Everything that rises must converge

“most amps go up to ten. … These go to eleven. ” -Slavoj Zizek

Risa is due back to the hallowed halls of the Genshiken club room! Rejoice!

smut more recruits.web300Rika’s  shotacon younger sister will be popping back in to the Genshiken soon and that means the perv level of the Genshiken girls will kick up at least one notch. And not a second too soon! While Kio Shimoku has always treated the odd enthusiasms of the Genshiken members as Greek tragedies treated murder – much discussed, but carried out offstage, the mayhem remains integral to the story. The tradition of the Genshiken as a safe space for young people caught up in embarrassing fringe desires must be maintained. Time however has overtaken their kinks: the play of old-school otaku and vanilla grade fujoshi seems quaint: no longer abject but merely a commonplace hobby, like bird-watching.

Fortunately Shimoku-sensei stuffed a few cards up his sleeves.

Risa of course was one such ace, but the otokonoko genre references might turn out to be even more valuable.

Recall that in Genshiken time we are simultaneously in 2007 and 2014. In 2007, the “boys in skirts” genre was known, but was yet to become the next big thing in Japanese visual culture. In 2014 the bloom is already off the Bara.

Set the Way-back Sherman…

The first references to the otokonoko/ josou genre in the Genshiken show up when Kuchiki first encounters Hato-chan. Then they are followed by Kousaka’s josou game,  “I could take care of that for him”, and get full star treatment in the Nidaime anime. Three quarters of a year in Genshiken time and more than four years of “real time” have passed since Hato-chan walked into the club-room. The buildup towards the full use of otokonoko/ josou tropes has been slow, with the fujoshi fun and the stands making enough of a racket to make full deployment of “so embarrassed I’m crossdressing”, “forced to crossdress by girls/ scary older women”, “beginning to enjoy the attention” and so on, unnecessary, His crossdressing is discovered almost immediately by the girls, and any discrete skirt flipping/ bulge ogling takes place while he is asleep. The shower scene doesn’t count as part of the genre. Almost all of the cross-drama has taken place as inner dialogues over the odd arrangement that allows him to fan over BL stuff without feeling that his “real” self is threatened.

Voiced instances of the genre tropes carried an ironic, or at least referential tone and are linked to the tastes of the male characters. (Any interest from Ohno can be put down to the cosplay effect)  As in the real-life josou games and narratives previously noted, the genre at first glance appeared to be posited as a counter trend to the stagnating field of loli moe blobs. Perhaps heat-death was setting in; there are only so many ways to sexualized under-age 2D females: once incest, yuri-cest and twin-cest were all thoroughly overdone the thrill is diminished. “My younger sister can’t be so boring“. Time to move on to the younger brother who likes to/ has been wheedled into dressing up like a girl.

There was a point to my previous sloppy post, beyond the low comedy of 4chan trap crossdressing threads: diaspora fans (I am trying to find a different word than “western”, bear with it, please) were all pretty well following Kuchiki, Madarame or Kousaka variant scripts: “That’s gay dude!“, “couldn’t be that cute”, “doesn’t really matter”,  “If it has a skirt, it’s a [2d] girl [eroge chara]” and “OMG I’m beginning to …”

otokonoko argument on 4chn web600

The genre incorporates all these reactions within its narratives as well- hence the added enjoyment of restating them in rude vernacular on an anonymous image board.

>Traps=/y/
>Traps have never been /y/, and /a/ has been gay for traps since before it was /a/.

or per TV tropes:

“Otokonoko features both girl-on-crossdresser and guy-on-crossdresser stories (it’s one of the few places where you will find m/f stories and m/m stories side-by-side in the same magazine). The target audience is men who crossdress (or are interested), and men who have a fetish for crossdressers, and the art styles and tropes are typically those of male-oriented romance / ecchi / hentai material. There is also a significant Periphery Demographic of female readers. (Although guy-on-guy otokonoko is often mistaken for Boys Love Genre, anything targeted to women is not otokonoko.)”

You sure ’bout that?

The crossdress comedy genre indeed seems to be the property of second-tier shonen/ seinen magazines:

No Bra ran for 5 volumes from 2002 in Gekkan Shounen Champion, Brocken Blood has 9 volumes from 2003 on in Shonen Gahosha/ Young King.

Depsair  broken scanlate fail c8p13 web600

Tripeace 2008-2013 ran in Square Enix’s Shounen Gangan, who also gave us Fudanshism- Fudanshi Shugi (2008 – 2013, 7 volumes)  Prunus Girl (2009-) and Josei Danshi (2012 on). As a video game company that spins off properties into manga and anime they appear to really like the genre’s potential.

Softbank mobile’s Flex Comix Next carries Suemitsu Dicca’s Oto x Maho since 2008 and most of the other titles it publishes are seinen (remember her(?) name  - we will return to her works in a bit.). Comic Rex runs Himegoto (2013) and 2 spin-offs that have been re-merged into the main story.

There are tons more – I just pulled a sampling from the TV tropes Otokonoko page and aggregator searches as examples.

“Melodramatic” treatments of a crossdressing character, such as  Himegoto – Juukyuusai no Seifuku (2010, Moba Man - Shogakukan) and Bokura no Hentai (2012, Comic Ryu -Tokuma Shoten - seinen) seem to be pitched as more pervy knock-offs of Takako Shimura’s  gentle and bittersweet  Hourou Musuko/ Wandering Son. (2002-2013 Comic Beam – Seinen). They are more than they first appear to be.

Don’t call me daughter…

So far, so seinen. It can be assumed of course that the fujoshi brigades were busy trolling these offerings for fun stuff to ship from the start, as the “as long as she/he is cute” seems a fine way to lead two males into some steamy seme x uke action. But the genre is still supposed to be aimed at curious guys (and I am willing to bet, far more popular in “the west” than in Japan). Things get a bit fuzzy when one starts wondering about where all these odd tales first popped up.

Job confronts_fudanshismch2.11 web600

In 2010, Comic Rex spun off its josou titles into a full-blown otokonoko magazine “Waai – boys in skirts“. Inside the pages were odd bits of crossdressing advice, tons of make-up ads and among other series, Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible! Other magazines popping up to cash in on the craze included Million Publishing’s Oto Nyan,/ Oto Nyan Omega (2010-2012). All could be considered to be following on the heels of the 2010 Wagahai wa “Otokonoko” dearu! (I am an Otokonoko!): a manga/ book how-to guide for 3D otokonoko enthusiasts written by Nanami Igarashi.

Manga critic and historian Jonathan Clements wrote this about the genre in 2012 (Big block-quote warning!):

” I’m sure you’ll agree, this is something of a subgenre of a subgenre. But ever since spinning off from the boys’ magazine Comic REX in April 2010, WAai has still had enough faith in the size of its readership to punt out 270 pages of  glossy, high-quality printing four times a year – that’s once per season, in order to ensure varying uses of colours and imagery. The cover to this issue by Akira Kasakabe has two attractive ladies in a state of summery deshabillé, sorting out their lippy and watching the midsummer fireworks. Oh, except they are not ladies. They are both blokes, it says here.

If at first you can’t believe your eyes, the strapline at the top makes it as
clear as possible: “Inside this publication are cute kids, but they are not
girls. This is a new magazine for otoko no ko of the new generation.” The
Japanese otoko no ko literally means Man-Girl or Mannish Girl, but is it
intended here to mean “ladyboy”? We are back in the fascinating world of the implied reader – is this a magazine for boys who like dressing up as girls, or is it a magazine for girls who like to look at boys dressed up as girls?

WAai’s niche is still small – it is half the size and double the price of
mainstream magazines, and is not included in the online sales figures of the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association. But this is how all new niches start; the publisher Ichijinsha would be mad to print a million copies and hope that the readership to match it magically arrived out of nowhere.

The Japanese mainstream has treated the otoko no ko “phenomenon” with a degree of suspicion – perhaps wisely, considering the penchant of the media for making up new fads on the spot and hoping the herd will follow. In 2010, the Engan bus company offered spoof free tickets to transvestites as an April Fool’s joke. Later in the year, the same company offered a free ticket promotion for real, but only to female passengers who would dress up as sexy “moe” girls. The transvestites should sue!

The use of the term otoko no ko has been gaining ground in Japanese for the last ten years. But it’s only in the last two years that it has suddenly blossomed into a definable subculture, with its own publications, slang, traditions and inevitable media attention. WAai isn’t even the only magazine for otoko no ko. Already in the last year, the Japanese market has seen the arrival of Change H, Oto(star)ko and Otoko no Ko Club magazines. Meanwhile, Enterbrain has test-marketed the manga anthology Super Otoko no Ko Time, and Square Enix has tried Joso Shonen Anthology (Boys in Girls’ Clothing). Newtype, the trend-setting anime magazine, has already tested an experimental title for the otoko no ko market, with the release in August 2011 of a live- action photography special featuring boys dressed as girls. It sold out on the day of release – but was that a sign of an untapped market, or simply of deliberate under-printing to manufacture headlines?

Its aficionados are keen to point out that these characters are not transsexuals – they are transvestites, dolled up in women’s clothes as an
attempt to show a sensitive side. They are, we are assured, boys who like the idea of softness and silkiness, experiments with lipstick and girlish pursuits – an assertion which places them firmly on a timeline that reaches back for several generations, to the manga revolutions of the 1960s that valorised flower-sniffing sensitive types in reaction to the ludicrously macho heroes of the day. Japanese Wikipedia even has its own page on the phenomenon, which goes to great pains to point out that otoko no ko have absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. Just because a boy wears women’s clothes, he is not homosexual, nor does he “want” to be a woman. The artwork in WAai makes that abundantly clear, with images of characters in bikinis and lingerie, pouting for the camera but displaying telltale flat chests and posing pouches that leave nothing to the imagination.

However, there is a flipside. Is this really a magazine for transvestites? The editorial content delivers one message, but the advertising tells a different story. If we want to be cynical for a moment, let’s not immediately assume that otoko no ko materials reflect a grass-roots demand that Japanese conglomerates are sweetly serving. Let’s instead assume that a bunch of large cosmetics companies have realised that heterosexual men represent a bogglingly large untapped market for sales of make-up. Has some bright spark at Shiseido or Nivea suggested that the marketing team take a step beyond “metrosexual” and try to flog lip-gloss and crimpers directly to absolutely everybody?

WAai’s concept of femininity does appear oddly and over-enthusiastically
consumerist. In other words, its attitude is that women are “made” by buying stuff. Shopping maketh the woman, in WAai’s eyes – it’s a beautician’s idea of beauty, and seems largely materialist and product-orientated.

This is a no-win situation for critics. If we question the motives of the
publishers, we are attacking transvestites’ right to be different. But if we
report on a “phenomenon” that isn’t really a phenomenon at all, but a cynical appropriation of a subculture as an excuse to bootstrap a new fashion fad, then we are mere stooges of the marketing machine. Meanwhile, it is arguably the height of cynicism to latch onto someone’s heartfelt beliefs and lifestyle, merely because you want to shift a job-lot of depilatory cream. If it’s “in” to be a transvestite this season, that’s all very well, but that’s like saying its fashionable to be Asian, or short-sighted, or tall. What happens next year?
[....]
Meanwhile, there is a heavy and frankly boyish concentration on new anime series, with larger-than-normal features dedicated to modern serials such as Astarotte and Baka & Test: Summon the Beasts. Games reviews also take up a substantial proportion of the front matter, including self-explanatory titles such as The Boy Loves Dressing Up as a Maid and Bokukano: Ladyboy Sex Chat.

Regular readers of this magazine may have noted on several occasions that the Japanese comics market is embroiled in a massive argument about the depiction of minors. Its most recent incarnation was in September 2011, when two members of the Japanese parliament presented a petition calling for anime, manga and games to adhere to the same sort of censorship rules as other publications. In other words, there is still a massive fight about the depiction of little girls in print, and it is your correspondent’s suspicion that a large part, if not all of the otoko no ko phenomenon is not about reader demand at all, but merely a new way of circumventing the censor. Just as white panties and blank crotches, tentacles and robots formed new and odd tropes in anime and manga, could it be that bluntly stating that these “girls” are really boys is a sneaky way for certain publishers to hang onto images of flat-chested dollymops, without incurring the wrath of future censors? If so, it’s a very sneaky trick, but let’s not assume it’s a sign of sea-change in attitudes
towards cross-dressing… Unless it is.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade and Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 92, 2012.”
— from http://schoolgirlmilkycrisis.com/2014/02/25/waai-boys-in-skirts/

 A job-lot of lip gloss ain’t the only thing being peddled though. I am going to risk over-emphasizing Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible! not only because it does what it does in such an odd way, but also because of her other works.

