he gets his head severely whacked after saving the day at the end of one arc, reassuring that he pops up again sadder and perhaps a bit more of a shady uncle in a later storyline.

Otherwise it is the girls that get themselves possessed by gods, demons and other aberrations and the girls that eventually solve their own problems. Unfortunately they only seem to be able to solve their problems after being provoked, prodded, questioned, challenged and talked at by buddy boy and his uncle substitutes. At least they usually get to use buddy boy as a punching bag during the exercise, so fair is fair. When buddy boy has to go up against the women members of the ghostbusters, he again gets to both lecture them and get the stuffing beaten out of him.

capture_10092014_231928

The loli vampire shinobu ex- ridiculously long fake English name heart-under-blade occasionally helps out a bit, but usually buddy boy has to take a beating in order to underline the seriousness of his statements. And of course he then finally gets listened to, the woman/ girl in question goes Eureka, Duh! The problem is solved.

Humph!

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h01m44s61

At least in one of the last story arcs (considered chronologically) Hanamonagatori‘s tomboy gets to take on a problem herself. Free-er of outre fanservice than the rest of stories, it resolves as an odd tale of suspicion, respect, affection and regret between two young women who had once been rivals on the basketball court.

Suruga Kanbaru self-identifies matter-of-fact-ly as a lesbian, has a ridiculously excessive taste for BL books, (Note to Ogiuemaniax: Found another one for you!) and is getting used to not being able to hang around with Hitagi Senjōgahara (her first idealized “sempai” crush) and the once-rival for the affections thereof and now only male friend buddy-boy. Her demon monkey arm is still with her and slated to keep her away from sports (and soul-selling wishes) for another two years.

f04ho1thikzvtcoaugc1

Up until this tale, she had been the quirky athletic fanservice lesbian almost-member of the Araragi harem, but Hanamonagatori is her tale and she takes what she has learned from her sempais and her own possession experiences and acquits herself and her once rival with honor and dignity. Kaiki buys her Korean barbecue and drop vague hints (see bad uncle above) but leaves her to figure things out. We know he will treat her half fair-and-square because he owes a debt of respect and unrequited love to her deceased mom – who also just happened to be one of the most powerful ghostbusters ever. Another quasi-relative, a sex-shifting cypher with a face that recalls the mask of Darker than Black’s Hei pops up to prod things along, but his (currently) advice is always fraught with danger.

spooky hei close

When earlier story arcs needed a menacing bit of set-the-disaster-in-motion, mask face always appeared as a girl. It was a spooky touch to genderswap her for Kambaru.

monogatari-7-4 crop

Araragi pops up too, but declines to meddle or ask too much until all is well and done. Friends, not so much sempai and kouhai (or dearest sempai’s tolerable boyfriend) any more; a distance has also grown between them.

Maybe we are getting fed a yurified retread of an old shonen-ai story. Jeesh, the name (!) (a famous early 20th C Japanese f/f romance tale), the lily motifs in the credits, trolling, trolling, trolling… but still remarkably restrained. The previous arcs were not exactly a shining model of empowerment for young women. This time a reluctant girl apprentice takes on the task and does it in a way that only she could manage.

Hanamonogatari-Screenshot-246

Of course there will be a duel on the basketball court – which goes down a lot faster than the talk, talk, talk on the court that proceeds it. The basketballs were a nice touch.

So Monogatari(s) for the win…

But just think how much fun could be had if Genshiken had a Monogatari-ish cameo episode:

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h40m48s247

Rika chiding Yajima over the Hato-crush, their voices echoing through a deserted Tokyo Big Sight as the winter afternoon sun sets…(cue shining music)

capture_10092014_231115

Ogiue haunting a strangely derelict club-block (cue shining music) as a cat-eared monster that jumps out of windows, kicking Sasahara around until Ohno and Saki prevail upon her to heal herself.

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-23h51m26s33

Hato turning into gawd knows what with the stands, Kicking around Mada along campus plazas that seem to stretch on for miles (cue shining music).

University empty

Sue as Shinobu getting to beat the Hato continuum up, while telling them to heal themselves in fractured anime quotes.

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h24m32s208

Saki turning into a busty moe-blob fire starter Maid, kicking Madarame and Kuchiki around a a strangely deserted mall-scapes (cue shining music) until Kousaka gets her to calm down and heal herself.

hana12

Ohno turning into something Bayonetta-esque, or better; a demonized Murcielago knock-off and ripping apart the entire damn Genshiken membership male and female in a deserted onsen (that seems to stretch out for miles – cue shining music) until the batteries give out on Tanaka’s camera. She then reasons with her many alter-egos and heals herself. Some magical bullshit treats everyone’s injuries and they complain about too much cosplay in the Genshiken during a mixed bath scene.

Screen-shot-2010-01-03-at-8.58.07-PM

Rika turning into a mean cartoon drunk (cue Tom Waits music) kicking nobody, nobody really caring enough to tell her to snap out of it and heal herself.

Nawwwww, that probably wouldn’t work.

Shoganai no jinja.

Random Endnotes:

1) Yes, the word monogatori is just the bad romanization of the Japanese term for “tale” or “story”, so of course this refers to the SHAFT produced anime franchise and the light novels by that they are based on. See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monogatari_(series). Excerpt: “.. A series of Japanese light novels written by Japanese novelist Nisio Isin and illustrated by Taiwanese illustrator Vofan. Kodansha has published 18 novels since November 2006 under their Kodansha Box imprint, with at least one more novel planned.

One fan’s listing of the anime so far:

Story’s Chronological Order
1. Kizumonogatari -Movie Prequel (in perpetual post-production)
2. Nekomonogatari: Kuro
3. Bakemonogatari
4. Nisemonogatari
5. Monogatari Series Second Season
-Nekomonogatari: Shiro
-Kabukimonogatari
-Otorimonogatari
-Onimonogatari
-Koimonogatari
6. Hanamonogatari should be between Kabuki and Otori

And unreleased parts are: 
7.Tsukimonogatari
8. Koyomimonogatari
9. Owarimonogatari
10.Zokuowarimonogatari

Dreams are sacred

Ok, I reconsider. I made a mistake. I went back and read more and I like it. I was wrong, it is funny and has a heart. No more snark about Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish) shall be allowed in this blog. Two things lead me to change my mind. First, I let slip a rash judgmental dismissal of it at a certain conference while in conversation with one its (possibly strongest) fans, and I saw the hurt on her face. I shit-heel! If it can cause such a reaction, It must have something to love within it. I don’t make fun of love. It is pretty well the only thing we have going for us as a species.

Reason numero two: I last looked at it some 2 years ago, and I never clued in that the later-appearing wonderful autobiographical manga about art school and becoming a pro mangaka; Kakukaku Shikajika was drawn by the same person. Then I hit an author’s comment section and HEY WAIT A SECOND! this looks familiar! Duh! The mangaka is Akiko Higashimura… I love that manga!  I had a couple of excellent teachers at art school. I felt a twinge of nostalgia and guilt when I read Kakukaku. What have I done to justify all the extra effort they put into teaching me?

Besides, now that Jellyfish is well into 70 something chapters and 14 volumes, it must be recognised as a force majeur in the depiction of female otaku/ collector maniacs/ social isolates/ fujoshi. I note that they, like the Genshiken fujoshi, come in a variety of body types and over-subscribed enthusiasms. This series pretty well holds the patent on the trope. The crossdressing male lead initially raised suspicions with me for two reasons: The crossdressing male who would teach females how to present as females is an annoying cliché and the magic rich kid (the rich are different from us) is frequently used to excuse all manner of plot holes, while the implications of a growing class divide in Japanese society are papered over. I should have read more. Perhaps he is more of a “positive subversion of the patriarchy” as some bloggers who burn powder about such things suggested.

Like the series’ advocate at the conference, the male lead is a theatre fan, as well as a fashion fan, and the mangaka seems to have done enough research (and/or shares in his enthusiasms – wait; she reveals that she has re-married into the cloth trade!) to pull off his devotion convincingly. As well, clunky social class tropes get better use as the series progresses; the treatment of inequalities grow more important, sharper and more central to the plot and the comedy. When Kuranosuke Koibuchi explains away his family calling him “son” as a family tradition of being raised as a boy to be groomed for politics (a fast bit of bullshit to avoid being reveled as a guy to the other “amars” aka; buddhist nuns), the Rose of Versailles idiocy that follows is great low comedy.

As for the crossdressing: well, he still has “reasons” other than professed issues of sexuality. He absolutely wants to avoid the family business (national politics), he enjoys the company of women, and he really likes fashionable women’s clothes; he is an extreme fashionista. It’s his hobby – any problem with that? He still is a bit of a magic rich boy, complete with chauffeur, connections and a generous allowance and will do the stock magic- rich- boy- starts- a- business- on- the- fly- to- make- a- fortune- and- save- the- day routine, but so far the trope is being handled with enough detail and commotion as to move the story forward without jumping the shark. That plot was good enough for Sophia Loren some 50 years ago (minus any gender dysphoria) so who am I to complain? Add to this that both the boy and jellyfish girl have “lost mother” syndromes that fuel their devotions; to jellyfish, the theatre and high fashion, then add a ruthless fashion empire mogul who grew up an orphan and the characterizations grow to Dickensian proportions.