The premise is odd: Misbehaving rich kid males and a few trannish poor guys get packed off to an all male boarding school way up in the mountains where the school rules state that they must cross-dress on alternating weeks. Seems like LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness caused more damage to Japanese culture than previously assumed. This will get them to stop acting like jerks towards women, give them a chance to learn / learn of “feminine-ish” wiles and incidentally practice the responsibilities of their respective social classes while testing the strengths and weaknesses of male friendship.

A Confederacy of Dunces…

Aside from gratuitous cross-dressing tips (I bet a cookie these were lifted from Igarashi-chan’s book) there is a whole lot of way too insightful dialogue on the dangers of seeking approval, much ado about superficial X authentic attraction and plenty of the use of the abstracted feminine as other to construct male subjectivity. The story quickly lurches towards the quasi-shojou realms of a chaste shonen-ai tale, with occasional panchu shots. Suemitsu Dicca is a big fan of the inviting abstracted “feminine”, otherwise know in fujoshi circles as the inviting/ trickster uke. Noted too is the play of social classes in the story; another big fave of BL tales.

Those wishing to see what else Suemitsu-sensei has written better be ready for hard-core yaoi dojins.  The mangaka is fully rotten. Yikes! Otokonoko tries to seduce newly met male friend, male friend is already quite gay and thinks he is seducing innocent, confused cross dressing youth. Human orifices can’t do that ensues. Note to mangaka: no glove, no love! Being a smut purveyor entails certain responsibilities in this age (what has this blog done to me? A year ago I would have freaked at seeing something like that. now all I can say is yup, looks textbook rotten…).

“Officials have already met with leaders of Japan’s $5.5 billion adult
entertainment industry in an attempt to develop regulations that conform to some small standard of basic human decency. Attending the talks were the heads of several major studios, including WoundSexerCo, Maid Molest Universal, Innocent Schoolgirl Despoil Youngest Daughter Lips Plunder Incest Distribution, and Sunrise-Rape-Rape-Nihon.
In what may signal a chastening within the industry, leading film producer
Golden Dawn Global issued a press release this week voicing its “humility and bewilderment” and offering to cease international distribution of its blockbuster series Pregnant Ladyboy Sodomized Facedown In The Rice Bowl, a 23 -part epic that has reportedly left thousands of viewers feeling repulsed, defiled, and forever doubtful about the inherent goodness of mankind.”
- http://www.theonion.com/articles/japan-pledges-to-halt-production-of-weirdo-porn-th,2657/

Earlier efforts at the “do I care if it is a girl?” genre are better at getting the characterization down to believable limits. Any reader may be reasonably forgiven for wanting to wring the neck of the lad in No Bra, because he is such a pathetic horny wimp. Even when he somehow gets enough resolve to track down his barely remembered childhood friend’s true circumstances, it will take a major meltdown for him to man up and tell the truth. Like Mada, it is not a case of ‘can’t process” but that processing has stopped at Good to be King.  Oh well; magic dick syndrome is a classic young guy fail. At least his internal dialogue is far more guy-like. The annoyance develops only as a side effect of us buying the premise!

Full blown rotten narratives have a bad habit of transplanting an articulated emotional complexity onto male characters that would be out-of-place, even in female characters. Hyper-Shojo-ism!

I await a dojin-ish series where the main characters just appear to sit staring at each other while they process ever more elaborate internal monologues about trying to guess their own position and second-guess the other’s. Every 4 pages the characters are allowed to voice a few non-committal words to keep the game going. The same panel art repeats endlessly.

While the ZOMG panchu- with- bulge LoL! versions of the genre are simply loli retreads, the more complex versions can be reasonably classed as attempts to take classic BL/yaoi dojin tricks and turn them into a viable niche market product that can be pushed on X-curious otakus while delighting the hearts of the fujoshi tribes. Add to this that a subgrouping of fujoshis were always too interested in too-young protagonists, and that the flat-chested hairless otokonoko is a way to “18+” their nasty shota tastes with plenty of chances for otokonoko x otokonoko and/ or otokonoko x manly bishie pairings. Very convenient, in fact too convenient…

Houston we have double box-office!

Unfortunately for Japan’s publishing community it looks like the execution of this nefarious marketing scheme (Mwahhh-hahhh!) still needs work. As of 2014 all of the otokonoko magazines have folded. A few collections and tankubons will bring in some cash, but the genre is clearly not yet ready for prime time. (Curses, foiled…) This despite the impression that the boy-in-skirts trick was the new MSG of manga and anime; just sprinkle on any old hackneyed series and it was suddenly all edgy and fresh again. Still a niche of a niche, or of several niches…

Which in an odd way makes it perfect for the Genshiken.

Both the boys and the girls in the club-room can think of the otokonoko genre as their own private Idaho, or indulge themselves in the illusion that the other side has been suckered into thinking it was made for them, when really… All while accommodating/ displacing real-life concerns about legislation, western suspicions and “a certain bear

Welcome to the desert of the real

In the Genshiken, raiju heterosexual desire is so fraught with danger that allegories taken from extreme narratives of human-ish pairing are the only way to approach it. or:
raiju heterosexual desire is so boring and unattractive that it must be “charged” /”cathected” with tales of improbable longings in order to make it navigable and worth the effort.

Sin+Copyright fujoshi_rumi c47p66 web600

Or both.
And of course there will be consequences…

 

 

Genshiken ch 95-97 … as a symptom of man

Or rather she exists, but as a “symptom of man” created for his ontological consistency” - Slavoj Žižek (1)

Drag 'em to the transporter, Spock!

Drag ‘em to the transporter, Spock!

 

Hooray! Chapters 95 through 97 are finally available to us illiterate leeches and the wait was well worth it. Running various other efforts through Google xlate left giant holes in the story line, and posted synopses omitted the fine details – I assume out of a wish not to spoil our eventual enjoyment of the full version. Such a feast of goings on! Where to start?

— Warning! many theory-ish digressions and block-quotes ahead!
Proceed at your own risk! (oh, and I will run out of extra sources to add as links sooner or later, but in the meantime, hit refresh if you’ve visited previously and want moar light reading…) Continue reading

A secret history of the 21st century

“Expel the foreign devils!” – Slavoj Žižek

I've seen your face before my friend. But I don't know if you know who I am.

“I’ve seen your face before my friend. But I don’t know if you know who I am.” - Slavoj Žižek

A funny thing happened back in January in the world of Japanese TV commercials (CMs/ Commercial Messages). All Nippon Airways tried a bit of subtle po-mo humour and a few noses bent themselves out of joint. Much ado was made about it, especially in certain regions of the blogosphere and then the ad was pulled. But no one chased the trope reference completely to its burrow.

Allow me to venture a small suggestion:

otaku-no-musume-san Nicchi

Some folks would argue that the orphan “Hafu” lolicon pervert Nicchi, of “The Otaku’s Daughter” (Otaku no Musume-san) is a generic gaijin clown character in any case, but then one must recall his odd back story (again full of quasi-xenophobic tropes, taken to ludicrous extremes – the ninja xtian cult, the sugar fix to calm him down, the fact that “the mother” originally lusted for him, rather than Kouta, etc, etc., ) Within the confines of the narrative, even Nicchi gets calmed down, humanized and finally assimilated.

Oh Heck! Lets screen that CM:

or

.

A sampling of the coverage:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/01/20/national/ana-to-modify-
commercial-after-accusations-of-racial-stereotyping/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/japan/10583569/Japane
se-airline-sorry-over-racist-commercial.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/10586177/Japanese-airline-continue-to-air-racist-advert-despite-apology.html

http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/all-nippon-airways-apologises-for-tv-ad-which-is-accused-of-racially-stereotyping-westerners/story-e6frfq80-1226806324074

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/01/24/issues/dont-let-ana-off-the-hook-for-that-offensive-ad/

http://www.debito.org/?p=12077

No sense of humor at all… jeesh! Then again if it had got out that ANA’s ad agency was suggesting that all Caucasian furreigners are fashioned from the mold of a ninja cult-christian pedophile it might have made the controversy even worse.

We would never do something that silly…

Would we?

pearl diver yup

Not very convincing, Mr Bond!

Whoooops!

lorre-peter-mysterious-mr-moto

I am thinking about it.. fast, even

Nawww…

too embarrassing

Just plain fail-trolling, desu…

Ok; that last one really doesn’t count…

While off in Japan, I had a few moments to sit around in front of my laptop and enjoy some extremely fast internet, wiggle around certain aggregator sites’ lame attempts to make it appear that they take down scanlated manga when it is licensed (naww, they just block Jp IP’s with a “sorry it be licensed notice – use a proxy, like the one built into Torch ) and generally try to deepen my distorted understanding of current Japanese society. I didn’t indulge in too much of this kind of nonsense because she- who- up-with-me- puts  would remind me that I better not have traveled half way around the world to hiki out in her apartment( I got to see an honest to goodnees full Noh play! wow!).

Nevertheless, and while I claim no particular brilliant insights, a theme or two began to sneak up on me:

The Otaku’s burden:

What with all the Abe-administration X China X South Korea fuss, and the off-noted political rightward drift in Japan, (and the right-wing echo chambers on some 2-chan boards) could manga like Gate – Jietai Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri have a bit more zeitgeist stuck onto them than previously thought?

There are other manga efforts that play the neo-colonialism card in a similar, but less aggressive way, such as Outbreak Company: Moeru Shinryakusha

In the past when Japanese manga readers wanted a rip-roaring shoot-em-up fest, the tendency was to displace it to lawless exotic locales (Black Lagoon / ブラック・ラグーン), use exotic international characters and locales (Jormungand ヨルムンガンド) alternate time-lines (Full Metal Panic! フルメタル·パニック!) and the like.

The only time the JSDF seemed to make an appearance was in its alternate secret incarnation as the JAGDF . Looks like the times call for a bit more overt jingoism:

Fuck the prime directive!

GACPSv2 n0 p16web
.

While them evil, slaving, raping, Machiavellian fantasy empire aristocrats are supposed to evoke imperial Rome, a la “I Claudius“, don’t they look a tad “Republican” as in WASP?

power derives from...

power derives from…

.

GACPSv2 n2 p19web

.

GACPSv2 n3 p21web

.

Ok, one really shouldn’t read too much into a simple adventure fantasy manga. Its yankee grandpa, Stargate SG-1 is pure US military propaganda too – there is something seductively cathartic about mowing down G’aould and Wraith baddies with heavy ordnance – and there is no reason why the Japanese reader shouldn’t get to enjoy the fun. I admit it; I have atavistic urges in my tastes for recreational reading, and judging from some of the marginalia by the various scangroups who are translating Gate, the urge to gleeful, obnoxious excess can be hard to contain. ( I assume they be trolling, patrolling… they couldn’t possibly…)

But when you start reading some of the reporting on the drift right-ward in Japanese politics – beyond shrine visits and “slight revisions” to article 9 of the constitution, things get a bit alarming. Looks like the neighbourhood has become a bit more dangerous of late and folks is getting antsy…

Then again, some online journals do run to the left of the political spectrum:

It Would Make No Sense for Article 9 to Mean What it Says, Therefore It Doesn’t: The Transformation of Japan’s Constitution (http://www.japanfocus.org/-C__Douglas-Lummis/4001)

Back to the Future: Shinto, Ise and Japan’s New Moral Education (http://www.japanfocus.org/-David-McNeill/4047)

Perhaps they need to clamp down on the rumour of a “Gate”

Japan’s 2013 State Secrecy Act — The Abe Administration’s Threat to News Reporting 
(http://www.japanfocus.org/-Lawrence-Repeta/4086)

Or perhaps manga was always an arena for this kind of debate (wonder if the /AK crew will grab one of these too?):

Revisioning a Japanese Spiritual Recovery through Manga: Yasukuni and the Aesthetics and Ideology of Kobayashi Yoshinori’s “Gomanism” (http://www.japanfocus.org/-James-Shields/4031)

It would be easier if somebody hadn’t snuck the ashes of those 14 into the shrine:

Enshrinement Politics: War Dead and War Criminals at Yasukuni Shrine (http://www.japanfocus.org/-Akiko-TAKENAKA/2443)

Yasukuni Shrine at the Heart of Japan’s National Debate:
History, Memory, Denial (http://www.japanfocus.org/-Takahashi-Tetsuya/2401)

… It’s complicated… 

One also gets the feeling that some of the voices on the left should tone it down a bit too, lest they get a bit too apologetic towards Chinese and South Korean right-wing trolls. Chomsky.. Gehhhhh!

Feedeth not…

Nowhere in Japan did I run into any foaming-at-the-mouth right wingers this time around. The only sound trucks I heard were trolling for old appliances and scrap metal. It was 5 years ago that I ran into the nationalist megaphone brigade, one Sunday afternoon in Tokyo’s Jimbochu district (Hi! I am illiterate, and everything is closed but pr0n video shops). Perhaps the presence of one uniformed police officer kept them from growling in my direction, or perhaps I was not on their furreigner-de-jour menu. Whatever; I have never really felt threatened in Japan. No right-wing beat cop has ever bothered me for my passport or implied that my used granny bike was bought off the back of a truck. Folks even sit next to me on crowded trains – especially if I am half asleep. (these three tropes seem to be the fave complaints of irked expat English teachers in the blogosphere). Most folks are more worried about getting on with their lives, the impending sales tax rise, the ossification of the political system and the graying of the population. It would be sad if the nationalistic loony fringe in Japan, China and S. Korea escalated the feedback chorus to the point where things got ugly on the ground, but I don’t think the majority of the Japanese public is anywhere near convinced.

That ANA commercial was probably trying to be all post-modernist self-mocking about it all. Perhaps they anticipated the whole kerfuffle as an “as- long-as-you- spell- my- name- right” gambit.

Inscrutable…

What would mass culture be without a bit o’ trolling?

Trolling is nothing more or less than an abbreviated urge towards fan-fiction.

Addendum:

“The facile trick of mis-attributing spurious quotes to one historical figure or another, such as “Oscar Wilde” betrays a deeper melancholy within the displaced desires that manifest through our disconnected virtual discourse. [...] Virtual reality simply generalizes this procedure of offering a product deprived of its substance: it provides reality itself deprived of its substance, of the resisting hard kernel of the “Real” – in the same way decaffeinated coffee smells and tastes like the real coffee without being the real one, Virtual Reality is experienced as reality without being one… [..] What this means is that the discourse of the Web is thoroughly mystifying, concealing its true foundation, obfuscating the un-freedom on which it relies. In such, and as antidote to this “gravitational pull”, I propose that all such mis-attributed quotes must henceforth be attributed to me or Jacques Lacan…”
On the melancholy of making up Oscar Wilde quotes - Slavoj Žižek

For those who would yet sing

Wherein I engage in another long digressive trip down memory lane while attempting to answer a question.

“In every age, God sends a millennial angel to deliver his message to mankind. But the space between heaven and earth is a terrible void; in passing through it the angel is buffeted about by such forces that it loses its message, its memory, its purpose and finally its shape until it is vomited forth across the night sky without form or substance, knowing only a terrible hunger.” – Oscar Wilde

Forget Baudrillard

,
WARNING! Incredibly meandering mess continues beyond the cutline!

You have been warned! Personal digressions, hobby horses and too many vocaloid videos ensue!. Hic sunt dracones!
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Why Hato: build up logically

Wherein I go overboard, summing up the arguments in favour of Hato, and the odd plot contrivances that surround the character. Updated a bit after the anime’s ep 12 retcon. I think it’s finally finished, please enjoy!

Judging from comments on other blogs that cover Genshiken, both as manga series, and the new Nadaime anime, our favourite rotten boy character Hato is becoming a bit of an annoyance to some of the fandom. This is not only regrettable; it misses the point by a country mile. Back when I started this blog, part of the reason I did so was because of the story-telling/ plotting potential of this strange Hato creature set loose amidst the new fujoshi-filled Genshiken.

Didn’t I start here?

Insanely long fan-out continues below the cutline, you have been warned…
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Fairest of the fair

On Makoto Shinkai’s Hoshi No Koe, and Saito Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl

hoshi no koe - 004

Few anime have sized my imagination and remained as resonant in memory as the short 2002 OVA Hoshi no Koe, known in english as Voices of a Distant Star. A decade after I first got my hands on a lovingly transcoded and fansubbed grey version of it, I remain a gushing a fanboy whenever I remember its charms and search it out on the web to watch it one more time. For those of you who missed it, I will steal liberally from the wiki entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voices_of_a_Distant_Star), editing and re-arranging the page synopsis for emphasis and clarity:

“Voices of a Distant Star (ほしのこえ Hoshi no Koe?, lit. “Voices of a Star”) is a Japanese anime OVA by Makoto Shinkai. It chronicles a long-distance relationship between two close junior high-school friends who communicate by sending emails via their mobile phones across interstellar space. It was originally released to DVD on 2 February 2002

The narrative begins in 2047. A middle-school girl named Mikako Nagamine is apparently alone in a hauntingly empty city, trying to contact people through her cell phone. She finally says, in an empty classroom with stacked chairs, “Noboru? I’m going home, okay?”, a rhetorical question which is answered with a busy line on her cell phone. She then wakes up to discover that she is in her “Tracer”; a heavily armed “mecha” orbiting Agartha, the (fictional) fourth planet of the Sirius System and begins her descent to the planet Agartha.

hoshi no koe voices2

A flashback gives us the beginning of her travels. Mikako was recruited to the UN Space Army in a war against a group of aliens called the Tarsians, named after the Martian region (Tharsis) where they were first encountered.
The narrative hints that the aliens were friendly at first and then suddenly slaughtered the earth colonists on Mars and left the planet. Humans have salvaged their technology and are determined to track them down.
Mikako, selected as an exemplary student has been drafted or has volunteered for the Space Army and must break the news to her childhood friend Noboru Terao, then undergo mecha pilot training on Mars. Mikako pilots a Tracer, a giant , heavily armed robotic “mecha” as part of a fighting squadron attached to the spacecraft carrier Lysithea.

When the Lysithea leaves Earth to search for the Tarsians, Noboru is left behind. The two continue to communicate across interplanetary, and eventually interstellar space via the email facilities on their mobile phones. On the edge of the Solar System, the fleet meets a swarm of Tarsian vessels and Mikako’s Tracer must confront a curious alien pod-ship that attempts to examine her Tracer, capture her and/ or kill her. As Mikako destroys the alien pod, the fleet scrambles to evacuate to the Sirius planetary system via a space-warp. As the Lysithea travels deeper into space, the emails take increasingly longer to reach Noboru on Earth, and the time-lag of their correspondence eventually spans years.

In the middle of the anime proper, she sends an email to Noboru (which shows the date 2047-09-16), with the subject “I am here”, saying “to the 24-year old Noboru, from the 15-year old Mikako” which will reach him 8 years, 224 days and 18 hours later.

Hoshi no koe on Agartha

On a seemingly empty, earth-like Agartha, Mikako must once again confront a lone alien; apparently telepathic, it presents itself to her in a hallucination as a lookalike younger version of herself. While “speaking” the alien “her” morphs into a Tarsian and then into an older version of herself. The same room where she woke up in the beginning of the animation is presented again, with the same ambience, but this time she is squatting in the corner, sobbing and pleading with her doppelgänger to let her see Noboru just one more time to be able to say “I love you” to him. The other being says “It will be all right. You will see him again”. The alien also makes vague promises of humanity’s growth in understanding.

The ship’s alarm interrupts the exchange, warning her in its characteristic overdone female british accent that “Tarsians are existing everywhere on Agartha!”. Mikako cries even more, yelling “I don’t understand!”, but her training kicks in and she avoids a ground blast and has to engage the Tarsian pod-ships in close combat. A climactic space battle ensues.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Noboru receives the message, albeit almost 9 years in the future. A voice-over dialogue commences between the two of them which functions as a synchronous soliloquy on the same subject.

Back in orbit around Agartha, three of the four carriers equipped with the warp engines have been destroyed by suicide attacks by Tarsian motherships. The Lysithea remains intact and Mikako, once roused to battle is a formidable fighter. She leads a breakthrough past the defending Tarsian pod-ships and destroys the last remaining Tarsian mother ship. After winning the battle, Mikako in her damaged Tracer drifts in space.

The manga version has a 16 years old Mikako send a message to 25 years old Noboru, telling him that she loves him. By this time Noboru has joined the UN, who have launched a rescue mission for the Lysithea. When Mikako hears the news from her crew mate that UN is sending help for their rescue, she consults a list of people on the mission, Noboru being one of them. She ends by saying that they will definitely meet again.

Voices of a Distant Star was written, directed, animated and produced entirely by Makoto Shinkai on his Power Mac G4. Makoto and his wife, Miko provided the voice acting for the working dub (A second Japanese dub was later created for the DVD release with professional voice actors). Makoto’s musician friend Tenmon, who had worked with Makoto at his video game company, provided the soundtrack. Shinkai cited Dracula and Laputa as inspirations to make Voices.

A manga serialization based on the series in Afternoon magazine from Kodansha in Japan. It was run monthly from February 2004 to December 2004. The story of the manga begins at the same point as the start of the anime and carries the story a little bit beyond the anime itself. Makoto Shinkai wrote the manga, with illustration work done by Mizu Sahara.””

(per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voices_of_a_Distant_Star, with edits)

(Damnation! I am back to my bad block-quoting habits again!)

Voices of a distant star is exceedingly fast-paced and dense  narrative for its 26 minutes; a casual viewer might have trouble following the action, let alone making sense of the plot. As a long-time reader of American science-fiction, I immediately “read” it as playing with some of the same themes used by Joe Halderman’s landmark Forever War (1974) series and his later Mindbridge (1976).

Elite youth conscription, interspecies war against incomprehensible aliens, lovers separated by time dilation effects and aliens who are telepathic clones who either cannot understand individualism, or believe that the fears expressed in human subconscious thoughts are actually conscious desires (We thought you wanted to fight for fun!) helped me impose a coherent “understanding” on a fragmented narrative that was frightening in its beauty and over-wrought in its emotionalism.

Just say that I am a sucker for long distance romance stories.

hoshi no koe dont mess with grim girl

A few jarring idiosyncrasies in the story help fix it in my memory, and give it an unmistakable “Japanese Anime” feel. Mikako pilots her Tracer from a ovaloid pod-seat with a 360 degree holographic display, so she seems to float in space or above landscapes, while ticker-tape displays on the edges of her field of vision keep her and the viewers updated. Fortunately fo me, the UNEF uses english for display text. Now if they could only buy her a proper uniform. Yes, the fleet’s deadliest Tracer pilot wears a middle-school uniform throughout her battles. She is truly a “schoolgirl in a mobilesuit”.

hoshi no koe detail

Another oddity: the years 2046-2056 are a nostalgic time for the Japanese cell-phone market, as they have re-issued the iconic Sharp J-phone, suitably updated to relay sms messages through UN Fleet channels. Anyone out there who needs to cosplay Mikako (or Noboru) can have mine (no I didn’t fanboy out, I got it in a pile of phones from my sweetie’s relatives) for a suitable bribe plus shipping. As a final insult, the J-phone is obsolete and its 2G wcdma protocol is no longer supported by Japanese cell phone companies. Cosplay use only, sorry.

Other anachronisms are the Japanese urban scenes which update the utility poles to make them wireless, but preserve freight rail transport so as to give the viewer plenty of transition scenes that pay homage to Yasujirō Ozu. This is an oddity compared to contemporary Japan: I have never seen a freight train in Japan, only passenger trains. I know they must exist, but they hide them well. Nothing like a war with aliens to shift rail use back to material transport.