The brother's secret imagined

Jellyfish is not shy about hiding its shojo/ josei manga roots either. Because it is shojo (and/or josei) it is remarkably free of service for guys, which is curiously refreshing. Instead there are ironic floral panels and other rom-con tropes pushed to absurd lengths and service for the girls; a drunk cross-dressing boy collapses butt nekkid in our heroine’s hotel room before she is about to be whisked away to Singapore. Then there are the more josei-ish plot lines: the brother’s romantic side-story is a wonderful mess of bad-girl seduction going awry and pure innocent goodness triumphing (or tested and soon to triumph – but I didn’t like the plot turning on a slap – I will assume that it is a mouldy true- romance chestnut) It only serves to highlight the main trick most of the comedy and 3/4 of the characterization that drives the story forward: none of the characters are really up to their schemes (except perhaps the once-orphan clothing mfg tycoon – just wait, he’ll get his too!)

Then there is the fun with the amars: They and their social isolate friends seem to just be waiting until that pig Dr. Mallion gets his mitts on them and bends them to productive ends. (apologies to Dr. Ralph Von Wauwau). Well, sort of… The faults of the amars run very deep and so they will screw up even the simplest of operations. It is a miracle that they can feed themselves, except that they need some survival skills for the perpetually meat-starved ronin/ neet trope that also pops up a bit too often. Perhaps they should have tried opening a restaurant?

Hello? Work?

Finally, it is hard to avoid noticing that Jellyfish refuses to shy away from the economic and social malaise in Tokyo that has crushed down young, middle-aged and old alike, hollowing out the economy, the city and the lives of people. Nor does it hide the profound fear that is very much a part of our heroine’s shyness; the turn to stone thing is funny, but our heroine about to go on a date is whole other level of realistic, raw trauma. The comedy has an edge to it.  What saves it from being mean and depressing isn’t that the characters; the girls and the boy are so odd, but that they love their enthusiasms and have begun to dream.

So, Kuragehime for the win.

Dreams are sacred.

On that note, Genshiken 104 raws are out! Both Hato-chan and Yajima get their  newest works examined by Ogiue. Much blushing ensues.

Scooped!

I'm not a Fan-boy..

I’m not a Fan-boy..

Dammit, beaten to the punch!

Fandom is less like being in love than like being in love with love.” – Michael Joseph Gross.
“Is it possible to tell the history of popular culture, not through celebrities, sports teams, or television shows, but through their fans? The exhibition Love to Love You brings together artists who explore fandom as a unique opportunity for shared social experience and extreme personal obsession. For many, being a fan means entering a fantasy world of devotion. Fandom transcends material consumption and becomes a fictional space in which people play out their hopes and dreams. In this sense, looking at fans tells us more about the emotional and cultural attachments we form to objects than about popular culture itself. Using a variety of artistic approaches, the artists in this exhibition explore the lived experience of fandom as both a personal and social force. These artists present fans, not as passive spectators, but active participants in culture.”

From the Love To Love You, Exhibition Brochure from The Massachusets Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA)  http://issuu.com/massmoca/docs/lovetoloveyou

Return the gift

Too much in the way of non-Genshiken fun this last month in the few still moments between the shit-storm of IRL work pressures. I even managed to make it to an honest-to-goodness academic conference (ostensibly discussing theoretical approaches to fan studies) full of very enthusiastic slash-fen! Aimed for Kousaka-level “Wow! Great work!” interactions but probably only managed lurking Kuchiki status. Just like Genshiken; except the clubroom was full of Kaminaga-level rotten girls who also happened to be graduate and post-graduate researchers. It was fun in an odd way: They all were happily glowing in the lights of their enthusiasms. They were wonderful! I wonder how the other 3-4 (one via Skype) guys present felt?

Much about the conference and the useable insights generated therein will have to wait, but by way of an appetizer, here is an odd bit of compare and contrast social anthropology: Japanese rotten girls KNOW that the larger public knows of their tastes, and that franchise owners will bait and pander to them. They enjoy the attention, all while seeking to subvert it and make it (once again) their own private party.

The Western, anglo-euroethnic fan-girl/ slash enthusiast still for the most part thinks that she is still in deep cover and that her enthusiasms are protected by elaborate secret handshakes, passworded forums (forii?) and segmented arrays of divergent fandoms that make it hard for the man to gauge, market, monetize and pander to her tastes.

I hate to break it to the wimmens, but your secret is out.

Oh, and us guys had better get used to a whole lot more goggle-bait; pseudo-m/m homosexual looking wink wink nudge nudge moments tossed into every damn tv show, movie and performance from now on until the end of time. It is not a gay plot; but It is after your girlfriend, your sister and your mom. Get used to it!

Capitalism knows no country, and it cares even less about gender norms than it does about citizenship. TM

Last month I had decided to catch up on the Dr.Who franchise, and ploughed through season 3 of Sherlock. The wedding episode was good, the other two felt clunky. As well I decided to see what the spin-off lads (and lassies) at Torchwood were up to with the Children of Earth season/arc. Just a bit of light video to decompress from work, along with a re-watching of The Fifth Element (Whooohah!), the CGI Harlock, Tim’s Vermeer (you must see it!), Beyond the Boundary (good), a quirky electric girl anime (almost an ikumen story) and massive amounts of odd you-tube clips (pulse-jet bicycle exploits, Japanese media arts installations, etc.) Interactive maps of geo-tagged cat pictures from around the world and everything by Charles Stross I could lay my hands on.

Imagine my surprise when some of the fen at the conference started going on about the near sadomasochistic interaction between the producers of certain BBC franchises and their female fandoms. Pander in a way that appears to be listening to the fen-base but then lie and deny any influence. Feelings within the fen-dom are a bit hurt. Some of the more LGBTQIA activist fen even went so far as to characterize this behaviour and the trolling within the series as Gay-baiting.

Gay-baiting?

Oh yes, ‘dem nasty BBC producers are sneaking all that stuff into Torchwood, Dr. Who and Sherlock to attract a gay male audience, yup, right! The could not possibly know of the super-secret covens of squeee-ing fangirls… No way; still a deep dark secret, nobody here but spinsters with cats and Harlequin romances; pay no attention, these are not the fans you are looking for…

Ship and ship again!

Please pull the other one, it has bells on it.

If the producers wanted a gay male viewership they would invite them directly, Same for a lesbian demographic. They for example, would not have Torchwood‘s Ianto Jones mouthing the classic “It’s only him” (“I’m not gay”) line a few episodes before he is dramatically killed off.

“It must always be: “I’m not gay, it’s only him” for maximum fujoshi squeeee!”
-Slavoj Žižek, Introduction to Transmedia Marketing Strategies,
Tessier-Ashpool Marketing Associates, 2011, Chapter 2; The Fangirl.

Nor would the producers of Sherlock dare to do the Holmes casual “I’m a pederast, Watson is my lover” throwaway line to shock some annoying idiot at a dinner party, as some of the earlier Holmes side-story movie (c.f.Seven-percent Solution?) did. Even if you can play with a furious Watson for a few minutes… Nope, It’s all left to Mrs. Hudson.

You cannot keep the fangirls interested unless you tease and tease and tease again but never resolve. This leaves them acres of space in which to fan out, ship and fanfic. Close the gaps and you lose the magic. Admit to baiting them and again you lose the magic. Add the potential of copyright lawsuits to the mix and stir, Mmmmm: secret secrecy recipe!

So the term you want, but avoid using, Oh dear sisterhood is Slash-baiting, and it is aimed dead cold at you, with low orbital ion cannon.

They know very well that you exist.

I admit it is a bit of a hurdle for the 30+ cis-gendered straight male mind to digest at first, but once assimilated it is very easy to understand and process… (Unless the lacanian wound opened by the realization causes you to go all obsessive study-study-study about it…) And turn into marketing. No more hiding. No point.

I would also venture that these BBC producer guys probably draw their understanding of the phenom from casual literature about Japanese fujoshi (and their diaspora sisters) as the fujoshi is a more unified concept than the diffuse tribes of western slash-fen. These marketing types are a scary analogue to Hato; spam-bots trying to masquerade as fujoshi. Corporate cross-dressing as a Turing test.

Once again; instrumental profit-accumulating enterprises don’t really care about meat-ware concerns like citizenship, sexual politics or even ideology beyond base levels that favour self-preservation. Fox News would go hard Maoist if it could make more money that way, or at least spin-off a clone division to capture that market.

“Transgression, sex and networks; these were all on his mind when Glashwiecz phones again.” -Stross, Accelerando

Whew! That Charles Stross stuff came in handy. He wasn’t the first to notice any of this but his restatements sure are elegant.