Also in terms of visual tropes and homages paid, I commend the obsessive viewer to compare the scene where Mikako’s Tracer chases a Tarsian pod ship across a lake surface on Agartha with a later similar scene in Howl’s Moving Castle. Such imitation homage is a standard part of the “society” of producers in modern Japanese visual culture. Even barbarian furreigners have caught on; one could run a dangerous drinking game prying apart the giant robot fight scenes in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, but that is for another day, or a more experienced anime blogger. Oh heck… Pay close attention to the “slice the Kaiju in half from head to toe” during the “breach” battle scene. And the Jaeger is missing an arm!

A la recherche du temps perdue

Voices of a Distant Star spurred more than a few love-it-to-death acts of appreciation from anime fans in the rest of the world. Though an official dub would soon appear, the initial grey zone fan-subbed release was one of the first using the .mkv video encoding package and a then-obscure high-resolution video codec. An advance subtitle protocol was also used so that fonts, placement and timings could be better controlled, all while the enthusiast group made strident declarations that it would not release a smaller, more download friendly and low-powered computer watchable version of the video. It was just too beautiful to ruin with fuzzy video encoding and ugly subtitles.

Back in 2003, high-speed internet was less common than it is today and hobby machines were far less powerful. High definition videos could take a week of all-night dial-up downloading, as modern conveniences like bittorrent and file-drop sites were rare or nonexistent. A determined Japanese anime leech would get a “news-reader” program and possibly some text attachment plug-ins and then would see if their internet provider carried the alt.binaries newsgroup hierarchies and did not impose message length limits. In the latter cases they were left to find an open news group server, wait 30 minutes to load the hierarchy and finally the newsgroup “articles” availability and set their “reader” programs to download huge text messages overnight, which could then be reassembled, decoded, repaired with extra error-correction data sent in further huge messages, unpacked and joined up into their prize.

Back then you really worked for your anime fix. Figure from three evenings to a week per short anime. More if the postings evaporated and you were left pleading for a re-post of a section. Finally when your latest catch sat on the desktop of your home pc, you would have to chase codec packs and find a highly efficient media player so that the .mkv could play without stuttering or causing your machine to crash. If you had a mac, you crossed your fingers and hoped that VLC could handle the load. Quicktime would only play what Apple allowed you to play, with some few exceptions provided by dodgy utilities.

Still the payoff was worth the prolonged effort. You got the newest “good stuff” – the better it was, the more the legions of anonymous fans worked in loose cooperation to disseminate it to the faithful. Also the subtitles often came with footnote subtitles, explaining difficult cultural and translation points, and striving for authenticity. Commercial releases had stupid cutesy hillbilly voiced dubbing and “localized”, poorly translated subbing. The fansubs for one release of Ghibli’s Spirited Away had more footnotes than an average undergraduate sociology paper. These ran above the frame, while the dialogue ran below it. The fansubbers and distributors all knew they were possibly committing a civil-law tort, (as opposed to a crime – it wasn’t back then and still isn’t in many jurisdictions) against the rights-holders but always justified their actions in terms of love for the product and revulsion over the lack of properly venerated western releases. They saw themselves as elite missionaries. From 1999 to 2005, this was pretty much the way lots of anime made it into cheapskake gaijin hands. (Aside: this has absolutely nothing to do with the “download by usenet” come-ons you see on certain sites. Avoid unless you want to hand your machine over to netcriminals.)

No one really has the time for this sort of thing any more.

beautiful-fighting-girl-saito-tamaki-paperback-cover-art

Voices of a Distant Star was created and released after the year 2000 publication of Saito Tamaki’s Psychoanalysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl. The book was and remains a landmark, if only because so many responses to it were offered in the wake of the controversy it stirred up. A full treatment of Tamaki’s opus is beyond this post, but a preliminary contrast between Mikako and his ideal fighting heroine is a useful exercise. Tamaki’s beautiful fighting girl is an emotional cypher at her core. In contrast to the American (super) heroine who is often older and carries a traumatic back story that is overcome through heroic activities, the BFG fights because she was born/ created to fight. Fighting is what she does, and she derives that curious sex-deprived joy of French critical theory – jouissance – from her battles. Male characters, especially sports-consumed young male characters are often written with similar thin motivation, but even they eventually get some back story. The BFG gets a revealing outfit an a mofo big weapon, often long, very rigid and dangerous. The symbolism is obvious, forced, and after the publication of Tamaki’s study, self-consciously ironic. (The doc sez it is supposed to be a phallic symbol, so make it BIGGER!)

The pit does not stare back, but sometimes it glances provocatively over its shoulder and winks:

Another aspect of Tamaki’s BFG, which he initially glosses over or misses is how unlike most female characters, the BFG is emotionally stunted and unconcerned/ unskilled in social interaction and empathy. For the male otaku consumer, she is a fantasy character that could not only whomp his ass without breaking a sweat – or the asses of anyone who ever tormented him in real life, but one that he, a ronery basement dwelling neckbeard could give tips to on social interaction (!) Perhaps he could even help her with those mysterious, troubling feelings she is beginning to experience when she is with him…

Bwah Hah Hah! No really…

What nailed this point home to me was an obscure shojo-ai manga, Transistor Teaset that featured a plucky girl electronics geek trying to keep the family electronics parts store in Akihabra alive, and her friends who both had mostly-innocent designs on her affections. At some point they all end up building a “robot maid”, and the gamine- like otaku- ish younger friend then insists that it must speak only one line, in our heroine’s recorded voice:

“What – is – this – thing – called – love ???”.

Here was the emotionally vacant BFG lampooned with vicious and devastating comedic economy. Robomaid subsequently runs amok and ends up haunting the back streets of Akiba town, headless yet still issuing forth her doleful plaint. (off-topic, but of note: the next story arc “Lets meet at Mansaibashi Bridge” is a beautiful retelling of a classic Japanese ghost story and is worth hunting down.) Even a “real” girl in a manga can poke fun at the emotional void in the heart of the BFG.

Back to our heroine Mikako and her problem. An elite “fighter”/ mecha/ Tracer pilot she has learned not only how to wield a complex weapon to defend herself, but to kill. Her weakness is her homesick longing for her male friend, and the regrets she harbours that she was never able to tell Noboru that she loved/ loves him. This lack of traumatic back story is enough to place her solidly within the Tamaki typology, but she is also something else, something missed in Tamaki’s elaborate typology of fighting girl types and something far more dreadful – born out of the wars and disturbances of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century: a child soldier.

Black sails returning:

Among other quips, Jean Baudrillard was known for his cryptic comment that “the messiah always arrives a day too late“. What he meant was that by the time an existing trope or social form goes “hysterical” it is already without consequence; “already out of fashion” (or out of the reality of social force and into fashion) as the case may be. So that by the time Stallone’s Rambo was re-winning on film all the disappointing stalemate battles of 40 years of American foreign adventure, the most lethal, cheap and deployable soldier available to the world’s warlords could be found not in the ranks of elite mercenary corps, or SEAL teams, or even angry Vietnam era veterans, but in the frightened survivors of slaughters in equatorial African villages. Just have your speed-addled terrorized child soldiers kill all the adults in a village, then force half the surviving children slaughter the other half, beat and starve the surviving few, then load them up with amphetamines and you have the twenty-first century’s newest, cheapest and deadliest fighters. You might lose half of them in any battle, but more can be made when needed. Welcome to the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Or you could opt for the high-tech version, popularised early on in American sci-fi by Orson Scott Card in his Ender’s Saga.

Mikako is closer to Card’s Ender. Unlike the Forever War‘s William Mandella and Marygay Potter, Mikako was nowhere near university age when conscripted/ recruited. Halderman wrote Forever War on the tail of the Vietnam conflict; in 1974 the idea that a nation’s best and brightest youth would be sacrificed to a lottery of perpetual war and death – the Minotaur’s Maze updated, was shocking enough: no need to suggest that Unka Sam would go after school children, yet…

Unlike Saito Tamaki’s BFG, both Halderman and Card spent extra time and effort around the question of how to motivate their young pawns to fight ruthlessly. In the first actual battle in Forever War, the recruits find themselves under the spell of hypnotic conditioning that turns them into beserk homicidal fighting fiends upon hearing a trigger phrase. This ensures that they don’t waste time gawking at the stringy “Tauran” enemy in inoffensive looking transparent bubble suits. Friendly fire casualties ensue, and half the surviving earth soldiers go mad from post-traumatic symptoms. Card uses the computer-game metaphor, ruthless drill/ competition and remote telemetry to achieve similar depersonalizing effects. Both sagas started as short stories that allegorised limited hypothetical arguments. Both went on to grow in the telling, but Halderman’s opus remains more humane and appealing to me.

Some day I must dig up a Japanese translation of Halderman’s Forever War and send it to Dr. Tamaki – or perhaps I am years too late.

Strange how the female child warrior gets a completely different treatment in manga and anime than her male counterparts. Jormungand‘s Jonah and Full Metal Panic‘s Sagara Sousuke are afforded far more room for emotional agency, while the restraining of their lethal reflexes becomes a reoccurring sub-plot. The BFG simply fights, rests, waits and fights again.

230px-Nausicaa2cover

Of note is that Tamaki’s highlighting of Princess Nausicaa as a prototypical sub-type of BFG must be taken in the context of Hayao Miyazaki’s longer effort on the Nausicaa manga. Serialized in Tokuma Shoten’s monthly Animage magazine, the first chapter was printed in February 1982 and the final chapter 59, was eventually published in the March 1994 issue of Animage. Many aspects of the manga were unconventional, its layout, pencil-only art work, the pacing of the story and the visual sense of scale, as well as the apocalyptic arc of the entire saga did much to give Tamaki notes for his prototypical “Miko” or “priestess-medium” type. She alone takes on the responsibility of deciding that the ancient technology that waits for the purification of the land must be destroyed. Some synopsis’s suggest that she perishes in the process.

“She is beyond good and evil, Western values mean nothing to her”

Tamaki cautions against simple plot-readings of the BFG trope, instead seeing her archetype as the locus of hysteria in character and reader alike. I may have read this part wrong, because the hysteria section of his work is the one point where his arguments become completely and utterly opaque. Many reviewers have warned that the work, available in English translation since 2011 is full of dense post-lacanian psycho-babble and that it meanders all over the place.  Upon finally securing a paperback version and reading the entire thing I found it logically ordered, well researched and carefully argued and a reasonably good if not too challenging a read. It is far superior to his shorter work on Otaku Sexuality examined earlier in this blog.

Except for the hysteria section.

Best I can make out is a feedback/ overload condition between everyone and everything surrounding the shocking realization that someone could create and present the BFG as a character. The BFG is a trauma on the (male) imagination, a shock-as-wound that male fandom keeps falling into; one so popular that fan-producers and commercial producers are driven to recreate her again and again so that the trauma can be forever experienced and re-experienced and shared with new converts.

stuff works the way it should crop

The trauma of course is the BFG’s real, physical libidinal effect on the (again male) reader. One shouldnt get horny thoughts from looking at a manga heroine. Surely this is the path of madness. (Don’t call me…) Hato’s reading of het male oriented dojins allows him to experience this thrill in a ridiculously funny context. He is surprised, yet reassured that the “normal” stuff still has some effect for him. His original trauma was something quite more surprising and “other” than a mere armored cutie. Was Shimoku-sensei having even more fun with Hato then we originally thought?