A similar effect is underway in what I like to call immersive marketing spaces or marketing V3.0 which has been enabled by the web 2.1 clutter of feedback/response channels.

So the producers, writers, stars and even virtualised characters will blog, twitter, tumbler, meet, greet, con, self-fic, self-dojin, sign autographs, reply in the letter columns and publish fan-art on the back pages of the monthly magazine. In fact they MUST do all of these to %110 and the minute a new tactic of pseudo-intimacy with their consuming public is developed it must be massively and parallel-ly implemented across the franchise. Welcome to the permanent corporate cross-platform, multi-channel selfie from now until the sun grows cold.

Present state of the art in Japan runs from %60 in manga to %95+ in Visual-Kei.

Western fen/fans: prepare for the onslaught, it approaches like a thief in the night.

Don’t let this bullshit kill what you love.

In the meantime, watch the marketing droids occasionally screw up and have a good laugh.

I betcha they try to sell you Sherlock’s boxer shorts.

and righteousness like a mighty stream…

Congratulations to the 2014 Hugo winners, with special congratulations to John Chu for his short story: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, which can be read at  http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/02/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere.

I am highlighting this story for a few reasons. First there was a bit of a trolling controversy set up in the nominations this year and it looks like the fans who voted for the Hugos were less than impressed by the trick. The sci-fi community has had plenty of similar controversies in the past, including entire religions trying to game the system.

Good try, nice of you all to drop a high school debating club gambit into the fandom… Not!

More importantly, more stories like John Chu’s The Water… are exactly what are needed to again show that the entire opening up of the field of narrative, of story-telling by voices that have previously kept (or been kept) silent is a great, honorable, beautiful and needed thing. And it was done with such heart; the minimum of sci-fi tricks; no scaring the horses; a real class act! Damn! What a sweet love story, with guys… (1)

And because this is a blog about Genshiken, manga, anime and games – mostly from Japan, I hope that some Japanese rotten girls get a translated copy of this story, find it boring and then realize that while they can still make their own personal hawt fantasies, something that is closer to “authentic” and “not-other” is sitting off to the side waiting for them whenever they are ready for it. Some of them already are. Heck, this one should be emailed to a whole bunch of -insert your fave ass-hat bigot- for- profit here- but they would ignore it and/or just use it as proof of some damned conspiracy or another.  That’s what they do to put food on the table; it is the banality of evil made even more stupid and banal.

Oh K-rist must stop now…

As for a whole bunch of the rest of us; including a middle age cis-gendered het guy like me who is still working on getting the stupid bogie-men of all manner of different prejudices learned in my youth out of my wetware, stories like this are a relief from the aforementioned bullshit that makes up “the culture wars” (2).

Glad I developed the sci-fi habit way back when – It helps a bit.

Well done and well done!

Thank you John Chu.

PS: Yup; the majority of fans who voted really meant to prove that heartfelt writing, even if dealing with history, gender politics and stories deserved applause, hence the award for “Best Related Work” / Best Fan Writer essay: We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley  http://www.sfwa.org/2013/05/guest-post-we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative/ …Just in case the high school debating club team didn’t get the message: -FLICK- on de ole forehead… (And not in any way to say the essay won for controversy and not quality – dammit everything goes sideways when the little politiks games intrude.)

 Meanwhile in the non-controversy department, Equoid by Charles Stross http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/09/equoid  (Wow thats 3 winners all free and legal for the web-reading!) Is buckets of Lovecraftian fun, with 3 more freely available “Laundry” tales out there as well.  

Thanks and congrats to these writers and their web enablers/ crew/ co-conspirators for the fine reading materials! Guess I can stay off the manga aggregator sites tonight,

Random Endnotes:

1) Later: Zeitgeist time? The fans voting for the Hugos had no way of knowing that the gentle “Love is Strange” movie was about to be released. see:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/08/22/love_is_strange_anti_lgbtq_workplace_discrimination_happens_in_real_life.html

2) Later again: So I gushed enthusiastically about this story to a married lesbian friend and she shivered when the “meet the parents” theme came up. I then made a few noises about how painless it was for a stick- in- the- mud- straight- guy to read a m-m gay romance story. Her very gentle rejoinder: “Don’t worry, a lifetime of reading het stuff hasn’t turned me straight”. Extreme Duhhh!-on- me moment!

Thus love betrays us

Warning: plenty of gender role issues and stereotypes are going to be tossed around herein, and some may be handled clumsily in the course of inquiry and exposition. I’m reaching here – cut me a bit of slack…

In chapter 102 of Genshiken Madarame has finally ended up at Keiko’s hostess club and is drowning his confusion in expensive drinks, courtesy of salaryman Kugayama’s (AKA Kugapii) who thinks that what Mada needs is some conventional gender-role’d interaction with women.

Should have tried it this way

While the earlier idea of visiting a soap-land and “losing it” was discarded for something a bit less frightening, there is a strong undercurrent in the previous chapter of Kugapii seeking to fix Madarame’s distress by expanding his horizons in societally approved directions (Kugapii is also looking for a wing-man in his own forays into barely know territories). Madarame’s confusion and discomfort at finding himself happy with Hato-as-chan’s attentions; receiving Hato-chan’s valentines day chocolate; his revisiting of his josou game collection and his attendant male hysteria is all but announced as being the exclusive result of him being only exposed to the feminine through his interactions with the atypical Genshiken females. After Saki, it is all just much-younger rotten girls and one closeted cross dressing boy. Time for some “real” female interaction.

Keiko does not disappoint: Starting off as a proper hostess, she quickly drops her act and becomes the Keiko we all know and lurv, fully entitled to her personal judgements (honne entitled?) about Madarame and exasperated at him. Mada gets an earful and is relegated back to her fave “watermelon-boy “Wantanabe” status. (cue the beach scene – what happens to watermelons at the beach?) But the best part of Keiko’s rant is a full-page (plus a half-page wind-down) blast at Hato:

Bad Karma, a sensual obsession

So… Keiko is a transphobe? Or is this personal?

Before that, consider Keiko the hostess: At one extreme, solicitous and friendly. At another extreme, into direct personal scolding mode – so much so that her co-worker calls her on it. And then a few minutes later, subservient in her job-role; she cannot leave since she was specifically requested, nor politely (pull the other one – this must be a point-of-work-pride thing: the mark buys the drink without being asked) ask Mada to buy a round. Figure that the night’s festivities can easily run well over $500. Dude, you OWE Kugapii big time!

Why she invites Madarame back to her place after all this is a whole ‘nuther thing to be left for Chapter 103…

Aside from the fun possibility that Keiko is being re-written in as the villainous woman trope from a yaoi grinder, why would she “Irae Babylon! Mighty is thy Judgement!”? It makes her look like a bully, or at least someone loading up the howitzer to deal with a fly. As well she tries to make it clear; she cannot condemn Mada if he wishes to go off and find some man-love, but Hato (chan or kun?) is personally suspect and nothing but trouble – he has already done inconsiderate things to Madarame and can be expected to do more and worse.

What things? Where has she gleaned her information from?

Kio Shimoku has just expanded the field strength of his reality-is-reality Vs fantasy-is-fantasy motif, and he is edging into the territory of IRL controversies. After all, Hato-as-chan manifests only in the safe space of the Genshiken social, where Hato has gradually been elevated to VIP member and object of interest by the real (gotta use the polite academic term) cis-females therein. Whenever her fugue states and over-rotten episodes have caused fallout, Hato has been supported by the rotten girls, even as they occasionally essentialise him as a perverted freak behind his back (no, it is not Hato’s buttplug, it is part of Ohno’s costume). But now Hato has cranked Hato-chan up to 11, she is courting Madarame, visiting him, cooking for him and going full metal nadeshiko in his direction. Something about all this has set Keiko off, even to the extent of considering Madarame’s behaviour with Hato as being an injury to Saki.

How could that be?

Gen ch102 p19web

A polite and nuanced explanation that gives Keiko the benefit of the doubt would be that the fallout from Hato’s frustrating can’t decide liminality dance makes him a danger to himself/herself and others, but she doesn’t really have enough knowledge of the fine details of the Hato saga to pull that off. She is going by gut impression and what she knows and has previously frowned at: (in her view) a self-serving ego gratifying indecisiveness, a glimpse of Hato-chan getting much to close to Madarame during the neck-fugue state episode and her sudden enlistment into the harem competition. The combination carries a strong whiff of jealousy and bigotry.

competitionp21web

Getting bested by Angela or even Sue would be bad enough.

Is that the only reason why Keiko considers Hato not just “fake”, but dangerously- defective- as- a- human- being fake?

This sure looks like old-school canon transphobia, springing from the same sources as the derogatory term “trap”, and still a rather heavy bone of contention even within the gender-politics community, even if internal politics has shifted the goalposts a bit over the last 40 years. We humans like our “others” in neatly defined categories and boxes, and sometimes the violation of these categories can provoke a visceral, irrational disgust and over-the-top hate-on, especially when the category violation threatens the boundaries of our own chosen categories. Check your privilege time perhaps… or something closer to the sleep of reason and the monsters that wait beyond it. Checking privilege does little to de-fuse pure post-Lacanian psychobabble horror and that horror is regrettably very real. We need better tools to deal with it.

Amazingly, IRL culture wars surrounding this effect are spilling over into the popular media and even into the manga/anime bog- verse. And there are a lot of raw, exposed nerves on all sides of the arguments. If a few select articles in Slate and other publications are to be relied on, it seems that a small subset of trans-folk, who have worked hard to become the sex that they feel that they are, despite the body dealt to them at birth are viscerally cheesed off with the vulgar, lower-class, commercial behaviour of the drag demi- monde. Bricks are flying back and forth. Meanwhile some folks take the Judith Butler “presentation” paradigm as a gospel of liberation, while others feel that it is a deep insult; “I am not presenting as, I am!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/05/30/is_tranny_a_slur_or_an_identity_who_decides.html

Bleh(!) say others, transgression as an art form is a good way to shake up fascist hegemonies (you fascist…).

http://www.vox.com/2014/4/22/5639386/why-trans-people-arent-big-fans-of-rupaul-right-now

Well, at least some of them…

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/07/24/is_drag_a_trans_identity_or_just_a_job_a_queen_explores_her_art.html

A few years ago I would have been scared spit-less to read about any of this stuff, and I am probably pissing off some folks by this clumsy vicarious little excursion into an area of personal politics that all sides hold very close to their core sense of being.

Why can’t everyone just get along?

Because why everyone can’t get along is the core of the problem.

Fictional representations in JVC tropes (and global pop cultures in general) only serve to further muddy the waters; the transgendered vs the trap vs the otokonoko vs the drag queen vs the might be gay – might not, might be trans, might not female impersonator vs the josou game’s better than female charas all serve as imperfect fun-house mirrors to bitterly contested spaces in the 3D ‘verse. And then they upend the problem by encouraging folks to go on little what-if excursions. They are only cartoon characters, right?

“”The culture surrounding “passing” is problematic as it classifies people who don’t or don’t want to fit into two narrow, relatively stagnant categories of male or female as problems themselves while simultaneously discrediting the “authenticity” of people who do have passing privilege. There is no way to win. A person who is not deemed masculine or feminine “enough” is ridiculed and reviled for not having correct body language; for lacking or for possessing body hair in “right” or “wrong” places; for not having hips or chests that are the “correct” shape; for being too tall or short, too broad or too slight; for not having one’s makeup or wig look “right” and so on.

Yet the corollary is that a person who does pass, who looks close enough to “socially acceptable” standards for femininity or masculinity is considered a “trap” or dishonest, which can also lead to that person being outed and attempts to harm or humiliate upon “discovery.” Some times even safe spaces are not entirely safe, as gender policing can also be a problem within the queer community.””
-http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Gender policing eh? Sounds nasty:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-long-history-of-transgender-exclusion-from-feminism

Yikes!

Perhaps it is time to pull a Schultz…

“I know nothing, I see nothing…”

Later: Ok, It’s not that big of a deal;  the minor fights at the edges of the great project of asserting the rights of all people have been going on for ages. See:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/08/06/the_new_york_post_says_feminism_is_imploding_is_wrong.html

See also for this really neato pre-internet archeology article on AOL and FIDONET and early gay BBS forum activities (wow! Fidonet! that takes me back, never knew…) Looks like folks have been arguing this one for decades

” That policy prompted the Great Trans Debates and the Great Bi Debates every six months or so,” Goodloe recalls, “as everyone weighed in with their opinions of who counted as a ‘woman’ and whether bisexuals should be allowed in ‘lesbian only’ space.” -http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/08/lgbtq_nerds_and_the_evolution_of_life_online.single.html

Lookie at the new neighbourhood Kio Shimoku has written himself into.
Nawww, that is all just gaijin weirdness, they make a lot of noise, don’t they?

Come the revolution everyone will walk around wearing a biographical sandwich board stating their personal preferences and outlooks, as well as their personal histories and how they legitimately and authentically arrived at them, at least until we all wear Google Glass. Or perhaps as one really odd sci-fi writer has suggested we will all wear elaborate facial makeup markings to indicate what we feel like being TODAY.

Anything else is the salt-monster from Star Trek or its direct ancestor; CL Moore’s Shambleau 

Read it yourself and tell me it ain’t ‘nuthin more than medusa repackaged… https://archive.org/details/Shambleau19331948

A more reasonable alternative is the path of inclusivety, and a sensitive politically correct essayist should keep an eye on the best practices in the field to add letters as needed.

Extend Shields!

“LGBT: Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. An umbrella term that is used to refer to the community as a whole. Our center uses LGBTQIA to intentionally include and visibilize the Queer, Intersex and Asexual communities under our umbrella.” — http://lgbcenter.ucdavis.edu/lgbt-education/words-that-are-transphobic-and-why

Well, that sounds like a more reasonable approach, I hope it works out…

So… Hato is not indecisive or liminal or even suffering from gender-panic induced dissociative personality disorder: the Hatos are genderqueer (stuff your categories, we know what we like!) and since the Hato continuum is still a virgin in 2,5D land, despite having consumed two metric shit-tonnes of distaff pr0n, they are somewhat in the same space as Watamote’s anti-heroine Kuroki Tomoko.

Perhaps Keiko is simply pissed off at Tomoko-ish behaviour in Hato.

Living up to societal sex/ gender role ideals is hard for everyone. Hence the appeal of virtual/ fictional vacation tour packages at greatly reduced rates.. One essayist suggests another take on rotten-girl desire:

“For many girls, the pretty, but unmade-up boys of manga and anime are in fact far more like themselves than the huge busted, bombshell women that are both likely to inhabit anime [and] manga designed for men and boys, and that are a regular part of our western media viewing experience.

Blogger Kerryg (2009), writes about the mere possibility of the female gaze in her Hub entry, ―The Female Gaze. She argues that of course a female gaze exists, but is only beginning to appear in explicit ways (in the work of women filmmakers, such as Sophia Coppola). ―However, she suggests, ―it is much more common for women and girls to subvert the intended gaze of media than to create their own Gaze. For many, this is an unconscious process; for others, it is knowingly revolutionary‖ (2009). She cites the work of fangirls as evidence of this move, offering that they are “Re-cutting the world to match their eyes”.
– Bringing Smexy Back: Fangirl Production, AMVs, and Transgressive Sexuality, Elizabeth Birmingham – http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bringing-Smexy-Back-by-Elizabeth-Birmingham.pdf

(The referenced Kerryg essay can be found here:  http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/The-Female-Gaze)

Which leads to a further weird digression:

I must take back any dismissive asides previously made in the direction of Ouran Host Club, thanks to the elegant exposition at: http://gaggingonsexism.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/what-i-love-about-haruhi-fujioka/
(the earlier cited paper on it  didn’t work for me – too much blah blah, the 3rd party Mizoguchi mis-attribution made the BZZZZZT – Wrong alarm go off and the conflation of Japanese dojinshi parody with western gay male camp is strained. The author would have gained more traction by using a compare and contrast parallel evolution approach. Finally the analysis ignores the centrality of the Haruhi character.)

What an interesting thing; even if it does go on, and on, and on…

The manga is clearly aimed at giving its (presumed) young female readership a lot of eye-candy and some rotten-girl-lite titillation, but it also solves the problem of the female gaze by inserting into the story an androgynous heroine who is unconcerned with her or anyone else’s outward gender presentation. As the series goes on, stereotypes of gender presentation and playful transgression are heaped willy-nilly one on top of another and all Haruhi can do is sigh with mild annoyance and occasionally puncture ego balloons with deadpan snark. And while the boys get weirder and weirder in search of the ultimate host club experience for their “typical” female clientage, they also begin to fixate on her – especially by trying to get her to act as a properly feminine girl during her off-hours.

Meanwhile she gets to (at first reluctantly) enjoy being part of an over-the-top band of guys – what academia charmingly refers to as a “homosocial”. The only whiff of nastiness comes during reoccurring episodes of class-war snobbery and when a central casting nasty lesbian separatist club (who watches over us again???) from a nearby girl’s school decides she could be a perfect Bifauxnen and tries to steal her away from her oddball social club. Tsk tsk! Thou shalt not use “lesbian” as a pejorative, to do so is insensitive and low-class! Sensible, polite and serious Haruhi gets 2 points on the set-up.

Not quite an obverse of Hato, but close enough for 3-chord rock and roll.

Except that even such a manga-verse comparison can be fraught with complications. The word-of-the-day is transmisogyny, and is best illustrated by the following exposition on Wandering Son: (note that pronoun usage follows presentation and Deemed X At Birth acronymage is used)

“In junior high school, Takatsuki and Nitori meet Sarashina Chizuru, a cis-identified girl who just enjoys wearing a boy’s uniform because she feels like it fits with her cool persona. She turns up to school a few times in it and also tends to wear non-regulation ties with her girls’ uniform. Sarashina’s blatant disregard for the rules gives Takatsuki courage to wear the boys’ uniform that was given to him by Yuki, a transwoman who acts as mentor and confidant to Takatsuki and Sarashina. (In the manga, the uniforms belonged to Takatsuki’s older brother and sister.)