The afterword to Tamaki’s 2006 paperback re-issue of Sento bishojo no seishinbunseki (戦闘美少女の精神分析), (Psychoanalysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl) recommends the Genshiken manga series as a valid fictional treatment of a University-age otaku community. Hato was created shortly thereafter. His traumatic wound was fixating on yaoi pr0n at an early age: a type of “trauma” that may serve as the female analogue to the Beautiful Fighting Girl (the Beautiful Bonking Bishonen?), but is comically mis-applied to a young male. Tamaki’s repeated promises to examine fujoshi sexuality have all so far come up short; he lacks access to correspondents and he is too steeped in the sexism that lays deep within the very grammar of post-lacanian psychoanalysis to yet pull off a convincing theoretical framework.

easy to replicate effect final

Others have adapted the post-lacanian methodology: Kazumi Nagaike’s work can be read as a worthy and useful variation on the theme, especially when one considers her update of her 2004 thesis, published as “Fantasies of Cross-Dressing: Japanese Women Write Male-Male Erotica” rather than the original/ (previously reviewed in this blog) first efort. Unfortunately “Fantasies” has a list price of $130, so Google Books excerpts and the original freely downloadable thesis are all mere mortals like us will see of it. “Fantasies” seems to lose a lot of “the veneration of the demon bones of Freud” that plagued her earlier academic effort and delves deeper into the cathexis, the shock of a “scopophillic“/ voyeuristic libidinous charge that female readers of rough yaoi pr0n and earlier variants experience in their first encounter with the hawt stuff.

Some divergence between the male and female experience, especially among communities can be extrapolated. Per Tamaki, the males become ironic connoisseurs of the effect, internalizing the shock of desire for a fiction and turning it into knowledge and mastery of the formal elements of the narrative. Taken too far, this leads to the “database animals” scratching an itch with products from the Otaku automat. The female variant enjoys a similar social urge to share and promote the thrill/ trauma/ wound, but also values narratives that use nested levels of storytelling as a guide to the initial “enjoyment’ of the weirdness depicted in their fave tales. So at least claims Nagaike as she details the plot convolutions of early 20th century Japanese literature that takes up proto-yaoi themes. Nagaike’s “Fantasies” even features long appendices with her translations of the examined proto-yaoi tales. Some of these are not for the squeamish.

Of course later fujoshi social practice also engages in elaborate typologies of plot tropes, that crystallize around the pairing dynamics of the male characters. Given the high percentages of historic participation in Japanese fan-produced parody culture, including their participation at decades of Comikets, it is a wonder that some theorist has not declared male otaku culture as largely derivative of female fan parody culture, if not strongly influenced by it.

I just wish Nagaike had used a better title. The “cross-dressing” here is all conceptual and virtual, by the fujoshi (and proto-fujoshi) who assume a fake-male/ fake-gay-male viewer position to better enjoy the some naughty stuff. Unfortunately the title puts the work into the F-to-M trans theory pile where it languishes and disappoints those interested in the  issue.

Other attempts at playing the post-lacanian hysteria card to explain fujoshi or wider shojo desire are perhaps more ambitious, or more lazy or more poetic. Mechademia Vol.6 has Frenchy Lunning deploying Kristeva’s theory of the abject in her “Under the ruffles: Shojo and the morphology of Power“. What we get is the vertiginous flow of Kristeva-esque hyperbole a la full Powers of Horror (get your copy  here) mode, without the rigorous buildup. We all love Kristeva for her poetics, but she can get away with it because she also brings a feast to the table. Just saying… we critical-theory-moe types can be greedy and ungrateful.

Urrrrp! Needs more meat, less ruffles.

Voices of a Distant Star is chock full of moe, but Mikako the child soldier is more reluctant hero than battle zombie girl, great honking plasma sword notwithstanding. (push the SWORD button and yell “For My Family!”) One thing that Tamaki never really delves into is the difference between a hero girl, or girl hero and the Beautiful Fighting Girl. The BFG is an object of pure, shocking, disconnected libidinous desire. The American female super-heroine is an older “real woman” working off some injustice. But where is our hero of a (next) thousand (female) faces? As I ventured early on in this blog, Dorothy of OZ is not a very solid foundation for building a tradition of a female Bildungsroman upon. (for more on this and the idea of the frauenroman see this site.)

Much remains to be discovered as to the appeal of the Beautiful Fighting Girl, or heroic girl, or the shojo hero (as opposed to the shojo heroine?)

At this point all I can venture is that idealizing and/ or desiring heroic female agency is probably healthier for males and females, than idealizing and desiring female subservience and powerlessness.

Call it a win.

For Hato; tips on hanging out with the girls

A poetic diversion! (follow link, I am trying to cut back on block-quoting)

Real Devils Wear Pink.

Later I will get to this blogger’s run-through of the Sailor Moon franchise as part of an antidote to too much Freudian original-sin weirdness form prof Saito Tamaki. Yup, I broke down and bought his translated work, “Beautiful Fighting Girl” , and I plan on grinding  though it like Sherman through Georgia. But that means I have to deal with Lacan first, in the sense of which Lacan, what bits, and how much… and that means delays. (Fortunately Lacan himself offers a solution through example).

So in the meantime… Enjoy!

manga no tsukurikata – le cristal se venge

Wherein I go out on a limb while trying to figure out what has been slipping by me when I marathon Yuri fluff.

Reading manga no tsukurikata by Hirao Auri, I noticed that it meandered, and that it didn’t do much, as a story, or as a light Yuri romance, but I kept reading it anyway. Have another chocolate.. Chomp! The artwork is pleasant, there were bits of light humor, the main characters are written as genuinely liking each other, even as they were unsure of their ability to formally commit as a couple, and both were entry-level mangakas who suffered from (and indulged in) incredible bouts of lazy procrastination when it came to creating their mangas.

Harmless romantic fluff!

Also rather chaste fluff, as there is very little overt f/f intimacy depicted; a reader could get the impression after 5 volumes that the two have spent 2 years in Anne o’ Green Gables soulful friendship rather than jumping each other on the weekends. This was oddly soothing for me, as I didn’t have to continuously switch thought modes between light-fluff mode and hawt-damn (!!!) show me some sugar mode. For a thrill, echoing prof. Saito Tamaki’s libidinizaton of creativity observation, the two help each other out drawing when they land in perpetual deadline crunches. There is also the hint that  both of them are mining the relationship for inspiration for their respective works, but no big crisis develops out of that practice. Some initial tension comes from older-chan’s kid brother, who is always around the house, and who has a desperate crush on younger-chan, but it soon becomes clear that he is relegated to permanent long-suffering support status.

There is also the very serious/ severe/ cute assistant-san; a well-worn character type, the hardworking aspiring artist slogging her way towards her debut, who is sent by older-chan’s publisher to enforce the schedule. She gets to fume and wish that the older-chan would shape up and concentrate on her work – even if that means dumping starry-eyed Pollyanna younger-chan. Additional fun comes from assistant-chan’s refusal to believe that younger-chan really is her favorite young prodigy mangaka hero, until the evidence becomes overwhelming five volumes in. By then younger-chan and assistant-chan have improbably become roomies in Tokyo and are well into a Felix and Oscar routine.

A bit of frisson and a major God iz a iron! Oh Why me? moment comes from assistant-chan finally realizing that the messy scatterbrain she has deluded herself into sharing a flat with, the major inconvenience to her work and her job of getting older-chan to meet deadlines is also really and truly the mangaka “Sachi” ,whose stories and artwork transcends whatever shojou-ai subgenre they all work in and who is sought by 5-7 publishers at a time.

No triangles or polyhedra seem to seriously threaten our main couple. Even the calculating older lady editor who had been acting creepy towards younger-chan has backed off after a weird episode involving a fan of older-chan, who strangely looks a lot like younger-chan, (the “can only draw x number of faces” effect?) but radiates an insane Pollyanna personality field power that distorts reality.

reality warp gmanga_no_tsukurikata_36.36_16

It even looks like assistant-chan might finally be getting over her extreme annoyance with younger-chan’s airhead antics. So we have a light, occasionally funny shojo-ai manga that meanders a bit. Its motto seems to be:

God does not help fools, God just makes sure that there are plenty of other fools to help fools.

Hardworking types fume that life is unfair while they keep slogging and the airheads get all the lucky breaks.

Since this is an ongoing Yuri series, I googled it and Erica Friedman’s blog Okazu to see what she had to say about it:

Manga no Tsukurikata Manga, Volume 6 (まんがの作り方)
January 29th, 2013

Do not start with me. I know, I know, this manga is a wasteland. It pretends to be Yuri, so here we are. I try, to the best of my ability, to keep Okazu as comprehensive as possible without violating my own standards of entertainment (which is why you have not seen a hentai collection review in a long while. They are so boring. Girls have unrealistic, messy sex. Wow. Really, how exciting.)

So, while Manga no Tsukurikata, Volume 6 (まんがの作り方) is not actually indecent by my very relaxed standards, it is no way decent, either. Indifferent manga artist Kawaguchi has been abandoned by Morishita who has a crush on her. Takeda, who has a crush on Morishita and hopes one day to debut herself has moved with her to Tokyo.

But, when Takeda sees Morishita’s editor macking on her, she realizes that her chances of debuting are small and something important happens – Takeda suddenly becomes the only character in the book that has a plot.

Crush, crush, nasty crush…the Yuri landscape painted in Manga no Tsukurikata is grim. So grim, it’s a veritable DMZ of emotion. But now, after 6 volumes of watching two talentless hacks inexplicably make it in professional manga without hardly any effort, drive or skill, Takeda, bitter, unappreciated Takeda, stands up and takes this crappy series over as the only 3-dimensional character.

Ratings:
Art – Hirao nails ennui
Character – Practically existentialist
Story – I don’t know, maybe we’ll get one in Volume 7
Yuri – One for each crush (so, 3)
Loser FanBoy – I don’t want to think about it

Overall – Somewhere out there, someone must like this series. I wonder why I absolutely love how miserable Masato spends the entire volume being drawn as if he is a total babe, surrounded by the three woman on the planet who think he’s as attractive as a slug. Get out kid, it’s your only hope.”
-http://okazu.yuricon.com/2013/01/29/manga-no-tsukurikata-manga-volume-6-%E3%81%BE%E3%82%93%E3%81%8C%E3%81%AE%E4%BD%9C%E3%82%8A%E6%96%B9/

Yipes! Huh? Have I like…  missed something?

If I had any emotional investment in tsukurikata, I might growl from the pain of cognitive dissonance, and start raging, (blah! blah blah!) but I was only snacking on it to take my mind off work, (and homework which i should be doing). So when a senior blogger whose opinion I mightily respect, and who knows 15 tons and 20 years more about a genre than I do throws her hands up in exasperation, (and does it with considerable economy, panache, and a deft, precisely measured tone – c’mon that was a pro smack-down)  - I can only conclude that my fanboy gaze has blind spot large enough to drive a truck convoy through. 

A small dim lightbulb begins to glow a bit brighter, then brighter, then incandescent..

Hot Damn! Behold the engines of the Krell! -only made of wooden gears!

Free POV shifting workshop time! Apologize for using Erica-sensei’s review as raw material after making a mess! (Oooops, I apologize in advance, right now. I am sorry if cutting and pasting the entire review goes too far, and if spending 20+ hours on your short review is overdoing things. Clumsiness to ensue. [ later: and obsessive re-editing ] For some reason it feels like it needs to be done. At least I can provide an answer to “Loser FanBoy – I don’t want to think about it” , for all that’s worthI wonder what Erica-sensei, and the majority of her comment-writers saw that I missed?

An exercise for the student, then… (ease off clutch, engage gears!)

Time to re-read the fluff! This time with a critical eye…

The Wasteland:

As mentioned, tsukurikata is very chaste and restrained in its depiction of f/f romance. At first one could read it as a one-sided crush by younger-chan, that evolves into a friendship, but it is clearly a relationship, with “I Love You’s (eventually) exchanged on both sides. Does what a timid fanboy consider as almost-safe-for-work read like “the closet” to those who want to see f/f relationships depicted as normal, out, publicly accepted and well-characterized? A lack of these features could scream “no progress despite years of hard work!” and signal lazy, cowardly or hypocritical writing. But Japan isn’t very big on any, even heteronormative PDA’s – It was easy to pass on the “where is the romance?” in this romance as a nod to whatever social constraints. Wait, there were girl-boy couples in campus scenes being affectionate in public, so being too reserved for f/f is suspect. Besides, the genre demands better. The genre must be aspirational or it is nothing but titillation.

Add to this that pining away forever can get tiring fast, and it takes a heck of a lot more skill than Hirao Auri cares to deploy in this work to pull off well. Sasameki Koto could take three years before the fated couple kissed, but that tension was the entire story, and it used a lot of skill to stretch the tale out. Even then, fans grumbled and grumbled and grumbled some more. Snog already ferkrissakes! We all support you! Whatever Koto had to keep ‘em reading, this one need a bit more of.