When Takatsuki wears a boys’ uniform to school, everyone thinks that he is cool and edgy like Sarashina. Part of this fairly positive reaction stems from his peers are viewing Takatsuki as a tomboy engaging in temporary cross-dressing instead of a transgender boy trying to dress toward how he wants to be perceived. Although the administration is annoyed with Takatsuki for breaking the dress code, the other students’ misreading of Takatsuki’s actions as fun and temporary largely protect him from transphobic reactions, although their reaction causes a sense of discomfort for him, as it plays upon the disconnect between how one sees their own gender presentation and how others see them. This discomfort also occurs earlier in the manga when Takatsuki gets his first period and is teased by the other boys because it “proves” that he’s “really a girl.”

Like Takatsuki with his androgynous clothes and binder, Nitori also wears clothes that make her comfortable in her gender expression in her free time. Outside of school, she wears a long wig and skirts at home with friends in public in disguise, often with Takatsuki, and is delighted when she “passes” (more on this later). Her success in passing in public, her friends’ admiration of how good she looks in girls’ clothes, and Takatsuki’s wearing of a boy’s uniform at school leads Nitori to follow Takatsuki’s example and to come to school in her girl’s uniform. However, Nitori is immediately recognized by the teachers and then mocked mercilessly by her peers. She is sent to the school nurse and then sent home from school. In the anime version, the characters sometimes talk to the camera, and after this incident, they discuss how differently everyone reacted to Nitori’s and Takatsuki’s perceived cross-dressing, noting that girls’ fashion offers more options for gender expression in clothing, and that Takatsuki’s interest in androgynous and masculine clothes is treated as more normal than Nitori’s interest in feminine wear. Few anime are this deliberate about how the masculine is prioritized and deemed culturally cool but the feminine is reviled, and how DMAB people who embrace culturally feminine clothing and pursuits often face greater social consequences, from ridicule to violence.”
-http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Back to why exactly is Keiko so pissed off at Hato? Are we back in the old days of a trans-gendered individual who seeks to realize their subjective gender racking up more authenticity points than a cross-dresser, who is a “mere tourist or hobbyist”?  Is it the old cant that passing imposes a certain burden upon forthright behaviour for individuals during transition (which is even more insulting than the “trap” acusation). Or is it a Japanese don’t rock the boat thing? Is Hato’s gender-switching suspect only because it disturbed the wa and breaches honne? Can a Westerner ever even begin to understand all of the baggage contained in her outburst?

To paraphrase Master Sorceror Sean O’Lochlainn
“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”

We can only guess at either. Confused yet?

It’s complicated…

Or… I am just using this Genshiken mise-en-scene as an excuse for a quick n nasty survey of the common arguments surrounding the gender politics of trans* characters.  Pay no attention to the blogger behind the curtain.

Other stuff of note happened upon of late…

How the Philippines does rotten girl:

Appropriating Yaoi and Boys Love in the Philippines, Conflict, Resistance and Imaginations Through and Beyond Japan – Tricia Abigail Santos Fermin, Osaka University, Volume 13, Issue 3 (Article 13 in 2013). First published in ejcjs on 6 October 2013.  http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol13/iss3/fermin.html

“My research largely confirms the point McLelland made in his comparison of Japanese and English-language yaoi and BL websites: we will witness many groups of women around the world sharing similar sexual fantasies, yet the rhetorical space they occupy in their transgressions could never be more different.”

Has a very big section on Genshiken, Ogiue and Hato and yup, I like the mirror conceit too:

The Great Mirror of Fandom: Reflections of (and on) Otaku and Fujoshi in Anime and Manga by Clarissa Graffeo, MA English Thesis, 2014
http://etd.fcla.edu/CF/CFE0005172/Graffeo_-_Thesis_-_Great_Mirror_of_Fandom.pdf

Incidentally a fine usage guide for tyro translators: 

Hey, you’re a girl?: Gendered expressions in the popular anime, Cowboy Bebop – Mie Hiramoto http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/ellmh/Hiramoto_2013_Hey%20youre%20a%20girl.pdf

The Genshiken girls (and Hato) are written as reading this stuff? Warning – NSFW images, purple prose and rape fiction apologia/ triggers:

https://www.academia.edu/3993649/Forbidden_Love_and_Forbidden_Desire_Themes_in_the_WWII_Yaoi_Manga_of_Fusanosuke_Inariya

Yaoi is destroying Japanese families. Warning – cum hoc ergo propter hoc  fallacies, errant bullshit and possible trolling:

https://www.academia.edu/2368322/Explanations_for_Japanese_Population_Decline

Get rich at Comiket?

http://fanhackers.transformativeworks.org/2012/06/how-much-money-do-doujinshi-creators-actually-make-some-statistics-from-comiket/

“”Lost 50000 yen or more (lost $638-more): male 14%, female 16%
Lost between 0 and 50000 yen (lost $0-$638): male 53%, female 50%
Earned between 0 and 50000 yen (earned $0-$638): male 15%, female 17%
Earned between 50000 and 200000 yen (earned $638-$2553): male 8%, female 10%
Earned more than 200000 yen (earned $2553-more): male 10%, female 6%

the circles who lose money are clearly in the majority, with 67% (male) and 66% (female) in the red. Earnings of less than 50000 yen are probably negligible in a lot of cases: this would barely cover transportation and hotel costs for a circle that has to come from outside of Tokyo.”

Stop writing to Margaret mangakas before release date, or send a pic of you holding the mag, bought in NY:

http://moromi.tumblr.com/post/87934810142/important-for-the-hnr-fandom-please-read

Heavy Fujoshi studies of the year bibliography:

Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2013 Ed.

http://animemangastudies.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/342/#more-342

Another fan studies resource:

The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 1
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=269
and
The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 2
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=333

Good news on the guy front; The kids are all right. All that pre-judging is just us old baby boomers’ violent expectations.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/07/18/its-time-to-stop-defaming-our-boys/

And finally:

I was beginning to fear that the rather expensive Routledge anthology PERVERSION AND MODERN JAPAN addressed neither when at last I hit upon “Packaging desires: The unmentionables of Japanese film” by Jonathan Abel. Yup, it’s all about PANTSU in soft-core Japanese porno films, and its a rollicking great hoot of a theory-moe ride – which is to be expected of a paper that grew out of a joke presentation titled “Die Zizek, Die!

Sooner or later I must review the whole thing here. Abel is the translator of Azuma’s Database etc., while Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent (translator of Tamaki’s BFG) as editors are both very agreeable reads in their own rights. It is just that collection is a bit of a slog unless you are really, really into post-Lacanian detritus and its use in critical writings on Japanese cultural stuff.

…And you manage (as I do) to find some of it amusing.

The shards of Mulberry Dover

Wherein another survey and research methods dump post gets a few extra bits of detritus tossed into it. 

Too many things going on at work and in my life to frame a coherent essay. I am however in a much better position to blog, as my home internet connection has been slightly upgraded from no-speed to low-speed. I will now be able to watch the dogsled races on Youtube – if I toggle the frame rate to 144p, crank the buffers and shut down all the other programs. The end result of this, of course is that I have been catching up on all the anime I have had to forgo for years. I expect no work will get done for some time to come.

Tracking with close-ups…

Which leads me to admit that once again Erica-sensei’s recommendations are worth noting, especially when she waxes enthusiastic on something. And when it also shows up as a reference in Genshiken, it becomes unavoidable. I might be the last person left in the blogo-verse to mention this, but I thoroughly enjoyed Mōretsu Pairētsu AKA Bodacious Space Pirates. I was even going to snag it as a gift for the nieces until I hit the very Takarazuka Revue rescue sempai from an arranged marriage with a sleaze-bag episode. And the set-up: D’Awwwwwwwwwwwwww!

D'awwwwww

However the nieces are still a bit young, and Mom and Dad might get cheesed at me for having to explain to tender youth why the two girls…  Ahem! …So they will have to contend with last year’s Aria collection for a while longer.

Not (yet) considered by Erica-sensei  is the ridiculous Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil, which I also found charming, lighthearted fun: It has giant magical mechas, huge swirling seals-of-solomon incantations, an unfair and corrupt special court system for magic-users and Lucifer as Lucy-fer with a crush on our genki heroine. Probably the smartest resolution to the kidnap-the-heroine-to-use-as-a-sacrifice-to-summon-a-demon trope I have yet seen.

Wizard_Barristers ep01

As I find the entire “Potter-verse” insipid, I like this retread better: it does one thing and does it sufficiently well.

The anime treatment of Mysterious Girlfriend X felt a bit creepy, so I gave up on it. So sad…

Perhaps, rabbit, perhaps…

Re-reading Blue Exorcist scanlations at the same time as catching up on UQ Holder really really tempts me towards a cross-analysis of influences. For detailed analysis of the latter though, I defer to senior bloggers.

Gi itai yo!

Japanese manga will try anything to add a new twist to a high school romance, including hemorrhoids. The Maoyuu Maou Yuusha ‘Demon Lord” parody therein is a fine example of how far down the rabbit hole some of these in-jokes go.

This one is hard to explain

A wondrous hoard..

Academia.edu can be signed up to by anyone (time to use all those degrees you racked up years ago or heck, make up some degrees and interests) and thereafter you can indulge your taste for theory-moe and academic weirdness to one’s heart’s content. Recent articles searched under Japan include excerpts in translation of a scholarly treatise on tentacle porn and a thesis on how gay Japanese guys hook up on internet forums. I suspect that if the latter falls into the hands of western slash-fen/ fujoshi, a whole lot of realism points will get added to the genre. Here is an earlier study on straight Japanese internet dating sites. No sign yet of an equivalent study for Japanese wimmens. One thing that jumped out during a quick skim of the paper was how the community uses an elaborate typology as shorthand for personal descriptions. I wonder how much cross-over occurred from rotten-girl typologies, and which came first. We may have the roots of modern Japanese visual culture chara tropes buried somewhere in here…

Oh lookie: They have a whole section on manga studies too! Here is a paper on yuri, in its canon Japanese form contrasted to an American webcomic.  A better roundup can be found here. And while we are at it, here are a few more post, rants, essays and sites-of-note that have been piling up for the whole “let’s make manga out of constructed others and have them do the nasty” studies:

Obvious perhaps, but with a certain flair:
http://kissmyanime.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/stop-it-my-brain-hurts-yaoi-fantasies-vs-gay-realities/
and..
http://kissmyanime.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/yuri-the-only-one-for-me-or-so-were-told/

You might have it backward, unless you start in the 1920’s: http://behind-the.nihonreview.com/20100215/the-structure-of-yuri-the-shift-from-female-to-male-audiences/

Previously noted for the big Sailor Moon essay:

http://adventuresofcomicbookgirl.wordpress.com/

Ouran High School Host Club???

http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v4_3/darlington/

A thesis on Yuri: Yuri japanese animation: queer identity and ecofeminist thinking by Kimberly D. Thompson July, 2010. Eco-feminist ???
http://thescholarship.ecu.edu/bitstream/handle/10342/2913/Thompson_ecu_0600M_10210.pdf.

This one is interesting: The possibilities of research on fujoshi in Japan by Midori Suzuki.  Translated by  , who is working on a massive thesis about fujoshi fan practice. http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/462/386

Defeat Hegemony with frills and the five year plan:
https://www.academia.edu/3997061/Hardy_Bernal_K._A._2011_._Confronting_the_Hegemony_The_Japanese_Lolita_subculture_and_the_Lolita_Complex_full_paper_._Presented_for_the_2nd_Annual_International_POPCAANZ_Conference_Auckland_Langham_Hotel

Real-life Hikis: https://www.academia.edu/3554956/THE_REHABILITATION_OF_JAPANESE_YOUTH_WITH_ACUTE_SOCIAL_WITHDRAWAL_AT_TAKEYAMA_GAKKO_A_HIKIKOMORI_SUPPORT_CENTER

Here is something I cannot afford: How Lacan supplanted ghosts:
http://www.amazon.com/Perversion-Modern-Japan-Psychoanalysis-Contemporary/dp/0415469104/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370731451&sr=8-1&keywords=perversion+and+modern+japan. I should collect a few more Demon Lord -troped titlesThey would make a great counterpoint to an in-depth review of  “Perversion and Modern Japan”, starting with the very funny bit in the intro:

 

” Unlike the traditional 19th century disciplines such as English and European national literatures and history, the study of literatures and cultures outside the West had to wait for the postwar period, and then emerged only as a result of the perceived need to “know our enemies” in an atmosphere of Cold War paranoia. Since the 1950s area studies programs throughout the United States have produced knowledge in multiple disciplines about strategically identified geographical “areas.” But this knowledge tends to remain ghettoized in area studies departments and only rarely feeds back into the mainline disciplines. This is a result not only of continuing Eurocentrism in academia, but also of the isolating effects of the organization of area studies departments according to nation state, as well as, in the case of Japan studies, an insistence on Japanese cultural uniqueness that is underwritten not only by many Japanese scholars themselves but also by the funding priorities of Japanese government entities that are charged with propagating Japanese culture abroad. The vast amount of knowledge produced outside Japan about Japan thus remains suspended in a curious limbo, jealously guarded by its producers, like a fetish that compensates for their lack of access to the “larger” scholarly community. As Harry Harootunian and Masao Miyoshi put it, employing a striking metaphor that Freud would have had a field day with, “More than fifty years after the war’s end American scholars are still organizing knowledge as if confronted by an implacable enemy and thus driven by the desire either to destroy it or marry it.”  -intro, Ibid

Here are some goodies from the world of Japanese Office Ladies  high power female execs: ‘License to drink’: White-collar female workers and Japan’s urban night space,  Swee-Lin Ho,  National University of Singapore: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/sochsl/ethnography%20oct2013.pdf  More good stuff from the same author here. It looks like some of the women are not just pouring tea any more. This one which further examines friendship among businesswomen has an edge; better read the “wa” and suck it up: http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/sochsl/Tokyo%20at%2010%20JRAI2012.pdf

Whew!

A Radical disenchantment of the world…

Perhaps some of this research, suitably translated into Japanese should be made available to Hato and Mada, or better (or worse) the double-double-universe versions thereof in Spotted Flower.

Chapter 12 of Spotted Flower might well be the saddest, most frustrating thing that Kio Shimoku has ever done, which is remarkable for 8 pages of light fluff.

The wife is at home, The husband is meeting with his university days kouhai, who at first glance appears to be a rather sophisticated, good-looking woman in her thirties. I liked the magic circle manga pentagram design on her scarf, but its placement is suspicious; setting off her cleavage, hiding her throat.

And of course her face is vaguely familiar.

She is an accomplished ero-mangaka, who leads a distinguished dojin circle, obviously earns a respectable living doing so, and has contacts sufficient to the task of scaring up a rare copy of an obscure dojin that usually sells online to maniac collectors for over $1,000. And of course she will go out of her way for the sempai she still has feelings for.

And of course she didn’t start life out as a female.

And of course she somehow has heard of his broken wrist, as well as of his impending fatherhood.

And of course the husband is still too much of a chicken shit to take her up on her “joke”, or more importantly to answer her honestly.

And of course, what could have been a great friendship never really had a chance to develop.

And of course this doppelganger Hato knows that doppelganger Madarame won’t ever change. But she is trapped as well.

And of course, the wife can figure it all out from the scent of perfume on her guy’s coat and despite hubby’s josou games, considers the whole thing an annoyance; of less immediate concern than the fact that her guy won’t lust after her while she is gravid.

So nothing really has changed: everyone is still in suspension with all their university years otaku character flaws and hurts still unresolved. No Ano Hanna moment with tears to fix everything, just life creeping inexorably onward.

Or I might be making much too much out of it…

Spotted Flower is where Kio Shimoku plays out and then mucks around with fandom’s demands for happy futures for his characters. Madarame should have ended up with Saki: behold a somewhat Madarame-ish character married to a somewhat Saki-ish character (though recently she is looking a lot less Saki-ish). And lookie; they are a typical couple with child on the way, Hijinks ensue. How nice, how droll.

Hato must have been gay and trans all along so Lo and behold; the kouhai reappears with post-op cleavage and a leftover crush from university days.

unresolved SF 12_4

It is almost as if Kio Shimoku is setting up story lines for the dojinshi circles, or even his own dojins. Any interested dojin-ka could have a field day with this setup. After all, most dojin circles share a common impulse with the late Robert A Heinlein and even manage to accomplish what he never could: get Lazarus “Woody” Long to finally STFU in bed.

Do I hear a whisper of a chorus of Culture Justice Warriors chanting “Check Your Privilege!!! ” at my melancholic reading of chapter 12? Is this just fear of a gay Hato (or trans, or both…) on my part? Nawww… There is just too much hurt and bitter memories beneath the surface of those panels for a simple reading. Well done Shimoku-sensei.

Meanwhile on other fronts, a whole clutch of updates and revisits should be tackled, sooner or later…

Happily ever after…

The scanlators who deal with Usotsuki Lily are undoubtedly waiting for the last tankobon to fall into their hands. The series is now over and from the raws it looks like it ends in a wedding. Before that the happy couple will have broken up; En the crossdresses for a reason male lead will have to deal with an authentic trans character; the gay younger brother and the female lead’s younger brother will have to sort their feelings out and happy endings will have to be arranged for all. Not that hard a task for the author – the lead couple has already consummated (in a brief departure from the usual chastity of the series – fear not, it was tender and romantic as all D’aaaaaawwwwww…) and now they just need to work a few things out. So cute!