Well, at least there is no outright bigotry, right?

That debbil older lesbian lady:

On second read-through this one can only be classified as a real piss-off, even though I let it slide during my first reading as a mere throwaway. I also thought that editor-san had calmed down after a dose of MLP reality warping by older-chan’s curious magical fangirl. Ouch! Free will returning! Head hurts! And then it would be all be a setup for having editor-san fall into the strange event horizon of cheerleading and teeth- grinding- all- while- we- all- support- the- two- fools- and- their- wonderful- romance.

The Okazu review has the advantage of dealing with the whole of Vol 6, in the original Japanese:  -ahem-  Certain lazy cheapskates have to -cough- wait a bit. I have only seen the first chapter of vol 6, so the whole thing may degenerate into a real nasty antediluvian artifact in the next few chapters. Even without this, it is clear on second reading that editor-san is a thin and unpleasant stereotype. The small attempts at humanizing her are insufficient to the task. What next? Does she start forcing herself on younger-chan and get whacked with a fire extinguisher?

The case of the stolen trope:

Predatory editor-san serves one more purpose: She elicits an “I’m not really like that – it’s only her for me” declaration from younger-chan. Whoooops! That’s a variation on the old BL/Yaoi “I’m not into guys , I’m only into you” thing, and (at least as explained to us dunderheads by Akiko Mizoguchi) such has been known to grate on and hurt real-life gay and lesbian folk. What was supposed to be an awwwwwww moment comes off as something else on second reading.

Magical prodigy mangaka girl:


(some background music to set the mood..)

Salman Rushdie played this chord once too, somewhere in the midst of The Satanic Verses. There is something horribly fascinating, while at the some time deeply irritating about an undeserving character written as being continuously, impossibly, incredibly lucky. Call it a nasty author trolling trick. Younger-chan is not a complete idiot all the time, but she has a habit of slipping into idiot-mode when it suits her whims. Also, she draws haphazardly, has rotten work habits, can barely apply screen-tone, spills coffee and ink on the drafts, and yet made her professional debut while in middle school and now has five,  perhaps seven editors clamoring after her for work. Oh, and we rarely get to see her do the work, she just pulls it out of her ass.

Poof! A wizard did it!

Of course her manga so transcends the genre that she really doesn’t need conventional drawing skills because her stories draw on the great and pure lurv she has for older-chan. She wields a naive power of love power level of about 6000. (Doppelganger fan-chan with a ridiculous power level exceeding 9000 is dropped in to highlight this.)  

Cut to something neat I found in a blog essay on early magical-girl series, arguing that naivety is equated in eastern cultural narratives with innate goodness, while sophistication risks corruption by the messy moral ambiguities of the world.

“Where Christendom is born with the Original Sin and the premise of forgiveness by a Greater Being, Confucian and Daoist Asia begins with the premise that people are inherently good. People at their core already know the moral course for an action without even being told, without needing guidance. Why, then, is evil done?

Intellect.

With intellect, a person can simply reason a justification for an immoral deed. It was necessary; it was the best compromise; it will lead to a better tomorrow. Your being may be shaken to its core with pangs of guilt telling you that you are doing wrong, but you persist nonetheless because your mind convinces you that you must. In the process of learning and becoming adults, people grow out of touch with their inner core of goodness and gain the tools to ignore it.

So in all concerns of ethics and morality, since man is inherently at a state that aligns with what is right (the Dao or The Way), the intuition–the heart–always takes precedence whenever it and the mind come into conflict.

Hence, the tale of the Hero who does not compromise, even against overwhelming odds, is iconic, in both fiction, mythos, and oral history. Unfailing virtue is said to gander support, and thus ultimately put power in the hands of those who persist in being so. It is how Camille is able to have all those girls headbutt Mr. Evil Jupiter with him. It is how a simpleton like Guo Jing can win over so many people, many much more intelligent, crafty, or even powerful, to become his allies. It is why King Wu was able to defeat the last Despot of Shang despite being outnumbered, simply because the people would not defend a tyrant against such a virtuous individual of clean conscience.

Reason isn’t a means of taming the evils of nasty, brutish man; it’s the means of subverting the good in man.

And the only kind of people reason cannot prevail on? The only ones the flawed, misguided villain who has admirable intentions cannot tempt with a wrongly attained ideal?

Children and morons.

Usually someone who’s both.”

-http://transistorglamor.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/genki-leads-part-one-empty-minds-and-moral-action/

Wow! Good Job!

It looks like Transistor Glamour has rounded up the younger siblings of the Mishima Koha type noted earlier in this blog, along with some hints of why such continue to hold appeal.  But it also calls to mind a scathing review i read 1/2 a century ago, when a noted sci-fi author considered the first Star Wars movie within the tradition of western science fiction: “Trust in the force??? A fine philosophy for slaves !!!” The reviewer saw the whole Jedi thing as a sin against hard-fought civilization and reason, not to mention humanity, and went at it with hammer and tongs. A deliberate over-reaction perhaps, but he felt that the point was worth making.

A related point should also be brought up when Genki gets turned into no-talent- pain- in- the- neck- Genki: the cynical trick of dumbing down and pumping up a pop idol, so as to minimize the fearsome, alienating aspects of talent and hard work while maximizing the potential for fantasy projection by an impressionable audience. This is a lot like the illusion field that lotteries project: Play! Win! Fun! while whitewashing the inescapable fact that any winnings, and the house take is extracted from the %99.99 of the hopeless impoverished deluded losers.

I guess it takes a deft hand to play the happy-go-lucky- pure- hearted- idiot- always- wins routine without either far more nasty comedic effect, or some deeper characterization. (unless your reader demographic are inexperienced youngsters who just want to read a pleasant fantasy where having a pure heart is enough to bring fame and fortune in a cruel hard world) Without these she soon degenerates into a snub to everyone who has to work their ass off to live and pursue their hopes and dreams. Assistant-chan is rightfully pissed off, all while almost feeling the hand of the lazy deity that plotted out this mess. It is as if assistant-chan just knows that she has been cursed with one more effing job to do, continuously… Or two more jobs…

The case of the missing crush.

Holy crap! How did I miss that little slip-of-the-toungue by assistant-chan at the end of ch 33 ??? Assistant-chan is beginning to crush on idiot-chan younger-chan.  That does take it down a few more notches: I can hear the gears grinding now. Some kind of conflicted feelings were bound to emerge once assistant-chan finally realised that she was roomie with her teen prodigy mangaka hero, but to plop a first-ever Yuri crush on assistant-chan so soon is unfair. Instead of an awakening to feelings, it reads like an affliction, in a genre where such feelings are supposed to be “a good thing”. What will she get next? Athlete’s foot?

A fist-full of Yuri tropes:

Shinobu Handa meet Helmut: Why can’t a bunch of women who become acquainted in the course of perusing their dreams to make it in the manga industry be friends? Why must they be irresistibly drawn to crush on each other and then just get trapped in a slow never-resolving angst limbo. It must be that they need this to write (and edit) Yuri manga.

Hirao Auri draws shojo-ai well enough, in fact the artwork is really well done – one can see the traces of what the mangaka admires in the watercolor frontispieces, the mid-range and closeup work on the faces,  But a closer look shows that the plotting suffers from a lot of blunt trauma injuries as Yuri and Shojo romance tropes are deployed in key scenes and then left to languish. Not quite “saying it but not showing it”, just that the showing is extremely random.

And yet this series won at least one award: a “silver dragon of the dragon god” of which my poor understanding of Japanese causes me to find nadda about on Google. And while this series is onto its fifth or sixth scanlation group, (earlier ones evaporating or dropping it) someone(s) still cares enough to go through all the effort involved to pilfer it and make it available to cheapskates like moi with no profit for their troubles. It is not as if it is a complete fail; it is rather that successful, satisfying mastery of the tropes and their conversion into a solid story remains always tantalizingly over the horizon.

Consider editor-san once again. She sees younger-chan arrive at the office and act stupid-helpless-cute. Thump! She be smitten. She decides that she will take charge of her, gets her into a room and immediately mashes on her.

borg macking b29_17Ok, as a 28-year-old Christmas-cake lesbian manga editor, she must feel that… (ooops! trope mixup) Oh c’mon! If she is really that smitten, she should be able to do better to worm her way into her intended’s favor. What ever happened to “dazzle the innocent sweet young thing with bright lights, big city restaurants, new clothes, attention” and all the rest. If the mangaka wanted to drag game out and load on an extra ton of clichés, what better excuse for 3 more volumes than a slow corruption/ seduction scenario?

Idiot-chan could go along with it, string along editor-chan, keep up with older-chan, encourage assistant-chan to worship her and even pat bother-kun’s head and stare soulfully into his big fool eyes. Why can’t a Yuri lead character get a harem ending?  Did the SCP Foundation finally catch up with Haruhi Suzumiya?

Instead editor-san gets to be a disposable villain: “How much for the blond girl? i offer many oxen! Or would you rather face my guns?”  Huh? As a financially secure, (god-fearing -sorry couldn’t resist) hard-working 28-year-old lesbian, an editor at a publishing house that manages female Yuri-writing managakas, why is it so fricking hard for her to get a date?  Sweet young things, either in full cynical casting-couch mode or full-blown “I’ve heard the mermaids singing” find- romance- and- success- all- at- once mode must be climbing up the sides of the building trying to attract her attention. Then one could throw in Traps and Yuri-writing fanboys if the author wants to further piss off some of the readers. So why the fixation on magical idiot-girl?

Why indeed? Do I smell a Mary Sue?

Move to big city, be wildly successful, good love interest, bad love interest…
Where are the designer accessories?

One cannot fault a Japanese manga for deploying hackneyed tropes. The entire manga tradition rests on the fact that the myriad tropes are well understood by reader and writer alike and can be deployed in a modular fashion, so as to increase productivity and variation within a comfortable universe of the familiar.
Azuma Hiroki went far too far turning them into a database, there are many other fields of narrative that are even more modular, but we have yet to see “Manzai: Japan’s database comedians” any time soon. Workmanship still counts, and the more one looks closely at tsukurikata, the more cracks in the walls appear.

Older-chan was herself a teen mangaka prodigy. Editor-san  knew of her work, obscure as it was. Younger-chan knew of the work too, but casually dismissed it as “not her thing”, preferring to find inspiration in older-chan’s success at a young age. (Ouch! that must have hurt!) For some reason older-chan gave it up to work in a bookshop. While we get a flashback to see how the two met, we never get to see why older-chan developed a block and stopped drawing manga. The only reason that she stopped seems to be so that she can be sempai to younger-chan, while younger-chan is sensei to her. (Is this some slide-over from yaoi-land?) Perhaps it was something like the “adults don’t read manga” snub that irked her when she met her ex-classmates?  looks like we’ll never know.

Then she starts going out/ hanging out with younger-chan for reasons she cannot really figure out beyond research for her own Yuri manga (all while younger-chan is using the day-to-day events of their time together as material for her stories.) Eventually feelings develop. Lets see what the Yuri manual says we should do next. This could be funny, lets see them mess up the manual; waiting, waiting, waiting…

Initially, all the pieces are here: we have a Yuri manga about two young women mangakas drawing Yuri manga, while trying to figure out their feelings and how to do a “real” woman-woman relationship. How about some tension between manga tropes and real experience? Hmmmm sounds difficult, pass… Instead,  the romance clichés are staged to happen in “real life” then hints are dropped that they are recycled in the respective mangas that the two are drawing, which we never really get to see.

Now can i appreciate the brilliance of Genshiken’s use of secondary artifacts.

For a few Yuri tropes more:

All this is easy to miss if you are a casual reader, and are not expecting more than “awwwwww-candy”. The characters are interesting enough, likeable on the surface, hanging out day to day, slowly growing closer. Nothing really exploitative is happening, and we get to read about yuri manga being created in a yuri manga.  If you know the genre, and /or have an interest in its development, and have given the series a few chances to get its act together, even wished against reason for its success,  and 4, 5, 6 volumes later nothing aside from irritating missteps have been offered up for the reader’s patience, then the hammer is getting pulled out.