In other news…

Mousou Shoujo Otaku kei ended a long time ago, but has finally appeared through devious grey channels to finish up the odd and yet trope-naming story of the geeky fujoshi girl and her hapless boyfriend. It ended cute (of course), and she didn’t have to put her head into imagined yaoi-male-ness too much in order to process romance. The series remains noteable: It might be second most important early fujoshi-ish studies manga ever made (801, itself, with Genshiken somewhere close behind). What stood out in the latter chapters was the importance of the situation/ emotional complexity of the chara feelings influencing the plotting of their fan books. It is not just naughty clench scenes, but the emotions -the endless crap that one thinks the other is thinking and vice versa as the “juice” that powers these fen exercises.

Moving on…

Now that Fujimura-kun Meitsu has ended, the Haganai / Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai  franchise remains unchallenged. And yet it ups the stakes as the crossdressing meek lad is unmasked as a cross-cross-dressing young woman with gender dysphoria and/or a “family situation”. And the snarky ex-tomboy’s childhood friendship is reveled. I didn’t expect that much plotting in a gag high school harem grinder. The again, both are archetypal high school harem setups. Another version: Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou. I should start collecting them! (much later: caught the Daimaou anime – what a fanservice and trope trainwreck !!! What didn’t they toss into it ???? Sheeesh!)

Perseverance furthers…

I have yet to do anything with the last few chapters from vol 3 of Murasaki-iro no Qualia I hold in my sweaty hands the authentic Japanese light novel plus volume 3. Raw scans of the latter are also easy enough to find. Guess who still cannot make head or tail of written (or for that matter spoken) Japanese. I fail, waugh!

The eventuality of things is paramount…

Two serious takes on art school and becoming-animal mangaka: Kakukaku Shikajika  and  Natsu no Zenjitsu. The ecchi fluff Shounen yo Taishi o Dake! can now be consigned to the ashbin of history - although it should be mentioned that a rumored animated short was spun off as a marketing ploy for a Hokkaido region University. Then again, there have been earlier manga with the same general title, as some dead euroethnic guy’s quote somehow made it over to Japan and got lodged into Japanese culture as an educational truism/ trope. It all gets a bit confusing.

and so it goes…

Kumo no Graduale is just plain fun! Studio Ghibli should option it.

Absent thee from me a while felicity…

Which is worse? Watching 47 Ronin or The Big O?

By the pricking of my thumb…

Why is a significant minority of 4chan’s /a board so geeked on Witchcraft Works? The plot ain’t much, the male lead is a cypher… It must be the “nightmare of girly frilly stuff at %1200 ” artwork. The design conceit is the oddest thing I have seen in ages: Menacing!

Gion shouja no kane no koe…

My eternal gratitude to the folks doing the grey work to make the classic 1970’s manga Sabu to Ichi Torimonohikae available to us heathens. So what if every crime in Edo is a twisted sex-murder that has to be resolved with a blind masseur’s blade. Again the artwork is astounding, captivating, mesmerising…

Primal scream therapy…

Again, something about the art style in Fukumenkei Noise keeps me reading it. Pure punk-ish shojou romance grinder. It also is set somewhere near Kamakura, so I can be snookered into playing spot-something-I-recognize.

A secret history of Akihabra…

radio wave man paranoia_agent05

So this is the Japanese equivalent to tin-foil hats?  A side note on an obscure series throws light onto Radio Wave Man from Paranoia Agents:

“A pun on the Japanese word “denpa” from the title, whose casual definition “crazy” as it is used here is derived from its technical usage to refer to electromagnetic or radio waves, this image’s particular relevance will become more obvious in the sequence’s final moments; for now, it serves to introduce the sequence’s sparse, primary color scheme, with all of the bolts colored in bright red, yellow and blue. This sparseness is also suggested by the other main motif of these preliminary moments: a number of radio towers, framed first with just one, in the foreground, in symmetric isolation; then followed by two arrangements of five towers each with the spires distributed throughout both the fore and background. The scale of the shots here suggests a wide, open space, too, which provides a sharp contrast with the following scene.”
-Symbolism in Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko’s OP sequence: Part 1  http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=58

And finally…

These don’t really fit in with the usual theory pile favored by this blog, but so what:

A new post on  neojaponisme, which has been dormant of late (Hooray!!)
http://neojaponisme.com/2014/01/15/japanese-economic-mythbusting/

and

Film theory is an excellent resource, especially if one needs an oblique view of narrative and identity construction in mass culture: Visit http://filmstudiesforfree.blogspot.ca/  and browse away a weekend.

And Good Night, from all of us here…

 

Adjust your effervescent lifestyle freshness!

This all may have been said before but there is a serious problem with Cool Japan, and it is threatening my daily fix of neato contemporary Japanese culture.

http://globalitemagazine.com/2012/12/10/cool-japan-why-japan-losing-its-cool-might-be-a-cool-thing/

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2012/1208/Is-Japan-losing-its-cool

Looks like a bad case of DENTSU-itis.
Tessier-Ashpool-bs To put it simply; any Japanese government cultural promotion initiative will be used as an excuse for one group of rich, well-connected old dinosaur pols to give billions of yen to another group of rich, well-connected old dinosaur ex-pols and fixers.

I may be mistaken here…

I am sure that the wizards at DENTSU (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dentsu) know their stuff when it comes to pitching the newest bright and shiny thing at the Japanese consumer. They have been doing it for decades, and they are held in almost god-like reverence for their abilities. So much so that having them as your ad agency of record conveys a mark of respectability and prestige upon whoever and whatever they get involved with. You can’t build a cathedral in medieval Europe without the Church, and you cannot run a succesful product launch in modern Japan without their imprimatur. Just look for them in the credits of your newest fave anime. If it has ambitions, they are there.

It may even have been made by one of their affiliates. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/company.php?id=249

Also: http://www.economist.com/node/21559369

and http://japanvisitor.blogspot.ca/2012/11/dentsu-and-goddesses-of-peace.html

Behold an award winning Densu campaign:

 …And folks won’t see that you are a fanged yankee girl vampire from Osaka

Dentsu doesn’t have to “go all in on Woo-woo“. Woo-woo goes all out for them.

Or to put it a different way:

“”Dentsu’s monopoly is based on access to celebrity, not media. This works because in Japan it is aesthetic novelty, rather than hit-you-on-head ideas, that will always win out when building brands, and celebrity is the easiest way to auction novelty to the highest bidder.”” http://jameshollow.com/blog/japanese-advertising-industry-nutshell/

Except when the product is a bit odd: You cannot wreck your J-pop idol’s rep by having her pitch weird otaku crap. Besides only the hard-corest of western geeks would recognise her in any case.

I am a bad person.

I read manga on grey-zone aggregator sites. Sometimes I go to scanlator sites, but mostly I read from scummy make-cash-off-the-backs-of-scanlating-volunteers sites because they have a lot of content, and I can also shut off cookies, java-script, go to “mobile” mode and get low-res versions of my fave fix that load really really fast on my third-world internet connection. And the annoying gehhhh(!) -taste scam ads magically vanish.

My karma feels a bit dirty. Sometimes I go to Amazon.jp.co and guiltily buy something I cannot understand to ensure that the mangaka gets a few yen. Not often, sometimes.

In a perfect world, I would be reading the stuff on a “Cool Japan” site set up as a non-profit collaboration between Jp publishers that would not lock up my pathetic old pc with 19 layers of flash, and would also be serving me Jp tourism, culture, fashion and otaku crap ads; perhaps even Rakutan/ Amazon.jp sales links – with suppliers who ship to the gaijin out-lands. My hideous furreigner credit cards and Paypal account would work! Content on the site could be set up so as to allow quasi-wiki style translation corrections (niconico comment style?)

And it would make my breath smell minty fresh.

Such a site would not worry about content getting filched, because all content will always get filched anyway – so it wouldn’t take 2 hours to load each page. Instead it would just be happy to have the most, best , newest and richest content. With some savvy ad curation, no one would turn off the ads because the ads would be way kewl.

Oh, and the mangaka would get some coin from this.

Even if the content was back-stock and/or web-toon B-grade fodder, it would still be interesting.

OH SNAP! I have re-invented NAVER: pity that manwha barely clicks for me…

This kind of blue-sky rant is symptomatic of a greater paradox in Japanese (and to a growing extent global) culture: the really interesting stuff gets made in spite of, not with the help of any type of “official” encouragement.

“”Better yet, a debate is needed within Japan to improve Japanese culture on the whole, meaning: more power to women, youth, minorities and artists; less groveling to loan sharks, Keidanren, and mandarins. But any attempt to question the tenets of Japanese culture is likely to draw accusations of racism or Japan bashing. Issues about how to heal the sickness in the heart of the culture — stress, alcoholism, suicide — aren’t likely to come up during the two-week election campaign about the TPP and NPPs.”” - Christopher Johnson

The problem is not unique to Japan. The usual naive answer to this kind of complaint is the admonition to give money directly to the artists. That might work, but I suspect it would be impossible in Japan, and the “artists” would never see a yen of it.