What can be done to turn this around? As the series progresses, it becomes clear that younger-chan is its focus, the center around which everyone else dances, and that perhaps her cheerful innocent act is masking something else.

Are we to be subjected to a yuri mangaka remake of A Star is Born?

Why not push this to the limit? Why not have younger-chan suddenly morph into teen- sociopath- telepathic- emotional- vampire- chan?

Melty tsukurikata

“But of course you are unhappy that I will not resolve our relationship.
Your place is to be unhappy. Forever! That is what all you fools must do to worship me, Me, Me! Your despair is like honey to me! Suffer! All of you! Mwahhahhahh! Now I must go and disembowel some kittens!”

Can assistant-chan shake off the delusion field and stop the monster in time before it pulls a city-killing Melty Blood Walpurgisnacht ritual on top of the newly constructed office tower in the center of town?

Waiting, waiting, waiting,,,

What did I miss? I think I got them most of ‘em. Still, it was a lot of work for a piece of fluff. Fluff that is somehow still doing well in Japan, that someones are still going through efforts to scanlate, and that other folks are still noticing enough to review.  Something about tsukurikata keeps suckering folks in.

And now I am just plain curious: How does “Takeda, bitter, unappreciated Takeda, stand(s) up and take(s) this crappy series over as the only 3-dimensional character.”  

Hmmm! The rest of Vol.6 will be out soon enough. Then Vol. 7…

Now I get it! manga no tsukurikata is a tiny perfect engine designed to lure readers in and then frustrate their expectations! It is one gigantic exercise in serial provocation and seduction, followed by waiting, waiting, waiting… And the main character is a perfect mirror of this effect. The entire exercise is just one gigantic Yuri manga never-ending prologue!

Liminal space! A fun, privileged place to inhabit, but a real pain in the neck for everyone around you.

 

Genshiken ch 89: with a little help from my friends

A busy time for me at work and in real life; perhaps too busy to be searching out Bulgarian and Peruvian scanlations of Genshiken and trying to figure out what the effing hell is going on with the gang at Comiket in ch 89. From other reports, and my efforts at stuffing incomprehensible text into Google xlate, it appears that Yajima and Hato are trying to figure out their feelings, (not towards each other) and are beginning to realize that they are completely clueless when it comes to processing 3D longings.

Yajima appears to be convincing herself that Hato x Mada might still be on, precisely because Hato has stopped cross-dressing. (???) This gives her an excuse to backtrack from the irrational, irresistible urge she felt to ply Hato-kun with his fave BL dojins, as a prelude to (???)

Meanwhile Hato has come to the brilliant conclusion that cross dressing and too much yaoi have not left him gay, but only – in the manner of so many y/BL plot-lines – with a man-crush on Madarame and only Madarame. Since this would compound his previous sin of publicly labeling Madarame a sou-uke, he decides that he must atone for it all by ensuring that Madarame gets well and properly laid by Angela this time around.

Kuchiki decides to lend a hand:

I give you the otaku

grrrr

why thanks

…need more? http://bit.ly/14cpBUO

Then again, my Google-xlate-fu might be weak and foolish…

By now it is painfully obvious that Shimoku-sensei is trolling his fujoshi readership, while extracting every last once of bathos from the social ineptitude of his characters. He is being relatively easy on Yajima; she only has to suffer the first pangs of desire. Hato, as the mangaka’s prized creation gets a far more difficult role to play: He has to independently discover the concept of friendship between guys, but only after trying on and ruling out all manner of ridiculous rotten-girl scripts.

as previously quoted:

“…reminds me of a German guy I knew in Tokyo to whom I lent some Eroica slash stories. Helmut returned them to me in agitation. ‘Don’t these writers realize men can be friends and not want to have sex?!’ Naturally, I said, but the point of the slash exercise is that the guys do have sex. He didn’t see it.”
- M. J. Johnson writing ca. 2002 in her Aestheticism site column”

Hato’s character is like a lab rat that has been raised on a diet of rotten-girl melodrama. Of course he is going to screw up the whole make friendship thing. Lets us count the ways…

Or not..

Madarame, for all his social faults has had male friends, but it looks like his patience, understanding and acceptance is beginning to wear a thin. And if he had entertained any thoughts of getting better acquainted with Angela, his “friends” have once again “helped” him straight into shit-out-of-luck land. First the sou-uke mess, now this!

Hato is really loading his karma. Besides having a rather odd view of male friendship, he is also under the illusion that his now-abjured hobby gave him a special place in the company of women. He has little idea that since he has de-cloaked and dropped shields, at least three rotten girls are looking at him with renewed interest. Judo throws are not going to be much use against them.

Man’s timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that god gave him isn’t his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other’s tale –
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
- some bitter dead English guy

I am also wondering if Shimoku sensei is completely aware of how some of the fans of the first part of the Genshiken saga are squeamish about the whole yaoi/ bl/ rotten girl/ whiffs of homosexuality and transvestism that the newer Genshiken has been playing with, and is giving them a bit more discomfort to drive home a point. Genshiken is all about an otaku mangaka poking at otaku foibles and weaknesses; specifically how their retreat into simple fantasy plot-lines masks a profound conservatism when dealing with 3D social complexities, A sharp edge hides behind the comedy. If the scalpel was ever put aside, the whole series would soon degenerate into 4-koma filler.

In other words, it would be easy if Hato was cartoon gay, or finally succumbed to a long-repressed urge to jump Madarame, just as it would be easy if the rotten girl tribe got to see their fave plots play out in 3D without consequences, and if Angela the “loose” gaijin amazon could be publicly prevailed upon to sex down a heartbroken uber-otaku. The whole club could then decamp to the beach for a swimsuit mini-arc. Hijinx to ensue, no painful hurt feelings displayed on the pages, and a few old-school fans could put aside the work and proclaim: “It used to be good, but now it’s just some gay fujoshi thing!”.

You don’t build a decade long slice-of-life franchise that easily.

The only danger that Shimoku-sensei’s approach holds is that sooner or later he may decide to end the tale in a massive cluster-disaster of embarrassment, misunderstanding and hurt feelings that leaves the club room empty and its former members unwilling to ever face each other again.

I wouldn’t put it past him.

Warning! Warning! Category field breach!

As I read way too much manga online, I try to adopt M.J.Johnson’s earlier quoted dictum…

“You can say ‘Male pregnancy stories don’t do it for me’ if you like, but to say ‘Male pregnancy stories are stupid and childish and people should stop writing them’ is not only arrogant, it’s dangerous. All fantasies are legitimate or none are, and to discredit the male pregnancy fantasy is automatically to discredit your own fantasy of mutual empowerment and non-penetrative sex.”

…In a wider context, that is to say that if [...] doesn’t work for me; Ok, but to condemn [...] out of hand is to condemn all desires, including my own. The trick is to do so while still drawing a line, because some desires are just plain nasty, harmful, and criminally irresponsible, even within the realms of “fantasy is fantasy”.

As well, there is the ‘my boat” effect: This is the stuff I read and think about for enjoyment during my free time, and I know what I like. I think I know what I do not like. Of course I don’t know all of what I like, so I shouldn’t dismiss entire genres completely out of hand, on the other hand

Whatever!

That said, IMHO, pour moi, [add a few more caveats here] …

…historical themes, fantasy realms, anything involving “virtual reality” or “I fell into a game”, including virtual girlfriends, %99.98 of all sports manga, tales of horror, guro/grotesque, cat girls, alien girl dropped on surprised boy, teacher crush and incest angst potboilers, delinquent high school/ or yakuza grinders, death- fights- on- islands, lets start a band/ be an idol/ become the world’s greatest chef epics and anything with small magic ponies are about as avoidsome for me as yaoi/bl (except that the rotten girls who produce the last are my fave pure radioactive sociology candy).

And then there is the little matter of vampires…

Short form of hate-on: “Protector” by Larry Niven.

I encourage those of you who have met Niven’s creation to now pause and think of them as a thought experiment: something that works like a vampire but is diametrically opposite to the vampire character. Those who haven’t yet, go get some.

They would be as gods except for their innate compulsion to always think things through to logical extremes and immediately carry out a scorched earth conclusion – and that they must protect their blood-kin at all costs.

Nowhere does Niven claim to have created “protectors” as an antidote to the maddening mush that is high church canon for vampiric tales, especially post-Rice bodice (and suit-coat) ripper, slash- influenced teen fan-fic derived potboilers. (whew!)

So, you live forever, heal fast, have amazing strength, and that allows you to act like a spoiled rich spiteful teenager forever, Uhuh? I await the giant meteor impact on the next page. Most vampiric characters are small malicious boring fools. I am not the first to note this; there are 20+ sub-variants of this effect on the TV tropes site, but again, I judge it hardly worth the powder to blow the genre to ifny. Does not work for me. You may find small malicious boring fool characters quite amusing and endearing.

A few writers have worked this problem to comedic effect. Jody Scott’s Sterling O’Blivion is a wonderful, funny creation. Who can forget their first guilt- laden- catholic- time- travelling- lesbian- dance- instructor vampire novel? Especially if she falls head over heels for an alien manatee who insists on shapeshifting into the semblance of Virginia Wolf to attract our plucky heroine’s attentions? It was gushed over by old-school euroethnic middle-aged male sci-fi writers when it first appeared (which was so odd that stick-in-the-mud boy decided that he had to read it, oh so, so long ago – maybe it is her fault that I developed a taste for yuri?), and has gone on to become a minor cult classic. Sadness: footnoting this just led me to news of Ms. Scott’s passing in 2006. In lieu of an elegy, see her web page archived here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20071020180558/http://jodyscott.org/

Vampires are of course popular as french pastry in manga-land. Most are as stupid and obnoxious as the western product. The “Blood, the last Vampire” anime short was a groundbreaker, but sequels degenerated into post-Rice mush. The live-action movie sucked. There is a bishie BL prequel to v2 out in manga format. Blergghh! OOOps Doesn’t work for me…

Negima‘s goth-loli vampire was a slightly better creation, at least by the time she popped up to time-travel-ex-machina at the end of the epic. Her initial character grew considerably, aided by her reclusive, anti-social outlook played against the sad, defiant crush that drove her to support the boy magician – the son of her barely requited love. Still, she could have used her considerable knowledge, power, longevity and cynicism to become a capitalist dynast or even make some school friends years earlier, rather than hide in a bottle. How can one live so long without picking up even a shred of (dare I say it ) humanity?

Which leads to the very popular, initially engaging, extremely densely written and ultimately unsatisfying world of “Dance in the Vampire Bund“.

I should have known better. This is one of the drawbacks of hunting for something new. You think you have found an interesting exception to the category and then lots of somethings go wrong. Most of the time it is “workmanship”: the story falls apart, goes nowhere, reverts to all those tropes of the genre that I already know do not work for me.

And then you get the really ambitious ones that turn into a monumental train wreck, or worse a monumental train wreck made up of all the annoying bits of multiple avoided genres…

All while you realise that your train wreck is a tasty smorgasborg for the series’ fans.

from the wiki:

“The story revolves around Mina Tepeş, princess-ruler of all vampires, and her protector — Akira. Like other vampires, Mina has been in hiding with her people for many years. Seeking to end centuries of isolation, Mina gains permission to create a special district for vampires, “The Bund,” off the coast of Japan by paying off the entire national debt of the Japanese government. Mina then reveals to the world the existence of vampires and her desire for both races to live together. Tensions, however, run high as fearful humans and extremist vampire factions begin to interfere with Mina’s wish for peace with the human world.”

The main problem with Bund is that it tries to be all vampire stories, and a whole bunch of other genres, all at once, to everyone. So at any moment we are getting “Japanese society falling apart due to panic and suspicion” (The Martians Have Landed on Maple Street), The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne of Green Gables, a high school power struggle tale, suicide bomber terrorist threats, nanotech infection epidemics, geopolitical machinations by corrupt politicians, court chivalry romance, goth loli fanservice (Mina-hime is way too young, and her outfits way too skimpy – certain parts of the localised US anime had to be censored) werewolf bonding/ betrayal grinder and rotten girl fanservice vehicle with a furry yaoi rape scene.

It also has battling maids, Rasputin, elite commando strike teams, human and vampire riots, a South American drug-cartel running spoiled aristocrat vampire lord, a stripper with the heart of gold, a runaway nuclear reactor, black helicopters, a shotacon couple turned vampires, cute kids who save the day by navigating the hidden sewer tunnels under the city, and oh gawd, I lose track.

So far no done- as- an- Andrew- Lloyd- Webber- Musical episode. No Mecha or magical little ponies…

Yet.

Who again is this thing written for?

Moar wiki:

“The manga series is serialized in Media Factory’s seinen manga magazine Comic Flapper”

Even more wiki:

“Seinen manga (青年漫画?) is a subset of manga that is generally targeted at a 18–30 year old male audience, but the audience can be older with some manga aimed at businessmen well into their 40s. In Japanese, the word Seinen means “young man” or “young men” and is not suggestive of sexual matters. (The female equivalent to seinen manga is josei manga.) It has a wide variety of art styles and more variation in subject matter, ranging from the avant- garde to the mundane and to the pornographic. Because of the emphasis on storyline and character development instead of action, some seinen series are often confused with shōjo, or girls’ manga. [citation needed]“

Is this a separate genre from moe-blob fiction? Is this what turns Madarame’s crank? Is this closer to Saito Tamaki’s beautiful fighting girl stuff? Or it is just pure lolicon?

A few points of interest:

The plotting frequently relies on the obedience that the vampiric bite-er can compel of the bite-ee, a hardwired behaviour that forms an absolute hierarchy of deference that culminates with the princess herself. I am guessing that this resonates with the sempai/kouhai and sensei/ student deference patterns in real-life Japanese society. That these patterns are breaking down only makes the mythologized version more resonant. (This is a Baudrillard conceit on my part, plz ignore if jarring, I just like doing it)

The “hidden hand” secret society behind %90 of the upheavals in the story has even used this effect to sow global confusion with a nanotech “virus” that overstimulates the obedience compulsion in vampires, causing them to commit self-destructive terrorist acts in the belief that their regional vampire leaders are ordering them to do so. (An allegory of religious extremism? How quaint!)

A Vampire “Bund” or (never mentioned) Dejima! What a way to deal with the immigrant question!

Gaijin ways and bad behaviours are contagious. A vaccine might not always be available.

The dance in the aristocratic court of the vampire princess“: These tropes begin to vex, but have enough of a resonance with the origins of the vampire mythos in euroethnic society to hold my attention. The origins of the Western vampire mythos owed a lot to taking the vestiges of a corrupt, venal, oppressive European aristocracy and essentializing them within a bogie. Nosferatu was always a post-french-revolution Sade-ian aristo, after the pure peasant girl and one step ahead of the Bastille day mob. Blood- sucking parasites all! Van Helsing was no Marx, but he might be a friend of Engels.

The court of the vampire loli princess is still an absolute monarchy, and has to be absolutely ruthless whenever the aristocratic ambience needs a boost. While necessary to the chivalry themes that are deployed surrounding the protagonist Akira, they also serve to set at least two strong friendship vs deference subplots in motion. There is also the entire succession/ marriage of the true-bloods sub-plot which sets the stage for much court intrigue and loli lust angst.

Oh, and we get to see the princess’s “true form” adult, voluptuous, armoured fighting girl (so not underage, therefore not really loli smut – she just “hides” as a half-nekkid prepubescent tyrant so she wont be married off to some regressive scumbag from the old vampire aristocracy.) Yeah, right…

With all her advanced medical resources and cynical realpolitik, the idea of keeping a dewer flask of liquid nitrogen, a turkey baster and some very sharp knives close at hand when her slimy true blooded suitors come calling somehow eludes her.

The concluding arc of the manga, with Mina and her doppelgänger plays the court chivalry and deference notes to extremes. I wonder if our heroine’s last trick will be to introduce a virus/ nanotech/ plot device that breaks the obedience compulsion in vampires and grants all of her subjects free will as she institutes a constitutional monarchy. So much for sequels.

As troubling as the too young and too skimpily clad vampire princess is the fujoshi fan-service that sneaks into the story line. I should have expected it when the schoolgirl friends, maids and the princess started to get interested in the fan-fiction written by the good-hearted (non-vampire) girl.

fujoshi time ditvb_33_27

Fujoshi wink-wink-nudge-nudge should have no place in a guy’s manga, but the author and the publisher know that rotten girls troll these magazines for pairing fodder. Here is iron-clad proof that at least one mangaka is ready to exploit this effect.

Not only did the ship-your-male-aquaintances trope pop up. Before you can say “childhood crush” we are introduced to a very effeminate, sometimes cross- dressing werewolf pack buddy of Akira, one who went through a traumatic rite-of-passage with him, and who has extreme ideas of how to demonstrate the strength of the bond forged during that time. Even princess Mina gets jealous until it dawns on her that wolf is a dude!

This would be no problem, even when the mangaka tossed in a gratuitous yaoi-rape scene wherein effeminate wolf sacrifices himself to calm down a berserk-mode werewolf, one of the four buddies damaged horribly during the survival test/ rite of passage.

This is what gets the rotten girls off?

It went a bit like this, only with more taut bishie thigh, ass, screaming and clawing..

furries Plushophiliac

Wasn’t it nice of me to spare you the details? Wow, I didn’t freak out in disgust. I might have a few years ago. Award myself 2 “adult maturity points” and keep reading. (lose one point for subbing in the furry pic – couldn’t resist)

But worse is to come: What really, really, really pissed me off was that a few chapters later it is revealed that gay- wolf- boy has been allied with the nameless conspiracy and is murderously sabotaging and killing off all manner of allies and friends because he is gay, and if only the princess can have Akira, then anyone else who looks up to him should die, die, die – including himself, preferably by Akira’s vengeful hand.

Uh Huh! The faggot did it, motivated by psychotic faggot-lust, with some faggotty death urge tossed in.

Ya can’t trust them… they just do that stuff.

Rotten girl tropes of motivation for extreme behaviour merge with mean-spirited old-school homophobia. Ok, the mangaka is a guy, so this is not a ‘true” fujoshi-made bl/y artifact, but it gave me the same angry sinking feeling that I got when I realised that every single goddamn P.D. James mystery could be solved early on by finding the “artsy” character. Find the hidden freak, they did it. Throw away the book, change the channel on the Beeb tellie version on PBS Mystery. They will murder again and again indiscriminately to cover their tracks, driven by artsy (often gay or lesbian) psycho-ness while the detective gets more and more depressed.

That, like Bund is just lazy writing that hides behind a nasty inflexible way of looking at people.

Even a middle age straight boy of euroethnic extraction can get riled up in a politically correct way if the alternative is stupid brain-dead fascist shyte.

Meanwhile in the real world, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has decided that all that Western gay marriage stuff is seriously undermining the country (by doing what? letting a few people snuggle their way?). The Duma has now passed strict laws against anything that can be considered “gay propaganda”. I presume that means that a lot of scanlated fujoshi manga is going to have to vanish from rusky servers and a few of New Russia’s rotten girls will end up in the slammer along with Pussy Riot’s singer. Will yuri be exempt? Does Putin, like the book of Leviticus, Queen Victoria and Saito Tamaki believe that lesbianism is inconsequential?

Don’t try to smuggle any Anne Rice books into Moscow.

Moscow does not believe in yaoi.

Both the meta-fictional world and the real world betray similar urges towards the cynical uses of bigotry.

I might drop by “the Bund” again in half a year to see if my hunches on the plot-mess plays out. Even psycho gay-wolf boy, thought dead, has re-appeared: will he sacrifice himself to atone for his past sins, or will he murder and betray again? Maybe he will just find another pretty wolf-boy, settle down and declare that evil hidden conspiracy nanotech made him do it. Perhaps a few mecha will be dropped into the mess; so we can have werewolf special forces elite commandos (they carry SG1 issue P90′s) piloting mechas against Chinese vampire bio-engineered tentacle raping 50 foot high slime monsters. (though we already have had a tentacle rape creature in one fight scene…)

Followed by a giant meteor impact, earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown, with Japan sinking and everyone having to cross-dress to survive, but only through the magical power of friendship.

Contrast Bund to a the remix of tried and true sword and sorcery tropes in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wikis/Maoyu) As mentioned, I avoid sword and sorcery stories, but the allegorical device of naming all the characters after their roles, plus the first battle scene in the court of the Demon Lord hooked me.

The Demon Lord is a voluptuous, bookish demon lady economist and historian. She looks great with or without reading glasses. She wants only peace and prosperity for both demons and humans. She plans to end the perpetual wars between humans and demons with applied agricultural science, potatoes, mercantilist economics, and the help of the hero (named Hero) who shows up to battle her and gets an economics lecture and a marriage proposal of sorts (Hero  is a bit dense about romance, he hasn’t quite figured out the whole deal yet – surprise: she’s sweet on him!).

It reminds me of all the 1970′s era “rise of civilization” mainframe computer games like Sumer, and of H.B.Piper’s Lord Kalvan (aka Gunpowder God). Maoyuu plays to its strengths as allegory of rationality vs the harsh realities behind the romanticism of sword and sorcery feudalism. It does one thing, and does it well.

Nozomu Tamaki I am wise to your tricks! Pull your socks up and finish off this manga off properly!

Oh wait.. non-vampirised human girl wakes up in the school infirmary! It was all a dream!

Rage.

Another category field breach:

I like the drawing style and cynical humour of the relationships in Rendou Kurosaki’s Houkago Play. I know that he (?) also writes ecchi stuff, both in yuri and yaoi -land. I generally try to avoid yaoi, -hey it’s just me- but I had to look up his oneshot “ON” because I had read everything else of his that was scanlated.

I do not know how to process it.

I had the benefit of the aggregator site’s “yaoi” warning; its original readers in a josei mag must have wondered at least for a few pages whether one of the couple was male or female. Soon enough all becomes clear, and depressed young gay kid is letting the slightly older “beatnik” character come in his face. I guess the depiction of gay secks isn’t too shocking. Then the couple cuddles while they struggle to express how they feel. Neither can express themselves well out loud.

dont kill yoself little gboy -ON Kurosaki Rendou p10 web

I was overcome with a real strong feeling of “hey young gay kid, don’t throw yourself off a bridge! It will get better, somehow…

Yeah, they are just fictions, but my sympathy buttons were pushed.

I award myself 2 more adult maturity points.

This doesn’t look like what bara is supposed to be, doesn’t have the ritualised pairing characteristics and ass-rape of canon yaoi, and lacks the happy ever after of yuri’s “story A“. And it is by a male mangaka. I am guessing it would be completely at home in some gay-positive western publication aimed at troubled teens, but Japan ain’t supposed to give a whit about real LGBTQ folks.

Whatizzit ???

Is this moe for a certain subset of the tribes of rotten girls or do most hate it?

One of my senior advisors at the editorial desk, Bill Occam is grumbling at me that if seinen magazine staff know that rotten girl readers check seinen magazines for bishie material, then josei magazine staff can expect that closeted young male Japanese gay guys probably troll through josei magazines looking for a yaoi/bl fix, and it does well for sales to toss a sympathetic affirmational cookie in their direction now and again.

At least genre innovation is alive and well in the pages of manga magazines. A correspondent reports that one of the big yuri series for LFB’s (popular with western wimmins too), one which I have avoided because the characters look too young -hey it’s just me- features clumsy sex fail comedy. I have often wondered why such an inescapable part of human intimacy is missing from manga-land.

Non-idealised funny/ sad mediocre bonking is the last frontier! Considering how much of it exists in the real world, it might be a revolutionary thing to advance social scripts on how to deal with it.

It made Dennis Arcand’s Declin a hit

So category field breach can go either way I guess.

Which leads me to an AWSOME THOUGHT EXPERIMENT!

How would Genshiken read/ look like if done by Aoi Hanna/ Wandering Son’s Takako Shimura?

… Pause for dramatic effect…

Hmmmmm…. Redrawers and typesetters needed.