So here is my stupid suggestion:

Give tiny tax deductions to the Genshiken(s)…

…and to the organizing committees of local merchant association festivals, ecology enthusiasts, anti-nuke advocates, “recycle” promoters, maker-geeks, Pride parades, Yabusame and re-enactor maniacs, Neet/ freeter/ homeless rights groups, multicultural committees, fringe music festivals, amateur theatre groups, car rallies and the entire oddball circus of cultural detritus that we euroethnic types take for granted on our weekends.

Or to put it in polite politico-socio-economic policy terms: support local and regional grass-roots organizations with limited tax benefits targeted towards projects and bare-bones operating expenses.

Spend your government money as diffuse tax expenditures rather than lump-sum payola.

Becoming a non-profit agency in Japan is not too difficult. Getting charitable status, which allows one to receive tax-deductible donations is well-nigh impossible. http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/yen-for-living/tax-deductions-and-the-myth-of-the-no-donation-culture/

Despite this, local grass-roots Japanese culture flourishes because small voluntary groups, with the support of local businesses and individuals come together year after year and put on events. For the gaijin manga/ game/ anime fan, the most famous of these is the Comic Market, or comike/comiket.

You cannot make a tax-deductible donation to Comiket.

Its organizational structure is a bit byzantine. Even though it is supported/ sustained by a non-profit organization that keeps it from disintegrating between conventions, supporters keep them going without any expectation of a tax write-off. Comiket gets by with oodles of volunteers and a few fundraising side-ventures – finding a home for overstock dojins and printing the massive convention catalogues.

All those fun local matsuri and festivals? Arranged and supported through local business groups, ad-hoc do- gooder  committees, shrines and temples. Zero tax expenditure for the central government. Perhaps some free office space from local governments, but don’t hold your breath.

Contemporary Japanese social realities work against changing this. Those that already do anything of note do so without help; so why should the taxpayer fund loser dogs? Any change would also risk giving tax money to yakuza, cults, right-wing crazies, pyramid scammers, wacky fringe political parties and North Korean sympathizers.

In the end, it is easier to give a train-load of cash to the conservative old-boy network of ad agencies and golden parachute study groups and let them run a telephone poll and a few expensive celebrity commercials. Stability is guaranteed; effectiveness occurs only as a happy accident.

That the Japanese consumer will make polite, outward noises of approval – for at least the first two days – out of a sense of cultural solidarity and good manners is part of the symptom and not evidence of any economic recovery. The captain on the B-Ark doesn’t have to do much.

“Unless of course,” he said softly, “they were eaten by the goat …”

I know this sounds like Euroethnic old-boy making easy blanket prescriptions for things he doesn’t understand, but can it be that hard to try it? Give a few yen to stuff that already works, so that it doesn’t die.

You could probably get a bunch of grad students together and design a new class of micro-charitable organizations in one semester. Something that could issue capped charitable donations for several limited classes of “cultural events”. Restrictions could be placed on office rent, salaries, administrative expenses, contracted services, etc. to make sure the cash goes to the festival and not into some scumbag’s pocket.

The size and number of donations that could be issued per year could be limited. Audits, boards, general elections, transparency, peer review, yadda yadda yadda could keep the system clean. Plenty of fine bureaucrat jobs there too. Someone from head office has to go to the matsuri to make sure it hasn’t turned into a fiasco. Japan has accountants. Time to use them for goodness instead of boringness – or at least use the boringness for goodness.

Ill become an accountant_v026 The trick would be to design the program so that you get a slew of new teeny tiny local events and relatively few scams. It could be messy, at least at first. One could be unfair and require a one or two year unfunded track record prior to approval, affiliation with a “responsible” organization, and all manner of other nudge nudge wink wink to keep the boat from rocking during too much during the shakeout phase.

The aim of the program would be to give a tiny leg up to all the grass-roots enthusiast events that already take place all over Japan, and that are under strain from a lousy economy, ageing population and a mounting general feeling of irrelevance and despair.

If the “Deep State” really wants to co-opt the freak fringe, nothing co-ops better than a 47 page annual charitable status/ grant report requiring audited financial statements and power-point presentations of last year’s activities, along with a three year membership-derived statement of goals and projected future deliverables. Great practice for the real world – even for University manga club members.

All across Japan, hundreds of thousands of young (and young at heart) enthusiasts struggle every year to put on shoestring events with popcorn budgets that do not even allow them to rent a storage locker to stash tables and tents from previous year’s events.

Similar simple problems with basic enabling infrastructure; a place to meet, funds for local licenses and event permits/ insurance, hall rentals and the like make each and every one of their events an epic labor of love. Their burdens could be eased a bit.

 Near Kamakura, a yearly event with movies, Dj’s and skateboards – completely grass roots and local!

This would go a long way to ensure that a future Cool Japan initiatives have something to pitch, besides a few token high fashion reinterpretations of Harajuku street fashion from 4 years ago and Hello Kitty.

It all might break down if your matsuri is full of risqué cosplay, dojins featuring tentacle pron, loli smut, hard yaoi and lewd josou games. Then again, Flash Art grade international high church art can sometimes feature imagery that would make a hentai mangaka vomit. Gummint and big business attention might be the last thing the organizers want. Would the copyright holders step in and shut down %85 of a cosplay event? Would the massive and much feared Oricon cabal usurp all the live music festivals and fill them with processed cheese bands?

And what the heck am I thinking, making sweeping pronouncements about what the Japanese people and their government should do with their tax code? In a manga und oddball theory blog, no less? Who in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is going to read this and care a whit? Silly Rabbit! Do you actually think that anyone from Japan reads this thing? And yet…

You cannot make a tax-deductible donation to Comiket. (!!!)

A lousy tax deduction for Japanese people to support what they love and what already does so much for them: I know they already support it and will continue to do so without such official encouragement; still the absence of even the modest incentive and acknowledgement of the importance of a wider civil society saddens me.

It is not like I am sitting on my isolated little furreigner mountaintop and yelling that the entire Japanese gummint should scrap their tax code and budgeting process in favour of a Jack Halderman experiement. It’s just that…

You cannot make a tax-deductible donation to Comiket. (I stop noaw…)

I doubt that Comiket would directly take Deep State coin, but you still could do a few neat things with such a system. While the main benefits would be an encouragement of local grass-roots Japanese culture for the japanese consumer/ fan, there would eventually be marketable foreign-interest spinoffs.

I am reading my latest fun find on manga.jp.org. I have the language selection toggled to English, but I note that French, Spanish and German scripts are also available. Or I can toggle back to Japanese, which changes the “flag translation” window entry section below the screen. As I am neither practicing my Japanese or my English I generally don’t visit here often, I can flag a real clunky bit of dialogue from the English page.

I have signed up for a basic membership so I can vote some of my monthly membership credits to a mangaka whose product I really really like. One of the publishers or advertisers on the site will then contribute a few yen to a non-profit charity affiliated with Comiket that will make a grant towards the dojin publishing expenses or/or table fee for that mangaka, so that they can show up with their circle and commune with their fans. The supporting Japanese company gets a tax credit, up to certain limits. Or the contribution can go towards a travel fund so that the mangaka can do a book/ convention tour at a regional Japanese convention or even in far-off lands. My leecher-guilt is soothed, even as I worry that perhaps the sponsors are gaming the voting system. At least the mangakas all get a ridiculously low basic residual rate for having their works up on the site.

I can buy more credits through a premium membership or earn them through fannish participation and site grunt work. I wish I could translate, but reviews earn me a few credits as well, as long as they are judged useful and I don’t rile the moderators by trying to snooker the system.

While reading, I am occasionally tempted by ad links for related products on Rakutan, and notice that since I am reading a manga that supposedly takes place near Kamakura, that there is a link to tourism site promoting upcoming Kamakura events: a Rockabilly festival and two traditional matsuri taking place in the area in the next few months. Perhaps I should click-through to see what the January schedule holds? At least I am not reading Shojou manga. If I did that I would be deluged with sugary fashion ads. If I want ultra girly kawaii hyno-swirl contact lenses (Halloween approacheth) I at least know that the supplier will probably take my Paypal or credit card and ship to me as long as I am not in a “difficult” location.

Wow, there’s a hot-spring tour package that can accommodate my strange alien nekkidness and possibly one or two discrete tats (Tattooed barbarian days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer). And lookie: the mystery grab-bag of used yukata; fabric re-use grade, two kilos shipped sea-mail (slow, no tracking) for $30! I always get that ad when I am reading Gintama, along with the cheesy wooden sword ads…

A silly fantasy: Japanese retailers find foreign buyers incomprehensible and would never waste time marketing to them. Until they find that they can make a decent profit from the exercise.

Or until the Koreans and or the Chinese show them how it can be done.